Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rights in the eyes of the beholder

A Colorado group, Personhood USA, has garnered enough signatures to put a proposition for an abortion ban on this year's election ballot.  The ballot item seeks to give unborn fetuses human rights in the state's constitution over the rights of women to have abortions.  The group hopes to put similar propositions on ballots in 40 other states, including Florida, California, Montana, Missouri and Mississippi. Personhood USA is not unique. Anti-abortionists have fought against and around Roe v Wade since it became law in 1973.

Anti-abortionists, pro fetus rights activists bewilder me. Their arguments and beliefs are, to my mind, inconsistent and contradictory.  Even their chosen identifier - pro-lifer - implies that to disagree with them is to be against life, but their considerations seem only to cover one of the lives concerned in an abortion decision.  

Activists against abortion rights, usually right-wing conservatives, argue that a fetus is a person with rights, and that the mother - merely a carrier - should have no right to terminate or discontinue its development.  They are usually the same people who argue that parents should be free to educate, proselytize, and medicate their children as they deem fit, without interference from schools, government agencies, and others. By their argument, a parent of a walking, talking, thinking child has more rights to direct that child's life than a pregnant woman has to make a decision regarding an organism within her body.

Those who argue that abortions are morally irresponsible are the usually the same people who cry for fiscal responsibility in government and for fewer social services. By their argument, a poor woman who becomes pregnant should not be allowed to terminate her pregnancy - even if she knows she is financially unable to support a child - and the government should not be allowed to provide social services, such as health care, to her and the child.

The same mouths that argue vehemently that healthcare reform makes America a "little less free" amazingly argue with the same conviction and intensity that a woman should not be allowed to determine when she is fit and able to be a mother. According to them, the federal government does not have the right to make you carry health insurance to your own benefit, but they should have the right to make you become a parent.

It does not matter if one agrees that abortion as medical procedure is right or not.  It does not matter if one would have an abortion, or support a loved one having one, or not.  It does not matter if one believes there are better options than abortion available in cases of unwanted pregnancies.  A woman's right to do as she deems best with her own body and life is the single matter of consequence in the abortion debate.  As long as the organism within her relies on her for sustenance and life a woman should have the untethered right of choice.  The strength of America's freedoms is reliant on our commitment to protecting everyone's rights to act as they please within the law - whether we like and agree with them or not.  We cannot be selective with our principles.  Freedoms, privacy, and fiscal responsibility cannot be applied like quilt patches just to make ourselves feel comfortable.

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