Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Keeping women in the dark

As Americans continue to react to the death of a man who was responsible for the killing of about 3,000 human beings in a single day, my home state of Texas is on the verge of passing a law that will make the abortion clinics of America rather angry as it will interfere with their heretofore unbridled ability to go on killing 3,000 human beings a day every day in this country:

AUSTIN — A sonogram bill that would require women seeking an abortion to hear a detailed description of their fetus, as well as be presented images and heartbeats, won Senate approval Monday, moving it closer to becoming one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.

Women could opt out of seeing the sonogram or listening to a heartbeat, if it is detectable, but almost all would have to listen to a doctor outline what organs and extremities have developed. The measure was tentatively approved, 21-10, and faces one more vote before it heads back to the House.

“It will be one of the strongest bills in the nation for informed consent,” said author Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. “And hopefully, lives can be saved after seeing the sonogram and hearing the heartbeat.”

Of course, the opposition is furious:

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said that under the guise of informing women of their options, abortion opponents are trying to bully women who are already struggling and distressed into having a baby.

“The purpose is to traumatize women who are considering an abortion procedure into making a decision otherwise,” Davis said.

Um, no bovine excrement, friend of Watson. Well, not the "traumatize" part, unless you think that women are helpless, delicate flowers who will be traumatized to learn that the "blob of tissue" they're planning to kill already has a heartbeat in addition to other recognizably human features.

Of course informed consent laws are passed in the hopes that when women really stop and consider that abortion will forever make them responsible for ending the life of a human being whom they chose to kill and in whose death they willingly and even gladly participated, they might change their minds; after all, pregnancy only lasts nine months, but abortion is forever.

But I can't understand how anybody who is really in favor of a woman's so-called right to choose to kill her unborn child actually opposes informed consent laws. How "pro-choice" is it to insist that the only way someone can choose freely is if they don't really understand what it is that they are choosing? How is it respectful of women to demand that nobody tell them anything at all about embryonic development and, in fact, to create a preference for lies and euphemisms: "blob of tissue," "product of conception," and so forth? How is it about "women's health" to insist that women undergo a surgical procedure in which nobody discusses what the goal of the surgery actually is, or defines success in a realistic way (e.g., "We intend to use suction to tear apart the embryo and vacuum her out of your uterus; then we will reassemble her arms, legs, torso and head to be sure we've got all of her out of you, and further scrape the uterine lining for missing remains, bone fragments and anything else that might cause damage to the uterus or secondary infection.")?

Imagine, for a second, that you are going in for surgery to have your appendix removed, and nobody actually says the word "appendix" or mentions that the goal is to take it out of you; instead, the whole thing is so wrapped in euphemism that you can't quite tell what it is the doctors plan to remove, or why. Would someone choosing an appendectomy under those circumstances really be making a free choice? Why, then, do we insist that the only way a woman can make a free choice to have an abortion is if we never actually talk about what she's having removed and killed?

Pro-choice people like to repeat the phrase that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. But I don't think they mean the "rare" bit at all (we can talk about "safe" some other time, since not too many people care about that, either). If informed consent laws would limit abortion to women who are heartless enough to be capable of viewing their child's heartbeat and/or listening to the medical facts of their baby's development, shrugging, yawning, and saying "Kill her anyway," then I think abortion might actually become rather rare. If pro-choice people really wanted abortion to be rare, they'd support informed consent laws too.

But the truth is, most people who support abortion think women should be able to choose to kill their unborn offspring without ever having to contemplate what it is they are actually doing. If women began to seen the unborn human inside them for the unique, alive, child he or she is, it would be a lot harder to give the kill order. And that would have repercussions on our society's mad addiction to sex without consequences. To protect that obsession, we're perfectly willing to keep women in the dark about what they're actually doing when they enter an abortion clinic pregnant, and come out the mother of a dead child.


Anonymous said...

Informed consent is a right - not liking the information is a consequence - and so we circle back around to sex without consequences.

Questionably safe, as long as we don't consider the dead baby, marginally legal, as long as we don't consider the dead baby, relatively rare, as long as we don't consider EACH INDIVIDUAL DEAD BABY. Sorry if you don't like the information, but you have a right to it. I wish the babies had the chance to exercise their own rights. If it's all so route and harmless, what is the big deal?

Questionable, marginal, relative - that's Austin for you. Wish you were here.

Anonymous said...

sorry, route should be "rote" -

Kim said...

Great article--thanks Erin!

Martha said...

I enjoy your blog, but I disagree with what you think of those opposing informed consent laws. The pro-choice people I know oppose this mainly because they believe 1) it is not the gov'ts business what medical choices they make and 2) women who choose abortion are desperate and miserable; detailing a procedure that they already fully understand insults them by assuming they are unaware of what it is and then rubs the miserable decision they have had to make in their face. You say they are acting as though women are delicate flowers; they would say you are acting as though women are stupid. I know you will disagree with points 1 and 2; I can make arguments against them as well. But my experience with women who have had abortions and women who have turned away from abortions tells me that there ARE a lot of women who are miserable, feeling trapped and hopeless, and the detailed explanation of the procedure will not be what stops them, if anything does. I think that you are overlooking that many pro-choicers are compassionate; they are just showing one-sided compassion, compassion for the one person they can see, and not for the innocent person they cannot. They empathize with the one who is more like themselves. That's wrong, but certainly a human tendency.

If you are interested you might look at the posts at Conversion Diary - the author explains the mindset she had when she was pro-choice pretty well, and if you really can't understand how a pro-choice woman opposes informed consent laws, her posts would probably help. (if that was a rhetorical flourish, I apologize.)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

It occurs to me that the average doctor working in a Planned Parenthood clinic is probably able to give a presentation that technically complies with the law without imposing much on the women concerned. In that sense, this is a rather sad piece of drama, unlikely to change much.

It is also likely that as far as the first trimester goes, this law is null and void, unenforceable, since the federal constitution, as expounded by seven out of nine Supreme Court justices, bars states from much of any role in regulating abortion during that period.

During the second trimester, states have authority to regulate for the specific purpose of protecting maternal health. It is hard to see how maternal health will be advanced or hindered by the measures prescribed. Therefore, the law could well be enjoined for its rather obvious pretextual purpose.

Either abortion is murder, and should be banned, except when it is committed in self-defense (to preserve the life of the mother), or it is none of the government's business. This kind of half-way measure may be cathartic for frustrated pro-lifers who can't get criminal legislation adopted, but it is still muddled.

melanie said...

Honestly, the sad thing about an unwanted pregnancy is that it forces choice. Either we have compassion for the mother, or compassion for the fetus. We cannot, it seems, figure out a way to have compassion for both. What should be legislated ideally, is that every woman who becomes pregnant unplanned and unwanted, be given some kind of counseling from another woman who has experienced an unwanted pregnancy and gone on the carry her baby to term. She should be put in touch with homes that could care for her, she should speak with women who have placed their babies for adoption and
should speak with women who are suffering from infertility
and cannot get pregnant. Someone should talk to her
about how scary pregnancy can be for women even in the
very best of circumstances, when it's totally unexpected,
but how over a few months time, your whole mindset
changes dramatically when our hormones settle down and
things stop feeling so fatal. When your mind adapts and a
baby no longer seems like the worst possible thing that
could happen. Real compassion for women should not be about
the fetus as her enemy, when, physically and hormonally
she feels that way anyway. So that, taking advantage of
those first few months of terror and confusion, she chooses
the most immediate yet deadly solution to her problem
without at least feeling like there are other ways out. There
are other choices than abortion. People have made them.
If being pro- choice somehow equals compassion for women, than give them choices. Other choices.

c matt said...

one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.

How does it restrict abortion at all? As for the government having no "right" to meddle in our medical decisions - where have you been the last 50 years? The government is all over medical decisions, from the very beginning - deciding who can and cannot provide medical care, what drugs can or cannot be prescribed and for what purpose, what procedures are approved, and if you are on medicare, medicaid or go to a government sponsored hospital/clinic, what will or will not be paid for. Gov't is all over your medical decisions.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

c matt, you often manage to broaden a specific argument about the current law of the land into a freewheeling commentary on what makes sense to you.

The government does not (yet) have authority to tell me whether or not I may take an aspirin, or which antihystamine I shall take tomorrow morning. It does have authority to require vaccination (for public health reasons extending beyond the personal health of the individual), and to require that pharmaceutical companies maintain sterile conditions.

The law of the land is well established that the decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy, during the first two trimesters, is none of the government's business.

Melanie, what you offer is a valid piece of the mosaic. It should be assidously offered, although probably not by government fiat, and provided to any woman willing to hear it. Some won't. Also, I must note once again that there are not enough adoptive couples available for all the babies that HAVE been born, much less all the ones that WOULD be born if abortion were no woman's choice ever.