On abortion - Jay Maynard

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Thursday, 4 November 2004


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0900 - On abortion

This one keeps coming up as a point of serious disagreement between Kerry supporters and Bush supporters. Instead of giving my views in a reply to someone else's comment, I'll break it out here so the discussion can happen in one place.

My view is simple, and will likely earn me no agreement from either side. There are two basic tenets:

1) A mentally competent adult woman has the absolute, non-negotiable right to terminate her pregnancy at any time. If the fetus dies as an unavoidable consequence, that's too bad. In that case, it was obviously not viable. This does not, however, give her the right to have a viable fetus killed. If the fetus survives the procedure, it thereby demonstrates the ability to survive independently, and thus becomes a baby, with all of the rights that go with that. This does not mean that she should be required to raise the baby, nor does it mean she should be held in any way responsible for any injuries or problems the baby suffers as a result of the early termination of pregnancy. This applies equally to sterilization procedures for both sexes, BTW: a mentally competent adult has the right to be sterilized upon demand, regardless of anyone else's opinion - and yes, that explicitly includes someone to whom they are married - in the matter.

2) Abortion is a medical procedure, with all of the same considerations as any other procedure. This means that it must only be performed with the informed consent of the patient. Obviously, this means no forced abortions. It also means that parental permission is not optional. The current law of medical practice is that a minor cannot, by definition, grant informed consent. As a paramedic, I couldn't even splint a 17-year-old girl's broken arm without parental permission, despite the fact that any reasonable person would grant that permission. It makes no sense to me that an invasive medical procedure with a nonzero risk of serious complications has less protection. For better or worse, the law grants parents complete control over a minor's medical care, and that should apply to abortion as it does to everything else. There are mechanisms in place to protect minors whose parents are not caring for them appropriately, and those mechanisms apply here as well.

Obviously, this conflicts with the platform of both major parties, although it does so less with the platform of the Democrats than the Republicans. It is far less important to me, as an issue on which to decide who to vote for, than economic issues or other issues related to basic freedoms such as the right to keep and bear arms. As bronxelf_ag001 is so fond of reminding me, it cannot affect me directly.

I do think that the massive importance placed on the issue in this past election by the pro-choice folks is overblown. I doubt that the Supreme Court appointments of either candidate would have differed in their rulings on the bench. Supreme Court Justices are notorious for not ruling as the Presidents who appointed them might wish; instead, they are very conscientious about ruling as they see the law of the land. It's impossible to predict how a Justice will actually rule on any issue once appointed.

I do understand why the religious right feels so strongly about it, though: to them, it constitutes premeditated murder, and they feel that it should be treated as such. I don't agree with them (as should be obvious), but I also respect their right to hold and act on that opinion. They're not bad people for believing that, nor are they evil for acting in accordance with their beliefs. Respecting others' right to religious beliefs of their choosing implies respecting their right to act in accordance with those beliefs, so long as fundamental human rights are not harmed in the process. (Sorry, but religions that advocate human sacrifice don't get to practice it on me. Any that try will get to meet Herr Glock, or Messrs. Smith and Wesson.)

I understand why it's such a divisive issue. I wish it weren't, but I see no real alternative. I also do not see that it will ever be otherwise.

current mood: [mood icon] thoughtful

(26 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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As a paramedic, I couldn't even splint a 17-year-old girl's broken arm without parental permission,

I'm pretty sure that's not true. I've seen paramedics and EMTs take all kinds of medical action at the sites of accidents involving the underaged, and even in those cases where parents were present, I didn't see them taking time to ask permission first. I've also seen plenty of kids brought into emergency rooms who had emergency procedures performed on them before parents could even be contacted.

If it's something non-life threatening, they'll try to obtain permission, but in a dire emergency? No, they'll save the life first and worry about perission later.

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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You're correct in this, but it's not because paramedics can do things to minors without parental consent in general. There are two opposing principles at work here. Parental consent is one. The other is the doctrine of implied consent: it is not necessary to obtain informed consent from a patient who is not able to give or withhold it in order to save that patient's life. The consent, in that case, is implied.

In the case of a minor, if the parent or legal guardian cannot be contacted, only that minimal treatment necessary to prevent further deterioration of the patient's condition may be performed until they can be found and permission obtained.

If the treatment is not time-critical to prevent death or serious permanent injury, then parental consent must be obtained first. Period. Any paramedic who takes action in the absence of that consent opens himself up to criminal as well as civil action.

In the case of an abortion, the time factor is emphatically not present. Thus, there is no justification for bypassing the parental consent requirement.
[User Picture]
From:bronxelf_ag001
Date: - 0000
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BTW: a mentally competent adult has the right to be sterilized upon demand, regardless of anyone else's opinion - and yes, that explicitly includes someone to whom they are married - in the matter.


Amen.



But I promise ya, Jay-- it aint that simple. The light from it being that simple aint reaching this planet yet.

Other than the parental consent thing, I actually agree with you.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Oh, I figured you did. It's the parental consent thing that I expected to hear you argue with me about. Why do you think it should not be treated the same as any other medical procedure?
[User Picture]
From:bronxelf_ag001
Date: - 0000
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Because this is, as Ive said before, a unique case. I would not mind parental *knowledge* if it didnt come with parental *permission* attached.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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What makes it unique? The fact that kids might get in trouble for getting pregnant? That's no different from kids seeking medical attention for other things that will get them in trouble with their parents.
[User Picture]
From:bronxelf_ag001
Date: - 0000
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No. That's not what makes it unique. Perhaps you need to examine the lifetime physical results of pregnancy. It also makes it unique because this is the case in the end of a paraasitic organism using someone's body as a host without their consent.

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Pregnancy is not the only medical condition that has lifetime aftereffects, by any means. Why should we treat this one any differently? In all of those cases, the parents have the final say in the matter. A fetus is not the only parasite the human body can host, either.

Women want pregnancy to be treated the same as any other medical condition for the purposes of insurance and benefits and the like. I have not problem with that, as long as it's treated as a medical condition for all purposes, including this one.
[User Picture]
From:bronxelf_ag001
Date: - 0000
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Youre right-- but maybe AGAIN, you should read up on what those lifelong consequences ARE. Don't eat while you're doing it, either.

And it is the only parasite *I* can think of that someone else who was responsible for making the decision to remove it *wouldnt*.

Think abuot this more carefully.

Actually, I DONT want pregnancy treated the same for benefits and insurance. Why did you think I did?

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Because it seems a cause celebre for feminists.

If you object to having parents make medical decisions for their teenage children in this case, perhaps the answer is not to carve out exceptions, but instead enable teenagers to have a say in their own care in general.
[User Picture]
From:bronxelf_ag001
Date: - 0000
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pregnancy, just like abortion, is *elective*. It should receive no special status in insurance.
From:anathemad
Date: - 0000
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[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000

Re: Via <lj user="bronxelf_ag001>

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In Minnesota, by state law, pregnancy is treated no differently than any other medical condition for insurance purposes. I was under the impression that this was what feminists wanted. (In general, Minnesota has some of the strictest health insurance laws in the country...and, predictably, health insurance is more expensive and obtainable from fewer providers, as a result.)

Lots of things end your life as you knew it. Puberty is one. Leaving school is another. Pregnancy is one, I'll certainly grant...but I can't change that.

I just don' see why a parent should be able to deny or control their child's health care except in one major case. It strikes me as way too inconsistent. The girl can die at the hands of a doctor because of the procedure, and yet the parent has no say in the matter?

I will agree that a parent who throws their child out on the street to have the baby with no support is a vile creature. There are laws and protections in place to prevent that, and to punish parents who do so. They should be vigorously enforced. I would also argue that a girl who finds herself in that situation is thereby an emancipated minor, and can and should petition a court to obtain that status - which makes her an adult, legally, and able to determine her own medical care.
[User Picture]
From:ginafae
Date: - 0000

Re: Via <lj user="bronxelf_ag001>

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It's still not about that, though....

There (and I'll have to go looking for it) is/was legislation going through the House to make it illegal for a parent to take their minor child across state lines to get an abortion, if it was an illegal procedure in the home state. This originally revolved around a girl who was 12 years old, who was molested by a family member. Her parents couldn't get an aborion for her and were trying to take her to a neighboring state to get the procedure done. They were told that they couldn't do so. They did anyways and were facing criminal charges for such. Gosh... I wish I could remember for sure if this was in Kansas... I really think it was. I'll go googling.

Point is: Nobody in power considers pregnancy to be "just another medical condition". Laws have been passed that if a pregnant woman is murdered, it's considered a DOUBLE homicide. Same for vehicular homicide. There are legislations out there for the "rights of the unborn". Etc.

It automatically gets treated differently in all other aspects... why not this one?

*runs off to google an article so that she's not just spouting things from memory*
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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I find it fascinating that you would label the right to choose what you do with your own body as less basic a human right than the right to possess a gun.

Not surprising at all, just fascinating.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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I didn't say it was less a basic human right. I said it was less important to me. The issue won't affect me personally. The Democrats' true feelings on gun control do.
[User Picture]
From:bronxelf_ag001
Date: - 0000
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Right. This is exactly what Ive been saying all along. You don't get it because for you, it's a non-issue. It can't *ever BE you*.

Bingo.

[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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Do you support the legalization of drug use and prostitution?

I do, by the way, I'm just asking.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Drug use: I support legalization, despite the fact that I'm quite nervous that it would be seen as a big stamp of approval. I support it because, as with the War on Poverty, we cannot win the War on Drugs. I'm nervous about it because, in 17 years in volunteer EMS, I saw the wreckage drugs leave behind in far too much detail - and no, I'm not just talking about the effects of it being illegal.

Prostitution: I support legalization here as well, and this time with little nervousness. I do believe that there should be medical monitoring and certification to protect their customers, but with that proviso, I have no problem with it.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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That's cool. I want to see youngvanwinkle's answer, though. I mean, if you're going to argue that the right to do with your body what you want is a basic human right (And, well, I agree that it is), then it seems to be an inescapable conclusion that injecting it with whatever you want to is included in that.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Yes, actually. Why?
[User Picture]
From:vakkotaur
Date: - 0000
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Fascinating. Where did he say that?

[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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It is far less important to me, as an issue on which to decide who to vote for, than economic issues or other issues related to basic freedoms such as the right to keep and bear arms.

That statement seemed to imply that the issue was far less important to him than "issues related to basic freedoms", indicating to me that he didn't believe it was a basic freedom or an issue related to one.

However, he has clarified his position in a comment, and given what he said there, I can agree with him. In a way.
[User Picture]
From:mary919
Date: - 0000
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The thing that really chaps my ass about this whole issue is that you never hear the religious right coming out against in-vitro fertilization-- where embryos are created and discarded on a regular basis. Rich white women have the right to reproductive freedom, but hang everybody else.

So life is discardable when it's created in a laboratory, but by two 17 yr olds in the backseat of a Chevy it's an Act of God. You'd never hear them telling one of their sisters-in-pew that her infertility was an Act of God.
[User Picture]
From:rillaspins
Date: - 0000
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I was wondering why they didn't use the embryos for stem cell research instead of throwing them out.

Thanks, Jay, that was well written.
[User Picture]
From:ginafae
Date: - 0000

Actually....

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Technically, those that are that far out *DO* come out against it. But not for the reason you think. They come out against the discarding of the unused embryos and are calling for them to be adopted.

Oh.... http://www.ppmarmonte.org/news/viewer.asp?ID=536 Right. A quick google search showed that article. I guess it's not even that far out... we decided to drop a cool mil on promoting it.

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