Recently the Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial birth abortion passed by Congress a few years ago. Pro-abortion folks have been wringing their hands in despair, and the anti-abortion folks have declared a victory. While this is a complex topic, let me make a few brief points in this regard to perhaps clarify our thinking a little, which can become muddled by all the hype and misinformation surrounding this issue.
(1) We should understand that the right to an abortion is a manufactured right, not a constitutional right. The Supreme Court determined in 1973 that a fetus is not a human being, and therefore there is no reason why women should be prohibited from having an abortion. There is noting implicit or explicit in the Constitution regarding abortion. It is simply the Court’s opinion that since a fetus is not “human,” there is nothing in the Constitution that could be construed as prohibiting abortion.
With better scientific understanding than we had in 1973, it is now generally understood that a fetus is a distinct individual within the mother’s womb, not an appendage (although certainly dependent on the mother for life). So the pro-abortion argument has now switched to arguing that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy supersedes the baby’s right to live. Pro-lifers, on the other hand, argue the opposite: the baby’s right to live takes precedence over a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. This is because pro-lifers have always viewed the fetus as a distinct human being, so that terminating a pregnancy is taking a human life.
(2) Even rights specifically mentioned in the Constitution have some limits placed on them by the law, such as free speech, right to assembly, free press, etc. Abortion should be no different.
To show how ridiculous the situation has become, schools need written permission from a parent to give a child an aspirin, but abortions can be performed on minors without the parents’ permission (or them even knowing) in many states. By law, any signs of abuse of children must be reported to the authorities, but underage girls get abortions without the clinic’s reporting clear signs of sexual abuse. As a result, underage girls are abused and the abuser gets away with it. Why should these clinics be exempt from the law?
(3) The so-called “partial birth abortion” procedure has been described as barbaric (I’ll spare you the gory details), and from what I have read, it has been performed rarely, if at all, for health reasons. The current law upheld by the Supreme Court does have a life exception, but not a health one.
(4) The reason, I’m sure, that there is no health exception is that it can be abused, and “health” can be very loosely defined. “Life” is less subjective.
(5) We have to understand that much of the hand-wringing is done by groups having a large financial stake in the abortion business. While they self-righteously proclaim the right of a woman to choose, they also make millions from the abortion business (they aren’t performed for free, you know). NARAL (a pro-abortion advocacy group), Planned Parenthood, and others have viciously attacked crisis pregnancy centers for helping women better understand their choices. Why do they oppose having women better informed? Because it is bad for business when a woman chooses to have her baby. A fully-informed person has true “choice,” but the abortion business doesn’t see it that way.
(6) Clearly the goal of the pro-life movement is to overturn Roe v. Wade, so this is one step in that process. Nevertheless, overturning Roe v. Wade will take a long time, if ever. Moreover, the partial birth abortion procedure isn’t nearly as common as earlier-term abortions, so this ban will have little effect on the “reproductive rights” of women. The majority of abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy.
In my opinion, other controls on the procedure should be enacted, such as parental notification for underage girls, reporting to authorities by abortion clinics when underage girls are found to be pregnant, limits on late-term abortions, and the requirement for clinics to provide their patients with information concerning the possible side effects of the procedure.
(7) In my opinion, it is good for partial birth abortions to be prohibited, because it is infanticide in reality, even if it is referred to as an “abortion.” A civilized society should not kill its newborns. Again, one small step towards a more civilized society.
There is a good (and fairly brief) article on the subject at http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/12871.