Monday, January 23, 2006

One Hand Slapping
A Guest Post by The Raving Atheist

"What good is choice if no one is there to provide it?" asks Jessica of NARAL Pro-Choice's BushvChoice. Note the power of the euphemism in her question. Employing the word "choice" saves her from beginning the query with "what good is abortion . . .," which would likely provoke immediate, negative answers from many people. It also allows her to maintain the charade that "pro-choice is not pro-abortion" -- although it's easy enough to guess which of the two choices she's thinks it's better to "provide."

Indeed, as we soon find out, abortion not just good, it's a necessity. And like a good aspirin commercial, she trots out a doctor to make her point. Actually, it's future doctor Amelia Welsh Jones, a second-year medical student, and she's quoted from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer rather than JAMA. Almost-Dr. Jones' thesis confirms that she's writing for a post-intelligent world:

Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures among U.S. women. More than 1 million women have abortions each year. Despite this medical need, doctors emerging from medical schools and residency programs are not being trained to meet the needs of their patients.
"Scary stuff," says Jessica. Now, Jessica finds lots of stuff to be scary, but I'm with her on this one if she's talking about Jones' logic. The quasi-doctor has inferred a need from a number -- a medical need at that -- and used it to conclude that the number isn't big enough. Presumably if the "need" were fully met, we'd have two million abortions a year, which in turn would demonstrate a need for even more.

I blogged here a few months ago about the irrelevant and misleading "access" statistics that NARAL uses in its annual "Who Decides" reports. But whereas NARAL just drops them in without explanation, Jones makes them an explicit part of her "need" equation. "87 percent of U.S. counties and 98 percent of rural counties do not have a single abortion provider," she warns, leading us to wonder whether high school fire extinguishers should be replaced by suction aspiration machines.

But it's best she can do. When we speak of the "need" to increase the number of facilities to perform a particular medical procedure, the first number we consider the total incidence of the disease. But the "disease" that abortion "cures" is pregnancy. So for Jones' statistics to make any sense she'd have to opine how many of the 5 million unborn she thinks belong in the trash each year, rather than diverting us with a geography lecture.

But it's the doctor here who needs a lecture. Borrowing from a couple of old Zen koans, I'll give one that responds to a question slightly different from the one Jessica poses: "What is the sound of choice if there is no one to provide it?" The answer is one known to every delivery room doctor: the sound of one hand slapping -- and a baby drawing its first breath.