Last week I was struck in the forehead with clairvoyance. Sounds odd, but I just didn't realize it at the time.
I was writing about a bill introduced in the South Dakota legislature that would have the unfortunate effect of making it legal to assassinate doctors willing to perform abortions. The author of the bill said it had nothing to do with abortion, but at least one co-sponsor contradicted him, and the language of the bill listed circumstances of justifiable homicide. One was to prevent actions committed "in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child." I made what I thought was a clever point.
You believe, really believe, human life begins at conception, and ought to have the full protection of the law? So how about changing the law to allow the assassination of any doctor willing to perform an abortion?
It sounds like a debating point, joining countless other reductio ad absurdum arguments. How about investigating every miscarriage with an eye to charging the woman with negligent homicide? How about outlawing in vitro fertilization, since countless fertilized eggs are discarded to give one zygote a better chance of survival? Most fertilized eggs never make it to the uterine wall, and are discharged undetected. Must every woman submit to examination by conservative authorities after sexual activity, just in case?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Abortion opponents roll their eyes. That sort of argument, take-the-opposition-to-its-extreme, can be turned around as well. You don't want to kill a baby the moment it is born? What about the moment before? How about a month before? And on and on. As reductio goes, so goes absurdum.
Silly me. "How about investigating every miscarriage with an eye to charging the woman with negligent homicide?" is a suggestion that has already been proposed by Republicans in the state of Georgia.
The proposed law defines a fetus as a legally protected person from the moment of conception, a moment the egg medically becomes a zygote. It defines the killing of that cell as murder. And, in the event of a later miscarriage, "the proper investigating official shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall prepare and file the report within 30 days."
Every miscarriage must be investigated with an eye to charging the woman with murder. Other circumstances which should be reported to authorities include "knowledge or facts concerning any birth, death, spontaneous fetal death, marriage, induced termination of pregnancy, divorce, dissolution of marriage, or annulment."
The bill is a logical extension of the principle of personhood at conception. When the sperm hits the egg, the chances of survival are not all that good. Fertilized eggs compete to get the uterine wall where there is some chance to go on to develop. So there are many reasons a sexually active woman may have to defend herself to suspicious authorities. Illegal miscarriage is only one milestone to which anti-abortion logic can lead.
In Georgia, reductio is on its way to becoming absurdum.
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