May 22, 2013
Legal or ethical?
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
The judicial complexity of the legalized abortion issue which has arisen so suddenly in this city is bad enough (how can a simple judge overrule the Supreme Court, for example) without entering into the truly difficult ethical aspects — a fine balance fully reflected by the 30-29 vote on the legislation in the City Assembly a fortnight ago. This legislation allowed any female suffering rape or sexual abuse to terminate the pregnancy (with parental consent if aged under 14) without being required to report the offence to the police — promptly vetoed by City Mayor Mauricio Macri, who understood that this exceeded the Supreme Court waiver of judicial authorization in such cases. Even when City Hall understood in one case that the Supreme Court criteria were being heeded, this did not stop the legal seesawing with a judge intervening and the Supreme Court in turn overruling the injunction and ordering City Hall to go ahead.
The conflict between pro-life and pro-choice (perhaps not the best term in the case of involuntary pregnancies) positions is no less complex here. The pro-abortion position is clear enough — that no court or government has the right to add the injury of backstreet butchery to the insult of pregnancy under such shameful circumstances. Yet minimizing the rigour for establishing the rape etc. could open the floodgates to virtual abortion on demand, encouraging those who feel that the end justifies the means to bend the truth. Pro-life advocates would insist on the absolute value of human life and argue that two wrongs cannot make a right here (even when one of the wrongs is white slavery at the heart of the City case in the centre of the legal controversy). Those seeking the legalization of abortion often present such arguments as a retrograde stance at odds with a progressive mentality and modern science but modern science at least is not so clearly on one side of this issue — thanks to ultrasound and other new technology, we can actually see life beginning from the moment of conception, this is no longer a matter of belief.
No wonder that abortion has been explicitly excluded from the ongoing Civil and Commercial Code reforms as requiring legislation in its own right on a national scale. Yet this whole issue is so much more than a legal tangle — it involves profound ethical problems which are even more complex and at the same time extremely simple.