Full-term abortions . . . and perhaps beyond?
I sit here in disappointed wonder and, paraphrasing a Bible verse, I’m asking: “What hath mankind wrought?”
We recently experienced a huge reset in the decades-old abortion rights debate. Many wannabe pundits such as myself assumed that the shortening gestation period for fetal viability would portend more restrictions on abortions. I was wrong. First we heard reports about the Dysart, Iowa twins born at a record-challenging 22 weeks, and for whom we pray for continued successful progress. Then we listened to Governor Cuomo of New York gleefully announcing the new state law which permits full-term abortions. I wondered which other states might follow suit.
Predictably, along came Virginia’s Governor Northam explaining his support for a proposal (ultimately defeated) similar to the New York legislation. He clarified the process for full-term abortion which would involve delivering a live baby, and then making it “comfortable” while its fate is decided. The infant’s eventual life or death would result from a “good-faith” mutual decision involving the doctor and the mother. Where’s the emphasis on “scientific method”? And, which state will be next?
We’re heading down a path that’s a potential threat to my hope for a renewed national discussion about fetal rights and the definition of human life. I hesitate using the term “slippery slope,” but if it could ever apply to a situation, it applies here. What started as Roe’s emphasis on viability and “first trimester” limits has evolved into support for partial-birth and third trimester abortions. And the New York legislation is a leap into the unknown territory of full-term abortions, and perhaps even beyond.
During Roe v. Wade, fetal viability was 28 weeks. Now we hear about those Iowa twins born and surviving after 22 weeks. We’ve moved into a time of transition with confusing contradictions in which it’s illegal to kill unhatched bald eagles, but in some jurisdictions, it’s OK to kill unborn humans, even full-term and during delivery. And in New York, while it’s been declared unconstitutional to give lethal injections to convicted murderers, it’s now OK to give lethal injections to full-term infants.
The dehumanization of unborn lives is facilitated by generic terms for potentially viable and aborted fetuses such as: cluster of cells, accidental biology, and medical waste. And slowly, “sanctity of life” has eroded as a basic operating assumption. It seems that even the claim that abortion rights are essential for reproductive health is being replaced by the concept of a woman’s right “not to mother.”
Besides the U.S., only Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Viet Nam, and Singapore allow elective abortion beyond 20 weeks. And it’s actually humiliating that the U.S. is joining only China, North Korea, Viet Nam and Canada in the group of five countries allowing full-term abortions.
Many have predicted these things happening, but their warnings were dismissed as mere scare tactics. And my current concern isn’t a “sky-is-falling” moment. As of this writing, the Democrats have blocked a U.S. Senate attempt to protect the life of born-alive infants. It seems that if anything deserves a “unanimous consent” vote this would be it. If these policies survive likely challenges, what should we call these new events of “termination”? Some have suggested “after-birth” abortions. “Infanticide” has been used by some, so maybe that will stick.
Hopefully we can move closer to a public, legislative, and judicial examination of the “constitutional rights of the unborn.” That’s a huge subject and I mention it here only with this quote from James Wilson, one of only six men to sign both the Declaration and the Constitution, and also a member of the first Supreme Court: “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, in the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger.” It’s clear, and encouraging, that the Founders were thinking about fetal rights, even then.
Weren’t the 60,000,000-plus abortions since Roe v. Wade enough to satisfy the abortion lust? I recommend spending some time imagining where we go from here. I’ll conclude with my introductory comment: “What hath mankind wrought?”