Search results for the tag, "Abortion"


March 13th, 2008

Who’s a Criminal if Abortion Is Criminalized?

Here’s something I didn’t know, courtesy of Bob Novak: “No serious antiabortion legislation ever has included criminal penalties against women who have abortions, much less their parents.”

Indeed, as Daniel Allott recently noted, “Proposed state abortion bans in South Dakota and elsewhere explicitly state that aborting women would not be criminally penalized.”

Instead, anti-abortion advocates seek to prosecute the abortionist—he who induces the act, not she in whom it occurs.

I post this not because I agree with this agenda—far from it—but because facts are rare commodities in the abortion rhubarb.

Addendum (3/14/2007): Here’s an excellent example of why I love the Internet: Shortly after I wrote this post, someone left a comment on it referring me to Anna Quindlen’s 2007 essay, “How Much Jail Time?” In a much-quoted line, Quindlen argues that “there are only two logical [legal] choices: hold women accountable for a criminal act by sending them to prison, or refuse to criminalize the act in the first place.”

The problem is, the very evidence she relies on rebuts her charge. And what fascinating evidence it is. In Quindlen’s words,

Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It’s as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: “I’ve never really thought about it.” “I don’t have an answer for that.” “I don’t know.” “Just pray for them.”

As strongly as I agree with Anna Quindlen on abortion in general, she is mistaken about its criminalization. As indicated above, serious anti-choice legislation targets those who administer abortions, not those who have them.

The same counter-question still applies—how much jail time should the doctor do?—but it behooves us who care about this issue to make sure our knowledge is equal to our passion.


August 18th, 2007

Marriage: Federalization or Federalism?

Veteran conservative activist Craig Shirley has called it “the height of intellectual dishonesty” to advocate repealing Roe while calling for the federalization of marriage. “[B]ehavioral issues belong at the state level,” he observes.

Indeed, the conservative position on gay marriage—to say nothing of the consistent position—should be a federalist one. This is also the strategically sound liberal position, as TNR’s James Kirchick argues:

[Federalism] appeals to conservatives who oppose gay marriage (like former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr [my link]) but agree that it is a subject best left for states. It also acknowledges that the president’s power to enact legislation on gay marriage is extremely limited. The most a Democratic president could do is repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. . . . which would be a considerable accomplishment and open the door to granting federal benefits to gay couples in states where such unions are recognized. But marriage laws themselves [would] still [be] within the purview of the states.

Related: “Why Can’t Democrats Explain Their Opposition to Gay Marriage?

Addendum (8/22/2007): The gay rights movement is often compared to the civil rights movement. But one parallel often overlooked is the importance of incrementalism.

For example, in 1957, civil rights leaders derided the Civil Rights Act as a sellout and a crippling compromise. But as (historian?) Robert Mann observed in an op-ed yesterday, “By giving lawmakers confidence that voting for once-radical ideas wouldn’t make the sky fall,” the bill “paved the way for subsequent, stronger rights legislation.”

Indeed, the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964, like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, would never have passed in 1957.

The corollary: Same-sex equality won’t happen tomorrow. It will proceed, to borrow a phrase from political scientist Phil Klinkner, as an unsteady march.


August 14th, 2007

Are Liberal Ideas Harder to Communicate?

Rudy Giuliani

A version of this blog post appeared on TechRepublican and Redstate on August 15, 2007.

Rudy Giuliani is a Republican who holds the Democratic position on abortion. He’s also a Catholic, which digs his hole even deeper, since various American bishops have threatened to deny him Holy Communion, as they did to John Kerry in 2004.

Accordingly, most political strategists would advise Rudy to avoid the subject of communion at all costs, on the theory that there’s no good way out of this minefield. A satisfactory answer would require either an encyclical or a Castro-length sermon, they posit.

Sorry, but that’s dead wrong. Instead of obfuscating or tiptoeing around the issue, Rudy plunged headfirst into it, in the current issue of the New Yorker:

“They [the bishops] have every right to tell me anything they want,” Giuliani said to me. “But then I have every right to believe anything I want. And, ultimately, that sort of expresses both my political faith and my religious faith. They have a right to instruct me. And then, having my own conscience, and my own mind, and being my own individual person, I have a right to determine whether I agree with that or I don’t agree with it. Now, there are some people that look at religion differently. That’s the way I look at it. It’s a way that helps me understand morality better. It helps me understand God better. And ultimately it’s my relationship with God, my relationship with Jesus, that’s the important one. And I’ve got to figure it out. And if they help me they do. And if I don’t agree with it then I have to go with my own conscience.”

Thus, in just 152 words—to a reporter, no less—Rudy defused a tinderbox. He didn’t pander, but spoke from his heart. Joe Klein would be proud.

Rudy’s homily is especially important because it disproves the conventional wisdom that Republicans are better communicators than Democrats, the thinking being that the nuance of clause-draped liberal ideas doesn’t lend itself to sound bites (cf., “support the troops” vs. “pro-troop, anti-war”). As Stanley Fish has brilliantly elucidated, what matters is not the message but the messenger:

If you can’t explain an idea or a policy plainly in one or two sentences, it’s not yours. . . . Words are not just the cosmetic clothing of some underlying integrity; they are the operational vehicles of that integrity, the visible manifestation of the character to which others respond. And if the words you use fall apart, ring hollow, trail off and sound as if they came from nowhere or anywhere (these are the same thing), the suspicion will grow that what they lack is what you lack.

Indeed, a good communicator can always articulate his message, regardless of complexity and without compromising the integrity of his argument. Tom Friedman, a liberal columnist for the New York Times, is a master of this art, using simple metaphors, like The Lexus vs. the Olive Tree and The World Is Flat, to encapsulate big ideas.

Bear this in mind the next time someone carps that, say, Hillary Clinton’s position on Iraq is too sophisticated to be simplified. It’s not the position, it’s the person, that’s the problem.

Addendum: As soon as I finish praising Rudy Rudy for being forthright, I read that he’s clammed up. Asked last week at a town-hall meeting in Iowa if he is a “traditional, practicing Roman Catholic,” Rudy retorted, “My religious affiliation, my religious practices and the degree to which I am a good or not so good Catholic, I prefer to leave to the priests.”

Addendum (8/20/2007): The more I think about it, the less I think there’s a contradiction between the above two quotes. In short, some questions, like whether one is a good Catholic, are inappropriate, and it can be refreshing to hear a politician tell a questioner as much.

In fact, this is what Mitt Romney told a writer for the Atlantic Monthly last year, who asked if he wears Temple Garments—white underclothing, with the “Marks of the Holy Priesthood” sewn in, donned with reverence by the most faithful Mormons. “I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private,” Romney sensibly replied.


May 9th, 2007

Rudy on Abortion: One Step Forward, One Step Backward

Rudy Giuliani

Yesterday, on the heels of news that he has personally donated to Planned Parenthood, Rudy visited radio host Laura Ingraham (listen here). Ingraham wasted no time in broaching the elephant in the room: “If you hate it, what exactly is wrong with abortion?”

Rudy’s response: “I think in America, you can personally oppose something, and at the same time recognize that in a pluralistic society other people just as strongly view it differently, and … you can’t put ’em in jail for it.”

So far, so good. Given the time to elucidate and elaborate, Rudy did so in a way that seemed plausible.

But then Ingraham zinged him with the obvious follow-up: “Why would you donate to something like Planned Parenthood that makes hundreds of millions of dollars off the procedure that you say you hate?”

Rudy’s response: “Because Planned Parenthood makes information available. It’s consistent with my position.”

Huh? If you hate something, which you say you personally discourage, shouldn’t you donate to organizations that also discourage that something?

I should also point out that it’s less than confidence-inspiring when a politician, especially one like Rudy whose views on abortion are perhaps his most controversial, doesn’t know whether the Mexico City Policy, otherwise known as the global gag rule, is or isn’t currently the law. (It is.)


May 8th, 2007

Question for Rudy: What Exactly About Abortion Do You “Hate”?

Rudy Giuliani

NRO’s Rich Lowry (again) pinpoints another contradiction in Rudy’s oft-repeated line that he “hates!” abortion: it’s “so flagrantly insincere” and “rings so false because, temperamentally, [Rudy] is not one to hate something without outlawing or attempting to discourage it.”

Indeed, since Rudy is still ultimately pro-choice, why hasn’t anybody asked him what exactly he abhors about abortion? Is it that it’s controversial? That it’s too common? That it constitutes murder?

Moreover, how does Rudy square his avowed abhorrence with at least six, personal contributions to Planned Parenthood, one of the country’s leading abortion-rights groups and its top provider of abortions?

(Add these questions to Dave Weigel’s list for the full field.)

Finally, Lowry suggests that Rudy can redeem himself by supporting the repeal of Roe (which many pro-choice scholars agree is bad constitutional law), and allowing each state to decide its own abortion laws. On the surface, this seems like the perfect way out—until you ponder the legal nightmare it would unleash:

The common refrain in the anti-Roe pro-choice camp is that women in anti-abortion states will simply travel elsewhere to end their pregnancies. But it’s unlikely that states with strict regulations on abortion would stand idle, and they will have many legal tools at their disposal.

States could make it illegal to cross state lines in order to abort a fetus—a tactic Ireland tried in the early 1990s, until a court decision and subsequent constitutional amendment recognized a right to travel. While the Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional right to travel across state lines, it has also recognized exceptions.

If states can decree that life begins at conception, they might also be able to use child custody laws to curtail the movements of pregnant women. For example, many states are legally allowed to hold children in protective custody if there is reason to believe the parents will misbehave. Once Roe has been overturned, a state may be able to place unborn children into protective custody, forbidding their mothers to take them across state lines.

Furthermore, in recent decades, the Supreme Court has ruled that a state can regulate its citizens’ activities while they are elsewhere and prosecute them for violations of state law upon their return. This so-called long-arm jurisdiction has been invoked to allow states to regulate Internet sites based beyond their borders, or to prosecute murders that followed interstate kidnappings. Anti-abortion states could forbid their residents to obtain or perform abortions, even while out of state. Would such measures be legal? The current law is unclear.


March 12th, 2007

Free Advice for Rudy

Published on Reagan Republicans.

The latest YouTube video making the rounds shows Rudy Giuliani speaking at a Women’s Coalition for Giuliani event. The clip is 17 years old and only 28 seconds, but it contains a sentence that, I suspect, will haunt Rudy’s campaign: “There must be public funding for abortions for poor women.”

Abortion is a sensitive subject for Rudy, which requires a delicate balancing act. For instance, he once supported late-term abortion. He now opposes it. Will he now also flip-flop on taxpayer-funded abortions? How about the global gag rule?

Whatever he does, one thing is crucial: how he responds to the response. Even though the video was uploaded yesterday, as of this writing, it’s already been viewed 71,334 times. That’s a considerable number, and Rudy’s silence will only generate further skepticism and confusion.

My advice: take a page from Mitt Romney’s communications shop. When potentially devastating video of the then-moderate governor’s 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy surfaced on YouTube last month, within hours “GovMittRomney” had uploaded a response, showing Romney on the phone discussing the video with a reporter.

In one swift and sharp swoop, Team Romney avoided another macacca moment, and the resulting stories highlighted the push back instead of the controversy.


April 9th, 2005

The Morning-after Pill and Property Rights

Morning-After Pill

Here’s a letter I recently wrote to the New York Times. Since it hasn’t run yet, I figure it’s safe to publish it myself.

The New York Times editorial board says it’s “intolerable” that anti-abortion pharmacists refuse to dispense birth control pills. I am as staunch a supporter of abortion rights as they come, but for the same reason I equally champion property rights: both represent the inalienable right of human autonomy. Just as no one should tell a woman how to dispose of her body, so no one should tell a businessman how to conduct his practice.

If one of his employees disagrees, that is between employee and employer, and if necessary, a court, to determine if a contract was breached. If outsiders disagree, we can disseminate local lists of where not to shop, and are perfectly free to shop elsewhere ourselves. The answer is not legislation, forcing our morals on others, but patronage, noncoercively using our principles to induce change.

Addendum (4/29/05): See this debate between David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, and Judy Waxman, Vice President and Director of Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center.


January 31st, 2005

Credibility and Seriousness in the Abortion Debate

A version of this blog post appeared in the Hamilton College Spectator on February 4, 2005.

Since it goes to her credibility and seriousness, I want to put in writing my response, during the ensuing Q&A, to last week’s lecture against abortion by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese.

1. For all her passion and prominence, when questioned, Ms. Fox-Genovese couldn’t cite any competing studies to support her oft-repeated claim that abortion may lead to medical complications such as breast cancer—because, in her words, it was “late afternoon” and she was “tired from standing.”

(In her column in the January 24, 2005, issue of Newsweek, which I quoted, Anna Quindlen notes: “The National Cancer Institute reported last year that there is no scientific evidence to support that contention. The British medical journal the Lancet looked at dozens of studies and concluded there was no link.”)

2. Criticizing a few abortion clinics for being subpar (and, again, I’d like to know which specific ones) is simply hypocritical—coming from one who, by criminalizing abortion, would relegate both knowledge thereof and the practice to quack doctors and back alleys.

3. Ms. Fox-Genovese’s ad hominem against Mrs. Quindlen—before even hearing what Quindlen had to say (through me)—was equally dishonest and poisoned the well of civil discourse.

4. Only when pressed—“I support abortion rights but am not a feminist,” I said—did Ms. Fox-Genovese concede the feminist movement was not coextensive with the abortion rights movement. Then she patronized me: wait until you’re father, then you’ll come to your senses.

5. True, whether it’s criminalizing euthanasia or instating conscription, the U.S. government has never recognized an absolute or inalienable right to one’s body. But citing these examples—which are just as contentious as abortion—to prove said point constitutes thin logic. More, I asked Mrs. Fox-Genovese why it should be the case that one’s body, one’s life, does not belong to oneself.

Although it’s one of the most difficult subjects on which to persuade another to change his opinion, Mrs. Fox-Genovese didn’t even try. Without so much as a single reference to the basic question in the abortion debate—when human personhood begins—and by likening abor-tion to the Holocaust and slavery, she simply preached to the faithful.


February 27th, 2004

The Morality of Late Term Abortion

A version of this blog post appeared in the Hamilton College Spectator.

In last week’s Spectator, Toby Taylor objected to my support of late term abortion (“The Pious Politics of George W. Bush,” 2/13/2004). From what I and others can piece together, his argument is as follows. Late term abortion is “medically unnecessary” because it takes just as long to abort as to deliver via a cesarean section; so why not deliver?

First, time is irrelevant here; all that matters is the mother’s choice—however long she needs to make it. To be sure, no one advocates abortion as birth control; we who are pro-abortion rights say that it is a mother’s right to choose how to dispose of her body, of which the fetus is necessarily an appendage.

Second, Dr. Taylor says that a “third trimester child . . . no longer has to be a ‘parasite.’” Yes, it doesn’t “have to be”—but it is. Yes, a fetus in the third trimester can live independently, or is “viable,” in the Supreme Court’s definition. But the fact is, It’s not living independently; its vital functions remain an aspect of its mother’s body. And, as Leonard Peikoff has observed, “That which lives within the body of another can claim no prerogatives against its host.”

Rather, as Dr. Richard Parker notes: The fetus is “within the mother and connected to her via the placenta and umbilical chord. It is directly physically dependent on the mother for all of its life sustaining needs—oxygen, energy and safety from the external environment.” This is a crucial distinction. It is, in Ayn Rand’s formulation, the difference between the potential and the actual. Life is not personhood, as ReligiousTolerance.org notes.

Third, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from December 8, 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that only 1.4% of abortions occur after 20 weeks (the third trimester begins at 24 weeks). Of this 1.4%, almost all abortions occur (1) when continuing the pregnancy threatens or aggravates the mother’s health, inducing malignant hypertension, uncontrollable diabetes, heart failure, serious renal disease, etc.; or (2) upon discovery of serious fetal anomalies, like genetic disorders, thus inducing a short, painful, and/or impaired life if carried to term.

Finally, Dr. Toby alleges that the American Medical Association recently “condemned” “partial-birth” abortion. Really? According to its Web site, as of December 17, 2003, the “A.M.A. recommends that abortions not be performed in the third trimester except in cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life.” Quite s condemnation. On the other hand, the A.M.A. cautions that the phrase “partial birth” “is not a medical term. The A.M.A. will use the term ‘intact dilatation and extraction’ (or intact D&X).” And since we’re calling on arguments from authority, intact D&X is strongly supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents nearly 40,000 physicians who provide health care for women; the American Nurses Association, which represents the nation’s 2.7 million registered nurses, and the American Medical Women’s Association, which represents 10,000 women physicians and medical students.

Addendum (8/18/2005): According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, of abortions performed in 2000, D&X accounted for less than two-tenths of one percent.