Saturday, August 8, 2015

Personhood from Womb to Grave

In case you missed it during Thursday’s Republican Party presidential primary debate, the GOP war on women has gone universal. Republicans now want to intrude on all health decisions, regardless of gender. From womb to grave, the GOP wants to be in control of your body and the decisions you make about it.

Republican presidential contenders spouted the usual attacks on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. On the Iran nuclear deal. On the need for a stronger military to be sent to combat evil anywhere and everywhere. On the need to lift the burden of overregulation from the economy.

Mostly lost amid the compelling two hour-plus debate on Fox News was a commitment to intrude on the personal health decisions of all Americans. It started off as a routine assault on the right of a woman to end an unwanted pregnancy, even if that pregnancy could kill her. 

Personhood became a new battle standard. And government involvement in medical decisions would include end of life decisions. Jeb Bush proudly hailed the “culture of life” he created while governor of Florida, an allusion not just to his defunding Planned Parenthood but also to his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case. Schiavo was a brain dead woman whose husband sought to have a feeding tube removed. Her parents objected. Bush repeatedly intervened despite decision after decision in state and federal courts. 

“My record is clear,” Bush said during the debate. “My record as a pro-life governor is not in dispute. I am completely pro-life and I believe that we should have a culture of life, it’s informed by my faith from beginning to end. And I did this not just as it related to unborn babies, I did it at the end-of-life issues as well. This is something that goes way beyond politics. And I hope one day that we get to the point where we respect life, in its fullest form, across the board.”

One can imagine if he were president federal laws barring the removal of life sustaining methods. Anyone assisting in an abortion, even if it would save the life of a pregnant woman, could be prosecuted—doctors and nurses, as well as the woman and any family members who agreed with her decision to end the personhood of the fetus. 

Granting the status of personhood to a fetus could significantly change judicial views on pregnancy and abortion. And possibly miscarriages or actions that could be harmful to the unborn. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee championed personhood during the debate. 

In answering a question on passing a constitutional amendment barring abortions, he said, “I disagree with the idea that the real issue is a constitutional amendment. That’s a long and difficult process. I’ve actually taken the position that’s bolder than that.

“A lot of people are talking about defunding Planned Parenthood, as if that’s a huge game changer. I think it’s time to do something even more bold. I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception.

“The reason we know that it is is because of the DNA schedule that we now have clear scientific evidence on. And, this notion that we just continue to ignore the personhood of the individual is a violation of that unborn child’s Fifth and 14th Amendment rights for due process and equal protection under the law.

“It’s time that we recognize the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and we change the policy to be pro-life and protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they’re parts to a Buick.”

It is accepted medical wisdom that smoking or drinking alcohol while pregnant is harmful to a fetus. Does that mean Huckabee would prosecute a pregnant woman who smoked or drank a beer for endangering the life of a minor? Since second hand smoke is said to be toxic, would Huckabee also prosecute anyone who smoked near a pregnant woman? If a car accident causes a woman to miscarry, would the driver of the car that caused the accident be charged with involuntary manslaughter? If the pregnant woman wasn’t wearing a seat belt could she also be culpable? 

Legal scholars also are divided as to the potential ramifications of personhood on inheritance claims. Or if fetuses should be counted in censuses. In their all-out assault on a woman’s right to choose, Republicans are advancing on very mushy terrain.

Take Back That Compliment: Like many observers I was impressed by the quality of the questions asked by the Fox News panel. They exposed many of the warts each candidate tries to hide.

However, I was disappointed Brett Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace too often permitted the candidates to talk around their questions and not respond to direct requests for specifics. Ah well, I guess we should be content with half a loaf.

If I was disappointed in the moderators I was downright infuriated by corporate Fox News and its blatant attempt to control the transcript record of the debate, thereby whitewashing Jeb Bush’s association with a Bloomberg charity that provided funding for Planned Parenthood. I remember hearing his exchange with Megyn Kelly, but I couldn’t find it in the official transcript released by Fox as printed by The Washington Post and Time on their Web sites. 

It was only after I googled that the relevant colloquy appeared. For shame, Fox News, for trying to cover up what some conservatives might think was a Bush transgression. Of course, one must remember that Roger Ailes, head of Fox News, has been a long-time Bush family friend and advisor.