Abortion, Race, and Arizona
April 10, 2011 15 Comments
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.