July 8, 2008
One way of seeing that Bill is right about how the South Dakota decision reflects a growing change in abortion jurisprudence, is by looking at the reaction from some parts of the left. Emily Bazelon of Slate, is in a bit of a tizzy over it. The bee in her bonnet is the informed consent law's provision that doctors must tell women seeking abortions that "the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."
Apparently this is unacceptable. Bazelon informs us,
Planned Parenthood argued that the state is legislating morality because to call a fetus a "whole, separate, unique, living human being" is an ideological statement, not a medical one.
I was unaware that there was any debate in contemporary medical science as to whether or not a fetus- defined as a developing, distinct member of the species homo sapiens-was in fact a developing, distinct member of the species homo sapiens. (Bazelon refers to this line of thinking as "tautological." Perhaps it is, but just because something happens to be true via tautology doesn't negate the fact that it's true.) Perhaps some long-suffering practitioners of Aristotelian medicine might argue that the fetus is a vegetable or an animal, and not yet a human? Surely this cannot be what Bazelon would count as a "medical" opinion.
She goes on:
The Supreme Court has told the states that it's not for them to resolve when life begins-and it should certainly follow from this that they can't force any such resolution on doctors.
Never mind that the authoritative medical textbooks and the longstanding orthodoxies of embryology and developmental biology are crystal clear about when life begins, the Supreme Court has told us that we can't legislate based on those facts. It is reassuring to know that America has the likes of Anthony Kennedy and Harry Blackmun to be the arbiters of permissible scientific knowledge.
And the kicker:
As the 8th Circuit dissent by Judge Diana Murphy points out, the question "in some sense encompass[es] the whole philosophical debate about abortion."
Judge Murphy and Ms. Bazelon don't seem to understand the "the whole philosophical debate about abortion." The question at hand is not whether or not the fetus is a human being, but whether or not, as a human being, it is worthy of respect and in possession of an inviolable right to life. As Bazelon notes, almost in passing, the Supreme Court has pronounced "no" on the matter of the fetus' personhood and rights. Pace Bazelon and her liberal judge friends, the Supreme-or any-Court is incapable of pronouncing "no" on the question of the fetus' fetushood and biological status as a human being. This is merely the factual starting point for any fair-minded and reasonable analysis of the abortion question. If Bazelon and Murphy want to argue that these young human beings lack dignity and are not deserving of our respect due to their age, their location, their dependency, or mere caprice, they are welcome to do so. Maybe now that in South Dakota misinforming pregnant women through omission or commission isn't an option, they'll have to.