Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Grandstanding vs. Principles

Perhaps no issue is more fraught with peril than that of abortion. It is an issue that touches upon concerns of a religious, philosophical, political, constitutional and ethical nature. In an ideal world, all issues relating to the unborn would be handled with the utmost degree of sensitivity and thoughtfulness.

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world.

A bill was brought before the Criminal Justice Committee recently that addressed the matter of unborn children killed during the commission of a crime. new Hampshire law already considers such offenses to be crimes, covering them under the Assault statute. The bill under consideration would have dramatically changed the situation. It would have had the effect of converting any offense that resulted in the death of a fetus into a homicide. Obviously, this raises major questions of due process and other constitutional concerns.

Sadly, the sponsors of this bill, Reps. Packy Campbell and Fran Wendelboe, were thoroughly uninterested in working with the committee to devise an alternative approach to their concerns. Rather than crafting a constitutional compromise built around the existing law, they chose instead to take their own severely flawed (and politically dead-in-the-water) bill to the full House.

Why? Wouldn't it have made more sense to give a little to achieve most of your policy aims? Well, that's common sense, and we are now in the realm of political grandstanding.

It appears that Rep. Wendelboe is more concerned with having a provocative, hot-button issue on which to call a roll call. This way, she can put moderate Republicans and Democrats on the hot seat, forcing them to cast a vote which is inevitably going to leave everyone a little queasy.

It's time to grow up. As a Democrat who has on several occasions parted with the party line on abortion-related issues, I find this sort of stunt appaling. I try and take a measured and thoughtful approach to issues of this magnitude. When matters of deep moral import are reduced to a checkmark on someone's silly scorecard, we as a society are the poorer for it.