In January, the Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk. I would understand Democratic opposition to abortion bans on pregnancies less than 20 weeks in, or any absolute ban that contained no exceptions. I might disagree with it, but it would be logically consistent with their principles. Stopping this law, however, seems entirely out of step with their political beliefs.
Using viability to determine whether a pregnancy is an unborn baby or sub-human collection of cells is philosophically controversial, but in my experience it’s the progressive test of choice. And following that test, it seems to me that a pregnancy at 20 weeks constitutes a human life. We know an unborn child is viable at 22 weeks and that, as technology gets better, that date will move earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. This is an important part of why many European countries—including Finland, Germany, Denmark, Russia, and France—restrict abortions after 12 weeks.
So a debate over a ban at 20 weeks doesn’t really come down to whether or not the law would protect human lives. By the progressives’ own test, aborting a pregnancy at 22 weeks is murder. Instead, the debate revolves around whether killing a child, outside of cases of rape, incest, or threats to the life of the mother, should be permissible under law. And it disturbing to me that Democrats are arguing it should be.
Purportedly, liberals and leftists particularly care about marginalized and vulnerable people. They want to champion the lives and wellbeing of those who cannot defend themselves. I find it hard to not see how an unborn child, too young even to lift her head, does not earn their pity.
Moreover, we know that abortions disproportionately affect the populations Democrats claim to protect. It is not a secret that those women, who leftists often term underprivileged, tend to have abortions at a higher rate. Half of the women who receive abortions in the US are poor. Black women are five times more likely to have abortions, while Latina women are twice as likely. The left tends to use these statistics to argue that abortions are a necessity in marginalized women’s lives. An unwanted pregnancy is thought to hold women back from achieving socioeconomically what they should, particularly when those women are already coming in at a social disadvantage. In its promotional materials, Planned Parenthood highlights how birth control has expanded socioeconomic opportunity for women. Following this argument, stopping underprivileged women from being able to have abortions holds back society from achieving progressives’ vision of group socioeconomic parity.
But when we are discussing the abortion of pregnancies that we know to constitute human lives, this line of argumentation effectively concludes that it is morally acceptable—indeed, necessary—to extinguish the lives of the very people whom Democrats claim to protect, at a disproportionately high rate.
To my mind, this is evidence that a significant proportion of elected Democrats are perfectly willing to put their visions for society ahead of an individual’s right to life. If they think they can use a child’s death to advance a ‘more socio-economically equal society,’ then they are perfectly comfortable doing so. Certainly, this is not the case for all Democrats. Three Senate Democrats stood up for the bill and two Republicans opposed it. However, I find it impossible to ignore the implications for the Democratic party, when the majority of their Senators seem to ascribe to this concept.
Of course some will say that I am misreading the situation. They will say that it is not that those opposing the bill do not care about the children they want to ensure it is legal to kill. They are concerned with the wellbeing of the mother.
But what in that line of reasoning gives a woman the right to end a child’s life? It certainly is not because she is less privileged than the child. If anything, I would think she would be more so, particularly in the many cases in which a pregnancy is aborted because the child’s mind or body are abnormal. Even if the child is healthy, it seems to me objectively more helpless than the mother. Who do you think needs mercy more? A child who cannot feed herself, or the adult woman who willingly created her? And she did create her willingly. Remember, we are not discussing pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. And in the remaining cases, surely the child is ‘less privileged’ than the mother.
And still Senate Democrats would support the right to end that child’s life. To me, this means either those opposed to the bill really did not think their decision through or they have decided that their utopian plans for society are more important than a child’s life.
The latter proposition is deeply troubling. The idea that individual lives are relatively insignificant does not lead someone inevitably to totalitarian policies, but it is a necessary step to getting there; simply because you cannot argue John Doe should die for the Revolution or the Fatherland, if you haven’t already decided his impact on society is more important than his life. One idea inherently precedes the other. And if most Senate Democrats have decided that a child should be killed when she holds back a woman from advancing socioeconomically, from forwarding their vision for society, then they have embraced that first idea.
If you are a leftist or a liberal and truly care about the rights of marginalized individuals, this should disturb you as well. As I have said, by progressives’ own standard, an abortion after 22 weeks is murder. And it is not the murder of the strong by the weak. It is the murder of a helpless child, who is often poor and a racial minority, for the sake of the ideals of a rich, powerful politician. Surely, no non-conformist, or a rebel worth her salt, can support that.
Photo: Flickr / mrhayata
The opinions in this article reflect the author’s only, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Independent’s editorial board.