Defensive Medicine At Its Most Offensive

I don’t like to write about abortion. The legendary talk show host Jerry Williams summed it up best with his 3 observations: 1) Everyone already has an opinion on the matter; 2) Nobody’s likely to change their mind on it; and 3) There really hasn’t been much new to say in over 30 years on the topic.

Personally, I describe myself as “squishily pro-choice.” I disagree with it and think it’s wrong, but I’m nowhere near secure enough in my beliefs to impose them on others.

That being said, I have to say that this story seriously disturbed me.

In response to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, many abortion providers in Boston and around the country have adopted a defensive tactic. To avoid any chance of partially delivering a live fetus, they are injecting fetuses with lethal drugs before procedures.

I can’t truly say I blame the doctors. They’re trying desperately to comply with a new law that is vague about what it prohibits, but very clear about the penalty. Advocates of the Partial Birth Abortion law said specifically that it was not intended to be a broad measure to reduce abortions across the board, but merely target one specific procedure — but the wording is loose enough to cause concern. And where “concern” can be translated to “two years in prison,” a little paranoia could be a very healthy thing.

I don’t have a ready answer to the questions it poses, but a part of me insists that this is precisely the sort of thing that happens when issues like abortion are resolved at the federal level, and not the state. In state politics, the lawmakers are (theoretically) closer to the people and more responsive to their will. Also, the big players in national politics have somewhat less influence, as they find they have to sway 50 different, independent legislatures.

I think that this is, ultimately, the result of the push during the 60’s and 70’s to try to fix everything from the federal level. It was that mentality that demanded that abortion be declared a national issue and settled not by the several states, but by the United States Supreme Court. The federal system is a blunt instrument, not adept for fine work, and such things as abortion and medical ethics and other similarly knotty issues need precision and nuance that Washington is just not known for.

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