Dissents Of The Day

Readers seize on a recent comment:

In your dismissive response to Marcotte’s analysis of the recently proposed Women’s Health Protection Act, you said, facetiously, “Because a tooth has the same moral standing as a fetus.”

I have rarely seen as deliberate a misreading from you. Abortion is legal. Because of that annoying fact, opponents of abortion have had to sneak in restrictions, such as mandatory admitting privileges in local hospitals for abortion providers, under the cynical guise of protecting the health of pregnant women. This is the clear and obvious context of Marcotte’s reference to dentists and admitting privileges: The procedures she lists carry similar, and in some cases greater, risks for the health of patients compared to a standard out patient abortion.

I’m not deliberately misreading anything. What I’m saying is that it is not self-evident that an abortion has the same moral weight as a root canal. They may be equally legal, but they are not self-evidently equally moral. It is reasonable to treat it differently as a medical procedure for those reasons alone. I’m open to the idea that it shouldn’t be – but that’s not the tone of Marcotte. I was objecting to the breezy dismissal of any moral conundrum at all. Another elaborates:

You do realize that the hospital admitting privileges requirement for abortion providers isn’t there for the protection of the fetus, right? It’s there, allegedly, for the protection of the female patient, undergoing one of the least complicated and safest medical procedures performed. Of course the requirement is really about preventing the dentist from doing his job at all – I’m sorry, I meant abortion provider.

Another shares her personal perspective:

In 2000, when I was 42 years old, I elected to have an abortion rather than continue a pregnancy I was told would probably end in the second or third trimester, and if not, would result in the baby dying a month after being born. I had nearly died as a result of a miscarriage four years before that, so I was distinctly unkeen to risk my life (and the well-being of my then two children, who were 10 and 7 and who seemed to need a mother) to walk around like a time bomb waiting for a fetus to die and possibly take me with it.

In order to get that abortion, I was subjected to Michigan’s “Informed consent for abortion” law.

Our conservative Catholic governor’s idea of “informed consent” was that I had to take a day off work to go to my doctor’s so that my doctor could read to me from a script. Practically nothing in the script was factually correct for my case, so the situation was prolonged by the doctor reading a paragraph (as required by Michigan law) and then putting down the script, facing me, and telling me what was actually true about my own condition (as required by his medical ethics).

And so it went: paragraph read, actual discussion of actual facts, repeat, for four or five pages of lies. Just what about the actions the law mandated in that situation seems moral to you? Since when is requiring people to recite outright lies in order to make a medical procedure more expensive a moral act? How would you feel if the state mandated that every time you got your life-sustaining HIV medication, you had to pay extra money and take time off work to listen to a lecture on how sexually sinful you were insofar as you had contracted the disease by doing something a politically powerful religious minority disapproves of? Would you feel it was a moral moment that caused you to reflect on the sinfulness of your ways?

All the “informed consent” blather did was piss me off. If the right really thought that this approach would change my mind, they are not just nuts, they’re deceiving themselves. Is there any evidence – do such laws even seek to gather such evidence – that women reconsider after these charades are played out?

The informed consent laws are old news. The newer laws (which I’m guessing wouldn’t have to exist if the older moral lecture laws had worked) don’t make any moral claims one way or another – requiring doctors in standalone clinics to also have hospital admitting privileges isn’t being done for ostensibly moral reasons; it’s being done as a backdoor approach to banning abortion with some window dressing of “concern for public health.” And those laws are working. They are not ending abortion, but they are ending legal, safe abortion. The purpose of the law before Congress is to strip the window dressing: that is, to make the anti-abortion laws more honest about their intent. There’s no argument implicit in this that fetuses have the same moral standing as teeth.

Yes there is. The analogy my reader makes is to my HIV meds. But taking my HIV meds does not end human life, something that abortion as a medical procedure almost uniquely does. You can take any view on that question, but to ignore it entirely seems to me unpersuasive.