Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New York's abortion battle heats up....

To begin with: I support abortion rights.

I refuse to equivocate any more and call myself Pro-Choice.

I also refuse to give up my gut-wrenching objection to abortion as a practice.

But I believe that a woman's right to control her own body trumps the State's so-called right to intrude therein.

So given that I'm a bundle of contradictions, this one's tough. New York Governor Elliot Spitzer is lobbying hard to have the Empire State legislature pass a law declaring abortion a "fundamental right." Opponents--which in NY State always includes a high percentage of my fellow Catholics--believe that this bill is aimed at creating a slippery slope, at whose bottom they will find religious hospitals required to perform abortions.

Not so, respond the bill's supporters.

So here's the controversy:

Church officials say the act goes much further. Among their concerns is a provision that expands the field of people who may legally perform abortions. The legislation would extend authority beyond physicians to "qualified, licensed health care practitioners." They also say the bill would eliminate the possibility of placing new restrictions on abortion, such as parental notification, informed consent laws, and waiting periods.

They say they are most troubled by a section that states that the "the state shall not discriminate against the exercise of the rights … in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information."

"If they grant us a license, which is a state action, they will be discriminating," a legal coordinator for the archdiocese, Edward Mechmann, said. "The right to abortion would have more protection under New York's law than the right to free exercise of religion."

Spitzer administration officials dispute the church's interpretation, arguing that a "conscience clause" provision in state law allowing physicians to refuse to perform abortions for religious reasons and federal laws prohibiting the federal government from requiring doctors, hospitals, or clinics to perform abortions would protect Catholic hospitals and social-service agencies from legal penalties.

"Nobody will be required to perform an abortion," an assistant counsel to the governor, Lisa Ullman, said in an interview.

I have to be honest in that I think the Catholic Church is gazing over a slippery slope that in this instance exists only in the minds of the Bishops. Despite various blog and talk radio reports, I can't find anything that seriously moves in the direction of telling hospitals, "OK, buddy, get that gurney rolling. I'm here with the D&C police to make sure you take care of this young woman's mistake."

However, I am extremely troubled by the idea that New York is moving to let "qualified, licensed health care practitioners," who need not necessarily be doctors, handle abortions. This seems to open the doors for physician's assistant, nurse practitioners, or even midwives to offer abortion services. That scares me. Abortion is generally considered surgery, and surgery is generally considered the province of doctors.

But if you have only heard of this issue in sound bites over the past couple of days, you really need to read the article.

[Almost completely tangential aside to Jason, should he ever drift by:

Which Yoda?

1) The animatronic robot with no brain in The Empire Strikes Backs, whose lines are written by a millionaire movie producer?


2) The fictive dwarf Jedi Knight who, instead of sticking around to organize the resistance, ran away to a swamp world and brewed himself tea while the Death Star sterilized entire planets?

It seems to me that the only person Yoda would have the moral authority to tweak would be, oh I don't know, a second-rate actor playing a late-blooming teenager who fell in love with his own sister....]

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