Politics, Science

by me on 22.07.2008 - 00:08  

It is strange how we humans like to draw lines. From the time we are small, and draw the imaginary line down the middle of the backseat of the car to keep our sibling away from us, we seem to think we can draw lines to separate things. And, usually we seem to want straight lines. But nature is not that way. Our lines twist and turn, become blurred and erode away. We create laws and rules based on what we think is black and white. But it isn't.

Life seems to be a continuum. We start out as a single cell, not much more than amoebae, really. When do we become a human? There are so many ifs along the way. If the egg is fertilized. If the egg is implanted. If the placenta develops correctly. There is no magic moment when suddenly this cell has multiplied and grown enough to be considered human. There is no magic moment when an embryo becomes a fetus or a fetus becomes a baby. There is no magic moment when the fetus can survive outside of the womb. There are only likelihoods. So, what does this mean? It means we do not know, and to me, that means that each woman has to decide for herself what is best for herself and her fetus. Sure, a fetus has the potential to become a human. But the woman is here, now, and has needs and thoughts that I cannot possibly know or judge. It is her life that will be turned upside down, and she needs to decide which way to turn it.

But, the legislature in South Dakota thinks it knows when we become a human. They apparently believe that pretty much as soon as the egg is fertilized it is a "whole, separate, unique living human being". South Dakota is now requiring that medical providers present a statement (written by all of those medical doctors and researchers in the legislature, presumably) to women that are seeking abortions. This statement will inform women that an abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being." Where did they get that from? Last time I checked separating a fetus from its mother will kill it, so how can it be a separate human being? The Human Nature Blog at has a great essay about the whole separation thing. The doctor is also suppose to inform the woman that she has "an existing relationship" with the fetus, that is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and that "her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated" if she has an abortion. I have no idea what that is suppose to mean. Does that mean that if she keeps the fetus than the government will help pay for the medical cost of delivery and child rearing? No, I suspect it means, well, nothing. The statement also goes on and on about the possible repercussions to the woman's emotional and mental health if she has an abortion, and requires the woman be given "A statement setting forth an accurate rate of deaths due to abortions, including all deaths in which the abortion procedure was a substantial contributing factor". Funny how it doesn't mention the dangers to her emotional and mental health if she has a baby, and last time I checked, there is a higher risk of death and complications in childbirth than abortions.

So, having written this, I went on a google quest to see if it is really the case that abortion is safer than childbirth. Turns out, it depends on whether you ask someone who is pro-no-choice or pro-choice. No surprise there. What was surprising was the lack of statistics in general. The only scientific paper I ran across, gave these statistics (for maternal death):

    * 1/1,000,000 with surgical abortion through 63 days gestation
    * 1/100,000 with medical abortion through 63 days gestation
    * 1/100,000 with miscarriage
    * 1/10,000 with a term delivery

This was in a paper called 'Mifepristone-Misoprostol Medical Abortion Mortality' published in MedGenMed. 2006; 8(2): 26.

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