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Brain Birth – Let’s Play Offense on Abortion

by Jean Ann Esselink on May 6, 2011

in Analysis,Healthcare,Jean Ann Esselink,Legal Issues,Legislation,News,Op-Ed,Politics,Religion

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Last week on her show, Rachel Maddow spotlighted John Labruzzo, a Louisiana State Senator who has introduced a bill banning “feticide.” If his bill were to become law, feticide, (the termination of the life of a fetus of any age,) would be illegal in Louisiana, punishable by 15 years at hard labor for both the patient and her doctor. “Choice” would be but a memory in Louisiana.

READ: Gay Marriage, Abortion Aren’t Problems. Child Homelessness, Poverty Are.

When I first heard about this, my reaction was a shake of the head and a sigh. It is so far over the Constitutional line, even I could see it would never pass muster. And this Labruzzo character is the same fair-minded fellow who in the past has advocated paying poor women to have their tubes tied, and college educated women to procreate. He’s a nut. The Republican trees are full of them these days. No worries.

It took me some time to understand Labruzzo’s game plan is not to get his Draconian laws passed in Louisiana and start filling up the prisons with desperate unwed mothers and the dedicated doctors who help them. His objective is to get Roe v. Wade back in front of the Supreme Court, in the hope that, with Samuel Alito having replaced Sandra Day O’Connor, there will now be enough votes on the court to overturn it. Labruzzo’s goal is not to stop abortions in Louisiana. His goal is to end choice from sea to shining sea.


Democrats should advocate for the very same standard of brain wave function that we have at the end of life, for the beginning of life: Brain Birth.


Democrats tend to look at Roe v. Wade as a fait accompli. We fought that battle. Choice is a right. It’s been a right for fifty years. Let’s move along. Our only strategy seems to be the exercise of patience until the opposition decides to choose modernity. So during that fifty years, Dems have played nice, giving ground at every turn. No federal funding. Waiting periods. Doctors being forced to read government-written scripts. Patients being forced to hear one-on-one lectures from abortion opponents. Enough! You can’t win a battle if you are always on Defense.

It’s time for the Democrats to get behind some common sense legislation that would give the county one official scientifically determined standard for life. We have one now at the end of life; if a certain type of brain waves are no longer present, we deem that person’s individual humanity to be gone: Brain Death. I propose the Democrats advocate to extend the very same standard of brain wave function that we have at the end of life, to the beginning of life: Brain Birth.

The concept of Brain Birth is not mine. There is a whole wing of ethics devoted to the discussion. The GOP has many times tried to identify conception as the beginning of human life. What has been our response to that? Let’s get one!

A single standard at both ends of life is a concept easy to understand. It will resound as reasonable with the man on the street. It says we are the party of science. It says we are still champions of the right to choose. Most of all, it says, we’re thoughtful, sensible people who believe in the right of every man and woman to be in charge of his own life beginning to end, and that we will not let anyone take that away.


Jean Ann Esselink is a retired OEM automotive supplier’s representative, longtime Democrat, and once upon a time hippie. Jeannie lives in SE Michigan with a Beagle named Puck who rescued her four years ago. Read her previous piece: “First Amendment: Terry Jones – Martyr Or Mentally Ill?

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brookgarden May 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I did a brief Google search on 'brain birth' and found one paper from 1989. In the abstract, it says
'This paper reviews previous discussions of this concept, which have placed brain birth at various points between 12 days' and 20 weeks' gestation…'
Do we REALLY want to go with something which pro-lifers could use to limit termination of pregnancy at 12 days?

David Badash May 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I did too – and you'll see the link in the piece. Here's the important phrase in that piece: "From this it is concluded that, if the concept of brain birth is a valid one, it should be placed at 24-28 weeks' gestation."

ann neumann May 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm

And brain death isn't so solid a line as you might think. Examine the conversation surrounding organ donation which requires a definition of death. Not at all clear, in fact rather arbitrary.

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