22 February 2012

Having poked my nose into the mess

I will say a few more bits on the abortion topic.

1) Most people are in a squishy middle of being committed fully to neither pro-choice or pro-life positions in their strongest ways. That means that they are mostly comfortable with a moral assertion that abortions are probably wrong and probably would be deeply conflicted if they or someone they knew or loved needed or wanted one, but that they can certainly see points, like a pregnant women's health and life or perhaps the fitness of the fetal development (such as disorders that would likely insure a brief existence post-womb complete with suffering and pain and agony rather than hopeful futures), as legitimate grounds for abortion being maintained as a legal option. That is, that they would oppose outright bans on it or things like Mississippi's (and other states') personhood amendments, but also don't feel totally comfortable with say, Planned Parenthood, because they're the ones doing the actual abortions. 

2) What they don't oppose are things like the new Virginia law requiring transvaginal, internal, ultrasounds, laws requiring ultrasounds more generally, parental consent laws, and so on. The reason for this is highly irrational on some level.

First, it appears that the conclusion reached by many as a basis for these laws is that people considering getting abortions have not thought through their decision adequately and that an ultrasound is necessary in some way to get them to reconsider. There is some evidence that this is effective at getting some people to reconsider their decision. Certainly not all or most, since most people have considered this decision at great length and have often had to go to the trouble to select a location far out of their way to get one. But by and large whether it should be mandated by the state to do so is another question entirely from whether or not it works to reduce the number of abortions in some way. Note: It is medically useful to use ultrasounds to determine that a), someone is definitely pregnant and b), that the abortion procedure was successful in ending that pregnancy, but this is different from requiring someone to view said ultrasound as a patient or offering it to them as a condition of state policy. It makes sense from a medical perspective but not as a meddling means of the state in other words. Planned Parenthood does ultrasounds itself when conducting the procedure, as but one example.

Second, in the case of Virginia, the idea is to use transvaginal ultrasounds because early embryonic development of the sort commonly associated with most abortions tends not to be visible on the less invasive "jelly belly" procedure that most people would associate with ultrasounds. This means that people aren't seeing anything when offered a common procedure. Which actually does provide them as a patient, should they choose to view said ultrasound, with some medical information (that their pregnancy is likely not very far advanced, something they likely already knew). That they are then required to get the more invasive procedure instead does strike me as an onerous method of determining how best to execute the abortion by a means of state law. If a doctor uses this procedure to insure its effectiveness, that's one thing, but using the instruments of the state to dictate the effectiveness of abortion outcomes doesn't seem like something we should be doing.

3) As is it naturally compared to the invasive nature of the procedure is akin to a rape. Though by no means is it the same in psychological and moral terms, it is far closer than things that advocates of this law have compared to actual rape. This is especially true for real rape victims seeking an abortion, one of the few exceptions that many pro-life types are willing to grant. An exception I find morally inconsistent and bizarre myself. To me the rape exception is a key moral determination that somehow creating children should be a voluntary act and that fathering children should be done consensually, but the idea that somehow this is the basis for only THIS exception, and not any other exceptions that parents or potential mothers can conceive of, is beyond a little strange to me. In any case, the idea that we should be using state policy to control what procedures are used on these women and their families in particular rather than appropriate local medical determinations (ie, preferencing local knowledge over centralised controls), is repugnant to the basic model of a free liberal society. Precisely the sort that conservatives presume to claim a sole desire to institute through a "smaller government".

That is to say, that rape victims should be able to consult privately with their doctors the appropriate methods available to insure that they receive the care they desire rather than have the state impose a particular method in preference to alternatives. If rape victims can do this, I would presume that there is a logic available that other women could do so also.

Update: We can always count upon the political ambitions of Governors to become Presidents or Senators. It sounds like McDonnell is attempting to get the transvaginal requirement stricken from the law.  Since there are numerous states with ultrasound laws already on the books, Virginia would hardly be unusual or radical there. But the unpleasant necessity of explaining why rape victims had to be violated again in order to obtain an abortion (when this is, by far, one of the few relatively popular reasons behind legal abortions in the popular view of morality) if he were to run for higher office beyond Virginia, tends to matter.
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