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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Abortion and the power of the state

Over New Years I had the pleasure of spending some time with friends who are either in, or recently graduated from, some of the best law schools in the country. These folks are going to have a hell of a time being confrmed to the Supreme Court in the future, because they actually dicsussed the issue of abortion and the legal basis for restricting access to it (unlike Clarence Thomas, who was able to ascend to the Supreme Court without ever sullying his mind with such matters).

The bottom line that they agreed on was very interesting to me and has resonated more strongly over time: restrictions on the right to an abortion make a woman an unwilling conscriptee of the state for the duration of her pregnancy. Think about that for a minute, mull it over, and see the underlying truth to it.

The fact is that the technology exists to safely terminate unwanted pregnancies. Abortion restriction activists seek to deny access to a technology that is:
  • Safe for the user/recipient
  • Poses no danger to other citizens
  • Reliable
  • Well-understood
  • Inexpensive to deliver
I'm racking my brain trying to come up with another technology that is comparable in these areas and that is restricted by the state, but cannot come up with a truly comparable technology/service. This alone points out the exceptionalism of the abortion case-- that it is not a common occurance to legally restrict access to technolgies that are safe, reliable, and inexpensive.

An important consideration is the argument made by abortion-restriction advocates that the state has a duty to protect the abortion target-- the fetus. There is a simple answer to this argument-- the state has an obligation only to protect its citizens, and since citizenship is acquired by birth, prior to birth there are no citizenship rights and no obligation of the state to "protect" prior to birth.

Is abortion necessary? Examine the reliability statistics for the following methods of birth control:
  • Male condom: 97% reliable (when used correctly)
  • Female condom: 95% reliable (when used correctly)
  • Diaphragm: 94% reliable (when used correctly)
  • Cervical cap: 74% reliable (when used correctly); 91% reliable for those who have never given birth
  • Birth Control Pill: 99% reliable (when used correctly)
  • The "mini" pill: 99% reliable (when used correctly)
  • The Patch: 99% reliable (when used correctly)
  • Birth Control Ring: 98-99% reliable (when used correctly)
  • Depo-Provera: 99% reliable (when used correctly)
  • Progesterone or copper IUD: 98-99% reliable
  • Vasectomy: 99+% reliable (1 in 1,000 chance of pregnancy)
  • Tubal ligation: 99+% reliable (1 in 400 women become pregnant within 10 years)
  • "Natural" birth control methods: 85% reliable when done properly
It takes no more than a simple knowledge of statistics too see that, even under ideal circumstances, some women will become pregnant. If these women don't want to carry a child to term, a safe, reliable, inexpensive method is available to address this problem. Yet, in the view of the abortion-restriction activists, these women should be required to carry the child to term, regardless of her desires or the impact that it would have on her health and welfare. Pregnancy and childbirth are not without risk-- in fact, obstetricians have described it as "the most serious, complicated and life-threatening experience that most young women will have in their lifetime."

Requiring women to take on this burden and the attendant risk when they are unwilling and there is a reasonable alternative is effective conscription by the state.

It is no accident that we see many male politicians holdong forth on abortion and advocating for elimination of abortion. I find male leadership on abortion restrictions illogical and undefensible. If they can't find women to lead this fight, I think that Tbogg is onto something.

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