Saturday, February 16, 2008

Georgia Anti-Choicers Have Lost It

A bill is being pushed in the Georgia state legislature by anti-choicers in that state. The bill criminalizes abortion, enshrines in law false statements about the effects of abortion, but also, most shockingly, defines a fetus as a person from the moment of conception.

Now, attempting to criminalize abortion is the full out goal of the anti-choice movement, and it is not shocking that they would attempt to legitimize some of the false claims they make about abortion by having them included in legislation. What's really crazy about this bill is the fact that it makes the bald assertion that personhood begins at conception. I'm seriously wondering how the anti-choice movement in Georgia could have failed to consider the implications of making this actual law.

First off, contrary to the reasoning in Roe, a woman's right to an abortion has nothing to do with personhood status, or lack thereof, of a fetus. The right to an abortion derives from the human right to bodily autonomy. No person can use the body of another without their consent. This is what grounds our right not to be raped, our right not to have our organs forcibly removed from us, and our right not to be used in crazy experiments without our consent. Whether a fetus is a person or not may very well impact the moral status of abortion, but it has no relevance to whether or not a woman has a legal right to an abortion.

So defining a fetus as a person from the moment of conception doesn't impact the reasoning behind the conclusion that a woman has the right to choose. But it seems to me that the Georgia legislators who introduced this bill, and the anti-choicers that are pushing it, haven't thought about the implications separate from the abortion issue that result from defining an embryo as a person. Would every embryo be given a social security number? How would that work? Would parents of this embryo get a child tax credit? Would the presumptive father have to start paying child support right then and there? How are they defining conception? If they mean fertilization, this would seriously impact the question of birth control. A number of methods allow fertilization but prevent implantation. Would use of those methods be murder? It seems like they must be, if these anti-choicers are right. And many of them stand behind this conclusion, holding that birth control is an abortifacent - and hence murder.

Invitro fertilization would also seem to lead to murder, since many fertilized embryos created in the process are never implanted, and are eventually destroyed. Guess that means that barren couples will just have to suffer despite the fact that the science exists that would allow them to have their very own child.

Additionally, a goodly number of fertilized zygotes fail to implant and are flushed out of the body. Are those to be counted as deaths? How will we know when such a death has occurred? Will we have to start mandating monthly pregnancy tests for women? Will we be reduced to checking tampons and maxi-pads for the remains of the dead? If they are really serious about this, then, on pain of inconsistency, it seems as though we would have to go through serious privacy violating measures in order to keep track of all these zygote-persons.

If a woman miscarries, or if a fertilized embryo that failed to implant is flushed out of her system, will we be holding her accountable for the death of this "person" if she, say, exercised too much? Or smoked? Or had a glass of wine or two? Or didn't eat enough? How much jail time should a woman who exercises vigorously be given if we happen to find a zygote on her tampon?

The Georgia anti-choicers apparently haven't thought about all this. But then again, that's not surprising. If anti-choicers thought a bit more about the implications of their views, they probably wouldn't be anti-choice.

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