To the Editor;
I read with interest the two articles addressing the proposed state joint referendum on abortion (Feb. 8, 2011, Abortion rights under fire, by Jeff Teague; Aim is to make constitution neutral on abortion, by Karen Brukardt). With such glaringly different viewpoints on the matter I decided to read the text of the referendum known as SJR127 to determine for myself what it suggests.
To be clear, the referendum does not change abortion law. What it does do is open the door for laws to be repealed or enacted. In a sense it’s akin to removing the safety lock on a gun. The potential for harm is great, and those who advocate protecting a woman’s right to choose feel the gun pointed in the direction of those protections.
The argument advanced by Ms. Brukardt steers away from the emotion surrounding the issue of abortion and the implications of the referendum to focus on the power of the people to shape state law through referendum. It is ironic that the text of SJR127 puts the power right back into the hands of our legislators. In other words, we are to trust the people to undo laws that we entrusted to the legislature who made them in the first place.
There’s a reason that we elect representatives to make our laws. Popular opinion or religious conviction may coincide with what is just for those impacted by our laws. They may also skew our perspectives, not in regard to what we believe to be right, but in how all of us—with differing belief systems, needs and experiences—find those beliefs upheld, needs met, and experiences honored and trusted. The law seeks to protect all of us from the specific tenets of one part of our society. It is why democracy works as the law of our land, and it is why government may not endorse a particular religious view through its laws, no matter how moral that view may be.
I am not persuaded by Ms. Brukardt’s focus on the process of lawmaking as an argument to support this referendum. The reality is that if laws change to outlaw abortion, women will continue to seek them by means outside the law. Unwanted pregnancies have dotted the human landscape for centuries, and women have found ways to end those pregnancies at great risk to their own lives. Rather than return to back alley terminations of pregnancies, our society is much better served if we seek to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And when a woman’s life is traumatized and damaged by rape or incest, trust and allow her to determine what is best for her with information, wise counsel, and respect for her right to choose her course. No woman wants an abortion. That doesn’t change the possibility that choosing that option may be the best course for all concerned.