Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dead Women

Apparently the Ohio Republican Party’s dog and pony – er, fetus and pony – show is over for another election cycle. Hearings on the total abortion ban are over, with no further action expected. Thanks for coming.

I don’t find it easy to be pro-choice. Someone recently asked in comments to the PhAQs what I meant by moderate on abortion. Three things, really. First and second, I am less comfortable with late-term abortions and more comfortable with parental notification than most pro-choicers. Third – and this is the essence of the thing – while I don’t think an early term abortion ends a human life, it certainly ends the life of something that, in an ideal world, wouldn’t have to die. I acknowledge that, at the risk of getting hooted down by pro-choice absolutists.

Anyway, at times I envy the simplicity of saying, “It’s a human life, protect it at all costs.” But the abortion ban considered this time around gives lie to that simplicity. By banning the procedure even to save the life of a mother, the advocates move from Party of Life to Party of Dead Women.

What’s remarkable about all this is the rare break in discipline in the anti-abortion ranks. The anti-abortion movement since Roe has been a marvel of political craft. People who believe they are working for the ultimate in absolutes have nonetheless strategically proposed incremental that find favor with otherwise pro-choice majorities – cooling off, parental notification, bans on state funding. In a series of deft strokes the anti-abortion movement has whittled down the right guaranteed in Roe and shaved support off the pro-choice majority and painted pro-choice groups as extremists. Looked at purely as tactic, it has been a thing of beauty.

Like the South Dakota law before it, the Ohio law abandons that strategy for a base-mobilizing, choir-preaching bill that could reverse decades of political gain. Indeed the bill appears to be an attempt to be more prolifier than South Dakota – after all, those bankrupt plains state moral relativists wrote in an exception to save the life of the mother.

In addition to being strategically suspect, the Ohio law points out the chinks in the moral absolutism of the pro-life position. A woman with an anencephalitic baby – a baby with no brain, no chance to survive more than a few days – who will die if she tries to take it to term must take it to term. Yes, it’s an outlier case, but it becomes much harder to gloss the Democrats as the Party of Death when you embrace policies that end in Death 2, Life 0.

None of which matters because it was all a farce to begin with. If you doubt that, look no further than Right to Life Ohio’s position. They refused to endorse because the bill would have repealed all abortion laws – including popular restrictions like parental notification and Ohio’s “partial birth abortion” ban. Clearly the sponsors of the bill did not intend this thing to be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, Democrats have a well-crafted alternative. Senator Teresa Fedor and Rep. Tyrone Yates have introduced the Prevention First bill. It would:

  • Demand data-driven decisions on funding sponsoring effective sex education.

  • Require insurance to pay for contraception.

  • Put money into state family planning programs

  • Broaden access to morning-after contraception.
These bills have even less chance of passing than the total abortion ban, of course. But casting the election as the Party of Prevention against the Party of Dead Women is a smart strategy. It’s about time.


Jill said...

Nice post, Scott.

You know who I'd like to hear from? I'd like to read some first-person accounts, written or crafted by nurses, doctors, mental health professionals, spouses, children and siblings who have had to follow through in or been touched firsthand by cases where the baby was saved while the mother was allowed to die - in order to save the baby.

Likewise, I'd like to hear from the same professionals and relatives connected firsthand to cases where the mother's life was valued over the fetus and an abortion occured.

These are the stories we need to hear. Better yet, maybe the South Dakota Governor, with all his children and daughters, could make an example of one of them and show us that no abortion is permissible, even if it means the death of one of his two daughters or one of however many of his ten siblings are female.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post Pho. I just have one thing to add. If we ban late term abortion except in the cases to save the woman's life, we would see amost not change in the percent of late term abortions performed. As a lawyer, I'm sure you know of O'Connor's three tiered test, where in the third trimester the state does have a legitimate and compelling interest in banning abortions that late in the pregnancy. There are times when I think the left should just concede that one, though I do understand the fear of the slippery slope. However, most states already have laws against late term abortions anyways, and only South Dakota has banned it outright so far.

At any rate, it's a tough choice, a personal one and a moral one. I can't presume to know what it'd be like to be faced with the choice of my life or my child's. I'm not going to be the one who also adds public shaming to the mix of the already horrible situation.

redhorse said...

What you said about the Right to Life movement is correct: it's been a marvelous display of political acumen.

I've long argued the NRA also belongs in that category too.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I was particularly disappointed to discover that my local legislator, John Widowfield (Who's his daddy?) was a co-sponsor of this bill. My hope is that his lack of independent thinking will end up with his return to the private sector in November.

I'm also hopeful that the moderate centrists will wake up to just how far the Party of Dead Women is willing to go to legislate away our freedoms in the interest of moral values.