A Critical Examination of the Proposed and Failed PREDNA Legislation, as Well as its State-Level Equivalents…..
Just Like Attempting to Terminate a Pregnancy Based on a Fetus’ Race or Sex Currently Prevents Some Women from Obtaining an Abortion…. So Too Should Attempting to Make a Law Based on Irrationality and Logical Fallacies Prevent that Law from Passing.
Conservative prolife advocates, like Virginia delegates Bob Marshall and Dick Black (what a fantastically unfortunate name), are rather perturbed that abortion hasn’t been federally banned yet. But this potentially minor set-back is just another disappointing “notch in the karmic belt” for Marshall and Black in the long line of letdowns with which these two, stuffy, old, white men have had to contend. (No doubt they longingly reminisce about the days when women were forcefully kept pregnant through archaic legal restraints…. and drinking fountains, restrooms, and busses separated “colors” better than any skilled laundress.) After all, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did not take over the White House. President Obama took a vehement and public stand on television in support of the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. And in May of 2012, congress defeated the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (aka, PREDNA) by a vote of 246 to 169 (information obtained from the Washington Post).
For the record, PREDNA was set to function much like the already implemented “sex and race selection” laws in Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. (More on the baffling insanity and illogical, mind-blowing nature of these laws in a moment.) Marshall, if you remember, became rather infamous for a while when he publicly stated that women who aborted their first pregnancies are later “punished by God” for their “sin” by giving later birth to a mentally retarded child. And Black gave a speech condemning birth control, claiming it causes infertility and was the equivalent of “baby pesticide.” How these two men were endowed with the power to represent the American people, or at least those hailing from Virginia, is beyond me. Are the citizens who support them stupid? Or do they share much in common with the formerly famous singer Nick Lachey. You know, that guy from the old MTV show, ‘Newlyweds,’ who was married to Jessica Simpson for a time? The only saving grace that made that show bearable was the occasional looks on poor Nick’s face every time his wife said something ignorant and idiotic. He seemed to convey, “What the hell did I get myself into?” I imagine many of the citizens of Virginia adopt this look whenever Marshall or Black open their mouths.
Race and/or sex selection laws disallow doctor-performed abortions, if it’s suspected that the mother wishes to terminate her pregnancy due to the “undesired” race or sex of the fetus. (If sexism or racism is a motivating factor, then the abortion is not to be performed.) In other words….”These are laws that make it a crime for physicians to fail to ensure that abortions are not being done purely for race or gender selection reasons. Arizona passed such a law in March 2011, joining three other states that had older laws already on the books.” The kind of reaction I had to the existence of these laws was quite similar to the reactions I have to nearly every Marshall or Black abortion-related quote. All I could think was, “Seriously?!?! Am I being “punked,” or something? There is no WAY the people running this country are THAT illogical!” I had this mixed-moment of disbelief and outrage, mostly because the implications of these laws are drowning in discrepancies and confusion. (As a passionate and skilled logician, logical discrepancies are my kryptonite. They bother me about as much as an agoraphobic would be bothered standing out in the middle of Times Square.)
Initially, without giving it much thought, one may think, “Ah, yes. We are preventing hate crimes against fetuses. That’s something I can get behind.” However, upon about a second’s worth of reflection, rational people give pause and think, “Wait a second. In order to commit a crime against someone, mustn’t that person first have rights?” And here is where the conspiracy and “back door” policy-making begins. You see, according to the Supreme Court, pre-24-week-old fetuses don’t have any rights, because they aren’t persons. That’s one of the contributing reasons why women were given the right to abort them by the Court (that, and the Fourteenth Amendment).
Because it was ruled that non-viable fetuses lacked personhood, killing them isn’t murder in the eyes of the law. Likewise, it’s only possible to commit a hate crime against a ‘person.’ Committing an action, that would perhaps otherwise be considered a hate crime, against a ‘non-person’ (an entity that lacks the right to live) is perfectly allowable. For example, let’s say you own a pet snake. Every week, you go to your local pet shop and purchase a mouse for your snake to eat. Now, imagine the pet store cashier notices that you only buy black mice to feed to your snake, but never white ones. Can she report you to the authorities for committing a hate crime? Of course not! Like it or not, pre-viable fetuses have the same rights as mice…. especially if the fetuses are unwanted, since the only circumstances that criminalize the “mistreatment” of fetuses is if the mother wishes to be a mother, remain pregnant, and bring her fetus to term. If that is the case, then slipping mifepristone into a willing mother’s cup of coffee is a crime. Although, it can certainly and effectively be argued that forced abortion is a crime against the mother and not the fetus.
The second reason justifying “sex/race selection” laws as “insanity run amuck,” but disguised as a needed intervention on behalf of fetuses, has to do with when (at what point in gestation) sex identification can be made. The ability to determine the sex of fetuses occurs at roughly twenty weeks of gestation, or eighteen at the earliest, if the technician or physician is particularly skilled and insightful. According to current statistics….
=>52% of all abortions occur before the 9th week of pregnancy,
=>25% happen between the 9th & 10th week,
=>12% happen between the 11th and 12th week,
=>6% happen between the 13th & 15th week,
=>4% happen between the 16th & 20th week,
=> And 1% of all abortions (16,450/yr.) happen after the 20th week of pregnancy.
The point of this should be obvious, but so that those who are mentally “sitting” in the metaphoric equivalent of “the cheap seats” can understand, Sex Selection Laws, as well as PREDNA, which was pushed and packaged to congress as a vitally necessary form of protective legislation, seek to “protect” the rights of a mere fraction of a percent of about-to-be-aborted fetuses. After all, if roughly one percent of abortions occur after the gestational age of sex identification, then that means only part of one percent of about-to-be-aborted fetuses are eligible for “protection” against sex discrimination. Because, let’s face it, not every post-20-week abortion is desired on the basis of “I wanted a boy, not a girl.” In other words, this was not and is not a “dire” predicament requiring our swift and immediate attention. Clearly, fetal discrimination on the basis of sex is not a rampant phenomenon in this country. It is not a societal blight that must be stymied with righteous vigor. In the U.S., abortions desired because the fetus is perceived as being the “wrong” sex are a rare occurrence at best and, more than likely, they are a fantasy perpetuated by a sexist right-wing agenda to “fit through the back door what won’t go through the front.” And the sad part is, at least for the female denizens of four deluded (or duped, to be kind) states, this agenda succeeded in Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
PREDNA’s state-level equivalents actually gives a right to fetuses that is normally reserved exclusively for persons- the right against persecution, discrimination, or harm based on racist or sexist reasoning. When personhood rights are endowed upon entities that are not legally-recognized persons, then this qualifies as an underhanded means of bestowing or granting personhood. It’s like the adage, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” But in this case, prolife supporters are utilizing the mantra, “If you treat it like a person and protect it like a person, sooner or later, the law will see it as a person.” The same sort of legal “trickery” occurred with the introduction of “The Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” under Bush, Jr., the ultrasound laws now present in several states, laws that insist on the use of fetal anesthesia despite the fetus’ inability to feel pain and even at the expense of the mother’s health, and laws that are currently attempting to make abortion illegal once the fetus’ heartbeat is detectable. (Hell, if all one needs to be a person is a heartbeat, then I guess I just became a vegetarian.)
In regards to the criticism, “How many fetuses can Sex/Race Selection Laws possibly be protecting?”, I must admit it’s tempting to claim that even one instance of a hate crime is enough to ensure that it never happens again, but one must remember, hate crimes, sexism, and racism are atrocities that can only apply to persons…. which pre-viable fetuses are not. Besides this reiteration, I must further elucidate logical quagmires present in these laws that seek to prevent fetal discrimination. With the exception of doctors ensuring that their patients have not been strong-armed or forced into having an abortion, the reasons why a woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy should be her own. It’s no one’s business why she no longer wishes to be pregnant, and forcing a woman to remain pregnant against her will for any reason, let alone because disconnected, out of touch, sexist government officials have stipulated that her reasons “aren’t good enough,” is tantamount to rape.
If this sounds extreme, take a second to read on while you mull it over. What makes rape so egregiously wrong is that it involves the violation of several rights. First, the woman is viewed as an object, not an individual- as a vessel that performs a function, not an autonomous person. Prolife enthusiasts also have a nasty habit of perceiving women as incubators instead of individuals. Second, rapists care more about satisfying their own carnal needs rather than respecting the wishes and preferences of their victims. Likewise, “prolifers” constantly put the theoretical rights of fetuses over the actual rights of women, and they care more about what an unconscious cluster of cells may reflectively want at some point in the future than they do about what desperate women want right now. Third, rapists do not LISTEN to their victims when they vehemently convey that they do not want their body to endure what’s about to happen to them, and their wishes are subsequently ignored. (Do I really need to make the comparison to prolife believers here? I mean, I’d just end up using the exact same words.) And finally, rape involves an array of various discomfort depending upon it’s severity. It’s impact can range from psychological or emotional to physical. I imagine being forced to remain pregnant when one doesn’t want to be would be similar. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, sometimes even agonizing (especially labor), and being forced to remain pregnant would most definitely cause psychological and emotional “damage,” ranging from the new “perception ” that one is inconsequential, expendable, and not worthy of recognition, sympathy, or understanding,” to feeling like, well…. a rape victim.
Inquiring why women choose to have abortions presents certain logistical difficulties. First, if a pregnant woman wishes to terminate her pregnancy because she is “unhappy” with the fetus’ sex or race, why should that fetus be suddenly “bestowed” with the right to live simply because it’s mother is racist or sexist? Look, either an entity possesses personhood or it does not. Nothing another being does or thinks can, magically or otherwise, give an entity rights. Personhood status exists due to the qualities that the person himself or herself possesses. And since the right to live is synonymous with personhood, if a given fetus is granted the right to live based on having a sexist or racist mother, then it is her qualities that “give” the fetus personhood and not the fetus’ own characteristics. In other words, the fetus doesn’t earn or possess personhood status based on his or her own merits, but based on the mother’s characteristics….. and a rather “bad” character traits at that. Granting fetuses the right to live because of their mothers’ character traits is like granting me a disability check because my roommate is disabled… or like giving my four-year-old daughter a driver’s license simply because I have one.
Also, if personhood can be granted to fetuses based on the reasons the mother has for wanting to terminate her pregnancy, wouldn’t the enforcement of Sex/Race Selection Laws be biased against embryos that are aborted simply because the mother doesn’t want to get fat? Isn’t it rather prejudiced against embryos that are terminated because they were conceived by accident? Banning abortions based on the perceived “morality” of the reason for wanting one carries dangerously serious freedom limitations. What’s next? Banning abortion if the desired reason is because the mother hates babies in general rather than just “hating” girl babies or black babies? And this reasoning isn’t exactly very far away from banning abortion for a pregnant woman who simply hates pregnancy…. which is pretty damn similar to the number one reason why women choose to terminate their pregnancies.
The logical implications of enforcing the protection of fetuses from race discrimination are a little different than the problems with “Sex Selection” laws. This is because women can most likely be certain of their fetus’ (albeit, “mixed”) race, based on who the fetus’ father is. They needn’t wait 20 weeks to find out. However, I find it both disturbing and disheartening (and sort of humorous) that politicians believe a pregnant woman would be so racist as to seek the abortion of her, say, African-American fetus, but not so racist that the thought of consenting to sex with it’s African-American father caused her to avoid doing so. Now, obviously, if she didn’t consent to the sex, then the reason she desires pregnancy termination is because she was raped and not necessarily because she is racist. And if she has no problem with giving birth to a “half-black” baby, but her parents, for example, will kill her or disown her if she does, then her abortion-seeking reason is the desire not to be persecuted, and not because she is a racist.
I have to say, I’m also hard-pressed to imagine a scenario in which an American woman would abort her fetus because of sexist ideals either. If the fetus is a girl, then the woman would have to be a self-hating sexist… and if it’s a boy, she’d have to hate men, but not so much that she avoided sleeping with one. Maybe “sex-selectiveness” could possibly occur if a woman is artificially inseminated, and she finds out she’s having a boy but wanted a girl? But women who go through the trouble of “artificial” pregnancy usually aren’t very discriminating. They are more likely to be grateful. (Seriously, if you could comment below with a hypothetical predicament in which this law would be applicable, I’d appreciate it. Because right now I’m thinking that if this stupidity exists, as a country we are doomed to be laughing stocks.)
Now, I realize that “foreign” women may seek abortions on the basis of the fetus’ undesired traits for a variety of culturally relevant reasons, including China’s preference for male children, and the mistreatment of women in the Middle East and elsewhere, with which future mothers may not wish for their female offspring to contend. But now that Sex and Race Selection laws are “on the books” in several states, as well as highly publicized, won’t women who are seeking abortions know that their reason for wanting one will be scrutinized? Won’t they now be aware that certain reasons for pregnancy termination won’t be accepted, and since they know that they will be denied abortions if they give a sexually or racially discriminating reason, who’s going to admit that’s why she wants one? And how will the abortion-performing physician know if she’s telling the truth about her fabricated reason given to disguise her true intentions? Would there be an investigation into why a woman wishes to terminate pregnancy, if it’s suspected she’s being “race or sex selective?” Will women have to take polygraphs before abortions now? And what would be the “tip-off?” Would it involve racial profiling, so that Chinese women seeking abortions will be automatically suspected of discrimination if they choose to terminate, simply because China is renown for preferring male children?
In addition to all of these questions regarding the practical implications of legal implementation, here’s another one. What’s to prevent a woman from going to another abortion clinic once she is denied an abortion, because her reason for wanting one was against the law, and changing her reason from “I don’t want a girl,” to “I don’t want to be pregnant”? In order to prevent supposed “fetal bigots” from “clinic hopping,” what I can only imagine happening, that is, if politicians have bothered to think this through at all, is that women who have been discovered of “race or sex selection” would have their name put into a database or on a list akin to the list bookies keep of gamblers they no longer allow to place bets. That way, women who have been denied an abortion under “Selection Laws,” won’t be able to simply try again. However, who is to say the pregnant woman just didn’t honestly and legitimately change her reasoning? Perhaps a white woman reasons that, although she enjoyed having a one night stand with an African-American man, she does not wish to raise an African-American child. So she chooses to terminate her pregnancy, but is denied an abortion, because she let it slip that her desire was motivated by race bias. As she prepares to be forced into motherhood, she realizes that regardless of the fetus’ race, she is not prepared to endure pregnancy. Perhaps the nausea is too great. Maybe she did the math and can’t afford maternity clothes or prenatal care. Or her boss gives her a hard time about taking maternity leave, because she had to cut her hours to deal with doctor’s appointments. Whatever the reason, her desire to no longer be pregnant has little to nothing to do with race anymore. So what then? Can this pregnant citizen of either Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, or Pennsylvania get an abortion now that her reasons for wanting one have changed? And if the answer is “yes, she can,” then seriously, what’s to stop any woman from merely pretending to change her mind once she’s denied the first time? (And if the answer is, “no, she can’t,” then we have some serious issues regarding doctor/patient confidentiality with which to contend.)
The irony of these state-level PREDNA laws is that, in attempting to prevent sexism and prejudice, they are actually, in accord with the very definition of irony, causing bigotry and perpetuating female subjugation. Once again, the prolife movement is guilty of sacrificing women’s actual rights in favor of fetus’ hypothetical rights. In order to protect a fraction of a single percentage of female fetuses from being terminated, the lawmakers who pushed this supposedly protective legislation are sacrificing the inherent right for women to control their own bodies and to have a say in when they “breed.” And, in an attempt to prevent bigotry, these same lawmakers are guilty of being biased towards only those fetuses who are being selectively aborted because of their race or sex. They are “singling out” for exemption any fetus that is being prematurely expelled from the womb for reasons of vanity, health, laziness, or what have you, and instead favoring the lives of fetuses who they view as hate crime victims. Why are these ‘other’ fetuses not worthy of their protective legal services? Do they not appear as desperate or helpless as those unwanted for racist or sexist reasons? Isn’t this a lot like claiming that we ought to feel “more sorry for” children who are abused by racist parents than we should for children who were abused by drunk parents? Come on! Abuse is abuse is abuse. And the prolife movement sees abortion as a kind of abuse, and yet they are morally satisfied, patting themselves on the back, for “rescuing victims” who were about to be abused for particular reasons. Why? It isn’t because they truly believe these fetuses are somehow more worthy of saving. It’s because they knew that they could “pull a fast one” by disguising their need to “chip away at choice” with the perception that they are helping to stamp out racism and sexism in all its forms.
To wrap this up with a final thought, I’d like to point out that, with the exception of PREDNA and its equivalents, prolife enthusiasts have always maintained that abortion is wrong regardless of the reason, and with this assertion, they have made very few exceptions. But now, with great emphasis stressed upon the reasons why women wish to terminate pregnancy, I am too tempted to ask “Why do “prolifers” suddenly care about bigotry?” Sadly however, I think I may already know the answer. If abortion is wrong, and fetuses are persons, as prolife advocates repeatedly claim is the case, then it makes no sense to only legally protect some fetuses and not all of them. Due to the ineffective nature of Sex and Race Selection laws, and the fact that it will neither prevent sex and race discrimination, nor protect the fraction of a percent of abortion “victims” it hopes to shield from bias, I have to wonder, what’s the point of supporting these laws? And the answer is ominous. Once again, this is just another example of the right-wing conservative agenda’s preference to fight the battles they they can win, one at a time, using sneaky, underhanded measures to ensure that when they get a shot at “winning the war on abortion,” they’ve set enough legal snares and precedents to guarantee victory. And with each minor restriction imposed, they are getting closer and closer to doing just what they’ve always intended- setting women’s reproductive rights back by half a century, and leaving our mothers wondering why they ever set fire to their bras to begin with.