In Part 1 of this article, I explained my completely non-religious, entirely secular, totally logic-based objection to abortion.
To summarize: It is axiomatic that a woman has a perfect right to choose what she does with her own body, right up until the point that her choice infringes on the equally inherent rights of another person. (If this were not an axiom, then the whole concept of natural rights would be destroyed, and a person’s right to take some action that harms a second person would depend only on how much power the first person has over the second. While this arrangement is indeed common enough, we generally do not consider it to be right, or proper, or ethical, or a suitable basis for establishing a civil society.) So the key question is: When, during the creation of a human life, is a new human life actually created?
When we allow our Experts to establish an arbitrary point, after fertilization of the egg, which defines when a human life is present and when it is not, then no matter what logic they may have invoked in the process, it will be all too easy for the Experts to shift this arbitrary dividing line at any time, under duress or for matters of convenience, to exclude from “human life” other categories of individuals such as babies, or the elderly, or disabled people, or demented people, or fat people.
And to illustrate the point, I pointed out that Progressive ethicists are already arguing that the definition of “non-personhood” used by proponents of abortion is readily extensible to young children, and thus permits (at the least) infanticide. Specifically, given that abortion is permitted for any reason, these ethicists argue, parents also should be permitted to terminate the lives of their young children for any reason they may choose. (And thus, presumably, Casey Anthony should have been left alone without all the fuss and muss of a trial.)
So again, my secular, logic-based objection to abortion boils down to a single question: Is there some objective criterion by which it is OK to terminate a fetus, without also making it OK to terminate an inconvenient infant or toddler (or other types of inconvenient humans)? Progressive ethicists have determined that there is not. To me, this startling fact makes abortion problematic.
This brings us, at last, to President Obama. I have implied that Mr. Obama and I have some common ground when it comes to the issue of abortion – even though our conclusions about abortion are opposite one another. That common ground is this: when we allow Experts to define “human life” arbitrarily, we are opening ourselves up to a slippery slope. Specifically, any arbitrary definition of human life you can devise is readily extensible to places we would not like to go, and will result in horrible abuses. President Obama and I completely agree on this point.
This fact is made apparent from remarks made by then-State-Senator Obama in 2003, when he chaired the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee. At that time, Senator Obama’s committee was considering the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA) a proposed bill aimed at protecting infants who are born alive after botched “induced labor abortions,” a type of abortion sometimes used when the fetus is well beyond the first trimester.
In induced labor abortion, labor is induced prematurely with drugs. The idea is to produce a “late miscarriage.” Specifically, the result of this premature labor is supposed to be the delivery a lifeless (albeit baby-shaped) mass of tissue. And for pregnancies that are no more than 20 or 21 weeks along, this is generally what happens.
But, as is always the case with advanced medical techniques, some doctors insist on “pushing the envelope,” and have taken to offering induced labor abortions to women who are further along into their 2nd (or even third) trimesters. And (predictably) when this is done, the mass of tissue that ends up being delivered turns out occasionally to be a live baby.
Needless to say, a live birth invariably proves deeply embarrassing to any self-respecting abortion doctor who has his professional reputation to think about. So, naturally, steps are taken to correct the situation. In certain Illinois hospitals, whose actions had induced the introduction of the BAIPA, the usual remedy, apparently, was to place the inconveniently living product of the botched abortion on a shelf in the Soiled Linen Room, where it would remain unattended and alone until it no longer impersonated a live baby, a process which might take a few minutes or a few hours. Some hospital personnel found this procedure disturbing and reported it to state legislators, who were moved to write the BAIPA.
The BAIPA noted that any person born in the United States is a US citizen according to the 14th Amendment, and as a citizen that person is entitled to the same medical care that would be routinely given to any other citizen. Furthermore, such routine medical care, when given to babies born prematurely at the same gestational age as many of these aborted babies, not infrequently results in a healthy child.
State Senator Obama objected to the bill for more than one reason. For instance, he held that, once the abortion doctor determines that a fetus is pre-viable, it should be taken as law that the child is pre-viable even if (oops!) it is born alive. The fact that the child is alive, and might potentially respond to medical care, seemed to carry no weight with him. And the fact that these tiny babies invariably die soon enough when banished alone to the cold, dark hell of the Soiled Linen Room might even constitute evidence that he is correct – although even full-term babies would not survive for very long in such environs.
But to get a flavor for Senator Obama’s chief objection to the BAIPA, let us turn to the transcript of his own words from one of the hearings held for this bill:
“….as I understand it, Sen. O’Malley, the testimony during the committee indicated that one of the key concerns was – - is that there was a method of abortion, and induced abortion, where the – - the fetus or child, as – - as some might describe it — is still temporarily alive outside the womb. And one of those concerns that came out in the testimony was the fact that they were not being properly cared for during that brief period of time that they were still living……Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that we would be provided to a – - a child, a nine-month-old – - child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it – - it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute.”
And here is the key point. Mr. Obama was arguing that we simply cannot define these living babies as being people because doing so would start us down a slippery slope that, at the end of the day, “would forbid abortions to take place.” Mr. Obama was explicitly recognizing that there is no real, fundamental, definitive, essential difference between this squalling, squirming struggling blob and a newly fertilized egg.
If we say this is a person, he is arguing, then that is tantamount to saying that any fetus is a person – which is the same thing as saying that abortion should not be permitted. Therefore, this baby cannot be a person.
And this, dear reader, is the point upon which President Obama and I agree on abortion. It is the most important point of all, and really, is the only point that matters: Once we allow the Experts to define “human life,” then the definition can be changed arbitrarily, at any time, to any definition you want.
While we agree on this fundamental point, however, President Obama and I reach different conclusions about its implications. Given the clear (but suppressed) history of Progressivism, a history featuring the enthusiastic devaluation of various types of inconvenient human life, and given the fact that Progressives are now running our healthcare system and are in charge of deciding who gets what, when and how, I believe we should insist on the most conservative definition of human life possible – the point of fertilization of the egg. Anything else invites grave abuses.
President Obama, on the other hand, insists on a completely open definition of human life, one that allows a very expansive idea of what constitutes, for instance, non-viability. Pinning down the definition of human life, he is saying, will be too limiting. It will certainly limit abortion. As it happens, it will also limit other medical policies that will become necessary in the future as Obamacare rolls out.
I am arguing that any definition of human life that allows abortion will too easily also allow infanticide and other abuses. President Obama emphasizes the other side of this same argument: that disallowing infanticide (and by necessary extension, disallowing the termination of other forms of inconvenient human life) threatens to disallow abortion.
In any case, on the fundamental question, President Obama and I are brothers.
DrRich explains it all in Open Wide and Say Moo! The Good Citizen’s Guide to Right Thoughts and Right Actions Under Obamacare
Now available in the audiobook version!