Sunday, November 27, 2005

Choice and Life

Choice and Life

Abortion is the most divisive issue of our time. It certainly permeates our national debate over the Supreme Court nomination process. Emotions run high on both sides of the debate, ergo, the debate is not very rational - read logical. Therefore, it follows that a logical - read rational - solution will not resolve anything. But. There IS a logical solution to this quandry, a solution that satisfies both sides. Absolute respect for a living human being from the moment of conception, congruent with absolute respect for a woman's right to choose. But any solution presupposes that the parties to the dispute WANT to solve it. However, solving the quandry will leave the parties without the argument. Irrational, yes, but both sides are very, very good enemies. Choice and life. We CAN have both.

This quandry is a classic confrontation between two rights. One, and the most basic, is the right to life. This is the first right granted to us in our constitution. Paired with liberty, and then either property or the pursuit of happiness, this constitutes the greatest promise ever granted by any nation to any people. But, what happens when the right of one person to life comes up against another's right to the pursuit of happiness, or stands to cost some of her property. So, along comes a credulous Supreme Court that finds in the penumbras and emanations of the first few amendments to our constitution a right to privacy. Now, penumbras and emanations are the same as shadows and smells, but the Supreme Court in Griswald found that these insubstantial links were enough to allow a constitutional right to privacy. Eight years later, a right to abortion based upon this right to privacy was issued in Roe v. Wade.

Now, it is a truism that your rights end at the beginning of my nose. In other words, your right may not cost me anything personally, or it is no longer a right, but an imposition. Yet there is a great tension between a woman's right to abort and a child's right to live. Courts have glossed over this tension by declaring that an unborn child is not a person with rights worthy of respect. That a majority of our citizens disagree with this dictum is much of the reason that this issue is so contentious. But in the way that contentious people will argue rather than honestly seek to resolve conflict, the official story line is that these two views are incompatible, and thus the power of the courts must be invoked to protect this "right" that most citizens would fail to uphold, if given the chance. Yet, there is no reason for the conflict to exist. Both sides can be accommodated, if we only cared to do so.

It seems to me that a satisfactory solution is as follows: Allow a pregnant woman to renounce, and have removed, any fetus growing inside her, as she could seek the medical removal of any other parasitical organism resident in her abdomen. But. At the same time, treat any fetus so removed as a person with all the rights of any other human being. There. Everyone's rights are protected. No fetus has a right to inhabit a woman who desires it removed. That child's care and feeding thus must become the responsibility of the state, just as the care of a child after birth would become the state's problem, should a woman deliver it into the hands of the state. After about five and a half months of gestation, a premature birth could ensue (or infanticide might have to be performed). What is novel about this proposal is the omission of the act of infanticide on late term pregnancy terminations. More choice than the pro-choice side advocates, eh? Give an aborted, unwanted, victim of "Choice" the chance of the same chance at life that the rest of us believe we deserve.