Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Head vs. Heart"

This one is serious, and I won't make any comment, except to say that it cost us readers and advertisers. About a month after it ran, we actually gained half a dozen advertisers who wanted to come aboard, but were afraid to do so after I had written this. In the end, we took a bit of a loss, but not too much.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was unconstitutional, declaring that the act interfered with a woman’s right to choose. The decision was made in San Francisco, well known for its political leftness. It can be seen as the first blow to the Act, another stride toward a place where conservative, male-dominated minds can no longer tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body. I suppose this is true.

The ruling does apply only to Planned Parenthood clinics and doctors, and is only one of three lawsuits brought against the Bush-supported legislation signed into law in 2003. New York and Nebraska federal judges have not yet ruled, but their outcomes might be divined by the fact that all three judges – Hamilton included – initially blocked the act from being enforced, though to be truthful, geography will almost certainly play a role in the decisions. Regardless, any decision is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Before the Act came into being, the Justice Department argued that “partial-birth abortions” (a particularly ugly term for what doctors and other medical professionals call “intact dilation and extraction”) were inhumane and never medically necessary. Pro-choice attorneys argued that the woman’s health is more important than how a fetus is terminated. They also claimed that the Act would be the first step toward outlawing all abortions.

What is remarkable is how the Act was able to change the perception of the abortion procedure, shifting the focus from the woman’s choice to the state of the fetus. By doing so, they were able to play up the emotional impact of the procedure and to tug on the heartstrings of Middle America. It turned a logical decision about the health of the mother into an emotional plea for the “silent victims;” manifestly, the perception went from head to heart.

Politically, this is nothing new. Whenever logic comes down on one side, the other side invariably chooses emotion, and it’s not easy to categorize conservatives as one and liberals as others. Conservatives have amped up the emotions, utilizing the Simpsons plea: “Think of the children!” But when it comes to capital punishment, the conservatives are much more likely to use logic and let the liberals play on America’s emotions, almost always to try to make us identify with the criminals: “What if it were your child on Death Row?”

This battle between head and heart has gone on for as long as decisions have needed to be made. The political arena is the most visible battleground, though religion is certainly a popular focus of head/heart conflicts, in the guise of logic versus faith. But for my money, no battleground, no forum for this type of debate can be as hard as the battle inside oneself.
There are times when I wish I was all liberal or I was all conservative. I’m not. Certainly I lean to the left, but I am no party-line democrat. In my head – logically – I know that the ban on these types of abortions is almost certainly a political ploy, yes, almost certainly the first step toward outlawing all abortions. I recognize that, as a man, I have no right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. I know, with my head, that the Act is wrong.

With my heart, I can’t say the same. Abortion, to me, is repugnant and I shudder at the thought of it happening. When I hear how the “partial-birth” abortions are done, how the fetus is partially removed from the womb and its skull is crushed or punctured, I feel my gore – and my ire – rise. But it’s not just that. I find all abortions repugnant. In the normal style, the fetus is cut into pieces and vacuumed out. This to me is no different than the “partial-birth” style.

But as it is, when it comes to the political arena, I believe that logic should take the commanding position; I believe in head over heart. I am able to ignore the melancholy plucking of my heartstrings.

But when it comes to how I personally feel – the visceral reaction – it’s a hard thing to repress. It’s times like these when I wish I could feel the comfort that comes with true conservatism or the certainty that comes with true liberalism. But I strive for neither. To me, abortion, or capital punishment, or any political topic is something to be thought about, debated, and discussed. There are no easy answers; there are just hard, ugly questions.

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