Monday, September 25, 2006

Something Minor, Or Perhaps Not

Because sometimes minor things are what sticks. A couple of days ago the USAToday headline on one of the recent criminal cases ran like this:

3 kids found dead in fetus theft case

The whole story is horrible and the culprit most likely mentally ill. But notice how the headline focuses on the "theft" of the fetus? Not mentioning the fact that the woman who carried the fetus was murdered? She is not in the headline at all, just the fetus and the children. She has been erased, made into a carrier from which the fetus was stolen.

I'd be the first to acknowledge that my point is minor, perhaps no point at all, and other headlines on the story were different. In any case, headline writers go for the sensational, and this whole case is sensational and all about something extremely rare, however horrible. But then I was reading a blog post about the South Dakota abortion debate and came across this:

Earlier this month, Ellen Goodman declared that the pretense is finally over.

Until now the antiabortion right has not only tried to frame itself as moderate, it has dressed up in woman-friendly camouflage. It has touted research that makes one false claim after another linking abortion with depression and breast cancer. It has cast women as the hapless victims of abortion and portrayed its own side as protectors.

Earlier this week, with superb irony, Governor Rounds promised tender care for the women he would force to continue their pregnancies. Representative [Roger] Hunt explained that women themselves would not be prosecuted under the law because any woman choosing abortion was ''not thinking clearly."
This is what it looks like in front of the curtain. South Dakota's law would make felons out of doctors who perform nearly any abortion. The government would replace women as moral decision-makers. And it would trump doctors as medical decision-makers.

After all, if abortion is legal only when the woman's survival is at risk, who makes that decision? If, according to the law, a doctor has to "make reasonable medical efforts . . . to preserve both the life of the mother and the life of her unborn child," who judges those efforts? A cop? A court? One of those activist judges the right so loves to hate?

The woman is erased as a decision-maker here. A woman would have no say in whether she is going to become a mother or not, because the South Dakota law doesn't allow abortion even in the case of rape. And that brought the earlier headline back to my mind.