What Roe V. Wade Is All About

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no as a principle?
DONALD TR-MP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: For the woman?
DONALD TR-MP: Yeah, there has to be some form.

                                                                                              —From an MSNBC townhall, 3/30/2016

Language is crucial.

Mike Pence, our lying theocrat-in-waiting, told CNN that he still wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned even if he didn’t bother asking Brett Kavanaugh about whether he would in fact overturn the 45-year-old ruling or just chip away at it, like Republicans have done for years now, until it is gone for most women. But listen to the language Pence, who once said Roe should be “consigned to the ash heap of history,” used in the CNN interview (my emphasis):

I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it, and I’m proud to be part of a pro-life administration that’s advanced pro-life policy.

A pro-life trifecta. All in one sentence. He later said:

As I said, I stand for the sanctity of life. This administration, this president [sic], are pro-life….What I can assure people that voted for us is that this will continue to be a pro-life administration. From early in this administraion…Tr-mp has taken decisive steps to advance pro-life values at home and, frankly, in foreign aid around the world.

The fact that liars like Pence are, despite their language, pursuing decidedly anti-life policies, like cruelty toward migrants for instance, isn’t the point here. The point is the language that Pence purposely employs is so familiar to us that we hardly notice what is being hidden by its use.

Oddly and depressingly, I often hear pro-choice people use “pro-life” as a term for people like Pence. Journalists almost always use the term, presumably out of fear of being criticized by the right. In fact, I can’t recall hearing any straight news reporter on television, or reading one in print, who refers to people like Pence as what they are: anti-choice. But the awful truth is they are more Image result for women punished for abortionthan that, more than just people opposed to reproductive freedom for women. That’s just one side of the coin. They are advocates of government coercion every bit as cruel as what we have seen these past weeks as Tr-mp and his de facto deportation force thoughtlessly separated children from their parents and incarcerated them in separate locations without adequate means to reunite them.

Thanks to Vox, we know that Pence is about as extreme as they come when it comes to supporting the cruelty of government coercion of women. Not content with the radical Hyde Amendment’s prohibitions against using federal funds for most abortions, Pence sought through legislation to change the definition of rape, so that more women who were victims of male violence would also become victims of government violence through forced pregnancies. Pence also sponsored a bill that would have, through theocratic magic, turned a zygote into a constitutionally protected “person,” which would not only have made any and all abortions illegal, but criminalized some forms of contraception that the zealots deem abortifacients. And on and on.

A few months ago, Pence said the following at the Susan B. Anthony List & Life Issues Institute Luncheon in Nashville:

And so I urge you on, but I do so with confidence — with confidence that good news is around the corner in America.  I have boundless faith in the goodness and decency of the American people.  I have boundless confidence in that President [sic] that you elected and the pro-life majorities in the Congress of the United States and in states all across this country.  And I have boundless confidence in Him who said, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  (Applause.)

And with faith in all those leaders, faith in all of you, and faith in God, I know that, together, with you, we will once again live in an America that chooses life from our hearts.

This is theocracy advocacy. This is cruelty advocacy. This is pregnancy-by-government-force advocacy. Because what Pence, and others aligned with him, are actually saying—far from wanting “an America that chooses life from our hearts”—is that an unsupportable claim in an Iron Age book should be the guiding star on the use of government violence against pregnant women.

If you reject the term “violence” in this context, then consider this: what Pence et al. are saying is that the government should have the power to force women into months and months of service to a religious dogma, whether they believe the dogma or not. It’s not just a one-time deal but months and months of subjugation. Months and months of subjugation at the point of a government-owned gun. That’s what the debate over Roe v. Wade is all about. It’s not about whether deceptively named “pro-life” people will get their way if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed. It’s not about a “win” for Tr-mp or for Pence’s prayer warriors.

It’s about the power of the state and whether the government will sooner or later claim absolute sovereignty over every uterus in America.

The Pup Tent Party?

Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, both of whom actually belong to the Democratic Party, said what shouldn’t have needed to be said: DNC Chairman Tom Perez was wrong when he said the national party would not support any candidate who did not support reproductive rights. Here’s part of what Perez said:

Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.

He is right. Everyone should support reproductive rights for women and those rights should not change depending on where you happen to live. But he is wrong to ignore the reality of American politics. Pro-choice Democrats can’t get elected in some places.

Both Warren and Pelosi are, in Warren’s words, “strongly pro-choice.” Pelosi said:

I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman’s right to choose.

Image result for warren and pelosiBut both of these powerful Democrats recognize, as do most party leaders, that the issue of abortion is one that plays differently in Louisiana than it does in Massachusetts or California. We should remember that when Democrats held a majority in the House in 2009, it was because more than three dozen anti-choicers called themselves Democrats.

Leading Democrats have more work to do in convincing an overwhelming majority of people that women should be able to control their own bodies, should be able to make their own choices about having children and how many they should have. Until then, we have to live with the fact that not everyone, including not everyone in the Democratic Party, agrees with the party’s platform on the issue. Warren put it well:

I recognize that not all of my colleagues agree with me. I’ll do everything I can to persuade them, but they are my colleagues, and that’s just how it is with the Democrats. But I got to say, it does not dampen my energy in this fight.

It’s the same way with issues like single-payer health insurance. Many Democrats don’t support the concept, either as a revolutionary change in our system or even as an incremental change, step by step until we get there. These Democrats need to be convinced otherwise, as far as I’m concerned. But if they are willing to fight for other issues that we Democrats have in common, then they should be welcome in our party to fight with us on those issues.

The two major political parties in our system are, by the nature of the case, full of all kinds of people with all kinds of views on all kinds of issues. There is no one issue that defines what a Democrat is, even if there does come a point where you can disagree with so many core principles of the party that you should just call yourself something else and get out of the tent.

Beyond A Doubt?

I want to connect two issues, recently in the news, that may not seem related. 

In a piece in Tuesday’s USA Today, “When will USA get over breastfeeding hang-ups?,” Katherine Chretien hopes that one day, “breastfeeding in public will be seen as nothing out of the ordinary”: 

Let’s face it, we live in a society that has sexualized breasts so much that any display (even in its primary, all-business function) is seen as indecent, allowing the hardy vestiges of American Puritanism to place shame-hexes on nursing moms.

Now, I have never understood the hang-up about breastfeeding, in public or private, but I do understand “the hardy vestiges of American Puritanism,” the unrelenting bigotry of which is able to survive in our otherwise permissive culture.

There is another form of puritanical bigotry increasing in this country, almost unnoticed by the mainstream press, that also has to do with women: the harsh, inflexible anti-choice movement. Here is a story from CNN that illustrates the point:

(CNN) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry revealed a hardening in his stance on abortion Tuesday, telling a crowd in Iowa that he opposed abortions in all cases, including when a woman had been raped or the victim of incest.

Previously, Perry had not opposed the procedure in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life was threatened.

Perry claims that his just-in-time-for-the-Iowa-caucuses “transformation” happened after watching a propaganda film produced by Southern Baptist preacher and Fox “News” host Mike Huckabee, who was the former governor of Arkansas and a former presidential candidate who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

From the CNN story:

“…I really started giving some thought about the issue of rape and incest. And some powerful, some powerful stories in that DVD.”

Perry said a woman who appeared in the movie who said she was a product of rape moved him to change his mind about abortion.

“She said, ‘My life has worth.’ It was a powerful moment for me,” Perry said.

I find it interesting that men like Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee and many leaders in the anti-choice movement, a movement that has been very effective in limiting the choices women can make, will never be victims of rape or incest, but feel comfortable forcing women to have children under such circumstances. More than interesting, I find it appalling.

But Rick Perry—who earlier this year signed a bill in Texas forcing women seeking abortions to undergo sonograms and forcing doctors to tell those women the size of their fetuses’ body parts—isn’t the only GOP candidate/extremist against abortion rights. Oddly, the man most people identify as a libertarian, Ron Paul, is staunchly anti-choice. He said in 2005:

I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society.

“Beyond a doubt?” That man is expected to finish first or second in Iowa next week. He also said that,

Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law…the new regime has enlisted the assistance of millions of people to act as its agents in carrying out a program of mass murder.

Again, that is a so-called libertarian running for the GOP nomination speaking.

Mitt Romney, whom the mainstream media treat as a “moderate” and whose evolving-devolving position on abortion is legendary, has essentially confessed—to none other than Mike Huckabee himself—that he is an extremist on the “life begins at conception” issue. The two former governors were discussing Romney’s now-controversial health care plan in Massachusetts, which Romney claimed the courts determined must provide the right to an abortion:

Mike Huckabee: “Was there any way that you could have blocked [Romney’s health care plan paying for abortion] administratively or through forcing the legislature to have created enabling legislation before it went into effect?”

Romney: “This was something which existed exactly even before our bill was passed. They said people who are receiving care in that was in any way subsidized by government had the right to get abortions as part of that care. And they said that was constitutionally required. So the only way to we could have changed that would be to carry out a constitutional amendment to block the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Mike Huckabee: “Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?”

Mitt Romney: “Absolutely.”

It is true that the Romney campaign disputes the claim that he is in favor of so-called “personhood amendments,” which would grant political rights to minutes-old fertilized eggs, but even in the context of Massachusetts politics, how can a man say he would be in favor of a constitutional amendment that would establish “life at conception,” if that didn’t also mean granting that “life” political rights, most notably the right to be born? If it doesn’t mean that, then just what does it mean?

And remember, Romney made his statement about the constitutional amendment establishing life at conception in the context of restricting “the right to get abortions.” Clearly, he is willing to support measures that would prohibit women from controlling their reproductive decisions.

When Romney vetoed a bill in Massachusetts in 2005 that would have expanded access to emergency contraception, known as the “morning after” pill, he explained his veto by saying this:

The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception: The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception…I have spoken with medical professionals to determine whether the drug contemplated under the bill would simply prevent conception or whether it would also terminate a living embryo after conception. Once it became clear that the latter was the case, my decision was straightforward.

Romney tried to hide his extremist position by saying that his decision was based on the “promise” he made to “the citizens of Massachusetts” that he would “not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it.” Similarly, he tries to hide his extremism by claiming that such things should be left in state hands. His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho said,

Mitt Romney is pro-life, and as he has said previously, he is supportive of efforts to ensure recognition that life begins at conception. He believes these matters should be left up to states to decide.

That, in perfect Romney style, is trying to have it both ways. He wants to send the message to the anti-choice community that he is committed to their extremist views, while sending the message to the rest of America that he will not change, as a federal official, the status quo. He wants to send Rick Perry’s and Ron Paul’s message without actually sounding like Rick Perry and Ron Paul.

But who can believe a man who has been a true-believing bishop in the ultra-conservative Mormon church and who once was thrown out of the house of a man who lived in a Boston suburb for insisting that the man not allow his daughter to have an abortion. According to a  report, the man was “appalled at the arrogance of Romney.

Bigotry is a form of arrogance, of course. And whether it is the comparatively trivial impulse to stop women from breastfeeding in public or whether it is the profoundly important matter of trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose to become a mother, the bigotry that goes with the  “hardy vestiges of American Puritanism” is evident, particularly in the politics surrounding abortion in the Republican Party.

Even if the mainstream media largely ignore it.

Are Some Abortions More Humane Than Others?

On Thursday, a panel of outside experts will make a decision as to whether to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve a new “emergency contraceptive” pill called ella, which reportedly is effective up to as many as five days after unprotected sex.

The pill, which was approved for use in Europe last year, is guaranteed to start yet another fight over the issue of abortion, still very much a radioactive topic in America and one with a very long half-life.

My interest is not in whether the drug is an abortifacient (as anti-abortion folks claim) or whether it does not affect an existing pregnancy (as the reproductive-freedom folks claim). 

I will grant for the sake of argument that it is indeed an abortifacient.  Now what?

Surely, we can all agree that, even if ella or any similar drug actually induced an abortion, aborting a pregnancy within a few days of fertilization is better than waiting longer. 

If late-term abortions are axiomatically reprehensible, then surely abortions in the earliest possible stages are less reprehensible, right?  Who could argue with that?

Here is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a 2-3 day old human embryo, the cells of which are about 33 micrometers in diameter*:

And here is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a human embryo at 6 days and beginning to implant into the uterine lining:

[Credit for both images: Yorgos Nikas, Wellcome Images]

If abortion is a fact of life—and it is no matter the legality of it—then certainly it’s better if women who want to end their pregnancies have access to drugs that work early on to abort a small group of undifferentiated cells, rather than use other methods that work later, when there are recognizable human attributes.

The argument over the morality of abortion can go on despite women having access to what even anti-abortion advocates would have to concede is a more humane way of terminating pregnancies, assuming their claim about the abortifacient nature of the drugs is correct.

In fact, maybe that gesture of humanity would go a long way in convincing all of us of the righteousness of their cause.

_____________________________

*One strand of human hair is about 100 micrometers wide.

The Issue Is Choice, Not Abortion

CBS has said no way to an add featuring a couple of football fans (boy-boy, of course) making out during a game, while it has decided to show Tim Tebow and his mother discussing the story of her refusal to get an abortion in the face of medical advice to do so.

Now, we can argue whether what the Tebow’s are advocating is proper for airing during the Super Bowl.  But since CBS paid a lot of money for the rights to broadcast the event, obviously it can choose to broadcast whatever commercials it wants.  Personally, I don’t care one way or the other.  If Focus on the Family wants to finance the Tebows’ message, so be it.  If pro-choice advocates don’t like it, they can pool their resources and counter its message.

Maybe they could have a commercial featuring a mother who elected to do what Tebow’s mom did but had vastly different results.  Maybe her son is now languishing in an institution somewhere that struggles for funding because Focus on the Family advocates “smaller government.”  Or maybe her son was born, suffered tremendously, and then died.  Such a mother could lament the choice she made.

The point is that pro-choice advocates, rather than attacking CBS or the ad, should begin to conduct an offensive of their own, designed to highlight the benefits of actually having a “choice” in the matter, like the choice Pam Tebow had.  After all, frequently, “pro-choice” means having the baby, rather than electing not to have it. Otherwise, being pro-choice can plausibly be seen as just a euphemism for being pro-abortion, as the enemies of choice have claimed, effectively, for years.

In any case, since the Tebow ad is unavailable for preview, here is the rejected add, which was sponsored by ManCrunch, a gay dating site:

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