Tuesday, July 2, 2013

20 Weeks and the French Fallacy

“Where do you draw the line?” “5 months is long enough!” “Should a woman be able to give birth to a baby and leave it to die?” “In France, abortions can’t be performed after 12 weeks!”

All of these are responses I have heard to any opposition to the Texas bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks and close most of the abortion clinics in the state. As I stated yesterday, my main opposition to this bill is with the rules that would make it more difficult to obtain an abortion for women in the western half of the state. Poor women, rural women, and teenage mothers are disproportionately affected by this bill; the goal of this bill (and of the pro-life crowd in general) is to reduce abortions to the point of near impossibility.

Don't believe that is the true motive? Rick Perry said it was.
It's important to remember that, as a state, while we are under an obligation to protect the health and safety of the people who live here, we are under no obligation to make things easier for abortion providers.
The ideal world, of course, is a world without abortion.
 ...
And just remember: the louder the opposition screams, the more we know we're doing something right.
Until the day Roe v. Wade is nothing but a shameful footnote in our nation's history books, we won't give up the good fight.

By wrapping these stipulations in with this 20-week ban, it gives anti-abortionists a smoke screen to hide behind. They rarely have to touch the topic of access, instead they can sling mud about how all pro-choicers want to do is kill babies. This is a strawman argument that relies on you accepting that a 6- or 10- or 20- week old fetus is functionally the same as a baby. My favorite of such arguments, popular with the “pro-life” crowd is “how is this different than a woman giving birth and leaving a baby to die?”

Well, in a number of ways. In this country it is already legal to give your baby up for adoption if you don’t want to care for it. In the most extreme cases, as my friend Katie pointed out on facebook, you can actually drop a baby off at an ER for someone else to care for if you cannot do it yourself. This is completely unlike a cluster of cells growing inside your body which cannot see, hear, think, or even breathe on their own for the first several months of pregnancy. A fetus, unlike a baby, does not exist separate from the mother. In order to give the fetus rights, you must take them away from the person who would be required to care for them, no alternatives possible. Since one of these is a potential person, and one of these is an actual person, I cannot support transferring her rights away.

Already there is a law preventing the termination of a fetus once it becomes viable, aka capable of survival outside the uterus. The Supreme Court included that in the Roe. v. Wade decision, and set it at 24 weeks. But now this and other laws are moving the deadline up to 20 weeks. I’m not really opposed to this part of the bill, with the proper exceptions.

Medical science has evolved since 1973, so it would make sense that as the science improves, we would also be able to say that fetuses can be viable earlier due to improved life support technologies. However the reason for this particular line in the sand is that the fetus is “pain capable,” so it would be inhumane to terminate it. I can’t really find any evidence of this being true, except that put out by the clearly unbiased National Right to Life campaign. I, obviously, would prefer if our law on the matter were rooted in actual medical fact, but if it were I would not oppose it.

 However if this were the case, and if your motivations were purely to keep women from getting abortions once the fetus can actually suffer or be viable outside the uterus, it would be wise to help women who want to get an abortion obtain one quickly and safely prior to that point! It would be more humane, to both the woman and the so-called child growing inside her, to get the abortion done earlier in the pregnancy. But as I discussed, this law does the opposite, because it also makes it more difficult for people living in the west half of Texas to even get to an abortion clinic. And then other delightful legislation has imposed a waiting period, where you must get a sonogram and then return no less than 24 hours later for the procedure.

Next is the argument that in France abortions cannot be performed after 12 weeks. Surely if such a cosmopolitan country as France, inventors of champagne and crepes and macaroons, would limit abortions to the first 12 weeks, this post-20-week ban is hardly a big deal...right? Now, I still think 12 weeks is too short, because usually you don’t know you’re pregnant for the first month and this only leaves two more months to decide and take action.

However, I did some research on this and found that the laws in France still make it easier to get an abortion than this bill would in Texas, despite the short time limit. Check it: In France, abortion is free. Some forms of birth control are free. And the president ran on a platform that included making abortions available at EVERY hospital. If abortion were free and easy to obtain then there would be almost* no reason for a woman who wanted an abortion not to do it before the time ran out. Even if the time was only 6 or 7 weeks from the day she found out she was pregnant.

(*Almost, because this only makes sense in the case of abortions where the sole reason is that you are pregnant and don't want to be pregnant. If the reason is mother's health or fetal abnormalities, these could arise later in the pregnancy and there should always be exceptions for this.)

Anyways, I think that the 20 week limit, or 24 week limit or even the 12 week limit are not that problematic by themselves (assuming the proper exceptions, which I do not think this bill provides). By coupling the two separate issues together in the debate and hiding behind this "baby can feel pain" idea, it lends legitimacy to the supporters of the bill.

After today I refuse to engage with anyone who uses the "well let's just dump unwanted [post-birth] babies in a trash can, then" argument, as well as anyone who ignores the fact that this bill is dangerous to women, based on religious beliefs rather than actual medicine, or targeted at reducing abortions by making them impossible for many to obtain. If you are willing to take ownership of all those things, then we can talk.

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