The German model and the new pro-life push
The new colour ultrasound technology has been a key reason for the new round of pro-life progress.
In Britain, the hard left Guardian reports:
Stuart Campbell, former head of obstetrics at King's College Hospital, says striking new images from ultrasound scans that allow doctors to view babies inside the womb have convinced him the normal 24-week legal limit for terminations should be reassessed.
"The more I study foetuses the more I find it quite distressing to terminate babies who are so advanced in terms of human behaviour," he said.
"For normal babies being terminated for social reasons it's probably unacceptable nowadays to be terminating them much after 14 weeks. They can suck their thumbs, they can open their eyes, they can perform complex movements. I think it's time we got our act together."
In the US, President Bush's appointment of two new conservative justices have further emboldened pro-life legislators. South Dakota seeks to ban all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother.
Yesterday I tried to explain why the next round of pro-life legislation should rather follow the German model. Glenn Reynolds has also suggested a more European approach.
Two years after Roe v Wade, the German Supreme Court addressed abortion in a very different manner than the US (decision and translation here).
The key points are:
The legislature implemented a system of mandatory counseling which has as one of its goals to present the case that the developing unborn child is an independent human life. However, no legal sanction is applied in the first 3 months of pregnancy if the counseling is completed and the abortion is performed.... Some abortions are therefore de facto legal. A significant number still occur, but the incidence per capita is about one-fifth that of the United States.
The legislature is allowed to institute a counseling system designed to discourage women from the abortion, and the result is an abortion rate only about 20% of the US.
So why does this make sense here?
1. 45% of US abortions are on women who've already had at least one previous previous abortion. So there is a very high chance (70-80%?) that a woman who has one abortion will be back for a second. In other words, women having abortions have very serious issues that strongly commend the wisdom of comprehensive counseling by the state.
2. Counseling can dramatically reduce abortion. As noted above, the German rate is about 20% of the American rate. Counseling is essential for those 45% of American abortions that are second abortions. But mandatory counseling can also help prevent abortions in the first place because it sends a clear message that abortion is not a just another form of birth control.
3. A German-style counseling law has a good chance of being upheld by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and (to a lesser degree) Justice Breyer have both indicated that they take seriously international jurisprudence as a means of informing US Supreme Court decisions. That principle is very controversial among American scholars. But the reality for pro-lifers is that both men sit on the Supreme Court and that one or both of their votes is needed for a bill to pass constitutional muster. A German-style counseling law has an excellent chance of winning their approval; a South Dakota-style ban on all abortions except those necessary to save the mother's life doesn't.
A strong counseling bill on the German model would not directly reverse Roe v Wade since it does not challenge Roe's trimester framework. Since it does not explicitly ban abortion, it would be dramatically less controversial with the American public. But it might well pass muster with the US Supreme Court, and help save a lot of lives.
For suggestions as to what kinds of issues should be included in the bill, see this.
UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link!
UPDATE 2: I checked the Alan Guttmacher Institute figures on abortion in Germany and the US. These figures give the rate of abortion per thousand women age 15-44 and the ratio of abortion as a percentage of known pregnancies. AGI gives for Germany a rate of 7.6 vs 22.9 in the US for the year 1996; meaning that Germany's abortion rate is about 1/3 of the American rate. The ratio is 14.1 for Germany and 25.9 for the US for 1996; meaning that the German abortion ratio is about 40% lower. Both of these figures are less impressive than those cited in the source above, but the basic point remains unchanged: abortion in Germany is much less frequent than in the US. Exactly how much of this can be attributed to abortion policies would take some serious regression analysis. But it's not unreasonable to think that the differing legal framework is an important factor.
UDATE 3: For some strong reasons why mandatory counseling is an urgent need, see the evidence here.