Saturday, April 21, 2007

gonzalez vs. carhart

As a staunch pro-choicer, I found myself pretty disgusted by the Supreme Court this week in its decision to uphold the ban on "partial-birth" abortions. I believe in abortion on demand. I also believe that the decision to have an abortion, for any woman or girl, is a difficult and often heart-wrenching choice. I believe in reducing the need for abortion by providing affordable and thorough access to contraception, as well as mandatory comprehensive sex education in every high school in the country.

Justice Kennedy's argument, the swing vote in this 5-4 decision, seemed, at least in part, to revolve around the idea that some women regret having had an abortion after the fact, and the government should protect them from this potential self-recrimination. (Take a look at Dahlia Lithwick's take on Kennedy's stance.) This is kind of offensive. Not to be judgmental or harsh towards these women who, years later, feel bad about destroying their child. I can sympathize with this, honestly, but also honestly, it was a choice they made. Why use their regret of a conscious choice as a rationale for taking away that choice from future generations? I regret that second glass of wine I had with dinner last night, but I don't think that everyone from here on out should be limited to one glass of wine with their meals. Not even me. And I certainly wouldn't want five guys in funny looking gowns down in DC telling me how much wine I can drink. I'm not actually comparing a slight morning headache to the aftermath of an abortion, I know this is a ridiculous comparison. But given the seriousness of abortion, it seems even more important to not politicize it.

One more thing. Very, very few abortions fall under this "partial-birth" umbrella. Every year about 1.3 million abortions are performed in the United States, the vast majority within the first trimester of pregnancy. About 2,200 fall under this new ban on intact dilation and evacuation, the actual medical term for the "partial-birth" procedure. But the heartbreaking thing for many of the women who, with their doctors, have chosen to go through an intact dilation and evacuation, is that often these are women who want this baby, but there are serious medical complications, either on the part of the mother or on the part of the fetus (or in this case, yes, the unborn child). A woman with whom I went to high school chose to have a late-term abortion a couple years ago. She and her husband very much wanted a child, but the fetus had such severe disabilities that it would die within hours of birth, if it even lived that long. So, after learning of these problems and agonizing over the decision, she and her husband, with the support of friends, family, and doctors, decided to abort rather than carry the child to term. The procedure that she went through, deemed the safest for her specific situation by her doctors as well as the least likely to damage her ability to have a child in the future, would as of this week be illegal. I don't understand why the government deems it necessary to insert itself into such painful, personal, decisions.

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