Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed a bill that would legislatively create a twenty-year period of “Post-Birth Fetal Development,” during which abortion would be completely illegal. Rep. Roberta Goldwaithe, the bill’s primary sponsor, thinks this is an idea whose time has come. “Neurologists have established that the human brain isn’t completely developed through adolescence. This explains why many young people engage in irrational and dangerous behaviors; drinking and driving, date rape, signing up for the Marines… every parent has his or her own horror story. It’s time for those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life to put our principles before our politics. We must protect all human life, including those who have not yet fully developed into independent creatures.”
Republicans have concerns that the “Post-Birth Fetal Development Pro-Life Abortion Ban Act” is a legislative Trojan horse with potential consequences reaching far beyond the abortion clinic, perhaps as far as Iraq, but Rep. Goldwaithe dismisses these accusations. “A Republican who would vote against the Pro-Life Abortion Ban Act is clearly a closest pro-choice, anti-life satanist, and I know that voters will be smart enough to recognize that come election day.” Goldwaithe admits, however, that the new law would affect the war in Iraq:
It goes without saying that being placed in a war zone would threaten fetal life, but this is a secondary concern. President Bush recently pledged, ‘I believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your President I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.’
The President expressed these sentiments to explain why he vetoed a bill that would have allowed federal funds for stem cell research. Embryos used for stem cell research consist of less than 200 cells. The vast majority will never develop into anything but freezer burn, and will eventually be destroyed. On the other hand, fetuses protected by the Post-Birth Act can be as much as six feet tall, and contain well over a hundred trillion cells. With proper care, all have the potential to become fully developed human beings. It’s inconceivable, pardon the phrase, that the President would refuse to protect the sanctity of life merely because it would interfere with military plans.
White House spokesman Tony Snow refused to comment directly on the proposed law, but did say that the administration would continue to support the right of a fetus to bear arms.
I’m proud that Massachusetts took the lead in recognizing the right to marry for same sex couples. The Massachusetts Supreme Court recognized that right on May 17, 2004. Despite dire predictions, the sky has stayed right where it is, and I’m not aware of any heterosexuals filing for divorce on the grounds that their marriage has been devalued. And now I’m proud again; yesterday, June 14, 2007, the Massachusetts legislature rejected a proposal that would have subjected the fundamental right to marry to a public vote.
Under Massachusetts law, a proposal to amend the constitution must be approved by two consecutive legislative sessions, then by a majority of Massachusetts voters. The proposed amendment to ban same sex marriage was approved by the legislature in January 2007 with 62 votes, and would have been put on the ballot for a vote had the proposal passed again today. The proposal needed the support of 50 voters to pass. It lost, 151 to 45, thanks, in great part, to the leadership of Governor Deval Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, Senate President Terry Murray and House Speaker Sal DiMasi. The idea that a basic human right should be subject to the whim of the majority has been defeated.
I was outside the Massachusetts State House along with hundreds of others to encourage the legislature to make the right decision. (Photos are posted here.) People on the other side of the street — and the other side of the issue — were fewer and less enthusiastic. That’s to be expected, I guess. We were supporting a community of people, couples and families. We’ve seen marriage make a real difference in real lives. Folks on the other side were concerned about an abstract idea, and a corrosive one at that. Their sense of morality is offended by the idea that two men or two women can care about each other in a relationship recognized by the state. It must be hard to be cheery about hating strangers.
By now, most people are aware of the summary holding in Gonzales v. Carhart: for the first time since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court left standing a law proscribing a particular abortion procedure without an exception to safeguard a woman’s health. Standing alone, this is a terrible result, but understanding how the decision was made is more frightening still.
In upholding the “Partial-Birth Abortion Act” (referred to here as just “the Act”), the Supreme Court’s new majority drew upon old lies about the emotional fragility of women, and the need to protect from their own decisions. The Court used this new/old lie to bypass forty years of precedent safeguarding reproductive rights. The Court allowed Congress to place political values over best medical practice, and to put women’s lives at risk. The lie at the center of Carhart could return to threaten our freedom to live according to our own values.