Thursday, February 19, 2009

It’s Alive

The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed a bill that grants a fertilized egg all the rights of any person.

That means a fetus could not be legally aborted without the procedure being considered murder.

Minot Republican Dan Ruby has sponsored other bills banning abortion in previous legislative sessions – all of which failed.

He also sponsored today’s bill and says it is compatable [sic] with Roe versus Wade – the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion.

(Rep. Dan Ruby, -R- Minot) “This is the exact language that’s required by Roe vs. Wade. It stipulated that before a challenge can be made, we have to identify when life begins, and that’s what this does.”

I suppose you could marvel at the determination of people like Mr. Ruby who are so dedicated to their cause, but you also have to notice that he clearly didn’t think this through. There are a lot of questions that a sweeping declaration like this leave unanswered. For instance, if life begins at conception — which is debatable, since viability doesn’t become possible until the egg attaches to the uterus, which occurs some time after fertilization — how do we know the exact time when that happens? Does a bell go off or something so a doctor or the mother knows when the microscopic speck suddenly becomes a person? (Misty at Shakesville has several other questions.)

That’s just one of many practical questions that would have to be addressed if this law actually passes legal muster. A lot of state and federal laws would have to be re-written to accommodate this law, and the United States Constitution would have to be amended, since it states that citizenship is obtained when someone is born or naturalized, not conceived. And since the egg obtains full rights in the uterus, that means that its rights supersede those of the woman who is carrying it, since she would no longer have the right of self-determination about her own body. Further, if the egg grows and is born and we find out later on that the person is gay, he or she will lose rights, such as that of the right to get married or visit their loved one in the hospital. In other words, a fertilized egg in North Dakota has more rights than many other citizens who happen to be unfortunate enough to be born there.

Of course, the point of this law is not to resolve a legal question, it’s meant to challenge one; in this case Roe v. Wade. This isn’t an uncommon legal tactic; advocates on both sides of the political spectrum have used it before to either call a standing law into question in the courts or just point out the extremism of a law. But the paradox here is that this law is being put forth by an advocate for a group that lives by the philosophy that all of our questions can be answered with a simple bumper-sticker solution: Abortion Is Murder. That’s not meant to provoke a debate, it’s meant to end it. It’s the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting, “Neener, neener, I can’t hear you!”

So they pass this law knowing that it will attract a lawsuit — they’re counting on it — so that they can go all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States chanting their mantra and assuming that they will prevail. They will spend a great deal of the North Dakota’s citizens’ taxes on this quixotic quest with the high probability that it will be knocked down, and they’ll come back from another direction and keep trying and trying. As CLW notes in the comments, this is a strange paradox for a political party that on everything else — guns, taxes, property rights, health care, education, and the airwaves — advocates for smaller and limited government. That is, apparently, until it comes to a woman’s uterus. Then all bets are off.

There may be a medical debate as to when an egg is alive, but there is little doubt that the folks who think that the only lives worth saving or ensuring the rights for are the ones that are in utero are still out there stalking the streets.