Sunday, January 19, 2003

I’m in a bit of a foul mood after the Eagles loss today, so I figured I’d channel my anger toward a deserving target – the St. Louis Post Dispatch editorial page, which devoted today’s lead editorial to a call to arms for the pro-choice movement.

I’ll post it here, along with all the myths, distortions, and leaps in logic, since the editorial reads like a greatest hits album of fallacious pro-choice arguments.

Thirty years later
HAVE WE forgotten so soon?

I haven’t forgotten. The thirty million unborn children who have has their lives terminated haven’t forgotten. And I bet the women who have procured those abortions haven’t forgotten either.

Have we forgotten Estelle Griswold, who was prosecuted for the
"crime" of running a birth control clinic in New Haven, Conn., 40
years ago? It was her fight to provide birth control to married women that
persuaded men in black robes to recognize that a person's most intimate
decisions should be protected from legislative busybodies.

A couple things here. This is the first attempt at implying that men have no right to say anything about abortion. Yes, the editorial doesn’t come out and say it, but the implication is pretty clear with the contrast between “men in black robes” and “a person’s most intimate decisions. Frankly I’m surprised that line didn’t read “woman’s most intimate decisions” – that’s a surprising bit of restraint.

Second is the phrase “legislative busybodies.” The implication being that those wishing to institute legislative protections for the unborn are acting out of a desire to mess in everybody else’s business rather than a deep concern about the destruction of unborn life, and how that effects the dignity of all human life.

Have we forgotten the thousands of women - friends, mothers, wives, sisters,
daughters - who lost their lives before Roe v. Wade(, when back alleys
and coat hangers were the reality, not just rhetorical flourishes?

This is an interesting sentence. The author is admitting that talk about back alleys and coat hangers is nothing more than rhetorical noise from the pro-choice movement, yet employs it anyway.

Have we forgotten that half a million women around the world die each year from
causes associated with pregnancy and childbirth, including the absence of
family planning?

Here the author is apparently attempting to lay all these deaths at the feet of the pro-life movement. How many of these women would have gotten abortions, had they been available? For how many of these women would abortion have saved her life? How many of these women’s lives could have been saved with improved medical care other than abortions? The writer doesn’t provide answers to these questions, likely because the answers wouldn’t help in blaming the pro-life movement for these deaths.

It’s especially puzzling that the writer seems convinced that the answer to these deaths is more abortions – more death. Shouldn’t we be responding by struggling to provide prenatal care for these women, rather than destroying the child, the source of the problem?

Again, it’s puzzling that the Post-Dispatch seems so quick to suggest violence as a solution to deaths from childbirth. Saddam Hussein’s regime causes lots of death and suffering in Iraq. Would the Post-Dispatch say that that alone makes the case for war? I don’t think so.

Thirty years after Roe, too many of our leaders have forgotten. Or maybe
they never knew. On a national level, President George W. Bush is leading a
broad offensive to restrict abortion rights and family planning. In Missouri,
House Speaker Catherine Hanaway and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, both
Republicans, are leading that cause.

Those who would take away a woman's constitutionally protected right to
abortion act out of deep moral and religious conviction. Backers of women's
reproductive rights must reply with the same moral clarity. A woman has an
inalienable right to control her own body. The word "liberty" in our
Constitution would be emptied of its meaning if it did not encompass this most
intimate of rights. That is essentially what the Supreme Court said in Roe. It
was right, and the majority of Americans agree.

A woman's right to control her body and her reproduction is fundamental to
equality. Women cannot be free to choose their own roles in society unless they
can control their reproductive destiny.

These last two paragraphs contain so many myths and distortions; I scarcely know where to start.

First is the statement that the Roe decision is Constitutionally sound. Constitutional experts on both sides of the issue agree that this was one of the flimsiest decisions in the Court’s history.

Second, the right to life, or more specifically the right not to be killed, is much more fundamental than the right to destroy a fetus growing inside one’s body. If I have the right to kill you, then you don’t have any rights at all. The right to life is the most fundamental – there’s a reason why it’s always listed first, before “liberty.”

Third is the popular myth that those wishing to protect the unborn are really just trying to keep women down hiding behind a respect for life facade.

We all know that there is only one way for a woman to get pregnant. So unless someone is promoting legalizing rape or forced arranged marriages, they are not seeking to remove a women’s right to ”control their reproductive destiny.

Finally, absent from all these platitudes about women controlling their reproductive destiny is any consideration for the many women forced to have abortions in countries like China. Seems like that’s a much more fundamental affront to a woman’s right to control her family size than any limit on her ability to destroy unborn children she has already acted to conceive. Yet the Post-Dispatch seems much more concerned about bans on late term abortions in the US than forced abortions in other parts of the world.

Mr. Bush has not said, in so many words, that he wants to overturn Roe.
But nearly every action he has taken in this area has been hostile to abortion
rights. He picked as his attorney general one of the nation's leading abortion
foes, John D. Ashcroft. He has nominated anti-abortion judges to the federal
bench and plans to put more conservative justices like Antonin Scalia on the
U.S. Supreme Court. And, even though Mr. Ashcroft said that abortion law was
settled, he has backed Ohio's partial-birth abortion law and similar
legislation in Congress.

Antonin Scalia is already on the Supreme Court, so I doubt he’d be nominated for another seat.

Notice that the only domestic evidence the Post-Dispatch can bring as evidence of Bush’s hostility is the tired invocation of Ashcroft as a bogeyman, and his support for a ban on the heinous practice of partial-birth abortion, which most American support.

Overseas, Mr. Bush reimposed Ronald Reagan's gag rule prohibiting any U.S. family
planning funds from going to groups in other countries that provide abortions
or abortion counseling, even if they use their own money. . Then he froze $3
million in funding for the World Health Organization because it was spending
money on mifepristone - the abortion drug. Mr. Bush even withdrew support of
the international women's rights treaty that said women should "decide
freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children."

At home, the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the safety of
mifepristone, per Mr. Bush's campaign promise. Administration officials ordered
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove Web pages on the
effectiveness of condoms and factual information debunking any causal link
between abortion and breast cancer.

Meanwhile, Ms. Hanaway and Mr. Kinder have an aggressive agenda. Mr. Kinder is
sponsoring an odious bill that would require a physician to give women seeking
abortions false information, telling them there is a link between abortion and
breast cancer. Ms. Hanaway is pushing a bill that would require those under 18
to obtain parental consent for contraceptives. In a perfect world, parents
should be involved in this decision; in the real world consent would mean more
unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

Hey, I thought the Post-Dispatch thought that that “a person's most intimate decisions should be protected from legislative busybodies. “ Apparently, the values a parent chooses in raising her children isn’t a “most intimate decision” and is thus fair game for legislative busybodies, school officials, and anyone else who thinks they know better.

Also, the Post-Dispatch provides no source or back-up for its contention that the abortion-breast cancer link is false. This link is far from debunked. The most serious debunking of this I could find was from Planned Parenthood, in an article with a very high rhetoric-to-science ratio. And Planned Parenthood is a hardly disinterested party, considering they make a lot of money from abortions. I suspect the Post-Dispatch would have little sympathy for tobacco or food companies if they were aware of a similar link between their products and cancer and they failed to inform the public, and were working hard to suppress evidence of such a link.

No longer can those who believe in the abortion right sit complacently on the
sidelines and rely on a one- or two- vote majority on the Supreme Court. They
must mix it up in the political arena with the better-organized, more vocal
foes. They must explain the moral basis of the abortion right and make sure
that Americans never forget what life was like for women before Roe.

And those who believe in the unborn’s right to life can go pound sand.

This paragraph summarizes the preaching to the choir style of the editorial. It isn’t meant to convince anyone; it’s just meant to scare those with some sympathy to the pro-choice movement into greater involvement, similar to the NYT editorial Andrew Sullivan took down last week.

I didn’t realize that “cheerleader for the abortion movement” was part of the Post-Dispatch editorial page’s mission.If it is, it kind of hurts its ability to do anything else.
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