Monday, December 23, 2002

Attack of the RIMLIDs-Chris Burgwald has a thoughtful piece on Bill Frist and what might be called "moderate pro-lifers"
The Senator is pro-life except in the instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is threatened. This is, of course, a barely intelligible argument. What is the only reason to be pro-life? Because one acknowledges the humanity & personhood of the embryo. But if the embryo is acknowledged as being a human person, on what grounds can abortion in the case of rape & incest be considered morally licit?
I've called Frist's position RIMLID (rape, incest, mother's life in danger) which is a common stance among many moderate conservatives; Bob Dole had that stance. First, let's look at the life-of the-mother case. I heard of a case this morning involving a friend of my sister who attends a conservative church. She had an ectopic (IIRC) pregnancy that would have killed her and most likely the child as well. The pro-lifers at her church supported the decsion to have an abortion in this case, since at least one person would survive. Such cases are rare, but when they do occur, it would seem to be the right thing to do, just as killing off one Siamese twin if the both couldn't survive together would be a life-maximizing position. However, you have a different issue with rape. I'm going to concider incest a subset of rape here, for most cases of incest are essentally statutory rape where either a father or older brother forces the issue. With a rape-conceived pregnancy, you have a trade-off of eight months of torture for the mother (assuming we're a month in by the time an abortion is comtemplated), having to have a painful living reminder of the attack growing inside her. That needs to be weighed against the value of the unborn life. For the person who believes the unborn child to be fully human and worthy of protection, eight months of pain don't justify the taking of another life. However, if you view the fetus as something of value, but something short of fully human, then you could justify tipping the scales in favor of allowing an abortion. This is the opinion of most people. If you gave three options (Fully human, something of value but not fully human or just a blob of protoplasm) the plurality, and likely the majority, of Americans would choose the second option. This allows people to be nominally pro-choice while opposing partial-birth abortion or being in favor of other restrictions short of a full ban. Those people who view the fetus as something of value that falls short of fully human can place differing values on that life. Some give little value to it, or not enough to want to make abortion illegal. Others will have the scales tip towards the baby after the first trimester. Others will side with the baby in most cases, but side with the right to abortion is special cases such as rape or fetal deformity. Rape brings out the soft side in many people, for the rape victim wasn't merely trying to clean up the mess from an episode of sexual gratification, tipping the scales in favor of the abortion. You have to have a strong value of the baby's worth to stick to a life-of-the-mother only standard. I was there once, as a generic theist, not quite buying the idea of treating the baby as a child in full, but knowing that I would be likely be answerable to some God that I couldn't define and wanting to do the lesser of the two evils. Having a high value for the child, I opted in my mind to have the gal carry the child to term. The Isaiah quotes didn't do much for me; sonograms did more. I still look at abortion that way, weighing the pain of the remainder of the pregnancy with the loss of a life (fully human in my eyes today), and come down on the side of the baby, baring the awfull situation where both will die unless the baby's aborted. Those people who have a high, but not ultimate, value on the unborn child need to be coaxed toward a fuller understanding of life.

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