This article appeared in the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 3/29/99
Page B4, Opinion; Copyright 1999 by Beth David

Profound double standard underlies abortion debate

Ever read the parody of instructions on preparing for a mammogram, a.k.a., the squish & click, crush & burn? The whole technique of mammography separates a woman's breasts from her body. Presumably this will make it easier to cut them off if necessary.

The theory seems to be: If you convince women that they are collections of body parts instead of whole human beings, then you can rank those parts and, therefore, women. And when a woman is pregnant, her uterus ranks No. 1. Her whole life and body exist solely to expend themselves for the embryonic being that is a part of her.

Anti-abortion activists speak romantically, even poetically, of a pregnant women being two people, with the one in utero deserving all the rights, including a pre-emptive right to life itself. And the woman? Well, she should resign herself to the fact that she resigned her rights when she got pregnant. Whether she wanted to be or not. Whether she was forced or not. Whether she is physically or emotionally healthy or not.

But even if you do believe that these are two separate beings inextricably entwined by a unique bond of nature, there's still a basic flaw to the logic of outlawing abortion and particularly the D&X procedure.

The great truth that uncovers the great hypocrisy? No woman should be forced by law to sacrifice her life for another. I know of no law that forces a man to.

A woman is expected to lop off her breast to save her life. Isn't she foolish to hang on to any body part that is killing her? But when she is pregnant, her uterus enjoys a different status. And she's supposed to surrender to this being inside of her, the very thing endangering her life.

The D&X procedure is not done on a whim. Banning it with no exception for the life and health of the woman constitutes nothing short of a murderous attack on women with problem pregnancies and pregnant women who suffer serious injury.

Imagine if we passed a law forcing a father to donate his kidney to his child. We won't even force convicted felons to give up a lock of hair for a DNA bank. Imagine if we made fathers give their hearts or livers. Of course not. That's absurd.

Imagine legally mandating that a father sacrifice his life to a child that is literally killing him. Imagine requiring this father to succumb, letting his life ebb away because the law deems the child innocent and the father not innocent, simply by virtue of his predicament. Downright stupid, you say? Only because it's men we're talking about.

If we ban the D&X procedure, we force a woman to sacrifice her own life for the very thing endangering her life.

Imagine mandating by law that a man back down from an assault, whether it's a gun-wielding maniac or a life-threatening injury. Ridiculous. Un-American.

If someone points a gun at a child but offers to shoot her father instead, we may think it noble for dad to take the bullet. But can we demand it by law? I think not. But the anti-abortion movement works to legally require that a woman give her life for a "child" that is not even born.

Running into a flame-engulfed house to save a child might be heroic, but it's also foolish. And people will try to hold you back, even if your very own 6-year-old is inside. Because there is no logic in both of you dying. Unless of course you're a pregnant woman. Then, you'd better just resign yourself to the fact that you resigned your right to life when you became pregnant.

The anti-abortionists in Massachusetts are calling for another vote on the D&X ban. They think they have the upper hand because they use the word "gruesome" to describe the procedure. We also use the word "gruesome" -- when a woman dies because she is denied life-saving medical care. But the self-righteous "right-to-lifers" don't want to talk about that. Because they're not talking about women when they say "right to life."


Beth David owns YASNY Designs in Fairhaven.