I predict that because the pro-choice leaders refuse to concede that late term abortions are murder that they are jeopardizing the legality of abortion and thus women’s rights.
I predict that Roe and Bolton—
in their present form wherein
they permit abortion without
restriction and at any age of fetal
are not going to survive.
I also predict that abortion will
remain legal but be restricted to
more closely reflect the vast majority
of the American public’s conflicted
feelings and beliefs…
In my book “Sex, Mom and God” (2011) I used the (then new) case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell murdering babies as an example of how Roe v. Wade was flawed. I pointed to the fact that unlike France and Sweden the American law legalizing all abortions virtually up to the moment of birth was extreme. I also support a woman’s right to choose. The uproar over the verdict in the murder case shows I was a bit ahead of the times. Now my point of view — that early abortions must remain legal but that late term abortions should be restricted here in America as they are elsewhere — is being widely discussed for instance by Kirsten Powers. (See her Daily Beast column below).
Here is what I wrote and predicted in my book “Sex, Mom and God” more than 2 years ago:
Had abortion been legalized in a more moderate way and/or on a state-by-state basis—as we’ve seen was already happening with minimal controversy before Roe—there would have been fights, but nothing like the society wide meltdown that followed. And I’m not alone in pointing this out.
There are many pro-choice critiques of Roe besides the one I’m making. For instance, in a 2007 interviewJustice John Paul Stevens said that Roe “create[d] a new doctrine that really didn’t make sense” and that if Justice Blackmun “could have written a better opinion, that . . . might have avoided some of the criticism.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg criticized the decision for terminating a democratic movement to liberalize abortion laws.
Ruth Ginsburg wrote, (“Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade,” North Carolina Law Review 63 (1985): 375:) “The political process was moving in the early 1970s, not swiftly enough for advocates of quick, complete change, but majoritarian institutions were listening and acting. Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.”
Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox wrote, “[Roe’s] failure to confront the issue in principled terms leaves the opinion to read like a set of hospital rules and regulations. . . . Neither historian, nor layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded that all the prescriptions of Justice Blackmun are part of the Constitution.”
Abortion—as defined by Roe and Bolton—remains the constant irritant that keeps both the public and Congress polarized. It does this by elevating policy differences to the level of winnertake- all hysterical accusations of “murder!” from one side and “misogyny!” from the other.
Roe set back the prospects of progressives. How would you like to hitch your fortunes to a story like this? (Sabrina Tavernise,“Squalid Abortion Clinic Escaped State Oversight,” NewYork Times, January 22, 2011) is not Roe’s “fault,” but a leader who decides to dig in his or her heels and defend late-term abortions will always be cast as a villain by events that tend to outrun platitudes:
“While this week’s [January 20, 2011] indictment involving a grisly abortion mill in Philadelphia has shocked many, the grand jury’s nearly 300-page report also contains a surprising and littlenoted revelation: In the mid-1990s, the administration of Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, a pro-choice Republican, ended regular inspections of abortion clinics—a policy that continued until just last year. . . . Pennsylvania health officials deliberately chose not to enforce laws to ensure that abortion clinics provide the same level of care as other medical service providers
The District Attorney’s office this week charged an abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, with murder and infanticide. Nine other workers at the abortion clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, also face charges. According to the prosecutors, Gosnell and his associates not only broke state law by performing abortions after 24 weeks—they also killed live babies by stabbing them with scissors and cutting their spinal cords. . . .
The Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.”
Many Evangelicals and Roman Catholics I know would have long ago been voting for progressive candidates (i.e., Democrats) because these voters (particularly young people) are sick and tired of the Republican Party’s slide into the role of Far Right war machine/shill for corporate America. Many religious people have become increasingly sympathetic to gay rights, favor closing the gap between rich and poor, and root for policies that foster racial diversity.
They want immigration justice. They’re for cutting back the bloated defense establishment, and they favor the conservation of the environment. If it weren’t for the needlessly sweeping way abortion was legalized, as defined by Roe and Bolton, the Evangelicals and the many Roman Catholics who joined them would not have been manipulated into voting as a Republican Party bloc since 1973.
Evangelicals, most Roman Catholics, and others believe that their right to be heard on abortion was steamrollered by Roe. This sense of grievance—maybe as much as their horror over late-term abortions—has kept the debate hot. And the anger has been passed to each successive generation. Hence, many young Evangelicals and Roman Catholics are ready to change their views (and have) about many social issues—but not about abortion. This reminds me of the way many Jewish young people I know are Liberals when it comes to everything but their support for the state of Israel. When it comes to “Israel issues,” their usual lefty empathy for minorities and oppressed peoples (say, for people just like the Palestinians) goes out the window.
Roe represents a trauma to the psyche of American Evangelical and Roman Catholic communities (among others) that has to have been lived to be understood, something many of my secular friends just don’t “get.” I predict that Roe and Bolton—in their present form wherein they permit abortion without restriction and at any age of fetal development—are not going to survive. I also predict that abortion will remain legal but be restricted to more closely reflect the vast majority of the American public’s conflicted feelings and beliefs.”
Here is an article in the Daily Beast that sums up the extreme pro-choice dilemma I predicted in my book more than 2 years ago. The point is can you be pro-choice and also want abortion laws changed to ban late term abortions? I think so. What do you think?
But Gosnell’s clinic was not illegal. It was a licensed medical facility. The state of his clinic was well known: there were repeated complaints to government officials and even the local Planned Parenthood. He wasn’t operating under the radar but in plain sight, and he received referrals from abortion clinics up and down the East Coast. Gosnell performed plenty of abortions within the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania andworked part time for a National Abortion Federation–accredited clinic in Delaware.
The woman Gosnell is on trial for allegedly killing, Karnamaya Mongar, perished during a legal abortion while she was 19 weeks pregnant. 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. It’s all in the grand jury report, if you don’t believe me.
One of the bodies discovered in the raid of the clinic was of a 22-week-old baby with a surgical incision on the back of her neck, which penetrated the first and second vertebrae. The only thing that would make her death illegal would be if Gosnell failed to finish her off in her mother’s womb.
Does that statement make you uncomfortable? Good.
What we need to learn from the Gosnell case is that late-term abortion is infanticide. Legal infanticide. That so many people in the media seem untroubled by the idea that 12 inches in one direction is a “private medical decision” and 12 inches in the other direction causes people to react in horror, should be troubling. Indeed, Gosnell’s defense attorney Jack J. McMahon has relied on the argument that Gosnell killed the babies prior to delivering them, therefore he is not guilty of murder. His exact words were: “Every one of those babies died in utero.”
Gosnell is accused of aborting infants past the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania. But those same deaths – if done in utero – would have been perfectly legal in many stateswith sometimes abused health exceptions, which can include the elastic category of “mental distress.”
The New York Times reported that MacMahon argued: “Because the women were given injections of the drug digoxin, which causes ‘fetal demise,’ any postdelivery movements were involuntary spasms.” The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, who attended the trial, reported that McMahon argued: “The purpose of the shot…is to kill the baby so that it will not be a live birth.”
I cannot legitimately say I am a person who cherishes human rights and remain silent about our country legally endorsing infanticide.
We live in a country where if a six-months-pregnant woman started downing shots of vodka in a bar or lit up a cigarette, people might want her arrested. But that same woman could walk into an abortion clinic, no questions asked, and be injected with a drug that would stop her baby’s heart.
I’ll put my cards on the table: I think life begins at conception and would love to live in a world where no women ever felt she needed to get an abortion. However, I know enough people who are pro-abortion rights—indeed, I was one of them for most of my life—to know that reasonable and sincere people can disagree about when meaningful life begins. They also can disagree about how to weigh that moral uncertainty against a woman’s right to control her body—and her own life. I have only ever voted for Democrats, so overturning Roe v. Wade is not one of my priorities. I never want to return to the days of gruesome back-alley abortions.
But medical advances since Roe v. Wade have made it clear to me that late-term abortion is not a moral gray area, and we need to stop pretending it is. No six-months-pregnant woman is picking out names for her “fetus.” It’s a baby. Let’s stop playing Orwellian word games. We are talking about human beings here.
How is this OK? Even liberal Europe gets this. In France, Germany, Italy, andNorway, 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.”
Speaking as a liberal who endorses more government regulation of practically everything—banks, water, air, food, oil drilling, animal safety—I am eternally perplexed by the fury the abortion rights contingent displays at the suggestion that the government might have a serious role to play in the issue of abortion, especially later-term abortion. More and more, the abortion rights community has become the NRA of the left: unleashing their armies of supporters and lobbyists in opposition to regulations or restrictions that the majority of Americans support. 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. That is just one of the many reasons I hate talking about it. Additionally, there is no upside in our media culture to challenging this sacred cow. More likely, there is a price to be paid, which is why so few people take it on. 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.
I simply have to believe we are better than this.
Kirsten Powers is a columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a contributor toUSA Today and a Fox News political analyst. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today,New York Post, The New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine, and American Prospect online.
Reprinted by permission: For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at firstname.lastname@example.org.