Monday, January 31, 2005

Sense and Sensibility

Dr. Charles points us to a very interesting article:

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which is the only federal law ever to include the phrases "gruesome and inhumane" and "removing the baby's brains," was signed last November by George W. Bush and has just been declared unconstitutional by three separate U.S. District Court judges. Its next stop is the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. ... This story is about that mission, and about how one abortion doctor and one right-to-life cartoonist helped set off the most sustained and rhetorically high-pitched battle in the forty-year history of this country's abortion wars.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban does not prohibit what most people think it prohibits. It is not a late-abortion law. Apart from a single quoted remark in its "findings" section, which is a kind of declaratory preface, the ban contains no mention at all of third-trimester abortion, or of any gestational point in pregnancy. It criminalizes only by method, outlawing some actions during a pregnancy termination but not others, meaning that as practical legislation-isolated from its mission, that is, and considered solely as a directive on what physicians may and may not do in a procedure room-it makes clear ethical sense only to people who don't spend much time thinking about abortion. Defending the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in court, as teams of Justice Department lawyers were dispatched this spring and summer to do, requires arguing to judges that pulling a fetus from a woman's body in dismembered pieces is legal, medically acceptable, and safe; but that pulling a fetus out intact, so that if the woman wishes the fetus can be wrapped in a blanket and handed to her, is appropriately punishable by a fine, or up to two years' imprisonment, or both.

Two comments (emphasis and quote order mine):

On August 26, Richard Casey overturned the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. His ruling described D&X as "gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized,"...

Granted, it's difficult for me to look at a surgical procedure through the eyes of a lay person; I have a completely different perspective. But let's make one thing clear. A D&X is not gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized. It is an appropriate surgical procedure. Nothing more, nothing less.

[I had a bunch of drawings and pictures to show you, but Blogger ate my post. I'll try to find them again, and I'll update.]


What the ambivalent and unconvinced need, from the perspective of the indefatigable right-to-life tactician, is visuals-literal visuals, to shock people from complacency; and verbal descriptions that force people to keep picturing what actually takes place in an abortion-procedure room. This has been the primary mission of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. There is long-term legal strategy at work, too, and practical thinking about ways to discourage abortion doctors from going about their business, but the ban-like its offshoot, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, introduced late this spring in both the House and the Senate-is fundamentally an image-manipulation campaign.


Was any method safe, if up-close visual acceptability were to become the basis for some new legal standard?

Needles to say, I think the standard of care for a surgical procedure should be medical, not image-manipulation campaign[s], or visual acceptability. Women who have an abortion already *have* to pass the "moral struggle" test--if they don't become dejected about having to undergo the procedure, they're at best suspect, at worst defective. Now, it appears women will have to pass a new, surreal "procedural gross-out acceptability" test.

Bodily functions and fluids, blood and guts, burning flesh, and decomposing tissue--both maternal and fetal--are not aesthetically pleasing, and, often time, the smell is quite bad. There's nothing civilized about any type of surgery. It's a brutal, traumatic undertaking. If the new standard of care for women's health is to become not offending strangers' sensibilities, allow me to sound a note of alarm. This is an unattainable standard, totally divorced from reality.


At 3:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

glad you read the article - very long and tedious at times but you've captured the main points well. It reminds me of another piece of legislation... hmmm... something about blastocysts "snuggling" into the uterine lining?

At 11:19 PM, Blogger ema said...

Thanks again for the pointer. A very good article. I only wished I hadn't lost the part of the post with pics. [I was going to explain the indication for the technique, effacement, dilatation, cervical tears, etc.]

Snuggling, indeed! I don't know if you read Amanda, but make sure not to miss this latest example of "ideology trumps reality".


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