Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pro-choice requires a little intellectual honesty

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:38 AM |  

I think I’ve been pretty clear on where I stand on the abortion issue; personally, I think at best, regardless of circumstances, a abortion demonstrates a weakness of character and at worst, it is one of the most heinous acts a person can commit. With that said, government -- national, state, and local -- has no legitimate authority to legislate against abortion, nor to require a medical professional to perform one, to fund abortions or regulate abortion in any way other than to protect a patient from malpractice as it does with any other bit of elective surgery. It's simply not a legislative issue.

That said, Ellen Goodman in today‘s Pioneer Press criticizing Samuel Alito Jr. for his stance on spousal notification, and for that matter Sandra Day O’Connor in her rebuttal to his opinion in the Casey case, are wrong that the requirement that a woman notify her husband before she has an abortion is an infringement on women’s rights. Goodman paraphrases O’Connor --
If a state could require a woman to notify her husband, she asked, why not her boyfriend or any other man? If a woman had to notify a man before an abortion, could she also be forced to notify a man before intercourse? "Could the state do that?" Where exactly did a woman's rights end and state rule begin?
First, let’s understand the difference between a true pro-choice point of view and the view that reveres abortion as a political issue. “Pro-choice” means “informed choice.” A life or death decision as serious as an abortion ought to be made fully informed. In that context, discussion with a child’s father is not out of the question -- especially when one considers that the choice still, as it should, remains with the woman.

"Choice" versus "right" is an important distinction -- a woman doesn’t have a “right” to an abortion any more than she has the “right” to a fanny tuck. It’s elective surgery and lots of factors enter into her ability to secure an abortion if that is her choice. What a woman has is the right to make and pursue that choice. She has no inherent right to that outcome. Which brings us to O’Connor’s question about spousal notification -- “Where exactly did a woman’s right end and state rule begin?” It’s the wrong question.

The proper question is where and what rights if any does an unborn child's father have that the state ought to protect? The cold hard fact is that if one is going to deny the definition of “life” to a fetus, then one is stuck regarding it as property, which the owner, the woman, may discard at will. However, it might also be argued that the unborn child is property in common with the child’s father, and while the woman’s interest in the property is greater than the man’s and thus the abortion choice rests with her, the father has a strong enough property interest to be entitled to know how the property is being disposed of. One spouse can’t sell a car owned jointly without the consent of the other. Do we really need to draw the parallel to an unborn child?

If one is going to claim the title "pro-choice," then one ought to have the intellectual honesty to accept all of the ramifications that making a choice entails, not the least of which is obligation to a person one thought enough of to have sex with, if not marry. And if personal responsibility is not enough, then as odious as the concept might be, the father has, albeit limited, property rights in the unborn child that the state does have a legitimate obligation to protect. Notification is far from unreasonable.

Category: Abortion