Fetal Heartbeat

There are people, organizations, institutions and leaders in politics that support the idea that a woman should be made to get an ultrasound and then listen to the fetus‘s heartbeat before she can go through with the abortion she has decided to get. In the case of a pregnancy not yet five weeks, as I understand, no heartbeat can be detected, so a probe must be inserted in her up to the opening of the cervix– it canot enter the womb, or can it, I don’t know, but this is futuristic alien invasion stuff.

I know that this is too invasive. It is another punitive measure imagined by moralizers, who, when matters of morality arise, are usually wrong or wrong headed or exaggerated or extreme in their proposed solutions. The Nazis were a moral majority, really; grotesque, extreme, absurd, even, but always very, very dangerous in their popularity. I know where I stand on this issue, no pun intended, issue being the King James Bible‘s referent for children or the clap

I cannot tell a woman what to do with her body, no matter how cliche opponents to a woman’s legal access to her right to choose think it sounds. But a woman’s body is only an object to her, and to no one else, especially the law, or the state, or any rabid public in service of that state levying its power, its authority, against the people.

I  know the slippery slope that anyone falls on when trying to locate the soul or the mind–because we separate the two. Just when personhood begins I couldn’t tell you, nor could any neurologist with any certainty. We can map the progress of the human embryo and fetus, but cannot the development of consciousness as we call it in the naming of personhood. We can no more locate this developing consciousness than anyone can tell us where the mind is located or where the soul in a person resides; that is, if we insist on keeping them categorically separate. Again, doctors cannot pinpoint where consciousness begins: here at this point, at this moment and not before.

I just lost my mother to a cerebral hemorrhage, quickly eliminating her higher brain functions. There was brain stem activity for about a week, and for emotional reasons I waited until it was confirmed that  there was no brain stem activity before we removed the tube that was by then more than helping her breathe. I spent the last hours with her; I was there every day. I did not hope against hope, I just kept myself from concluding that all was lost, which seemed to converge with hope against hope. I couldn’t tell anyone what to do in like circumstances. My decisions were personal and I think or hope we are intelligent enough to manage the multiplicity of individual decision making while preserving the dignity and integrity of individual life. Seeing her as she was was not something I couldn’t stand, no matter how painful it was to see her like that. I remember thinking about a hypothetical situation where a man has a friend who is dying horribly and in pain. The friend asks the man to kill him and put him out of his misery. It’s not important to understand if he does it or not only that if he does shoot his friend, let’s say, then it is because the man finds it easier to shoot his friend than to watch him as he is or to listen to him in pain; if he does not shoot him, then it is because it is easier for him to listen to his friend in pain than it is to pull the trigger.

What this has to do with the simple, solitary woman waiting to have an abortion I do not know. But having to undergo the fore mentioned invasion of her body on top of the trauma of the abortion I can’t abide. I do say that the abortion is difficult enough, and only the most desensitized person could believe that any woman who has an abortion is so desensitized or depraved that she would need to undergo this chamber of horror, this nearly inquisitional moral awakening before she would be granted an abortion. No woman takes this lightly, the exceptions to this rule only proving the rule. There need be no added punishment. We are humane, are we not?

I’m with the French language where human and humane are one word and there is no humanity with human humane. Please, let’s not step backward; history may not be in itself progressive, but humanity can and should take steps forward.


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