Friday, January 12, 2007

"I am Pro-Life" . . . but.

This on abortion from Mitt Romney's website:

"I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view. But while the nation remains so divided over abortion, I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate."
(Boston Globe, Mitt Romney Editorial, July 26, 2005)

First, this description of his position on a volatile issue is sloppy at best. Looking at the first sentence, does he mean that "in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother" abortion is the right choice? Surely not.

I think it is a reasonable argument to make that in the case of actual rape, a woman should have the opportunity to make an informed choice about whether or not to abort. I am not saying that I would agree that she should choose abortion, but I am saying it is not unreasonable to think that she should have the choice. I would not make it a crime for an abortion in those circumstances to be performed.

I am talking about an informed choice on the question of abortion in the case of actual rape.

There is a problem here because "rape" includes "statutory rape". That is, the rape of an underaged woman. There is not necessarily in this case the violence that one associates with rape nor the lack of actual consent. The situation with this sort of rape requires very, very great care. The big problem is just who is going to make the decision about whether or not to abort. If we say that the underage woman is to make the decision, then we are not being consistent with the idea that the reason we call consensual intercourse "rape" is that the woman is underaged. We call it rape because we presume that the young woman lacked the maturity to give effective consent. But are we, then, to say that she has the maturity to make the decision about whether or not to abort?

"Incest" is somewhat similar to statutory rape, because it carries the presumption that there was a sort of involuntary aspect to the event or that the woman was in a confidential relationship with the male, which the male violated by engaging in intercourse. But where we are dealing with underage women, we have the same sort of problem as statutory rape. If we are dealing with women who are adults in cases where there was consent, then what is the basis of allowing abortion at all, other than moral repugnance? If there was no consent, then we have rape, whether or not there was incest along with it. So I am not ready to include "incest" without actual rape as permitting a choice.

Finally, if we are talking about "saving the life of the mother", then we are in a radically different situation, if we are truly limiting the category as described. In that case, certainly the mother should have the choice, if she is competent to make the choice. This will probably make some people unhappy, but I would say that even if she chooses not to abort, the husband, if she is married, should be brought into the question and if he believes an abortion should be performed to save the life of the mother, then his view should have great weight and, in certain circumstances, control.

But the left has blurred the limits of "saving the life of the mother" so that this exception is decribed something like "safeguarding the mother's health", health including physical, mential, emotional, etc. It is a huge loophole.

Romney wants the states to determine the abortion issue and get it out of the national arena. Jutice Scalia likes that idea as well. The implication of that view, however, is that the life of an unborn baby is something of less value than the life of a born baby. The unborn baby is not a citizen. The born baby is. I doubt that the Supreme Court would countenance a federalism argument that the states ought to be given the right to permit infanticide. But in the name of federalism some otherwise conservative people say that the states should be able to regulate fetuscide. (Of course, one could argue that my exception to outlawing abortion where there has been an actual rape also compromises the idea that an unborm baby is just as worthy of protection as a born baby.)

While the politicians thrash this out, Christians have plenty of room to address the issue in a helpful way, principally by supporting mothers, wed and unwed, who are considering abortion for economic or social reasons. The "Women's Preganancy Center" movement is effective, even if it is considerably undersupported.

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