Thursday, August 25, 2005

Safe, Legal, And Medium Rare

Hillary Clinton, in a debate for Senate against Lazio:

"We come to [the abortion] issue as men and women, young and old, some far beyond years when we have to worry about getting pregnant, others too young to remember what it was like in the days before Roe v. Wade. But I think it’s essential that as Americans we look for that common ground that we can all stand upon. [Our] core beliefs and values. can guide us in reaching our goal of keeping abortion safe, legal and rare into the next century."
This post isn't about Roe v. Wade, or what the proper public policy on abortion should be. I just want to ask a few simple questions, and point out the obvious to any thinking person.

The Leftist politicians typically banter about the "safe, legal and rare" standard for abortion. But why?

If abortion is merely a medical procedure --a simple choice, then why should it be rare?
It should be rare, because, in reality, both pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike know that abortion destroys a human life. The abortion procedure does not merely "terminate a pregnancy," it terminates the life of a human being. Both sides know this.

The difference is in the value placed on this life.

I think that is accurate. Why play up the rare? And does the evidence suggest that the Left actually believes in the rare part of the equation, or is that the buzz word to satisfy the large majority of Americans that are uneasy with abortion but afraid to outlaw it?

Fetal Pain?

In the news now is a study debating when a fetus/baby can feel pain. The University of California, San Francisco, decided (no surprise) that a fetus cannot feel pain until late in pregnancy. The study doesn't mention that one of the five panelists is a former NARAL member and abortion clinic director, but I'm sure the study is trustworthy anyway.

This study and the positions taken regarding it will largely be driven by the political position on abortion. Every ardent pro-choicer will scoff at the notion that a fetus feels pain. Every pro-lifer will accept the statement without proof. I don't know the answer. But the question raises more questions.

For example, here is a simple question. What if the evidence at least strongly suggests that pain is felt? Even if we stop short of outlawing abortion, shouldn't the mother be advised, like is requrired for every other medical procedure she would undertake?

Proposed federal legislation would require doctors to provide fetal pain information to women seeking abortions when fetuses are at least 20 weeks old, and to offer women fetal anesthesia at that stage of the pregnancy. A handful of states have enacted similar measures.
Some abortion rights groups oppose any efforts to discourage abortion, such as waiting periods, informed consent laws, and of course, this proposed legislation. In fairness, NARAL has announced that it will not oppose these laws.

The Intent of the Study?

I don't give this new study any weight personally. I also do not claim, however, to know the answer. It wouldn't matter to most people not considering the abortion anyway, though I do think it would give many "mothers" pause.

After reading the three different articles, however, I am inclined to go with pain felt earlier rather than later.

The federal legislation is based in part on observations that 20-week-old fetuses pull away if they are poked or prodded, in much that the same way children and adults react to pain.

But Dr. Rosen said that response in the fetus did not mean it felt pain, but was instead more likely to be a reflex, like the leg jerk that occurs in adults when doctors tap them on the knee with a rubber hammer.

Right. Just a reflex, like a knee jerk. Well, what about premies?

Not all physicians agree. Dr. K. S. Anand, a pediatrician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said, "There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that pain occurs in the fetus."

For example, he said, tiny premature babies, as young as 23 or 24 weeks, cry when their heels are stuck for blood tests and quickly become conditioned to cry whenever anyone comes near their feet. "In the first trimester there is very likely no pain perception," Dr. Anand said. "By the second trimester, all bets are off and I would argue that in the absence of absolute proof we should give the fetus the benefit of the doubt if we are going to call ourselves compassionate and humane physicians."

The authors of the paper said that even crying or grimacing in a very premature infant did not necessarily signify pain because such infants often cry at even the lightest touch.

Well, I'm no fetus expert, but maybe the premies skin is so sensitive that the lightest touch is the cause of pain. No? Look, I don't know. Recognizing that this is limited evidence, but if "touch" correllates to crying, I am inclined to believe that there is pain.

Rare, But Never Discouraged?

Once again, though, we get to the abortion clinic director's real concern.

Dr. Eleanor A. Drey, one of Dr. Rosen's co-authors, said that as an obstetrician who performed abortions and the medical director of an abortion clinic, she would find it troubling to be compelled to bring up the subject of fetal pain with her patients. "I would be forced to drag them through potentially a lot of misinformation," Dr. Drey said. "Our systematic review has shown it's extremely unlikely that pain exists at a point when abortions are done. I'm going to have to talk about something I know will cause the patient distress, something that by our best assessment of the scientific data is not relevant."
My libertarian and my Christian sides battle this political issue constantly. Even if the Supreme Court decided that the people could be trusted to have this public policy battle, I think most states would allow pre-viability abortions and outlaw post-viability abortion except to save the life of the mother. Such abortions are rare, despite the protestations of the Left.

So fine. I accept that this is a tough issue. Let's work with safe and legal as a starting point. What about rare?

If the Left really wants "safe, legal and rare," then we should and need to make people confront the facts about the chromosomes, human DNA, heart beating clumps of tissue they are killing.

As a society, we should shout out: Abortion should not be birth control. Abortion should not be easy. Abortion should cause distress. Not as punishment, but because it is what it is.

If society did that, maybe one day abortion would be safe, legal and rare.

The money quote, explaining my view of the study, from Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life America: "If Congress wanted to know if lambs feel pain," he said, "it wouldn't ask the veal industry for an analysis of the scientific evidence."

That would have been a great quote if veal didn't actually come from a cow.


At 1:09 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

It is worthwhile remembering in this context that until quite recently a rather significant portion of the pediatric community was convinced that infants couldn't feel pain either. Their "nervous systems" weren't "sufficiently developed".

What a load of bunk. This infuriated me when I was a young mother - it's why I refused to leave either one of my boys, even for an instant, along with in the waiting room or in the hospital. I'm sure they thought I was nuts, but even after delivery I followed my baby up to the neonatal room when they did exams and watched outside with my stupid IV all hooked up until they were done. I almost passed out twice with my second boy but I wasn't letting him out of my sight.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...


alone in the waiting room...

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Cassandra said...

Sorry. I'm kind of out of it.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

Well done. I stick with the point I made to the rube over at TAM: Lack of pain is not a litmus for killing things.

Hillary and others' "rare" comment is an attempt to look like they consider the matter grave but must stick with their principles, however messed-up they are. DiFi is in the news today over Roberts and her intent to "pin him down" on abortion, "[r]ecalling her own difficult memories from the time when abortion was against the law..."

At 2:09 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

PS DJ left a post you might find interesting.


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