In his State of the Union address, President Bush demanded an end to “the practice of partial-birth abortion.” Days earlier, he referred to it in emotional terms as “an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity” and promised to sign legislation banning it. Employing similar language, the new senate majority leader, Bill Frist, also demanded a ban. With Republicans now in control of the House, Senate and White House, the anti-abortionists see a golden opportunity to get the ban on “partial-birth” abortions that they desperately seek.
Make no mistake about it: The real motive for banning “partial-birth” abortions is to undermine Roe v. Wade and, eventually, outlaw all abortions. How?
“Partial-birth” abortion, most commonly known as intact dilation and extraction (D&X), is a relatively rare procedure designed primarily to be used in the case of 5- and 6-month-old fetuses that are dying, malformed, or threaten the woman’s health or life. The procedure involves pulling the fetus from the womb, except for the head which is too large to pass without injuring the woman. The head is then collapsed to allow removal. This procedure is designed for the maximum protection of the woman. The late-term alternative to D&X, known as D&E (Dilation and Evacuation), doesn’t require partial removal; it involves dismembering the fetus in the womb before extraction–a much riskier procedure.
Anti-abortionists cleverly coined the term “partial birth” to suggest that the partially removed fetus is no longer “unborn,” and, therefore, Roe vs. Wade no longer applies (so they allege). But linguistic manipulation can’t create an essential distinction when none exists. A woman has a right to her own body, and, if she chooses to abort, then all effort should be made to protect the woman from injury. To rule otherwise is to negate this right.
Banning any type of abortion to “protect the fetus” necessarily grants rights to the fetus–an utter perversion of individual rights. If a woman has no right to her own body, then by what logic does a fetus (which, by definition, is a biological parasite) have a right to the woman’s body? Properly, an infant’s rights begin after the fetus is removed from the mother’s body and its umbilical cord cut.
It is a woman’s individual rights–to her life, to her liberty, and to the pursuit of her happiness–that sanctions her right to have an abortion. Once “fetal rights” are granted to one stage of the pregnancy, nothing will prevent their extension to all stages. “Fetal rights” are a gimmick to destroy a woman’s individual rights.
Tragically, many “pro-choicers” have conceded the “partial-birth” debate to the anti-abortionists and accept a ban as a compromise (and merely quibble about its scope). Such “pro-choicers” have apparently been hoodwinked by the anti-abortionists’ strategy of emotionalism and evasion designed to disguise their deeper purpose.
The anti-abortionists’ strategy involves focusing solely on the fetus and describing the abortion in gruesome detail. Their professed compassion for the fetus apparently leaves no room for considering the woman’s health and happiness. For them, waving a picture of a bloody, mangled fetus constitutes an argument. If so, then so does waving a picture of a woman whose future was ruined because she was denied an abortion–or of a woman bloody and mangled by a “back-alley” abortion.
A picture is not an argument–and should not be allowed as a cover-up.
While anti-abortionists’ attacks are primarily focused on rarely performed late-term abortions, they zealously want all abortions banned. Helen Alvare, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops and a staunch enemy of D&X, has declared, “In a moral sense all abortions are equally awful.”
According to anti-abortionists’ dogma, God places the soul in the womb at conception. Hence, via a leap of faith, the fertilized egg–a tiny speck of cells–is granted the status of human being. At that moment, the woman’s status is demoted to that of slave and breeding mare–and her womb becomes God’s property (which, in practice, means the government’s property). The rights of the woman have therefore been sacrificed to the alleged rights of the fetus. According to this religious fundamentalist dogma, abortion is murder at any stage of the pregnancy (which explains why some anti-abortionists feel morally sanctioned to kill doctors and bomb abortion clinics).
The anti-abortionists’ war against “partial-birth” abortions is a smokescreen to ban all abortions.
When abortion was illegal in America, many women died or suffered serious medical problems from either self-induced or illegal “back-alley” abortions. Women streamed into emergency rooms with punctured wombs, massive bleeding, and rampant infections. Thanks to the landmark Roe v. Wade (1973) Supreme Court decision, women today have access to safe abortions by medically trained professionals under sanitary conditions. But anti-abortionists–so-called “pro-lifers”–desperately want to reverse this, commencing with a ban on “partial-birth” abortions.
Those who are truly pro-life must fight any law prohibiting abortion, and do so on principle–the principle of individual rights–the principle upon which this pro-rights country was founded.
Made available through the Ayn Rand Institute.