Moral Imperative?

In the ongoing debate over abortion, some states have proposed codifying the protections of Roe V. Wade. Rhode Island being one.

The latest proposed measure, The Reproductive Health Care Act, failed in committee in the Senate. The bill mirrors the measure passed by the house (http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText19/HouseText19/H5127.pdf)

There were two arguments made against the bill that troubled me. One was from a Senator who opposed the bill because of the “Moral Imperative in the sanctity of life endowed by our Creator.” He said he understood he held a secular office, but this “Moral Imperative” guides his decisions. While he didn’t specify the Christian basis for his opposition, the implication was clear.

I would argue this, if one will invoke a “higher authority” imposing a moral imperative on operating government, is it too much to ask that we see actual evidence of the higher authority? Something other than quotes from ancient texts? Something other than faith, no matter how sincere?

If a legislature wishes to pass laws that meet the standard of moral imperative, shouldn’t we be able to test the validity of such a statute without having to resort to our imagination? Without having to imagine what such higher authority is. Without pushing incredulity to new heights.

I don’t think it too much to ask we keep crafting secular laws, operating a secular government, and secular enforcement of such laws, secular.

The second argument is even more ludicrous and disingenuous. Some Senators who opposed the current format of the legislation expressed concern the language of the legislation would mitigate other laws protecting unborn fetuses injured by criminal actions.

Under Rhode Island law, killing a pregnant woman can result in two counts of murder. Thus, one may argue, Rhode Island law already defines a fetus as a human. It does not, but that is not what strikes me as incongruous.

It is this trend to creating special classes of victims because being just a “plain ole” victim doesn’t seem enough to warrant protection under the law.

It reminds me of the TV show Law & Order Special Victims Unit.

The term “special victims” always struck me as odd, Now I understand the inherent abhorrence about sexual assaults and crimes against children, but the term “special” victims implies there are “not so special” victims.

Or “sort of” victims. Or “we’ll get to you when we have time” victims. Or “you deserved what you got” victims. I understand the perception we often ignored these “special” victims, but that doesn’t mean we solve it by ignoring others.

Perhaps the problem is not losing the option to charge someone with two counts of murder when the case involves a pregnant woman. Maybe the problem is the way we’ve created a special class of victims.  Wouldn’t it be enough if we considered all victims of crimes equal under the law?  Wouldn’t treating every victim the same accomplish the purpose?

If someone commits murder, why should it matter the condition of the victim? Why would we need to waste time and effort arguing that killing a pregnant woman somehow requires more severe punishment than an elderly woman, or a woman who is not pregnant, or a man? Why does the status of the victim determine the severity of the crime?

I do not see the difference between killing a woman and killing a pregnant woman. If killing the pregnant women is “worse” than the implication is killing a non-pregnant woman is not as bad. Now that is ludicrous.

Shouldn’t taking a human life—a living person—be enough to warrant the same penalty no matter who they are or what they are in life?

I can only hope rationality reasserts itself in this debate but, under the specter of the moral imperative and with disingenuousness raised to an art form, I have my doubts.

Stepping in the Minefield of Abortion

At the risk of stepping into a minefield–oh hell who am I kidding I love stepping into minefields–I would like to set the record straight on the New York legislation regarding late-term abortions.

I was struck by the words of Timothy Cardinal Dolan (the archbishop of New York and member in good standing of the Catholic Church, one of the most disingenuous and corrupt organizations ever conceived by man, even if many of its members are good and kind people) who said the Reproductive Health Act of New York was a “ghoulish, grisly, gruesome,” practice.

wordmap

It started the usual social media debate. At first, I thought to let it pass. But, alas, I could not.

Here’s that actual language from the statute.

“According to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” (https://legislation.nysenate.gov/pdf/bills/2019/S240)

The Reproductive Health Act will permit abortions after 24 weeks in cases where a woman’s life or health would be threatened by continuing the pregnancy. It also allows licensed nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide abortion services and decriminalizes abortion.

It is a pre-emptive strike against any Supreme Court reversal of the well-established, yet misunderstood, Roe V. Wade decision. The movement to overturn Roe, almost exclusively funded and driven by religious fundamentalism, poses a grave danger to women’s rights.

Their efforts have not been without success.

Several states passed what is known as “heartbeat” restrictions, limiting abortions once the heartbeat begins. These statutes artfully dodge the fact that most women do not even know they are pregnant at that point.

These states’ highways and byways are oft adorned with myriad Come to Jesus signs and the legislatures routinely try to circumvent the Separation Clause. States where science carries less respect than NASCAR, conspiracy theories, and Bigfoot are the point of the fundamentalist spear.

Scattered throughout these same states, are billboards with a smiling baby and the ominous words, “A baby’s heartbeat starts at 21 Days!” (it is actually 22 days, and the fetus bears little resemblance to a recognizable human form.) It is about the size of a poppy seed. About the size of the period at the end of this sentence. In numbers, the size of a three-week fetus is LENGTH: 0.03 in / 0.08 cm WEIGHT: 0.002 oz / 0.06 g. (Growth Chart)

It would be nice if we put as much care and consideration into those children living in deplorable and desperate conditions as we are wont to do for those not yet born. It would seem our concern ends at birth.

I am always struck by the conservative opposition to abortion based on the “sanctity” of life, while many embrace the death penalty. As they often do, they turn to the ultimate authority (nope, not Google) but the original source of all knowledge, the Bible.

“Thus says the Lord God… “Will you profane Me… killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live…?” -Ezekiel 13:18-19

“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. -Proverbs 17:15 (Italics the author. Me, not the original. No one knows who that is.)

Here’s the problem. God may be infallible, the American Justice system is not.

I am struck by the number of men who see themselves as the ultimate arbiters of morality, primarily in others. While many women oppose abortion, men seem particularly fervent in their opposition. One cannot help but wonder if this is as much a sense of loss of control as it is a genuinely sincere position.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, in the year before he authored the pro-abortion Roe v. Wade opinion (which was passed by the Republican majority court), wrote in a 1972 death penalty case of his “excruciating agony of the spirit. I yield to no one in the depth of my distaste, antipathy, and, indeed, abhorrence, for the death penalty… It is antagonistic to any sense of ‘reverence for life.'”

The conflict between the two conservative positions on abortion and the death penalty cannot be starker.

Until we come to terms with the dichotomy of our willingness to risk killing an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted yet deny women the right to make their own choice, I think it best we stay away from legislating morality.

Leave women their right to choose and do not deny them the opportunity to save their lives whenever it is medically necessary. Leave medical decisions to professionals and the individuals forced to deal with them.

If you oppose abortion, don’t have one.