Fighting Obtuse with Obtuse

When I was in school (which was quite a long time ago), I was probably a real pain in the butt to my teachers. When they offered up writing assignments, my favorite thing was to take their premise and run off in a logically defensible but clearly unintended (and usually wrong) direction. I’d play by their rules, but if their rules left me room to play, I loved to do exactly that to the greatest degree I could get away with.

So, imagine my join when I read this:  ND lawmakers define life as starting at conception, in bid to outlaw abortion.

The upshot is that the folks in North Dakota intend to convey full “personhood” rights at the moment of conception. So, in order to achieve a desired result (“outlaw abortion”), they’re going to pass into law something that is not true. When you do that, you leave the door open for some pretty strange scenarios.

First of all, note that life begins at conception (egg meets sperm), not at pregnancy (implantation in uterine wall). Those are two very different things. There can be a gap of several days between them, and, more to the point, the number of conceptions that result in pregnancy is well south of 100%, and this often happens without anyone even knowing about it. Under the proposed North Dakota law, this presents an obvious problem. This is a person now, not just two cells that bumped together in the night (or maybe at noon, if you’re into that sort of thing). I wonder how North Dakota intends to ensure the safety of these “people”? The kind of surveillance required to make certain we can account for all of these “people” would make the trans-vaginal ultrasound look positively non-invasive in comparison.

Of course, even if a pregnancy occurs, there’s no guarantee that it will result in birth even if you ban abortions. Twenty percent of all pregnancies result in miscarriages, most of which occur in the first trimester

“Many women don’t even know that they’ve had a miscarriage (since they hadn’t known they were pregnant), thinking that it’s just a particularly heavy menstrual flow.”

Again, this event takes on much greater significance if all conceptions legally have the full rights and legal protections of a person. While we tend to regard these kind of miscarriages are spontaneous events, but that doesn’t mean that the odds of a miscarriage can’t be affected by factors like activity or smoking or drinking. That suggests the possibility of criminal culpability should a miscarriage occur even for someone who doesn’t know she’s pregnant. Someone’s got to protect North Dakota’s most defenseless citizens!

Wait, did I say “citizens”? Scratch that. It turns out that the constitution makes it pretty clear that one of the qualifications for citizenship is “birth.” You’re not a citizen until you’re born. So…that little mass of cells that have all protections due a person do not have the protections due a citizen. Go ahead and play around with that one for a while.

I could go on and on about how North Dakota’s law allows one to claim dependents on tax forms at a surprisingly early stage, or, sheesh, literally dozens of other implications of this law, but I think the point has been laid out.

Yes, I’m being willfully obtuse about this. But, I’m not the one claiming that personhood is conferred at the moment of conception. I’m just laying out the conclusions one can reach if you start from that clearly bogus jumping-off point.  That’s what you get when you try to pass a fiction into law. You get mocked. And you really, really deserve it.

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