Fetal Separation

Science, technology, and life.
July 21 2008 7:32 AM

Fetal Separation

Starting this week, under orders from the state attorney general and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8 th Circuit , medical providers in South Dakota must present a scripted statement to women who seek abortions. The script, dictated by the legislature three years ago, declares that any abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

Until now, I wasn't aware that the fetus—a term that, according to the South Dakota law, includes " the implanted embryo "—was a whole, separate, living human being. I thought it was ... you know ... implanted . I mean, I'm just a guy, not really an expert or anything. But, um, placenta? Umbilical cord? Do those terms ring a bell? And that's not even getting to the tricky stuff, like the role of maternal RNA in directing embryonic growth or all the work done by the womb to facilitate the embryo's attachment and nourishment.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Advertisement

I have to say, it's a relief to learn that the embryo is so complete and independent. I mean, it solves the whole problem. Here's this woman who just wants to be separated from her embryo. And lo and behold, it's already separate! No need to agonize. Just detach it and let it grow. It's separate, it's whole, it's living. Cancel the abortion. Perform a separation instead.

Sure, some cranky district attorney might take you to court, claiming your separation was really an abortion. Make sure you countersue for legal costs, because you've got a slam-dunk case. The law under which you're being prosecuted doesn't just declare that embryos and fetuses are separate. It also defines abortion as "the use of any means to intentionally terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be pregnant with knowledge that the termination with those means will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of the fetus."

How can South Dakota claim that you should know separation will kill the fetus, when South Dakota has insisted on informing you, prior to the procedure, that the fetus is already whole and separate?

Don't give me some medical-school mumbo jumbo about obstetrics. The legislature mooted all that blather when it superimposed its judgment. Fetuses are whole and separate. Therefore, being a law-abiding citizen, you have no reason to believe that separation will cause fetal death. Therefore, under the law's terms, separation is not abortion. No need to bother with the onerous paperwork and liability threats the legislature has assigned exclusively to abortion. You're not in the abortion business anymore.

Look, I don't like abortions . Fortunately, neither do the women who ask for them. Most abortions happen because women get pregnant when they're not ready. Prevent the pregnancy, and you  prevent the abortion . So, here's a word of advice to legislators like those in South Dakota: Stop withholding birth control and stop lying to women about their bodies. You can't even keep your lies straight. That's how you ended up telling doctors to tell women that separation will kill a separate human being. See you in court.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 10:10 AM Where Do I Start With Sleater-Kinney?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 9:39 AM The International-Student Revolving Door Foreign students shouldn’t have to prove they’ll go home after graduating to get a visa.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.