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(image from http://www.rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com)

You would think I would have enough sense to keep my nose out of issues like this one.
Sometimes however I can’t help myself. Sometimes I see a headline that leads me to scratch my head. This was today’s morsel:

ABC News Headline 14 March 2014
“The Northern Territory Government is considering legislation on the rights of the unborn child which could see pregnant women prosecuted or restrained if they drink dangerously.”

They are considering what!!?

Well Northern Territory Government, good luck with that!

‘Prosecuted’?
Yes, that is guaranteed to be ineffective, but I can at least see how it could be done.

‘Restrained’? . . . Are they serious?
I wonder if that august assembly spent any time thinking this through. Five minutes reflection would have told them it wouldn’t fly. Still, I suppose they didn’t mean any real harm. They had good intentions. Meanwhile I’ll try and banish mental images of pregnant women tied up or imprisoned to keep them away from alcohol.

On the other hand this headline begged a question that has nagged at me for some time. It’s one I haven’t yet been able to answer in a way that satisfies me. It is really a series of questions rather than just one and asking them has it’s risks.

The good legislators obviously believe unborn children have some rights. One of these would seem be the right to be born without foetal alcohol syndrome and associated brain damage. Seems pretty reasonable. Would there be anyone who would deny such a right? I don’t know, but I would hope not.

But at the same time in our society, it seems unborn children have no inherent right to be born at all. Or at least, their right to life is contingent on their mother’s whim. Is there an inconsistency somewhere here?

Why are we as a society comfortable with supporting a woman’s right to choose to deny life to her unborn child but apparently quite uncomfortable when another woman chooses to inflict alcoholic brain damage on her unborn child? If it’s ok ethically to ‘terminate’ unborn children at will on the one hand, why on the other do we get antsy about some who are not terminated being born with brain damage?

I am not trying to be artful. Neither am I presuming to judge any woman who has an abortion. Who am I to point the finger at anyone? Do I know all their circumstances? Am I a fit and proper person to judge? No on every count.

I hope you don’t interpret this as an anti-abortion tirade. It is not. I am instead expressing my unease with one way our society does its ethics. Yes, there are aspects and implications of abortion that trouble me deeply, but I am not arguing that we should re-criminalise it. I am arguing that we should stop and think about what we are doing as a society and why. There will never be a perfect world. There will never be a time when all children are wanted. There will never be a time when women and men don’t need to make hard decisions about abortion. Hopefully however there will be a time when we have thought through our ethics and confronted glaring inconsistencies like the one above. When that time arrives we will face the consequences of our decisions with courage instead of trying to avoid them by trying to block the asking of awkward questions.

Did those good legislators realise what a land mine they placed in the way of those pilgrims on the high road to a more ethical and enlightened society? Do the pilgrims themselves even care?

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(Image from http://www.iupui.edu)

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