Indiana Can’t Make Abortion a Thought Crime

This spring Indiana criminalized abortion if the reason is the genetic abnormality of the fetus (for example, Down Syndrome). Last week a federal judge declared the law unconstitutional.

Even if you believe legal abortion should be limited to a certain time period—say, likely fetal viability—this overturned law attempted a staggering intrusion into the private decision-making of Americans contemplating a legal behavior. It empowered the state to judge residents’ thinking, values, and lifestyle. It allowed the state to withhold a legal right if it doesn’t like someone’s reason for exercising that right.

Any “conservative” would protest if such a law involved driving a car, getting surgery, or buying a gun: “You can have breast implants to help you keep your husband, but not to help your lingerie modelling career;” “You can get a blood transfusion if you want to get healthy and return to your job as a go-go dancer, but not if you’re just going to be a homemaker,” etc.

This law said the state could decide if your reason for exercising your right to an abortion is good enough—and it named one reason as simply not good enough.

A real “conservative” can only support such government intrusion by being completely dishonest or by admitting that he/she value something more than logic and the rule of law. Note that two-thirds of Indiana’s overwhelmingly Republican state legislature are supported by the National Right to Life Committee, and draw your own conclusions about civic treachery.

A handful of states ban otherwise-legal abortion if it’s based on the gender, race, or ethnicity of the fetus. Such laws show the anti-choice movement’s cynical opportunism. They say they want to ban all abortions at all times. To market this position and make it more palatable, they cut intellectual corners—tolerating abortion in the case of pregnancy following rape (why? Isn’t it still an “innocent unborn child?”), or trying to limit abortion for reasons of which they don’t approve (trying to shape the gender balance of a family, or prevent the lifelong responsibility of a Down Syndrome birth).

But why bother to pass a law about Down Syndrome fetuses? There are less than 10,000 such pregnancies in America each year; in addition to the roughly 800 that die without intervention, less than half are aborted. Indiana, with 2% of the country’s population, would expect less than 200 such abortions per year.

One anti-choice website laments the loss of Down Syndrome children—“Aborting Babies With Down Syndrome Has Wiped Out 30% of the Down Syndrome Community,” it cries.

 Putting aside the fact that these abortions aren’t done on “babies” (a willful medical, legal, and moral distortion that isn’t even worth discussing) it’s fascinating to note the concept that a bigger Down Syndrome Community is better than a smaller one. Um, no: while it’s great that there’s a source of support between families who choose this jaw-dropping, lifelong responsibility, creating more such challenged families is not a positive thing.

One might as well say that since Alcoholics Anonymous helps people and families deal with problem drinkers, creating more and more alcoholics who can be helped this way is a good thing.

The overturned Indiana law also required that all aborted fetuses be buried or cremated, rather than be routinely incinerated along with other medical tissue. This is another attempt to regulate how people deal with the consequences of their private decisions.

If someone electing a legal abortion conceptualizes her choice as “losing a child” whom she wants to commemorate, she can do a wide range of things, including giving the “child” a name or observing the “child’s” death anniversary. On the other hand, if a woman sees her abortion as ending an unwanted pregnancy, the state has no right to force her to deal with the fetus as if it were a person.

As a marriage & family therapist, I have dealt with many cases in which people felt they had to expand their families and their life narratives to include the “lost child” forever—invariably compromising the quality of life of themselves and their other children. If real people in the real world don’t want to elevate a fetus into the status of personhood, the state should not force them to do so with unwanted burials—and the inevitable emotional meanings and attachments that follow. Shame on Indiana for attempting to manipulate its own citizens doing something perfectly legal.

Most states now make the experience of a simple abortion as miserable as possible for residents who have the nerve to pursue a safe, legal medical procedure. States continue to throw tantrums and just invent reasons that people can’t have abortions, or that health care providers can’t provide them.

These phony “conservatives” want to shrink “Big Government” just small enough to fit under people’s bedroom doors. Have they no shame?

 

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