Abortion, Race, and Arizona

Abortion has always been an excruciating issue for me. Not personally, thankfully, because (a) I’m male; and (b) I’ve never even faced the question whether a wife or a girlfriend or a close friend should do it. So it is excruciating in my head, not my heart and soul, as it often is for women confronting the real choice. But how to reconcile respect for life and destruction of a fetus?

When I was a college student 30 years ago editorializing at The Daily Texan twice a week, one of my submissions addressed abortion, and I credited pro-life and pro-choice camps with good points. Friends fairly ridiculed me for taking such a “brave” non-stance. But here I am now, still crediting pro-life and pro-choice camps with good points.

I end up, with some difficulty, pro-choice. My provisional take is this: a fetus is sufficiently human life to warrant respect, even agony over its fate, but life is not so sacred that it admits no exception to the taking of it. It is permissible to take human fetal life when the woman, upon whom that fetal life entirely depends, does not wish responsibility for that life.

There, I said it. It is a justification for abortion that fairly exposes its implications.

Liberty drives my notion. The question of “life,” and the sanctity properly given it, is a raging political and religious debate. There is no consensus in America on abortion equivalent to the consensus that murder, or even petty theft, is wrong. In such a political stalemate, the default belongs to the proponents of freedom from government dictate. People decide, according to their conscience, not government.

There, I said it. Controversy favors freedom and individual conscience. Controversy may also counsel more local decision-making and less centralized, federal control of the issue.

Enter the cutting-edge, much-in-the-news state of Arizona (of course!) to make the abortion controversy more cutting. On March 29th, Governor Brewer signed into law a first-in-the-nation bill that criminalizes abortion when the reason for the abortion is based upon the gender or race of the child or the parent of the child.

Republican proponents of the bill say statistics show that a high percentage of minority women are seeking abortions and that abortion clinics intentionally locate in minority areas.

First, let’s sweep away some potentially distracting tangents. Arizona Republicans enacted an anti-abortion bill, not primarily an anti-racism or anti-sexism bill. Let it also be acknowledged that disinterest in a white baby could encourage an abortion. But let it also be said that abortion opponents certainly demonstrate their commitment to the unborn with this kind of legislation, which willfully pits racism and sexism narratives against the unrestricted right of abortion.

Thanks to Roe v. Wade, Arizona can’t make abortion illegal. Many abortions will continue happening in Arizona. But a tiny percentage won’t — the ones expressly based upon the race or gender of the fetus (coupled with medical professionals willing to enforce the terms of this new law). And that means that, say, two or three African-American or Hispanic, possibly white, girls, or possibly boys, will grow up in Arizona who wouldn’t have.

Subject to a few procedural limitations, a pregnant woman has the right to choose whether to carry her fetus to term. In my personal opinion, she has that right whether or not her decision is based upon racist or sexist considerations. I suspect most pro-choice people would agree, even if it meant slightly fewer women and people of color.

But that hardly makes the issue less excruciating.



15 Responses to Abortion, Race, and Arizona

  1. Terrance H. says:

    You know my stance, Kendrick. We can agree to disagree. I will applaud you though for the incredibly civil and thoughtful way you expressed your position. An issue as heated as abortion warrants some emotion, but many people – including myself – take it to such an extreme as to hurl insults at those who disagree with them.

    (Including myself was perhaps overly generous; I’m probably one of the very worst!)

    Anyway, thanks for the post.

    • Thanks for visiting Terrance. I hoped you would. I know how strongly you feel about this issue. It’s a credit to you that you candidly acknowledge your sometimes excessive anger on the issue. I respect that very much. I wish you would double back with dcmartin over at Spinny’s blog and ratchet back a bit on the anger. You have many good things to say on this issue. Say them well my friend.

  2. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Terrance and I have discussed this issue before on a couple of occasions. I’ve told him that I stand by my belief that abortion is murder, yet I cannot, will not, and do not have the courage to go the next step to a complete ban. On the issue of abortion, I’m reluctant to take away another’s choice. And I can’t in any way support what Brewer intends to do – I certainly don’t know how this could be upheld in the courts. It appears to be a bizarre form of discrimination or genetic engineering to punish minority groups. It’s legal to kill white babies yet not legal to kill black ones? The torturous and controversial means by which politicians and other groups seek to limit or ban abortion will likely continue for a long time. And I fear that the kinds of things Brewer wants to do in the name of anti-abortion will only inflame passion – and, sadly, pit friends against friends. I respect you, Terrance, for what you believe and in good faith you should continue your good fight. This one issue is as excruciating for me, Kendrick. Excellent post and courageous.

    • Thanks SDS. You’re even more reluctantly pro-choice than I am! Didn’t see that coming. I embrace your comment respectfully in all particulars except the sentence concerning an intent to “punish minority groups.” The opposite appears to be the case. On its face, the bill is anti-discrimination, and would appear to favor minority groups. No woman of color would be prevented from obtaining an abortion, unless she basically said to an abortion provider (willing to enforce the law), “get this fetus of color out of me,” a somewhat less plausible scenario than a white woman saying words to that effect. So the law operates, if at all, against primarily white women. Frankly, if you really think about it, I’m not sure how this law gets enforced at all. But if it does, in this or that incidental odd scenario, it’s likely to protect the birth of non-white babies.

      The purpose of the law appears to be largely symbolic — a challenge to pro-abortion groups to reconcile their racism/sexism narratives with their support for abortion. In this respect, it may be useful in disentangling the emotional abortion issue from several other political issues that really shouldn’t be part of the discussion.

  3. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    By the way, Kendrick, I graduated with a biology degree from UT Austin in ’75. Loved it there for those few years – I saw Dire Straits at Armadillo World Headquarters in ’80. But my favorite, my all time favorite, was seeing Stevie Ray Vaughn perform in Austin. Can’t remember where, but I remember the night was hot and muggy!

    • Wow, don’t even get me started on such as I can remember about Armadillo World Headquarters! LOVE Dire Straits, but missed that concert. Got my English degree in ’80. Stayed on doing law and graduate history and had a particularly memorable Joe “King” Carrasco concert at… where was it…?

      • Terrance H. says:

        Hey, guys, guess what year I graduated college? Anybody? 2008! Hehe.

        • Snoring Dog Studio says:

          No kidding! Well, then you’re younger than I thought you were! Awfully intense for a young kid – Don’t you make any time to hang out at the mall and text people? Oh, wait, you’ve got those adorable young ones, don’t you?

          • Terrance H. says:

            How stereotypical of you, Snoring. Geez. I’m offended!

            Nah. Not really. LOL. I’m 25, so I did all that weird stuff back in the day. And, yes, I have two kids!

  4. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Well, it seems anti-discrimination on one hand, but on the other, it makes it more difficult for, say, black women to get an abortion – they have to jump through a hoop that white women don’t. Kind of a cattywampus world!

    Joe King Carrasco and the CROWNS! OMG! I love them! Saw them very early on in San Antonio at La Villita at an outdoor concert. And then there’s Los Lobos, Fabulous T-Birds, and … oh, those good old days.

  5. Tony Sidaway says:

    It’s hard to know what’s going through a legislator’s head when they make up a law like this. Reading about the bill, it seems to criminalise a physician who conducts an abortion because of the race or sex of the fetus. Okay, if I were a doctor in Arizona I would simply ask the woman why she wants an abortion and refuse to perform the procedure in the extremely unlikely event that she gives a motive based on race or gender. But I can’t figure out why the law exists in the first place. It isn’t as if some racist, sexist doctors are going around forcibly aborting fetuses based on those criteria. Only women seeking abortions are able to obtain one.

    On this whole anti-abortion thing, I put it down to the persistent influence of religious ideas rather than medical ones in American life. In the UK where religion has far less influence any woman who needs an abortion can have it free and there’s none of that barbaric nonsense of clinics being picketed and abortion doctors being shot dead.

  6. Lou says:

    Didn’t know about that law. Sadly, wildly, incredibly political and non-substantive.

  7. Friends fairly ridiculed me for taking such a “brave” non-stance. But here I am now, still crediting pro-life and pro-choice camps with good points.

    The ability to see both sides should not be ridiculed.

    Ugh I didn’t know about this AZ law. I should have stayed blissfully ignorant. 😦

  8. Pingback: Arizona On My Mind… Or, Immigration, Abortion, Gun Rights, Gun Violence, Birtherism, Religious Liberty, and Labor Union Controversies Concentrated in One State « The Prince and The Little Prince

  9. Pingback: On Conservative Cannabilism « The Prince and The Little Prince

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