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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin and Abortion: [Somewhat] Sound in Logic, Bad in Practice

And Also: A pretty good definition of "religion" via a Justice Frankfurter opinion: "man's belief or disbelief in the verity of some transcendental idea, and man's expression in action of that belief or disbelief."

[Added (Somewhat) in the title given the first section of this entry -- the not making women criminals isn't really consistent.]

Salon flagged an emotionally hard-hitting new ad campaign raising the point that Sarah Palin would not make an exception for rape as a matter of legal policy. The website in question also flags the relevant Couric/Palin interview segment. The breadth of her personal position is suggested by her opposition to the morning after pill, though she does not make an official campaign position on the point. But, this is telling:
Palin: I'm saying that, personally, I would counsel the person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And, um, if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally [sic] here, should anyone end up in jail for having an abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support.

Pragmatically, her "no jail" position might be "consistent," but if a "baby" is involved, why not? What if she had two or more abortions? If she was desperate, and a friend helped her, should that person get jail time? A person who gives her an "abortion pill?" It belittles women to suggest only those evil abortion doctors should get punished legally as if she did not consent in the abortion, and if is criminal, should get punished too. Taken to its logical conclusion, this selective prosecution policy would lead to some rather interesting results.

Palin's personal position can be attacked, just as it makes sense to oppose personal opinions that lead to troubling results, and can even be seen as consistent. This does not make it right or good public policy. To underline the point, I answered this reply to the Salon post:
(1) that in a world in which the fetus is a innocent person, no matter how small, Palin's logic is sound, (2) that rape is not a statistically significant reason that abortion on demand could not be limited in at least some form in other circumstances, and (3) that in a post-Roe world, most states would likely allow exceptions for the circumstances described in the video, are all valid.

I also think that it is logical to hold that rape is not always the "best" argument for an abortion, even if you include "statutory" rape (interesting way to bring in many teen pregnancies). A woman who is raped very well might be able to handle a pregnancy and birth more than various others who wish to have an abortion. Examples can be supplied, I'm sure.

Likewise, if you think the embryo/fetus is a "baby," rape very well might not justify it in this case by itself. Others on the thread suggest logic isn't really key here -- see the authoritarian/blame the woman discussion -- but for logic sake, sure, we can put that aside. And, yes, it's a very small sub-set of abortions.

But, this doesn't really help Palin. Fact is, the electorate as a whole isn't as absolutist as she is. When faced with such extreme cases, we generally see how nuanced our positions truly are. Likewise, as that statutory rape issue suggests, some not quite extreme cases start to seem closer than they might think, close enough to not justify illegality.

What is rape, for instance? As a matter of lack of true consent, it probably amounts to much more than what is likely to be made criminal, surely proven. So "statistically" it really might be much more than one might think and not really addressed by post-Roe laws. Btw, Roe itself took place in a state that had no rape exception. Finally, even if only a small number of girls/women are hurt, it is such a terrible class, that the risk is particularly troublesome.

So, Palin very well might have a "valid" opinion. This doesn't make it true. Or, one held by someone I want as the leader of my state or potentially, my nation.

[We need more such replies, but at times, we find it so hard to take an "assume for the sake of argument" approach, even when we very well might come out the same place at the end as we believe all along.]