Saturday, February 26, 2011

Take a Deep Breath. Read. Repeat.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about legislation related to abortion and/or fetal life.

Of course there is the Pence Amendment. I’ve seen people use this legislation as evidence that pro-lifers really don’t care about abortion and really do just want to control everyone’s sex lives by preventing them from accessing vital health care (Did you know? Pro-lifers are even against cancer screenings!) I point out that (a) money is fungible and (b) the Pence Amendment does NOT remove funding for health care services, but rather reallocates it. I also point out that we aren't some small, extremist group shoving an outdated ideology on everyone else: roughly half of the country identifies as pro-life. It seems these and other counterarguments are irrelevant. Let’s not confuse the stereotypes and amazing exaggerations with facts.

Then there was the legislation in South Dakota that apparently legalizes shooting abortion doctors. Never mind that the bill's sponsors say they are simply trying to make their defense laws consistent with other fetal homicide laws. Never mind that even the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota said she doesn't believe the intent of the bill was malicious. Instead of rational discussions about what the bill actually says, I've mostly seen fits of hysteria as people indignantly demand "How is this 'pro-life'??" over and over.

Finally there is the Georgia legislation that allegedly allows the Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages (and, if women can't prove it was an accident, they receive the death penalty! I'm starting to think Mother Jones may not be the bastion of objectivity.) Here's the actual text of the bill.

This bill is a bit ridiculous; it says a lot of things about why Georgia doesn't have to acknowledge Roe v. Wade or the authority of the Supreme Court or Congress in certain cases. I'll leave that as a separate debate. It seems that the most contentious part of this legislation hinges on what on earth it means to "investigate miscarriages". The first image I get is of cops knocking on a woman's front door and asking suspicious/derisive questions about a potentially very painful and certainly very personal event.

But that's not what this legislation suggests. The investigation is to be done by a physician, and apart from that nothing is specified at all. Given the lack of detail, I'm inclined to believe it'll be an "investigation" in the same sense as how they've been "investigating" spontaneous fetal death up till now already. If I'm reading this right, this legislation alters already existing legislation and the alterations primarily involve removing references to abortion. The references to miscarriages were already there. So how have "investigations of miscarriages" worked up till now in Georgia? I haven't heard any horror stories. The entire thing sounds like it has more to do with medical record-keeping than criminal investigations.

What is the take home lesson in all of this inanity? If you want to know what effects new laws will have, don't get swept away in ranting blog posts and editorials. Take a deep breath, and read the actual legislation.

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