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Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a painfully restrictive law on abortion, following the path paved by a number of other states led by conservatives. The legislation bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest.
The Mississippi law, after which the Florida law is patterned, is about to be tested before the Supreme Court. And based on the leaked draft of Justice Samuel Alito's opinion, the decision might well obliterate the last vestiges of Roe v. Wade.
The fact that DeSantis would sign such a measure is hardly surprising since his focus these days is clearly on the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination. And to borrow a baseball metaphor, if winning the GOP presidential nomination is the home run that DeSantis seeks, he can't get to touch home plate unless he first touches three other bases: pro-gun, anti-gay and, most importantly, anti-abortion. That's the undeniable litmus test for a Republican nominee, just as supporting abortion rights is for a Democratic one.
While I recognize that all eyes are going to be on what the Supreme Court does with the Mississippi case, I can't help but notice what recently happened in Texas with its own restrictive abortion law. A young woman was arrested and charged with murder over what authorities alleged was a self-induced abortion.
Unsurprisingly, there was instant public outrage from all directions of our political and cultural divides – and to be fair, the charge was quickly dropped. Nevertheless, this initial public displeasure in a sense demonstrates the logic of supporting abortion rights.
Let me explain.
The anti-abortion stance is based on the principle that one person may not take the life of another. In fact, if you do, you may spend your life in prison – or even find yourself put to death in return for your actions.
So let's say someone entered a home at the end of your block and killed a 2-year-old girl. Who wouldn't want, at the very least, life in prison for that killer?
But on the other hand, what if the 17-year-old daughter of your neighbor down the street had gotten an abortion. Would you honestly think that she should be arrested and imprisoned for life? My guess is that you – along with 95% of Floridians – would likely say, "No, of course not!"
But why is that? Why do we distinguish between a fetus and a 2-year-old girl?
At some level, we must understand that there's a difference. And I think it's because the debate on abortion centers around the wrong question. It should not be, "When does life begin?" We know that answer, because it's a scientific one. Life begins at conception.
The real question is, "When does a human being begin?" And that is a philosophical and possibly religious question that can't be answered by science. It can only be answered by our own philosophical and religious beliefs, which are guaranteed protection by our First Amendment.
At its core, then, a woman's view on when what's in her body is a "human being" is surely not one to be infringed upon by any other person's religion – and certainly not by any form of government.
Given this reality, shouldn't we be amazed that there are actually people and politicians like DeSantis who scream that a government mask mandate is anti-freedom – but who have absolutely no problem with mandating that a woman who gets pregnant, even by rape, must carry a fetus for nine months?
Oh, I forgot. "Freedom" is just for men.
Jerry Springer is a longtime nationally syndicated television talk show host who resides in Sarasota. Springer has a law degree from Northwestern University and served one term as the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the host of "The Jerry Springer Podcast."
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Jerry Springer: We ask the wrong question when it comes to abortion