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July 31, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)

Maria Mamyko

MOUNTING TWO CHAIRS

Imitating anti-abortion fervor, George W. Bush fools American believers

BUSH'S JOUST FOR MORAL VALUES

In the postindustrial era, abortion has become a programmatic point of a tacit declaration of women's rights. Any infringement on a lady's right to exterminate her progeny before birth rouses a global-scale upsurge of feministic fervor, promising woe to anyone who dares to legally constrain this freedom.

In his first election campaign, George W. Bush was brave enough to criticize abortion practice. Despite his father's authority and the numb performance of his rival, he managed to win with a narrow margin, and largely due to vigorous support from a number of religious associations. Bush's team has thus learnt a lesson, later displaying a far more cautious approach to "women's values".

The declared crusade for embryo rights was curbed at the start. The January 2001 bill on abortions, signed by the President, prohibits artificial termination of pregnancy only in case its term exceeds 12 weeks. Thus, Bush's team just legally approved the veto, long implemented in most of the Western nations, though the media orchestration portrayed the President as a gallant knight of morality.

In fact, complete prohibition of abortions could be followed with a huge amount of legal suits and public protests, undermining the whole American political system. In the United States, abortion is a flourishing and diversified "branch of industry", with powerful lobbyist organizations like the National Abortion Federation (NAF), National Abortions and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and other agencies, advocating the woman's right for abortion through "education", traditionally along with advertising particular abortion clinics.

Already two days after the President introduced his modestly curtailed initiative, his own spouse told in an interview to NBC channel that the 1973 Resolution of the Supreme Court on legitimacy of abortions can't be revised. Bush had to comment that a husband and a wife may differ in views. Thus, the balance of opponents and fanatics of abortions was abided on a family level.

In 2003, Bush had to submit to religious activists, refusing to allocate subsidies for the UN-sponsored program of family planning centers. The White House expressed its reluctance to support abortions as a method of birth control. In February 2005, Washington even sponsored an amendment to a UN draft, in fact favoring prohibition of abortions. Still, the majority was predictably unavailable, thus reducing the value of the US initiative to a mere populist gesture.

 

A "SCIENTIFIC" WARRANTY

Inconsistency of policy is visible in any issue related to the abovementioned anti-abortion bill. Logically, prohibition of abortions should be followed with particular efforts for improvement of obstetric and gynecological treatment. Though the US health care system is capable of sustaining life in 6-month babies, with a weight over 500 g, pregnancy of a term below 12 weeks is not considered in the United States as pregnancy as such. In plain words, American medicine does not offer adequate rescue in case of relevant emergency. Moreover, assistance to a baby with a weight below 500 g is not guaranteed. The above mentioned bill is also conditioned with a broad array of medical conditions under which abortion can be performed on any term of pregnancy. Though a negative forecast frequently appears unsubstantiated, every woman is proposed to donate the fetus for needs of science, under the only strict condition of gratuitousness. Thus, a lady may legitimately demand termination of pregnancy in the third trimester in case examination proves a genetic anomaly in the fetus, and undergo the so-called D & X procedure with gradual destruction and dismemberment of the unborn baby.

 

AMBIGUOUS LOGIC

The January 2001 bill prohibits extracorporal mortification of the fetus, but this provision is conditioned with absence of life risk for the mother. This condition sounds quite doubtful, as since the baby is (even partially) extracted, it does not represent any threat for the mother's life.

Still, for some reason, this special condition was included into the legislation. The only explanation lies in the sphere of "scientific needs". It is true that the tissues of a born baby are more valuable for experiments than those of a fetus.

As extracorporal execution still requires serious substantiation, the bill is more focused on intracorporal methods, including injection of poisons and destruction of the baby skeleton – which, according to the logic of the document, is supposed to be a more humane option.

The moral implications of "legitimately sentencing" an unborn baby for the described methods of execution are not discussed at all. In fact, a D&X procedure is described as execution "for the good", theoretically enabling science to make one hundredth of a move forward in prolongation of human life and treatment of senile diseases.

As far back as in 1945, Yale University professor Arnold Hessel summarized his life-long research with an unambiguous conclusion: "By the end of the first trimester, the fetus is a being able to move and to feel. Beyond speculations over its psychic properties, we have to admit that by this term, differentiation of its psychosomatic personality is highly advanced". Is Mr. Bush aware of this conclusion of a renowned scientist? Possibly not. Still, it is hard to imagine that legislation, concerning particular medical treatment, is prepared without involvement of specialists.

Thus, the verbally declared concerns of Bush's ideologists for the unborn baby' right for life are not substantiated with any guarantees. The legislative amendment, advertised a great achievement of morality, does not give any answer to the paradox: why is a born baby of 500 grams recognized as a human being, but death of a woman on the 9th month of pregnancy is not regarded as death of two persons?

 

INCONSISTENCY, OR HYPOCRISY?

Logically, anti-abortion legislation should prohibit abortive contraceptives, i.e. medications mortifying the already impregnated ovum, as well as damaging the mother's health. Generally, termination of pregnancy by means of chemical agents is not restricted by the US legislation at all. The recent scandal around the death of Holly Patterson, 18, who administered RU-486 (Mifepriston, or Mifegyn) did not produce any impact on the legislation Ц in the country where sale of alcohol to an 18-year-old person is strongly prohibited.

Only in April of this year, two conservative public organizations filed a suit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), opposing the practice of free sale of chemical contraceptives.

Efficient anti-abortion legislation should suggest prohibition of early amniocentesis, an examination destined for the only purpose of determining the gender of the fetus. Most frequently, women decide to terminate pregnancy on early terms for reasons of avoiding birth of the baby of an undesirable gender Ц often under influence from parents.

In other cases, women are reluctant to childbirth due to unfavorable social circumstances. In this case, financial and psychological support would be much more adequate than abortion from both moral and demographic viewpoints. For relevant purposes, the Health Ministry of Germany has established a network of free "women's houses", where a pregnant woman can spend time away from family quarrels and spiteful rumors. In the United States, a mother has a legal right to decide whether her underage daughter should bear a child or undergo abortion.

This issue is a subject of vivid discussion, though relevant problems may be avoided, in case the "disobedient" daughter of a strict mother escapes from home to another area: in a few US states, abortion is completely prohibited. This freedom of escape ostensibly elevates the reputation of the country which can describe itself as both profoundly democratic and profoundly religious.

 

TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS

Mass education on the issue of impregnation in the United States, as well as in Europe, is focused mostly on contraception, though responsibility for childbirth could be much more efficiently brought up by systematic broadcasting of films featuring the growth an differentiation of the fetus in the womb; similarly useful would be a shock effect of the picture of extraction, like that demonstrated in the famous film of Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Still, US and European regulations are much different. In Germany, abortion is authorized by a so-called conflict commission, necessarily involving a priest, and providing all possible arguments in favor of birth. In other European countries, the pregnant woman has to substantiate her decision to terminate pregnancy in court, and even if she wins the case, she may use her right only outside the territory of prohibition Ц as this happened in May 2007 with a 17-year-old girl with a proven anencephalic fetus: she had to travel from Ireland to Great Britain for an abortion.

The system, existing in Ireland, makes childbirth a much easier option than termination of pregnancy. Meanwhile, in the United States Ц as well as in Russia Ц execution of the right for abortion is merely technical. The doctor is not supposed to discuss the woman's decision; he just instructs the client on necessary preparations for the procedure, and signs a cheque. Only in South Carolina, obstetricians are obliged to display the suprasonic image of the fetus to the woman.

Artificial fecundation raises more questions. In particular, extracorporal impregnation involves emergence of so-called excessive embryos. The amount of this excessive material is not restricted with any regulations; meanwhile, its use for scientific purposes is not only permitted by the US legislation but stimulated with special expenses from the federal budget. Meanwhile, the approach itself essentially suggests selection, making childbirth an even more technical process.

Restrictions on abortions, as well as on extracorporal impregnation, would be most violently opposed by practicians in stem cells technologies (California already deserving a reputation of a "stem cell capital"). In this doubtful field of research, abortive material is indispensable, as the abortive stem cells are considered more valuable after “undergoing training" in a human body.

 

A CARD IN THE ELECTION GAMBLE

The partial prohibition of abortions in the United States thus plays a role of a trump card in a petty gamble played by the incumbent Administration. It is a quite convenient game, as the Clinton era, with its almost "mortal" veto for prohibition of late abortions (as described in US press) is over. Verbal criticism of this veto was excessively highlighted in mass media during the 2000 campaign. However, Hillary Clinton may use some handy arguments to re-introduce the veto. In the practice of US election campaigns, the subject, concerning right for human life, is not more than a matter of eloquence.

By signing a "half-prohibition" bill, George W. Bush has actually mounted two chairs, trying to gain sympathy from believers along with tolerance from the militant feministic community and associations like the Anti-Abortion Violence Movement (AAVM). The same card will be played by Bush's opponents. A year before the elections, candidates march across American cities with posters demanding to "leave the choice" Ц as if there is none and abortions are really prohibited. Ironically, such demonstrations are most frequently spearheaded by ladies of climacteric age.

It is noteworthy that the US Government is actually helpless before the increase of frequency of abortions. In 2004, the Planned Parenthood Federation, which owns over a thousand abortion clinics across the country, managed to wangle a judicial decree ruling that prohibition of late abortions is anti-constitutional. Though the Supreme Court overrode this decree in the current year, the very fact of PP's success in court demonstrates that the federal health system is unable to seriously confront weighty corporate interests and their political lobbies. As a matter of fact, George W. Bush's team is well aware of this weakness, and does not try to introduce any essential changes. That is quite natural: in the US political system of the postindustrial era, where advertising is the most powerful industry, the right of an unborn baby to survive is considered less valuable than the TV image of beaming gentlemen, advocating this right along with a bunch of unrelated, supposedly equally essential issues.


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