Courts and judges don’t like vigilantism and resorting to self-help. The concept of allowing the average individual to take action, to seek revenge, to “right the wrongs” on behalf of another or themselves is generally anathema to the conduct of an orderly society. We have built laws and infrastructure to enforce those laws so that there is as much objective, rational and emotionless application of the laws to the defendants so that we can have the greatest amount of justice possible.
Our courts often fail in the fair administration of justice, but at least they are trying to do the right thing. Humans are inherently faulty and so any system that must deal with human frailty is going to be complex, confusing, and incapable of taking into account all situations.
As a situation becomes more complex, finding an appropriate resolution, or marking lines for boundaries becomes ever more difficult and murky. This is where the flexibility of interpretation of the law becomes more important and infuriating. It is the source of the most used phrase in law, “well that depends…”.
This is all a precursor to an incomplete discussion of that hottest of all topics – abortion and the latest assault on a woman’s right to have an abortion at will out of Texas. I will fail to completely address the topic, because it is simply too big to address outside of a law school textbook, and maybe even then as well.
Here’s my background on abortion: as a single gay man it’s really not an issue that is likely to impact me personally, absent a drunken, mistaken, one-night stand (all of which are getting more and more unlikely as I hit 55 this week!) pregnancy is not in my foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinion on it. And it’s not what you anticipate, but we’ll get there.
When I was attending St. John’s College in the 80’s we did biology in an experimental manner. We were reading Aristotle, Harvey and a few other names no one will know. One of the things we did was examine chicken embryos at various stages of development. We would take an embryo, put it on a slide and examine its development under a microscope. As my lab partner and I did ours the circulatory system that had developed was nicked and it bled out, but the rudimentary heart kept pumping.
That experience led me to decide that there was some life force present in that embryo. Maybe it’s just an electrical charge that is causing the muscle to continue to pump, or not. I don’t know. I do know that for me the decision was that I believe there was life there, and that should I get a woman pregnant, I would be responsible for the life I created, and hence against aborting it.
However, I was also reading Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I was a very strong Reagan Republican (HEY! I was only 20ish, forgive me!) and believed, and still do, in personal freedom. Freedom to me, as a gay man, means I get to decide what I do with my body so long as it doesn’t negatively impact another, and if I want that freedom for me, I have to be willing to grant it to another. Hence, personally I am pro-life, and societally I am pro-choice as a woman should be able to control her body as much as I can control mine.
Now this is where the messiness of the law, and human frailty converge to make a convoluted, complex, and excruciating situation. For I said that my rights end at the edge of another, the hardline pro-life advocates take that to mean the embryo that has developed in a woman. Their point is not completely invalid. Left alone, most of those embryos probably would continue to develop into fetuses and then live human beings.
Texas has decided to honor that proto-human and give uninvolved individuals the right to seek redress on the behalf of the aborted embryo after 6 weeks. The law as written skirts the requirements of Roe v. Wade and empowers ‘true believers’ with a $10,000 bounty. This level of vigilantism is scary to any thinking person, and it sets a horrible precedent, if it stands.
The Court is hearing a case in December in which an amicus brief has been filed. I found this on ABC7.com, “Crissy Perham, a double gold medalist and captain of the 1992 U.S. Olympic swim team, offered one of several personal testimonies in the brief attesting to her experience obtaining an abortion.
“When I was in college, I was on birth control, but I accidentally became pregnant,” she wrote. “I decided to have an abortion. I wasn’t ready to be a mom, and having an abortion felt like I was given a second chance at life.”
“That choice ultimately led me to being an Olympian, a college graduate and a proud mother today,” Perham wrote.
How the Supreme Court will ultimately rule on this remains to be seen. It doesn’t look good for the abortion rights advocates, but then again, we don’t know if the Supremes will set aside their personal beliefs and recognize that they are setting laws for all of the country, not just the people who agree with them.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra