It's been almost 45 years since the Supreme Court cobbled together a Frankenstein version of a constitutional right in Roe v. Wade, and despite repeated promises by Republican administrations to overturn the precedent, it is still legal to empty the contents of your womb at will, with a few notable restrictions.
If I sound flippant, I'm sorry.
If I sound bitter, I am.
If I sound resigned, I was.
That is, until something happened that completely changed the rules of engagement. The Pennsylvania House approved a bill known as Senate Bill 3 which would do a number of things, the most important of which is to ban dismemberment abortions and push back the date at which you can get an abortion from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks.
The fact that this is at all controversial blows my mind. Whenever pro-lifers argue in favor of restrictions, our opponents bring up the same stale argument: Who knows when life begins? When we direct them to page 137 of the text "It's Biology, Dammit!," which says "life begins at conception, dummy," they move on to the next stage of denial which is some variation of "don't deny me the right to do what I want with my own body." It's as if we want them to surrender a kidney, half a lung, and part of their large intestine when they reach 18.
So for the sake of argument, let's agree that we don't know when life actually begins. It seems to me, however, that by 20 weeks, it's pretty much begun.
Which brings us to Senate Bill 3.
The legislation doesn't quote the Book of Genesis. It simply holds that a baby who has been growing inside the womb for five months — more than half of a normal pregnancy — should not be terminated except for the most compelling reasons. Senate Bill 3 allows for an abortion where the mother's life is in danger, or where a continued pregnancy could result in "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." That means that a woman who could die if she doesn't have the abortion is still able to get one, as is a woman whose health might be seriously threatened. This is no change from current law.
But apparently, it's not enough to give women these protections. The bill's opponents are angry that they don't get an exception for rape or incest. As I mentioned recently on Inside Story, the child is as much a victim of the rape as the woman, and shouldn't bear the punishment for the violent manner of her creation.
Opponents are also arguing over a lack of exception for fetal abnormalities, a major reason that physicians have protested against the 20-week cut off. That's when pregnant women generally have their ultrasounds to determine if the baby is afflicted with some congenital defect, the most common of which is Down syndrome.
Having a baby with Down syndrome does not result in the death of the mother, nor in most cases does it seriously compromise her health. Yet statistics show that up to 90 percent of women who are told they are carrying babies with Down syndrome choose to abort. That is a chilling statistic which is very close to the gender-biased sex selection statistics in countries where female babies are far less desirable than males.
Another source of outrage is the criminalization of dismemberment abortions. While some doctors say that this is the safest form of abortion for the mother, I marvel at the ability of our society to consider the vivisection of an 8-month-old fetus as a civilized, much less necessary, act.
Alabama recently elected a man to the Senate who has little to no opposition to late-term abortions, and who would not support the Pennsylvania bill. When asked whether he was in favor of a 20-week ban, he replied "I'm not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman's right and her freedom to choose."
Gov. Wolf agrees, and said he would veto Senate Bill 3, which he calls "an attack on women."
I say, bring it on. The pro-life movement isn't exactly sleeping, but it got a nice jolt of caffeine with both Senate Bill 3 and Jones' election. The movement is not about to let the pro-choice side define the debate any longer.
Opponents can complain all they want about this so-called attack on women's health. A review of the bill shows there is ample concern for the mother's welfare and equal concern for a child's right to be born.
Game on, Gov. Wolf. Game on, Sen.-elect Jones.
After 45 years, patience tends to wear out.