There’s a scrap of video going around, which I’m not going to link to because it’s expired from the Memeorandum page and whine whine whine…oh, OK: It’s here. But you don’t need to watch it. It’s a compilation of talking-head interviews with people at an anti-abortion demonstration. The questioner asks them two questions: Should abortions be legal or illegal? Everyone replies, “Illegal,” of course — they’re demonstrating against it. Well then, the interviewer presses on, how should women who get abortions be punished?
Hem, haw. I dunno. Haven’t thought about it. “Prayer.” “Counseling.” And so on.
It’s a mild little piece of propaganda, and I don’t take it as gospel because it’s obviously coming from one side of the question and who knows? Maybe lots of people said, “Hang and flay the bitch!” and those interviews were left out. But it is safe to say that in the national conversation, not much time has been spent discussing this. Savvier pro-lifers have been wise about their talking points — the “two victims” of abortion, the “one dead, one wounded” argument. But if any have stated their bottom line, it hasn’t been clear. Which is:
OK, so we say abortion is murder. How do you punish a woman who has one? Hem, haw.
If any penalties come up in the discussion, it’s those prescribed for medical personnel who perform or assist in the procedure. But how about that big Tupperware container who showed up, placed the order and wrote the check? Oh, her. Well. Um. Perhaps her “wounding” will be punishment enough. But I doubt it.
This is one reason that while I don’t welcome recent events in South Dakota, I’m certain they’ll be interesting on many levels, and not in the Chinese-curse sense of the word. Let’s put our cards on the table. Lock up doctors? Lock up women? What are you willing to do?
A few years ago I read one of those articles that makes you happy you subscribe to The New Yorker. It was about nausea, maybe 4,000 words on this simple physical reaction and how and why it affects us the way it does. I was hooked from the second paragraph, in which it was explained that a man who breaks his ankle on a ski slope tomorrow will suffer great pain but, with proper care and rehab, will likely be back skiing this time next year. Whereas a man who overdoes it on tequila in the ski lodge tonight may never touch tequila again for the rest of his life, may well start to heave at the very smell of it for years and years to come. I love to read stuff like that. Such a simple observation, and yet.
Anyway, one of the through-line narratives in the piece was about a woman with a condition called hyperemesis of pregnancy, in which the normal morning sickness of early pregnancy becomes 24-7 puking for the entire nine-month term. It is a leading motivator for later-term abortions, contrary to the propaganda, which says women choose these procedures for fun and waistline-preservation.
The descriptions of the symptoms were nausea-inducing themselves — women are absolutely flattened by this. It’s not a question of being confined to dry toast and applesauce, it’s about long-term hospitalization and IV nutrition and life-threatening dehydration and still, even with medication, overwhelming nausea for months on end.
Of course, suffering is in the eye of the one who suffers. What one woman can endure another cannot. The woman in the story gutted it out and hung in there and had her baby and was happy she did (although I think it’s safe to say she never had another). Others can’t do it and throw in the towel. Anyone who’s had a bout of stomach flu can at least empathize.
So where do we draw the line here? What do we tell the weaker woman? Sorry, sister, but you have to go through this? Sorry if you can’t keep a glass of water down, but your condition isn’t life-threatening? What about the doctor who performs an abortion to relieve this woman’s suffering?
Let’s have the conversation. Let’s find out who the pro-lifers think are the criminals here. And how they’d punish them.
On the lighter side, Jon Carroll has some ideas about how we can all become South Dakota residents, for purposes of voter registration and influencing elections. It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.
Big Busy Period of spring 2006 is winding up, at the end of which I hope to send invoices for several hefty paydays. That’s why I’ve been half-here and distracted. I’m also closely watching — and you Fort Wayne readers may want to click through — the next phase in the possible Knight Ridder sale, which will affect whether or not you have an afternoon newspaper this time next year. (Personally, I think things have entered the George Burns stage, i.e., don’t buy any green bananas. We shall see.) But here’s the money quote:
“The bottom line on Knight Ridder papers is that in order to make these deals work, someone has to get extremely aggressive with costs,” said Frederick W. Searby, an analyst with J. P. Morgan. “There’s no question that this means that any buyer has to go in with a very, very sharp knife and trim the fat and maybe into the muscles to get this to work.”
Hello, one-newspaper town.
UPDATE: In a nice convergence, here we have a wussified newspaper unwilling not only to ask the questions, but even to discuss the issue. How nice.