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:
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.
Supporters of Mississippi's Proposition 26, including women past childbearing age, a couple of kids, and several dozen dudes.
Let’s say that you believe abortion should be illegal, in part because you have carefully considered the civic and cultural ramifications and in part because that’s what they said at your church, where you go with the kids you already have and the spouse who is the only person you will have sex with ever again. I’m messing with you—you’re not going to have sex with your spouse again. Anywhom, you are strongly committed to your anti-abortion position—which you call pro-life, although you are also for the death penalty—but you just can’t get enough people to vote for it. The Supreme Court said that abortion is legal, and even though they’re clearly the most bullshit branch of government, we still have to do what they say. The best alternative is therefore a constitutional amendment, but every time you get the words “abortions will be illegal” onto a ballot, a bunch of people vote against it. They’re mostly college kids and secularists and sluts who live in cities—clearly the most bullshit portion of American society—but, again, their votes somehow count as much as yours. You can’t make abortions illegal because the majority of Americans don’t want that. You must therefore figure out how to make them operatively illegal by passing laws that people don’t notice or care about, so that everyone else in America will abide by what you know is obviously right. For example, you can make a law that says any fertilized egg is, in fact, a person.