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alarming indeed.

18 April 2007

alarming–that’s how ruth bader ginsburg described the supreme court’s decision to uphold the 2003 ban of D&X (dilation and extraction) abortion procedures, more commonly known as partial-birth abortion. and i have to agree with her.

now, please do not misunderstand me here. i do not think i would personally choose an abortion in any circumstance except pregnancy resulting from rape. and even then i’m not confident as to what my decision would be. and i find the D&X procedure troubling in many ways. what i object to is not the effort to regulate abortion or this particular procedure. i object to regulating it without leaving any room at all for an exception. i am not a medical doctor, so i cannot make medical arguments as to whether or not such a procedure is a necessary option in order to preserve the life or health of a pregnant woman. but my understanding of both justice and equity demands that there always be room for an exception to be made in exceptional circumstances. and this law denies the option of exceptionality, and therefore equity. to that extent i find it deeply troubling that the highest court in our nation would place justice above equity, implying that an unborn child’s life is always worth more than that of its mother.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 18 April 2007 9:59 am

    I agree. I’m troubled by this ruling also.

  2. 18 April 2007 7:54 pm

    well said!

  3. 20 April 2007 5:04 pm

    the previous, anonymous (of course), commenter made the following points:1. the text of the statute does in fact provide a health exception;2. the statute is limited to prohibiting a fetus to be delivered whole in an abortion procedure;3. the abortion procedure known as D&E (dilation and evacuation) in which a fetus is removed in pieces remains legal; and4. accordingly there remain legal abortion options.of course, anonymous made said points with little semblance of either intelligence or respect, instead grossly abusing pathos in an effort to make anyone who would criticize the so-called partial-birth abortion ban act of 2003 feel guilty and inhuman for doing so. i have deleted anonymous’s comment because i am disgusted by such emotionally charged arguments about the issue of abortion–both on the pro-life and the pro-choice sides of the debate. i assure you that i have very accurately preserved the only points anonymous actually made. if anonymous wants to return and make his or her point him- or herself without resorting to appeals to emotion ad nauseum, he or she is welcome to do so. i would suggest, however, that anonymous try to make his or her comments with more accuracy (for instance, the D&X procedure never results in a fetus being delivered whole, as the entire point of the procedure is to only partially deliver the fetus before removing its brain and then delivering it; obviously a fetus without a brain is not whole).in all of his or her rush to make me and others feel like monsters, anonymous clearly demonstrates poor reading skills. i never implied that D&X is a desirable abortion procedure, nor one that does not pose certain ethical problems or ambiguities. indeed, my post is entirely about the ethical problem of creating a law that allows no room for equity.anonymous would argue that the law in fact allows room for equity as it allegedly provides an exception in the instance that a doctor must perform a D&X in order to preserve the life of the mother (anonymous incorrectly asserts that the law allows an exception for the preservation of the health of the mother; it may be a niggling point, but there is a significant difference between preserving the health and the life of the mother). anonymous is technically correct about the law allowing for an exception. the law states:”Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. This subsection does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”you can read the entire text of the law here:, the law also establishes that partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary. as such it makes null and void its own exceptionary clause which allegedly allows a doctor to perform a D&X in order to preserve the mother’s life. if by legal definition such a procedure is never necessary, then there is never a situation in which a doctor can perform the procedure i indicated above, my problem with this ruling is a problem of equity and justice. the law in no way makes it clear that the procedure remains an option for a doctor to choose if he/she deems it necessary based upon their medical expertise. had this law more clearly made it obvious that the pregnant woman, together with other interested parties (meaning the father of the fetus or the woman’s next of kin, not the congress of the united states), should ultimately be the one deciding on whether her life is sufficiently threatened to justify a D&X procedure, i would not have a problem with it. but the law does not make that clear at all. instead it first legally defines the procedure as always unnecessary and then tepidly states that a doctor may use this procedure to preserve a life–this procedure which is now legally by definition always already never necessary.cold comfort in my opinion.and alarming indeed.

  4. 20 April 2007 6:09 pm

    for those of you interested, the following is from Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion:”Today’’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Caseyand Stenberg seriously [referencing the cases which provide clear precedents to the case just decided]. It tolerates, indeed applauds,federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure foundnecessary and proper in certain cases by the AmericanCollege of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Itblurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previabilityand postviability abortions. And, for the first time sinceRoe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exceptionsafeguarding a woman’s health.”she points out that all precedent establishes an absolute mandate that abortion regulations must allow the preservation of not only the life of the mother, but also her health–that even abortions performed postviability (that is, after the fetus could viably survive ex-utero) must allow the woman (not the congress of the united states) to make the decision for or against abortion if preservation of her health (not just her life) is at issue.she further points out that it is impossible to make an absolute statement regarding the medical necessity of a D&X specifically, and any medical procedure in general. the statute in question attempts to make such an absolute statement. and she illustrates the incompetent nature of the medical testimony upon which congress made their absolute statement of non-necessity.she also exposes the more ridiculous assertions of the statute and the court’s majority decision, including assertions that this procedure should be prohibited because the fetus looks like a baby after the procedure is complete; and that the fetus is only “inches” away from life outside the womb (irregardless of viability) and therefore the procedure is akin to infanticide rather than abortion. D&E, on the other hand, results in a fetus that doesn’t look at all like a baby so it’s okay (brilliant logic, that). and D&E happens more inches away from being outside the uterus (not a lot more inches, but at least some more inches), therefore it’s not like infanticide. the mind boggles at such arguments. until they are seen as the beginning of a slippery slope intended to undercut all legal forms of abortion that they are.ginsburg further notes the fact that the court’s majority decision relies upon the politicized langage of pro-life arguments, rather than the more objective language of medicine, to discuss D&X procedures.she ultimately points out that what has happened here is partisan politics. and the republicans accuse the democrats of trying to legislate from the bench…

  5. 20 April 2007 6:10 pm

    i meant to post the link for the decision. you can read it here (with both the decision and the dissent):

  6. 20 April 2007 8:23 pm

    1. Alarming is your callous and simplistic treatment of the incredibly complex concept of “equity” in the abortion context. PP v. Casey established principles to weigh the demands of equity from the points of view of society, women and the fetuses/potential life. This Court balanced the Casey equities. But here is the kicker. Casey was decided based upon a factual record that determined the point of fetus viability at the time. Neonatal science has advanced since Casey. PBAs are most often performed on fetuses in the second and third trimester — periods with much greater viability potential than when Casey was decided. Tell you what. I’ll have Casey reviewed in light of modern medical science re viability and you can have this case reviewed with your factual record re the health/life issue. Then we’ll see how the court balances the interests. Somehow I don’t think you’d take that deal. It’s much easier on the stomach to wax philosophic while talking about the “equities.” 2. I’m callous because I use descriptions directly from the record and the decision? I direct your attention to your argument — not the Court’s, not the dissent’s and not mine — that a PBA fetus does not come out “intact” because all brain matter has been removed. By golly, you got me there. By the way, you might want to tell Ginsburg to stop using the term “intact D&E.” I’m sure she’d appreciate your editorial insights to make her dissent less callous. Damn, while you’re at it, you should suggest she strike the word “brutal” when describing both “intact” and “non-intact” D&E. It’s too — oh — realistic. Pathos indeed.3. You do not refute the argument that other methods of abortion (including without limitation the piece-by-piece method) remain. As Ginsburg herself says, “The law saves not a single fetus from destruction, for it targets only a method of performing abortion.” Wow, I feel better, don’t you?4. In typical liberal fashion, you delete my post, unilaterally determining it to be lacking in intelligence and respect without giving other readers the opportunity to make that determination for themselves, and thereby censor any contrary point of view. So much for the freeflow of ideas. Goodbye. It’s been fun.

  7. 20 April 2007 9:59 pm

    i preserved every point you made so that other readers could consider your argument without having to be subjected to your abusive rhetoric. i’m so sorry you object. i do appreciate that you generally managed to restrain yourself in this comment. i have no problem whatsoever with people sharing different opinions. i simply have a problem with the kind of grossly, and overly, sensationalistic rhetoric you used in your previous comment.i have no problem addressing the realities of abortion. i don’t know why ginsburg used the term “intact D&E” rather than “D&X”; i’m familiar with the latter so i use the latter. your comment was callous because you used highly sensational language. i don’t care if it came from the record or the decision. the fact that others used it during a highly politicized court case does not make it appropriate.i realize i’m not going to change your opinion, and frankly it doesn’t make me feel too bad since you can’t seem to see beyond your own prejudices in order to understand a fairly simple point. i have no problem with regulation of abortion. none. so long as there is always an exception to permit abortion in order to preserve both the health and the life of the mother in such a way that doctors (not lawmakers and polemic-spouting activists) can decide on and provide the safest possible procedure in order to preserve both life and health. it’s really a very simple point. regulate. go for it. impose limitations and restrictions. just so long as it’s reasonably possible for a woman to procure an abortion should either her life or her health be at risk, and be able to procure the safest possible method of abortion based on her doctor’s medical advice, not based on what congress says.of course, you don’t care about that very simple point because you care more for the fetus that may be born than you do for the life of the woman who already lives. personally i don’t value either the possibility for life in a fetus or the life of the woman one over the other. because i see the question as a very individual, very contextual matter. how can i, who has no idea what the circumstances of a particular case are, determine whether the life and health of the mother are more important or less important than that of her unborn fetus? i can’t. only she and her partner can make that decision. will wrong choices be made? probably. but i’m willing for that price to be paid and to leave it in the hands of god to make sure justice and mercy are meted out properly.

  8. 21 April 2007 12:10 pm

    oh boy. i just love it when people force me to delete what they have to say. please refrain from using inappropriate language on my blog. i do not tolerate racial slurs of any variety. and i prefer that you not devolve into comparing everything and everyone to the nazis. for both of which offenses (racial slurs and fallacious nazi comparisons) i have deleted the most recent comment.

  9. 21 April 2007 12:33 pm

    again. spurious comparisons to nazis.if you have a contribution to make, make it. and don’t think for a moment that i don’t see through your flimsy effort to take on two personas. i’m not a student of the written word for nothing.

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