You probably won’t be surprised that some members of Congress are trying to use the necessity of health reform to not only continue to exclude abortion from the funding given to most ordinary medical procedures, but to prevent individuals from getting insurance that covers abortion on the private market if they’re eligible for subsidies. What may surprise you is what party the members of Congress the latest group trying to do what they can to limit reproductive freedom to affluent women belongs to:
While House leaders are moving toward a vote on health-care legislation by the end of the week, enough Democrats are threatening to oppose the measure over the issue of abortion to create a question about its passage.
“I will continue whipping my colleagues to oppose bringing the bill to the floor for a vote until a clean vote against public funding for abortion is allowed,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Monday in a statement. He said last week that 40 Democrats could vote with him to oppose the legislation — enough to derail the bill.
There’s a bizarrely widespread myth — often accompanied, to this day, by crying about the fact that Saint Bob Casey wasn’t able to use a platform at a Democratic convention to speak out against fundamental party values despite the fact that he didn’t endorse the party’s candidate — that the Democratic party is monolithically pro-choice and brooks no dissent on the issue of abortion. To which I can only respond: if only! For example, Bart Stupak — the ringleader of the faction that apparently would prefer no health care reform at all to women obtaining even private insurance that covers the procedure — sports a nifty 0% NARAL rating.
And while I wish I could say that this downgrading of women’s rights by some Congressional Dems was just an isolated instance, as Chart reminds us that’s not actually the case.
It doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that reporters aren’t always trying to find it anyway.
Shorter Ross Douthat: If only Ted Kennedy had understood that arbitrarily enforced laws forcing (poor) women to carry pregnancies to term (or seek unsafe abortions on the black market) are very effective ways of fighting the patriarchy and helping the downtrodden. Why, they probably don’t know what they want, the poor dears — just ask Tony Kennedy!
Like Kerry Howley, I strongly recommend this story about Warren Hern, which is both fascinating in itself and provides grim reminders (in the wake of the Tiller muder) of how effective anti-chice terrorism has been.
Ed Kilgore notes a new Gallup poll making clear what was always overwhelmingly likely — the widely-trumpeted May Gallup poll showing a significant “pro-life” majority was an outlier. When public opinion has been as stable over the long term as it’s been on abortion, that’s always the safe bet.
In addition — since, as Ed implies, the “pro-life” term is, especially in this context, a largely vacuous one that doesn’t necessarily imply support for criminalizing abortion — it’s also worth noting that the public wants Roe v. Wade to be upheld by a roughly 2-to-1 margin:
The Supreme Court legalized abortion 36 years ago in the ruling known as Roe versus Wade. If that case came before the court again, would you want Sotomayor to vote to (uphold) Roe versus Wade, or vote to (overturn) it?
Uphold Overturn No opinion
Sotomayor, 6/21/09 60 34 6
Alito, 12/18/05 61 35 4
Alito, 11/2/05 64 31 5
Roberts, 8/28/05 60 33 7
Roberts, 7/21/05 65 32 4
As Ed says, somehow I’m guessing we’re going to hear a lot less about this than we did about the May outlier.
It’s been a while since a troll has advanced it at our site, but I’ve always had a morbid fascination with conservative attempts to portray doctors who perform abortions as profiteers and hence, somehow immoral. This gets at some of the idiocies with this line of “argument.” Most obviously, any ob-gyn who was concerned primarily with profits would tend to abjure abortions, given that just delivering babies is more lucrative and generally doesn’t require hiring security to protect you from terrorists.
William Saletan attempts a gotcha on people who oppose criminalizing abortion:
Today, let’s turn the tables on those of us who oppose abortion regulation. How far should we go? Would you oppose regulation even of abortions aimed at preventing the births of girls? Because there’s increasing evidence that such abortions, which take place by the millions in Asia, are now being done by the thousands in the United States as well.
I think I’ve been through this before, but:
- Let’s assume arguendo that abortion for sex selection is immoral, or at least that choosing abortion because you don’t value female children is immoral.
- This is neither here not there in terms of legal regulation, because it’s obviously impossible to ban such abortions through an enforceable legislative enactment. If abortions for certain reasons were banned, women could just refuse to be candid, and how could you prove they were lying? In addition, this would involve putting a great deal of legal discretion in the hands of panels of doctors, which would mean a great deal of arbitrary intrusion on a woman’s right to choose for no obvious benefit.
- The fundamental problem that creates systematic sex biases in choosing abortion is that girls and women are less valued, and as long as this kind of sexist discrimination is common it will be impossible to regulate away through abortion codes. So the additional question one has to ask themselves is whether passing additional regulations of abortion is more likely to make women equal members of society? This question answers itself. Using these moral dilemmas to bootstrap additional abortion regulations, as is almost always the case, would not merely be useless but actively counterproductive.
UPDATE: A good discussion about why bans on sex-selection abortions don’t work.
Given that many people have already critiqued the latest Douthat nonsense on abortion (see also here), for some variety I thought I’d address similar arguments made recently by Megan McArdle. From her response to Hilzoy:
My argument is that abortion, like slavery, is becoming in this country an issue upon which people have no reasonable political recourse. I’ll go further, and say that the process by which 7 judges enforced their consciences on the American public was itself borderline illegitimate; it was first, not in their proper job description, and second, a bad way to run a government.
Questions of fundamental human rights that have been closed off from the normal political process are very likely to produce violence. I can simultaneously, as I do, want Tiller’s murderer given a long jail substance, and worry that we’ve left his fellow lone gunmen no other outlets for their legitimate moral beliefs.
Is it naive to think that the political process would tame this rage? I don’t think so. The political process would always offer some always offer some marginal victory worth fighting for, whereas now, any marginal victory is more likely than not to be struck down by a court.
So much illogic here:
- The most obvious problems are the ones that afflict all arguments about countermobilization against the Courts: the utter lack of evidence that people respond to judicial policymaking differently than policymaking by other institutions. For example, if judicial intervention into the abortion issue greatly increased political violence, the effect should travel — but it doesn’t. Judicial intervention in Canada hasn’t produced the level of terrorism that we’ve seen in the United States, and indeed hasn’t even produced a major political party that wants to recrciminalize abortion.
- Even more bizarre is her analogy to slavery. Let’s leave aside the normative offensiveness of the comparison and just discuss how McArdle couldn’t be more wrong about its implications. The issue of slavery, of course, was essentially left to ordinary political processes, with not only the court but the text of the Constitution itself being silent on most of the most important issues. Is she repeating the canard that Dred Scott led to the Civil War? If so, the obvious problem with the argument is that it’s completely false (certainly, Buchanan’s bungling over Lecompton was much more important.) Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decision, while grossly immoral, had pretty much zero policy impact. There was no chance that further restrictions on slavery in the territories would have passed before 1861 (Congressional elites for the mst part strongly supported Dred Scott), Lincoln just ignored it, and then it was overturned by constitutional amendment within a decade. Even more puzzling, Dred Scott created exactly the same kind of arrangement that McArdle claims will stop political violence — leaving fundamental human rights issues “to the states.” State legislatures remained perfectly free to abolish slavery, but somehow this didn’t stop John Brown. Roger Taney was wrong to think that leaving things to the states would decrase political conflict about slavery, and McArdle is wrong to think that allowing some states to force women to carry pregnancy to term would decrease political conflict about abortion.
- The slavery analogy is also useful in demonstrating that in addition to having no empirical support McArdle’s assumptions make no sense even in theory. Just as abolitionists didn’t think that being established by normal political processes (at least by 19th century standards) made human bondage more acceptable, it seems vanishingly unlikely that terrorists who think that abortion is murder will be content with abortion being legal because of legislative decisions. I don’t know about you, but I would not find the legalization of murder any more acceptable if it was the result of a legislative decision.
- In addition, I note again the trademark Douthatian claim that there is no possibility of “marginal victories ” for forced pregnancy advocates, when of course for nearly two decades the Supreme Court has made clear that all marginal restrictions on abortion, pre- or post- viability, would be upheld (with the exception of the extremely rare ones that might equally affect women similarly situated to Sandra Day O’Connor.) Most abortion policy, in other words, is left to ordinary political processes. The one major exception — bans on pre-viability abortion — would not be politically viable in many states and almost certainly would allow for a substantial gray market even in states where bans were viable.
- Finally, McArdle rests on traditional but erroneous assumptions about the independence and “countermajoritarian” nature of the judiciary. In fact, Roe has stood up for as long as it has because it has very substantial political support. It is not correct, for example, to say that the only political option for anti-choicers to oppose Roe is a constitutional amendment; in fact, what they need is five votes on the Court. Abortion remains legal in the United States not because courts were omnipotent but because Robert Bork was defeated by a bipartisan majority in the Senate. Proponents of a virtually unlimited state power to criminalize abortion had access to the political process. They lost.
So I’m afraid I’m not going to sign on to the idea that women’s reproductive rights should be sacrificed for alleged speculative benefits that have pretty much no empirical or theoretical basis. It makes rather more sense to combat terrorism with state power.