Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A Fetus.

So in my neverending quest to read about things that make me deeply disheartened with this world, I came across this article in the LA Times (unfortunately subscribers-only, but I'll sum it up for you):

A New Generation of Anti-Abortionists. Young people, women, in their teens and twenties, who would like to ban abortion entirely. My particular favorite is a now 20-year-old woman who has campaigned to emend the Colorado state constitution such that a fertilized egg is now defined as a person. A fertilized egg. (That couldn't work legally in America, because fetuses would either have to get visas or be declared illegal immigrants because, after all, they wouldn't have been born here).

Now, putting aside all the traditional pro-choice arguments I keep handy in my back pocket, I think that history has something very important to teach us on this subject.

First, 'abortion' (by which I mean an intended miscarriage of a fetus) has always been practiced by humans. Always. There is no point in history where one could say that no one on earth had an intended miscarriage. Abortion has as true and universal a history as religion, government, and war.

I was originally going to write a long explanation of the legal murder and enslavement of children in ancient Greece and Rome (about 1000 years' worth of Western civilization's 3000-year lifespan), but instead I would like to posit some of the legal ramifications of defining fetuses as persons today.

The Funny ones: being able to drive in the carpool lane while pregnant; filing tax reports for your fetus (and claiming them as a dependent?); ordering off the kids' menu at any restaurant; parking in handicapped spots (since the 'person' inside you is unable to walk); preboarding on airplanes (since the 'person' inside you requires assistance to get down the jetway).

The Scary ones: getting arrested and prosecuted for endangering the life/liberty/happiness of your fetus if you do any of the following while pregnant: drinking alcohol or caffeine, smoking, being near other people who are smoking, eating basil or pesto (or any number of other miscarriage-inducing herbs), taking antacids, being near paint fumes or mercury, dyeing your hair, running, jogging, jumping rope, other strenuous exercise (including sex?), petting or owning a cat, working overtime, getting stressed out, reaching upwards, lifting heavy things, etc.

My point is this: there's a lot of stuff out there that can kill a fetus, and many women miscarry for completely unexplainable reasons. Are we going to have to investigate every single miscarriage as a possible homicide? Are we going to police the movements and decisions of pregnant women? Will you be prosecuted if you fail to report witnessing a pregnant woman eat chocolate or walk past fresh paint? (After all, you may have witnessed an involuntary manslaughter or attempted assault!)

It's absurd.

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