The Montana legislature made national headlines last week, but not the good kind like you want. Representative Derek Skees of Lakeside sponsored HB 595, which would amend the state constitution to redefine “person” as “all members of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development, including the stage of fertilization or conception.” Zygotes? People. Fertilized eggs that do not implant in the uterus as a result of IUD birth control? People. Ectopic pregnancies? People. Skees’s bill would criminalize not just abortion but a whole raft of women’s health services that most people consider morally neutral, if not inherently good. It’s a bold declaration of support for the lives of the pre-born, but does it do enough to make post-born lives miserable?
Enter Sen. Albert Olszewski (R-Kalispell). His bill would require doctors to take every measure possible to preserve the lives of fetuses beyond 24 weeks of development, including caesarian section and resuscitation after abortion or miscarriage. Doctors who don’t would be subject to criminal prosecution. Imagine, for a moment, the joy a woman would feel after procuring a legal abortion, only to watch her obstetrician resuscitate the fetus and present her with her new child. Don’t worry, though; that situation will never happen, because no obstetrician in her right mind would see a pregnant woman knowing that it would expose her to criminal investigation should anything go wrong.
Also, neither of these bills has a snowball’s chance of becoming law. Nor does Sen. Keith Regier’s (R-Kalispell) proposal to ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. Even if they make it out of the legislature, Gov. Steve Bullock will veto these bills faster than you can say Roe v. Wade. In this way, they take on a pleasing symmetry. These laws that insist life begins at conception are unlikely to move beyond the concept stage themselves. As pure theories, they are free to be as draconian and unenforceable as the most virulent activist could hope. It’s kind of like the way their authors—middle-aged men from the Flathead, to a one—can rail against abortion without any fear of getting pregnant themselves. You can read all about their strange performances in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Probably, we’re going to get some letters. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address in 2015.
On Sunday, President Obama announced that he would be leaving a seat open at his State of the Union Address for the victims of gun violence. This morning, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) announced that he, too, would leave one of his guest seats empty, to protest abortion. “I have reserved it to commemorate the lives of more than 55 million aborted babies, the chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world,” he said, adding that he would not attend the address himself. In light of these changes, the updated guest list is as follows:
Mike Huckabee called the shootings “domestic terrorism” and abortion “dismembering of human babies.”
On Friday, an evidently deranged man in Colorado Springs killed three people and injured nine others in an armed standoff with police at Planned Parenthood. “No more baby parts,” a senior law enforcement official reported him as saying. It appeared to be a reference to a series of undercover videos shot by an anti-abortion activist in which Planned Parenthood administrators discussed fees associated with the donation of fetal tissue for research. Or, as Carly Fiorina described it in a nationally televised Republican presidential debate:
“Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says ‘we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'”
That video doesn’t exist, you can’t abort a “fully formed” fetus, and no one ever said that about harvesting a brain. But she was just describing something she felt strongly about, in terms that, if they were true, would probably justify armed intervention.
A developing fetus, pictured here with a grown fetus who could not be cropped out
Over at The New Republic, Rebecca Traister has written a provocative essay titled Let’s Just Say It: Women Matter More Than Fetuses Do. Kombat! Kids: can you cut two words from that headline? Extra credit: can you explain why declaring that an adult woman has more rights than a cluster of cells feels transgressive? About two thirds of the way through, Traister suggests that it might feel that way since Roe v. Wade. As women gained rights not just to legal abortions but also to economic and political parity, they lost the aura of sanctity that came with purely reproductive value:
What rose up instead was a new character, less threatening than the empowered woman: the baby, who, by virtue of not actually existing as a formed human being, could be invested with all the qualities—purity, defenselessness, dependence—that women used to embody, before they became free and disruptive.
The way we talk about abortion suggests that we are most comfortable with people who don’t exist.
I defy you to find that quote anywhere in the writings of St. Augustine, machine for striking phrases though he was. Diligent internet Catholics trace its origin to Pastor Chuck Spurgeon, whose name does not look as good next to a lion and who said it a little differently:
The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.
I’m glad Augustine didn’t put so many hard stops in his aperçu, and I’m glad Pastor Chuck limited his analogy to the word of god. Given the confusion over both quote and attribution, I’m declaring this one fair game for rewrites. Today is Friday, and the truth is a lion: let it out, and it will defend itself. That’s why lions rule the Earth and lying is unprofitable. Won’t you lunge toward the net with me?