another dangerous precedent
March 16, 2004 11:12 AM

Body & Soul digs into the Utah woman's story and finds a bit more there than the AP told us.

It's disturbing how much the press has made this story iconic - turning her into someone who chooses a sort of last-minute abortion rather than deal with a c-section scar. Yet clearly this actual story, like most actual stories is much more complex. It's a lot easier to have an impassioned debate over whether a pregnant woman who opts out of a c-section is a murderer when you reduce her motives to whimsical vanity. When you look at the details of this case, this life, it sucks so royally it's hard to see any need for debate.

My initial response when I first heard the reductive news reports was still - vanity or not, one of the key aspects of a free society is the ability to refuse someone else who tries to impose their will on your body. A doctor's advice is only that, advice. And I think pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. Everyone I know who has kids talks about feeling alien, worried, and just generally fragile. Given the variance in advice from doctors, how terrifying is it that one could be prosecuted for not following Dr. X's advice? It's not hard to imagine this precedent being stretched to apply to women who choose midwives over standard hospital births, for instance. That scares me.

When the right celebrates these sorts of things as victories and pursues issues like the UVVA, it serves to polarize people and oversimplify the abortion debate.

The right tends to assert that a fetus is a person, and the pro-choice camp tends to argue along with them on the when a person is a person and when a person is a bit of tissue question. I do not always have a problem with seeing an unborn child as a person. I have a problem with seeing that child as more of a person than its mother, which is what we get into here, with UVVA, and with the laws against late-term abortion.

Someone cited an excellent hypothetical example in the comments on B&S:

A young man's in a terrible accident which destroys both his kidneys and makes dialysis impossible. His only chance of survival is a kidney transplant, and the only available donor is his father. The doctors contact the father who refuses to cooperate becuase the timing of the surgery conflicts with his golf game, so the son dies. Unsympathetic though he may be, there's no way this man could be charged with murder.

If the Rowland case is taken as a precedent, though, that insensitive father could well be charged with murder, too. Even if he refused the surgery because, say, he himself was mentally ill. Rowland's motive doesn't matter here. What matters is that we're setting a dangerous precedent of holding one person accountable for another's life in a way that trumps the person's own life.

And that should scare you.

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your wicked thoughts

This case is horribly disturbing.

A C-section is a medical procedure, and has attendant risks over and above the risks of a standard childbirth. To demand (with the threat of criminal sanction) that one individual take risks to possibly save the life of an unborn child is disturbing.

Let's extend the logic a little further: What if said child was eight years old, and in need of a kidney. Is it murder to avoid that surgical procedure, even though you could live without the kidney? What about if the child wasn't your own. What if you'd never seen the child?

I'm not fond of this precedent.

these are the thoughts of Apathetic Crusader on March 17, 2004 03:29 AM

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