Abortive thoughts on free speech

Here are some heretical thoughts which occurred to me after I heard complaints about this group bombarding female college students (who did not seek them out but wanted to use the student lounge) with gruesome images like these. (Interview with the group's leader here.)

Barring a time, place, and manner argument, I think the right to shock people with gruesome images (whether of aborted fetuses or children being skinned alive is irrelevant) is morally at least as permissible as is the right to display pornography. Legally, of course, it's more so.

But legal analysis is not my purpose here. (I'd defend the sign wavers's rights as much as I would Nazis, Communists, or Klansmen.) The placard wavers intend to shock people into thinking.

So I'm just thinking. (I have stated my views on abortion previously. Activists on both sides accuse me of being on "the other side" -- as if they assume there are only two.)

I recognize that abortion must be a very painful procedure. That if it is to be allowed at all in the second trimester, it's a shameful thing to do to a fetus, because that fetus now has a brain most likely capable of feeling pain. Therefore, the least the doctors could do would be to anesthetize the fetus. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Ireland is on record as recommending pre-abortion anesthesia.

But wait a minute! Isn't countenancing anesthesia an admission that the fetus feels pain? And doesn't that start us down a "slippery slope" towards condemnation of abortion?

Hey, how is that my problem? Since when did I sign an agreement either way on whether a fetus feels pain? Should politics dictate these things? I mean, if animals are anesthetized before surgery or medical experimentation, what makes a wannabe person inferior? Beats me.

In the course of researching this, I stumbled onto something else which I don't think too many people have thought about: the pain of birth.

Further, studies have found that in the early stages of labor, healthy in utero fetuses will often respond with FHR changes or movement of some kind in response to various noises and sounds produced outside the intra-uterine environment. But as the labor continues, this reaction will cease. While some have described this as an instance of fetal habituation, others state that it is rather the distraction of the overwhelming fetal pain associated with labor.
Overwhelming fetal pain? During birth? Why aren't we taught about that? The pain of the mother is now medicated almost as a matter of routine, but what about the baby?

These days, they're starting to require anesthesia for circumcision, which occurs soon after birth. What's so special about the baby's pain after labor which isn't so special before?

Or are we still clinging to the ancient idea that pain builds character? Before readers laugh, I would remind them that during the Victorian era, when anesthesia was first coming into use, some doctors refused to countenance it, based on the sincere belief that it would harm their patients' character.

Is it heresy to ask whether the pain to the fetus of full-term labor is worse than the pain of abortion? I think it's a logical question, and I have to thank the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.

They have failed, however, to persuade me a fertilized ovum is a human being. And I think their inflammatory approach, while constitutionally protected, is creating lifelong animosity towards their cause. The young women who had no choice but to view the huge placards (and read the signs claiming "genocide" and likening women who've had abortions to Adolf Hitler) are merely becoming desensitized. And angry at those trying to manipulate them.

I found myself thinking about these things when I read this news report about the peculiarly large numbers of college age women in Washington last week:

More college-age women showed up than usually attend abortion-rights rallies, which tend to be dominated by older women. If that translates into increased voting in November by young women - a group that usually does not vote in high numbers - it could help Democrats in a close election.

The people who complained about the placard wavers are not political activists in the least. I know them. They were really fried that people who are unable to distinguish between a knocked up teenager and Adolf Hitler were waving these images at them.

It's a free country, and I support free speech as much as anyone else. But illogical assaults on the senses are not the best way to win converts to your cause.

posted by Eric on 04.30.04 at 07:05 PM










Comments

For what it's worth - I'm not a doctor - but when I gave birth to my son I was refused anesthetic of any sort. He was so very premature they were afraid it would damage him. It may be one thing to anesthesize a fetus that's being aborted and another to do it to one that's going to live.

Sadly ironic, but there you go.

Persnickety   ·  May 1, 2004 11:25 AM

The "in-your-face" rudeness of these pro-lifers (emulating tactics of Leftist protesters) and the dishonesty of so many pro-choicers are both alienating. I used to be ardently pro-choice but I can no longer align myself with people who can't even say the word "abortion" (it's all "reproductive freedom", "women's health", etc., instead). Abortion may or may not be murder, but it is killing. It may be justified killing, as in hunting or war or self-defense, but it is killing none the less, and the pro-abortionists don't even have the guts to acknowledge that fact. It is hard for me to see a fertilized ovum as a human being. It's equally hard for me to see a fully-developed fetus as anything less.


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