Ever since 1973, when the US Supreme Court issued its pro-abortion ruling in a Roe v Wade case, that topic has been in the forefront of public debate.
The debate ought to be moral and logical, but instead it always veers into politics, which nowadays has nothing to do with either morality or logic. By and large, conservatives argue against Roe v Wade, while liberals support it wholeheartedly.
Since most US conservatives tend to be Republican, it’s Republican-led states that take the fight to Roe v Wade. This year alone they’ve passed 94 restrictions on abortions. However, none has gone as far as my former home state, Texas.
It has passed the so-called Heartbeat Act, banning abortions past the point when a foetal heartbeat is detected, typically as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
Any individual, including those not directly involved, can now sue any doctor, nurse or anyone else performing or assisting an abortion. Damages to be awarded start from $10,000. Exceptions can be made only in medical emergencies, but not in cases of rape or incest.
Pro-abortionists screamed bloody murder, as it were, all the way to the Supreme Court, demanding that it block the new law. However, the Supreme Court refused, by a 5-4 vote.
Now the screams have reached a hysterical pitch, with the good Catholic Joe Biden leading the way as a sort of choir master. The new law, fumed the good Catholic, is “extreme”. It “significantly impairs” women’s access to healthcare. Right. So abortion is healthcare, a bit like appendectomy.
I stress Biden’s religious credentials only to show his hypocrisy. For one can be either a pro-abortionist or a good Christian, never both. Catholic doctrine in particular is adamant on the subject: since life begins at conception, abortion violates one of the Commandments, and not a misdemeanour one either.
The point I usually make when this subject comes up is that one doesn’t have to fall back on Christian doctrine to make a case against abortion. A simple logical process should suffice.
Sanctity of life is a concept that might have originated within the Church, but then so did all of our most fundamental laws. Since then, however, they have shed any visible tethers tying them to religion and entered the secular jurisprudence of all civilised countries.
Hence the issue of abortion boils down to a simple question. Is a foetus a human being, autonomous in potentiality, or merely a part of a woman’s body, like the appendix?
If it’s the latter, then it can be treated like the appendix: allowed to exist if it gives no trouble, cut out if it causes discomfort. If, however, it’s human, then the distinction between abortion and infanticide becomes blurred, not to say non-existent.
Given the normal gestation period of about nine months, the issue is further reduced to another question. At what point along this timeline does a human life start?
What about at nine months minus one day? No, that’s not it. No difference between pre-natal and post-natal abortions would be noticeable, and the latter is unequivocal murder.
How about, say, 24 weeks into pregnancy, which most abortion laws specify as the cut-off point, as it were? This limit is based on the antediluvian proposition that at that time a foetus becomes viable, that is able to survive outside the womb.
Yet recent scientific advances, of which modernity is so proud, can enable a foetus to survive at a much earlier stage. Fair enough, it can’t survive on its own, but then neither can a post-natal baby. Using the same logic, we ought to condone infanticide up until at least school age.
I’d suggest that the 24-week limit is arbitrary to a point of being unsustainable. Are we to believe that a human life starts at exactly 24 weeks and not, say, at a mere 23 weeks and six days?
Clearly there is no scientific basis for this belief. In fact, any ironclad limit on the presumptive life-giving point would be arbitrary, refutable by the same process of reductio ad absurdum. Any, that is, except one: the moment of conception.
Only this moment is irreducible and unarguable. Any other point is open to question, and surely decent concern for elementary (secular!) morality should treat any reasonable doubt in favour of preserving life? Even a petty criminal can only be convicted when no reasonable doubt exists. Surely life deserves a similar consideration?
Thus the new Texas law is in no way extreme. It too sets an arbitrary point, that when a foetus begins to show a heartbeat.
Yet equating life with cardiac activity doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either. After all, people have been known to survive for up to 45 minutes after their heart stopped beating. Should they have been buried directly that line on the oscillograph went straight?
The Heartbeat Act is yet another palliative. Yet it’s a better one than any other so far. After all, “Half a loaf is better than none,” as Thomas Jefferson once said in a different context.
As you might have gathered, I’m opposed to abortion both on religious and rational grounds. Yet I’m man enough to admit that I sometimes make knee-jerk decisions for purely emotional or, if you will, intuitive reasons. Not often, but sometimes.
In this case too I’d support the new Texas law simply because of those who oppose it. Joe Biden is one. This good Catholic defends abortion with considerably more passion than he displayed when leaving many Americans at the mercy of Taliban savages.
He has sworn an oath to “protect and defend” Roe v Wade as a constitutional right “upheld as a precedent for nearly half a century”. In fact, as his press secretary Jen Psaki explained, Biden has always laboured manfully to turn that precedent into federal law – a noble cause those Texan hillbillies are thwarting.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose politics put her somewhere between Leonid Brezhnev and Che Guevara, described the Act as “catastrophe to women in Texas”. And New York Mayor de Blasio took time from his day job of running the city into the ground to call for a “national mobilisation” to fight for abortion.
Also, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose politics puts it to the left of either Brezhnev or Che Guevara, promised to stick to its guns, or rather abortion tools. The Act, say its spokesmen, opens the door to “vigilante lawsuits”. Surprisingly they didn’t use the term ‘McCarthyism’ they typically reserve for any conservative measure.
Anyway, well-done, Texas. Though the Act isn’t quite the destination, at least it’s a step in the right direction. These days, one can’t ask for more.
P.S. According to newspaper reports, Geronimo the alpaca has finally been “executed”. Chaps, people are executed; animals are put down. Those who don’t know the difference probably can’t distinguish betweeen a foetus and an appendix either.