Wednesday, February 23, 2011


One of my friends on Facebook posted this link:
Do we need to have a full investigation when a woman miscarries to ensure she did not actually purposefully induce an abortion? If you're Bobby Franklin, a Georgia Representative, your answer would be "yes."
Well, if you read the bill, it doens't actually call for investigations. I pointed this out. The response from my friend:
Roy, I absolutely disagree. Read lines 118 through 120 of the bill. Determination of whether there was "no human involvement whatsoever" can only be made through investigation; it is implicit in the bill.
So apparently it's more dog-whistle hysteria. If reality isn't sufficient to gin up your outrage, find a way to read it as code for something more sinister. I said:
I think that is a possible reading, but an incorrect one, and one that would be impossible to implement. You don't investigate without probable cause.
yielding this response:
If a bill is that open to interpretation, it is insufficiently specific and therefore poorly crafted.
and, from another person:
Bills like this don't get written until they've been analyzed, strategized, etc., to a fine point. The fact that two people can look at it and find room enough to interpret it so differently is no accident. And history has shown that, when this is the case with legislation, the true intent of the legislation is usually closer to the more extreme, dire interpretation.
You see? It's all a conspiracy! They intentionally wrote it to be interpreted (though only by its opponents) as calling for investigations, although the bill itself never says "shall be investigated" or any such thing. My final reply:
I didn't say the bill is open to interpretation, I said it could be read incorrectly. The bill does not call for investigations. It simply doesn't. To say that it does, which your source claims, is a lie. If it's a lie you want to believe strongly enough that you find a way to believe it, that's your call to make.

I'm not saying it's a good bill. I don't know what it purports to address -- whether there's a legitimate problem of some kind, and whether this bill would address it. It doesn't appear that this thread is the place to discuss the bill, but just a jumping-off point for people to vent their political spleens.
I thought it might be fun to occasionally post pieces like this to my blog, as a reminder not to get so caught up in wanting to be outraged by the political opposition that I set aside all critical thinking. I will try to include similar pieces from the conservative side, for I know they happen, too, and that I'm more likely to be caught up in them.


Luigi said...

Hey Roy,

I don't know what's in the Facebook thread, so this is just a general observation.

This bill describes a crime, not a civil action; in a criminal prosecution, the burden of proof is on the State. So according to the bill, the prosecutor would have to prove to a jury that (among other things) there was some human involvement in the event of a "naturally occurring expulsion" so it falls under the definition of "prenatal murder" in 16-12-140(b)(2).

In the case which is not a "naturally occurring expulsion" the prosecutor would have to prove that there was a fetus, it was removed, there was intent to remove, the fetus was not dead, the intent was not to create a live birth, etc.

It seems to me that this would necessarily require some level of investigation to gather that proof to present to the jury. That comes from the nature of the legal system, not from an explicit requirement in the statute.

Roy said...

You are correct that the bill is making "prenatal murder" a crime. The question is whether it would require an investigation into every miscarriage, without any probable cause to say that there was human intervention. I don't think it does, any more than every occasion of sex requires an investigation to determine whether lawful consent was given, every (nonfetal) death requires an investigation to rule out foul play.

I do owe a mea culpa for getting bogged down in that detail to the point that I glossed over the fact that it's recognizing
personhood at conception.

Luigi said...

What you're describing in the context of consensual sex is prosecutorial discretion; but in this case, look at 16-12-140(a)(27) on lines 107 and 108 - "The failure to prosecute a violation of this Code section is a violation of the obligation of this state to provide all of its citizens with an equal protection of the laws."

This may actually take away the ability of a prosecutor to choose not to pursue such an investigation. As far as I know this is pretty unusual; I've certainly never seen this in a criminal statute. On the other hand, I have also not seen enough criminal statutes to be definitive on that.