Thursday, September 06, 2007

Kevin Coughlin's Fetal Positioning

What with him taking on Alex Arshinkoff and all, it's easy to lose track of why Kevin Coughlin is generally so dislikable. If you need a refresher, check out one of his recent legislative opuses, Senate Bill 175, the Grieving Parents Act. The bill has been kicking around for a few months now, but gets it's first committee hearings next week.

The act rewrites some Ohio definitions, so that death of a "product of human conception" prior to twenty weeks is now "fetal death." (Technically, prior to twenty weeks, it's not called a fetus, it's called an embryo, but why worry about medical jargon when there are political points to score.) The act then allows parents to request a death certificate and burial of the dearly beloved product of human conception.

To the untrained eye, this looks like it might possibly have something to do with abortion. For those of us following abortion politics, that's entirely what it is about.

Let's get you up to speed.

The essential debate in abortion politics is when life begins. Few on the pro-choice side would endorse purely elective abortion for a fetus that they think is a human life, and few on the pro-life side would proscribe aborting something clearly not alive -- a D&C for a blighted ovum, for example. Problem is, like whether the man goes around William James's squirrel, the question turns on how people define terms. That part of the argument is essentially unresolvable as a matter of pure reasoning.

One tactic of abortion opponents is to invoke arguments of moral reasoning. "People only deny humanity of something when they wish to deprive it of humanity." That sort of thing. Such arguments have their strengths, particularly a certain moral resonance.

But one weakness in the abstract moral arguments for treating fetuses as human is the totally real, very non-abstract fact that people regard unviable fetuses as different from children fully gestated and born. One example is how parents grieve miscarriages. This I can speak of from experience. Not only have we gone through a miscarriage, I know many families who have. My wife and I were sad for a while and then we moved on. And understand, my wife's miscarriage has had enduring implications. While I wouldn't trade Kid T for any alternative fate, fact is my wife's miscarriage is the reason we have only one biological child.

The experience of others who have been through the same thing is similar. After a period of sadness, life gets better and the incident eventually fades into the backdrop of memory. I also have friends who have lost children. That's something different. That is true grieving, the kind that never truly leaves a person. Friends have said things like "not a day goes my I don't think about -----"

So it's different. Enormously different. Firing a bullet from a gun versus dropping one on the ground different. And when an abortion opponent is trying to make the appeal to moral reason that a fetus is the same as a human life, the difference is inconvenient.

Which, it seems, is the point of the Grieving Parents Act. It is government-generated propaganda aimed at making something sad take on tragic dimensions, thus muddying these waters. The Act says to parents, "not only is it OK to grieve, it's really not natural to do otherwise. Let's have a generation of people burying miscarried embryos and see if we can't make everyone truly deeply sad about miscarriages. Then maybe you all will appreciate fetal life."

Like so much that is pestilent in the state Republican agenda, this is part of a nationwide trend. A number of states have enacted the laws and more are considering. They offer an platform to trumpet the fetus=life message decorated with concern-for-parents bunting. And in states with Democratic governors, they offer a serious veto dilemma.

And it's vintage Coughlin. It's symbolic, politically calculated and media-friendly legislation that does nothing to make the lives of real Ohioans better. It's this year's pink license plates. It's exactly the kind of bill Coughlin has been pushing his whole career. And this is one criticism team A2 dare not make.


Anonymous said...

Wrong again Pho.

It's the fourth o fifth hearing on the bill and it's up for a vote.

The bill does nothing to change the definition of a feetus. Everybody is for this bill, even Planned Parenthood. They sent a letter to committee members after reviewing it and expressed their support, specifically pointing out that there is nothing to be alrmed about in the definition section.

This bill WILL improve things for a lot of families trying to being closure to the very difficult lose of a child during pregnancy. It's called compassion.

And it's a bill that the Pro-Lifers and the Pro-Choicers agree on.

As much as you want to paint him as divider, Coughlin's got a good one here.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you've got this wrong, Pho. I am the impossibly "middle of the road" citizen in this ebate. I would never choose abortion for myself but I do not think the governmnet should be sticking their nose in it, either.

However, Couglin's bill is pure politics . . . and anyone who can't see that is just not paying attention. Coughlin does not take a step without considering its political implications and I think that is the worst kind of politician.

Standing up to Alex A. is the only thing Coughlin has done politically that I can respect . . . however, I am concerned about the implications I am just not yet aware of.

Thanks for the insight on this new issue and I hope you will help all of us see the light.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen a better synopsis of Coughlin and his cynical brand of politics. Pandering to his perceived base is the only thing the man knows. Throw out some symbolic, do-nothing legislation every four-six months to keep his name in the press is the modus operandi. Any opportunity to put that picture of him and his 'picture perfect, white-bread nuclear familiy' out there as the standard which we should all seek to emulate...spare us your self-righteous crap, Kevin.

Anonymous said...

You were right all along to abhor Coughlin. Now what you get to enjoy is by going after Arshinkoff, the Republicant's will hate him too!

I mean who actually likes the conniving worm?