Monday, August 22, 2005

Navy wife loses abortion case

Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the wife of a Navy sailor who had aborted an anencephalic fetus. The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, thought that her military insurance plan should pay for the abortion. (Anencephaly, by the way, means no brain--and, in the case of Jane Doe's fetus, no skull. It is one of the conditions referred to in medicine as "incompatible with life.") The Northwest Women's Law Center, a non-profit group working to advance legal rights for women, represented Doe in court. Lisa Stone, executive director of the Center, commented, "The rational basis behind the prohibition on the termination of pregnancy is the preservation of potential human life. With an anencephalic fetus, there is no life. Therefore, it's irrational, and I would say cruel, to apply the restriction in a case like Jane Doe's." Read more here.

Like the debate around embryonic stem cell research, this case hinges on payment. That is, the government didn't prohibit Doe from having the abortion; it just said it wouldn't pay for it. Supporters of such policy decisions tend to say things like, "You may have a legal right to do it, but that doesn't mean the state has to support it." Sounds reasonable, on the face of it. Thing is, while scientists do have other options for finding money for hES research, the Jane Does of the world--even those lucky enough to have insurance--are on their own.

2 comments:

Kristi said...

Seems I am coming to the party late, this topic is no longer current news. But I had to pause to share a comment. I gave birth to an anencephalic baby, and I can tell you such babies have an under-developed skull, and a very under-developed brain, but my baby lived for three days. And I loved her, every bit of her, because she is the baby I created.
This woman's case is heartbreaking, but it would be heartbreaking no matter what she chose or who paid for it. There is good cause to stop short of the government paying for abortion, even eugenic abortion as in this case. The only way this case is any different is if you think imperfect life is worthless. There is nothing unreasonable in expecting a society to set an absolute value on human life, and not let every citizen judge for themselves how much life, what quality of life, counts as worth protecting.

Kristi said...

Seems I am coming to the party late, this topic is no longer current news. But I had to pause to share a comment. I gave birth to an anencephalic baby, and I can tell you such babies have an under-developed skull, and a very under-developed brain, but my baby lived for three days. And I loved her, every bit of her, because she is the baby I created.
This woman's case is heartbreaking, but it would be heartbreaking no matter what she chose or who paid for it. There is good cause to stop short of the government paying for abortion, even eugenic abortion as in this case. The only way this case is any different is if you think imperfect life is worthless. There is nothing unreasonable in expecting a society to set an absolute value on human life, and not let every citizen judge for themselves how much life, what quality of life, counts as worth protecting.