Abortion - dealing from extremes.
Now, it occurred to me after my last 'abortion' post that someone might read what I wrote about my 8 month old in utero baby and say something like, "Why are you using an extreme example, most abortions occur earlier in pregnancy." I have a couple of responses.
First, both pro-choice and pro-life tend to start arguing from extremes (PC invoke rape/incest/life-threatening cases; PL invoke partial-birth abortion, China's coercive abortion policy), rarely from the middle (some legislation, lots of education, etc.), and rarer yet, from the opponent's extreme (PL addressing the 'hard cases', PC openly justifying pb abortion itself and other pseudo-infanticide cases). I'm not like other people - I'm special ;) I don't like to dally on partial birth abortion, because for everybody who is sane in society, it's a slam dunk issue (as soon as they understand what it is). I like to address the hard cases first, mostly because if I really mean it as a pro-lifer, these have got to be addressed as well as the 'easier' ones.
Just a quick preamble: as should be painfully obvious (yet, may not be), the pro-life 'position' is founded on the humanity of the unborn child. Pro-lifers tend not to get too hung up on the metaphysics of 'when personhood begins', as though we're talking about angels and pinheads. Pro-lifers tend to start from science and biology - an individual human being's life begins at the union of the sperm and the ovum. Period. Furthermore, there is no other fundamental criteria to accord any human rights to anyone than the fact that that person is a human being. It's more than a little ironic to me that pro-choicers, for all their "get your rosaries off our ovaries", etc., are the ones to introduce an intentionally ambiguous argument about the beginnings of human personhood, seemingly because the bald scientific facts don't readily support their denial of humanity to the unborn. Other pro-choicers take the legalistic "it's not a person because the law decides who/what a person is", apparently ignoring the rich tradition many societies have had of denying the patently obvious humanity of human beings, simply because it's uncomfortable to do otherwise. Not such a quick preamble, after all.
I said I'd address the 'hard cases', and so I shall.
The mother's life, incest/rape, and fetal deformity.
How often is a woman's life threatened by pregnancy? Actual threats are extremely rare, and doctors should be held to account when they over-emphasize perceived threats (I have a relative who was advised not to get pregnant, but who eventually had two healthy children during reasonably healthy pregnancies). What types of threats do these include? To my understanding, we're probably talking about uterine cancer and/or ectopic pregnancy. Even in Catholic teaching (which is adamantly anti-abortion), there are 'escape hatches' for these two types of cases (though admittedly, not abortion in the common parlance): the 'double effect' doctrine allows for other medical treatment in proportion to the threat incurred (my words) - ie. if a woman's uterus is cancerous, it is ethically justifiable for doctors to treat the cancer, even though the child may die as an unintentional side-effect. The seriousness of the mother's threatened life justifies the intervention that may lead to the child's death. The difference here is that the child's death is not being sought.
Incest/rape - cannot be answered apart from answering the "When should we start protecting human life?" argument. For if it's reasonably determined that unborn human beings are what pro-lifers say they are, then it makes no sense to allow anyone the 'right' to end their lives in answer to the wrongs of another person. In the scale of those innocent to guilty in these cases, the unborn are at the extremely innocent end of the spectrum, and deserve no capital punishment for the sins of another. This type of case is often invoked because it plays on our justifiable sympathy for a woman in a tough situation not of her own doing. A number of questions/comments come to mind for those who argue for abortion in these cases: i) the perpetrator has a strong interest in keeping a child conceived from his act from 'coming to light'; there are cases of underage girls being taken to abortion clinics by their overage guys in order to cover up his misdeeds; ii) it's likely that (at least) some of these cases would get found out (sooner) and dealt with if the 'consequences' weren't so easy to get rid of; iii) how many women involved in these situations have actually been consulted to determine how much they actually want this 'solution'?; iv) anecdotal work by Reardon (forgot the first name) has identified that significant numbers of women who abort after rape regret and feel guilty about their decision, whereas women who give birth after rape often see that child as the one good thing to come out of a miserable situation; v) there are other situations where able-bodied human beings are expected to help another in need, even though it's an imposition on their personal freedom and even safety to do so (sometimes legally, often ethically). Enough for food for thought for now.
Abortion due to fetal 'deformity' cannot be separated from the view that those-already-born-but-handicapped are less than human. We might as well start executing the handicapped and other undesirables to keep our race pure. If you laugh derisively at this, what exactly is the difference?
I expect that I'll post more on this subject as thoughts skitter through my brain, but will leave this to simmer for awhile.