Sunday, December 10, 2017

Abortion [#1]

A Democratic Manifesto: 
Democratic Party Principles
#1 Abortion

Getting past the trivial and puerile, to which President Dotard wants us to focus our undivided attention, Mad Dog has decided to begin a discussion of the six issues which should define the Democratic Party:

1. Abortion: When is it infanticide? 
2. Health Care: Is it a right or a profit center?
3. Wealth disparity: Should the government play a role in redistributing wealth?
4. Guns, gun violence: Is this a single issue solvable by one law or a nexus of problems?
5. Drugs and the Opoid crisis: Is this a public health crisis or a criminal problem; is there an effective set of options?
6. Immigration: Do we really have an immigration problem or a perception problem?

I believe every Democrat, given enough time in any setting, platform, meeting, TV appearance ought to say these are the key issues which define Democrats. 
There are some things so fundamental they define discussion.
That freedom of speech is in the first amendment is no accident. It is the most fundamental of all rights, without which there can be no other rights, the sine qua non of all other rights.

So, Mad Dog will discuss each these 6 basic issues in a separate post.  

Mad Dog begins with ABORTION.
Blackmun, a Republican

Have you actually ever read Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Opinion in Roe v Wade, written in 1973? 
Few people I know have.
Nor have many read William Requist's dissent nor Whizzer Byron White's dissent.

These are good places to start, but the ultimate argument comes down to a decision in the mind of man when life begins.

The justices addressed the less important problem first--who has the right to decide whether or not abortion should be permitted? They did this because this is a matter of law, of jurisdiction, or who has "standing." 

But it all comes down to is the fetus a person? Like the Dred Scot case, in which the justices decided the slave had no standing to sue in court because he was not a person, or, at best, on 3/5 a person, so nobody could intervene from the judiciary or any other part of government on his behalf, if the fetus is not a person the whole debate dissolves.
And deciding about when the fetus becomes a person is treacherous water for a judge.
Blackmun goes through all the arguments, but in the end, if you are an absolutist, you cannot be persuaded. If you believe the moment the sperm penetrates the egg, it is a human being in the eyes of God or should be in the eyes of man, there is no arguing faith.
Like slavery, this is one of those disputes which, for some, has no middle ground.
But for many people, for Mad Dog in particular, there is a middle ground.
Mad Dog well remembers witnessing a "salting out" in medical school--in which a 28 week fetus was expelled from the womb and quickly shunted to a utility room off the operating room, where Mad Dog examined it, visually, with a nurse. It did not draw a breath. It did not move, beyond perhaps a spasm here and there. But it looked a lot like a human being to Mad Dog, in a gut check sort of way. In those days, 1971, two years before Roe v Wade, that fetus could not have survived out of the womb given the state of neonatal medicine then. 

But it sure looked almost human. It's lungs made not have been fully formed; certainly its brain was not, but it looked human. Looking human, of course, Mad Dog realized even then, did not make it human. He'd seen models of babies which looked human.
But that thing on the stainless steel tray looked, to Mad Dog, a third year medical student, like a victim of  infanticide.
But Mad Dog also saw suction curettage of 6 week fetuses which looked like nothing more than smudge on a gauze pad, and he saw fetuses, sometimes spontaneously expelled, at 14 weeks which looked like skinned newts, not human at all, although fetuses on ultrasound, magnified as they are by the technology--those images look pretty human. 
Not yet a human being

Ultrasounds of fetuses, one must remember are very deceptive--they make something look alive and human, but they are cartoons.  Donald Duck and Roger Rabbit look alive on screen, too. Just because something looks human doesn't mean it is really human--clouds can look like people, too.
Not human being

Clouds can look like angels, too, but that doesn't make them angels. 
Cloud, not angel

Ultimately, the judges in Roe v Wade chose not to believe the Catholic or Bible Belt belief that a 2 cell conceptus is alive, has a soul and commands the same right to life as a 28 week fetus. They said there is a progression toward becoming a human being, and that until 12 weeks (end of the first trimester) the fetus has virtually no claim to protection, after 24 weeks it may well have full claim to protection, it's for all intents and purposes, a person, and during the 2nd trimester, well, that's up for discussion, but since it's not viable outside the mother, it's her call.

All the arguments about who has the right to make this call are secondary--arguments the mother has the right because the Constitution implies a "right to privacy" are pretty weak. You don't have a right to kill your four year old in your home because that's a right to privacy. 

It all comes down to belief and the justices in Roe said, we have to draw the line somewhere. Legislatures don't have that right, mostly because they have made such a goddamn mess of that, so we'll do it.
They drew the line at the end of the 2nd trimester.

Mad Dog believes that was the right place to draw that line, at least in 1973.  Up to that point the fetus is like  a car frame on an assembly line--it has the shape, but still is not a functional, realized thing. 
But somewhere it does cross a line, and is more realization than simple potential. Early on, it may have the frame of an automobile, but it does not have a working engine, electrical wiring, gas lines, transmission or even tires, but somewhere along the line, it crosses over into being enough of a car to be called a car. 
Cloud, not human being

And that's where Mad Dog thinks the Democratic Party should plant its flag: We do not believe in infanticide. We do not believe a two cell thing is a human being. We acknowledge as technology changes and makes it possible for a fetus to survive outside the womb, we might draw the line a little earlier, but for now, we agree until the fetus is 24 weeks, abortion is permissible. 

If you believe differently, vote against us. That's where we are.


  1. Well Mad Dog, this is quite a treatise and I agree these are principles that could more clearly define the Democratic party. That is, if there was widespread agreement on them within the party and that does not appear to be the case.

    When it comes to abortion, I agree with your opinion completely. But ours is an opinion that would incense people on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives would continue to believe we were embracing infanticide-cavalierly supporting killing babes..while many in our own party would be equally angry that we had the audacity to question a woman's right to choose. Of course we are not, but rather how far along that choice can and should be made. You are correct it all boils down to when one believes life begins-and who decides this-God, the mother or science..

    From a political standpoint, abortion is an issue most on both sides see as black and white-yet we and others acknowledge the grey. It seems though this grey area might be a difficult position to market and rally people around, not to mention the difficulty in condensing it into a quick sound bite...

    PS-As for that last photo, you got that wrong my friend-that is most definitely a human doubt...

  2. Ms. Maud,
    This is exactly my point. We have got to stop worrying about how what we say, what we believe might be received, who we might alienate. Let us state it boldly and forthrightly and say to those who disagree with us, tough luck. This is what I believe. So don't vote for me. Stop worrying about winning elections and start speaking the truth as we see it and let the cards fall. How often do we hear people speak admiringly of Trump because, "Well, he has to guts to say what he thinks." So should we.
    That, of course is a human being, not a cloud. When you wish upon a star...