The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Protect the right to choose

OP/ED
 Protect the right to choose
Protect the right to choose

Protect the right to choose

Few issues inspire more heated rhetoric than the pro-life,pro-choice abortion debate. In all likelihood, the next presidentwill get to appoint at least two justices to the Supreme Courtwhich could change things. For now, though, the guiding command ofRoe v. Wade (that women have a right to an abortion) is firmly setas the law of the land.

Not being able to take on this main issue of abortion rights,those who oppose the practice have turned their attention to sideissues such as parental consent laws and securing the right toprotest outside of clinics that provide abortion services.Pro-choice advocates, on the other hand, have staunchly opposedthese efforts which they fear will have a chilling effect onabortion rights, as well as possibly being used later as afoundation to launch further legal or legislative challenges.

Framing all such issues as merely adjunct to the abortion debateprevents their full and adequate consideration, for many of themare full issues in their own right and should be given weight assuch. The creation of criminal statutes that would allow indictmentof individuals for the murder of an unborn child is such an issueon which there is little clear thinking, because it is overshadowedby its connection to the abortion debate. Such laws, both at thestate and federal levels, have been getting more attention sincethe high profile case of Laci Peterson, who was pregnant at thetime of her murder.

In the public debate on this issue, things quickly polarizealong the same lines as the abortion debate — pro-liferssupporting such laws because they view it as granting rights to afetus, and pro-choicers opposing it because they view it as anattempt to begin to undermine abortion rights, but this breakdowndoesn’t have to be so. Those who support abortion rightscould support such fetus protecting legislation for the same reasonthat they advocate for a woman’s right to choose.

While not always readily apparent, abortion rights and relatedlaws share a common underlying belief that it is only up to thewoman, not the state or any other individual to determine whether apregnancy should be terminated. While victories in the court havesecured the right for women to choose not to carry a baby to term,these laws would also help protect a woman’s choice to carrya baby to term. Having such a common interest in protecting awoman’s prerogative, these laws are completely compatiblewith a woman’s right to choose.

Despite this fact many argue that the two would be in conflict— on the one hand providing fetuses with the protection andrights of the law so as to allow legal recourse in case of murderwhile on the other hand allowing a woman to choose to terminate thesame life. This duality is better alleviated when the word”murder” is better defined within this context since ithas become such a charged word in anti-abortion rhetoric. Theselaws would not make the murder of a fetus punishable across theboard so as to allow abortion doctors to be charged with murder.Rather such legislation could be narrowly targeted to only punishthe non-consensual termination of pregnancy, either as a resultfrom a specific violence against the fetus, or as a result fromviolence against the mother.

One main reason why abortion-right advocates have become soentrenched on this issue is that they view it, along with partialbirth abortion bans and parental consent laws, as a strategicattempt to gradually erode the rights established in Roe.Specifically in this case, they wish to prevent future argumentsagainst abortion that would seek to outlaw if either the state orthe federal government recognizes a fetus as an individual withrights. But such laws would not necessarily have to equate a fetuswith a person as they could outlaw the “murder of a person orfetus,” thus keeping them as two legally distinct entities.By crafting the legislation in this manner it would prevent suchlaws designed to protect from becoming a foundation forchallenges.

Clearly, though laying such a foundation is the goal of some whoback these laws, that motivation alone is not a reason enough tooppose them. By fully evaluating these issues in their own rightand not as merely a side issue of the larger abortion debate, clearthinking can prevail. While with appropriate caution as to thewording of legislation, those who support a woman’s right tochoose abortion should just as ardently seek to protect awoman’s right to choose to have her baby and support thepassage of laws designed to protect both rights.

 

Sean West is a senior political science major. He may bereached at [email protected].

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