Thursday, September 07, 2006

Plan B is not an abortifacent, unless . . .

you are willing make some outrageous intellectual leaps to defend the claim that life begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg. This of course is Santorum's line and he tried to shame Bob Casey Jr. for abandoning his principles and disappointing his dead father in this debate (Crooks and Liars)

Casey agrees that life begins at conception (probably he should have clarified what definition of conception he is using). Tim Russert slips in that conception is fertilization of the egg. However, this is NOT the medical definition of the onset of pregnancy (see this paper at Guttmacher). Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy; abortion can either be spontaneous (which we call miscarriage) or induced (the practice that is hotly contested in the United States). Hence, Russert basically did the set up for Santorum's slam dunk, by narrowly defining conception, i.e. pregnancy as fertilization. If you think that this definition of conception is the moral equivalent of pregnancy, then your argument leads to absurd conclusions.

If you believe that a fertilized egg is a precious life, wouldn't it behoove right to lifers, like Santorum, to penalize women whose bodily movements or daily habits may have prevented a preembryo from implanting on the uterine wall? Since between 1/3 and 1/2 of fertilized eggs do not actually implant, then any behavior or activity that might be credited with preventing implantation should be roundly morally condemned for murder. Moreover, shouldn't right to lifers invest a great deal of political energy to ensure that OBGYNs carefully monitor women, right after sex, to ensure that the fertilized egg gets implanted; if the egg doesn't implant, then you are just standing by watching a senseless death occur.

Let's not also miss the important point that if fertilization is life and 1/3 to 1/2 of all fertilized eggs don't implant, e.g. spontaneously abort (according to right to lifers definition), then God is the most prolific abortionist around.

I suppose Santorum could counter that God didn't want this life to come into the world and so it is not up to us mere mortals to intervene. But, where was that sort of thinking in the Schiavo case? Let's say that Santorum argues that Schiavo's injury and death was the sheer product of human fault and God would want us to rectify it by keeping her alive, albeit artifically. Fine, what then do we say to women who injected contraception, e.g. Depo-Provera, and then ceased taking Depo, but found themselves unable to get pregnant for a year or so. Such women have with vain hubris (this is Santorum's viewpoint, not mine) interfered with God's plan of bringing forward life in the sacred act of martial intercourse. And, hence, we should deprive these women of their dignity (the way we deprived Schiavo of hers) by ensuring that fertilization leads to implantation. Before you know it, we are all Offred in Gilead.

What does Santorum make of IVF, which involves inserting a pre-embryo into a woman's uterus and waiting for it to implant? Is this violating God's plan by bringing forward a life that God did not sanction? If so, then is it God's plan to leave some mothers childless? If he says yes, then why might he endorse adoption, which, once again interferes with God's divine plan?

It's hard to be Santorum. But, I am more pissed off at Russert and bummed at Casey for setting up and walking into this specious argument trap.

Conclusion: If you believe life begins at fertilization, then you believe that God performs more abortions than any mere mortal.