You Can Be Pro-Choice and Also Want to Ban Late Term Abortions

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

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…

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).

Sex, Mom and God Cover

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? 

 

Abortion Rights Community Has Become the NRA of

the Left

by Kirsten Powers 

The abortion clinic of alleged killer Kermit Gosnell was not illegal. But any talk of more government regulation unleashes an NRA-style assault from the abortion rights contingent, says Kirsten Powers.

What should we learn from the Kermit Gosnell trial?

Pro Choice activists
Pro-choice activists at the March for Life on January 23, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

 

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. 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 FranceGermanyItaly, 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.

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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 JournalUSA Today,New York PostThe New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine, and American Prospect online.

 

Reprinted by permission: For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at  editorial@thedailybeast.com.

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

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  • tanyam

    I question the facts in much of this article.

    Gosnell was NOT operating a legal clinic. I don’t know which of the abortions he performed would have been legal, and which were not, but let’s not succumb to the lie that anything he did was legal. He was following NO laws.

    As for late-term abortions — we all need to take a deep breath, and take a look at the statistics on exactly how many abortions fall in this category. It is a tiny, tiny percentage. See Guttmacher. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html At 20 weeks or later, the number is 1.5 percent. Roughly 10 percent of all abortions in this country take place after week 12, with the number dropping quickly the further out you go. Few physicians are even licensed to do late term abortions.. The right to life people would have you believe that many women just wake up one day in their 6th month and decide to have an abortion. Sorry. Women who might learn that their fetus has a brain growing outside of its body might have to travel to another state, for example. Just to find a physician who can legally do the procedure. Dr. Tiller was one of those physicians that women in difficult circumstances turned to. We would need to hear the stories of Gosnell’s patients, but their decision to have a late term abortion may have already been prohibed by law.

    Sure, we need common sense laws. But we need facts first. That bit about European law — take a look at what they do for women in life-threatening situations, or with these extraordinary fetal conditions. And remember that in America, we have people who would rule against a woman’s own health, or demand a woman carry to term a fetus that clearly cannot survive without a brain.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Want to end the Republican Party entirely? Become logically consistent on Life from a liberal point of view. Support the right to life from conception until natural death, and elect pro-life Democrats.

    Eliminate abortion entirely except in triage cases, and give doctors conscience protection in the hard decisions they have to make in the emergency room.

    This “right to choose” isn’t compatible with feminism when it is killing somewhere around 7,000 “potential” women a week (for comparison, the Inquisitions at the height of the witch trials between 800 and 1700 A.D., killed somewhere around 15,000 women TOTAL- which means last month, the 28,000 female fetuses that died in abortion clinics was nearly twice what the Inquisition killed in 900 years!)

    Seems pretty misogynistic to me, except of course, it’s also misandristic- those 7000 potential women were matched by 7000 potential men also aborted due to pure choice (I’m eliminating rape, incest, and life of the mother from those statistics).

  • http://www.facebook.com/agni.ashwin Agni Ashwin

    Preach it, Frank.

  • lawrence090469

    As Corey Robin points out in his excellent book “The Reactionary Mind”, any progress at extending rights to the disenfranchised is always met by protests of “Too much!” and “Too soon!” by the entrenched powerful class. There is no pace of change, however slow, that will be acceptable to the white male Christian patriarchy on this, or any of their issues. Further, as you ought to know, Paul Wyerich had difficulty convincing the protestants to accept Catholic teaching on the abortion issue (but they are coming along nicely on accepting the Catholic view of contraception). So the idea of an evangelical backlash created by Roe is false. Once the leadership decided to incorporate the anti choice position, the infinitely reprogrammable meatsticks at the Wednesday night Bible meetings decided that, indeed, they had always been at war with EastAsia. You might try to be a little more honest, as tanyam suggests, about why women seek late term abortions for medical reasons, or how the cost in travel, clinic fees, required waiting periods, and so forth push poor women into the late term window. Yes, this is about class, and controlling poor women. If Meghan McCain needs a procedure, she can get a private jet to Sweden. If a Scottsdale teenager needs to get it taken care of, there are private doctors, whose offices are not bunkers surrounded by a phalanx of asshole protesters. There is a ton of unchecked assumptions about gender and class in your choice to frame this discussion as a wail of concern for The Unborn.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      It most certainly is about controlling poor women- by eliminating them. At least 6000 women who would have grown up in poverty, were eliminated last week.

  • f_galton

    If supporters of late term abortions were consistent they would also support infanticide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mimi.rothschild.5 Mimi Rothschild

    Since you believe late term abortions are wrong but earlier ones are acceptable, will you please define the moment that the baby switches from inhuman to human?


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