My newspaper this Sunday had a Letter to the Editor from a Republican trying to sound like a moderate on the issue of abortion. He asks 5 “sensible” questions on abortion and wants answers. My answers are too long to reprint in the paper, so I give my reply here. Feedback is welcome, I will be sending the author my replies. I wonder if he will ponder it?
Moderators’ questions in political debates are meant to enlighten voters on where candidates stand on various issues. As we have discovered recently, then unfortunately don’t always succeed. However, in our own lives, good questions do prompt us to more deeply consider issues and force us to ponder why we believe what we believe. They often are the only catalyst to changing one’s mind. With that, I would like to offer five questions to help us all develop a thoughtful, not a reflexive position on abortion.
1) If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?
2) Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down syndrome, most women chose to abort. How does one answer that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement of a century ago – the deliberate “weeding out” of those who society would deem “unfit” to live?
3) In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parent’s consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from a school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notifications regarding abortion access for minors?
4) If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered , do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence?
5) Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn “fetus” is viable – able to survive outside the womb?
Many of us take a pro-choice position of disapproving of abortion ourselves but not wanting to force our beliefs on others. To those, I would pose a final question: What if the issue were slavery rather than abortion?
1) The question of when or even if a fertilized egg is ensouled by God is a religious matter. My personal belief is that God would not give fertilized eggs souls when he designed our bodies to have a 50% miscarriage rate. Are half the angels in heaven zygotes without names, experiences or thoughts? Can a fertilized egg even get into heaven without a baptism? Should the federal government even attempt to answer those questions? No, because the First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion. Any attempt to set through legislation the date that an unborn child receives its soul violates the Constitution.
In the end, we have the history of the world to guide us. We don’t celebrate conception days, or the day of first fetal heartbeat or brainwave. We don’t celebrate the day an unborn child first kicks. We celebrate its birthday. On the day of its birth, when the unborn child becomes the born child, takes its first breath, has the umbilical cord cut and becomes a separate entity from its mother; that is the point when the child first receives human rights. The Certificate of Live Birth announces a new member of our American family.
2) The Eugenics movement was steeped in racism. Its focus was on promotion of the “master race” and the destruction of minorities and homosexuals. Sound familiar? It’s the GOP platform. When members of the Republican Party shout “Let them die” to people without health insurance and the crowd cheers, then we must recognize that the “deliberate weeding out of the unfit” is a fixture of today’s GOP. What else is it when the poor and minorities are ridiculed as worthless and lazy, when every social program is demonized as handouts to moochers, when food stamps are declared immoral, when the Republican candidate for President says 47% of the nation is composed of takers that steal from the rich?
Choosing to abort a fetus with Down syndrome isn’t about building a master race and killing the “unfit”. It is about recognizing that there is a real genetic defect, a fundamental flaw that corrupts every cell of the unborn child. Wanting a child with the correct number of chromosomes isn’t eugenics, it is correct reproduction. And yes we are allowed to make that choice for ourselves. It is also an economic matter. With limited resources, it makes sense to abort the defective copy and try again for a healthy child. It can cost over $350,000 just for the healthcare and education costs alone to raise a Down syndrome child. Who among the anti-tax GOP is going to pay for that? Will you?
A child with Down syndrome will never fit the Republican mold of “job creator” and self sufficient businessman. Those with Down syndrome who are successful as adults often still live with/near their parents, in institutions or group homes. They have had years of intensive therapy and training at special schools and clinics. When they do find work it is mostly at minimum wage and they exist at the mercy of kind employers. It is not a position of true self-reliance that parents hope for their children, and that Republican “Let them die” crowds demand.
I will not force my beliefs on any woman who does wish to raise a Down syndrome child, and I wish her family the best of luck. But if you wish to force your beliefs on me, and force me to raise a Down syndrome child who may or may not be able to support himself when I’m gone, then you must provide for his lifelong care to my satisfaction. Are you prepared to pay half a million or a million dollars of your own money over the life of each and every Down syndrome child? Or will you mind your own business and leave that gut-wrenching decision up to the individual families? If you make the choice, you must pay the price for imposing your will on others.
3) In a perfect world teenage girls would not get pregnant, and parents would not beat and rape their children. But it is not a perfect world. First, let us dispense of the Abstinence Only nonsense that has only increased teen pregnancy rates everywhere it has been tried. Instead, admit that the pre-requisite for teenage abortion is teenage pregnancy, and work to provide the birth control which has been proven to reduce pregnancy. Minors should also be able to get an aspirin as well as birth control without their parents’ permission. Treat teenagers like children and you will get 18 year old children. Treat them like adults and you’ll get 18 year old adults. They will be adults soon enough anyway.
In the event that a minor child does become pregnant, I do not support any abortion restrictions for age 16 and over. For age 15 and below, parental notification must have an escape clause. Some teenage girls have been severely beaten and murdered by their parents when they became pregnant. Some girls are victims of rape or incest, and the parent may not wish to allow an abortion. I will not force a girl to have her father’s baby.
A minor under 16 who fears for her life must always be able to go to a judge and obtain a secret abortion. Parents do not own their children. An imperfect solution for an imperfect world.
4) As a scientist, I reject such mushy headed notions as “serving multiple life sentences”. Murder, of one person or a hundred, should mean life in prison without parole, or the death penalty. I would not give a lighter sentence to someone who “merely” killed a non-pregnant woman, as if that’s any better. No, I would not bother to hang twice the murderer of a pregnant woman.
However, I do support criminal charges for violent acts that kill a fetus but don’t kill the mother. Murder could be charged along with the assault and attempted murder charges. The only person who decides on an abortion is the mother and her doctor. All others have no say in the matter.
5) Once the fetus is viable, able to survive without a respirator or advanced technology, then I do believe that the abortion window should be closed. There is enough time before that for choices to be made. So yes I understand the concept of a late term abortion ban. But late term abortions are not done for convenience. The necessary exceptions for the life and health of the mother make the issue moot, and I will not make that choice for another.
If my wife was in labor and something was terribly wrong, and the choice was kill the baby so my wife can live, or have my wife die? I choose my wife, each and every time. We can try again for a baby, or adopt. The fetus is expendable. You may not like my choice, but it is not your choice to make.
6) For your final question about not wanting to force your beliefs on anyone over slavery or abortion, here your bias is showing. There is no conflict on my side but on yours, for the pro-life and pro-slavery positions are the same.
Those men who supported slavery considered themselves intellectually and morally superior to their slaves. They believed they were entitled to own another human being mind, body and soul, to control all that they are and all that they do. Those evil men who supported slavery believed that they had the absolute right to force their beliefs, their will on their slaves.
Those men who call themselves pro-life also consider themselves intellectually and morally superior to women. They believe they are entitled to control the lives of women, to claim ownership of their bodies and their uterus. Those who are pro-life believe that they are allowed to own women’s bodies, and force women to bow to their will.
If the issue is slavery, I will tell you that you have no right to own another human being and force that person to obey you.
And when the issue is abortion, I will tell you that you have no right to own another human being and force that person to obey you.
Does that answer your question?