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Commentary: What about rights of women in the abortion debate?

Sometimes I get the feeling that many of those who insist that life begins at conception and call abortion of any kind murder forget that the pregnant woman has a life, too, one that needs to be honored, to be loved.

By doing that, they’ve taken a legitimate position – upholding the sanctity of life – and perverted it.

The latest example came recently in the S.C. General Assembly. On a 3-0 vote in a Senate panel, a budget clause that would eliminate a woman’s ability to get an abortion through a state health plan if she’s a victim of rape or incest was approved.

It is expected to be debated by the full Senate in May. And because the state has not elected a woman to the Senate, that debate will take place only among men.

It’s just the latest in a string of related proposals that have either been pushed or approved in several states the past couple of years.

They’ve included attempts to force women to be vaginally-penetrated before they could have an abortion and declaring that life begins at conception, which would not only outlaw all abortions but even some forms of birth control.

A record 92 bills in 24 states that restrict abortion rights were passed in 2011, according the Guttmacher Institute.

And though Planned Parenthood does a lot to keep down the abortion rate – by helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies – its government funding has been targeted because a sliver of the services it provides includes abortions. (Almost 2 million unintended pregnancies are prevented every year because of government funding, according to a report by Guttmacher. It prevents more than 1 million abortions and miscarriages every year.

“The unborn child in the womb has a right to life,” Sen. Ken Bryant, R-Anderson, told the Associated Press after the Senate panel approval.

What rights does the woman have?

If Bryant’s proposal passes, a woman who is raped and can’t afford the medical procedure on her own, is forced via government orders to carry her rapist’s fetus for 9 months – and after birth decide if she wants to raise her rapist’s baby or make the painful choice of giving the child away to be raised elsewhere.

What’s worse is that it essentially would not affect South Carolina’s abortion rate, which is already fairly low because of anti-abortion statues that make it hard to legally abort a fetus that could survive on her own outside the womb.

The state’s health plan has not covered a single abortion caused by rape or incest since at least 2006. Most of those paid for during that period included removing a fetus that had already died or to save the woman’s life.

Given that, the only reason for such a law is to further push the idea that the sanctity of life claims by anti-abortion foes are exclusively about a developing fetus, and that the pregnant woman is little more than a means to an end.

Why stop there? Why pay for abortions where the life of a mother is in danger? Why even allow them under such circumstances?

Why not flood the jails with pregnant women who hint that they might want to abort?

If the only person in the equation who must be protected is the fetus, why would any of that be wrong?

As I said earlier, there is a legitimate reason to beat back abortion on demand or abortions done strictly out of convenience because those sorts of reasons, if given carte blanche, undermine the sanctity of life, something we all should guard against.

But there are two lives involved – not one.

The facts of life are these:

People will continue to have sex as surely as people will continue to eat.

Some of that sexual activity will end in pregnancies that threaten the health of the mother.

Some of it will end in pregnancies that are unwanted, for a variety of reasons.

And because of that, we have a choice to make, either try to fight against tens of thousands of years of human nature that have proven not everyone will be responsible when they become sexually active – or try to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, which will lead to fewer abortions and a greater respect for life.