Those who know me know that I am a staunch defender of the rights of the unborn. Fetuses, zygotes, eggs that still have the tail of a sperm sticking out of them—these are all people, just like you and me, and I love them and want to protect their rights. The only people I don't love are the ones who have already been born. Those people are the worst.
You have to negotiate with them, though, because we live in a democracy. To that end, various 150th-trimester fetuses in the state Legislature have introduced bills to protect their fellow persons in the womb and, in at least one case, the fallopian tubes. House Bill 595, sponsored by Republican Rep. Derek Skees of Lakeside, would redefine "person" in the Montana Constitution as "all members of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development, including the stage of fertilization or conception."
This bill would effectively prohibit abortion under all circumstances, including cases of rape and incest, as well as during pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother. It would also outlaw methods of birth control that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus, such as IUDs. The amendment, which is cosponsored by 54 of Skees' fellow representatives, would additionally criminalize medical treatment for ectopic pregnancies, during which a fertilized egg becomes lodged in the fallopian tube.
Obviously, HB 595 is good. The thousands of invisible, single-celled people it will save from death by IUD is well worth the dozens of viable post-birth fetuses, or "women," who will die from pregnancy-related complications. But does it go far enough?
Only a moron would argue that life begins with birth. But isn't it just as wrong to say that life does not begin until conception? Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I believe life begins when two strangers' eyes meet across a crowded room. This moment is a person, just like you and me. Its mother has no right to terminate it by leaving the room before the man can impregnate her and move to North Dakota. By allowing women to end the lives of their unconceived children in this way, HB 595 fails to protect literally millions of unborn Montanans.
- photo by Chad Harder
Women don't just have babies on their own, of course. Every unwanted pregnancy involves two people: the mother and her doctor. In the state Senate, Albert Olszewski, R-Kalispell, has proposed a bill that would require physicians to take every measure possible to preserve the life of any fetus older than 24 weeks—including induced labor, cesarean section and resuscitation after miscarriage or abortion. Doctors who fail to perform such life-saving measures would be subject to prosecution.
This bill will introduce a long-overdue element of personal responsibility to medical professionals who carelessly treat every patient. Once they know that they might face criminal charges or be forced to resuscitate a miscarried fetus, obstetricians will think twice about admitting pregnant women to their offices willy-nilly. Olszewski's bill will cut down on the No. 1 cause of abortion: access to medical care.
It's a step in the right direction, I suppose, but it doesn't go as far as SB 329. Introduced by Republican Sen. Keith Regier of Kalispell, the bill would ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. To this proposal I say: Why does the senator want to murder so many 19-week-old babies?
As a man who got a vasectomy, I believe that pregnancy is sacred. Every person deserves a chance at life, be they fetus, zygote, unfertilized egg—everyone except pregnant women with pre-eclampsia, really. They're just going to have to bite the bullet. But I think we can agree that people who haven't been born yet are the most beautiful people of all. They are innocent and pure, and they deserve laws that reflect their perfectly unrealized potential.
That's why I support all three of the bills to restrict abortion currently before the Montana Legislature, despite their flaws. Like embryos at the moment of conception, they are beautiful ideas. Also like embryos, they're probably not going to make it. All three of these bills will almost certainly be vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock, should the Legislature pass them.
But that's fine with me, because I believe that law begins at the moment of conception. As soon as a middle-aged man from Lake County thinks of a bill to make women have babies they don't want, it's got the same legal authority as the Code of Montana. Vetoing an unpassed law is the same as breaking it, and any governor who does it should be charged with legicide. I'm going to amend the state Constitution to say so, just as soon as I can get enough people who aren't governors together to vote on it.
Dan Brooks writes about politics, culture and theoretical rights for theoretical people at combatblog.net.