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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 20, 2007

 
"We're brainstorming, and we're having fun"

by digby

That's our good friend Leslee Unruh of South Dakota in the LA Times reflecting on the Supreme Court's decision this week upholding the ban on so-called partial birth abortion. You remember Leslee, don't you?

NOW did another one of its interesting shows on the South Dakota abortion ban last friday; it's now available on the website if you missed it. They went deep into the forced pregnancy movement in South Dakota and once again, I was struck by the profound dishonesty of many of its leaders. You will see spin and gibberish that even Karen Hughes would be ashamed of:

HINOJOSA:
MEET LESLEE UNRUH...SHE FOUNDED THE ALPHA CENTER IN 1984 BUT MOST PEOPLE NOW KNOW HER AS ONE OF THE MOST POTENT PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS IN THE STATE...

UNRUH HAD AN ABORTION HERSELF IN THE 1970'S. AND WHILE SOME MIGHT THINK THAT BANNING ABORTION IS AN ATTACK ON WOMEN'S FREEDOM, UNRUH SAYS SHE WANTS TO BAN ABORTION PRECISELY TO PROTECT WOMEN'S FREEDOM.

UNRUH:
This freedom, sexual freedom is costing women and their lives. Where's the sexual freedom? There is none. Because those of us who have suffered through the abortion, we're not gonna be silent anymore. We're gonna speak up and we're gonna tell the truth. Because abortion hurts women. Silent no more.

[...]

UNRUH:
I've been that woman. There is no freedom after an abortion. You carry an empty crib in your heart forever. There's no freedom.

HINOJOSA:
And so, when you hear people saying, "Someone like Leslie is trying to actually take away women's rights and taking away their freedoms--"

UNRUH:
I'm giving women freedom. We are giving back the women what they really want. This is true feminism.


This woman is "giving" women back their freedom by taking away their right to abortion. She's smiling, upbeat, cheerful and sunny --- the all-American gal. And to me, she seems downright otherworldly. I don't know what she's talking about. She's babbling incoherently.

It turns out that Unruh is more interesting than your usual forced pregnancy zealot. She's also the prime mover of the state's abstinence only education movement. Freedom is having no sex at all.

And then there's this:

HINOJOSA: LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, YOUNG GIRLS FROM AROUND SOUTH DAKOTA CAME TO SIOUX FALLS FOR A SPRING BALL. THIS ONE IS CALLED "THE PURITY BALL" IT'S A YEARLY EVENT RUN BY LESLEE UNRUH'S ABSTINENCE CLEARINGHOUSE.

THE IDEA IS THAT THESE YOUNG WOMEN COME WITH THEIR FATHERS. TO CELEBRATE THEIR SEXUAL PURITY.

UNRUH:We think that its important for fathers to the be the first ones to look into their daughters eyes and To tell her that her purity is special, and its ok to wait until marriage.

HINOJOSA:IT MIGHT HAVE ALL THE TRAPPINGS OF A REGULAR PROM... BUT THIS ONE ENDS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY.

GIRLS RECITING PLEDGE:"I make a promise this day to God...

HINOJOSA:
THE YOUNG WOMEN HERE ALL MAKE A PROMISE TO THEIR FATHERS THAT THEY WONT' HAVE SEX UNTIL THE DAY THEY GET MARRIED.

GIRLS RECITING PLEDGE:...to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me. and that he will reward me for my faithfulness.


You have to see it to believe it. They are all dressed up like prom goers, the dads in tuxes and the daughters in evening gowns looking all grown up. They dance, they laugh, they giggle. And then father and daughter stand up, holding each others hands, staring into each others' eyes and the girls make these vows as if in a wedding ceremony.

As I watch it occurs to me that this is why they don't have an exception for rape and incest. It's one of the creepiest things I've ever seen.

You will notice that there's no "mother-son" ceremony in which boys pledge to their mothers to stay pure until they give themselves as a gift to their wives. There is a Victorian impulse at work here that has nothing to do with fetuses. This is about women being autonomous, independent, sexual humans.

Here's Unruh again. If you aren't listening closely, the cadence of her speech makes it sound like she is perfectly reasonable. But she might as well be speaking in another language for all the sense it makes.

UNRUH:
I think there should be no abortions in my state.

HINOJOSA:
So to get to that point, you want to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

UNRUH:
Yes.

HINOJOSA:
And people might say, "Well, the way you prevent unwanted pregnancies is through contraception."

UNRUH:
No. It's wrong. We don't need, we don't have a shortage of condoms in this country. We should not be worshipping condoms. Let's start just telling the truth.

HINOJOSA:
But when some people say that truth might be, Leslee, that by limiting the information, by limiting access to contraception, that you may-- you may unintentionally be contributing to more unwanted pregnancies--

UNRUH:
No. I think it's-- by "limiting" is all spin. Let's quit making people think that everybody can go out there and just as long as they have a condom, they're safe. They're not safe emotionally. They're not safe physically. Let's just start telling the truth.




Yes, Leslee Unruh is that fabulous gal from the "Purity Balls" (which is probably the most frequently linked post I've ever done.)

Leslee is very excited about her "win" as you can tell. She's not just "brainstorming and having fun." It's like she's "going shopping"

"I'm ecstatic," said Leslee Unruh, an antiabortion activist in South Dakota. "It's like someone gave me $1 million and told me, 'Leslee, go shopping.' That's how I feel."


Isn't that special? But it's true. The LA Times article discusses in some detail all the ways this decision will further curb the right to choose. And the really neat thing is that since they've more or less "opened it up to the states" pro-choice forces will now have to fight on dozens of fronts all over the country thus raising the costs exponentially. Ne wonder Leslee is ecstatic.

Here are just a few of the battles the pro-choice movement is going to be fighting now:


We're moving beyond putting roadblocks in front of abortions to actually prohibiting them," said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a national antiabortion group based in Wichita, Kan. "This swings the door wide open."

He and other strategists said they hoped to introduce legislation in a number of states that would:

• Ban all abortions of viable fetuses, unless the mother's life is endangered.

• Ban mid- and late-term abortion for fetal abnormality, such as Down syndrome or a malformed brain.

• Require doctors to tell patients in explicit detail what the abortion will involve, show them ultrasound images of the fetus and warn them that they may become suicidal after the procedure.

• Lengthen waiting periods so that women must reflect on such counseling for several days before obtaining the abortion.

It is far from certain that the Supreme Court would uphold all those proposals. But antiabortion activists clearly think momentum is on their side.


No kidding. I'll quote Professor Balkin again:

...it would mean that plaintiffs could not directly challenge new abortion regulations as soon as they were passed. Instead, a series of plaintiffs would have to go to court and prove that the law was unconstitutional as applied to their individual circumstances. This process would be time consuming and expensive, and it would take years to produce a jurisprudence limiting the statute's unconstitutional reach. Thus, the effect... would be to allow states to pass significant restrictions on abortion and keep them in force for long periods of time until a series of time consuming and expensive cases gradually eliminated their unconstitutional features. Indeed, precisely because creating an appropriate factual record for an individual as-applied challenge by a pregnant woman may be time consuming and expensive, the series of suits may never be brought, with the result that a whole host of abortion limitations that are actually invalid under the undue burden test will remain in force and will be applied to limit women's right to abortion.


Now can we see why Leslee Unruh immediately thinks of this as a shopping spree and she and her pals are "brainstorming and having fun?"

You read what Unruh says above: "Where's the sexual freedom? There is none. Because those of us who have suffered through the abortion, we're not gonna be silent anymore. We're gonna speak up and we're gonna tell the truth. Because abortion hurts women. Silent no more," and you think she's a crank. Beyond goofy. Clearly part of the fringe.

Think again.

Balkin also identified the most shocking aspect of this ruling, and the thing that leaped out at me immediately when I read it and which Justice Ginsberg addressed most blisteringly in her dissent. It's what Balkin calls the "new paternalism."

Here's Linda Greenhouse in today's NY Times:

[N]ever until Wednesday had the court held that an abortion procedure could be prohibited because the procedure itself, not the pregnancy, threatened a woman’s health — mental health, in this case, and moral health as well. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that a pregnant woman who chooses abortion falls away from true womanhood.

“Respect for human life finds an ultimate expression in the bond of love the mother has for her child,” he said.

Justice Kennedy conceded that “we find no reliable data” on whether abortion in general, or the procedure prohibited by the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, causes women emotional harm. But he said it was nonetheless “self-evident” and “unexceptional to conclude” that “some women” who choose to terminate their pregnancies suffer “regret,” “severe depression,” “loss of esteem” and other ills.

Consequently, he said, the government has a legitimate interest in banning a particularly problematic abortion procedure to prevent women from casually or ill-advisedly making “so grave a choice.”

[...]

In an article to be published shortly in The University of Illinois Law Review, Professor Siegel traces the migration of the notion of abortion’s harm to women from internal strategy sessions of the anti-abortion movement in the 1990s to the formation of legal arguments and public policy.

[...]

On his blog, Balkinization, Prof. Jack M. Balkin of Yale Law School defined the message behind what he called the “new paternalism”: “Either a woman is crazy when she undergoes an abortion, or she will become crazy later on.”

Despite the activity in the states, the anti-abortion movement’s new focus remained largely under the radar until it emerged full-blown in Justice Kennedy’s opinion. As evidence that “some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” Justice Kennedy cited a brief filed in the case by the Justice Foundation, an anti-abortion group that runs a Web site and telephone help line for women “hurting from abortion.” The brief contained affidavits from 180 such women, describing feelings of shame, guilt and depression.


It is not trivial shrillness to take huge exception to the fact that the Supreme Court seems to have based a decision on the rather insane ramblings (and cunning strategy) of Leslee Unruh and her friends in the pro-life industry, who want their daughters to pledge their virginity to their fathers and who apparently believe that they are "giving back the women what they really want" by making them second class citizens.

It makes my head hurt.

Justice Ginsberg got to the heart of the matter when she said that when you get down to it, challenges to restictions "center on a woman's autonomy to determine her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature."

A person's autonomy to determine one's life course would seem to me to fall under one of those "inalienable rights" that really shouldn't have to be articulated, but I guess that we are now answering to the likes of the Leslee Unruh/Anthony Kennedy school of jurisprudence. Welcome to 1807. I hope you enjoyed your flight.


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