As a parent, longtime NRA member, and attendee at its annual convention in Houston last week, it was extremely offensive to witness protesters blame lawfully mindful gun owners as "baby killers."
The egregiously tragic mass shooting of children and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 280 miles away has aroused deep disgust, anger and sadness shared by all sane and moral individuals everywhere irrespective of partisan or other ideological leanings.
No greater inconsolable personal and family loss is imaginable than that of losing one's child, grandchild or sibling. No civilized population can fail to be outraged when the most innocent, vulnerable, and trusting amongst us fall victim to true demons of evil.
We all want to fix blame somewhere. We all want to understand what went so terribly wrong with the individual — the society — that made this possible. We all want to seek and implement ways to preempt similar actions in the future.
And in doing so, the blame, the causes, and the solutions become highly contentious points of division.
There are, however, several points of broad agreement: a need to red flag early childhood signs of aberrant social behavior involving interactions with teachers and schoolmates; school and community-based psychological counseling programs for troubled youngsters and teens; target hardening and security personnel at K-12 schools; and addressing insidious societal influences of absentee parenting ... fatherless families most particularly.
The monstrously heinous Uvalde atrocity occurred at a time when our nation is ideologically, morally, and emotionally divided regarding a prospective Supreme Court decision to end Roe v. Wade.
Should parallel ethical and humane rules also apply to protecting the lives of otherwise healthy, yet only "technically unborn," children?
That determination, in turn, fundamentally revolves around a societal quandary regarding exactly what stage of fetal development constitutes the personage of being a "child," what institutional authority — federal or state — should be responsible for that determination, and in each case, what other extenuating legal limitations or exemptions should be applied.
Roe v. Wade — a federal precedent — essentially allows this definition of personhood, along with institutional authority to intentionally terminate a yet-unborn living being to be very fluid, even including fully "viable" late-stage birth canal abortions.
Whereas the Supreme Court ruling allowed states to regulate or prohibit abortions after viability if "necessary, in appropriate medical judgement" to preserve the life or health of the woman, that proviso makes such judgements broadly ambiguous, including subjective psychological, physical, and familial considerations.
Currently, at least 38 states have fetal homicide laws enacted under a Fetal Protection Act, Preborn Victims of Violence Act, or Unborn Victim of Violence Act, which confer protections upon a fetus or unborn child. And whereas at least 29 of those states apply such laws beginning at the earliest stages of pregnancy, the vast majority make penalty exceptions for voluntary abortions involving a would-be mother and participating physicians.
Several states treat death of unborn as a separate "feticide" crime if not by voluntary abortion.
Some, such as Georgia's Alexa's Law, may apply homicide or manslaughter charges for intentional assaults upon a pregnant woman resulting in the death of an unborn child that could have survived outside the womb.
South Dakota and South Carolina can define homicide as murder in the first degree to include the death of a person or any other human being, including an unborn child.
New Hampshire states that a "fetus" may be a second victim of already-existing crimes of murder or negligent homicide if the unborn has reached the end of the 20th week after conception.
Minnesota can charge a person with vehicular homicide of an unborn child as a separate and distinct offense in the event of reckless or intoxicated driving.
A leaked draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's predicted majority decision argues that the Roe ruling should be scrapped because "[t]he Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision ... including the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Justice Alito cautions that "In interpreting what is meant by the 14th Amendment's reference to liberty, we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects with our own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy."
So, what do a majority of American society really think about abortion rights and wrongs? Under what circumstances, and at what stage, should an unborn's personage rights be ethically — if not also lawfully - protected?
According to a Pew poll, while a preponderance of Americans believe abortion at pre-viable stages should be legal in all or most cases, many — including general "right to life" advocates — are open to restrictions under certain circumstances.
The survey data shows that nearly three-quarters of adults (73%) say abortion should be legal if the woman's life or health is endangered by the pregnancy (just 11% say it should be illegal), and about 70% say it should be legal if the pregnancy is a result of rape.
A smaller majority (53%) also say abortion should be legal if the baby is likely to be born with severe disabilities or health problems. However, only 19% say it should be illegal in such cases, while a quarter say "it depends.
Opposition to legal abortion grows and support declines as pregnancy progresses.
Whereas Americans are about twice as likely to say abortion should be legal at six weeks, (including those who say it should be legal in all cases without exception), and another 19% say here that it "depends," at 14 weeks, the share saying abortion should be legal declines to 34%, while 27% say illegal, and 22% say "it depends."
At 24 weeks of pregnancy (described as a point when a healthy fetus could survive outside the woman's body, with medical attention), Americans are about twice as likely to say abortion should be illegal (43% vs. 22%), with 18% saying "it depends."
However, 44% of those who initially said abortion should be illegal at this late stage went on to say that, in cases where the woman's life is threatened or the baby will be born with severe disabilities, abortion should then still be legal.
Yes, these determinations are enormously complex and heart-wrenchingly difficult.
Nevertheless, all societies must be judged first and foremost regarding how they respect and protect lives of their most precious and vulnerable legacy ... the children.
As moral members, we all own that responsibility.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 11 books, "Beyond Flagpoles and Footprints: Pioneering the Space Frontier" co-authored with Buzz Aldrin (2021), is available on Amazon along with all others. Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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