There is very good news and very bad news for the pro-life movement and the people for whom we speak. The great news is that the number of abortions has dropped again, and of course, any time a child is saved that is reason for rejoicing. In addition, the number of people who identify themselves as pro life has gone up, including college students and high school students. People are waking up to the cause of the unborn child and rejecting outright the notion that we must choose between mother and child. And, in New York and elsewhere in the country, many people favor limits on abortion.
On the other hand, there is a new assault: the big push to create new members of the human family through cloning - to experiment on them and then destroy them. The big debate nationally is whether there will be a true ban on human cloning. Or will we instead have legislation that pretends to be a ban but does not actually stop cloning?
Some proposed legislation allows the implantation of cloned embryos so that they can be grown for parts. Most of the suggested legislation would not allow the embryo to be implanted in the uterus for eventual birth. Not only is that morally reprehensible, but it is also practically untenable. We already have thousands of human embryos in suspended frozen animation. How will the government know whether the embryo in question is one of them or a cloned human that has been implanted? And what does the government do if it discovers that a cloned person has indeed been implanted? Does it forcefully abort the woman?
We have reached the point where we have become blind to any understanding of the value of a human life. We need to go back to recognizing that there is something precious, different and valuable about being a member of the human family, whatever that looks like. You cannot say, for example, that an embryo doesnÂ´t look like a person because that is exactly what a person looks like at that stage. Human beings from the moment of fertilization until the moment of natural death are indeed members of our family. We need to respect that or we are not going to recognize the world that we are building.
In New York, many politicians and citizens identify themselves as pro choice, but most believe that we have gone too far. The majority of people here think that abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest. A lot of people are back and forth about first trimester abortion. But for the vast majority of people, being pro choice does not mean the same thing that it means to State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver or Senator Hillary Clinton. Most people, even in New York, think that itÂ´s crazy to have an abortion in the second or third trimester and certainly to use abortion as a method of birth control.
We know New Yorkers support a ban on partial birth abortions and are in favor of parental involvement legislation, which would make sure parents know that their underage daughters are having an abortion. These are basic sanities that everybody, pro life or not, can agree on. But in the Assembly, Speaker Silver will not allow a vote on the floor for legislation banning partial birth abortions or requiring parental notification. All New Yorkers, regardless of how they feel about abortion, should be concerned about the way that our State Assembly is run.
Though abortion is legal until the moment of birth in our country and in New York by edict from the U.S. Supreme Court, we have a program for New York that we hope to see approved. One is fetal pain prevention legislation that would allow a woman who is having an abortion in the second or third trimester of pregnancy to choose anesthesia for her unborn child before she has the abortion. This is not going to ban any abortions but it would make them more humane.
The other is the ban on partial birth abortion. Here too, we would not be banning third-term abortions, as the Supreme Court forbids such protections for unborn children, but they would have to be done a different way.
Partial birth abortions are repulsive. They stab kids who are four-fifths of the way born in the head and suck out their brains. Some people bought the lie that partial birth abortions are done because the mother needs it either for her life or for her health. But partial birth abortion is horrendous for the womanÂ´s health and potentially life endangering. Even the pro abortion American Medical Association has said that partial birth abortion is not good medicine.
We also support legislation that would require that parents be notified if their daughter is about to have an abortion, unless a judge agreed that informing the parent would put the girl at risk. This is such a no-brainer. If you ask parents, even parents who describe themselves as pro choice will say, "Of course, I donÂ´t want my daughter having surgery without my knowledge." The pro-abortion movement says that good girls from good families will tell their parents anyway. What a bunch of bologna. Good girls want to make their parents proud. And the idea that girls from bad families should be able to have an abortion in secret is almost worse.
We believe that there should be "informed consent," that women should have all the information before having an abortion including information about the development of their babies and the health risks they face themselves.
Beyond legislation, we do political work and education. We are doing a major outreach effort to the African-American community to educate African-Americans on the reality of abortion and the not so subtle targeting of their people by the abortion movement. The rate of abortion in the black community is much higher than in the general population. Traditionally, the black community has been very God fearing and family oriented. Of course, many remain so and we hope to work with that community to save children.
Generally people are empathetic toward other people. When people know what abortion is, what abortion does to a child, and what abortion does to a woman, they become pro life. So, we have a big job ahead of us educating people in New York. This year, we will work harder than ever to do that.
Lori Hougens is spokesperson for the New York State Right to Life Committee.
Read A Pro Choice Agenda for New York City by Andrew Stern.