Posted by: minnow | January 31, 2019

But It’s Murder!

New York state recently passed The Reproductive Health Act. Even before I knew about the specifics of the law or that New York had passed something, I could tell a controversy was unfolding. My FB feed was inundated with pictures of preterm babies, tiny footprints, Bible quotes, and screaming faces captioned with self-righteous slogans or carrying a variety of judgmental posters. A couple hours later the other side rallied. Suddenly I saw women marching is pink hats, ugly pictures of Justice Kavenaugh, and more placards with different self-righteous slogans.

The New York law has been deemed a barbarous late term abortion bill by the screamers on the right. Those on the left seem to think humanity has finally been drug kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. But, the reason the law is labeled a reproductive health act is because it actually focuses on health–both the health of the woman and the health of the baby. It gives power to those most intimately involved and the ones most medically qualified to make these particular healthcare decisions.

I have been anti abortion and pro choice my entire life. If a friend came to me for counsel about an unplanned pregnancy I would encourage her to follow through with her pregnancy–even if it meant delaying school, missing a career opportunity, or being rejected by her family. I would not beat her up with moral platitudes, guilt her into compliance, or threaten her with a future I have no right to predict. Ultimately, I would respect whatever decision she makes because she alone must live with the consequences of her decision, which ever way she chooses.

The specifics of the New York law, seem to have gotten lost amid all the virtual shouting. This law is NOT a blanket right to an abortion regardless of the gestation date. Thus the hyperbole on the right is neither accurate nor helpful. It does reaffirm New York State’s commitment to women’s health, privacy, and equality but not without parameters. Under this law abortions are legal after 24 weeks ONLY in the absence of fetal viability outside the womb or when the patient’s life or health is at risk. I find it a sad commentary on our society that these criteria need to be spelled out in a law, that a doctor and his or her patient are not automatically allowed to assess a medical situation and proceed according to their expertise.

Among the posts responding to New York’s law and the radical right’s outrage, I read several accounts from women who shared heart wrenching stories. Some needed to spend thousands of dollars and leave their circles of support in order to travel across state lines so they could receive medical care. Why? Because short-sighted legislatures in their own states took the right to certain procedures away from them . Rather than allow doctors to make medically sound decisions on a case by case basis, politicians felt justified in using religion rather than science to determine a woman’s health needs.

I find it disturbingly voyeuristic that anyone outside of those directly involved thinks it his or her “right” to intrude, or even have an opinion on these rare abortion situations. Shame on all the self-righteous megaphones for a god that they have made in their own heartless image. Such ignorance is hurtful. And the slanderous name-calling of these individuals which accompanies the right’s ignorance can be crushing to already grieving people.

In one FB conversation I had since New York passed its Reproductive Health Act, the most prolific poster was determined to back choice advocates into a corner. He figured if he could make us admit that life begins at point X, we would be forced to agree outlawing abortion beyond that point is justified. To his way of thinking, all abortion would then be murder and murder is wrong. While I concede that taking a viable human life is wrong and that most early abortions end the lives of potentially healthy babies, I am still unwilling to treat the issue of abortion in such a cut and dry manner. As a society we rarely look at situations as binary absolutes and certainly not in cases of life and death.

Few people can legitimates say they abhor the taking of life in every situation. For instance, though individuals may disagree, as a society we seem very willing to accept a certain number of deaths as a necessary component of war and war as a necessary component of society. Even civilian deaths or casualties due to “friendly fire” are deemed acceptable by society at large. As another example, 30 states still have the death penalty on their books, despite the possibility of wrongful convictions. Even the crime of murder is nuanced–1st degree, 2nd degree, manslaughter, self-defense, for which punishments vary or are non-existent. And of course, we also have accidental deaths in which the perpetrator is often seen as a second victim. “But, abortion is a choice.” And, “Babies have no way to defend themselves.” Yes, yes I know. And if I could I would take every single woman who faces this decision and feels there is no other option for her into my home and into my heart. If I could, I would, but I cannot so neither can I judge her. Women facing an abortion do NOT make their decisions lightly despite what the religious righteous want the rest of us to believe.

Here are the statistical facts: Abstinence only sex education fails to reduce abortions. Defunding organizations like Planned Parenthood fails to reduce abortions. Limiting access to birth control fails to reduce abortions. These policies supported by Republicans and the religiously self-righteous are morally reprehensible and counter productive if our goal is to reduce the number of abortions in this country. Making more criminals by making abortion illegal might make you feel morally superior to the rest of us but it is NOT the best way to reduce abortions.

 

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