Friday, November 10, 2006

The Authoritarian Position on Abortion

Here’s a question I saw posted on a comment board somewhere else: is opposition to abortion inherently authoritarian? And here’s my answer: opposing abortion is not authoritarian, but wanting to outlaw it is.

Before anyone gets offended by this, think about the war on drugs. You don’t report your dealer to the cops. Your dealer doesn’t report you. And there’s no victim reporting the crime to the police. So how do the cops learn about it?

Through sneaky, nasty authoritarian ways. Spying. Phone-tapping. Government-funded propaganda campaigns urging young citizens to rat each other out. Even people who have never touched drugs are affected by a law that can only be enforced by requiring the cops to invade people's privacy, and fosters an "us vs. them" mentality between the cops and the folks they supposedly protect and serve.

Now apply the same problems to illegal abortion. A woman who has one won’t report herself to the cops. Whoever performs the abortion won’t report it either. If first-trimester abortions are made illegal, what methods will police use to make sure the law’s enforced?

Before you answer, consider that we already live in a country where harmless cold medicines are banned because they might be used to make methamphetamine. Students who take aspirin are expelled from school because they might be taking happy pills instead. Police roadblocks checking every driver on a given street are acceptable because someone might be driving drunk.

We now live in a country where the government and police think it’s perfectly acceptable to place restrictions on the lives of the innocent because some of them might be guilty. And with that in mind, I ask those who’d like to see abortion made illegal: how, exactly, do you suppose the police would enforce this ban?

In Ceaucescu’s Romania, the government made damn sure nobody had an abortion by requiring women of childbearing age to have gynecological exams each month. I don’t know how harshly the police investigated pregnant women who miscarried, though.

19 Comments:

Blogger Mystique said...

Jennifer,
I saw your post that was referring to my blog, please do visit and comment on my blog. I love having a diversified base of readers.
And believe it or not, U.S ranks as number one in my blog's stat, followed by Saudi Arabia, then U.K., so it is actually visited by U.S. residents the most.

I'll be awaiting you

Cheerss

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I find it amazing just how many people have never considered the frightening implications of enforcing a ban on abortion. The absurdity of treating an embryo as a person would result in pregnant women losing all privacy rights and being used essentially as incubators under the guidance and control of the state. For this, and many other reasons, I've come to the conclusion that abortion rights are absolute -- that it must be legal in all circumstances throughout the entire pregnancy without regulation. Any other position demeans the personhood of pregnant women and unacceptably violates their privacy rights.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Sam Franklin said...

I thought you were doing well on post-viability aborts back on '05. Now you seemed to have retreated to some bodily integrity thingee. Did I remember your position wrong or have you done some rethinking?

2:01 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

We now live in a country where the government and police think it’s perfectly acceptable to place restrictions on the lives of the innocent because some of them might be guilty.

This is the real problem, the premise of your argument is flawed as you're using an imagined symptom as a problem. Underlying issue aside, this police state approach to life is the real danger, regardless of the issue.


And with that in mind, I ask those who’d like to see abortion made illegal: how, exactly, do you suppose the police would enforce this ban?

As I've said, when we have a good answer, not a knee jerk one, which defines when people are people for the purposes of protection of law, as a simple question without regard for people's extrapolations, then this comes under current law. The problem is, people can't give the question an honest answer, as they're too busy trying to figure out what the possible consequences of their answer might be in regard to their dearly held political sensitivities.

It's the same logic that causes some of us to pursue "gay marriage", instead of pursing "get the damn government out of the business of approving relationships", which will solve the problem ever so much better. It only makes sense, but people can't deal with the possible consequences of it.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Moose, what exactly is flawed about the premise of my argument? The country really does impose restrictions on the innocent to increase the chance we'll catch the guilty. This is mostly done in the context of the war on drugs, of course, but what would happen in a war on abortion?

About a year ago some guy in the Virginia legislature actually proposed a bill (which was soundly defeated) that would require any woman having a miscarriage to report it to the police within 24 hours.

So I ask the question in all sincerity: if abortion is illegal, how will the police pursue and prosecute illegal abortions? Checking emergency-room records? Tapping the phones of OB/GYNs?

For the drug war, the cops don't sit back and passively wait for someone to report drugs to the police; the cops aggressively go out and look for criminals, even if that means spying or entrapment. You don't think they'd be just as aggressive in reards to abortion?

9:00 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

You might look at El Salvador and, now, Nicaragua for examples of how the police enforce complete bans on abortion. Fetuses are 'persons' under their law from the minute the sperm crosses the egg's outer membrane. They investigate miscarriages as though they were suspicious deaths. They don't operate on ectopic pregnancies until the tube bursts. Nice.

I also want to point out that making a fetus a person means the state has to provide a mechanism for compensation for accidental injuries. Think about that for a minute. That means, among other things, filing lawsuits for naturally-miscarried fetuses, which means insurance companies suddenly won't cover, oh, ski resorts that allow women to ski, or equestrian schools that allow women to participate, or cycling clubs, or just about anything that requires strenous physical exertion, because that can cause miscarriages. So, of course, can being a sedentary slob, but insurance doesn't care about that. It's important to remember in this discussion that making fetuses 14th Amendment Persons is more than just banning abortion.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

I have gone back and forth on many aspects of the abortion issue many times, and no doubt I'll go back and forth again. But the enforcement aspect is the key point. In part, it depends on whether they focus enforcement efforts on the doctors or the patients. If they focus on the patients then an abortion ban would have HUGE potential for going Orwellian. If they focus on the doctors, well, maybe not so much. Going after the doctors would target fewer people and in less intrusive ways than going after the patients.

In some ways, a state-by-state ban rather than a nationwide ban might actually make for an even more intrusive state. Consider the implications for women traveling across state lines.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

How exactly would they go after the doctors, though, Alex? I'm trying to get some nuts-and-bolts answers as to how abortion bans would be enforced? You know the old saying about how one can't prove a negative. How will OB/GYNs prove they have NOT performed abortions?

5:39 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Moose, what exactly is flawed about the premise of my argument?

Sorry, I was rather tired when I wrote that, probably should not have.

Let's try again. Th real problem is not so much abortion, but the authoritarian state. To say that a position on abortion, regardless of what it is, is authoritarian is kind of a miss. You could just as easily choose any other particular issue, say, spitting on the sidewalk, which is actually illegal. Are they going out and taking DNA samples of every bit of saliva on the street? No. Can I imagine that happening? Yes.

My point is to choose abortion is, well, too easy, and detracts from the abuse of power that the govt (regardless of who's in charge) exhibits.

Hope this makes more sense, too much time in the vehicle seat lately has me kind of foggy.

That said...This: I also want to point out that making a fetus a person means the state has to provide a mechanism for compensation for accidental injuries. Think about that for a minute. That means, among other things, filing lawsuits for naturally-miscarried fetuses is a classic example of someone trying to frame the question in regards to their percieved results. Obviously in this case trying to introduce some measure of fear that "If you say two plus two equals four, then there will be hell to pay". Which, while perhaps valid, does not change that two plus two does in fact equal four.

The answer is the answer, if the results of that answer don't suit you, then change the rules that cause the result, not the answer.

Now, for enforcement, I would think it would go the way of enforcement of any number of technically illegal things. They would probably go after any doctor that advertised as such, there would be a black market in day after pills which would presumably come under DEA, and enthusiasm for prosecution would vary greatly throughout the US. I can't imgine a bill to report miscarraiges to pass muster against self incrimination should someone have had an abortion instead, btw.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I can't imgine a bill to report miscarraiges to pass muster against self incrimination should someone have had an abortion instead, btw.

I still find it hard to believe that mandatory drug testing doesn't fail the "self-incrimination" test, but it still takes place. For that matter, I can't believe that COLD MEDICINE is illegal in many states, because you might be able to use it to make meth. But it is.

I said already that being morally opposed to abortion is not authoritarian, but wanting the government to ban it is. There's no non-authoritarian way to ban a private medical procedure.

Seriously, Moose: the government is already trampling all over the Constitution to prosecute drug "crimes" with no actual victims. Yet you think they'll respect the Constitution to prosecute crimes which they believe result in the death of babies?

2:24 PM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

Seriously, Moose: the government is already trampling all over the Constitution to prosecute drug "crimes" with no actual victims. Yet you think they'll respect the Constitution to prosecute crimes which they believe result in the death of babies?

Or any other number of issues. That's my point, abortion enforcement isn't of itself authoritarian, and authoritarians won't constrain themselves to any particular issue.

I'm not disagreeing with you in saying that authoritarians would be overly enthusiastic in enforcement of abortion limitations, but I do disagree that just because someone believes the govt should regulate abortion makes them authoritarian, simply on that issue alone.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Sam Franklin said...

How exactly would they go after the doctors, though, Alex? I'm trying to get some nuts-and-bolts answers as to how abortion bans would be enforced?

Same way they prevent any form of child abuse. Doctors can be arrested for failing to report signs of child abuse. Nobody thinks that is authoritarian; i have never heard you, Jennifer, complain about those laws or advocate that they be repealed.

Once a post viability fetus is involved, I don't think there is any such thing as a private medical procedure anyway. Somebody else is necessarily involved beyond the woman and her doctor.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

Fundamentally, we get into the issue of ownership of people - slavery. If the state can force a woman to carry to term, then either the state or the foetus is effectively enslaving the woman. Enforcement methods do indeed necessitate an authoritarian approach.

To the extent that I want "civilization" and "society", one of the key things I want is protection from slavery.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Sam "the Butcher" Franklin said...

If the state can force a woman to carry to term, then either the state or the foetus is effectively enslaving the woman.

No because if the woman has a late term fetus inside her, it means that she consented to have that person there by not aborting by, say, the third month.

Because the woman has consented by her conduct, this is not analogous to slavery.

Nice try, tho.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

Because the woman has consented by her conduct, this is not analogous to slavery.

People can change their minds.
If, at any time, one party no longer consents, then it is slavery. Furthermore, slavery is often "consentual" - be a slave or die.

I think that the relationship between a woman an unborn child is so fundamentally intimate and personal that only the woman can be allowed to make any decisions about the issue.

Many people argue: "but shouldn't the child get a say in this?" Until it actually IS a child (in other words, no longer a parasite dependent totally upon the mother), then I say NO. The mother controls her own body, and can at any time decide to divest herself of a physical parasite. Only if she willingly carries to term is the act consensual. Any other interpretation of "consensual" is ludicrous.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Sam Franklin said...

"People can change their minds.
If, at any time, one party no longer consents, then it is slavery."

Tell that to the women and men serving in the wars in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who would rather not be there. Some consents are binding. Not aborting early should be one of them, absent some pretty grave physiological harm to the post-viability fetus bearer. There is plenty of warning with pregnancy and the stakes are known in advance. If you want to kill the thing, kill it before it gets brain waves and the capacity to feel pain. Otherwise live with your choice.

PS: what is up with the italic tag at this blog? Doesn't seem to work.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

Tell that to the women and men serving in the wars in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who would rather not be there.

Actually, the way the government is currently running our armed forces (required extensions, for example) IS slavery.

And, to tell the truth, I agree that late-term abortions are a very tricky subject, morally. I don't really see a solution to the dilemma that I like.

Perhaps late-term abortions should have to be performed in such a way as to maximize the infant's chances of survival? Then, if it does indeed survive, it was ipso facto viable. If not, it wasn't.

Simply saying the woman knew what she was committing to is obviously false. First, she may not have deliberately committed (rape, etc.). Second, what she committed to may no longer apply (the husband dies/divorces/etc., completely changing the socio-economic equation).

Now, I will grant that you are probably "more right" when discussing late-term abortions. In most cases, the mother has clearly made the commitment, over the course of several months. In some cases, however, it may simply be that this is her first real chance at an abortion (oppressive parents, controlling husband, living in an area with anti-abortion laws).

As I concede, late-term abortions are a moral quandry. However, from a purely societal point of view, I tend to come down on the side of the woman. The last thing our society needs is another unwanted newborn and at-risk single mother.

Also, who pays for the medical attention we expect to accompany a birth, in our society? If the woman is unwilling to carry to term, is she still required to pay for both her own and the baby's care? I agree that a late-term abortion is probably a comparable medical operation to natal care or a cesarean, so the woman's expenses would probably be similar. But she shouldn't have to pay for an unwanted baby. I don't know how well our current "safe harbor" laws handle this detail.

At any rate, cesareans, while still major surgery with all of the dangers involved, are now almost routine in many parts of the world. In Brazil, many women choose to have cesareans to prevent natural birth from "loosening" them, so they will continue to be "pleasing to their men". Perhaps forcing late-term abortions to be cesarean, then giving the fetus the best available care and life-support...

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Sam Franklin said...

And on my side, I never argued that early abortions should be restricted.

I have long favored the European system where ealy abortions are always allowed and late abortions are something you need a good reason and government permission for.

Husbands can die even after babies are born. I don't think that is a good example of a justification post-viability. Post-viability, I think those justifications would have to be life of the post viability fetus bearer, some serious physiological issue (something bigger than loss of fertility), or maybe a rape or incest case involving a preganant minor who delayed because she was too young to act as a responsible adult.

2:27 PM  
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