Posted on November 3, 2003


Vague Concerns

Pro-abortionists are selectively obtuse


Daniel Clark



Opponents of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act complain that its definition of the procedure is too vague to be understood. The Supreme Court is likely to agree with them, since it struck down Nebraska's law against partial-birth abortion in the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart case, on the basis that it was unconstitutionally vague. What's odd about this concern is that those on the pro-abortion side assume unlimited interpretive powers when specifics are truly scarce. It's only when they are confronted with blunt language that they suddenly become obtuse.

Justice Blackmun, in his usual fog

In Roe v. Wade, Justice Harry Blackmun claimed that a right to abortion can be found in a "penumbra of liberty" that resides at some undisclosed location within the language of the Constitution. A "penumbra" is a partially illuminated fringe between a lighted area and darkness -- which is to say, something vague.

The Court ruled that states could proscribe abortion after viability, except in cases where it is necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. However, in the Doe v. Bolton case it handed down the same day, it defined "health" as encompassing "all factors -- physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman's age -- relevant to the well-being of the patient." Not only do pro-abortion judges not find this definition overly broad, but they seem to have no trouble understanding the concept of "familial health." Does that term refer to genetically transmitted diseases, or does it mean that any family that is dysfunctional is an unhealthy family, and that this somehow medically justifies an abortion? Only the Shadow knows ... or maybe the Penumbra does ... or somebody.

In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the Court ruled that a state may not impose an "undue burden" on a woman's ability to procure an abortion. It acknowledged the vagueness of this language by explaining, "The concept of an undue burden has been utilized by the Court, including two of us, in ways that could be considered inconsistent." It then tried to avoid further complication by defining "undue burden" in the context of the abortion issue. "A finding of undue burden is shorthand for the conclusion that a state regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus."

But how much more precise a term is "substantial obstacle" than "undue burden"? Must the obstacle be physically substantial, or does the broader, far more subjective definition apply? Furthermore, can't a burden be "substantial" without being "undue"?

When the Supreme Court decided the Stenberg case, it determined that outlawing one particular abortion procedure -- whose defenders claim it is extremely rare anyway -- creates an "undue burden." The word "burden" here has come to mean anything that inconveniences an abortionist or a woman seeking an abortion. "Undue," a term that the Court now applies to any "burden," has been expanded to the point where it has no definitive value at all.

So deliberately imprecise is the language used in abortion-related cases that the majority opinion in Casey reads like a parody of previous pro-abortion rulings. It's apparent that Justices O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter hadn't an iota of concern for clarity when they declared the following: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." And when all else fails, they can whip the horses' eyes, and make them sleep, and cry.

the parchment of the 'living constitution'

Such nebulous emissions are not confined to the judiciary, however. They are also spewed by rank-and-file abortion advocates, whose lexicon contains virtually no words with any plain meaning at all. Someone who has no prior understanding of the euphemistic jargon of the pro-abortion movement would have a very difficult time discerning what people who profess to be "pro-choice" are talking about.

For somebody to proclaim himself to be "for choice," would mean nothing to a newcomer to the debate, because you can choose an almost infinite number of things. The word has such benign connotations that the possibility that the "chosen" thing might be a dead baby is about the last thing that would occur to anyone. The term "reproductive freedom" could mean freedom either to reproduce or not to, but it would never be taken by someone unfamiliar with the abortion issue to mean the freedom to kill an already existing child in the womb. "A woman's right to do what she wants with her own body" can mean a lot of things, from drug abuse to prostitution to self-mutilation, but it can't be literally interpreted to mean a woman's right to destroy the body of the other person she's carrying.

What would really throw a naive observer for a loop would be when the same people who speak in such puffy generalities appeared not to understand plain English. Within the pro-abortion movement, considerable confusion is expressed even over the meaning of the word "person." When confronted with the definition of a person as "a human being," they react like a TV police detective after the crime is apparently solved ten minutes into the show ("I don't like it -- It's too pat, too simple.") Self-described "bioethicists" try to divorce the word "person" from its synonym, the noun "human," by creating such categories as "human non-persons" and "non-human persons." The way they claim to see it, pigs and dolphins could at least as legitimately be called "persons" as unborn human beings.

Abortion advocates can't even be straight with each other about matters on which they presumably agree. When they held a pro-abortion event in Washington in 1995, they called it the "Rally to Save Women's Lives." In 2001, they called a similar gathering, "Emergency Action for Women's Lives." They are now planning another one for next spring, called "Save Women's Lives: March for Freedom of Choice."

These titles literally make no sense, since no abortion that is necessary to save the mother's life -- as in the tragic case of an ectopic pregnancy -- is ever going to be banned anyway. What NOW, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and other rally organizers are advocating is a "right" to "choose" abortion under all circumstances, but they are increasingly reluctant to admit this even among themselves. In order to portray their position as morally just, they have to pretend that it's in diametric opposition to where they really stand. Hence, they claim they're really saving innocent human lives.

nothing vague here

Since they leave the purpose of their rallies ill-defined, people representing other causes feel free to crash them. Indeed, this seems to be the whole idea, since it multiplies the number of participants. The pro-abortionists are typically joined at their own events by environmentalists, welfare advocates, affirmative action supporters, gun control activists and opponents of the U.S. military, all offering tortured explanations as to how they're "saving women's lives" as well. In addition, there are those who only show up for the free concert that's always a part of the event. Nevertheless, the pro-abortion organizers point to the size of the demonstrations as proof of the popular support their cause enjoys. It's as if in hindsight, they're unable to fathom anyone interpreting the phrase "saving women's lives" in any way that would exclude abortion from the definition.

Now, these people complain about the alleged vagueness of what they, and like-minded reporters, refer to as the ban on so-called "partial-birth abortion." Note that this cynicism is never applied to their own, far less accurate terminology. Never do you read about the so-called "pro-choice" movement, so-called "reproductive freedom," so-called "Planned Parenthood," or so-called "bioethicists." But then, they understand what all of those things mean, precisely because they mean what they don't say. It's words that say exactly what they mean which they find confusing.

Take, for instance, this "vague" definition of a partial-birth abortion that was written into the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003:

"As used in this section, the term "partial birth abortion" means an abortion in which the person performing the abortion deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of a breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus."

Why ... whatever do they mean by that?



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