Wednesday, March 9, 2011

On pain bill, abortion defenders appeal to the hard cases

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature on Monday. The bill would prohibit abortions after the point in pregnancy at which the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain, which is (conservatively) 20 weeks.

Abortion defenders responded, in part, by appealing to the very rare "hard case" pregnancies for which abortion would no longer be permitted. NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota told the Star Tribune that abortions after 20 weeks "often involve fetuses with fatal medical conditions." The group's executive director, Linnea House, later blogged:
I worry about the young rape victim, too ashamed to admit she's pregnant until it's too late. I worry about the incest victim, desperately trying to raise the money for her abortion care so her family doesn't find out. I worry about the couple with a wanted pregnancy that learns something has gone terribly wrong and that an abortion is the best option to ensure they can have children in the future.
If the unborn entity dismembered and killed by abortion is a valuable human being, as pro-life advocates thoughtfully argue, then the horrible crimes of rape and incest do not justify abortion. Moreover, research shows that a rape victim's psychological and emotional well being is is not helped -- but rather worsened -- by the violence of abortion.

Regarding bad fetal diagnoses, a total of 160 women having abortions cited "fetal anomalies" in 2009 (about one percent of all abortions), according to the latest abortion report from the Minnesota Department of Health. Many of these probably did take place at or after 20 weeks.

But clearly one's moral worth does not depend upon ability or disability -- killing a human being for an "anomaly" is the worst sort of discrimination. Unborn children who will likely soon die should be treated like any other human being who will soon die: Perinatal hospice care is a wonderful option. The painful killing of abortion is not.

Linnea House is wrong to claim (as I think she does above) that women could face health risks if the Pain Capable legislation is enacted. The bill makes exceptions for when abortion is deemed necessary to save the life of the mother or to avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a bodily function. Regardless, it's not clear how intentionally killing an unborn human being (as opposed to, for example, inducing premature labor to protect the health of the mother, with the intention of also caring for the child) is ever medically necessary.

House told the Star Tribune, "This ban is a cruel attempt by anti-choice forces to curb access to care for women in the most desperate of circumstances."

But no one wants to curb access to good care -- physical, psychological, etc. -- for women. We want to curb access to the violent and deadly act of abortion, which is the antithesis of good care.