Thursday, December 02, 2004

Pain Awareness

I opened this entry intending to write a love letter to Frank Rich. Instead, I read another article in the Times and found something so enraging that my declaration will have to wait.

In an article titled Changing Senate Looks Better to Abortion Foes, I learned about the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act recently proposed by Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Not convinced it could truly be what the Times briefly described, I found the actual text of the bill (on the National Right to Life website) and read it for myself.

To paraphrase, if passed, this bill would require a doctor to inform any woman seeking an abortion that "expert testimony" has conclusively determined a fetus of 20 weeks can experience pain. The doctor would have to read a statement, give the woman a brochure, and have her indicate on a signed document whether she wants to administer an anesthetic to the fetus before the procedure.

The text of the legally-required oral statement includes the following:
Congress finds that there is substantial evidence that the process of being killed in an abortion will cause the unborn child pain, even though you receive a pain-reducing drug or drugs.

Yet, the bill goes on to state that the text of the brochure (and I think it's safe to extrapolate and say the authors believe this sentiment applies to the oral statement as well), "shall be written in an objective and nonjudgmental manner."

It's subjective and judgemental for a bill proposed by 24 senators, all of whom are men, to force doctors to read a statment that implies women seeking an abortion are "killing" their children, and acting selfishly because they will be anesthetized during the procedure. "Even though you recieve a pain-reducing drug or drugs," it says. The implied emphasis on you is a brutal judgement, and it can't be dressed up as anything else.

Aside from the biased language of the proposed oral statement, the bill makes very clear that the brochure of information will be made available at no cost to the woman seeking the procedure. However, it makes no claims for eating the cost of the additional anesthesia for the fetus. Abortion is an issue handcuffed to economics; contrary to a somewhat unspoken pillar of the pro-life platform, many women choose to terminate pregnancies because they cannot afford to have a child, not because they "cannot afford" to have a child. To struggling working women, teenagers, and even married women with several children in their household already, the cost of providing for a child is unfathomable. The cost of an abortion itself is often nearly unmanageable. How is it anything other than cruel to pass judgement on these women for now being unable to provide anesthesia for a fetus?

I won't say much about the shaky science on which this bill is grounded. As best I can find, it's based on the work of a single doctor at the University of Arkansas. Greater than that, though, I think it's ludicrous for the government to legislate against pain. Wouldn't passing this bill would imply that we should anesthetize every cow before it's slaughtered? And, if even a fetus is a life, wouldn't it be the responsibililty of the government to prevent every person from feeling pain? Wouldn't it be clearly obvious that we should anesthetize every Iraqi insurgent before he's shot, and every death row inmate before he's fried in the electric chair? Those are fully-sentient adults, and if no thing under God's sun should experience pain, how can the government allow and endorse such barbarianism?

I think the thing that really gets me about the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act is the latent judgement woven into its text. How dare a woman kill her baby? How dare she lay blissfully unconscious when a fetus is destroyed? How dare she wake up from a nap to find herself unfettered from responsibility? How dare she live out her whorish life pain-free?

Links to all of the documents are below. Read them yourself; maybe I'm misconstruing things to fit my pro-choice agenda. If nothing else, this has made me much more likely to investigate actual senate propositions in the future.
"Changing Senate Looks Better to Abortion Foes"
Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas
Unborn Child Pain Awareness act (full text)

Completely unrelated: my dad quit his job. His boss was mean and the work was much heavier than what he was promised. He was supposed to be doing oil changes and inspections, and they had him changing bus tires on his third day. The real reason he quit, though, is that the garage frequently ripped-off its customers. My dad is honest to a fault, and so now he's out of a job. Anyone want to hire my dad? He makes really good sausage and peppers and looks a lot like Santa. Or Mario. Or Chef Boyardee. Working with him will be like eating a big bowl of Beefaroni in front of your brand new Nintendo on Christmas morning.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy. Here's where I admit that I sometimes read your 'blog. Minnesota recently stopped requiring that physicians give out state-sponsored statements about breast cancer and fetal pain with regard to abortions because, hey, turns out there's no correllation and no science behind it. And we learned from a clinic doc the other day that in fact, what they tell patients who may be worried about fetal pain during a procedure is that anything that numbs your pelvis will numb the fetus, because anesthetics definitely cross the placenta. That shit is a neurotoxin, you think it cares what it's numbing? Case in point, if mom takes pain cocktails during delivery, the baby always comes out looking drugged. Everyone knows that, some of us have seen it. And we're not performing little baby epidurals...

That's the current medical opinion. Only usually we won't tell you the anesthesia/neurotoxin part. It tends to make some people all anxious.
lovin, Andrea

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why not ditch the shit altogether and just punch mom in the stomach and knock the brat out? no neurotoxin quite like a swift fist in the güt.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andrea!

It's okay, I won't judge you for reading. I WRITE this crap. Anyway, this is why it's good to have a science-y friend. Now, I am completely vindicated. And it feels good.


10:37 AM  

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