Are they really pro-life? Republican hypocrisy threatens the right to life: Part 1

**Given the nature and complexity of the issue of abortion and its role in US politics, this will be a two-part entry.

Anyone that follows politics in the United States knows that one of the most polarising political issues is abortion. Actually, it is a polarising issue no matter where you are, but for some reason it seems to play a much more significant role in politics in the US than it does in other countries. In fact, US voters often side with pro-life candidates or pro-life political parties simply because they are pro-life, giving little consideration, if any, to their other policies.

The US Republican Party prides itself on being the “pro-life” party and espouses (1) a desire to reduce the frequency of abortions, making it a government decision rather than a personal, medical choice, and (2) the aim of overturning the controversial US Supreme Court decision of Roe v Wade (the Court held in this case that a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy was protected by virtue of the Constitutional right to privacy and, thereby, made first trimester abortions legal. The Court recognised that the State does have an interest in regulating abortion which, according to the Court, becomes greater as the foetus becomes viable.).

With the aim of reducing abortions in mind, it appears that Republicans have little to no regard for the right to life of the mother involved as a new legislative proposal, referred to as the Protect Life Act, effectively gives hospitals and medical practitioners the right to refuse an emergency abortion to a woman who is at risk of losing her life because of her pregnancy. If you are not following, the Act says that a hospital can throw a critically ill woman out on the street to die without any liability, rather than perform a life-saving pregnancy termination procedure.

I assume that by this point you have noticed that I have not mentioned the right to life of the unborn child. This is an extremely complicated issue in human rights law, with no treaty or international body making firm statements on when life warranting protection under the right to life begins. Furthermore, the central question for this entry concerns not the life of the unborn child, but the right to life of the mother. It is not my intention to discuss a woman’s right to choose and the reasons behind such choice, but rather to discuss the right of a woman to have an abortion that would save her life. I am talking about circumstance in which the result of a failure to perform the abortion would lead to both the mother and unborn child dying.

At present, hospitals that receive government funding in the United States (almost all of them) are required to give an individual emergency treatment (including emergency abortions), regardless of whether that individual has health insurance coverage or not. As such, if a woman’s life is in danger, the hospital, regardless of its pro-life policies, must carry out the procedure in order to save the life of the mother. The Protect Life Act would remove this requirement, giving pro-life hospitals the option of refusing to perform abortions altogether. If you think that there is no US hospital that in good conscience could refuse a life-saving procedure to a woman, ask Sister Margaret McBride who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for approving an abortion (in a Catholic hospital facility in the US) to save the life of a woman suffering from pulmonary hypertension.

So, are the Republicans that brought the Protect Life Act before the US Congress serious about protecting life? Because it seems to me that a person who seriously wants to protect life would protect all life, not just the life of the unborn. It is a ridiculous proposition, in my view, to suggest that both mother and unborn child should die in order to protect the life of the foetus. It suggests that the life of the foetus outweighs that of the mother.

Yet, the real Republican hypocrisy begins when one looks at their desire to cut foreign aid. But this will have to wait for part 2.

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  1. […] examined in this blog, such as voting rights for prisoners, crucifixes in classrooms and abortion rights. If you want to read the article, click […]



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