Friday, January 20, 2012

Jenni Lake And the Pro-Choice Movement

The controversy over abortion may seem to generate more heat than light especially when one considers the news item  about Jenni Lake, which gives a somewhat different twist to the debate. Jenni was a 17 year old cancer patient who upon learning she was 10 weeks pregnant  decided to suspend radiation and chemotherapy treatments which if continued would pose a risk to her fetus. In taking this step she knew that she was placing herself in extreme peril. Even in  locales in the U.S.that have severe restrictions on abortion, this procedure may be performed if a woman's life is in danger; so Jenni would well have been in her rights to have an abortion to save her own life. Jenni was aware of this but went forward with her pregnancy anyway. She gave birth on Nov. 21, 2011 and died 12 days later from her illness.

But  her son, Chad. will now grow up without a mother, and his family and others will likely remind him everyday of his life that she sacrificed her life for him. Also no doubt by now  some network TV hack has probably already written the  "Jenni Lake Story". One can only hope that whatever financial proceeds are generated from such likely exploitations, they will be enough to comfortably support the boy.  The father, Nathan Williams,  has supposedly promised  to raise him. However, judging from appearances, his age and socioeconomic status do not offer a promising future for the baby.

Be all that as it may, note that Jenni was the one who made the call from beginning to end about whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Yet, for all the praise that she received as well as her firm belief that she had done the right thing (After her delivery, Jenni supposedly said that she did what she was supposed to do.),    in effect didn't she needlessly commit suicide?  She had initially been given a prognosis of a 30% chance to survive  two years with treatment. But after only two sessions of chemo, the tumor was found to be shrinking.

Now, suppose Jenni had decided that she wanted to end her pregnancy and instead continue therapy for her illness but was informed that the decision is not hers to make.  Instead,  She must stop the treatment and carry the fetus to term, regardless of the fact that doing so would likely be fatal for her.

Under various laws that Congress is considering, this is not a far-fetched scenario of what may lie ahead for women who are unwillingly pregnant. In October, the House passed HR 358, aka the "Let Women Die bill" which would give the right to federally funded hospitals the right to refuse to perform an abortion even to save a woman's life. This would also apply to religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals. And lest anyone think that this legislation is a conspiracy by misogynistic male representatives, be aware that at least one congresswoman was in on it too.  

Even if HR 358 never makes it past the Senate or is vetoed by the President, the fact that such legislation, which is so draconian that it violates international human rights standards, could even be passed by the House of Representatives in the first place speaks volumes about the the Dark Ages mindset of many—and one is too manyfetus-worshiping  American lawmakers and their constituents: They refuse to acknowledge the person-hood of  those who are already  born, particularly women who should be entitled to make their own childbearing decisions, especially if pregnancy could wind up killing them.

There are those who consider Jenni an inspiration. Perhaps some even consider her a martyr.  But the real martyrs will be the involuntarily pregnant woman in America who will die if the mentality of those support laws like HR 358 is ever allowed to prevail in this country.

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