Friday, April 27, 2007

The US Supreme Court on Partial Birth Abortion

Granted, I have no business writing a piece on this subject, especially in this particular blog, but this decision as explained by Justice Anthony Kennedy leaves me so agitated that I can't keep my fingers off the keyboard.

Obviously, this has nothing to do with my great grandfather, Henry Brown Richardson or his wife, who were happy to have had nine children, and who probably never gave a thought to the subject. Only the fact that this is the most ill -considered, politically partisan decision since the Dred Scott case gives it even the most tenuous connection to my ancestor and his epoch. In short, I admit that this outburst is out of place in this my 'forthcoming book blog', but this is the only blog I have.

Secondly, this is a subject which primarily concerns women, and I am just an old man, unlikely to father any more children, but that didn't stop Justice Kennedy or the other old men on the Court from having their say.

Neither do I have any special medical knowledge other than what I read in the periodicals, but the same is broadly true for Justice Kennedy and his majority colleagues.

What do I read in the periodicals? This for example, from the New York Times:

The Supreme Court decision is shameful and incomprehensible, said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which issued a statement about the decision. The organization added that the procedure, which it calls intact dilation and extraction, or D and E, “is safest and offers significant benefits for women suffering from certain conditions that make non-intact D & E especially dangerous.”

Or, for more details, especially on how the pro-life people manoeuvred this nonsensical law into effect, see this article, from which I quote:

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban does not prohibit what most people think it prohibits. It is not a late-abortion law. Apart from a single quoted remark in its “findings” section, which is a kind of declaratory preface, the ban contains no mention at all of third-trimester abortion, or of any gestational point in pregnancy. It criminalizes only by method, outlawing some actions during a pregnancy termination but not others, meaning that as practical legislation—isolated from its mission, that is, and considered solely as a directive on what physicians may and may not do in a procedure room—it makes clear ethical sense only to people who don't spend much time thinking about abortion. Defending the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in court, as teams of Justice Department lawyers were dispatched this spring and summer [2004] to do, requires arguing to judges that pulling a fetus from a woman's body in dismembered pieces is legal, medically acceptable, and safe; but that pulling a fetus out intact, so that if the woman wishes the fetus can be wrapped in a blanket and handed to her, is appropriately punishable by a fine, or up to two years' imprisonment, or both.
Certainly, the skull-crushing and brain-sucking publicized by the pro-life people are gruesome images, but even if the fetus is living, it is a quick and relatively painless death. On the contrary, cutting a living fetus apart in the womb, apparently the most widely used and still legal method, cannot help but cause more pain and suffering to the fetus.

Now, I ask you, does that make any sense? Only if you consider it in relation to the pro-lifers' longer term objective. Now that they have won this peripheral battle, they can use the ground gained as a base for a frontal attack on their main objective, which is Wade vs. Roe.

To be continued, unfortunately.

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