Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Safe, Quasi-Legal, and Common?

This article on abortion politics in Spain and Italy in the Los Angeles Times notes that the anti-abortion movement is growing in Southern Europe, spurred on by the Catholic Church.

When it came to power four years ago, Spain’s socialist government made liberal social reform a hallmark of its administration and promised legislation to expand access to abortion.

But by the time it ran for reelection last month, it had dropped abortion from its platform as Spanish bishops all but directed citizens to vote against candidates who didn’t oppose it.

In the campaign for Italian elections next Sunday, abortion has emerged unexpectedly as a major issue.

An interesting development.

In passing, the article also reminds us that the U.S. has the most liberal (if that’s the right word for it) set of laws regarding abortion in the West:

Thirty years ago, Italy legalized abortion-on-demand for pregnancies up to 12 weeks, and up to 24 weeks when there are abnormalities in the fetus or the health of the woman is in danger.

Spain legalized abortion in 1985; women can terminate a pregnancy up to 12 weeks in case of rape, 22 weeks if the fetus is malformed and at any time if a doctor certifies grave risk to the woman’s physical or psychological health.

The next sentence is interesting: "The vast majority of abortions in Spain have been performed under this last category, and critics allege that the provision is abused."

The psychological health exemption is, by its nature, problematic. The problem might be that psychology, in these matters in particular, is rather far from an exact science. In principle, it is not unreasonable to argue that abortion might be the least bad option if bringing the child to term would likely cause serious physical harm to the mother. The same argument, again in principle, would apply to psychological health. The trouble is that it is rather easier for doctors to recognize the former case than the latter case. Is modern psychology really so good that it can predict how a mother will react to having a baby, even while the baby is still in utero? I have serious doubts.

I’ll close with an idea, or perhaps a question. As I understand things, our Supreme Court requires that the psychological health exemption be part of our laws with regard to late-term abortion. Might it be possible for States or Congress to make a finding about what kind of psychological danger a psychiatrist must think likely before a late-term abortion may go forward?

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