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Hullabaloo


Friday, November 23, 2007

 
Ask The Question

by digby



The LA Times reports:

Antiabortion activists in several states are promoting constitutional amendments that would define life as beginning at conception, which could effectively outlaw all abortions and some birth control methods.

The campaigns to grant "personhood" to fertilized eggs, giving them the same legal protections as human beings, come as the nation in January marks the 35th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. During those three decades, abortion foes have succeeded in imposing a variety of restrictions, such as waiting periods and parental notification for minors. But there are still about 1.3 million abortions a year in the U.S.

Some activists say they are fed up with incremental steps -- and are not interested in waiting years, or possibly decades, for a more conservative court to revisit Roe. Instead, they are out to change the legal status of embryos in hopes of forcing the Supreme Court to ban abortion.

"The concept that we're going to elect judges who will change everything has failed," said Brian Rohrbough, a former president of Colorado Right to Life. "The logical thing is to start with personhood. . . . It's the only legitimate tactic that does not involve a compromise."


This is quite interesting. They say it does not involve a compromise, except, of course, it involves the biggest compromise of all.

Check out this exchange between Chris Matthews and David O'Steen of the National Right To Life Committee, who claims to be supporting Thompson for the exact reason stated above --- that he supports state by state forced pregnancy laws, by legally defining blastocysts as humans and granting them full legal rights. But see what happens when Matthews asks him the obvious question:


MATTHEWS: I have always wondered something about the pro-life movement. If—if you believe that killing—well, killing a fetus or killing an unborn child is—is murder, why don‘t you bring murder charge or seek a murder penalty against a woman who has an abortion? Why do you let her off, if you really believe it‘s murder?

O‘STEEN: We have never sought criminal penalties against a woman.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

O‘STEEN: There haven‘t been criminal penalties against a woman.

MATTHEWS: Well, why not?

O‘STEEN: Well, you don‘t know the circumstances and how she‘s been forced into this. And that‘s...

MATTHEWS: Forced into it?

(CROSSTALK)

O‘STEEN: ... to be effective.

We‘re out—we‘re not out—we‘re out to try to protect unborn children.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: See, this is where the hypocrisy comes in, sir. If it‘s wrong to have an abortion, why don‘t you criminalize it?

(CROSSTALK)

O‘STEEN: I don‘t think that‘s the way you‘re going to protect unborn children.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But, if you say it‘s murder, why don‘t you act on that?

O‘STEEN: I think civil—I think civil penalties, aiming at the doctors, taking away their financial incentives. We‘re after what works to protect unborn children. And that‘s the goal.

MATTHEWS: But the problem with all the states‘ rights is, you just go to the next state. And, if you outlaw it in America, you just go to Canada or Mexico or Dominican Republic.

Unless you penalize the person who has an abortion, I don‘t see how you actually stop somebody from having one.

O‘STEEN: Well, I—I‘m not—we have never sought criminal penalties against a woman.

I think it‘s much—far more effective to take away the financial incentive of the abortion doctors that are doing this for profit and for money. And we are—and our goal, remember, is to protect unborn children and to do what will work.

And it is a fact we have a federal system of government, yes.

MATTHEWS: Right.

O‘STEEN: Yes, we‘re going to work for laws in all of the states. And we will overturn Roe v. Wade. And Fred Thompson would help do that.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that abortion is murder?

O‘STEEN: I believe it‘s the killing of a human being. Murder is a technical term. And right now, unfortunately, it‘s legal. But it‘s the killing of a human being.

MATTHEWS: But you do believe it‘s murder?

O‘STEEN: I believe it‘s the killing of a human being, that‘s the term.

MATTHEWS: It just seems like you make a basic political judgment that would blame the doctor, when, in fact, these doctors don‘t go door to door offering people abortion services. The person who wants the abortion goes to a doctor and has the procedure done by the doctor. Yet you put the onus on the doctor. It just seems to be the strangest way to enforce a law.

O‘STEEN: Remember, that‘s where the financial incentive is, and the physician knows what they‘re doing. How many women have been told this is a blob of tissue? This isn‘t really a human life? How are they pressured by men that want to escape their responsibilities, perhaps? What about a young girl that‘s been impregnated by a male, where it‘s a case of statutory rape?

But the abortion doctor knows exactly what they‘re doing. They‘re taking a human life. And you will see Roe v. Wade reversed and you‘ll see respect for human life restored. And Fred Thompson will help do that.


These people are trying to imply that they believe women are too stupid to know what they are doing when they choose to have an abortion. But whenever this question is asked, their stuttering, non-responsive answers show that they know this is a ridiculous position --- or if they don't, they know that millions of women will be deeply offended and righteously angry at such a claim, even many of those who might otherwise be inclined to support some of their agenda. But, if they admit that women do have responsibility for perpetrating what they believe is the "killing of a human being," then legally they have to call her a murderer. These forced pregnancy advocates just can't seem to reconcile themselves to that (or know they are going to lose badly if they try it.)

So, they are stuck stammering and obfuscating, trying desperately to avoid the glaring and obvious, whenever it's asked. That man on Hardball wasn't some misguided man on the street who's never thought this through. He's the head of "National Right To Life." If he doesn't have a good answer then there isn't one.

I have written about this particular fallacy a lot, including one post featuring this video of a "pro-life" protest where the question was asked and the protesters said they'd "never even thought about it." I wrote:

I think we need to have this discussion. Let's debate it out in the open and "air both sides" because from where I sit it's the "pro-lifers" who haven't thought this thing through. Nobody says they can't agitate against abortion and stand out there with their sickening pictures and try to dissuade women from doing it. I will defend their right to argue against abortion forever. But when they use the law to enforce their moral worldview they need to recognize that they can't have it both ways.

If fetuses are human and have the same rights as the women in whom they live, then a woman who has an abortion must logically be subject to the full force of the law. It would be a premeditated act of murder no different than if she hired a hit man to kill her five year old. The law will eventually be able to make no logical distinction.

Is everybody ready for that?


Unfortunately, I now think it's fairly probable that the far right judiciary that's been appointed over the past couple of decades will have little trouble believing wingnut junk science and deciding that women actually are too addled to know what they are doing when they have an abortion, if these laws make it on to the books. (And then use those precedents to declare that women have no agency in other realms as well.)

According to the article, analysts believe it's unlikely that these initiatives will succeed, at least at first. But it sounds so simple that I can see people voting for it without giving it much thought. And that's because nobody ever asks that question that Matthews asked. Once you see these people sputter, you immediately see how hollow their arguments really are.



Update: Bob Fertik emailed with the following:

Along these lines, Tim Russert's questioning of Jim DeMint before the 04
election is a classic in evasion. Unlike O'Steen, DeMint wouldn't even commit to prosecuting the doctor.

Of course there was a time when doctors were prosecuted, and i know one of
them. Those too young to remember that era should watch Dorothy Fadiman's When Abortion Was Illegal

.