The Universal Notebook: Where to draw the line on abortion

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When it comes to abortion, people draw the line in different places – conception, viability, birth. The most conservative among us not only oppose terminating a pregnancy, they also oppose preventing it in the first place. That’s an unrealistic and untenable position. The expectation that a woman will only conceive when she intends to is as naive and unrealistic as expecting young people not to have sex until they marry.

One problem with the abortion debate is that the sides are completely polarized. Pro-life advocates tend to oppose abortion for any reason. Pro-choice advocates tend to oppose any limitations on abortion. Both sides see compromise as a slippery slope.

Last week I attended a fundraiser for Maine Family Planning, which, along with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, provides a great deal of reproductive health care services to Maine women. I attended at the invitation of an old friend who helps raise money to guarantee that any woman in need of an abortion can get one regardless of ability to pay.

I am solidly pro-choice. I believe a woman has an absolute right to make decisions about her own body. Abortion presents a conundrum in that two people create the situation, but only one of them pays the consequences. The difficult decision about whether to end an unwanted pregnancy ultimately belongs to the woman.

A slim majority of Americans favor legal abortions. I certainly understand why others oppose abortion. I wish it were not necessary, but it is. I’m afraid, however, I take a dim view of abortion protesters. For one thing, they rarely strike me as loving and compassionate, but rather angry and self-righteous. And I’d give them more credit for their militant defense of the sanctity of life if I thought they also opposed war and the death penalty.

In Portland, I occasionally pass the protesters on Congress Street, some of whom holler up at the windows of the clinic while others carry signs depicting baby body parts. These gruesome images obviously incense the protesters, but what is not so obvious is what these graphic pictures depict, the wanton dismemberment of a living being or the surgical removal of a stillborn baby.

Even though they are statistically rare, late-term and partial-birth abortions seem to be the flash points of the anti-abortion movement. Late-term abortions constitute only about 1 percent of all procedures, and partial-birth abortions only about 2/10th of 1 percent. That’s because partial-birth abortions are already illegal, despite what anti-abortion activists seem to believe.

Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2003. Senators Collins and Snowe and Rep. Tom Allen voted against the ban. Rep. Mike Michaud voted for it. In 2007, the Supreme Court declared the ban constitutional in one of its narrow 5-4 decisions.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to the ban on partial-birth abortions when they are deemed necessary to protect the health or life of the mother. Partial-birth abortions are usually performed for medical reasons such as removing a dead baby from the mother’s womb.

It’s pretty clear to me that abortion protesters do not care at all about the women inside the clinic nor about the general public. They are on a mission from God to save those babies, and anyone who opposes them be damned. At least that’s the impression I get. A buffer zone around family planning clinics would seem to be in order, but the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom struck down Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone in 2014.

Some of the most virulent abortion foes will say that people who are pro-choice hate children. That is just hateful nonsense. It’s also often hypocritical. Show me a religious fundamentalist and I’ll show you someone who very likely treats women and children as chattel.

It seems to me that people who oppose abortion really should be promoting sex education and contraception rather than standing out in the street making a show of their moral indignation or pontificating about the sex lives of others. Frankly, if you’re opposed to contraception as well as abortion, you’re one of the reasons we have so many unwanted pregnancies. You’re the problem.

When sex education is universal, contraceptive care is easily accessible, and doing what comes naturally is no longer seen as sinful, we will have fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer abortions. But abortions are legal and must remain so as long as we remain imperfect beings.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

  • Chew H Bird

    And we agree on something… 🙂

  • yathink2011

    Going to do a column on the death penalty and why it’s a good crime deterrent?

    • poppypapa

      From what I’ve been told, there are no known cases of recidivism for those who have been administered the death penalty.

      • EABeem

        Which is one of the best reasons I know to oppose the death penalty — you can’t correct a mistake. I am glad you guys finally found one another though.

        • poppypapa

          “Correct” is open to interpretation by some, including lawyers who would gladly sue for millions for a wrongful death.

          You can’t give anyone time back if wrongfully spent. And the same lawyers are always handy.

    • Jimmy_John67

      Well in the last few months he has written lazy, troll columns on guns, abortion, deflategate and even the Bowdoin sombrero incident. I would say that a column on the death penalty is next in line for his standard lazy, click bait writing. Ed Beem, professional internet troll for hire!

  • poppypapa

    If you ever needed proof that Eddie doesn’t read what he writes, or is afflicted with a debilitating lack of self-awareness, all you have to do is look at this complaint of his about those who disagree with him:

    “For one thing, they rarely strike me as loving and compassionate, but rather angry and self-righteous.”

    You’d be hard pressed to think of an opinion writer who is given to higher flights of self-righteousness, or lower excursions of angriness than Eddie. In fact, anger and self-righteousness might well be the most common elements of his observations about the world that revolves around him.

    • Jimmy_John67

      Couldn’t agree more. Beem is the text book definition of angry, self-righteous liberal. I used to think his total lack of self awareness was a ruse to engineer hits for his click bait troll stories but the more he continues the more I think that he actually suffers from incredible personal insecurity.

  • poppypapa

    Geez, Eddie. What happened to the once reliable Beemians who grovelled at your feet over every column you wrote?

    • Queenie42

      Oh, we are here, Pem. Maybe we just don’t want to get into silly pissing contests, completely off topic, with angry, name-calling trolls.
      I am disappointed that you would waste your writing skills this way. Your blog has been a fountain of information we could get nowhere else.

      • poppypapa

        Actually, Q, I wasn’t referring to you…but if you want to include yourself, that’s your prerogative.

  • Real cool guy

    Roe vs Wade protects privacy (not choice) under a due process clause of the 5th/14th (?) amendment. Does the word “privacy” appear in the the due process clause.

    Regardless, it’s an abortion Beam. Not planned parenthoods language hijack of the roe vs wade text. Privacy. We have a right to privacy. We have a right to choice too. We can even choose life! Pro-abortion makes you sound like an ignorant monster though. And pro-privacy sounds like your hiding something. Who doesn’t want a choice!? Call it what it is! Pro-Abortion and Pro-Birth.

    How does pro-death penalty for a sadistic serial rapist or mass murderer compare to a pro-abortion/pro-life stance!? The death row inmate had a CHOICE not to commit the heinous crime, received a trial, and then how many appeals and years later is “humanely” put to death? The poor defensless little fetus on the other hand… no rights till… third trimester is it?

    Why does anyone really need an abortion!? And don’t give me the incest/rape language scam. Who are you people sleeping with!? If you can ask why I need a 15 round magazine I can ask why you need an abortion. Or is that a privacy violation?

    Woman should be on birth control if they don’t want to get pregnant and more men should be carrying and using condoms to avoid paying child support to a bartender or hipster. PROMOTING sexual abstinence and/or contraception isn’t the reason for unwanted pregnancies Beam. It’s the Old Port! Sorority parties! Promiscuous activity! Alcohol!

    How many committed adult partners are having abortions vs the formally young drunk girls!? Privacy invasion?

    I’m a middle aged adult male. I don’t carry condoms unless I’m going to the Old Port or a sorority party and I’ve never lived with or one nighted (alcohol) with a woman that used birth control. I’ve clearly mastered the Catholic method (pull and pray) or the women are secretly protecting their privacy and having abortions.

    You think a man doesn’t have a right or voice in the matter regarding his half of baby fetus!? You’re delusional. If your wife made the drunken mistake of sharing a bed with you after all these years only to become pregnant again for her kindness and CHOSE to vacuum little fetus Beam and toss the remains in the garbage can without consult. You would be pissed!

    By the way, is there a limit to the number of abortions a single woman can have before you shake a finger at her yourself? 1, 2…6…9!? Yup, I’ve heard all those numbers from the very woman who had them.

    I for one am grateful for abortions. Jobs are scarce. Traffic is heavy. Pollution is out of control. Beach front property is few and far between. The planet is crowded. Thank you!