The death of US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg led to a frenzy of political, legal and medical speculation. President Trump immediately made clear his intention to replace her with a judge sympathetic to his political beliefs, which is what all presidents do and is entirely constitutional. The Democrats are outraged. The matter has grave implications for the American political and legal system. It widens the awful divide in America on many issues, especially abortion.
The death of Ginsburg and the choice of her replacement has awakened ancient debate about the political role of judges. We are sometimes told judges don’t make law, but of course they do. The Common Law is nothing but a collection of precedents by judges’ decisions that become the law of the land. Should American Supreme Court judges just interpret the Constitution or should they decide policy? The Republicans believe the former; the Democrats are leaning towards the latter, and believe Ginsburg was on their side and fear her replacement will not be.
Ginsburg passed judgments on abortion, and it is this that most excites America and causes the greatest hostility between its two partisan camps. Abortion is an extraordinarily difficult matter, and needs rational, scientific assessment, which it almost never gets. I shall give it now.
I am an atheist. I believe that there is nothing but the physical world, that there is no soul and that our earthly bodies are all we have. Religious people believe otherwise but I think the state should approach the matter considering the body alone. Evolution has put morality into my brain, which tells me it is usually wrong to take human life. How do you define human life? A religious person might say it becomes human when the soul descends into it. I can’t say that.
Moment of conception
I have no alternative but to define a human life as an independent living entity controlled by human DNA. That entity comes into existence at the moment of conception. The first cell of the new being in the womb is a full human being. To kill it is to take a human life. It is essential that everyone realises that and admits it.
Surely this is very unfair on women? Of course. Nature is not fair; it is cruelly unjust and nowhere more than in the matter of making a baby. The man’s part is a brief, easy act, causing him probably the greatest pleasure of his life. The woman’s part is nine months of burden followed by what is probably the greatest agony of her life. Moreover, childbirth is dangerous for women; humans have by far the most difficult births in the animal kingdom (because human babies have large heads).
Abortion means killing a human being. But there are many occasions when it is legal to kill a human being, such as in war or in self-defence when your own life is threatened. Doctors regularly kill people by taking old, terminally ill patients off life-support machines to help younger patients with a good chance of recovery. I want to be allowed to kill myself if I am suffering crippling disability. Similarly we should be allowed to kill the unborn baby under certain circumstances, such as rape or danger to the health of the mother or the baby. The unborn baby is always a human being but it goes through different stages of development and consciousness, and you could decide that, at the early stage of development, the unborn baby has fewer rights. The only legal questions should be to decide under what circumstances and at what stage of development abortion should be allowed. That would be a matter for doctors and scientists.
Supporters of both extremes in the debate refuse logic. Both refuse to answer direct questions and instead shout and get hysterical. Examples of such questions:
To a religious ‘Pro-life’ believer who says all life is sacred: ‘If a 12-year-old girl were raped by her father and became pregnant after one day, would you not allow a doctor to flush out the foetus (unborn baby)?’
To a ‘Pro-Choice’ fanatic: ‘Do you think a woman should be allowed to have an abortion at the moment labour (dilation) begins?’ This was exactly the law proposed by Democrat Delegate Kathy Tran in Virginia last year. At that stage the baby cannot be pulled out in one piece and has to be chopped up in the womb with a pair of long, sharp pliers, ripping out legs, arms and other parts, crushing the baby’s skull and sucking out the brains. (I suppose you could also do a Caesarian section, take out the baby intact and then kill her.)
Both questions will be answered by screams. ‘Anti-Christ!’ ‘You want to deny a woman’s right to control her own body!’ (Actually the unborn baby is not part of the mother’s body even if she is inside it. She is a different living entity.)
Science, sympathy and sense are needed on abortion now. Let’s hope they come when America calms down.
[Picture: Nikos Apelaths from Pixabay]
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR