Banning any type of abortion to "protect the fetus" necessarily grants rights to the fetus.
Given last week's Senate vote, Congress will soon ask President Bush to sign a bill banning "partial-birth "abortions. Such a ban would constitute a grave threat to women's health and a serious blow to individual rights.
When abortion was illegal in America, many women died or suffered serious medical problems from either self-induced or illegal "back-alley" abortions. Women streamed into emergency rooms with punctured wombs, massive bleeding, and rampant infections.
Thanks to the Roe v. Wade (1973) Supreme Court decision, women today have access to safe abortions by medically trained professionals under sanitary conditions. But anti-abortionists are changing all this.
A law banning "partial-birth" abortions establishes a precedent for criminalizing other types of abortion--as America slides down the dangerous slope to "back-alley" abortions. Those who are truly pro-life must grasp the ominous implications of and underlying motives behind such anti-abortion laws--before it's too late.
"Partial-birth" abortion, most commonly known as intact dilation and extraction (D&X), is designed primarily to be used in the case of 5- and 6-month-old fetuses that are dying, malformed, or threatening the woman's health or life. The procedure involves pulling the fetus from the womb, except for the head which is too large to pass without injuring the woman. The head is then collapsed to allow removal. This procedure is designed for the maximum protection of the woman. The late-term alternative to D&X, one that doesn't require partial removal, involves dismembering the fetus in the womb before extraction--a much riskier procedure.
Anti-abortionists coined the term "partial birth" to suggest that the partially removed fetus is no longer "unborn," and, therefore, Roe vs. Wade no longer applies (so they allege). But linguistic manipulation can't create an essential distinction when none exists. A woman has a right to her own body, and if she chooses to abort, then all effort should be made to protect the woman from injury. To rule otherwise is to negate this right.
Banning any type of abortion to "protect the fetus" necessarily grants rights to the fetus--an utter perversion of individual rights. If a woman has no right to her own body, then by what logic does a fetus (which, by definition, is a biological parasite) have a right to the woman's body? Properly, an infant's rights begin after the fetus is removed from the mother's body.
It is a woman's individual rights--to her life, to her liberty, and to the pursuit of her happiness--that sanctions her right to have an abortion. Once "fetal rights" are granted to one stage of the pregnancy, nothing will prevent their extension to all stages. "Fetal rights" are a gimmick to destroy a woman's individual rights.
Tragically, many "pro-choicers" have conceded the "partial-birth" debate to the anti-abortionists and accept a ban as a compromise (and merely quibble about its scope). Such "pro-choicers" have apparently been hoodwinked by the anti-abortionists' strategy of emotionalism and evasion designed to disguise their deeper purpose.
The anti-abortionists' strategy involves focusing solely on the fetus and describing the abortion in gruesome detail. Their professed compassion for the fetus apparently leaves no room for considering the woman's health and happiness. For them, waving a picture of a bloody, mangled fetus constitutes an argument. If so, then so does waving a picture of a woman whose future was ruined because she was denied an abortion - or of a woman bloody and mangled by a "back-alley" abortion.
A picture is not an argument--and should not be allowed as a cover-up.
While anti-abortionists' attacks are primarily focused on rarely performed late-term abortions, they zealously want all abortions banned. Helen Alvare, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Bishops and a staunch enemy of D&X, has declared, "In a moral sense all abortions are equally awful."
According to anti-abortionists' dogma, God places the soul in the womb at conception. Hence, via a leap of faith, the fertilized egg--a tiny cell--is granted the status of human being. At that moment, the woman's status is demoted to that of slave and breeding mare--and her womb becomes God's property (which, in practice, means the government's property). The rights of the woman have therefore been sacrificed to the alleged rights of the fetus. According to this dogma, abortion is murder at any stage of the pregnancy (which explains why some "pro-lifers" feel morally sanctioned to kill doctors and bomb abortion clinics).
The anti-abortionists' war against "partial-birth" abortions is a smokescreen to ban all abortions. Abortion is a woman's moral right. "Pro-choicers" must reject compromise and fight any law prohibiting abortion on principle--the principle of individual rights--the principle upon which this pro-rights country was founded.
Glenn Woiceshyn develops curriculum materials for schools and homeschoolers, and is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
This Op-Ed was published in the San Francisco Chronicle (September 25, 2003) and the Miami Herald (December 13, 2003).