Monday, March 21, 2016

Freedom, Cigarettes and Abortion

You may have seen an anti-smoking commercial recently, as I did, which portrayed an extremely saddened mother who had smoked during her pregnancy, and whose child was born premature with various health issues.  While it is possible that some of the child's maladies could be blamed on other sources, it was clear in the commercial that the mother believed that her smoking while pregnant caused much of the damage, and it has certainly been proven by science that smoking is ill-advised for pregnant women.

The commercial spurred a number of thoughts in my mind.

First, it was clear that the baby was a victim of its mother's poor choices, and while smoking while pregnant is not against the law, many (including the mother) might blame her in part for the baby's poor start in life.  I would expect that most people would certainly not blame the baby for having poor health as a result of its mother's decision to smoke.  Yet I also imagined that many of those who would look upon the child with pity, are the same people who prefer to blame some children for their parents' crimes, when it comes to the illegal immigration issue.  Proposed laws such as the DREAM Act, that would provide a path to citizenship for children whose only crime was to be brought to America illegally, have failed in Congress due to the efforts of those in the GOP who prefer to lump all illegal immigrants into one category; criminals.  Punishing children for the sins of the parents is not reflective of the American spirit of compassion and caring, and certainly not a trait of a Christian country. 

One wonders if, as some would like, a fetus were to be granted the rights of an individual, and therefore protected against abortion by the same laws which make murder illegal, would mothers who choose to smoke also be subject to prosecution for cruelty to their unborn children?  Would they be put in jail?  Lose their rights to the child, once born?  Is the father subject to conspiracy charges since he likely knew the mother to be was smoking?  How about the smoker's mother, or siblings, doctor,  friends or co-workers, all who knew the smoker was torturing her unborn baby?

And, since a woman might be pregnant yet not be "showing" for a while, or not even know it for 6,  perhaps 8 weeks if her cycle is not normally regular, perhaps all women who smoke of child bearing years should be "watched", just in case they are harming a potential child.  Perhaps be marked, maybe a "P" for potentially pregnant ala The Scarlet Letter?  And, if we are going to hold mothers accountable for potential damage to a fetus, certainly anything done to a pregnant mother that is detrimental to her (and the baby's health), say by a business that dumps refuse into a local river, or excess pollution into the air, must also result in action against that business.  I would imagine that, once laws protecting the rights of a fetus were enacted, then the EPA would have to be infused with  new money and power to protect the health and well being of the fetus against industries that spew pollution into our environment.  What strange bedfellows that would make, the anti-abortion movement and the environmental movement joining forces to protect the right of the fetus!

From there, one could imagine that drinking and drug use would be next on the list of activities not appropriate for women of child bearing age.  Perhaps even over exercising.  Marathon running.  How about dieting? 

Men controlling what women could and couldn't do, just like the olden, golden days.  It would certainly bridge the gap between our contempt for how women are treated in the Muslim religion, subject to the control of men who are only protecting them (and our future children) from harm. 

I know, you are thinking that I exaggerate.  Certainly, no one wants to take away the freedom of women to make their own choices.  It is only in the case of life and death. But isn't that like giving carte blanche to those that engage in activities that result in damaged babies, whether that activity is personal (the mother) or industrial (a polluting business)?  If aborting a fetus is immoral, how close on the scale of immorality is destroying a local environment?  Or moving a business off shore which results in the unemployment of hundreds of families, which results in less money for food, shelter and education?  

Freedom, real freedom, is not an easy thing to have and maintain.  It means more than just parading with a flag that says don't tread on me.  More than wearing a pretty pin on one's lapel.  Freedom is a huge responsibility, because it includes, not exempts us from considering how exercising our freedom effects others.  Driving through red lights, playing one's music at high decibels late into the night, bombing the citizens of another country to kill a terrorist, is not excusable because it expresses an individual or national freedom.  It is merely a selfish act by someone or group of people who are less free than self-centered.

Freedom, the rights of the individual, the power of the government to curtail some rights in the name of security or protection, all BIG concepts that need serious discussion.  Please remember that when you hear simplistic answers offered by radio pundits and politicians.  And, especially remember it when the founders are invoked because they struggled with these same concepts as well, did not always agree, compromised to move the needle forward, but still had reservations even when creating those wonderful documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.


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