Monday, November 21, 2016

Thinking about Guns and Abortion

An unexpected similarity between the prochoice crowd and the right-to-bear-arms crowd struck me the other day when I heard a news story out of Indiana.   A judge ordered that the implementation of a law banning abortions sought due to fetal genetic abnormalities be temporarily delayed.  The state chose not to appeal.  The report also mentioned, “North Dakota is the only other state that prohibits abortions because of genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome or because of the race, gender or ancestry of a fetus.”

The first thing that struck me as odd about the law was how it could be enforced.  How do you prove that the parents’ actions were based on not wanting a baby in one of these categories rather than just not wanting a baby (or another baby) at this particular time?  The state would have to prove many assumptions about the inner thoughts of those making the decision.  Even if they made the decision after getting news of possible abnormalities, people do change their minds.

The next puzzle arose from the understanding that those who are prochoice are generally in favor of protecting the rights of everyone, with a special emphasis on considerations of race, gender or disability.  They will often circulate petitions, write to legislators, march in protest and vote for candidates based on the need to ensure that no one in these categories faces discrimination.  Yet the right of a woman to discriminate against an unborn child for the same reasons wins out over the right of the disabled unborn.  Is there a contradiction here or at the very least, an inconsistency?  I did a mental double-take and tried to resolve it.

My interpretation of this apparent contradiction comes, believe it or not, from parallel behavior among defenders of the Second Amendment.  When faced with reasonable arguments about automatic weapons and so-called assault rifles, they balk.  These weapons are not used for hunting and seem like unnecessary firepower even for self-defense.  How many rounds per second do you need to fire through the door to neutralize an intruder?  You can’t very well fit one of these into a purse with your concealed-carry permit.  Those who favor increased gun control scratch their heads in wonderment at the intractability of their political opponents.

But the same principle applies in both cases:  give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.  Any compromise moves one step closer to selling out on the basic position.  Whether it be a stance on right to choose or a stance on guns, any compromise weakens your negotiating position in future discussions, arguments, and legal battles.

How many other areas face the same quandary?  We look to Washington to compromise, to reach across the aisle, but in everyday beliefs ordinary Americans refuse to act in that way.  Each party holds fast to its principles.  Then we scratch our heads and ask why nothing gets done.

People may differ philosophically, but their behavior is often surprisingly similar.  Remember only a month ago when a big fear was that a Trump loss would lead to protests in the street?

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