April 18th, 2007

The Supreme Court and the World of Form

[Update 4/20/07: Here is a beautiful editorial on the subject at hand in yesterday’s New York Times.]

The United States Supreme Court upheld today the federal abortion ban passed into law in 2003. To clarify, no, this does not mean that all abortion has been criminalized. What it does mean is that a medical procedure used to perform abortions after the first trimester has been outlawed. And it has been outlawed on a federal level, as a federal law, which is unprecedented in this country. Even before the well-known Roe v. Wade case was decided in 1973, abortion was not federally criminalized in the United States. Rather, states had the right to pass laws making abortion illegal, and almost all had done so. Roe v. Wade forbade them from doing this (there is more legal complexity that I will not get into here; this is only a nutshell view), thus making it disallowable for any state to criminalize abortion completely. (Note: It did not stop them from concocting or passing laws that impeded the right to obtain a legal abortion as safely and efficiently as possible, which numerous state legislatures have taken advantage of since.)

The Court today has upheld a law that federally criminalizes a medical procedure used in a wide range of abortions, regardless of risk to the woman’s health.

This, of course, is why pro-choice activists and citizens so emphasized the importance of the last presidential election in this country. President Bush’s re-election as such provided the opportunity for him to appoint Justices Roberts and Alito, and as we (activists) said then, these judges aren’t just there for a term or for the time Bush is in office. They have the Constitutional right now to be there for the rest of their lives.

Thus, this decision is not likely to be changed within the next few decades.

Socially speaking, this is disastrous to a degree that breaks my heart. For anyone who still believes that the ban addresses only a “rare procedure” or will only affect a few people, I can with comfortable assurance eliminate that notion for you now. Many medical experts testified in the court cases that preceded this Supreme Court case (and during the legislative process of the bill’s becoming law) that this ban was, for one thing, vague, so that they wouldn’t always be sure exactly what it covered (putting their medical and professional discretion at obvious risk), and for another thing, covered procedures that may be used as early as 12 weeks into a pregnancy if the doctor determines it is the safest and/or most advantageous procedure to use.

How does the doctor determine this? I don’t know, because I’m not a doctor. And neither are the legislators that voted for this law’s passage, the president that signed it into law, or the justices who today allowed for it to be upheld.

In effect this country has just allowed the government to override doctors and medical professionals in making a health care decision which can be life-and-death or directly related to severe and significant health conditions for its female citizens. At this moment I utterly fail to see how that can be a service of a democracy.

I try to “trust something bigger” right now, as my spiritual teacher(s) has often invited us to do. I can tell I already am to a significant degree, as on a personal note I am receiving this news much differently than I would have a year ago. But a government policy has now presented a situation in which both doctors and women may be practically impeded in following an action that may stem from their innermost life energy in a safe and practical context. And it breaks my heart to observe that in this practical world of form in which we live.

With infinite love,

“Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love, said ‘Don’t worry about a thing babydoll, I’m the man you’ve been dreaming of,’ but three months later he said he won’t date her or return her call…now she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walking through the door, they call her a killer and they call her a sinner and they call her a whore, but God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes, ’cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose…”
-Everlast “What it’s Like”

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