Monday, April 6, 2009

Abortion Extremism: Babies as Physical Intrusions

An essay from Sherry Colb, a Professor at Cornell Law School, has been making its way across the conservatives blogosphere, so I thought I'd share it with readers: "Why a Botched Abortion Case Should, and Does, Inspire Outrage: The Sycloria Williams Story."

Professor Colb retells the story of Sycloria Williams, who was induced for a late-term abortion procedure, and delivered a live baby when the doctor failed to arrive on time. An owner of the clinic, Belkis Gonzalez, threw the baby in a toxic waste bag with gauze and other debris. The baby's remains were found by police a week later in a cardboard box.

Now, here's
Professor Colb's analysis:

An important feature of the facts that distinguishes what occurred here from abortion more generally is that if the narrative alleged by the prosecution and by Sycloria Williams is accurate, then Belkis Gonzalez – the woman who is said to have placed a live fetus into a biohazard bag – did something that goes well beyond what can be called "terminating a pregnancy."

Indeed, Gonzalez apparently had nothing to do with the termination itself: She did not dilate Williams's cervix or induce labor or otherwise play any role in removing the fetus from Williams's body. It was only after Williams had given birth to her fetus that Gonzalez cut the umbilical cord and deposited the allegedly live, writhing, breathing infant into a biohazard bag, along with gauze and other garbage.

One might argue, as some pro-life advocates have, that there is no meaningful difference between what Gonzalez did and what an abortion provider does, because in both cases, a fetus is killed. This argument, however, ignores one of the main premises of the right to abortion – the bodily-integrity interest of the pregnant woman. Particularly at the later stages of pregnancy, the right to abortion does not protect an interest in killing a fetus as such. What it protects instead is the woman's interest in not being physically, internally occupied by another creature against her will, the same interest that explains the right to use deadly force, if necessary, to stop a rapist. Though the fetus is innocent of any intentional wrongdoing and the rapist is not, the woman's interest in repelling an unwanted physical intrusion is quite similar.

Once the fetus is no longer inside the woman's body, though, killing it is not necessary to preserving the woman's bodily integrity. If Gonzalez had, instead of suffocating the infant in a garbage bag, placed it into an incubator with a respirator, for example, Williams would not have been any more pregnant than she was in the circumstances that actually unfolded. And once Williams was no longer pregnant, and thus no longer occupied by an unwelcome intruder, she had no more right to procure the death of her fetus than did anyone else, including Belkis Gonzalez.
You can read the rest of the article at the link, althought I can't resist including another passage, from the conclusion:

Most women who terminate their pregnancies do so in the first trimester, when there is no question of viability and when the developing fetus does not yet evidence the capacity to experience pain or pleasure. Such abortions understandably do not generate the same revulsion and outrage as the later ones do. Late-term abortions are morally complicated, because the later-term fetus may experience pain and may therefore plausibly be described – without any need for a religious gloss – as truly being a victim of the procedure. This does not, as some claim, necessarily mean that a woman should not have the right to terminate a pregnancy. It does, however, counsel in favor of measures that will move desired abortions up to as early a point in pregnancy as possible.

This is where laws intended to reduce the incidence of abortion by placing obstacles in women's paths may exacerbate the situation. To cite one example, thirty-four states currently have "parental involvement" statutes that require pregnant minors to notify or obtain consent from a parent before obtaining an abortion. Laws like these are very popular and strike many people as intuitively attractive. The Guttmacher Institute recently published findings, however, showing that such measures "delay access to the procedure, reducing safety and resulting in later, more costly abortions." When an abortion is delayed, moreover, not only is the procedure more physically risky and challenging to the woman, but it also involves a more developed and possibly sentient fetus.
The notion that a viable baby is an "unwanted physical intrusion" reveals the stomach-churning indifference to life among those on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate. But there's a lot in this conclusion as well. I personally cannot conceive of "fetal viability" as a legitimate concept. What's important is life itself, and abortion kills, whether in the first few weeks after fertilization, or months later when pro-choice extremists are debating whether the "alleged" baby would survive outside of the uterus. But further, notice how the same abandonment of morality treats childhood pregancy as a surprisingly legitimate access point for state control, with state power usurping the authority and autonomy of parents. That is, the fact that voters and representative bodies in thirty-four states believe as a matter of public policy that parents rather than minors are in a better position to make the ultimate decision regarding the fate of an unborn child appears of little consequence to Professor Colb, and no doubt to her allies in the radical feminist abortion lobby.

Conservatives really have lost the culture wars if it's to the point that health professionals and legal experts can seriously argue that consent laws are dangerous. Children getting pregnant is what's dangerous. Once a baby is conceived the assumption of those thirty-four states is that the parents are in better position to advise their daughter on what should happen next. The parents, as well, are certainly going to be in a better financial position to assist in decision-making, and thus robust parental notification laws are more likely to preserve life and liberty of young girls and their potential offspring.

What is so hard about this?

Readers can see why I refuse to capitulate not only to the nihilist left, but to the "postmodern" conservatives as well, "pomo" nihilists who are busy enabling all of this death worship by arguing that conservatives should "take the libertarian route" when it comes to culture. Yeah, sure. Kids can smoke a couple of joints on the way to the abortion clinic.

I know I've been blogging quite a bit on the gay marriage question, but conservatives cannot abandon the protection of the unborn as a first principle of a vigorous and intellectually honest political agenda. Vote life ...

Hat Tip: Darleen Click.


Dave said...

Dr. Douglas,

I probably do not have to remind you of this, as I am sure you are already aware of it, but many of your readers may not be.

Many of us of the libertarian persuasion do not support abortion in any way, shape, or form, and particularly if a child is being aborted because they are not exactly convenient.

One of the major tenets of libertarian thought is that people are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their own decisions, both good and bad. If people willingly engage in behavior that results in the creation of a human life, what right do they have to destroy that life?

As I am one who believes strongly in the primacy of the individual, that goes double for the one segment of humanity that is uniquely unable to speak for itself, the unborn child.