It is likely that by the time you've finished reading this piece, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback will have signed into law the nation's newest anti-abortion measure. Passed overwhelmingly (along strictly party lines) by both the Kansas House (90-30) and Senate (28-10), the measure asserts that life begins "at fertilization." This declaration is embodied in "personhood" measures, which have been on the ballot in other states. Such measures are aimed at revising state constitutions to ban all abortions; I am happy to report that none of these proposals have yet to be enacted, though North Dakota voters will have one on their ballot in 2014. (It may be recalled that Mississippi voters turned down a "personhood" measure on their ballot last year.)
In addition to declaring that life begins at the moment of fertilization, the new Kansas law also b locks tax breaks for abortion providers, bans abortions performed "solely because of the baby's sex," prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes, and spells out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions (specifically, addressing breast cancer as "a possible risk of abortion.")
The provisions outlawing various tax breaks are designed to prevent the Sunflower State from subsidizing abortions, even indirectly. For example, in Kansas, health care providers don't have to pay state sales tax on items they purchase; but, according to the new law, abortion providers would be denied that break. Also, a woman could not include abortion costs if she deducts medical expenses on her income taxes. Unquestionably mean-spirited, this section of the new Kansas law -- HB 2253 -- will most likely be found unconstitutional. So far as the necessity of outlawing abortions due to the baby's sex, a 2008 study by Columbia University economists Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund concluded that the practice -- widespread in several Asian countries -- is done in the U.S. on a very, very limited basis. This is yet another instance of a solution in search of a problem.
Believe it or not, this new law is not the nation's most draconian; that distinction goes to North Dakota and Arkansas which have banned abortions after, respectively, the sixth and twelfth week of pregnancy. Then there is Arizona, which just last year passed a bill declaring that life begins two weeks before conception. What's next? The way things are going in most Red State legislatures nothing would surprise me; perhaps empowering a God-fearing bureaucrat with the right to look a woman in the eye and say "Aha! I aver that you are now 1 hour and 32 seconds pregnant!"
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their 1973 Roe v Wade decision, anti-abortion forces have been prominent actors on the American political stage. And while their presence, power and influence has waxed and waned, they have never totally vanished. Over the past 40 years, in addition to motivating heretofore civically disinterested citizens to participate in the electoral process, they have spread their wings to include many other so-called "values" issues, and nursed the very vocabulary of discourse. What was once "anti-abortion" became "Pro-Life," while both an "embryo" and a "fetus" were transmogrified into a "pre-born child." And, in a stunning act of political legerdemain they managed to somehow convince a sizable portion of these new voters that "just as the Bible commands us to be against abortion, so too does it inform us that the oil depletion allowance is just, higher taxes on the wealthy is a sin, global warming a lie, and government assistance to the poor, the sick, the unemployed and the elderly goes against God's will."
Oh really, since when?
Please don't get me wrong; I am neither a cynic nor an unbeliever. Like my Pro-Life friends, I too am personally against abortion. However, unlike most of them, I hold to the Jewish teaching that an embryo is not deemed a fully viable person (bar ky'ma ); rather, it is of "doubtful validity"; an "appendage of the mother" (ubar yarach emi). In Jewish law, one does not "sit shivah" (the traditional 7-day period of mourning) for a child who expires within 30 days of birth; it is not considered viable. I do not believe that human life begins at conception -- let alone at the moment of fertilization. And even though I am, once again, personally against abortion, I do not believe I have the right to tell a woman what she may or may not do. Yes, I know that millions of well-intentioned (and perhaps not so well-intentioned) Pro-Life advocates claim that they are "defending the defenseless," and "preserving the sanctity of human life." If this is truly the case, if they truly believe in helping the helpless, then why do so many of them deny assistance once the pre-born exits its mother's womb? Why are so many of the most ardent Pro-Lifers against funding such essentials as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC), Operation Head Start, school lunch programs, healthcare, and education, or deny gay individuals (and couples) the right to legally adopt or even take in foster children?
It just doesn't make sense. Human beings need defending, protection and assistance even after they draw breath. If your answer is that "we simply cannot afford all these programs . . . and besides its not the government's role . . . " then you'd better do some deep soul-searching. Children need a whole lot more protection than corporations; hungry and homeless humans need more assistance than millionaires and billionaires.
All life is sacred -- both inside and outside the womb.
While I do not and cannot agree that life begins at fertilization, I know for a fact that it does not end at birth.
Think about it . . .
-2013 Kurt F. Stone