An abortion is a surgical procedure that is sometimes necessary in order to save a pregnant woman’s life, so it must remain safe and legal. No matter what we think of the procedure, we can agree that in the most scientifically advanced society in the history of the world no woman should die in childbirth if it’s possible for doctors to save her. After all, that’s precisely why we have doctors in the first place.
Over the years, the abortion procedure has moved from the world of medicine into the realm of politics, co-opted as the unifying issue that brought fiscal and social conservatives together to elect Ronald Reagan in 1980. The Republican Party has been making political hay out of it ever since. The murder of Dr. George Tiller this past Sunday morning inside the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan. should be a signal to these “pro-life” Republicans to finally accept and acknowledge the fact that the abortion procedure is — and must stay — safe and legal before they get more people killed over a Supreme Court case that was decided a generation ago.
I’ve had this discussion with some of my Republican friends more than once. They usually tell me that it’s unfair to blame the party for the actions of a few crazy people. I say that the problem isn’t a few people acting crazy, it’s that the Republican Party’s stated goal on abortion is crazy, so it attracts crazy people to its defense. They want to pass a “human life amendment” to the Constitution, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and establishing a fundamental right to life for fetuses. That right would take precedence over that fetus’ mother’s Fourth Amendment right to “be secure in her person, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” So the Republican platform on abortion is that the state should intervene to protect a fetus from its mother and/or her doctor if either attempts to deny that fetus’ supposed right to life — and that is certifiably crazy.
Let’s say they got their wish, a “human life amendment” was somehow passed, and Roe v. Wade was overturned. Some states would immediately pass laws limiting access to the procedure and others would pass laws banning it outright. This, of course, would not change the number of pregnant women seeking to have an abortion, it would just lead them to travel greater distances to get it — and have the added effect of further reducing access for poor or disadvantaged women. States would then pass laws making it a crime to cross state lines for the purpose of having this surgical procedure, a step that will become necessary after women’s health clinics start opening up just across the border of those states where it’s still safe and legal.
Establishing a right to life for a fetus would have the (unintended?) consequence of not only criminalizing the abortion procedure, but pregnancy itself. It would create a new class of people (pregnant women), new legislation (pregnancy law), new violations of that law (pregnancy crime), and it would require a new government agency to monitor those people, enforce that law, and investigate those crimes (pregnancy police).
We would then live in a country where the government could go sifting through medical waste from OB/Gyn offices looking for evidence of possible violations of the pregnancy code, then get warrants to search through some women’s medical records based on a reasonable suspicion of an unlawfully terminated pregnancy. Or they could justify stopping women driving near state lines by saying they had reason to believe she might be pregnant and going to get an illegal abortion. The slope could get so slippery as to criminalize the act of impregnating and/or becoming impregnated if it’s not done with the specific intent of bearing a child. The net effect of establishing a right to life from the point of conception is to turn women into child-bearing sex slaves with no free will of their own once they become pregnant, compelled by the government to carry to term under penalty of law.
This simply cannot and will not happen in the real world, and the Republican Party needs to admit as much and remove that plank from its platform; if for no other reason than to isolate the crazies within their party who believe they’re advancing some kind of political agenda by murdering people for making sure pregnant women aren’t hurt or killed by their pregnancy. Then they can get on the right side of history by passing legislation making the specific targeting of health care providers a hate crime.
Believe it or not, the abortion procedure has been good to the Republican Party. They’ve raised untold amounts of money because of their support for banning it knowing full well it will always be safe and legal somewhere in this country. The failure to square this circle with their lunatic fringe has left a good man dead, a Kansas family without a husband, father, and grandfather and all those women with doomed pregnancies whom Dr. Tiller could have helped with one less medical option.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider living in Santa Monica who would never presume to tell any woman what to do with her body — unless she asks. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.