Thursday, July 21, 2005

Abortion, Roe and What Now...

Assuming John Roberts is confirmed to the Supreme Court and assuming he is against Roe v. Wade there is more chance than ever that the Constitutional right to an abortion will no longer exist. That fact alone makes now as good a time as any to discuss abortion. And people are.

Check out Michael Reynolds’ revealing post over at The Mighty Middle where he discusses his own personal experience with the absurdity that is NARAL.

Then, read Amba’s truly excellent and insightful post over at AmbivaBolg. Her thoughts on abortion are always worth reading and this post is no different.

Then, writing for the Houston Chronicle, Froma Harrop argues that overturning Roe would hurt Republicans significantly. An interesting take to say the least.

What do I think? I think those who believe that Roe’s demise would be an apocalyptic blow to freedom are flat-out wrong. But I also think those who believe that Roe’s demise will solve the problem of abortion are also flat-out wrong.

What I’d like to see (with or without Roe still in place) is a move away from the black/white debates we have on this issue. Abortion is not a glorious civil right. Nor is it an act of evil. It’s something far more complex and far more difficult. Venerating it as a grand civil right or demonizing it as cold-blooded murder does little to promote an honest debate.

And if we want to reduce abortions (and we should want that), we have to have an honest debate.

I do believe that enshrining abortion as a Constitutional right was the wrong path for our nation to take. But I don’t know if overturning that decision will set things right. What I do know is that we need to stop fighting about a legal decision and start working with the reality of abortion, with the social conditions that lead women to believe abortion is their best choice and with the lack of education, availability or general ambivalence that leads so many to not use birth control.

With or without Roe abortion exists. And it’s abortion that’s the real issue.


At 7:17 PM, Blogger Jdeer165 said...

I think the best path may be to have Roe overturned. Not because abortion is evil, but because it polarizes the issue too much. Currently you are either Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. There is no Pro-Limitations or Pro-Adoption choice. The debate is guided by the extremes with no room for compromise. Any attempt to limit or regulate abortion is seen as an attack on all abortions. It shouldn't be that way. Only after the extremes are relegated to the fringes of the debate can the issue be debated intelligently. And that can't happen so long as Roe remains to rally the troops.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger amba said...

Gracias for the link. You're right, it's a good opportunity to talk about this, and that you're turning up the volume on the center voices.

As I said in thinking about my own abortion, "It's not a crime or a right, it's a tragedy."

You're right that we should change the social and economic conditions that lead women to consider abortion their best option. I would add that we also need to change a culture that makes abortion no big deal. This could have made all the difference to me when I was faced with the "choice." Apply the Golden Rule: you would not have wanted someone to do that to you. An embryo (as it is properly called in the early stages when most abortions are performed) may not be full formed or sentient, but it is already a unique individual who's already here and will never get another chance. You were that, and if you ascribe such unimportance to that, you also retroactively ascribe it to yourself. If that life is disposable, so was yours.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Sarah the Penguin said...

I get what you're saying about the issue being polarized.
But I disagree with the side you fell on.
With abortions being performed in legal, regulated and above all safe clinics things are much better than the alternative which is going back to the "back alley" system.
If you outlaw abortions only outlaws will get abortions.
Every woman who was found guilty of having an abortion performed would get to go to jail. (sure, we've got room in the prison system for that)
How many more times to people need to be told that just because it's against the law doesn't make it stop.
I don't want abortions to happen. That is only going to stop with education and better options.

I promise you that if Roe is reversed we will find more babies in dumpsters and teenage girls in emergency rooms having taken matters into their own hands.

At 10:10 PM, Blogger Jdeer165 said...

With Roe overturned abortions do not automatically become illegal. What they do become is a matter for each state to decide on their own. There will be states in the South, and possibly Midwest, where all not-medically-necessary abortions will become illegal. But I think in most of the states abortions will still be legal, although probably restricted in some fashion. I find absolutely nothing wrong with requiring parental notification for minors, limiting abortions to the first trimester except if medically necessary, or with attempting to stress other alternatives(ie adoption, taking responsibility and raising the child).

We need to get past this idea that if you're not for unlimited abortion then you must be for a ban on abortions. My hope is that once the tinder that is Roe is removed then the firestorm will die down some and efforts can be made on reducing the number of abortions, not through outlawing them, but through other methods. Educating people about abstinance as the best means of avoiding pregnancy and birth control as a second best alternative. Try to eliminate the unwanted pregnancies before they happen rather than react to them after the fact.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous said...

I'm Peggy Loonan, founder and executive director of Life and Liberty for Women a 501 c 3 non-profit abortion rights education organization based in Fort Collins, CO.

I want to address the issue of illegal abortion. What it looked like then and what it would look like now.

First,if Roe is overturned it will immediately become a state issue and some states like S. Dakota have or will immediatly place a law on the books to outlaw abortion. We will again have piece-meal access to abortion and that serves no one least of all teens and poor women in states where it's outlawed. That is until a Congress like the current House of Representatives with an anti-abortion majority, introduces again a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution. I guarantee you that this Congress has such a law ready to be introduced within seconds of Roe being overturned.

Tanya Melich "The Republican War Against Women," 1998 a Republican herself, said, "In 1981 several "human life" constitutional amendments were introduced in Congress. The one attracting the most initial attention came from the junior senator form North Carolina, John East. East's amendment championed the words of the Republican platform that gave a fertilized egg more rights than a woman. It didn't simply abrogate Roe vs. Wade by making abortion a crime; it made the fetus superior to the woman. The amendment's strict principle of fetal personhood permitted no exceptions, not even for the life of the mother."

Just listen to the anti-abortion legislators in our U.S. House of Rep. now and you understand very quickly where we'll end up within a very short period of time - probably before many states with seasonal legislative sessions could act. The only thing right now standing between this happening and not happening should Roe go down today is the US Senate and that margin is slim.

Next, if abortion was criminalized today across the country or in any one state the first thing you’d see different from before is the blackmarket of RU486. Anti-abortion zealots claim it’s an unsafe drug but guess how unsafe it will be on the blackmarket?

Second, what isn’t widely known is those that push for illegal surgical and medical abortion, also are pushing to make hormonal birth control illegal including the birth control pill (now 40 years old), the morning after pill, IUD, Depo Provera, and Norplant falsely claiming they cause an abortion. So those will also become fair game for blackmarketeers and the safety of these birth control methods will be compromised.

Most people aren’t aware that the same right to privacy that gave us Roe vs. Wade also gave us the right to legally access birth control. In 1965, two years after President Kennedy was assassinated, in Griswold vs. Connecticut, finding a right to privacy, Married couples got the legal right to use birth control. It wasn’t until 1972 in Baird vs. Eisenstadt and again, finding a right to privacy, that Unmarried couples was given by the US Supreme Ct. a legal right to access birth control. If there’s no right to privacy to make a reproductive decision to terminate an unintended unwanted pregnancy then there is no right to privacy for married or unmarried couples to legally access birth control.

Next, while technology and science has given us better drugs to control infections and better abortion methods, in the underground where it all has to be secret – even good doctors who risk their freedom to do illegal but safe abortions, as many did pre-Roe, their access to the equipment and drugs is likely to be minimal at best. The very same technology that gives us better infection fighting drugs and abortion methods also gives us a better ability to monitor and trace the drugs they’d use and the medical equipment.

How many women died and how many would die? Leslie J. Reagan wrote, When Abortion Was A Crime, Carol Joffe wrote, Doctor’s of Conscience, and Rickie Solinger wrote, The Abortionist: A Woman Against The Law – about Ruth Barnett - all these books about pre-Roe days.

By the time Roe was decided less women were “officially” dying but many were dying and their deaths weren’t being recorded as being from illegal abortion. That’s a reasonable reaction to something that must be kept secret and where families worked to protect their loved one from being identified as a victim of illegal abortion. In addition antidotal accounts of what hospital wards across the country faced – contained in those books tell the story of how many women died pre-Roe.

R. Schwarz, 1968 Septic Abortion: “It’s been estimated that as many as 5,00 American women die each year as a result of criminal abortion. That figure may be a minimum estimate, inasmuch as many deaths are mislabeled or unreported. In Philadelphia, over 50% of the maternal deaths result from complications of abortions, 57% in Michigan, 33% at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.” ---- AND Dr. L. Fox, 1967 “Induced abortion is the most common single cause of maternal deaths in California.”

And today? How many women would die today from blackmarket RU486? How many would die from surgical abortion done in secret or once again from self-induced abortion – particularly if a blackmarket RU 486 wasn’t really RU486 and left a woman or teen still pregnant.

Today many states have parental notice/consent laws on the books. If abortion is illegal across the country or even in one state with those laws currently on the books – those laws will be made mute and those teens will blend into the background of those who search out abortion providers or self-abort. Women’s Right to Know Laws and waiting periods would be mute as well.

Women and teens desperate determined not to be pregnant may very well employ some of the very same methods that was employed pre-Roe and then some – no generation owns the right to a coat hanger or old wives tales. and - scroll down the page:

And today? If abortion is murder – it’s murder. Criminalizing abortion as murder means teenage girls and women would have to be charged with first degree pre-meditated murder. You can’t claim abortion is murder and say we’re only going to punish doctors you have to punish women who seek an illegal abortion or who self-abort. That means over 1 million women and teenage girls a year will go to prison for the rest of their lives or in George Bush’s Texas will be executed. There’s no way around the prosecution of women once abortion is criminalized again as murder.

Does illegal abortion reduce the number of abortions? No. How do we know. First, if abortion were illegal today we have something they didn’t have pre-Roe – a drug that’s relatively safe if used by a medical doctor that can terminate a pregnancy up to 63 days after the last menstrual period begins a drug that would be plentiful on the blackmarket.

Second, from our own experience in this country with illegal abortion and looking at the current experience of other countries with illegal abortion laws on the books, the number of women seeking and having illegal abortions isn’t affected by its legality.

R. Schwarz, Septic Abortion, 1968: “Most studies indicate that up to 1,200,000 illegal abortions are performed annually; one pregnancy in five is illegally terminated.” --- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, July, 1967 – “Studies by Dr. L. Fox estimated that 100,000 criminal abortions occurred per year in California.”

When abortion was illegal in this country there were – as there might be again – good abortion providers who went underground and did thousands of safe but illegal abortion. In the books I listed below you will find these providers documented.

First, Ruth Barnett performed 40,000 abortions between 1918 and 1968 in Oregon. That’s a yearly average of 800. At 800 per year – it would only take 1,250 additional illegal abortion providers across the U.S. during those years to reach a total of 1,000,000 abortions a year. Feasible? Oh Yes and even more so today with RU486.

Dr. Josephine Gabler did 18,000 abortions – an average of 2,000 a year –between 1932-1941 in Chicago. If there were 499 other doctors and mid-wives across the country doing a minimum of 2000 a year – what would the final number be? 1,000,000 Feasible? Oh yea.

The Jane Service, a group of women doing abortions in Chicago, 1969-1973 did 11,000 safe abortions. That’s an average of 2,750 abortions per year. It would have taken only 364 additional abortion providers across the country performing 2,750 abortions each year to reach 1,000,000. Feasible? Oh yea.

Dr. Edgar Bass Keemer, Jr. performed over 30,000 abortions between 1938-1973. That was an average of 858 per year. It would take an additional 1,165 doctors and midwives doing abortion throughout the U.S. to reach 1,000,000 per year during those years. Feasible? Oh yea.

And those figures didn’t include those who self-aborted or found unsafe illegal providers.

And this interesting item: In pre-Roe days, many illegal abortion providers that did safe illegal abortions were left alone for long periods of time by law enforcement and DAs – why? Because – wink wink – male doctors, politicians, clergy, policemen, DAs, and on and on – needed their services from time to time for their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and mistresses. Does any one think that wouldn’t be the case today? And how does this stop abortion again?

Next, what else would be different? The trials of women and teenage girls would be beamed across the world in a nanno second on Court TV and the Internet, a whole new world to exploit. If the trials of the past were sexually charged what would the trials of today be considering our extreme voyeurism and our love for “reality” TV?

And in order to prove a woman has had an illegal abortion or is using any of the birth controls made illegal? Well, no woman would again have a right to medical confidentiality would they? ALL their medical records would be subject to government search and seizure and GYN exams by a State doctor would become routine wouldn’t it?

If illegal abortion were to again become apart of our reality some things would be very different – some things wouldn’t BUT what is clear it wouldn’t stop abortion this time around either – it wouldn’t save babies this time around either – and it would maim and kill women this time around just as it did before.

There’s a better way.

We can reduce the need and numbers of abortions in this country without endangering women’s lives. Leave abortion legal for women who will access it the law notwithstanding and then:

1. abstinence-based (not abstinence-only) comprehensive sex education. The results of a survey released in December 2004 by the National Survey of Family Growth, found more teens are choosing to be sexually abstinent and more of those who are sexually active are using contraceptives and condoms. That’s a result of abstinence-based not abstinence-only sex education because abstinence-only sex education disparages contraceptives and condoms – even to the point of lying about condom failure rates:
2. more birth control research – Depo Provera, Norplant and the female condom were all developed outside of this country because of pressure from anti-abortion groups
3. better birth control availability – how about health insurance companies NOT covering Viagra but covering female birth control like the pill, Emergency contraception or the morning after pill, Depo Provera, Norplant, IUD. My grown daughter’s health insurance doesn’t cover her $100.00 Depo Provera shot she gets every 3 months. When I used birth control pills my insurance didn’t cover them for birth control only if I was prescribed them for a medical problem. --- AND why doesn’t the FDA approve the morning after pill for over the counter use? Because of pressure from anti-abortion zealots like Focus on the Family, The Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and individuals like Pat Roberston, Jerry Falwell and anti-abortion Congressional legislators. Think of the number of abortions that wouldn’t occur if the morning after pill is made immediately available over the counter.
4.and Men and Condoms. Condoms are 98% effective if used consistently and correctly so if every man correctly wore a condom every time he had sex and didn’t want to become a father – married or not – guess how many unintended pregnancies and thereby abortions could be avoided?

AND FINALLY: Abortion kills PRE-viable human life which has absolutely no right to life over a born woman AND God doesn’t disagree with that.

Peggy Loonan

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Jonathan C said...

I think it needs to be highlighted that despite the partisan rancor over abortion on all sides, the american public as a whole is "getting it." Even though about 60% of the American public believes that abortions that are not medically necessary should be legal in at least some circumstances, the number of abortions performed in the United States has been steadily decreasing since its high about 30 years ago (a few years after Roe).

Apparently, people are being educated. They're making smarter choices about birth control, and they're considering other option when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Left to our own devices, the public as a whole seems to be entering into a more informed and nuanced view of this debate. I'd prefer the gu'ment to leave the issue as it stands today.

At 3:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that Peggy Loonan once had an abortion?


Post a Comment

<< Home