April 23, 2005

Late-term abortion

Furthering our ongoing discussion on late-term abortion, I'd like you all to read this testimonial. I believe the abortion procedure the woman, a Christian from Texas, describes is a dilation and extraction

In a procedure very similar to an amniocentesis, Thomas’s heart was stopped with a simple injection. In that moment, as I held my husband’s hand, I met God and handed him my precious boy to care for, for all eternity.

Over the next 17 hours I labored to deliver Thomas’s body. It was a painful experience, but the only option given to a woman at 24 weeks gestation.


And here's a Wiki entry on intact D&E. It includes descriptions of the procedure from both PP and National Right to Life, an anti-choice organization.

3 comments:

Drew said...

Soz,

I'm puzzled by why you've decided to share this. In light of the ongoing discussion about abortion rights, where you have taken the unfortunate position that any regulation or limitation to abortion is an assult against women and a betrayal of the Principles of Choice, this testimonial does no work for you.

Julia's doctor advised termination. That's the important thing here. I support restricting abortions in any number of ways, but any restriction must contain exceptions to protect the life and health of the pregnant woman. If a doctor advises termination, then that's a decision to be made between the doctor and the patient only, and not any state or federal legislature.

But if Julia's situation were different, if Julia just woke up at 24 weeks and said, you know what, I don't think I want this baby afterall, I'm going to terminate it, that would be another story entirely. From what you've said, I think you would passionately argue that "choice" must necessarily include choice at any time and for any reason. I must disagree.

I don't have any opinion on where precisely we should place the cut-off for election abortion, but there should be one. There should be a point after which elective abortion is illegal, when only medically necessary abortions are performed (abortions which are intended to protect the life and/or health of the pregnant woman, including protecting her ability to conceive and bear subsequent children). There's nothing anti-choice about that.

To me, Julia's testimony stands for the fact that these late-term abortions are not being done for flighty women who suddenly change their mind about the whole childbearing thing. They are being done because they are medically required, and they must be allowed to continue on that basis, no matter how gruesome they may appear. But Julia's testimony, in my opinion, does not advance your peculiar absolutist position of pro-choice purity.

Noumena said...

To me, Julia's testimony stands for the fact that these late-term abortions are not being done for flighty women who suddenly change their mind about the whole childbearing thing. They are being done because they are medically required, and they must be allowed to continue on that basis, no matter how gruesome they may appear. But Julia's testimony, in my opinion, does not advance your peculiar absolutist position of pro-choice purity.

Your position in the first two sentences here is the stance I take, is what I tried to illustrate with this testimonial, and what you reject in the last sentence. I trust women to be responsible moral agents, to see abortion, pregnancy, and childbirth as weighty and controversial moral issues, deserving (and getting) thorough consideration in every case before a decision is made. As such moral agents, they have the unique and inalienable civil and ethical right and responsibility to make this decision. A woman is given autonomy over her body, and the duty to decide what is best for a potential person being formed inside her body; from the standpoint of ethics, what else can being a mother mean?

What counts as 'medical' is a very fuzzy line. I would prefer to say that all abortions are being done not because they are medically required but because they are, ethically, the right thing to do in each particular situation. My ascription of reproductive autonomy to women is an expression of my trust in their ability to decide what is right, and follow through on that decision. This includes a recognition that there may be the extraordinarily rare instance where the abortion of a viable prenate is the right thing to do, just like I recognize and respect but can never understand the choice of a rape victim that the right thing to do is bear and love the result of such an attack.

You say that you don't have any opinion on precisely where a cutoff should be. Then wouldn't such a cutoff have to be set arbitrarily? How can such an arbitrary decree be compatible with respect for a woman's autonomy? It seems to me analytic (in Kant's sense) that it cannot, especially since you start to allow exemptions to your rule: 'it's a person, since I said so, and should be protected from all harm whatsoever, except in these arbitrary circumstances'.

Drew said...

But as (I think) MosBen has pointed out in previous threads on this topic, there is no non-arbitrary basis for handling this. You're saying that you trust women to give these decisions the seriousness that they deserve. Does that mean that when a mother leaves her newborn child in a dumpster, you trust that it was the morally right thing to do? If not, you're advocating the arbitrary line of birth, I imagine.

And I'm still baffled by this whole trust issue. Seriously, apply this logic to any, literally any other matter of public policy, and it falls apart. Do we trust people to file taxes on time? No. Do we trust people to pay their credit card bills? No. Do we trust people to plan responibly for their retirement? No.

I don't trust "women", as a group, to behave responsibly when it comes to abortion, because that's not the point. I support a woman's right to choose, responsibly or not, to have an abortion, and I support a woman's right to choose, responsibly or not, to carry a child to term. It's not about trust.

And that support for choice doens't invalidate all other policy considerations. It takes priority over the state's interest in prenatal human life, for instance, but it doesn't supercede that interest. There is a balancing that takes place between these competing interests, and in my view, restricting late-term abortions to cases of medical necessity is fully compatible with support for choice.

Yes, "medical" is a fuzzy line, which is why I want to leave it to those best suited to make the relevant determinations: doctors and patients, not legislators.