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Kirsten Powers Will be the Star Teacher At Non-Sequitur University

[ 86 ] May 6, 2013 |

Kirsten Powers attempts to advance the argument that the Gosnell case means that we should shut down abortion clinics that don’t act illegally. She inevitably fails miserably:

Abortion rights advocates have argued that there is nothing to see here. Move along. This is what illegal abortion looks like, they say.

But Gosnell’s clinic was not illegal. It was a licensed medical facility.

Uh, what? The fact that Gosnell worked in a “licensed medical facility” doesn’t mean that everything he did in the clinic is therefore legal, or that he was in compliance with his license. By the same logic, the dentist who exposed his patients to AIDS and hepatitis couldn’t have violated the law, because after all he had a license. If Gosnell performed medically unnecessary third-trimester abortions, or committed infanticide, or put his patients at risk by not properly maintaining his facilities, these things all violate Pennsylvania law even if he had a license.

And from this non-sequitur to another:

Gosnell was not forced to operate in the dark because of anti–abortion rights regulations. It’s the opposite: he was able to flourish—pulling in $1.8 million a year—because multiple abortion rights administrations decided that to inspect his clinic might mean limiting access to abortion

This is all nonsense. First of all, one of the administrations in question was famously opposed to abortion rights. (Who can forget when the Democratic Party did the worst thing in American history by denying Saint Robert Casey the chance to denounce a core party principle without even supporting the party’s candidate for president at the party’s convention? His son, of course, didn’t and doesn’t favor abortion rights either.) And while the Ridge administration was nominally pro-choice, its failure to inspect abortion clinics was a result of its Republicanism, not its pro-choice principles.

How is this OK? Even liberal Europe gets this. In France, Germany, Italy, and Norway, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks. In addition to the life-of-mother exception, they provide narrow health exceptions that require approval from multiple doctors or in some cases going before a board. In the U.S., if you suggest such stringent regulation and oversight of later-term abortions, you are tarred within seconds by the abortion rights movement as a misogynist who doesn’t “trust women.”

First of all, you can’t just look at laws on the statute books and determine how accessible abortions are. The fact that permission is required from doctors after 12 weeks tells us very little about what standards are applied in practice, and as the Supreme Court of Canada explained in great detail 25 years ago the availability of abortion under such laws varies wildly. And, again, you can’t abstract these statutory requirements from the larger context of abortion politics that determines the general accessibility of abortion. I would gladly take French abortion policy over Pennsylvania’s, because inter alia this would mean repealing the Hyde Amendment and making abortions easily accessible at public hospitals, as well as doctors making decisions without being harassed by a lobby that opposes the availability of safe abortions (for the wrong kind of women.) Virtually no American anti-choicers (including, it’s safe to say, Powers) would agree, of course.

And finally:

Additionally, there is no upside in our media culture to challenging this sacred cow.

Yes, except for the fact that advancing these views mean there will pretty much always be room for you on our nation’s op-ed pages, or its virtual equivalents like The Daily Beast. Will people stop silencing Kirsten Powers already?

…see also McEwan and Digby.

Comments (86)

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  1. howard says:

    what’s interesting is to watch how first the most advanced right-wing kids jumped on this bandwagon, then the second-raters, and now we’re down to the third rate, all of them endlessly repeating the same empty rhetoric.

    • c u n d gulag says:

      Hey, howard, look on the plus side – at least it’s a break from 24 X 7 X 365 yelps of “Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! BENGHAZI!!!”

        • Cody says:

          Yea, I saw on the morning news how there is an investigation into Benghazi now with NEW TRANSCRIPTS!

          The Democratic Senator asked about it just responded “Isn’t this like the 9th congressional hearing? Are they really going to find more out?”

  2. tonycpsu says:

    Oooh, this sounds fun. Let me try!

    Second Amendment rights advocates have argued that there is nothing to see here. Move along. This is what illegal gun shops looks like, they say.

    But the gun shop was not illegal. It was a licensed firearms retailer.

    I can haz Daily Beast gig? Or perhaps a set of steak knives?

    • c u n d gulag says:

      GOP POV:
      That set of knives will be delivered shortly – check your back later on today.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      My question: since what Gosnell did was allegedly “legal,” why wasn’t Powers demanding that the indictments be quashed?

  3. Gareth Wilson says:

    Do you support Pennsylvania’s law against medically unnecessary third-trimester abortions?

    • I’m indifferent about it. I don’t oppose it in principle.

      • Gareth Wilson says:

        Fair enough. But that’s not the pro-choice consensus, is it? Just scroll down a few inches and you’ll see someone arguing against any restrictions on late-term abortion. Is that a radical, fringe opinion?

    • Karen says:

      What do you think about banning medically unnecessary root canals? Chemotherapy? Plastic surgery? I ask because abortion is simply one of many important but painful and invasive medical procedures. If the risks of abortion are too great, then so are the risks of the other things I listed.

    • Joe says:

      I am not sure what this means. If it is “medically unnecessary” a woman must suffer thru 2-3 months of pregnancy and have a regular delivery to give birth to a brain dead child?

    • DonnaFaye says:

      How often do think women terminate healthy pregnancies in the 3rd trimester?

  4. Walt says:

    What’s stupid is that third-trimester abortions are regulated, just by the individual states. You just can’t go get one.

    • wengler says:

      And federal law prohibits the safest third trimester procedure, dilation and extraction. Because fuck you if you are a woman whose fetus has died and has turned into a dangerous mass that can kill you.

  5. JosephW says:

    So wait, what? It’s okay for the FoxNoise talking heads to praise European health policies when they “make illegal” certain abortion procedures, but it’s NOT okay for these folks to praise European health policies that cover EVERYONE?

    C’mon Kristen. Get with the program. If you hate Europe for its “socialized medicine,” in which EVERYONE gets medical coverage at government expense, you CAN’T seem to approve any of their abortion policies. That should’ve been explicitly stated in your contract.

    • TT says:

      Nonsense. Intellectual honesty and consistency are the hallmarks of the conservative movement in America. Take Antonin Scalia….

  6. bexley says:

    How is this OK? Even liberal Europe gets this. In France, Germany, Italy, and Norway, abortion is illegal after 12 weeks. In addition to the life-of-mother exception, they provide narrow health exceptions that require approval from multiple doctors or in some cases going before a board. In the U.S., if you suggest such stringent regulation and oversight of later-term abortions, you are tarred within seconds by the abortion rights movement as a misogynist who doesn’t “trust women.”

    Is Seb H ghostwriting this?

  7. herr doktor bimler says:

    liberal Europe [...] Italy
    Ah ha. I think I see the source of confusion.

  8. Shakezula says:

    Yes, because horrible, make your skin crawl shit does not regularly occur in a wide variety of fully licensed medical facilities. Try reading complaints filed against long term care facilities without wanting to beat the shit out of everyone involved.

    As for the Liberal European policies, can we have the other soshulust policies that go with it, starting with health care coverage?
    No? Won’t even consider it? Then go fuck yourself in the nose with this transvaginal probe.

    • Karen says:

      Part of my job involves reading reports of inspections of barber shops and beauty salons. Those can make your skin crawl almost as bad as the Gosnell stuff. Don’t even get me started on restaurant inspections . . .

      • Shakezula says:

        Don’t even get me started on restaurant inspections . . .

        Aaaaah! I will give you 10,000 florins to not start on restaurant inspections. Double it if you will also promise never to talk about grocery stores. I was reared by someone who worked for the USDA’s facility inspection wing and me eating a hot dog is the equivalent of you bungee jumping.

        • DrDick says:

          I worked in a canning factory for a while in college. I now make an active effort not to think about what is in my food.

        • Karen says:

          I don’t tell work stories. My Dad had a friend who worked for NORAD, who once told us that even if he weren’t barred by federal law from discussing his job, he wouldn’t tell anyone about it. People need to sleep at night. If I told all my war stories, none of my friend would have trimmed hair, manicured nails, or eat anything but farmers market orchard fruit, and then only after scrubbing it in bleach and boiling it for an hour.

          • Shakezula says:

            Then I will promise to not talk about the health care industry fuck ups. That way we won’t be driven to sticking our dainty Frye boots up health care providers’ asses, lowering facility owners/CEOs into vats of boiling oil (feet first), shoving pharmaceutical co. CEOs into industrial-sized trash compactors and treating illnesses with plants and leeches.

            • mds says:

              [PAUSES IN LACING UP FRYE BOOTS]

              So … you’re saying most of those wouldn’t be good things?

            • JKTHs says:

              That way we won’t be driven

              Too late.

            • Karen says:

              Both of my parents and my younger son had MRSA infections. Mom and Dad had to have surgery to remove the infected tissue. Based in that experience, I would add Tabasco-soaked spikes to the Frye boots.

              • Shakezula says:

                Hmm. Considering that MRSA are caused by the fact we get way too damn many antibiotics that would be spiked Fryes for the docs and a big industrial trash compactor for the pharm CEOs.

                Glad your family is OK.

          • Bruce Leroy says:

            Is there anywhere to read about issues with barbershops and hair salons? I know some libertarians that love to bring up cosmetology licensing laws as examples of over regulation meant to protect those already practicing. They never believe me that there are serious health issues.

            • Karen says:

              Check and see if your state’s licensing board posts disciplinary orders on-line. I believe that most do that, and it should be a simple Google.

              • Shakezula says:

                Gack.

                I heard (from the place I get facials*) that Virgina was looking at legislation that would have allowed people to operate and work in spas even if they weren’t licensed estheticians.

                (A brief pause while our skin stops crawling all over the place.)

                I don’t know what happened to this bill, but I assume it was the work of gibbertarians who never get their hair cut.

                *Yeah, yeah, hur hur hur. Dorks.

                • rea says:

                  It’s a slkippery slope! Start letting people give unlicened facials in their home, and before you know it, their kids are bombinbg marathons.

                • JKTHs says:

                  Start letting people Muslims give unlicensed facials in their home, and before you know it, their kids are bombinbg marathons.

                  FTFY

      • John says:

        Why would you have inspections of barber shops and beauty salons? Hasn’t Matt Yglesias repeatedly proven that there’s no reason to license those kinds of establishments?

  9. Hogan says:

    So if I shoot the mailman on my front porch dead, it can’t be illegal because my house is up to code. Neat. Mailmen beware.

  10. aimai says:

    Years ago I read a book by Mary Ann Glendon–I think it was this one “Abortion and Divorce in the Western Tradition.” She’s a god damned law professor at Harvard and what she said about French Abortion Law (or anyone else’s) was so disingenous and so obviously partial and false that my innocent little mind just reeled. The point that you all are making which is that late term abortion restrictions have to be understood against the background of a universal medical system which fully enables women to make other judments freely (do I need contraception? do I want an abortion? will I be able to plan for taking time off after the birth? Will my child’s extreme health care needs be met?) in a way that the US social and medical system simply don’t.

    In the US medical system you are literally on your own, from puberty to death, making extremely difficult medical and social decisions without the benefit of regular medical care and information. Lots of people are outside the system entirely and have no regular access to medical care at all and they know their children will be too. Thus ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies, to assess the risks of a dangerous pregnancy, to prevent the birth of an extremely damaged fetus, to care for a child with multiple health issues, to care for oneself if the birth is traumatic: all of these are basic costs thrown on the parent/mother in the US system but they are greately lessened in the French system.

    • aimai says:

      Sorry, I can’t edit in this system and I see that my outrage got the best of me. What I’m trying to say is that Mary Ann Glendon, shortest lived ambassador to the Holy See and professional god-botherer, was “lying for the lord” about the implications of Abortion law a long time ago. The book is from 1989 and it was so badly thought out and illogical, so partial and so deceptive, that you would have thought it was written by a Dominican. A Jesuit would have done a better job. There’s nothing new under the right wing anti-abortion sun. They still prefer to lie and to hurt women than to address the reality of sexuality and abortion in the modern world. The more you punish people for their sexuality and prevent women from controlling their own sexuality the more you create pregnancies that people don’t want or can’t afford. There is a base line of abortions which will always need to happen if women are not to be owned by their biology and their circumstances. You can lower the number of abortions but only by increasing the control women exert over their sex lives and their economic circumstances. Artificially forbidding and attacking abortions only increases the ugly cost of society’s failures with respect to female sexuality and freedom. Lying about it to push your party’s views across the finish line is despicable but these people don’t care. They would rather win with a lie than lose because they admit the truth.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        aimai,
        As I’m sure you’re aware, most of our current religions have, at their core, this message for women: Remember YOUR place.

        And that place is, in public, just slightly behind their husbands.

        And, in private, it’s in the home, cooking and dealing with the children in the daytime, while Daddy’s out there earning their daily bread – and then, after the children are asleep, tending to their man’s wants and needs.

        Now, I’m not religious at all, but I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the Dalai Lama, who said he’d be fine with a woman replacing him:
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/24/dalai-lama-woman_n_3146425.html

        Think any Pope ever had that thought?
        Any of the other religion’s leaders?

      • Anonymous says:

        By now i’s cler that being a Harvard professor and being honest are not related.

      • Pseudonym says:

        Taqiyya!

    • Glendon is, I would suspect, the source of a lot of these terrible arguments. A whole book about comparative abortion policy that makes no attempt whatsoever to determine how the laws function in practice.

      • Sebastian H says:

        We went over this last time you had an abortion thread and determined that the abortion rate in France is about the same as in Pennsylvania, and that the birth rate is slightly higher in France–making it a rather interesting contortion of statistics to claim that the “standards in practice” are either much stricter in scary pro life Pennsylvannia or much looser in happy pro choice France.

        You asked for the facts then. You should use them in your analysis.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Yes, I can’t think of any variables aside from law that might impact abortion rates either. Best to not even discuss the actual content of laws, and just work from prejudices.

          • Joe says:

            Yes, “function in practice” would, e.g., involve social benefits like daycare or the like which would result in different effects for a childbirth in one country over another. The reason abortion law is different in the U.S. is largely because the U.S. is different, including being more diverse and more individualist.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          We went over this last time you had an abortion thread and determined that the abortion rate in France is about the same as in Pennsylvania, and that the birth rate is slightly higher in France–making it a rather interesting contortion of statistics to claim that the “standards in practice” are either much stricter in scary pro life Pennsylvannia or much looser in happy pro choice France.

          Yes, and what I pointed out last time and will point out again is that given the number of confounding variables this metric isn’t terribly useful for determining how accessible abortions are for women who want them, unless you want to argue that France has less restrictive abortion policies than Canada or the Netherlands. (Actually, why don’t we just agree that one of the latter two represents optimal abortion policy. Problem solved!)

          • aimai says:

            A question we never examine in this context, but we should, is how the rates of child abuse, child abandonment, and child poverty relate to the difficulty of getting free access to contraception, abortion, child care, and health care. I don’t think a bare number like “rate of abortions” or “rate of childbirth” adequately addresses the real issue which is that in an anti-abortion/anti contraception society with no serious universal health care and a shredded safety net you are going to end up with a lot of women (and men) having children they can’t afford and don’t want. While in a place like france with an elaborate social safety net, health care system, maternal leave policies and freely available abortion you are going to have less pressure to abort, fewer unwanted children, and presumably fewer pathologies related to children and poverty.

          • Sebastian H says:

            You need to be more specific. Last time we went through this I pointed to the similar abortion rates and you complained that didn’t mean anything without the pregnancy rate–ie that it was possible that lots more women got pregnant in Pennsylvania, but couldn’t get abortions, leading to the same rate as France.

            But when I looked it up, it turned out the the birth rate was higher in France ( though only a little). So that doesn’t appear to be the answer. So what kind of confounding factor are you talking about that cannot statistically show up in pregnancies minus abortions? Whatever they are, they don’t appear to be actually stopping women in Pennsylvania from getting slightly more abortions per pregnancy than French women.

            The easy answer is that whatever barriers exist on Pennsylvania don’t actually do much to stop abortions compared to France ( which has stricter laws on the books).

            You know that France has much stricter laws, but you argue that ‘in practice’ Pennsylvania is stricter. But the simple statistics make that look flatly wrong.

            Simple statistics aren’t always right, but you don’t get to just hand wave them away with magical confounding factors without sounding like a creationist talking about dinosaurs.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              The problem here is that the denominator — women who want to obtain abortions — is essentially unknowable, and is affected by a variety of factors. Again, your easy conclusions about France and Pennsylvania can’t explain Canada and the Netherlands. That’s not creationism; it’s pointing out that the data doesn’t prove what you think it proves.

              You know that France has much stricter laws

              I do not, in fact, know that — this is the point of dispute. The Hyde Amendment represents a major restriction even if you’d prefer to ignore it.

    • Shakezula says:

      The point that you all are making which is that late term abortion restrictions have to be understood against the background of a universal medical system which fully enables women to make other judgments freely (do I need contraception? do I want an abortion? will I be able to plan for taking time off after the birth? Will my child’s extreme health care needs be met?) in a way that the US social and medical system simply don’t.

      In 100′ letters carved in marble and dropped on a busload of anti-choice perverts.

      And, to point the gun the other way, if your ass is going to scream LIFE IS SACRED, be prepared when people wonder if your objections to first Medicare and more recently the ACA indicate some sort of underlying mental health issue of the sort that means you should not be allowed to handle sharp objects.

      (To say nothing of the attempts to cut SCHIP and federal programs created to feed the babies.)

      This shit is crazy, no matter how you slice it and that’s why the arguments these people make sound like a someone dropped acid and started pasting samples together.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        You forgot to mention, that all of those pro-life lovers of life, life, life, are also advocates for the death, death, death penalty.

        • Shakezula says:

          I know some exceptions, the RCC is in theory against both. The teeny smidgen I have for Bob Erlich is based on the fact that he was anti-death penalty.

          But I have also decided the comparison is flawed to the point of fucking stupidity. On the one hand you have a medical procedure (which I’m for). On the other, you have an execution of a person who has been convicted of specific crimes in specific states (which I’m against even the perp was caught on tape and made a full confession).

          People who base their objection to both on the fact the same thing is happening are at best confused, at worst, liars.

          • witless chum says:

            As I had it explained to me by conservative Catholics though, death penalty is okay in certain circumstances (such as if there’s not an option for keeping the criminal confined) while abortion is just wrong, no matter what. Catholicism is rightwing Christianity with a human face.

            • sparks says:

              Nowadays, where is there a circumstance where you cannot keep a criminal* confined?

              *I am assuming, of course, said criminal was duly tried and convicted. If this assumption is erroneous then the restriction is meaningless.

            • Shakezula says:

              So wait, they’re arguing that when the choice is let a convict go free or kill him, the Christian thing to do is kill him?

              Yeah, that’s not full metal ape shit a-tall.

              Catholicism is rightwing Christianity with a human face that looks on in approval while a boot stomps on another human face, forever.

              Fxd.

              • mds says:

                So wait, they’re arguing that when the choice is let a convict go free or kill him, the Christian thing to do is kill him?

                Hey, it worked for Barabbas.

  11. bspencer says:

    Thank you thank you thank you so much for addressing this. I was going to “shorter” it today, but this is so much better. Sometimes when I read stuff this muddled and stupid I find it mind-bottling…so I’m glad you got on it.

  12. Sharculese says:

    In the U.S., if you suggest such stringent regulation and oversight of later-term abortions, you are tarred within seconds by the abortion rights movement as a misogynist who doesn’t “trust women.”

    Suggesting something be subject to strict oversight is the textbook example of not trusting people make decisions about it. This is just too stupid for words why are these people like this.

  13. Matt says:

    “How is this OK? Even liberal Europe gets this.”

    Wait, I thought the teabagger line was that anything they did in Yurup was some kind of vile stew mixing communism and a raging case of teh ghey. Does that mean they’re IN FAVOR of turning Merica into Europe now? :)

  14. MPAVictoria says:

    You are not going to trick me into clicking on a Shakesville link Scott. Not going to happen.

  15. bspencer says:

    I was pro-choice, then Kristen Powers compared me to a group of people who really don’t care if actual, outside-the-womb and birth canal babies get killed. Now I’m anti-choice. Make sense to you? Oh. Me neither.

    • Spokane Moderate says:

      In the same way the NRA believes background checks will lead to the government busting down your door to confiscate your guns, the abortion rights movement conjures a straight line from parental consent to a complete ban on abortion.

      Such an attitude makes having an honest conversation about abortion almost impossible… However, I cannot legitimately say I am a person who cherishes human rights—the animating issue of my life and a frequent topic of my writing—and remain silent about our country’s legally endorsing infanticide.

      Yes, it’s those baby-killers who are the absolutists who make an honest conversation impossible. You just can’t reason with those murderers!

      • Shakezula says:

        Just as you can’t reason with the pro-homosexualists who force their homosexuality down our throats by telling us to shut up when we express the fact that we’re bigoted fuck toads!

        So unfair!!

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        Such an attitude makes having an honest conversation about abortion almost impossible

        I guess the corollary of “You’re violating my First Amendment rights by criticizing me” is “An honest conversation is where everybody shuts up and agrees with me.”

  16. sharculese says:

    I cannot legitimately say I am a person who cherishes human rights

    she should have stopped there

  17. bexley says:

    Powers is a piker. Why stop at France, Germany, Italy, and Norway. Why not look at Ireland as a model if you’re going to make anti-choice arguments based on copying Europeans.

  18. [...] agree, let’s make Texas’s abortion laws as restrictive as Sweden’s! I’m glad Reynolds has come out in favor of repealing the Hyde Amendment (and, indeed, [...]

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