Instapundit made an interesting post yesterday regarding abortion. He was responding to Jonah Goldberg's observations about the treatment of Abortion on TV (in dramas and sitcoms, not news shows). The basic idea of Goldberg's piece was that the characters who consider abortions never have them and then their babies are suddenly transformed by the power of that choice into full-fledged human beings from the lumps of cells they once were. This is where Instapundit comes in.
Using the 'duty to rescue' scenario as a guide, he comes up with a formula as to how he can support abortion rights and still advocate punishment for mothers who take drugs or drink while pregnant. He sums up his idea thusly: "decide not to have the abortion, and assume the duty to avoid dangerous behavior." Legally, one thing that has been pointed out to me is that the parent/child relationship imposes a new set of duties on the parties. I have a duty to rescue my son if he is drowning, so the analogy to the 'duty to rescue' scenario is flawed.
Another interesting question has to do with the legal status of the fetus itself. If at the time of the action by the mother (let's say she uses crack) the fetus does not have legal status as a person how can she be held responsible for harm done to that fetus at any point? She can be punished for using illegal drugs, but how can the law punish her for harming a person that was not even a person (legally) at the time of the act? I'm no expert, but I think the law regarding the personhood of the fetus is a bit of a mixed bag. Some laws favor personhood, some laws (i.e. abortion laws) reject it. Perhaps the pro-life community should put more of a focus on this aspect of the abortion debate.