Fetal Murder Trial
June 8, 2005 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Young man gets life sentence for helping his girlfriend end pregnancy. The girlfriend was not charged. Under the Texas Fetal Protection Law, a woman cannot be charged for causing the deaths of her own fetuses for any reason. The defense contended that Basoria punched herself while Flores was stepping on her, making it impossible to tell who caused the miscarriage.
posted by Espoo2 (83 comments total)
Wow. How horrible. For everyone. Sigh.
posted by billysumday at 4:58 PM on June 8, 2005

I remember seeing this when it first came to light. Shame that both of them weren't convicted because this story made me sick.
posted by fenriq at 5:06 PM on June 8, 2005

Read the full story on this. She tried this brutal, barbaric method because it's basically impossible to get an abortion after 16 weeks in Texas, thanks to a law passed there forcing you to use a hospital, which doesn't grant them quickly and is quite expensive.

Then there's a fetal murder law that has a long sentence.

These people are nuts and did a terrible thing, but then again, abortion should be legal in America and it sounds like Texas has figured out a way to make it much less so.
posted by mathowie at 5:14 PM on June 8, 2005

Is anyone going to argue that this child would have otherwise been born into a loving home? I say this is actually the lesser of two evils, from the child's perspective.

The fact that he gets charged, and a life sentance, where she gets off free, is wrong.
posted by Balisong at 5:15 PM on June 8, 2005

Wow, I was having a sarcastic thought about how it was in a "red" state and figured it was just difficult to have an abortion there.

And then there's mathowie with the facts.
posted by snsranch at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2005

Loving home? No. But this is absolutely my least favorite argument for abortion. I don't think that child's life would have been pleasant, I don't even really want to think about it too much at all. But I don't think that deciding that that child really wouldn't have wanted to be alive, long run, is a valid thing to say.

It is the mother's right over her own body that makes abortion legal, regardless of whether an abortion is a horrible immoral thing. I really don't like this social darwinism eugenicsy argument that the child would have actually preferred to die. Surely, some people do commit suicide, so it is not out of the question. And I don't want to say that I personally have such a strong will that I could survive a horrible childhood and become a person who would be proud of their own life. But some people do. That's not the choice we have here, it's the mother's own control that we have to worry about.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:24 PM on June 8, 2005

I second Mathowie. This is a horrible example of what will happen when women have no control over their uteruses.

Is society better off for sentencing this man to life in prison? I don't think so. This guy sounds like a brut, but this wouldn't happen in a state that wasn't trying to intimidate abortion out of existence.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:28 PM on June 8, 2005

I have to agree with gesamtkunstwerk and mathowie. However, mathowies article stated that she was four months pregnant. That's pretty late. This is just another really bad situation and the two people involved have to bear the responsiblity for their actions.
posted by snsranch at 5:36 PM on June 8, 2005

"Young man gets life sentence for helping his girlfriend end pregnancy."

Humans can euphemize anything.
posted by aaronshaf at 5:48 PM on June 8, 2005

End pregnancy? He stepped on her belly with the babies inside! OMFG!

I have mixed feelings about this case, but it is no simple abortion. If he did this against her wishes, I doubt too many people would bemoan a murder conviction.
posted by caddis at 5:51 PM on June 8, 2005

BARBARISM IN TEXAS.... (Washington Monthly/Political Animal)--...This is the intersection of stupid kids, stupid laws, mendacious legislators, and fanatical prosecutors. It's what happens when states ban access to otherwise legal abortions and kids don't know where to turn. And if circumstances and the law had been slightly different, Bauereiss probably would have prosecuted Erica Basoria too and sought the death penalty for both.

It's like living under the Ayatollahs in Iran. It's simple barbarism. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:05 PM on June 8, 2005

Dreadful. Four months is pretty late for an abortion. Why did they leave it so late? Could they not have gone outside of Texas for an abortion?
posted by orange swan at 6:06 PM on June 8, 2005

Here's a FindLaw article with legal commentary on a similar case in Michigan.
posted by ltl at 6:07 PM on June 8, 2005

Here I sit
Cheeks aflexin'
Giving birth
To another Texan.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:08 PM on June 8, 2005

The double standard is alive and well though. Where's her life sentence? She did this thing JUST as much as he did. Maybe she was thinking of baby ducks while he planned and executed this dastardly plan without her knowledge?

For me though this kind of story is the most compelling argument for adequate education around reproductive issues and sufficient access to birth control, day-after pills, and non-shaming abortion services. No matter how "bad" some in society think it is, the fact remains that people - usually scared youngsters who don't really get what's going on - will require these services. Making them afraid to seek them out - or impossible to find - leads directly to abominations like this. And back-alley coathanger jobs that leave women hemorrhaging and dying.
posted by mikel at 6:11 PM on June 8, 2005

The stepping on the stomach is (or should be) irrelevant. She consented to it. And the brutality of the act from the perspective of the fetus (if there is such a perspective) is no worse than a hospital abortion.

So this crime really amounts to little more than performing an abortion without a license. It's fair game for a state to create such an offense, but imposing a life sentence is appalling. I like this guy's chances on appeal.
posted by brain_drain at 6:11 PM on June 8, 2005

fenriq writes "Shame that both of them weren't convicted because this story made me sick."

Homosexuals (they have sex where they poo!), Wiccans (the pray to a god who's not male!), Furries ("plushies"), and Libertarians (obvious) make me sick. Can we convict them, too?

Or maybe we should measure justice with a better yardstick than our personal "ick"-factors?
posted by orthogonality at 6:17 PM on June 8, 2005

And the brutality of the act from the perspective of the fetus (if there is such a perspective) is no worse than a hospital abortion.

You make a great argument for banning hospital abortions. Is that what you meant?
posted by caddis at 6:18 PM on June 8, 2005

I wonder if Gov. Perry signed that law in a church also? or was it at a Christian adoption agency?
posted by amberglow at 6:30 PM on June 8, 2005

The fact that Texas law would force them to go to a hospital instead of a clinic and that there would have been red tape and expense involved makes what they did seem perfectly reasonable.
posted by Carbolic at 6:31 PM on June 8, 2005

Seriously though, fuck texas...
posted by schyler523 at 7:18 PM on June 8, 2005

Yes, four months is late. But often, women continue to get what they believe is their period when they are actually pregnant, so it's entirely possible she didn't know she was pregnant until she was this far along (it's happened to several people I know).

She was still under the legal limit for the definition of a (badly described) late-term abortion. The laws in the country are getting worse and worse by the minute.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 7:18 PM on June 8, 2005

The fetal protection law is the problem. The fetus should not be considered an 'individual' but a capacity of the mother at this stage, if we are to remain consistent with the current abortion laws.

Causing a woman to miscarry is a form of grievous assault like removing or modifying some part of her body, but if she wants to do it, it can't be considered in the same context. Cutting off a woman's boobs would be punishable assault. Getting a breast reduction would be a legal medical procedure. Asking a friend to give you an amateur breast reduction because you're desperate and broke would be stupid, and the friend would have to be held accountable, but a life sentence is clearly excessive.
posted by mdn at 7:20 PM on June 8, 2005

Dreadful. Four months is pretty late for an abortion. Why did they leave it so late? Could they not have gone outside of Texas for an abortion?

As the article states that she is 17, and I'm wagering that Texas probably has laws against minors getting out of state abortions without parental consent, I'd guess no.

As for why she decided so late, I'd guess fear. I don't condone what they did, but I can't blame them for feeling like they had no other option.
posted by Ruki at 7:31 PM on June 8, 2005

Damn Texas sucks.
posted by graventy at 8:12 PM on June 8, 2005

The law in Texas may not have left them with the most desirable option but it left them with many that were better than the one they chose. Robbing a bank to buy a car so they could drive into Mexico would have been far superior to the "stomping option".

The fact that they are idiots has more to do with it than the state of the law in Texas.
posted by Carbolic at 8:14 PM on June 8, 2005

I'd have to second mathowie, amberglow, and a number of others posting in similar vein here.

The hard religious right took over the Texas GOP in '92 - this post concerns the fallout from that.

The hard religious right has taken over the majority of state GOP party structures.

Hello theocracy.... or get up off your butt.
posted by troutfishing at 8:27 PM on June 8, 2005

As to the question of why the woman waited so long to end her pregnancy, apparently she had earlier on seen a doctor who had given her false information about where and how to obtain an abortion, because he felt she should remain pregnant. His imposition of his values on her, and his unconscionable fraud, led to the pair (who are teenagers, I might add, and thus prone to doing rash, stupid things) into their desperate act to end the pregnancy.

Why he is not being sued or having his medical license stripped publically and accompanied by loud booing is an utter mystery to me.
posted by thelaze at 8:49 PM on June 8, 2005

Whee. Man the more you learn about this case the more it sucks.

If he did this against her wishes, I doubt too many people would bemoan a murder conviction

Indeed. My way of thinking about this echoes SomeOneElse's post above, in that it's the woman's body until some point x along in the process and society should not impinge on her control of her body until this point x, x being either related to fetal development or parturition (I make no strong claims here).

I also agree that the quasi-eugenic argument (the baby would have had a sucky life anyway) is grotesque and should be rethought.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:06 PM on June 8, 2005

[Prosecutor Art] Bauereiss told jurors... If the babies had been killed after being born, it wouldn't have been so controversial, he said. "Think what a horrible crime this would be,” he said. "We wouldn't hesitate to label it for what it is."

Yes, if only the situation were different, people would feel differently about it.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 9:15 PM on June 8, 2005

Four months along... I'm a little fuzzy on the details, and doubtless there is a whole complex continuum of exceptions here, but I believe that at that point the child's brain is functioning. I think that the first brain activity (neurons synapsing and firing) shows up around three months (I absolutely could be wrong) but regardless of the time, it is after this point that I feel an abortion to be the death of a child, before this point it is merely that, an abortion of a potential child, which is no crime by any of my standards.

I don't know how controversial my position is, but here it is, since you all clearly asked for it. A baby is clearly a baby 10 seconds before it enters the world, and 10 minutes, 10 days, etc. However, it's clearly just a cell or blastocyst or larger ball of semi-organized cells (as is a cancer) at day one, day two, day three... and so on. So when does the ball of cells become a human being? Well, I think that when the baby becomes conscious for the first time he/she is alive. When is the baby first conscious? We have to take the most conservative possible estimate to eliminate the possibility of error on the long side, so let's say the earliest possible time - not provable but possible - a baby can be conscious is when its brain first begins functioning. When the neurons begin to work. I think that after this point abortion should be avoided at any cost, and before this point it should be provided like any other medical service necessary to some. /end soapbox
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:27 PM on June 8, 2005

orthogonality, no. Don't be stupid. I don't make the laws, I don't enforce the law, however, I am fully entitled to be upset by people who did what I feel is a pretty horrible act. That it is a travesty of justice that the guy is sentenced to life and the girl goes free is as bothersome as the murder.

I wasn't aware of the red tape and hassle of getting an abortion in Texas and it does mitigate my feelings somewhat but I still have a problem with killing a child that far along. I guess I forget every so often that people aren't really free in the Land of the Free, its another part of the reason I live in California and not Texas.
posted by fenriq at 9:47 PM on June 8, 2005

BlackLeotard: well, we can always anesthetize the fetus before killing it, if that's your concern, which it sorta sounds like it is.

I don't see much of a difference between almost-brain and brain in fetal development, since dead is dead in the end, but as a practical matter and to protect basic human rights I think RvW got the divisions good enough for this issue; though of course well-intentioned and thinking people can have polar differences; I certainly understand people who want to protect the fetus at all costs, I just think on a practical and moral matter they should butt the hell out of the mother's life, since it's easy to moralize about somebody's else's life;

not a womb among 'em.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:19 PM on June 8, 2005

Heywood, what I meant was that for something to be murder you have to kill a human being, and the earliest possible time that can be is IMHO when the brain begins to function - before that it is definitely a ball of cells.

One question is how far are you willing to take a woman's right to what goes on in her body? Like i said, 10 seconds before birth can she say, "uhhhh, sike" and have an abortion? No, cause theres an actual baby that sees and hears things in there. At some point the ball of cells becomes that baby. At that point it seems self-evident that abortion ceases to be abortion and becomes infanticide.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:15 AM on June 9, 2005

Shit like this is why the rest of the civilized world shakes their head sadly at Texas (and often the rest of the US), much as an adult might cast a pitying glance at a child holding a temper tantrum.

I've got a hundred bucks for the fund to sneak the kid out of the country while the case is appealed. And another hundred bucks for the fund to put the frighteners on the assholes who signed this into law.

Her body. Her choice. And also her choice whether or not to see a medical professional. Fetuses aren't legal persons and should have no legal protections. Period.

10 seconds before birth can she say, "uhhhh, sike" and have an abortion?

I would support her decision to do so, yes, for the very simple reasons stated in my previous paragraph. A legal person's shallowest and weakest right trumps the entirety of every pseudo-right of every non-legal-person ever to have existed in toto.

I mean, c'mon. What's next? The death penalty for euthanizing unwanted kittens?
posted by solid-one-love at 1:18 AM on June 9, 2005

10 seconds before birth can she say, "uhhhh, sike" and have an abortion?

I would support her decision to do so, yes, for the very simple reasons stated in my previous paragraph. A legal person's shallowest and weakest right trumps the entirety of every pseudo-right of every non-legal-person ever to have existed in toto.

I mean, c'mon. What's next? The death penalty for euthanizing unwanted kittens

Um, that's the craziest slippery slope argument I've ever seen. Not to mention a leetle bit psycho. When does a non-legal-person become a legal person? Crowning? When the umbilical cord is cut? A day old? What's the substantial difference between 10 seconds before birth and these examples?
posted by Snyder at 1:34 AM on June 9, 2005

I think the doctor who lied to her is at much at fault her as the boyfriend. He should lose his medical license for lying to a patient pronto. Is he named? Because I, for one, would like to know exactly who he is. And her family sound like utter assholes.

Maybe next time she should just fling herself down the stairs, that way there's no one to blame but her.
posted by fshgrl at 1:45 AM on June 9, 2005


I understood your point about the humanness coming with thought, but any posited point x is arbitrary. To me, using your logic of fetal humanness trumping the mother's privacy, point x would go way back to when the ball of cells differentiates. Before that time (ca. day 20) the ball of cells is not one person but can form into any number of individuals.

One question is how far are you willing to take a woman's right to what goes on in her body? Like i said, 10 seconds before birth can she say, "uhhhh, sike" and have an abortion?

I believe the mother should control her body and her fetus by extension, but not being a total 100% libertarian I think society does have an interest in seeing the fetus delivered healthy instead of damaged through drug-abuse or aborted.

That interest is bounded by the mother's right to take reasonable measures to protect her health before and during labor. If a woman does not want to go through with labor, it is her right to terminate the pregnancy. But if there is no rational medical necessity/desireability for this decision, the attending health providers should have standing to refuse this request (interesting parallel with pharmacists not dispensing birth control, but given the risks of pregnancy vs. early abortions, termination is a rational choice).

This is somewhat weaseling, but, again, I think RvW handled the debate as best as can be expected; this issue is not cut and dried and with competing fundamental rights at stake no legal solution is going to be totally efficacious.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:55 AM on June 9, 2005

Well, she's lucky that it worked. If it hadn't, she would have given birth to not one, but two, infants who would probably have serious damage from this. Caring for them would have been a serious burden for someone who didn't want children in the first place.

I think four months on is awfully late to be getting an abortion. In my mind, the cutoff line occurs when the fetus is viable - at around 27 weeks. Four months is still well under that line, but still well above the norm for abortion (usually done before the end of the first trimester - ~12 weeks).

Myself, if I felt that I needed an abortion, I would find out exactly where I needed to go STAT and not wait around any longer than I had to. That said, I don't live in Texas.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:04 AM on June 9, 2005

The selective prosecution makes sense to me.

The boy is obviously garbage, and society is very well served consigning him to the tender mercies of prison.

The girl, on the other hand -- a pregnant 17 year old with no better prospects than said garbage to take care of her and her baby -- was probably completely beyond rational thought (and odds are she was probably never very much in the brains department anyway).
posted by MattD at 4:55 AM on June 9, 2005

Of course! Sweet little girls could NEVER be garbage!
Dumb, sure, but not the filthy rotten waste of human flesh BOYS are!

I think you win, MattD!
posted by Balisong at 5:47 AM on June 9, 2005

"10 seconds before birth can she say, "uhhhh, sike" and have an abortion?

I would support her decision to do so,"

People like you scare the hell out of me. You can seemingly rationalize just about anything so long as it's convenient. (And history is full of cruelty committed for the sake of convenience.)
posted by haasim at 6:03 AM on June 9, 2005

And all I can think of is the Jello Biafra/Mojo Nixon song "Will the Fetus be Aborted"
posted by Eekacat at 6:46 AM on June 9, 2005

10 seconds before birth can she say, "uhhhh, sike" and have an abortion?

I would support her decision to do so, yes . . .

Attitudes such as this merely strengthen the arguments for further limiting abortions. Do you want to retain the right to have an abortion? If so you have to be reasonable. The other side will focus their arguments on your unreasonableness, and they will win.
posted by caddis at 8:00 AM on June 9, 2005

Are we overlooking the fact that an abortion is not an easy decision that people take lightly, nor a fun and simple procedure, nor is it something that makes you happy to have done? ("Boy am I glad I took care of that tumor in my belly!" Get real.)
Being a young person with no support, no help, little money, and few options, what would you do? (Aside from "not get pregnant in the first place.")
posted by Jon-o at 8:37 AM on June 9, 2005

Are we overlooking the fact that their names are Basoria (f) and Flores (m)?
posted by Balisong at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2005

Those of you baffled by why she might not have had the abortion earlier may want to educate yourself on some of the hoop-jumping laws in effect throughout the US, as well as the scarcity of abortion providers in many parts of the country (many doctors have decided, for moral or practical reasons, that it's just not worth it).

Some information from Planned Parenthood:

Various Factors Require Women to Have Abortions after the First Trimester

Barriers to Service

Geographic A 2001 survey of U.S. abortion providers found that among women who have non-hospital abortions, approximately 16 percent travel 50 to 100 miles for services, and an additional eight percent travel more than 100 miles (Henshaw & Finer, 2003). It follows that having to travel such distances would cause delays in obtaining abortions.

Provider shortage As of 2000, 87 percent of U.S. counties have no known abortion provider; these counties are home to 34 percent of all women of reproductive age. Furthermore, 97 percent of non-metropolitan counties have no abortion services, and 91 percent of non-metropolitan women live in these unserved counties (Finer & Henshaw, 2003).

Financial In 1997, the average cost of a first-trimester, non-hospital abortion with local anesthesia was $319. In 2000 this cost was $372. For low-income and younger women, gathering the necessary funds for the procedure often causes delays. Compounding the problem is the fact that the cost of abortion rises with gestational age: in 2001, non-hospital facilities charged $774 for abortion at 16 weeks gestation and $1,179 at 20 weeks. Most women are forced to pay for abortions out-of-pocket. In 2000, only 13 percent of abortions were paid by Medicaid and another 13 percent were billed directly to private insurance. (Henshaw & Finer, 2003). For some women, the cost of abortion can pose significant barriers to access.

Legal restrictions Causing additional delays are state laws such as those mandating parental consent or notification or court-authorized bypass for minors and those imposing required waiting periods. For example, after Mississippi passed a parental consent requirement, the ratio of minors to adults obtaining abortions after 12 weeks increased by 19 percent (Henshaw, 1995).

Other Reasons for Postponing Abortion Past 12 Weeks

* lack of financial and/or emotional support from the male partner

* psychological denial of pregnancy, as may occur in cases of rape or incest

* lack of pregnancy symptoms, seeming continuation of "periods," irregular menses

* absence of partner due to estrangement or death (Paul et al., 1999)

Adolescents Often Delay Abortion Until after the First Trimester

Adolescents are more likely than older women to obtain abortions later in pregnancy. Adolescents obtain 30 percent of all abortions performed after the first trimester (CDC, 2003).

Among women under age 15, nearly one in four abortions are performed at 13 or more weeks' gestation (CDC, 2003).

The very youngest women, those under age 15, are more likely than others to obtain abortions at 21 or more week's gestation (CDC, 2003).

Common reasons why adolescents delay abortion until after the first trimester include fear of parents' reaction, denial of pregnancy, and prolonged fantasies that having a baby will result in a stable relationship with their partner (Paul et al., 1999). In addition, adolescents may have irregular periods (Friedman et al., 1998), making it difficult for them to detect pregnancy. Also, as previously noted, state laws requiring parental consent or court-authorized bypass for minors often cause delays.
posted by occhiblu at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2005

I support the "ten seconds before birth" rule for this reason:

  • I believe that in such a society, access to safe and legal abortion would be readily available;
  • I believe that it'd be an exceptional case indeed where a woman aborts ten seconds before delivery;
  • I believe that in such a society, the overall benefit and good to society far outweighs the minimal cost of the occasional nutjob taking it down to the wire.

  • Are we overlooking the fact that their names are Basoria (f) and Flores (m)?

    Whu? I don't understand what you're trying to get at here.
    posted by five fresh fish at 8:56 AM on June 9, 2005

    They probably had horrible childhoods, themselves, and/or deranged parents. The cycle continues. Nothing more.
    posted by Balisong at 9:02 AM on June 9, 2005

    Well, I think that when the baby becomes conscious for the first time he/she is alive. When is the baby first conscious?

    depends what you mean by conscious, to start with. It's probably not really self conscious until it's like 7 years old! And obviously this is not just a question of consciousness, because science commonly suggests that certain animals (dogs, parrots, chimps) are as conscious as young children (2-4 yrs old) but we allow the killing of those animals and not of the children.

    This is why the decision about abortion was so carefully worked out: the rights of the fetus as a potential (but not yet existent) being are taken into account, but the rights of the mother as an actual being trump the fetus insofar as the existence of the fetus infringes on her rights. That is, so long as the fetus is parasitic on the mother, its status as potentiality cannot overpower the mother's rights as a fully enabled individual.

    However, once the mother is no longer suffering a loss of rights because of the fetus, the potential individual becomes the concern of the state, and is protected. At birth, the fetus is not self-sufficient, but it can be cared for by someone other than the mother. Prior to birth (whether natural or induced / cesarian) the mother literally gives up the use of her body to the fetus. That is why she has the right to remove it. Once it can be cared for otherwise, she has no right over its destiny - women do not have the right to control their genetic heirs or anything (which is why men cannot impose abortions, or veto them). The woman's choice is not thanks to her having dna involved here, but only because her body is being taken over.
    posted by mdn at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2005

    Honestly-- I think the only thing this guy should be charged with is performing medicine without a license.

    Is it gross? I guess, but not any more gross then any other late-term abortion.

    I guess it's up to the suprime court. It's a shame this guy is going to have is life ruined because of a fucked up powerstruggle.
    posted by delmoi at 9:30 AM on June 9, 2005

    Just frome reading the headline I was imagining some horrible scene with the two of them pounding on her stomach untill the bloody fetus was ejected.

    But what happened is that basicaly stood on her stomach a couple times in the week leading up to the misscarage.

    Dosn't seem particularly grusom on his part at all.
    posted by delmoi at 9:37 AM on June 9, 2005

    Her body. Her choice. And also her choice whether or not to see a medical professional. Fetuses aren't legal persons and should have no legal protections. Period.

    Well, slaves didn't used to be legal persons either.
    posted by delmoi at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2005

    The boy is obviously garbage, and society is very well served consigning him to the tender mercies of prison.

    Flag on isle 952408.

    MattD is obviously garbage. Obviously.
    posted by delmoi at 9:59 AM on June 9, 2005

    Exactly, occhiblu! Here is how I was visualizing the timeline:

    Week 0: Conception
    Week 2: Some light spotting, leading the female to think her period had arrived.
    Week 6: Female has irregular periods and never bothers to note dates of periods, so a little hazy on when period should be due.
    Week 7: Starting to feel dread, vows if period does not start soon, will buy a pregnancy test.
    Week 8: Tearfully reads positive pregnancy test. Puts it out of mind as too terrible to think about.
    Week 9: Finally confesses to boyfriend. He says they must find a doctor, quickly. Calls around and discovers that a the initial visit will be $75.00 to be paid up front.
    Week 10: Scrapes up $75.00 and makes appointment.
    Week 12: Doctor confirms pregnancy but gives false information.
    Week 14: Female attempts to gather information on how to get an abortion from her friends.
    Week 15: Discovers that she can get an abortion at a clinic half way across the state for $450.00, but has no way to get that much money or to get herself to the clinic. Seeks help from boyfriend who scrambles to find the money with no success.
    Week 16: In despair, terminates the pregnancy the only way she knows how.

    My own particular rule for allowable abortions is right up until the baby can live on its own outside the womb. Until then it is nothing more than a parasite.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:03 AM on June 9, 2005

    What I don't get about this is how this story came out...was she bruised and went to the hospital, or did the couple admit their actions, or were there witnesses?
    posted by Kickstart70 at 10:15 AM on June 9, 2005

    Here is a picture of a fetus at five months.
    posted by caddis at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2005

    caddis, somehow I doubt it. Do you have a scientific cite for that "five months" claim, or just what people who have a vested interest in one side of the debate have stated?
    posted by Kickstart70 at 10:36 AM on June 9, 2005

    MattD, do you really think that way, or are you just trying to get a rise out of people? The boy is by fiat "garbage" but the girl was just a helpless irrational idiot who obviously needed a better caretaker? Do you secretly think it's a little crazy that women have the vote, too?

    Well, slaves didn't used to be legal persons either.

    slaves were fully willful beings who were kept under control by force. fetuses are proto-animals which are continually developing toward consciousness, but cannot be said to have any more awareness than maybe an insect or fish at this point - they have essentially no life experience, which is substantive of consciousness, and very little electrical activity - the brain at this point is directing development and activity of the body (ie, making the heart beat) but it is not thinking or feeling.

    The analogy is ridiculous. If the master of the slave were killed (and any potential heirs), the slave would rejoice in freedom. If the mother of the fetus were killed (& any potential caretakers), the fetus would die too. The slave is an actual human being taken into custody against his individual interests, and by force. The fetus is a potential human being entirely dependent on the work of the mother's body to bring it into actuality.
    posted by mdn at 10:40 AM on June 9, 2005

    While a fetus at five months may look very baby-like (though good looks won't get it far outside of the womb, I'm afraid. Babies born before 27 weeks don't stand a chance at the whole "breathing" thing), a fetus at sixteen weeks looks remarkably like an alien.

    The girl in question had her miscarriage at 16 weeks. Tugging at heartstrings with that five month fetus is a straw man.
    posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:17 AM on June 9, 2005

    Ah, I only read the first article (as I thought that was ridiculous enough) - it indicates she was "about four months" pregnant when she started efforts to terminate the pregnancy, but doesn't give specifics as to when she miscarried.

    Still, my original point stands. No matter how "baby-like" it looks, a 5 month fetus can not live outside the womb. You can try to justify its right as a person by saying "but it looks JUST LIKE a baby!" but that really means nothing. Its lungs are not fully formed and it can not breathe on its own.

    I personally believe that this is awfully late for an abortion, but I also think that until the fetus is viable on its own (or rather, on life support, but outside the womb), it is the mother's right to terminate the pregnancy. Cute as it may be, a five month fetus is not viable.
    posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:38 PM on June 9, 2005

    mdn: I didn't say that a fetus was equvilant to a slave. I was only pointing out that "legality" is not a good way to determine if someone is a human life worth protecting. You provided some reasons why you think a fetus is not a human, none of which have to do with legality.


    This story also underscores why competant legal aid is so important. If they'd have been able to afford a lawyer I'm sure they would have gotten their abortion. If they could have afforded a lawyer after the fact, he could have told them that if the girl changed her story on the stand, her boyfriend wouldn't have gone to jail.
    posted by delmoi at 2:01 PM on June 9, 2005

    What mdn has been saying, in spades.
    posted by five fresh fish at 2:11 PM on June 9, 2005

    Just to add to the list of obstacles women who want safe, legal abortions must overcome, women have to take time off work to obtain the abortion. Some states require a 24-hour waiting period after the initial office visit, necessitating two days off work plus a hotel stay plus travel expenses for a vast majority of women. If the woman doesn't get paid time off, she's taking two days off without pay on top of shelling out what is, for a large part of the population, more money than she makes in a week.

    Sometimes "free" becomes more desirable than "safe" or "legal" or "relatively less painful."
    posted by jennyb at 3:06 PM on June 9, 2005

    With all this talk about survivability and consciousness... at what age does one become conscious and self-aware? And what of those people who claim to have memories of being the in the womb? And are premature babies less alive than healthy babies? Pro-choice is ultimately pro-selfishness. If one doesn't want a baby and is incapable of being able to love him/her, there are plenty of people eager to take on that responsibility.
    posted by haasim at 4:45 PM on June 9, 2005

    To be honest, I really don't think anyone below the age of say 35 is really self aware. Why should it be a crime to kill those parasites?
    posted by caddis at 5:05 PM on June 9, 2005

    I'm sorry, I appear to have used the wrong verbiage. Why should it be a crime to eliminate and dispose of that conception product?
    posted by caddis at 5:08 PM on June 9, 2005

    I've noticed several of us talking about abortion being available up to the point of viability outside the womb. I've thought the same, but modern medicine keeps pushing viability back earlier and earlier. Blogger Eric Snowdeal's son Odin was delivered at 24 weeks. This is more common in wealthy nations like the US, but I fully expect to hear about 15-week micropremies kept alive outside the womb in my lifetime.

    RvW discussing viability at some length. What alternative to abortion is available? If a woman does not want to carry a fetus "to term," the government can't force her to do so. It infringes on her right to privacy -- her right not be be the state's incubator of potential life. But, what if the state can take a fetus at 15 weeks and raise it? The woman gets it out and the state protects the potential/actual baby human.
    posted by Cassford at 7:34 PM on June 9, 2005

    Anyone who says that a baby 10 seconds before birth is not a human being is a deluded fool. The key is not the time of birth, which can now be determined by the mother, but the point at which a "potential human being" becomes an actual conscious creature. You don't even have to define consciousness, other than the fact that you need a brain to have it - you simply have to take the most conservative route, namely no abortions after the brain activates. At this point it becomes possible that the baby is conscious and as such we cannot allow it to be destroyed or we risk condoning infanticide. Clearly a real, living human being has more rights than a to-be human, but if the to-be human is actually just a small human inside another, I don't see how we can consider it different humanity-wise other than the fact that it is fully dependent on her for its continued life - not unlike a newborn, infant, or toddler.

    Unfortunately, there are counter-arguments. First, people can argue that the soul, the seat of consciousness in their view, is established at conception. Also, they can argue that to completely minimize risk of infanticide we must ban abortion at any point as well as birth control. I think these arguments are faith-informed rather than rational and extreme to the point of impracticality, but what I think isn't going to make any laws.
    posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:03 PM on June 9, 2005

    To be honest, I really don't think anyone below the age of say 35 is really self aware. Why should it be a crime to kill those parasites?

    Are you actually saying that someone over the age of 35 has actually done something worthwhile? Old people are a drain on society at best.
    posted by Snyder at 9:36 PM on June 9, 2005

    Cassford, I think that comes down to resources. If the government is now in charge of incubating and raising all fetuses that would otherwise have been aborted, where is the money and equipment to do that supposed to come from?
    posted by occhiblu at 10:07 PM on June 9, 2005

    To expand: According to the Planned Parenthood numbers, there were 1.31 million legal abortions in 2000. 1.5% of those were after the first trimester. That's almost 20,000 kids you're putting in state care -- and, presumably, if this were an option, there would be more pressure on women to "bear with it" for a few months and then turn the baby over to the state, increasing the numbers.

    I suppose we could decriminalize marijuana and use the money currently going to the drug war to build more hospitals and orphanages...
    posted by occhiblu at 10:13 PM on June 9, 2005

    To be honest, I really don't think anyone below the age of say 35 is really self aware. Why should it be a crime to kill those parasites?

    35 might be pushing it. Maybe up until 16 it could be acceptable to eat your young.
    posted by lightweight at 12:03 AM on June 10, 2005

    Anyone who says that a baby 10 seconds before birth is not a human being is a deluded fool.

    Well, you can't speak or use tools until several months/years after birth, and speaking and using tools are generally how we show we're human and not lesser animals, so arguably we don't become human until well after birth. We recognise this in many ways in law and society: you get more human rights and responsibilities as you age and become more human, until at adulthood you are a full human.

    So, you have a continuum roughly from fertilization to sexual maturation, and you have to define where humanity starts. An age of four or so is tempting, since it is about then that we start develop uniquely human characteristics. However, on policy grounds, I would argue that birth is a pragmatic best choice. The young human's continued existence does not impinge on the life of any other human and it is a clearly-identifiable and socially-understood event.
    posted by alasdair at 3:03 AM on June 10, 2005

    but the point at which a "potential human being" becomes an actual conscious creature.

    would you advocate a state mandated vegetarianism? Many "actual conscious creatures", by your own standards ("brain activation") are not only killed every day, but are brought into being in order to be killed, and not to relieve a person of a serious burden, but basically for the sake of pleasure.

    I am vegetarian myself, but consider myself "pro-choice" about that, too, i.e., I recognize that the issues are complex and the 'answers' inexact, so it seems right that individuals should be responsible for drawing their own lines (though regulations encouraging humane treatment etc are certainly reasonable).
    posted by mdn at 5:35 AM on June 10, 2005

    Interesting, in-depth update on this story.
    posted by furiousthought at 8:50 AM on June 10, 2005

    Thanks, furiousthought. That's just... sad. All around.
    posted by occhiblu at 12:40 PM on June 10, 2005

    occhiblu, good points. The government is not very good at placing foster kids, nevermind 24-week-old fetuses that, with a lot of expensive medical intervention, might be able to live. I guess my point is, however, if viability of the fetus is the threshold, then eventually the line may be moved back by mecial technology advances.

    I didn't know that post- third trimester abortions were such a small portion of the whole. That makes this seem a bit academic. Still, I think he viability should be "viability without medical intervention."
    posted by Cassford at 8:33 PM on June 10, 2005

    We will eventually be able to grow humans from fertilization to viability without requiring a woman's womb at all.

    At that point, viability will be moot: all stages will be entirely viable.

    But that poses another problem: should we consider all potential viable humans as necessary and desirable?

    We have already begun to open Pandora's box regarding this issue. Already, we use extreme medical interventions to "save" the life of extremely broken would-be babies.

    These poor creatures are doomed to a life of physical or mental challenges. No, let me rephrase that: a life of physical or mental torture.

    Just because we can cheat death, does not mean we should cheat death. A very large number of conceived embryos are naturally aborted within the first month or two of gestation. Many of these are aborted because the woman's body recognizes that the product is not of good quality -- it is defective in some manner.

    At some point in the future, we will have the option of preventing this from happening. We will be able to take these creatures, no matter how sickly deformed, and keep them alive for as long as we could want.

    Again, just because we can does not mean we should.

    Our society is going to have to come to grips with death: there are times when it is right to put an end to a life.

    Perhaps when that day comes, we'll realize that there really isn't anything all that special about pre-rational humans, and will be able to let women choose whether or not to carry to term.
    posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2005

    post- third trimester abortions

    Don't get caught performing these, even in blue states.
    posted by caddis at 1:03 PM on June 11, 2005

    Caddis - ha!

    Yeah, with regards to the low number of late abortions -- it's a salient fact that neither side saw fit to bring into the debate about "partial-birth" abortions. The right, because they wanted to portray the pro-choicers as baby killers; the left, because they don't want to concede an inch (also, to be fair, because most of those abortions are performed because the birth would endanger the mother's life, and the bill as written didn't allow for those abortions).

    But the plurality of Americans support late-term bans, and those bans affect only a small percentage of women. (For the record, I don't agree with the ban, but I think the entire debate was argued poorly in a way that perpetuated the "immoral women, all killing babies that could have survived!" stereotype.)
    posted by occhiblu at 11:30 AM on June 13, 2005

    Ach... OK, I will no longer post while Actifedded up. My IQ drops about 100 points with a cold. Now, about the fourth trimester....
    posted by Cassford at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2005

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