Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Taking Sides

If a wife-beater flushes his wife's pills down the toilet and gets her pregnant in order to trap her in an abusive relationship, putting obstacles between that woman and her abortion is a form of siding with the abuser.

Of course, in that case, it's probably unintentional siding with the abuser. Not so with this most recent hell that's emerged in South Dakota. As reported by Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones, House Bill 1171---which got out of committee with a 9-to-3 vote---expands the "justifiable homicide" defense to the killing of a person who is going to kill a fetus inside yourself or a family member.
New Research on Coerced Pregnancy Sheds Light on Recent Abortion Debates
This sums up for me, why the debate over abortion never manages to go anywhere. But it's not just the abortion debate. It's about laws, rules and regulations in general. Pretty much any time someone makes a policy proposal that someone else doesn't like, a raft of people come out of the woodwork, with some carefully-crafted but generally extreme case that the rest of us are expected to be so wary of that we can't possibly support the change in good conscience.

But the simple fact of the matter, as I learned a very long time ago, is this: There is no human institution that can ever be completely proofed against the ill intent of malicious people. That doesn't mean that we should throw up our hands, but it does mean that we should be wary of people attempting to cast us on the side of the malicious in their own quest for perfect solutions. There's a reason why hard cases make bad law.

If we're talking about a situation where Jack has flushed Jill's birth control pills, coerced or manipulated her into unprotected sex, gotten her pregnant, murders a doctor who has agreed to abort Jill's baby and then uses the South Dakota law (assuming it passes) as a defense, there have likely been a number of laws, situations and people (likely including Jill) who have sided with Jack along the way. It's unlikely that Jack not being able to claim justifiable homicide would really have created a happy ending to what can only be viewed as a singularly disastrous relationship.

And that's where this particular example of "Why we need to have abortion," falls flat. There are so many other issues that need to be dealt with that it's hard to understand why abortion is really an issue here. If, as the article's Description states: "Coerced pregnancy is surprisingly common [...]" then that's what the rest of us need to be pushing to have dealt with, in South Dakota, and everywhere else. We shouldn't be waiting until women are shopping around for solutions to a baby that's been forced on them to take a side.


Keifus said...

There aren't a lot of instances where just the fetus gets it. A pretty limited group of people who would be killed under that justifiable homicide statute. It's an anti-abortion bill, poorly camouflaged as a narrow and unlikely specific case--my inclination isn't to complain about the opponents for trying to hide a general argument with a narrow case.

I don't know how common coerced pregnancy is, but I don't think it's controversial that within many traditional structures of American family and society, women have less power over this sort of thing than men. (I wonder how many women are on that SD committee.) And anyway, once you're pregnant, all those decisions you should have made aren't particularly helpful. What then? More laws?

Aaron said...

I understand your point, and to a degree, I agree. I understand the drive to hide a general argument within a narrow case, although it doesn't appeal to me. My main objection, however, is to the idea that making the "goal line stand" of blocking this law is somehow siding with an abused woman that we've been ignoring up until that point.