Thursday, February 23, 2006

Abortion thoughts (Llama)

I just finished reading an article in the NY Times about a new South Dakota bill that is expected to soon become law. It's an anti-abortion bill that makes abortion illegal in all cases except where the life of the mother is at risk.

Ban on Most Abortions Advances in South Dakota

I know abortion is a topic very much in the public debate in the US, and most of us have considered it carefully and come to some conclusion. Probably most of us over the age of 25 are now pretty much locked into our beliefs... I know I am. I'm staunchly pro-abortion. My reason for that is based in the social problems and public health concerns that result when abortion is illegal.

Should abortion be outlawed then women that would previously aborted now have one of five options. 1) Deliver and raise the child, 2) Deliver and give the child up for adoption (whether through legal or illegal means), 3) Deliver and abandon the child (in the woods, river, garbage bin, etc), 4) Travel to another country for an abortion, 5) Obtain an abortion illegally in the US.

Option 3, in which a woman abandons a child after birth, is self-evidently a negative outcome. At best the child will be found and enter the oprhanage system, in which case it moves into option 2; at worst it will lead to the infant's death.

Options 4 and 5, in which a woman obtains an abortion from either another country or the black market, is also self-evidently negative outcome. In those cases not only is the fetus still detroyed (thus circumventing the ban) but we as a society lose all ability to ensure the safety of the operation and the health of the mother. Furthermore, in the case of the black market, we will both create criminals out of otherwise law-abiding, medically trained doctors sympathetic to the woman's plight; as well as create another profit opportunity for non-medically trained criminals who are already accustomed to breaking the law.

This leaves us with options 1 and 2, then.

According to this study, published in the journal "Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health":

53% of abortions between 1994 and 2000 were from black and hispanic women. Black women had the highest abortion rate at 49 per 1,000 women; white women had the lowest rate at 13 per 1,000.

The abortion rate of women on medicaid (57 per 1,000) was three times that of women not on medicaid.

27% of abortions occured in women living below the poverty line, and 31% of abortions occurred in women with income between 100% and 199% of the poverty line. Less you think 200% of poverty is a decent wage, note that she referenced the U.S. Current Population Survey to define the poverty line. According to that survey, the poverty line in 2001 for a single individual was only $8,317 per year; so 200% of that would be $16,634 per year... hardly middle class.

The point of all this is to illustrate that most women that are aborting are poor minorities. If these women choose to keep their child, then these kids are likely to be raised in poverty, subject to violence and criminal behavior. We will be increasing our under class: the discontented, the welfare dependent, the uneducated. Are those pushing for an end to abortion now pushing just as hard for an increase in spending on public health and education so that these lives that they want to save can lead some kind of meaningful, productive existence?

Ok, finally, what if these saved abortions are given up for adoption? Point 2. This option assumes that there are individuals lining up to adopt children. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In 2003 there were 119,348 children in foster care, nation wide, still waiting to be adopted. As a nation, to meet this demand of unadopted youth, we would essentially have to double our adoption rate; in 2001, we adopted 127,407 children, but left another 129,923 still waiting in foster care.

So, by outlawing abortion we will 1) endanger the lives of young women who seek abortion through other channels, 2) create a new criminal market and criminalize otherwise law abiding doctors, 3) enlarge the population of our lowest income class, thus creating greater social problems, 4) and place a greater strain on our welfare programs.

SO, all of that is why I rationally support abortion. But that NY Times article I referenced at the beginning of this had a quotes Leslee J. Unruh, "founder and president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls . . . 'We're concerned with the 800 children aborted here every year.'"

800 aborted every year, vs. 120,000 waiting for adoption?

That's just an aside. The quote really got me because he called those being aborted "children." It made me think... we all have an idea of what a child is. It's something that is dependent on you; you hold it in your arms clean up its poop, make funny sounds at it... but it is a person, an entity that can physically exist on its own. First and second term pregnancy's at the least... these are not children. If it were possible to remove these fetuses from the woman's body so that Mr. Unruh and his cohorts could care for it, then that's one thing. But that is not possible, is it? Until that baby comes out, it is completely dependent upon the women whose womb is providing incubation. It is the most personal thing imaginable. And these folks want the state to be able to FORCE a woman to treat her body, her very self, in a way that may be in opposition to her will and possibly her health and therefor livelihood. This is a fundamental attack on individual rights by the government, and it is immoral.


Sammy Jankis said...

It is all of the things you mentioned, immoral, etal, and it is also coming to a state near everyone you know in the not too distant future.

kristybox said...

I disagree with one thing you said. From the second I knew I was pregnant, I knew this was my child. I had a miscarriage scare, and would have considered it as if my child had died.


My opinion, that life begins at conception, is not a reason for the government to outlaw abortion. Clearly, one can argue that life begins sometime around week 23, when the fetus is viable. Not my opinion, but how could I say that I'm right and the arguer is wrong? I can't.

And even if life begins, sometimes it is medically necessary to end one life to save the other, and the mother should not have to end hers. Of course, she should be allowed to choose to do so, but that should be a personal choice.

My fear is that if the government can outlaw abortion, it can tell me what to eat and what surgeries I must have and many other things that are just not government's business.

So I'm stanchly pro-life (in that I would never have an abortion) but I am a pro-choice voter (because the government needs to stay out of it).

Anonymous said...

Not to dive too deep in here, because I'm of a more conservative bent than most of my friends, but all of the poverty stricken individuals that fill out the plurality of these abortion numbers are still individuals that have made a choice. Condoms are f*cking cheap, and in some clinics, free. What's most immoral is to perform such an act (such as would lead to conception) without knowing you can handle the consequences.

I hate abortion. I don't think it should be illegal, for some of the same reasons that you mentioned (better it be safe and regulated and legal than have women dying from staph infections in an alley.) However, I don't like the idea of arguing for it's legalization on the grounds that the poor participate in greater numbers. It brings up questions of morality that ALL citizens should be required to face and take responsibility for on an individual basis. I do not believe that we as a society have an obligation to ensure the free exercise (possibly free of charge) of such a morally questionable practice because some of our welfare cases don't have the maturity to make responsible decisions about an adult matter.

Now, I agree that we need to maintain it's legality. It's Pandora's Box... the lid is off, we can never get rid of it, we need to make it as safe as possible. If I had my druthers, though, no more would ever be performed. And before we think I'm pie-in-the-skying, I've taught lots of ghetto unwed teenage mothers living off the dole, and the majority of them had the capability to make a better decision at the time of conception.

I disagree with some of the reasoning behind your stance, bruh, not the stance itself. No offense.

In addition, I agree with kristybox in that the government does not exist to legislate morality, but to provide a certain amount of order/structure to the function of daily political life. The government needs to keep its nose out of such business.

Tony S.

naughtyloki said...

I'm just going to weigh in on one of my personal pet peeves, and that is the public health care argument for abortion. I've never once heard an advocate of abortion mention any concern about the welfare of drug addicts that die every day due to contaminated, or too pure, product. I really can't see a fundamental difference between the two situations, but I know many people who won't even think about legalazing drugs who will trot out coat-hanger stories like a trump card. If abortion were to be made illegal, then anyone wanting an abortion would expose themselves to certain risks just like anyone else that chooses to enter into illegal activity. I'm not trying to argue my personal beliefs, I just don't see how that particular argument has any real relevance.

Ok, two of my pet peeves. Infanticide (or whatever a particular state calls it) is a stupid concept. If a fetus isn't a person, and therefore can't be murdered, then these laws basically slap a murder penalty on someone who takes away the right of a potential mother to choose whether or not she carries the fetus in question to term. I'm envisioning a situation where a potential father-to-be doesn't want to pay child support and can't convince the mother to have an abortion. He then does something to ensure said fetus doesn't survive and is charged with infanticide. I don't see how that is any different (other than the fact that it would probably involve some type of assault to the mother, which is a separate crime) than the potential mother having an abortion in the reverse case where the potential father wants the child. His right to choose has been taken away. (Yeah, I know, not his body. On the other hand, it's not his body, but he can be forced to pay child support for the child. I don't see why it shouldn't cut both ways. Still takes two, most of the time, to tango.) I'm under the impression (not sure exactly why) that a lot of these laws are on the books in order to provide an easy way to get stiffer penalties for the murder of a pregnant woman. If that's actually true, it's still a stupid concept. If a fetus isn't human, then why is the life a pregnant woman worth more than that of anyone else?

I don't like the government messing around in a lot of things. Heck, they don't even seem to be doing any good at roads, for which almost everyone believes that government should be responsible. I do, however, think that this issue does need to be decided at a national level. I just don't see this nation being able to handle having wildly varying laws about this issue in different states. Although, as long as people continue to use abortion as contraception, good money could probably be made trucking pregnant teenagers from non-abortion states to abortion states.

Killer Llama said...

I editted this post today; I corrected the typo in which I claimed opposition to abortion to read that I support it.

Thanks to Sammy, KBox, and Tony for your responses to this post. Abortion is not an easy issue. The initial point of this post (which I think I lost during the process of writing it) was to illustrate how, though I have long supported abortion rights, I always did it from a practical, society-wide point of view. After reading that article in the Times, though, I had a flash of insight into what must be the default feminine perspective... "my body, my choice" is the soundbite way of saying it. All of a sudden I understood the morality behind that position, and I never really did before.

After laying out all those statistics, though, I then started to feel apprehensive about bringing forth a moral argument. Morality is difficult to base policy on, because it is so hard to agree on ranking morality... i.e., to me, it is more immoral for a government to force a woman to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term than it is for that same woman to voluntarily terminate a future person. But I know that many disagree and rank those moral judgements differently. Morality is ultimately faith-based, not rational, and thus difficult to reconcile between competing viewpoints.

I think this is what both you and KBox hint at in your replies. KBox talks about how she felt she had her child from the moment she found out she was pregnant, but then goes on to talk about the difficulty of legislating when life begins. In my moral universe, though, I would argue the following: that even if life begins at conception, the welfare of that fetus is still 100% dependent upon the woman. It is solely her responsibility to care for it, because she is the only one that can. Since all responsibility rests with her, no construct of society (i.e. the government) has the right to force her to accept it. Once the baby is born it becomes more of a communal concern; aunts, fathers, adoption agencies, governments, whatever, can care for the child. It becomes an asset to, and responsibility of, the community into which it is born; and thus laws protecting it make sense. But before that happens, while it is still coccooned in the woman's womb, the community and government has no right or authority to protect it.

But, again, that is my moral position... I don't expect to convince anyone of the rightness of it should it conflict with their own.

I was also scared some might read this post as racist in nature... I just ran out of time crafting it and couldn't be as delicate about some things as I would like. Tony S. wrote about condom usage... and I largely agree with him. Practicing safe sex is the responsibility of anyone who is sexually active. HOWEVER, the reality of the situation is that, to paraphrase a friend, sometimes when body parts start rubbing and craziness ensues, it becomes very difficult to make the logical, rational choice of ensuring condom use. I think, biologically, this is not just an excuse but fact. Once certain chemicals start pumping through your body, some parts of your brain literally become less in control of your actions and other more primitive sections (the "reptillian brain", so to speak) take over. If two people find themselves in that situation, whether through carelessness or happenstance, enforcing condom use becomes less important than fulfilling your immediate desires. That's not an excuse, it's just biology. Should that act then lead to pregnancy then those two people have some difficult choices to make... but, and here's where we agree, I think, the government has no business making those decisions for them.

Finally, and this is important, I brought up income poverty not because I think the poor are less responsible for their own actions and are in need of protection or are incapable of making their own decisions... no. I brought it up because the US poor are very, very poor. If we are really a 'culture of life', then isn't it as important to ensure that every child born in this country is given the capability to live a healthy, productive life? I think so, but the reality is that for the underclass in America people are dying from disease, violence and drug use; they are dropping out of school and engaging in crime. They are drawing income from tax-payer funded welfare programs and medicaid programs. In short, they are not living a good life. Pro-lifers are fighting tooth and nail to ensure that welfare moms bring their kids to term, but then refuse to take the adequate steps to ensure those kids grow up safe and happy (ironically, because that would make government too big and intrusive).

Ok, back to work now.

Oh, one more thing... please don't feel the need to label yourself here... Tony, before you were "conservative" and I was "liberal", we were both gifties, great friends, and agreed on stuff a whole lot more than we disagreed. I think the same is true now, as well... it's just that we've become more isolated and perhaps rigid in our old age. If I have to label myself I label myself a friend before I do a liberal. When it comes to us... my family, friends, and the people on this blog, let's throw out these artifical labels and come together first as the community that we are. We can declare ourselves to the world elsewhere.

-E said...

i think part of the problem with the abortion issue in american politics is that most people who claim to be "pro-life" are really "anti-abortion". being pro-life (in the catholic sense) means that you are concerned with the dignity of life through every stage, from conception to death. ensuring good health care and education, addressing poverty issues, all become part of a pro-life out look on life. but this would require a commitment to charity and good works that people who claim they want morality legialted are seemingly not willing to commit to.
i am pro-life in the catholic sense but i don't think that abortion should be illegal. i think kristy and i agree on this point, and she is much more eloquent in her argument so i will just ditto her. i would much rather see the public debate turn to making adoptions simpler, cheaper and less biased. i would like a society that supports parenthood: longer maternity and paternity leaves, less paranoia about seeing a woman's breasts feeding babies, better living wages so that one parent, either mom or dad, can choose to stay home. that teenagers who come into a family way, aren't onstracized and put into a position where there is no good outcome. i am sure there are lots of other good ideas out there, but we are all bogged down in this stupid legality debate, so that we (as a nation) aren't actually adressing the issues that lead to a woman choosing an abortion.