I see that abortion is in the news again. Of course, abortion never really seems to be out of the news lately. And that is especially true during this political year when bombast, broken facts, and heated rhetoric foul the air more than usual. This time the news involves a piece of Florida legislation. Or, more accurately, a piece of proposed legislation that would ban all abortions, making them a first degree felony.
It has only been passed out of one committee and into another so far. And, from what I have read, is unlikely to survive the legal birthing process needed for a proposal to become law. More political fluff to satisfy the anti-choice crowd. What I find of interest though is part of this proposed legislation’s wording, words that seem to be in line with what many of the more radical anti-choice crowd are now pushing.
Leaving aside the problematical solely religious justification for this law, I wonder if those who promote such ideas have really thought through the implications of what they are proposing. A few years ago I did a satirical piece related to the problems involved in this concept of a fertilized egg being a human life fully equal in rights to those already born. I thought I would now revisit this issue in a more Socratic way, by posing a series of questions.
To start with, let’s explicitly state what is being claimed. Those promoting this law and other similar ones are stating that a fetus from its conception is fully a person and has rights equal to those who have already been born. That an egg, once fertilized by a sperm, automatically becomes legally a person with all the rights attendant upon that designation.
Let me respond by asking those who support these personhood amendments and laws some questions.
Do you intend then to appoint the fetus with legal counsel to represent its right to life in those cases where continuing its life would put the life of the mother in jeopardy?
- For example, do you mean to make a pregnant woman with an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg is implanted someplace other than the uterus, wait for that life-saving abortion until the court obtains legal counsel for the fetus and a trial is scheduled and the rites of justice gone through? By the time that is done the mother will likely be dead.
- Would you support a court ruling in favor of saving the life of the fetus even though it would cause the death of the mother? Even if doing so would be against the expressed and fervent wishes of the woman? If not, then what is your justification since, according to you, legally the two have the same exact rights?
- What do you think the reaction will be by the vast majority of Americans if a court should ever rule in favor of saving the life over that of the woman, even when the woman does not wish that?
- A follow on question if you doubt a court would ever rule this way, why not? Do you think that this says something then about the relationship between the rights of the woman and that of the fetus?
Since you are believe that a fetus has the same right to life as an already born human, then what is your proposal for saving all of those persons who die between six to 12 days after being conceived. About 40% to 65% of fertilized eggs never implant in the uterine lining and instead die (usually before a woman even knows she is pregnant). Given the truly heroic measures we take to save people, what is your proposal to save all of these persons who are dying in their thousands?
Given that you believe that a fetus is a person with the full set of rights as an already born person, how to you propose to ensure that pregnant women do nothing to jeopardize the health of that person? I have already seen court cases against women who miscarry, but that number is actually rather small compared to the number of women who could be tried for manslaughter in cases of miscarriage.
- Are you now going to do a legal investigation into every miscarriage and prosecute every woman who does not follow each and every rule or good practice?
- What would be your ruling in the case of a pregnant woman who is in a car accident that is her fault that kills the fetus? Would that be considered involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide? And if so, should she be prosecuted to the full extent of the law in that case? If you believe she should not be, then why not?
- Are you now going to require that pregnant women be hospitalized the moment she knows she is pregnant so that the health and life of the fetus is not endangered in any way?
These are just a few of the questions that come to my mind when these proposals for making a fetus a person entitled to the same rights as the woman and in equal measure are proposed. There are many more, but I think these should give those of a thoughtful nature cause for caution in making the fetus a separate and equal person to that of the pregnant woman. Such an action flies in the face of reality, and laws based on flaunted reality are not merely bad laws, they are disastrous laws.