Saturday, February 02, 2008

The skinny

My take on Constitutional Initiative 100 is at the Outpost website. I think it may be the most detailed look yet in the Montana press at what the amendment is all about.

So what do I think? I think there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the amendment, no matter what one's position on abortion is. Leaving it to the Legislature to decide what the amendment really means doesn't sound like such a hot idea. Making the right to life "paramount" sounds unnecessarily mischievous. If the right to life is paramount, would it be constitutional to send soldiers into combat, knowing that some of them would die?

Indeed, if you read the section on what the amendment actually says, it seems to guarantee all sorts of rights that don't really make much sense for someone who has no brain or detectable body parts. It's just meaningless to say that "all persons recognize corresponding responsibilities" to the rights they enjoy when "persons" include organisms that have utterly no notion of either rights or responsibilities.

You could say the same thing about newborn babies, I suppose, but at least birth draws a neat, bright line that conception doesn't. Babies start to acquire notions of rights and responsibilities so quickly after birth that defining them as "persons" at any point later than birth would open all sorts of cans of ugly worms. Pushing the date of personhood back to the moment of conception isn't much neater.

I know that Roe vs. Wade mucked up the abortion debate something fierce, and that's too bad. But at this point there's no real remedy that I can see other than trying to amend the U.S. Constitution to leave abortion in the hands of the states. That wouldn't make anybody happy, probably, including me, but it beats the other options.


Mark T said...

My problem with leaving it to the states is equal protection - a right some are entitled to, others not. It would be like leaving free speech to the states. You just know that Texas would outlaw it.

Another problem - women would have to travel to safe states to get abortions, and right-to-lifers, if they are consistent, will have to fight to keep them at home. Pregnancy tests before flying to legal abortion states? Border guards?

Anonymous said...

The solution is -- as Dave infers -- deciding when life begins. I dont know the answer to that -- but I know I don't agree with Dave -- a baby taken a day early will live, as it will a week early, and even several months early -- so when is the dividing line? -- some how it doesn't seem right that the line be drawn just because it seems neat and tidy to a pilosphical discussion about it. In this day and age with birth control and adoption options this shouldn't be such a big question... Most of the people I know, including those who have had abortions and wish they hadn't, find that they would rather error at the other end of the question -- with life beginning at conception. That poses much greater responsibilities on people tho -- and let's be honest that's what it's all about, like so many other issues -- abdicating responsibility -- those people who give birth and throw the baby in the trash are at least more forthright about the issue than those saying they are concerned about a woman's right to choose. You choose when you have sex -- you should know that inherent in that decision is the risk of pregnancy and if you can't deal with that risk, don't have sex -- a grat sacrafice I know, but maybe not as much as the victim of an abortion. I don't know how to make the laws work, I just know I couldn't live with such a decision, having witnessed the death of a newborn. After a child is born the responsibility of raising it is huge, too. Maybe that should be the next step -- just kill it when you decide it's cramping your style, not fitting with your life plan, or exceeding the budget. The philosophical question you are answering is exactly the same -- which is why I believe at some point the answer must become: you suck it up and do the right thing. Maybe things happen in this world that aren't all about you.

Jay Stevens said...

I certainly respect your points, anonymous...but not everybody believes the way you do that a three-celled zygote is akin to an infant. (In fact, a majority of pro-lifers don't, given their attitude about allowing abortions in the case of incest or rape.)

Here's the thing: while many women do regret their aboritons, I don't think our laws should be in the business of protecting ourselves from our own decisions. Women should be allowed to decide for themselves what they believe about life, conception, and abortion. They don't need the government to act as a sort of Daddy figure.

Liesa said...

This initiative has some other major problems. First, the sponsor of the amendment, Rep. Rick Jore (C) has said it should be used to investigate women who miscarry their pregnancy. It could also prohibit the use of contraceptives, such as birth control pills--which do way more to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion in the first place then a law ever could.