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Abortion, Ethical Confusion Over
by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (Jan. 24, 1996)
Monday marked the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Twenty-three years ago, the Supreme Court declared that a womanís unrestricted access to an abortion during the first three months of pregnancy was part of her constitutional right to privacy.
Presently Congress seems to be moving closer to limiting some of the implications of that 1973 ruling by prohibiting a specific procedure used in occasional late-term pregnancies. So-called "partial birth" abortions are typically performed at 20 to 24 weeks, with the babyís feet and sometimes other parts of its body already outside the mother.
And Linda Rios of San Jose, California, is fighting a $271 traffic ticket that charged her with driving solo in the car pool lane. When the police officer pulled her over, she told him to look at her expanding middle. She is expecting a baby this spring.
Linda has California legal precedent on her side. Sue Ann Yasger challenged a similar charge in 1986 by arguing that the child growing in her womb was a person under California law. Diane Correll argued the same thing only a few months later. Judges dismissed the tickets in both cases.
So which is correct? Is a baby in utero nothing more than expendable tissue of the mother? Is the baby a separate person with his or her own right to protection under the law?
In the same hospital, adjoining operating suites may be pursuing opposite outcomes based on the moral confusion our culture has about pregnancy. In Room One, a physician is performing a legal abortion; in Room Two, a physician is performing a surgical procedure on a pre-term infant to correct a problem that could threaten her life.
Our culture is schizophrenic over the issue. President Clinton epitomizes this moral ambiguity when he declares that he opposes abortion on demand in his private self but supports it in his public self.
Norma McCorvey was the "Jane Roe" whose case was the occasion for the 1973 Supreme Court decision. Ironically, she was in Washington Monday. Last year she shocked abortion advocates by announcing that she now opposes it.
Ms. McCorvey has had it both ways now ó as many others have in the course of this social controversy. Ultimately, however, we canít have it both ways. Either an unborn with his own distinctive human genetic code has the right to protection under the law or we continue our wholesale attack on the sanctity of life in the womb.
In this morass of confusion, where do you come down?