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Parsing abortion debate terms (Part 3)

Published on -1/3/2014, 9:45 AM

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The broad goal is straightforward: repeal Roe v. Wade, and once again make abortion a criminal act.

The strategy of those who wish to do so involves not just promoting the idea "life begins at conception," which certainly is true to the extent a unique being or beings result from sperm meeting egg. The larger strategy is to attempt to confer full personhood from the moment of conception to delivery on whatever's inside the womb. Then, if you accept the premise, whatever resides in the womb is a person with equal legal right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence.

(Incidentally, Article XIV of the Constitution declares "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" are citizens who have "equal protection of the laws." The unborn are cited in neither founding document.)

Those who promote repealing Roe steadily use "babies, children, infants" to represent any stage or condition of the unborn -- from zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus. The word frames are used to imply a normal, healthy newborn or nearly so -- even though late-term abortions are relatively rare and occur under often desperate circumstances. And even though abortions, natural and intended, can happen within days or weeks of conception.

Those favoring criminalizing induced abortions typically still use more word framing: "murder, assassinate, slaughter, butcher." Those frames, in connection with personhood words like babies, children, infants -- logically results in a de facto accusation of first-degree homicide against females who deliberately decide to abort a pregnancy, as well as abortion providers, and any who aid and assist.

Commonly, first-degree murder is defined across the many states as the premeditated and deliberate killing of an innocent person. Sometimes insanity is offered as a defense; sometimes murderers under legal age are treated differently. However, the penalty for otherwise sane adults is death by various state-approved methods, or at least life imprisonment.Do anti-choice zealots really propose first-degree murder charges? If not, they tacitly deny full legal personhood beginning at conception.

But let's assume they stand by the equal personhood argument, would physicians then be legally bound to report all diagnosed pregnancies immediately so as to allow tracking? Would females be required to undergo pregnancy testing each six months to allow law enforcement to assure abortions could not be hidden? Why not?

Would females who tested themselves be legally bound to report positive tests? Logically, would parents or guardians themselves be guilty of at least civil charges for failure to report pregnancies of underage children? Why not?

Since natural abortions often occur so early, they're mistaken for menstrual irregularity, and since such could happen as the result of a morning-after pill, should any instances also be reported and investigated? Should blood samples be taken to ascertain whether an abortifacient had been deliberately taken, or some other method used? Why not?

Should women experiencing later miscarriages be routinely questioned and examined to clear doubt as to first-degree homicide? Why not?

For post-puberty females leaving the country to visit abroad: Should they first be screened for pregnancy? And, if pregnant when leaving, should they not be screened again on re-entry ... to assure law enforcement the female had not been complicit in the "murder" abroad of a pre-born blastocyst with full personhood? Indeed, why not?

Let's put an end to the simplistic, absolutist, anti-choice judgmentalism. If anti-woman's choice zealots want to propose first-degree murder charges for all abortions, they should say so up front. If a blanket first-degree murder charge seems extreme -- if "pro-life" proponents really don't want capital punishment or life imprisonment for any and all abortions at any stage or situation -- then they tacitly acknowledge not everything pre-born has equal personhood.

They might then admit the circumstances of abortion often are complex, that they have a right to passionate opinions -- but no right to impose legal verdicts. Anti-choice fanatics then might back off the "they're all persons" being "murdered, slaughtered, assassinated or butchered" simplistic framing.

Not all in life is a matter of convenient moral black or white.

Roe v. Wade is far from perfect. None I know advise all women in all circumstance to have abortions. But allowing females the legal right of ultimate choice beats taking a U-turn to an ugly past when abortions were done in back alleys, sometimes with a septic coat-hanger, and always on the sly.

Parts 1 and 2 of this three-part essay are available online to subscribers at hdnews.net/search/Hooper120613 and hdnews.net/search/Hooper122013, or by emailing the author at celtic@ruraltel.net

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