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Bad choices

By Lady Liberty
web posted June 20, 2005

In early 1973, Roe v Wade effectively legalized abortion — with constraints as determined by the states — in the US. Despite that decision, the abortion debate has continued virtually unabated since then. In fact, it's heated up as pro-life activists feel more of a sense of urgency as more than a million abortions are performed annually, and pro-choice forces are becoming more and more concerned that their "rights" will be mitigated or even reversed by a conservative majority Supreme Court.

I've long contended — and in fact still do — that a woman's choice is made when she decides to have sex without protecting herself against pregnancy rather than when she discovers she's pregnant. I've also always believed that abortion isn't the problem. It is, instead, the unsatisfactory solution to another problem: unwanted pregnancies. That's why I've repeatedly suggested that an adequate sex education coupled with broad access to birth control is the only way the abortion issue will ever truly be settled.

Recently, the abortion debate was once again brought to the forefront, but in a manner largely unexpected (at least by me). The news came out of the state of Texas which, like other states and in perfect compliance with Roe v Wade, has laws that mandate some restrictions on abortion. One of them provides that abortions be restricted to hospital settings if they're to be performed beyond the 16th week of pregnancy. Another involves a recently passed parental consent law. Though there are some who are claiming that the former played into what happened next, that's apparently not true; the latter would have made no difference even had it been in force at the time.

Last year, 16 year-old Erica Basoria found herself pregnant by her 18 year-old boyfriend, Gerardo Flores. Although her parents are said to have wanted her to get an abortion, Flores' mother did not. Basoria moved in with the Flores family. She did not seek an abortion (in fact, she claims she regretted not doing so only after she started to show), but neither did she take care of the twin boys she carried. She allegedly only pretended to take her prenatal vitamins, and toward the last, she is said to have taken to punching herself in the stomach to cause a miscarriage. When that didn't work, she told police that she asked her boyfriend to step on her stomach. Where the fists didn't accomplish her goal, the feet did. Basoria miscarried, just as she'd intended. Her boyfriend, however, soon found himself under arrest under another relatively new law in the state of Texas: 2003's Fetus Protection Law.

Flores was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his actions. Lawmakers say they intended the Fetus Protection Law to apply in cases of assaults in which a fetus died. One legislator said it never occurred to them to consider a case like this one. But prosecutors are bound to obey the letter of the law, and they did. Basoria, however, suffered no legal repercussions at all. It seems that her right to an abortion means she can get one by whatever means she chooses, even if those means aren't what most of us would consider acceptable.

The Texas case has brought abortion to the forefront once again in part because it involves a law that prohibits the killing of fetuses, and because compliance with Roe v Wade means the law makes exceptions for health practitioners performing abortions thus tacitly acknowledging that abortions mean the killing of fetuses. While most people fall squarely on one side or the other in the abortion debate, the law has sometimes twisted itself like a pretzel to comply, and as a result proves schizophrenic at best.

Though Basoria is obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer and Flores no real prize either, it seems draconian at best to prosecute a young man for capital murder in such a case. Practicing medicine without a license would have been a more appropriate charge. Certainly Basoria's complicity and prosecutors' refusal to charge her with a crime due to her right to an abortion indicate that Flores' was, in essence, performing an abortion rather than engaging in an assault.

Meanwhile, by virtually all accounts, while Flores' mother wanted the babies and was even excited about their impending arrival, Basoria was never more than lukewarm about the idea, and Flores himself is said to have not wanted the children. Even moderately responsible people engaging in the kind of activity that could possibly result in pregnancy would have taken precautions so as to avoid that outcome. For whatever reason, these two didn't bother with that, either. But for those that do — something that I not only recommend but commend — there's another stumbling block beginning to rear its ugly head: the refusal by some pharmacists to fill prescriptions for birth control.

Certainly pharmacists have the same First Amendment rights that the rest of us do where their freedom of worship is concerned. The pharmacists who have refused to fill certain prescriptions almost universally claim that they are doing so because their religious beliefs prohibit such things as the so-called "morning after" pill or even all forms of birth control. (The "morning after" pill prevents a fertilized egg from implantation, something that a few consider comparable to an abortion; birth control in any form is prohibited by Catholicism and some other religions.) At least one pharmacist discussed in a news story wouldn't dispense birth control to anyone who wasn't married, something also obviously based strictly on his own religious viewpoints of morality.

In the sad case of Erica Basoria and Gerardo Flores, I don't for a moment believe that the two used contraception on any kind of a regular basis (it would, in fact, surprise me if they'd used it at all). And stepping on your pregnant girlfriend's stomach isn't a good idea no matter what the intent may be, even considering the fact that that intent itself is legal. But the case has, at least, illustrated that even more responsible people might run into similar problems or reach identical levels of desperation given some of the factors (more stringent abortion laws, difficulty in obtaining contraception) now coming into play in at least some parts of the country.

I do not consider abortion an absolute right as part and parcel of our right to privacy. Actually, neither does Roe v Wade. If you read the decision, you'll take note of the fact that the privacy issue is addressed based on the privacy of medical discussions between doctors and patients, and the resulting decisions made based on those discussions. The Supreme Court said that the states can't intervene in such private matters wherein medical problems and treatments are discussed and that, since it cannot, it also cannot determine the medical necessity of such potential treatments which happen, in some cases, to include abortions. (For example, one such rare case where a late term abortion is justified — at least in my own view — is discussed in an article published after Texas determined its restrictions on later abortions.)

But what any of us think about the vast majority of abortions is really immaterial. No one wants to go back to the days of back alley butcheries, but neither can anyone condone what amounts to murder in cases like the one in Texas. And yet the one thing that could solve the problem once and for all is now also under attack by those who would see their religious beliefs impact and override the freedom everybody else is also supposed to enjoy. I believe in freedom of religion for everyone, too. But I don't demand that you adhere to my beliefs or even that you cater to them because I respect that right.

Pharmacists are going to have to develop the same attitude if we're going to avoid seeing more people doing irresponsible — and reprehensible — things in the future. They also should respect the privacy of the doctor/patient relationship by essentially ignoring what's prescribed. Yes, they should pay attention to the kind of pill they're dispensing from a safety standpoint, but they shouldn't be making judgments based on the kind of prescription that it is! If they start engaging in that kind of behavior, what's next? Refusal to fill prescriptions for antibiotics to knock out a sexually transmitted disease? Refusal to fill prescriptions for AIDS treatment since many sufferers happen to be homosexual?

Meanwhile, those who oppose abortion should give some consideration to these religious pharmacists who, while ostensibly on their side, are engaging in behaviors that are almost certain to result in more abortions. And those who are pro-choice should temper their rhetoric long enough to consider becoming "pro-choices." There is, after all, more than one option that can be chosen that still doesn't result in anyone being saddled with the burden of an unwanted and unloved child. I suspect even Erica Basoria is convinced of that now. Unfortunately for the babies who died and for her boyfriend who helped kill them, that lesson has been learned much too late.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.


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