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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Absolutist Liars

by digby

BTD at Talk Left takes Ross Douthat to task for his disingenuous ramblings asserting that "Pro-Life" advocates are allegedly willing to compromise while the pro-choice advocates are absolutists. As he points out, the abortion laws are hardly sweeping as it is. Third trimester abortions are nearly unheard of and second trimester abortions are difficult and arduous to obtain. We have states making it nearly impossible for women to exercise their constitutional rights by failing to provide any low cost reproductive services and the anti-choice zealots forcing doctors who provide them out of the state. It's not like women haven't made many compromises already on this one. But the anti-choicers will not settle for anything less than making a pregnant woman basically give up all rights to her autonomy.

Here's the bottom line: in the phrase "pro-choice" is the word choice, which means:

1. an act or instance of choosing; selection: Her choice of a computer was made after months of research. His parents were not happy with his choice of friends.
2. the right, power, or opportunity to choose; option: The child had no choice about going to school.
3. the person or thing chosen or eligible to be chosen: This book is my choice. He is one of many choices for the award.
4. an alternative: There is another choice.
5. an abundance or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of candidates.
6. something that is preferred or preferable to others; the best part of something: Mare's Nest is the choice in the sixth race.
7. a carefully selected supply: This restaurant has a fine choice of wines.
8. a choice grade of beef.

The very definition of "choice" precludes absolutism. There is no pro-choice advocate in the country who doesn't believe that any woman has the right to bear a child if she chooses. They would never require any individual to have an abortion. In fact, many pro-choice people themselves would not choose to have an abortion and the vast number of them have children. But recognizing the inherent complexity of the beginning of life, the cooperative and sometimes competing interests involved and the autonomy of the person in whose body the fetus lives, pro-choice people do not presume to make such a personal and intimate decision for another. I honesty don't know how less absolute that can be.

As Armando points out, Douthat's thesis is typical of the kind of mendacious nonsense you commonly get from the "pro-life" side. They do not operate in good faith. (Just last week a comprehensive review of decades of studies showed that one of the most common talking points of the past decade or so --- that women who have abortions suffer from depression -- is simply not based on any scientific data.) And they are cunning and wily, constantly moving the goalposts.

I wrote a post a while back about a famous pro-life activist named Leslee Unruh, who was interviewed on NOW by Maria Hinojosa. I think she illustrates the kind of thinking we are dealing with:



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.


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.

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

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.

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.

I think there should be no abortions in my state.

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


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

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.

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--

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.

Here's another post, featuring a different anti-choice zealot from Kansas, during the Alito hearings:

When I saw an anti-abortion activist appear on NOW a couple of weeks ago I was struck by how deeply and profoundly dishonest she was:

BRANCACCIO: The head of Kansans for Life, Mary Kay Culp has a good reason for watching the big story in Washington this week.

Appeals court judge Samuel Alito did not trip up in any grotesque way this week. The conventional wisdom that dictates these things signals that Alito will soon occupy the swing seat on the Supreme Court. And his rulings could shift the court's position on hot-button issues like abortion.

It's just that kind of shift on the court that Mary Kay Culp and her group in Kansas have been hoping for.

BRANCACCIO: Thanks for coming in.

MARY KAY CULP: Thanks for having me.

BRANCACCIO: Well, looks like Samuel Alito is going to get this. That must, given all the work you've done over these years, make you happy.

MARY KAY CULP: I am glad that President Bush's nominee looks like he's going to make it on the court. Whether or not it's going to make me happy from a pro-life point of view, I think that remains to be seen.

BRANCACCIO: Why are you being tentative? He--

MARY KAY CULP: Well, he looks like he's a real careful-- a real careful, thoughtful, analytical guy, and I like that. And-- because I'm a little tired of this being portrayed as if he has an agenda, that all of a sudden, poof is going to happen if he gets on the court.

BRANCACCIO: Agenda being getting rid of Roe v. Wade?

MARY KAY CULP: Exactly. I don't think that that's going to happen. And if it does, all it means is that the issue comes back to the states.

BRANCACCIO: But, with all the work that you've been doing in Kansas for all these years, don't you think that if it becomes a State's matter that in Kansas like that (SNAP) you'll get rid of abortion? Huh?

MARY KAY CULP: No. I don't. Unh-uh. I don't think that'll happen in the states. But, what can happen is a real discussion. What can happen are committee hearings in your Senate and your House where witnesses are called-- witnesses who have had abortions-- witnesses on both side of the issue. And, it can be heard — the most frustrating thing about Roe is that it just slammed the door. When you try to get a State law passed even to regulate just a little bit, or partial birth abortion, anything, a legislator will tell you-- "Well, you know-- we can't do that under Roe versus Wade anyway."

BRANCACCIO: But you must be encouraged about the way things are going with Samuel Alito? All right, I'll encourage you then.


BRANCACCIO: You know-- Pat Buchanan?


BRANCACCIO: My favorite conservative commentator.

MARY KAY CULP: Yes. Uh-huh.

BRANCACCIO: He said with Alito-- here's the quote from this week.


BRANCACCIO: "Roe could go. George W. Bush is one Justice away from succeeding where Nixon, Ford, his father and even Ronald Reagan all failed."

MARY KAY CULP: That would be - one Justice after Alito.

BRANCACCIO: One Justice after Alito.

MARY KAY CULP: Unless-- not with Alito. Yeah.

BRANCACCIO: So, it's gettin' there.


BRANCACCIO: I don't understand how Kansas wouldn't-- ban abortion quit quickly after that. What do you know about the state of that debate in your state...

MARY KAY CULP: It isn't that. It's just that I know how the political system works. Then you can have real discussion. Then every-- both sides are gonna get aired, and if the media's fair about it, both sides are gonna get aired. That-- you know, that's a question. But at least democracy will have a chance to work on it. But, that doesn't necessarily mean anything either way.

But, well, I do know what might happen in Kansas. We have late term abortions in Kansas, and we're known for having late term abortions in Kansas. Those, yes, we might be able to get rid of right away.

BRANCACCIO: But, really there are two questions here. There's the political calculation that I did ask you about. Do you think that Roe v. Wade's going to be overturned and therefore abortion will become illegal? You don't think so. But, what about your goal? Would it make you happier? Is this your vision of America where abortion is illegal.

MARY KAY CULP: It would be nice to know that tomorrow morning no knives are gonna be taken to unborn babies. That'd be a nice thing. But, in order for that to happen and for it to-- to stay in place, I mean, if you just boom turn it around-- without people really understanding the issue, it's not as-- certainly not as satisfying as it happening for the right reasons.

Because, the media in this country becomes unafraid to actually hear both sides of this issue, 'cause that hasn't been the case for 30 years. It's been getting better. But, really it's kind of an interesting dynamic, because-- I didn't notice really a change until a partial birth abortion issue came along in Congress, and that really earns you a lot of credibility. And, then people start to look and listen. And, as we got stronger politically, it's really-- it's amazing how a political win really can draw peoples' attention to an issue.

BRANCACCIO: You know, Mary Kay, from your discussion, though, there are a lot of people who do not like abortion, who want to reduce the number of abortions I America--


BRANCACCIO: But are very concerned about an America where if a woman chooses to do this for whatever complicated reason that they have that choice. You could have some of these States deciding based on a different Supreme Court, "We are gonna outlaw it." And, that means if you got the money, you go to another state. If you don't got the money and your poor, terrible things could happen.

MARY KAY CULP: You know, terrible things are happening right now-- terrible things. But, nobody knows about 'em, because nobody's really looking at the other side of this issue. Terrible things can happen on both sides of this issues, if it's recognized for what it is and the way it impacts a woman's life and impacts society. And that's what I think we need to look at.

There are a lot of mainstream Americans out there that care about this issue. It isn't-- you know-- people can stereotype us and call us names if they want to. You know what? We don't care, because there's just more and more of us, and we're having more of a political effect. And, I hope we'll get some credibility with the media only so that we can look at these issues in a-- in a real way.

BRANCACCIO: Well, Mary Kay Culp, Kansans for Life, thanks for coming in to help us understand where you're coming from and possibly understand where the ascent of Samuel Alito came from.

MARY KAY CULP: Thank you for allowing me to come. I appreciate it.

That woman who believes that abortion is the killing of babies with knives is one slick political operator. She knows that this isn't about any dialog. She knows that Alito will vote to overturn Roe. She knows that the minute Roe is overturned a whole bunch of states will make it illegal. She is lying about all of that.

Why in the hell is it necessary for some woman from Kansas not to tell the truth about her cause or her goals? What is she so afraid of? Why does the born again conservative president have to phone in his support instead of appearing proudly and openly before his pro-life supporters? If this is an issue of deeply felt morality that all Americans are having difficulty dealing with, why can't they just admit openly that they want to outlaw abortion?

We know why:

Only 25 percent of those polled said they believe the precedent should be overturned, while 66 percent said they believe Roe should stand.

Could someone please inform the Democrats that when 66 percent of the public agrees with you on an issue that you can feel confident that you are not losing elections because of that issue?

Pro-life people even at the state level are savvy political con artists who are pretending to be more powerful than they are while lying about their goals. They are operating from a position of weakness not strength. Anybody in politics who is fooled by this crap should be fired.

These people get a lot of credit for being honest, good hearted citizens motivated out of moral compulsion. But very often they are conniving liars who go to great lengths to hide their real agenda. They are not honest brokers who are willing to hash out a compromise. They insist that women not be allowed to have abortions, period, and all that babble is designed to get them to that end, no matter what.

Pro-choice advocates don't care if there is never another abortion as long as it is what individual women choose for themselves. The pro-choice movement never says that women must have abortions, use birth control or otherwise do anything they don't choose to do with their own bodies, including having as many children as their bodies can bear if that's what they want to do. The "pro-life" movement, on the other hand, uses slick public relations techniques to further their agenda of forcing women to give birth against their will. And then they turn around and say that the pro-choice people are absolutists. It's maddening.

And I'm getting very, very tired of hearing Democrats repeat this crap. From Clinton to Obama and everywhere in between, this issue has been used as a bargaining chip, only to have the other side move the goalposts each time and and continue to demagogue them as advocates of immoral baby killing. (For all his trouble, Obama is routinely referred to as an advocate of "infanticide" among these people.) I'm sorry that people disagree on this. I wish we didn't. But the ball is in the court of the anti-choicers. They refuse to accept the compromise that has been written into law stating that abortions can't be easily obtained after the first trimester and more recently can't be obtained at all after the second. That's a compromise and a very real and serious one. And it's not enough. In fact, nothing will be enough until abortion is outlawed.

And then they will begin the war on condoms in earnest. In fact, they've already started.

Sadly, I won't be surprised in the years to come to see the Democratic party offer up abortion rights as a "compromise" so that women might keep their right to birth control. That's where this is headed. They take pride in making such chump deals, pretending like they are profiles in courage. (I say pretending because for the most part they know exactly what they are doing --- in this case, they clearly want to get this *icky* issue off the table if they can. I see no real commitment to it on a philosophical basis except among a few elected women who are far outnumbered --- oh, and the American people.)

h/t to bill