Monday, April 19, 2010

Are Fetal Pain Laws Good?

By now you have probably heard about Nebraska's fetal pain law. It prohibits abortions after 20 weeks, when scientist believe the fetus feels pain. Already pro-abortion forces are rallying to to block the law, and as usual most of the people writing about it are totally ignorant of facts. One of my favorites from TAPPED:
"Only one scientist seems firmly behind the Nebraska law. A few others argue it's possible that we might test more to see if fetuses maybe feel pain earlier, but argue that it is, of course, beside the point anyway since we have the ability to mitigate pain in medical procedures.

Alas, it would be nice if we could bring actual science into the abortion debate."
Yes, it would be nice if we could bring science into the abortion debate. Then we could say that scientifically a fetus is a living unique human being. But that's not science that Ms. Potts is willing to accept. I'll leave the other obvious flaws in the above as an exercise to the reader.

According to most of the pro-abortion sources I've found, they seem to believe that this law will fail constitutional muster because Roe v. Wade says that states can only ban abortion due to viability of the fetus. In fact, most of my pro-abortion friends seem to think that abortion is only legal in the first trimester, and that at that time the fetus is only a few undifferentiated cells. Actually, they are dead wrong. Doe v. Bolton clarified this stating that states may not limit late term abortions where the health of the mother is involved. Specifically:
"...judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors - physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age - relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health."
This means that if the mother's emotional state could be at risk (e.g. she would be sad if she were denied the abortion) that takes precedence over the life of her viable child. I'm not making this up. That is the way this law is interpreted, and that is why we have essentially no restrictions on abortions up to, including (and sometimes shortly after) birth.

So will the law withstand constitutional review? Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way I have some issues.

Now, there are some in the pro-life camp who believe in using graphic images, some who believe in pushing "personhood" amendments, some who believe in silent prayer, some who believe in in-your-face debates. I believe that all of these methods have their place. No single method is going to do everything, but no effort is "wasted" as some people will complain.

The Fetal pain bill is important because if we can make it illegal to torture an animal, but can't make illegal to do the same thing to a human, that's gotta make some people think. And maybe they will think enough about the issue to realize the inhumanity of abortion. And maybe they won't, but at least there will be a talking point in the public eye.

The "issues" I have with the fetal pain bill, however, are its effects versus its implications. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 1% of abortions are performed after 20 weeks. That's about 16,450 abortions per year in the USA. Also according to Guttmacher, there were 3220 abortions in Nebraska in 2005. So even if this law holds up perfectly, it will likely save the lives of 1% of those, or 32 babies. An organization like 40 Days for Life does more, and with less effort. But that's not my complaint. Even if it saves no child from being killed, there are reasons to promote the bill, as I've stated above.

It is the implications of this bill that worry me. By making pain the deciding factor the law implies that killing human beings is OK as long as we do it without causing them pain. And we can extrapolate this not very far down the slippery slope to we can kill human beings to save them from pain. My worry is that this bill, if it stands (and perhaps even if it doesn't) is going to be cited in future legislation promoting euthanasia.

So, is this law a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe both. Time will tell.


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