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Can We Talk About This 'Abortion Up Until The Moment Of Birth' Nonsense?
There's a lot that even abortion rights supporters aren't getting here.
Republicans have started to realize that their radical anti-abortion policies are not exactly overwhelmingly popular with the general public, even in the reddest of states. Thus, many of them are now trying to paint Democrats as the extremists, claiming that if abortion rights supporters have their way, people will be having abortions "right up until the moment of birth."
In debates and discussions, they've been leaning hard on this, because they think it is the ultimate gotcha question. If they can get the abortion rights supporter to "admit" that it is bad to kill viable fetuses the day before the mother goes into labor, they can then call out those who oppose restrictions as especially radical and then work backwards to justify restricting abortion in other ways. If the supporter stumbles, tries to explain that what they are thinking happens doesn't actually happen, or tries to justify it in the usual ways we explain why abortion is necessary, they do the "Then why can't it be illegal?" or "See! It's clear that you just love human sacrifice!" shuffle.
Now, the actual fact is that this does not happen. No one under the care of a doctor is carrying a baby for nine months and then deciding "Eh, you know what? I think I'm gonna pass." There are not doctors who are killing viable fetuses who can live outside the womb for no reason. We all understand this. We understand that it is a ridiculous fantasy scenario concocted by people who, I'm pretty sure, don't actually believe it happens either.
But because we understand this, it can be sometimes awkward to explain why there can't be any restrictions in place saying "this can only happen to save the life of the mother." If it doesn't happen , what's the problem with making it illegal? Other than that, by making something illegal, you are more or less conceding that it does or could happen. This is why we have no regulations on flying elephants.
The problem, however, is already right in our faces.
In states that have "life of the mother" exceptions on their terrible abortion bans, we are already seeing patients' health being harmed because doctors are not sure where they can actually draw the line. They are waiting to treat people in medical emergencies, because they need to check with a panel or committee first, and because they are afraid that someone will come along and say "That wasn't enough of an emergency and now you are going to prison or losing your license."
This is not something that can or should be regulated by the state. It is something that should be — can only be — decided between a doctor and patient. A doctor needs to be able to act quickly in the event of an emergency and being hampered by the state puts the patient in danger.
The issue is not "Should people have the right to abort a baby the day before they are set to give birth?" but "Should we put patients at risk by not letting their doctors act quickly to do what is necessary to preserve their lives and health over a thing that doesn't actually happen?" Or to put it in a way the more libertarian among them might understand "To what extent should the state be allowed to regulate things that do not actually happen, particularly in cases where those regulations may cause direct harm to individuals?"
This kind of discussion comes up not just on television, but on social media and family dinners. It's a question that is even often asked by less-well-informed people but not necessarily malicious people who have been told that we are all in favor of no-reason-day-before-birth abortions and want to know what the deal is with that. The ground war here is just as important as anything else and as stupid as this talking point is, it's worth discussing how to address it effectively.
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