“A fetus is an unborn child.” So claim right-to-life advocates such as the National Right-To-Life Committee, the Pro-Life Action League, Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion organizations. If you are a member of one of these or are in agreement with this concept, you are entitled to your opinion. However, have you thoroughly investigated the legal and social consequences of this claim? If a fetus is an unborn child, it is obvious that this “child’*is endowed with all the rights of other individuals, human beings or people. You claim that the “child” has a “right to life,” so why should he or she be denied other human rights from which the living benefit. For example (yes, I’m serious) the right not to be kidnapped.

Some time back, a movie Rain Without Thunder explored this possibility with gut-wrenching candor. New York State enacts a statute declaring that “a fetus is a child from the moment of conception” and that consequently abortion is murder. Unlike prior right-to-life legislation, this statute made abortion a crime, not only for the doctor or party terminating the abortion (the terminator) but for the pregnant woman as well.

African-American groups sue New York, claiming this law is unconstitutional since it discriminates against blacks, many of whom
are too poor to go to another state or country for an abortion. Wealthy women, on the other hand, could avoid the law by travelling out of state. To counter this, the Legislature passes another law applying kidnapping statutes to any woman who leaves me State for the purpose of terminating her pregnancy.

A young pregnant woman, accompanied by her mother, goes to Sweden where abortion is legal. Shortly after returning to New York, they are arrested for conspiring to kidnap a child. An ambitious State Attorney General makes it a cause celebre, and both mother and daughter are
convicted and sent to jail for several years.

The plot of Rain Without Thunder is admittedly highly contrived. However, once the concept that a fetus is an unborn child becomes the law of the land, numerous other kidnapping scenarios are possible. For example, in a divorce action involving a pregnant woman, a husband claims his wife is an unfit mother, proves his case to the satisfaction of a judge, and is awarded legal custody of the unborn child. The mother promptly flees the state and is then caught and charged with kidnapping.

If the above sounds like fantasy, rest assured that it is legally consistent. According to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all citizens of the United States are entitled to “equal protection of the laws.” If a fetus is an unborn child and consequnetly entitled to all legal and constitutional rights other human beings enjoy, then tens of thousands of laws—national and local —.would have to be amended to take care of the following intriguing situations:

A. In an unfortunate automobile accident, you injure a woman who is two months pregnant. She loses the ‘”child.” Does the state now have the right to charge you with manslaughter in a criminal court? Does a legal representative of this unborn child have the right to sue you in a civil court for damages involving loss of the child’s earning capacity during its expected lifetime? Present laws in some states already allow such civil suits if death is caused to a “quick child,” i.e. one capable of independent existence outside the womb— normally an embryo in the third trimester. If a fetus is a child at conception, it would seem that this right to sue would be available in all cases of damage to or death of the fetus. (Incidentally, what is the expected lifetime of a two-month old fetus?)

B. A woman in her fifth month of pregnancy decided to see an R-rated movie. Can the unborn child be imputed to have viewed the movie? If so, the mother and the movie house contributed to the delinquency of a minor? To protect itself, should all movie houses refuse to admit any obviously pregnant women to R-rated or X-rated movies? Further, as with laws involving service of liquor to minors, should ticket sellers protect themselves by requiring that every woman submit an affidavit that, to the best of her knowledge, she is not pregnant.

C. Speaking of alcohol, if a bartender serves an obviously pregnant woman, is he breaking the law against service of alcoholic beverages to children below the age of 18 (or 21)? Here too, the burden of ascertaining facts lies with the bartender. Should he be required to have each female guest “prove”she is not pregnant?

D, What about incarceration? A pregnant woman is convicted of a crime and sent to jail. Can the unborn child (represented by a guardian ad litem) appear before the court on a writ of habeas corpus and ask to be released from unjust incarceration? A similar case in Florida created quite astir a number of years ago. A woman convicted of a crime discovered she was pregnant. Her attorneys requested a temporary release so that she could have an abortion. The judge refused, and the woman was forced to have a child against her will. If, however, the fetus had legally been considered a viable child, a lawyer acting as a guardian ad litem for the unborn child could logically have entered a plea of habeas corpus demanding release of the child from unjustifiable incarceration.

E. Now, enter the I.R.S. Can the unborn child be used as a tax deduction from the date of conception? Can trusts, bank accounts, investment portfolios, property deeds, etc. be established in his or her name? What will be the child’s official date of birth? (In China, the date of birth is considered one’s first birthday.) Must all our birth certificates now be backdated by approximately nine months? How will this affect voting rights, college entrance, military drafts, legal ages of consent or for marriage, the timing of Social Security payments, etc.?

F. Finally, you make love to your wife. She is four months pregnant. The unborn child could be aware of what is going on. Are you guilty of sexual abuse? Contributing to the delinquency of a minor?

Does the above sound ridiculous, even absurd? Believe me, it is not. Once society accept the concept that a fetus is an unborn child, we have opened up a Pandora’s box which will further clog the arteries of already overburdened courts. Untrod legal paths will need investigation, which means appeals and further appeals to superior courts and ultimately to the Supreme Court. Federal, State and City legislatures will be burdened with writing new laws to cover this new legal concept.

The aforementioned examples are certainly not all inclusive. An imagination more fertile than mine can come up with an unknown number of additional examples of the paths into which this concept will lead. An attorney specializing in the right of children could add to the list.

Not to mention a final moral problem. Are you willing to execute a woman for murder if she aborts a “child” conceived by rape or incest?

A fetus is an unborn child. Do you really believe it? Are you prepared to accept the consequences?

Note: The Curmudgeon is a member of the New York Bar and.of course, vro choice.

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GEE, but I’d give the world to have the energy to see that old gang of mine. That is more or less the subject matter of a chapter in a new book I am writing, entitled “Old Age Ain’t for Wimps” Thought you might like a preview.

I have a lot of friends. Or I used to have a lot of friends. They’re still there, but I don’t see them anywhere near as often as I formerly did. How come? I’m not quite sure but, somehow or other, age has taken its toll, and you don’t get off your ass and visit friends as frequently as in the old days. Just as you don’t go to the theatre or even the cinema as much as you used to.

Perhaps the key word is chashik, a Yiddish expression with no exact English translation. Intestinal fortitude or intestinal disinclination is about as close to the meaning as I can get.In short, where is the energy of yesteryear? I’m not talking just about physical energy. Mental energy too is waning. Inclinations are weaker. Your get-up-and-go has gotten up and gone.

I formerly travelled worldwide on business, so I have many friends scattered over the United States as well as overseas. But, at my age, while the destinations may be lovely and seeing old friends exciting, who the Hell wants to face today’s airports? I know, I know, that sentiment is shared with those much younger than I.

Even if the friends are within easy driving distance, before you start to visit your old friend Elaine, you think of driving bottlenecks, parking problems and the ever increasing cost of gas. Maybe you still visit, but maybe you don’t. More often than not, you don’t have the chasick.

The real tragedy, however, is that you rarely see friends who live much closer. Subways involve walking up and down steps. Buses are slow as molasses in today’s traffic. And even if Lynne and Marty live within 30 minutes walking distance (formerly t5 minutes walking distance), instead of a pleasant stroll, it becomes a chore. I still walk, but these old legs ain’t what they used to be.

Another factor. We’ve known these old friends so long, there’s very little new we can tell each other.It’s like that old bit of doggerel:

“Our old friends will arrive today.
An entire week, they plan to stay.
The first night, we’ll have conversation,
The other six re-iteration.”

And even if you are lunching together, by the time lunch is finished, you usually have exhausted new subjects of conversation and finished telling each other jokes you’ve all heard before. Oh well, there’s always politics.

Incidentally, re that juvenile bit of poetry above, It came from my memory and I put it in quotes, but don’t you dare ask me where it came from. I don’t remember.

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Lawyers are not exactly the most popular people – now, or in the past. As one of Charles Dickens’ characters in Oliver Twist expounded in 1638, “The law is an ass.” (Actually, he was cribbing from a 1634 English writer named Chapman.) One of the characters in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI said, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Today, many U.S. industries hate lawyers, since they would like to avoid product liability suits. Bob Dole apparently agrees with this concept, since huge numbers of lawyers donate funds to the Bill Cinton campaign. The Curmudgeon too (while a member of the New York Bar himself) has had it up to here with lawyers from time to time, having paid out well over a million dollars in legal fees over many years.

But lawyers are human too. Some are brilliant; some stupid. And all of them make silly errors, including asking stupid questions in court. Going over national official court records, one finds- believe it or not- the following questions by lawyers:

(1) Do you have any children or anything of that kind?

(2) Q: Do you know how far pregnant you are now?
A: I’ll be three months on November 8th.
Q: Apparently, then, the date of conception was August 8th?
A: Yes.
Q: What were you doing at that time?

(3) Q: Do you recall approximately the time that you examined
the body?
A: It was in the evening. The autopsy started about 8:30
Q: And Mr. Edington was dead at the time, is that correct?
A: No, you stupid, he was sitting on the table wondering
why I was doing an autopsy.

(4) Q: Have you lived in this town all your life?
A: Not yet.

(5) Q: How long have you been a French Canadian?

(6) Q: Now, Doctor, isn’t it true that, when a person dies in his
sleep, in most cases he just passes away quietly and
doesn’t know anything about it until the next morning?

(7) Q: Now, Mrs. Johnson, how was your first marriage terminated?
A: By death.
Q: And by whose death was it terminated?

(8) Q: I show you exhibit 3 and ask if you recognize that
A: That’s me.
Q: Were you present when that picture was taken?

(9) Q: Mrs. Jones, do you believe you are emotionally stable?
A: I used to be.
Q: How many times have you committed suicide?

(10) Q: She had three children, right?
A: Yes.
Q: How many were boys?
A: None.
Q: Were there girls?

(11) Q: So you were gone until you returned?

(12) Q: A Texas attorney, realizing he was on the verge of
releasing a stupid question, interrupted himself
and said, “Your Honor, I’d like to strike». the next

(13) Q: Was it you or your brother that was killed in the war?

(14) Q: Was that the same nose you broke as a child?

(15) Q: Were you alone or by yourself?

(16) Q: Were you present in Court this morning when you were
sworn in?

(17) Q: What happened then?
A: He told me, he says, “I have to kill you because you
can identify me.”
Q: Did he kill you?

(18) Q: You don’t know what it was, and you didn’ t know what
it looked like, but can you describe it?

(19) Q: You say that the stairs went down to the basement?
A: Yes.
Q: And these stairs, did they go up also?

(20) Q: The youngest son, the 20 year old, how old is he?

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Note: Certain items in daily life — on television, in
the newspapers, on the streets, etc.— annoy the
Hell out of me, a vexation I am certain is shared
by many readers. This is a cry of exasperation about
small but Unnecessary annoyances .

Credit card sales on television all
share one big lie in common. They all
boast bargain prices. “Available now at
the low,low ‘price of $19.95. In stores,
you would normally expect to pay over
$100.00 for this beautiful bracelet. Bulk
television selling enables us to offer it to
you at the unbelievably low price of
$24.50.” “A real bargain at only $29.75”

Fair enough, until you see the small
letters: “Plus $4.50 shipping and handling. ” True
prices for the above items then become
$24.25, $29.00 and $34.25 respectively,
frequently an increase of 10% to 25% over
the low price offered vocally.

This is false and deceptive
advertising, and should be outlawed.
Every item in my clothing or jewelry store
has also been ‘shipped and handled’
before arriving on store shelves, but these
costs are included in the price up front.

Snake oil: sales techniques have no place
on television or in the press.

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Note: Some of the best jokes have a philosophicalor sociological twist. This is one of my favorites.

During World War II,two men ofthe cloth — substantially different inethnic background and religion andcoming from widely separate parts ofthe country — decided to become MilitaryChaplains. They were promptly assignedto a three-month training school at M.I.T.During that brief time, they became fastfriends.

At the end of the course, each wasassigned to a different theater of war —one to the European and the other to theAsian front. After a send-off banquet ongraduation night, these two friends gottogether for a final cup of coffee — a lastsupper, so to speak.

“Joe,” said one of the clergymento the other, “isn’t it amazing? Here weare, two men of widely varied ethnicbackgrounds, from different regions ofthe Country, and practicing differentfaiths, and during only three months, wehave become such fast friends

“”Amazing,” agreed Sam. “Andnow, each of us has been assigned to adifferent theater of war thousands of milesapart, each of us going out there to serveGod— you in your way and I in HIS.”

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