Sunday, September 03, 2006

Abortion (repost due to technical issues)

I try to always lead with my chin, so why not make my position on possibly the most polarizing issue in American politics (short of the Iraq war) my first substantive post? Here's how I feel about it.

First of all, I believe that the issue of abortion needs to be finally and completely determined, for all of our sakes. As long as the right to an abortion (or, in the unlikely event that Roe v. Wade is reversed, the lack of that right) is dependent on the pronouncement of the Supreme Court, abortion will continue to be a divisive and over-emphasized issue, as each side of the debate seeks to have the Supreme Court alter its rulings. It also unduly politicizes the Supreme Court, as a jurist's stance on abortion can become a litmus test for their nomination or confirmation. And the need for a final determination means that for the good of the country any solution to the abortion issue should be enshrined in a constitutional amendment, which by its nature is more permanent than any judicial decision, and less susceptible to campaigns for reversal.

So, if elected I would propose a constitutional amendment on the issue of abortion, and let the nation decide whether to adopt it. Here's what its content would be (and why):

I would propose an amendment that enshrined the right to an abortion, for whatever reason, up until the point of fetal viability (the point at which the fetus could survive outside the womb with medical intervention, as measured by the earliest surviving premature baby). After fetal viability, abortion would only be available to save the life of the mother.

Why fetal viability? Because it avoids religious or spiritual questions about when a fetus is "alive" or "human" and focuses on the choice made by the woman. Prior to fetal viability, the choice to abort is the only way of terminating a pregnancy, and the fetus' presence in the womb is essential to its survival. After viability, the presence of the fetus in the womb is no longer necessary to its survival. It's certainly helpful - it has a better chance of surviving the longer it stays in the womb - but no longer the only possibility of the fetus surviving. As such, the decision to terminate the pregnancy by abortion is not just a choice to end the pregnancy that will necessarily kill the fetus - it is a choice to end the pregnancy specifically by killing the fetus, where there are other ways of ending the pregnancy that will not necessarily do so. And at that point, abortion should no longer be a legal option.

Full disclosure time. My personal views of abortion have very little to do with what I think is good policy, or should be legislated. As an orthodox Jew, I have a religious objection to abortions performed without any sort of medical necessity (a term that in Judaism may include psychological as well as physical harm to the mother) after the first 40 days of pregnancy. Judaism, of course, is not a valid basis for American law. On the other hand, Judaism generally takes a much more nuanced view of the status of a fetus than, say, Christianity does, and it's likely that the fact that I don't personally believe that abortion=murder is part of what allows me to suggest the policy outlined above.

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