Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Partial Birth and UVVA: Should a fetus be considered, under law, a person? How is this possible without endangering abortion rights? Cathy Young presents the extremes well in this article.
These days the most intense political battles over abortion are being fought on the periphery of the issue. There are no attempts at the moment to ban abortion by constitutional amendment or to overturn Roe v. Wade and send the matter back to the states. Rather, the current debates are about a ban on some late-term abortion procedures, which is now being challenged in court, and about a federal law making it a crime to cause the death of a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman, which was passed by Congress last week.
This is worth pondering, especially since I'm in favor of both abortion rights and UVVA. I think partial birth is barbaric, yet I don't see a compelling case for its proscription. In other words, I can't reconcile the two completely. And this is an issue where the "I contain multitudes" defense seems flippant. Young sees a middle ground between the two extremes, though she rests it on viability -- which has never really been much more than a legalism masquerading as science.

There is a certain logic glimmer of logic to the intuitive argument that abortion and UVVA are compatable, though. Obviously, when a woman shares her body with a fetus, no state power can intrude. (The anti-abortion side would disagree, but perfect implementation would require women to "declare" a pregnancy to the government.) On the other hand, if an assailant kills the fetus inside a woman's body, what's the recourse under the "clump of cells" rubric? Assault doesn't come close to covering that kind of crime.

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