The Politics of Abortion & A Modest Proposal
Jim Blair

Religion? Which one?

When it comes to the politics of abortion, it is not a matter of the "religious" vs. the "non-religious". It depends on which religion, and on whose interpretation. In the Jewish old testament, killing a fetus was a minor offense against the husband(!) of the pregnant woman. This at a time when working on Saturday could get you stoned to death.

There was much debate as to just when the fetus became human. The dominate view was when it breathed air. This lead to the corollary that a head first birth leads to a human faster than a breach birth.

Acceptance of that "enfleshment" view would mandate creating as many new people as fast as possible. Rather like the situation in the Arthur C. Clarke short story "The Nine Billion Names of God". A Buddhist sect thinks the universe will not be complete (and thus end) until they finish writing His name every possible way.

For generations they wrote by hand but were making slow progress. Then one of the monks finds out about computers. In the same way, if God had problems coordinating production and has a surplus of souls waiting for bodies, modern biology can mass produce humans by the billions. Should that be our first priority?

At any rate, both the Right and the Left have those who base their political views on their interpretation of their religion. The `theology of liberation' for example, and the mandate to give all your worldly goods to the poor, provide support for the Religious Left.

And I have yet to see a reference in either the Christian Bible or the Torah that deals directly with abortion. Not the "thou shall not kill" or "suffer the little children" which can be interpreted to mean any thing from a ban on capital punishment to more AFDC.---jeb

Who gets abortions?

One undeniable fact is clear however: most abortions are not performed on poor non-white females. On the contrary, it is the children of the middle and upper classes -- predominantly caucasian who are having abortions. Ironically, these are the very family structures most economically able to rear children. So who has the majority of the outside-marriage births? Non-caucasian lower income females. Specifically hispanic and black females. A fact that is constantly ignored or misrepresented in the major media. Gee, I wonder why?---jp

John, you are confusing absolute numbers with "relative to their population" numbers, which I think are clearly the way to look at it.

The Irish in a town may drink 10% of the whisky. But if they are 1% of the population in the town, they may not be drinking much of the total, but it is a lot relative to their population.

In the same way, abortions in the US are done on women who are disproportionally single, poor and "non-white"(as described by the Alan Guttmacher Institute). Louis Farrakhan and the Black Muslims know this, and describe Row vs Wade as the opening shot in a war to destroy Blacks in America. See USA TODAY June 30, 1992 for a summary of just who gets abortions.

Frankly, the male fetuses aborted pretty much match the same profile as the prison population.

And the USA TODAY article claims that 63% of abortions are on women "never married" vs only 19% on "married" with 11% "divorced", 6% "separated" and 1% "widowed". To sum it up, only 19% of aborted fetuses would have had a father who was married to their mother had they been born. And even they would have been unwanted children.

Practical consequences

It is true that the number of abortions is falling a little now. Not because the pregnancy rate is down but because the unwed birth rate is up: that is, single teens still get pregnant, but more are having babies rather than abortions. I think this is the result of the "pro -life" movement. They have been effective in telling pregnant girls it is evil to have an abortion but the government will pay you if you have the baby. In Wisconsin they have packets telling of all the local, state and federal programs and benefits they are entitled to if they have a baby. And they are effective at getting then to women seeking abortion, especially in the Milwaukee inner city housing projects (which they recognize as good hunting grounds).

And many "feminists" are starting to back away from "choice" when they learn that it is being used by women to abort female fetuses, especially in many 3rd world cultures.

I think abortion is a classic example of Milton Friedman's "Invisible Hand" in politics: both sides are on the wrong side of the issue (from the practical consequence point of view). But the Left is starting to figure it out. Did you notice that when bills were introduced in several states to deny additional AFDC benefits to women who have additional kids, Liberal and Feminist groups joined the pro-lifers in protest. They all know this would result in more abortions, and the Left realizes that this would erode their power base in the next generation. Many of them believe a single woman has a RIGHT to have as many kids as she wants, and to demand that taxpayers support her and them. Who is using who here?

Waiting period laws in Wisconsin & Mississippi

The Wisconsin legislature is currently debating Assembly Bill 441 which would require a woman seeking an abortion to visit her doctor twice with a 24 hour wait between. On the first visit her doctor would have to read her a statement of "facts" about fetal development and abortion risk. They would also be told of all the local, state, and federal benefits that they are entitled to if they have a baby. It would also stop doctors from providing contraceptives and information about birth control to the women. The advocates claim this is a "right to know" law.

With other medical procedures, the doctor tells the patient the risk of the procedure and the risk of not doing it. But in this case, the doctor is not to tell the patient the relative risk: the fact is that an early abortion is less dangerous to the woman than is childbirth. That is, if a woman is pregnant, she is more likely to be alive one year later if she has an abortion before the 16th week than if she does not. But she will not be told that. (At 16 weeks the relative risks are about equal. After that, abortion is more dangerous.)

About 90% of abortions are done within the first 12 weeks. The late term ones are usually either because complications threaten the woman's life or because the fetus has such serious problems that there is little chance of its survival. And yes, there is an economic consideration here. See my MODEST PROPOSAL section at the end of this post.

This bill is similar to a law that has been in effect in Mississippi. There the women who decide against getting an abortion after the first session are almost all poor, single and black. Them having babies instead of abortions is a great triumph for the Conservative Movement.

Theory: Does a sperm have civil rights?

Of course all of this is "practical". From the "theory" side, there are several logical positions based on the (arbitrary) recognition of when "human life" begins. At one extreme, sperm and egg cells that are both alive and human, could be viewed as citizens to be paired and protected. They are "Preconceived" people.

The fertilized egg is seen that way by most(?) pro-lifers. This would mean a woman who is pregnant from rape and has life threatening complications is just out of luck: abortion will kill the "baby" but her survival chances are always higher than that. The "pro-life" movement is now working to cut off money for abortions for poor women who have been raped.

If this view were to be accepted, it would mean that almost all medical research is now being misdirected on such minor problems as AIDS, cancer, heart disease and other such things which kill relatively few people. Somewhere between half and 3/4 of all "people" (ie fertilized eggs) undergo spontaneous abortions, or die before they even implant. That is where medical research would save the most lives!

Many contraceptives work by stopping the fertilized egg from implanting; all morning after pills do this. If the IUD does, then we have killed billions of "babies" and should disband our whole society. We are far worse than Nazi Germany which was "pro-life" (except for a few million Jews and other "undesirables").

Carl Sagan and others have proposed that a fetus becomes "human" when brain waves develop; this is at about 20 weeks. Enough time for a woman who doesn't want a baby to decide. This is about as close to a "compromise" position as there is.

Birth has usually been the mark of when we begin as "people", and it is the birthday that all cultures celebrate.

But for some cultures deformed children are killed, and "age of reason" marks being recognized as human. And in most cultures, kids don't have full rights until 16, 18 or 21 years (after birth!).

Any of these are a matter of social convention and law, rather like driving on the right or the infield fly rule.

Adoption? Not here!

One thing I think we can probably agree on is adoption: it should be possible for unwanted children to be raised by married couples who do want them.

But recent court decisions have undermined adoption to the point that if a couple wants to be sure their adopted kid won't be reclaimed months or even years later, they must get one from Eastern Europe, Russia or Korea.

Did you see the recent case involving twins who had one great great grandparent who was a Pomo Indian? Almost two years after the parents gave then up, the biological father decided he wants them back. And the judge ordered them returned, under the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act. (The father didn't even know that he was an Indian until he decided he wanted his kids back, then he discovered it; but the tribe then admitted him, so now he is an Indian.) The judge ruled that the welfare of the children is over ruled by Federal law.

And in a recent case in Beaver Dam Wisconsin, a 10 year old was taken away from the father who had raised her from birth when the biological mother decided she wanted her back.

A Modest Proposal

I understand that people don't want their tax dollars used to pay for things they think are wrong. To the "Pro-life" movement, that means abortion. But to the "economic conservatives" that means AFDC to single women. And many people don't approve of the military budget.

In the case of the military, there is no way to tax only those who approve of military spending and support a military that will defend only those who were willing to pay for it. What invading army would conquer only selected houses? But in the case of abortion, there might be a way.

My proposal: each taxpayer would be required to check one of two boxes on their income tax form. One says Pro-life and the other Pro-choice. Their tax bill for the following year will be affected by their selection.

If you selected Pro-life, your tax for the following year will be reduced by the total federal dollars spent on abortions divided by the number of people who made that selection. But it would be increased by the total spent on AFDC for new births that year plus the expenses of the deformed children born who would have been late term abortions, also divided by the number who made that selection. This way, only the Pro-choice taxpayers would pay for abortions, and only Pro-life taxpayers would pay women to have kids they can't afford.

What could be more fair?

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