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Columnists

The Misunderstanding about Abortion Continues

I am generally opposed to the idea of abortion. It’s not that I think my opinion is exceptionally worthy of attention, but it’s significant because in most circumstances, I don’t believe the government has the right to interfere with a woman’s choice to abort.

But I also think Roe v. Wade is a horrendous decision and needs to be overturned immediately. Again, that doesn’t mean I think abortion should be illegal.

You see, in that 1973 Supreme Court case, it seems several justices caved under immense public policy pressure and squeezed a dubious ‘right to privacy’ interpretation out of the Constitution to justify their holding. The reason I think abortion should be legal is not because of Roe, but because of liberty itself.

Before we get to the body of the Constitution, its Preamble clearly articulates the Framers’ intent: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” (grammar/spelling as originally written).

Paradoxically, though just about every American would condemn our government as barbaric and totalitarian if, say, it killed newborn babies of a particular gender or for population control (as happens in some other places in the world), for some reason many of the same ones don’t see the government’s compelling a woman, against her will, to carry a life she created to term, as a violation of the aforementioned Blessings of Liberty.

Before proceeding with legitimate points on both sides, we should discard some arguments that do nothing but unnecessarily fan the flames. Many pro-lifers insist that “the woman didn’t create the life, God did!” That’s perfectly fine for those who believe that, but our laws are not designed to take that into account. Of course, there are overlaps between God’s laws and human-made laws (“thou shalt not kill,” for example), but a law cannot pass Constitutional muster if its premise is based on God’s existence.

On the pro-choice side, there is the polemic quip that men should have no opinion on this subject, because only women are capable of becoming pregnant. There are two flaws with that argument: first, if the logic is that women have a special insight into pregnancies and abortions, it would only apply to women who’ve gotten pregnant.

Everyone else, men and women alike, merely imagine what it’s like. Second, if men can’t voice an opinion about abortions, then whites can’t voice an opinion about affirmative action, non-Jews can’t voice an opinion about the Holocaust, and none of us who are neither of Ukrainian nor Russian descent should utter a word about what’s going on over there.

Next, most folks would agree that if someone intentionally causes a fetus to die, even though its mother lives, the perpetrator is guilty of homicide. But the lingering philosophical question is: does the creator (co-creator, actually) of the life itself (the mother) have a right to terminate a life that she was never obligated to create in the first place? Most people agree that she certainly can’t after the baby is born. And most people are in favor of birth control methods. But what about the time in between?

An answer as to “exactly when does life begin?” from a consensus of scientists and physicians throughout the world would be illuminating, but nowadays science and medicine have become so politicized that establishing such widespread accord and convincing the masses to trust the result is highly unlikely.

The overwhelming majority of Americans believes that in cases of rape, incest, and the endangerment of the mother’s life, abortions should be performed. Also, most Americans cringe when watching a video that graphically depicts the process of partial-birth or otherwise very late-term abortions.

But what about the woman who, for whatever reason, consented to the act that led to her pregnancy? What if she fell madly in love with someone who, three months into her pregnancy, was discovered to be a serial killer, and now she doesn’t want to give birth to his spawn? Should she have to? Is that consistent with the Blessings of Liberty?
Abortions in America should be rare. Today’s technology connects us with fetuses in ways that decades ago were unthinkable. A growing baby inside the womb is no longer an unseen concept. That will go a long way toward saving some unborn babies.

So will prevention, so will counseling, and so will alternatives, such as adoption.

Nonetheless, the law is what it is, not always what we want it to be, and our laws all stem from the U.S.

Constitution, whose Blessings of Liberty arguably include the right to terminate any pregnancy that is not otherwise afforded the same legal rights as a living human being (for example, fetuses don’t count when taking a census or determining Congressional districts based on population).

Moreover, because of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, any rights guaranteed by the federal government also apply to the states, which would mean that abortion would become legal in all 50 states. From a practical perspective, that won’t change things very much. Abortion clinics would still be plentiful in the Bronx but rare in rural Oklahoma. But that will be by choice, not legal imposition.

I know many women – most of them who’ve given birth – who find the concept of terminating an unborn child utterly devastating. And though I respect their feelings very much, we as a society cannot always impose on others behavior we determine to be right or wrong.

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