Monday, February 14, 2011

I Was Watching Dateline The Other Night

At least, I think it was Dateline. It was one of those shows. Anyways, the show was about a couple who had conceived a child via artificial insemination. They then left the rest of their kids in the freezer in case they decided to grant them the privilege of being born later on down the road. Somehow, and I admit that I missed some of it, one of the kids wound up getting implanted into another woman's uterus.

First, I'm going to ignore all the negative things that could be said about that last bit and how it's ridiculous that we have anything in place that allows such situations to occur. Second, let me add that I was completely creeped the hell out by how casually these people were able to talk about babies as though they were baseball cards or a coin collection.

Here's my question that comes from all this, though. If you look at the court decisions that surround the abortion debate, much is made of the alleged rights of privacy, personal autonomy, etc. This line of reasoning is why the pro-abortion battle cry is largely centered around "This is my body," a demonic twist, it would seem, on the Institution Narrative.

This isn't the case with babies left frozen, though. These aren't part of the mother's body. They are now separated. How does their handling affect a woman's right to privacy or personal autonomy? They might not even be in the same city. If they die, is the mother's health affected? It would seem that there is no connection on any of these levels. In fact, the only real interest that the parents would seem to have at that point would be property interests.

If we are treating these children as property, doesn't this implicate the 13th Amendment, which served to abolish slavery? I'm not up to speed on my 13th Amendment stuff, but I know the Kozminski case extended its protections to those who are minors or mentally incompetent.

I also know that we all too often see reports in the news of parents who lock their kids in closets or chain them to trees. How are these things considered evil, while keeping multiple children in cold storage so that they can't even be born is ok?

It probably hasn't happened that someone has brought any kind of legal action on these grounds. However, it's an oddity that I hadn't really thought of until now. I suppose the battle will remain over what constitutes personhood, but consider this. The Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence is consistent that the State has an interest in protecting the unborn. The reason abortion remains legal is that the mother's "right to choose" has been deemed to outweigh this interest of the State. The situation of frozen babies has removed the mother's right to choose from the equation. It seems to me that, if we are to maintain that it's ok to lock children in a freezer for years, then we must say that the State's interest in protecting the unborn is almost non-existent because it can't even rise to the level of trumping a property right of an ostensible parent over the tissue/embryo/potential baby/whatever they want to call it.

I can hear the question now. "So you think the government can just force women to have these babies then?"

Not under current law. But what about prohibiting the chattelization (if that's a word) of these children in the first place? How about discerning the similarities between this and the instances of child abuse I already mentioned and putting a stop to it? Or telling these people that you can't just kill these kids (or allow them to be killed) just because they are smaller than others?

Do I think that could happen? I don't see why not. If it can't happen, then the Supremes have been kidding themselves all these years in saying that there is any State interest in the lives of the unborn and you might as well consign any legal theories relying on such an argument to the dustbin.

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