Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fixing the Economy Is Hard; So Let’s Pass New Restrictions on Abortion Instead!

A few weeks ago I suggested (“How Many Jobs…?”) that as new bills were proposed by Indiana’s General Assembly, we keep in mind the state of the economy and ask how those bills would improve the economy or create jobs. Apparently, Sen. Jean Leising (R-Decatur, Fayette, Rush, Shelby and a portion of Franklin county), a retired nurse, didn’t read my blog (or listen to some of the leaders of her party … like, say Gov. Daniels, for example). Rather than introducing legislation aimed at job creation, Sen. Leising has introduced Senate Bill 50 which would amend Indiana Code § 16-34-2-1.1(b) to require a woman who seeks an abortion to view a fetal ultrasound image, hear the fetal heart tone (if audible), receive a copy of the ultrasound image, and pay for the cost of the ultrasound imaging.

I understand that Sen. Leising is opposed to abortions. That’s her right. And like Sarah Palin, she can choose not to have an abortion. But I also know that the United States Supreme Court has affirmed that a state cannot ban abortions or make access to abortions unreasonably impractical. Were SB50 enacted into law, the principal effect of the legislation would be to ensure that only wealthy women could have legal abortions as the poor couldn’t afford the cost of the ultrasound. Thus, poor women who wanted an abortion would be required to go back to the illegal back alley abortions that Roe v. Wade finally put an end to. Are we, as a society, really ready to pay that price in order to try to reduce the number of legal abortions?

In addition, it is worth noting that SB50 does not contain an exception for rape or incest. Thus a woman who is raped by an abusive father or brother would still have to pay for the cost of the ultrasound, not to mention see the ultrasound and walk out the door with a copy of the image. Nothing like punishing the woman for having been impregnated by her rapist, is there? [Sarcasm alert, sarcasm alert; you have been warned!] Perhaps Sen. Leising should experience an incestuous rape so that she can fully understand this particular issue? [This has been a moment of sarcasm. Thank you. The management.] Of course, we have video evidence that many Republicans, including the new Speaker of the House, would require a woman who is raped to carry the fetus to term. So I guess the lack of an exception for rape or incest should not be surprising.

I’ve written extensively in the past on my thoughts on the issue of abortion, especially with regard to people like Sen. Leising believing that they can legislate my beliefs on issues such as when life begins, so I won’t rehash those arguments (but feel free to read some of what I’ve written, for example, “Keep Your Religious Doctrine Out of My State’s Laws” or these posts).

But I do want to take a few moments to tease out some of the issues that bills like SB50 highlight. Sen. Leising wants to be sure that women are dissuaded from having abortions. But why do I suspect that Sen. Leising is not terribly interested in making sure that the pregnant woman does everything possible to be sure that the fetus is healthy? Has Sen. Leising introduced legislation that would punish a pregnant woman for drinking alcohol or smoking? Has Sen. Leising introduced legislation that would punish a pregnant woman for failing to exercise properly, eat healthy and nutritious foods, and get appropriate neo-natal care? Has Sen. Leising introduced legislation telling husbands when they must stop having sex with their pregnant wives? Has Sen. Leising introduced legislation to be sure that pregnant women have access to healthy and nutritious food and to appropriate neo-natal care? What do you want to bet that Sen. Leising was opposed to health care reform and to things like the extension of unemployment benefits? And what about after the baby is born? Has Sen. Leising introduced legislation to be sure that each and every child born in Indiana is properly cared for, given healthy food, raised in a loving environment (well, she probably supports this as long as the loving environment doesn’t involve gays), with safe neighborhoods, access to good schools, and adequate shelter and clothing? Of course not. That’s not what people like Sen. Leising care about. Once a child is born, that child and its family are on their own, to succeed or fail. All that abortion opponents like Sen. Leising care about is being sure that a fetus is not aborted; after that? Who cares.

But if we’re going down the path of bills like SB50, then I have a few suggestions for other requirements that we might think about adopting. For example, maybe we should require parents to see videos of malnourished or obese children before they’re allowed to leave the hospital with a newborn infant. Maybe those parents should be required to see videos of the effects of secondhand smoke on the lungs of children. Perhaps parents should be forced to see the ravages of certain diseases before we let them make the decision to withhold vaccinations. Parents could be made to sit through colonoscopies of people who’ve eaten too much fatty foods or not enough vegetables. And maybe parents should be required to go to the morgue to see the bodies of children killed in car crashes when they weren’t in car seats or wearing seat belts. And I suppose that parents should be required to meet children who’ve been badly injured (especially quadriplegics) in school sports, meet the parents of children who have been the accidental victims of a gun left unlocked in a house, and talk to children who have been abused by a priest or by a family member. After all, if we want to be sure that a pregnant woman makes the “right” decision regarding a fetus, then shouldn’t we be sure that once a child is born, parents have the same type of information before making decisions for their children?

And while I’m thinking of it, shouldn’t we be sure that pregnant women who elect to proceed with their pregnancies (or who can’t afford the ultrasound required to get an abortion) are shown detailed information about all of the risks of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting? According to a 2005 World Health Organization study, in the United States there were 11 maternal fatalities for each 100,000 live births. Do we make sure that pregnant women understand that risk? Do we make them watch video of a birth or C-Section? Why not? Ah, I remember now. Sen. Leising and those like her only care about the fetus. The health of the mother and child are essentially irrelevant, so long as no fetus is aborted.

One last thing. In the run up to and the aftermath of November’s election, I heard a lot of people say that they considered themselves to be either social liberals or libertarians but that they were voting for Republicans because of the economy. To those people I ask: Is SB50 what you had in mind when you voted for the Republicans? Are laws like this really worth that extra tax break on the portion of your income above $250,000? Is this what “small government” is all about? Are more restrictions on abortion really what Indiana needs to create jobs and improve our state’s economy?

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