Commentary Magazine


Topic: abortion

Conservative Fiction and the Culture Wars

Conservative editor Adam Bellow’s July 7 cover story in National Review is a fascinating call for the conservative movement to produce more written fiction. It is, I think, both learned and yet a bit too pessimistic to my mind. His point is that conservatism has become the counterculture and liberalism, especially social liberalism, the establishment, and that liberals have become so intolerant of dissenting ideas and opinions that they seek to shun and marginalize opposing voices. Here’s Bellow:

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Conservative editor Adam Bellow’s July 7 cover story in National Review is a fascinating call for the conservative movement to produce more written fiction. It is, I think, both learned and yet a bit too pessimistic to my mind. His point is that conservatism has become the counterculture and liberalism, especially social liberalism, the establishment, and that liberals have become so intolerant of dissenting ideas and opinions that they seek to shun and marginalize opposing voices. Here’s Bellow:

I eventually went into publishing to fight back against people like these. I had seen them coming a long way off and I knew they meant business. They wanted power and were eager to use it. Their approach to fiction was two-sided: use their own stories and novels to advance their revolutionary aims, and prevent others from using that same descriptive and imaginative power for counterrevolutionary ends. It was an American version of what used to be called socialist realism.

Conservative nonfiction has flourished. “The real problem,” Bellow asserts, turning to his right, “isn’t the practical challenge of turning serious books into bestsellers. The real problem is that we may have reached the limit of what facts and reasoned arguments can do. The real problem is that the whole conservative nonfiction enterprise has peaked and reached its limit of effectiveness.”

I recommend reading the whole thing. But while I agree with Andrew Breitbart–who Bellow quotes, and who everyone quotes on this subject–that “Politics is downstream from culture,” and that the prevailing popular culture is far more heavily influenced by liberals than by conservatives, I find myself far more optimistic than Bellow. Perhaps that is because I think there’s a difference between the culture being influenced by liberals and it being influenced by liberalism.

Bellow is right that conservatives should be creative and their creativity supported. But I think it’s worth pointing out that often “liberal” or politically neutral novels reinforce conservative ideas. The same is true of movies and television, though Bellow concentrates on the written word. One of the right’s guilty pleasures is to watch a card-carrying liberal writer or a mainstream Hollywood director or showrunner produce a piece of art intended to grapple with complexity and be verbally assaulted as a warmonger or a traitor by his or her liberal audience. When Kathryn Bigelow directed Zero Dark Thirty, for example, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, she portrayed torture in the movie, and liberals lashed out and branded her an apologist for the methods of interrogation. Bigelow took to the pages of the LA Times to respond, somewhat incredulous:

First of all: I support every American’s 1st Amendment right to create works of art and speak their conscience without government interference or harassment. As a lifelong pacifist, I support all protests against the use of torture, and, quite simply, inhumane treatment of any kind.

But I do wonder if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen.

Bigelow is a “lifelong pacifist” and opponent of anything resembling torture, but she was making a movie about real life, and real life is complex.

But to come back to the written word. This phenomenon is easier to spot in fiction that requires heroism or celebrates law and order. But I think it happens when the subject turns to the culture wars too. In December, Ross Douthat noted a study that found that “having daughters makes parents more likely to be Republican.” In offering his own theory, Douthat referenced the kind of man increasingly enabled by a sexually permissive culture: Nate, the protagonist of Adelle Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Douthat writes about Nate’s propensity to, as Waldman writes, “provoke” the “unhappiness” of the women in his life:

He provokes it by taking advantage of a social landscape in which sex has been decoupled from marriage but biology hasn’t been abolished, which means women still operate on a shorter time horizon for crucial life choices — marriage, kids — than do men. In this landscape, what Nate wants — sex, and the validation that comes with being wanted — he reliably gets. But what his lovers want, increasingly, as their cohort grows older — a more permanent commitment — he can afford to persistently withhold, feeling guilty but not that guilty about doing so.

His column touched off an interesting back-and-forth with Waldman herself on the topic of whether the situation portrayed in her book’s Brooklyn social circle calls for a more socially conservative ethic, or whether such an ethic would put too much of the responsibility for the personal misery of these women on themselves. But I think it’s worth dwelling for a moment on Nate.

We meet Nate immediately, as the book opens with a scene in which Nate runs into an ex-lover. She is uneasy and hostile to him. We learn that this is because during their brief involvement (this was not a “relationship”–an important point), she became unintentionally pregnant and had an abortion. Nate was emotionally absent, though he paid for the procedure. Nate is a good liberal–we learn early on he’s contemplating an essay on how rich societies even outsource exploitation just to salve their conscience. When he found out this non-girlfriend–Juliet–was pregnant, he:

felt like he had woken up in one of those after-school specials he watched as a kid on Thursday afternoons, whose moral was not to have sex with a girl unless you were ready to raise a child with her. This had always seemed like bullshit. What self-respecting middle-class teenage girl–soon-to-be college student, future affluent young professional, a person who could go on to do anything at all (run a multinational corporation, win a Nobel Prize, get elected first woman president)–what such young woman would decide to have a baby and thus become, in the vacuous, public service announcement jargon of the day, “a statistic”?

Nate realizes this might not be the case now for Juliet though, who is not a teenager but a professional in her thirties. Here is how he rationalizes the possibility she may want a baby:

Maybe she was no longer so optimistic about what fate held in store for her (first woman president, for example, probably seemed unlikely). Maybe she had become pessimistic about men and dating. She might view this as her last chance to become a mother.

Maybe she’s so dejected and desperate that she’ll–gasp!–want a family. You can see how the liberal cultural norms have seeped into Nate. He waits for her to decide: he has accepted the idea of “choice” in full, like a good liberal. This means it’s her choice completely, and he assumes he has no say. “Nate was all for a woman’s right to choose and all the lingo that went with it,” we’re told by way of explanation for why Nate doesn’t feel he can even suggest aborting “the baby or fetus or whatever you wanted to call it.” He doesn’t even know what to call an unborn child! Nate is opinion-less on the matter of human life, and he is so because he thinks this is How To Be A Modern Man.

After the abortion, Nate disappears, because he thinks even having an extended or personal conversation with Juliet–that is, signaling any interest at all–comes with too many strings attached now that they’ve unburdened themselves of the fetusthingamajiggy. But he doesn’t understand what makes him so toxic to these Brooklynite beauties. He’s a good person–he doesn’t even think one should shop at Whole Foods without feeling guilty about capitalist exploitation!

Is Waldman intentionally commenting on the piggish man-child who is the product of a steady cultural liberalism as practiced in the real world? Certainly not. But if you were to write a “conservative” novel, and this novel had a protagonist who was to demonstrate the perpetual adolescent loosed on the world by a yearslong immersion in liberal social values and the unintentional but very real harm he caused, might not that protagonist be Nathaniel P.?

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The GOP’s Growing Vulnerability on Cultural Issues

Several weeks ago I met with an influential Republican lawmaker to discuss economic matters. Yet I found myself raising another set of issues: Republicans need to prepare (especially in 2016) for an assault by Democrats on a range of cultural and quasi-cultural issues, including contraception, gay marriage, abortion, religious liberties, immigration, evolution, and climate change.

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Several weeks ago I met with an influential Republican lawmaker to discuss economic matters. Yet I found myself raising another set of issues: Republicans need to prepare (especially in 2016) for an assault by Democrats on a range of cultural and quasi-cultural issues, including contraception, gay marriage, abortion, religious liberties, immigration, evolution, and climate change.

What I told this GOP lawmaker is that what cultural issues were to Republicans in the 1980s–think welfare, law and order, and George H.W. Bush’s criticism of Michael Dukakis over the Pledge of Allegiance–is what they are to Democrats in the 2010s. This conversation took place before the Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, but the reaction to it confirmed the observation. Democrats, in their frenzied overreaction to the Court ruling–none more overwrought than that of Hillary Clinton–clearly believe this is an issue that will help them politically.

In many places, they’re probably right.

With that in mind, I’d commend to you an article by Ron Brownstein of National Journal, in which he writes:

While Republicans took the offense on most cultural arguments through the late 20th century, now Democrats from Obama on down are mostly pressing these issues, confident that they represent an expanding majority of public opinion. Veteran pollster Stanley B. Greenberg captures this almost unprecedented Democratic assurance when he declares flatly: “Republicans are on the losing side of all of these trends.”… amid public unease over Obama’s economic and foreign policy record, cultural affinity has become the Democrats’ most powerful electoral weapon.

Many Republicans don’t want to focus on cultural and social issues, fearing the issues will damage them while also believing that economic and foreign-policy topics are where their attention should be. But progressives, in combination with a sympathetic press, will push cultural issues front and center. Which means it’s imperative that high-profile Republicans prepare themselves for the coming wave of attacks.

To be clear, I don’t believe the correct response, morally or politically, is for the GOP to become a socially liberal party. But I do think that there are ways to re-frame some of these issues in a manner that will benefit not just the Republican Party but social conservatism itself.

Precisely how to do so is beyond the scope of this post. For now, it’s obvious that Republicans with national ambitions need to gird themselves for the coming offensive; to prepare themselves not just in terms of public policy but also to find a vocabulary to discuss these issues. This means adopting a tone and countenance that is principled and non-censorious, that can articulate one’s views in a way that is not seen as angry and intolerant. (It doesn’t help when one Republican running for president in 2012 promised that if elected, he would talk about the dangers of contraception.)

Obviously one has to approach things on a case-by-case basis. But generally speaking, Republicans need to be seen as speaking out on behalf of moral truths in ways that are more winsome than judgmental, in a way meant to persuade rather than inflame, and making sure their views align with science rather than against it. What this means, in part, is the individuals making the arguments need to radiate some measure of grace rather than zeal. What we’re talking about is using a light touch rather than a heavy hand. To understand the difference, think about how the language (and spirit) of the pro-life movement shifted from accusing people of being “baby killers” to asking Americans to join a movement committed to enlarging the circle of protection to the most vulnerable members of the human community, in which every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. (In addition, science, in the form of sonograms, has been a friend of the pro-life movement. It’s no accident, then, that Americans have become more pro-life in their views over the last 15 years. In 2012, for example, Gallup reported that the 41 percent of Americans who identified themselves as “pro-choice” is one percentage point below the previous record low in Gallup trends, recorded in May 2009, while 50 percent now call themselves “pro-life,” one point shy of the record high, also from May 2009.)

Social conservatism, if it ever hopes to succeed, needs to be articulated in a way that is seen as promoting the human good and advancing human dignity, rather than declaring a series of forbidden acts that are leading us to Gomorrah. That alone isn’t enough to turn the tide in a nation that is trending toward liberal social views on many issues. But it is a start.

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Ideological Bigotry at Yale

Community service and “social justice” at Yale is coordinated through Dwight Hall which helps student organizations with basic administrative functions: photocopying, lending cars, some funding, and provision of rooms for meetings. While technically a non-profit and independent of Yale, the organization sits on Yale’s campus, is the main clearing house for community service, and uses Yale’s name with the permission of the university. Here’s the mission, according to the group’s website:

The mission of Dwight Hall at Yale is ‘to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world….’ Dwight Hall recognizes that long-term solutions to the world’s problems come from focusing on developing passionate innovative leaders. Dwight Hall exists as a place to cultivate student leaders invested in ethical productivity, creativity, communication, and collaboration.  Dwight Hall promotes a culture of action and reflection that encourages student leaders to share best practices, learn from successful leaders, and collaborate on solving societal challenges.

The organization brags on its website about its outreach:

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Community service and “social justice” at Yale is coordinated through Dwight Hall which helps student organizations with basic administrative functions: photocopying, lending cars, some funding, and provision of rooms for meetings. While technically a non-profit and independent of Yale, the organization sits on Yale’s campus, is the main clearing house for community service, and uses Yale’s name with the permission of the university. Here’s the mission, according to the group’s website:

The mission of Dwight Hall at Yale is ‘to foster civic-minded student leaders and to promote service and activism in New Haven and around the world….’ Dwight Hall recognizes that long-term solutions to the world’s problems come from focusing on developing passionate innovative leaders. Dwight Hall exists as a place to cultivate student leaders invested in ethical productivity, creativity, communication, and collaboration.  Dwight Hall promotes a culture of action and reflection that encourages student leaders to share best practices, learn from successful leaders, and collaborate on solving societal challenges.

The organization brags on its website about its outreach:

Dwight Hall is comprised of four networks that support our student-led programs.  The Networks promote community-based learning, innovative programming, best practices, and collaborative communication.  These networks are categorized as Education, Social Justice, International, and Public Health and together contain over 90 student-lead programs that engage 3,500 students each year in service and social justice activities.  Dwight Hall students contribute more than 150,000 hours of direct service and advocacy each year.

The organization’s cabinet—comprised of the leaders of other student groups and elected officers—have, without explanation, denied “Choose Life at Yale” (CLAY) membership. Here’s the report from the Yale Daily News:

After spending the year as a provisional member of Dwight Hall, Choose Life at Yale (CLAY) — Yale’s pro-life student organization — was denied full membership status in Dwight Hall’s Social Justice Network for the upcoming school year. The approximately 90-member Dwight Hall Cabinet, which comprises member group leaders and executive committee members, gathered Wednesday night to vote on CLAY’s status within Dwight Hall. After deliberation, they denied the organization membership, blocking further access to Dwight Hall’s resources, including funds, cars and printing services. “We are all obviously disappointed and frustrated with this decision, especially after having gone through this year-long provisional process,” said Christian Hernandez ’15, the president of CLAY’s Spring 2014 board. Each full member organization of Dwight Hall is allowed one vote during cabinet meetings, according to Shea Jennings ’16, Dwight Hall’s public relations coordinator. Representatives from each organization up for a vote, including CLAY, gave a brief presentation before the cabinet voted, she added. Jennings said that the body does not debate immediately before a vote, as Dwight Hall assumes each representative comes bearing the carefully considered views of his or her member group. Still, in the weeks leading up to the vote, she added that discussion among member groups about CLAY far exceeded that of any other organization seeking full member status this year. “Generally what happens is in most member groups the decision is made without as much discussion,” Jennings said. “Because this was a more political decision, there was more discussion.”

Personally, I am more on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate than on the pro-life side, although I both respect the views and principles of those who come down on the other side of the debate and shudder at the radicalism inherent at the extremes. But, even as someone who would disagree with CLAY’s broader goals, the vote to deny CLAY full membership is a poor reflection on Dwight Hall, Yale University, and its undergraduate student body. It shows the closed mindset of the Yale campus and the failure more broadly of Yale’s administration, deans, and faculty to cultivate an atmosphere that prizes debate on divisive social issues rather than tries to wield power arbitrarily to shut it down.

Are Yale’s pro-choice organizations really lacking in the self-confidence or ability needed to debate ideas and, if necessary, out-compete in organization? Social justice is always an amorphous concept prone to political abuse; it is too bad that Yale student leaders interpret social justice in terms of political conformity rather than any real diversity. It’s hard not to look at Dwight Hall’s action and not see something rotten in New Haven.

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Smearing Religious Freedom’s Defenders

The verdict of national public opinion about what was universally represented as an attempt by Arizona’s legislature to authorize discrimination against gays was overwhelming. Though support for gay marriage is not yet unanimous, Americans don’t like prejudice and think laws that might legitimate bias are, by definition, wrongheaded. By vetoing Arizona’s SB1062 bill, Governor Jan Brewer was simply practicing political common sense and saving both her state (which stood to lose conventions and even an upcoming Super Bowl over the controversy) and the national Republican Party a great deal of grief over what was claimed to be a new version of Jim Crow. The “anti-gay bill” stood to become this year’s version of Todd Akin’s infamous comments about rape and abortion and could have been a millstone around the necks of all conservatives even in a year in which the GOP stands to gain ground across the country.

Fresh off this almost uncontested victory, liberals like The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin are hoping to follow up on their triumph by pivoting from this controversy to ratcheting up anger at the prospect that the Supreme Court will allow religious business owners to claim religious exemptions from the federal government’s demands that they pay for insurance coverage of acts that violate their religious beliefs. What has that got to do with an “anti-gay bill?” And how can liberals hope to mobilize Americans on this issue the way they did on the Arizona bill given the significant public sympathy for the religious freedom protest of companies like the Hobby Lobby chain as well as antipathy for the ObamaCare mandates?

In order to answer that question you would have had to have actually read the Arizona bill, something that few media figures, let alone the general public actually did before lambasting it. As National Review editor Rich Lowry, pointed out in an insightful Politico op-ed published last week, even a cursory glance at the bill yielded nothing to justify the universal condemnation that rained down on it from the mainstream media. But at the heart of that dustup and the one on the ObamaCare Mandate is the same question of religious liberty that got steamrollered in Arizona and is again being attacked in the Hobby Lobby case. The principle being defended here isn’t Jim Crow or any other form of prejudice but the constitutionally protected right to religious freedom.

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The verdict of national public opinion about what was universally represented as an attempt by Arizona’s legislature to authorize discrimination against gays was overwhelming. Though support for gay marriage is not yet unanimous, Americans don’t like prejudice and think laws that might legitimate bias are, by definition, wrongheaded. By vetoing Arizona’s SB1062 bill, Governor Jan Brewer was simply practicing political common sense and saving both her state (which stood to lose conventions and even an upcoming Super Bowl over the controversy) and the national Republican Party a great deal of grief over what was claimed to be a new version of Jim Crow. The “anti-gay bill” stood to become this year’s version of Todd Akin’s infamous comments about rape and abortion and could have been a millstone around the necks of all conservatives even in a year in which the GOP stands to gain ground across the country.

Fresh off this almost uncontested victory, liberals like The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin are hoping to follow up on their triumph by pivoting from this controversy to ratcheting up anger at the prospect that the Supreme Court will allow religious business owners to claim religious exemptions from the federal government’s demands that they pay for insurance coverage of acts that violate their religious beliefs. What has that got to do with an “anti-gay bill?” And how can liberals hope to mobilize Americans on this issue the way they did on the Arizona bill given the significant public sympathy for the religious freedom protest of companies like the Hobby Lobby chain as well as antipathy for the ObamaCare mandates?

In order to answer that question you would have had to have actually read the Arizona bill, something that few media figures, let alone the general public actually did before lambasting it. As National Review editor Rich Lowry, pointed out in an insightful Politico op-ed published last week, even a cursory glance at the bill yielded nothing to justify the universal condemnation that rained down on it from the mainstream media. But at the heart of that dustup and the one on the ObamaCare Mandate is the same question of religious liberty that got steamrollered in Arizona and is again being attacked in the Hobby Lobby case. The principle being defended here isn’t Jim Crow or any other form of prejudice but the constitutionally protected right to religious freedom.

As Lowry pointed out:

It was jarring to read the coverage of the new “anti-gay bill” passed by the Arizona Legislature and then look up the text of the instantly notorious SB 1062. The bill was roughly 998 pages shorter than much of legislation that passes in Washington, so reading it didn’t take much of a commitment. Clocking in at barely two pages, it was easy to scan for disparaging references to homosexuality, for veiled references to homosexuality, for any references to homosexuality at all.

They weren’t there. A headline from The Week declared, “There is nothing Christian about Arizona’s anti-gay bill.” It would be more accurate to say that there was nothing anti-gay about Arizona’s anti-gay bill.

The legislation consisted of minor clarifications of the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA], which has been on the books for 15 years and is modeled on the federal act that passed with big bipartisan majorities in the 1990s and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

If you’ll excuse a brief, boring break from the hysteria to dwell on the text of the doomed bill, it stipulated that the word “person” in the law applies to businesses and that the protections of the law apply whether or not the government is directly a party to a proceeding (e.g., a lawsuit brought on anti-discrimination grounds).

The reason that the law was so fiercely denounced was because it opened up the possibility that a business such as florist or a baker could use the state’s version of the federal FRFA in order to back up a refusal to take part in activity that might violate their religious beliefs such as a gay wedding. The legal distinction here is a fine one. No one disputes (or at least no one should) that businesses that are a public accommodation have no right to turn away customers on the basis of their race, religion, beliefs or, their sexual orientation. But commissioning someone to create a floral arrangement or display to celebrate something they oppose is not quite the same thing as merely showing up and asking to buy flowers or bread or to sit at a lunch counter. Where exactly the law comes down on such situations is a matter of debate. You might well argue that such vendors should just accept the business or lose it to competitors. But arguing that their personal beliefs should be ignored when someone demands they participate in events that, however sympathetic, violate their beliefs, is rightly considered a bridge too far for many civil libertarians.

What happened in Arizona was that the growing support for gay marriage was used to delegitimize anyone who sought to carve out some legal space for those disagreed on religious grounds and the affair snowballed into a national furor that drowned out opposing arguments. What Toobin and other liberals would like to see is the same process apply to Hobby Lobby and other religious believers who see the ObamaCare mandate as violating their liberty by painting them as opponents of women’s rights.

The conceit of the liberal argument is to brand as intolerant those who oppose forcing religious institutions or business owners to pay for abortion drugs or contraception for their employees under the mandate. According to Toobin and the administration, those who oppose the Mandate are seeking to impose their religious views on employees and to deny them necessary services. But this is false. No one is preventing anyone from obtaining access to birth control or even an abortion drug. What the owners of Hobby Lobby and the many other plaintiffs in these cases are seeking is to not be involved in the purchase of products and services they oppose. It is the government and its liberal cheerleaders who are seeking to impose their beliefs on religious believers, not the other way around. And, unless the U.S. Supreme Court stops them by ruling in favoring of Hobby Lobby, that is exactly what they will do. One doesn’t have to oppose abortion or contraception to understand that if the government can have its way in this case, no one’s rights are safe.

The problem liberals face in seeking to demonize persons of faith who oppose the ObamaCare Mandate is that, unlike Arizona’s SB1062, the public is already well aware of its intrusive nature and the assault on individual rights it represents. Opponents of RFRA were able to buy the Arizona bill under a mountain of obfuscation, innuendo and disinformation. Liberals should forget about being able to play the same game in defense of a position that seeks to restrict religious freedom for the sake of a vast expansion of government power that a majority of Americans already oppose.

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A Compelling Commentary on Abortion

For many years–first at ABC and later at Fox News–Brit Hume proved himself to be among the finest reporters and journalists of his generation. Now he’s one of our best commentators.

One example of this can be found in his commentary on the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, when in Hume’s words “the Supreme Court found that a generalized right to privacy it had basically invented, meant that a woman has a constitutional right to snuff out an unborn life, a human being with a beating heart. That’s what a fetus as young as six weeks is.”

Mr. Hume went on to say this:

At 20 weeks, we now know, these tiny creatures can hear, even recognize a mother’s voice. Their toenails are growing and their hearts beat loud enough to be heard by a stethoscope.

 The moral case for allowing such beings to be killed grows ever weaker and its advocates resort to ever more absurd euphemisms to describe what they support. They’re not really pro-abortion, they’ve long said, they’re pro-choice. This isn’t about killing unborn babies, it’s about reproductive health. And the biggest chain of abortion clinics in the country refers to itself as Planned Parenthood.
 In 2012, this organization says it carried out — quote — “abortion procedures” 329,445 times. Whatever that number represents, it’s not parenthood. These protesters here today understand that there is something deeply false and wrong about all this. They come each year to remind the rest of us.

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For many years–first at ABC and later at Fox News–Brit Hume proved himself to be among the finest reporters and journalists of his generation. Now he’s one of our best commentators.

One example of this can be found in his commentary on the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, when in Hume’s words “the Supreme Court found that a generalized right to privacy it had basically invented, meant that a woman has a constitutional right to snuff out an unborn life, a human being with a beating heart. That’s what a fetus as young as six weeks is.”

Mr. Hume went on to say this:

At 20 weeks, we now know, these tiny creatures can hear, even recognize a mother’s voice. Their toenails are growing and their hearts beat loud enough to be heard by a stethoscope.

 The moral case for allowing such beings to be killed grows ever weaker and its advocates resort to ever more absurd euphemisms to describe what they support. They’re not really pro-abortion, they’ve long said, they’re pro-choice. This isn’t about killing unborn babies, it’s about reproductive health. And the biggest chain of abortion clinics in the country refers to itself as Planned Parenthood.
 In 2012, this organization says it carried out — quote — “abortion procedures” 329,445 times. Whatever that number represents, it’s not parenthood. These protesters here today understand that there is something deeply false and wrong about all this. They come each year to remind the rest of us.

Mr. Hume touches on the law, the science, and the morality of abortion–and he did it all in 85 seconds. If there’s an equally powerful refutation to the case made by Brit Hume, I’d like to hear it.

I’m willing to bet the mortgage I won’t.

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Can Democrats Win on Abortion in 2014? Not Necessarily.

Pro-life activists are streaming into Washington for tomorrow’s annual March for Life on the Mall marking the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Weather permitting, Republicans will be out in force to join the pro-lifers, while liberals continue to hope the issue will work in their favor this year as it did two years ago. After successfully persuading many voters that the GOP was waging a “war on women” in 2012, many Democrats believe the issue could help stave off an electoral disaster in this year’s midterm elections. As the New York Times reports, both parties traditionally look to abortion to help mobilize their bases, but for Democrats it has become a rallying cry to convince women that their freedom depends on turning out to defeat conservative Republicans.

Are they right? Given the impact that Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s ignorant comments on abortion and rape had not only on his own losing race in 2012 but on the entire GOP that year, it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that the faux war on women meme was a big winner for Democrats. The demonization of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinielli that helped him lose the women’s vote in November also points to the way liberals have manipulated abortion to their advantage. But the assumption that the Democrats can play this card again this year may be wrong. Moreover, Democrats may also be underestimating conservatives’ capacity to present the issue in a way that will help boost their turnout and diminish sympathy for candidates who march under the pro-choice banner.

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Pro-life activists are streaming into Washington for tomorrow’s annual March for Life on the Mall marking the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Weather permitting, Republicans will be out in force to join the pro-lifers, while liberals continue to hope the issue will work in their favor this year as it did two years ago. After successfully persuading many voters that the GOP was waging a “war on women” in 2012, many Democrats believe the issue could help stave off an electoral disaster in this year’s midterm elections. As the New York Times reports, both parties traditionally look to abortion to help mobilize their bases, but for Democrats it has become a rallying cry to convince women that their freedom depends on turning out to defeat conservative Republicans.

Are they right? Given the impact that Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s ignorant comments on abortion and rape had not only on his own losing race in 2012 but on the entire GOP that year, it’s hard to argue with the conclusion that the faux war on women meme was a big winner for Democrats. The demonization of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinielli that helped him lose the women’s vote in November also points to the way liberals have manipulated abortion to their advantage. But the assumption that the Democrats can play this card again this year may be wrong. Moreover, Democrats may also be underestimating conservatives’ capacity to present the issue in a way that will help boost their turnout and diminish sympathy for candidates who march under the pro-choice banner.

The electoral facts of life on abortion have always been focused on each party’s base and not the political center. It’s a litmus test for single issue voters on both ends of the spectrum. But most Americans don’t base their ballot choices solely on the issue of abortion.

Polls have consistently shown that the majority doesn’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade or to criminalize abortion. But they also demonstrate that a clear majority approves of significant restrictions on the practice, such as requiring parental consent and enacting bans on late-term procedures. The latter point is a crucial weakness for liberals because the advances in medical science, particularly sonograms, since the court ruled on Roe in 1973 make such abortions look more like infanticide than a woman exercising her “right to choose.” Last year’s gruesome Kermit Gosnell murder trial in Philadelphia opened the eyes of many Americans who had never understood exactly what late-term abortion meant or the possibility that such horrors involving the slaughter of babies born alive as a result of botched procedures might be more common than they had realized or than the liberal media had ever sought to inform them.

Thus, messaging is the key to whether the discussion of abortion can stampede voters away from Republicans or, as the GOP hopes, help boost their turnout in a year in which Democrats can no longer count on President Obama’s coattails. That’s why GOP gaffes such as the one committed by Akin are fatal to Republicans and tarnish the national image of conservatives. But the notion that Democrats can keep their stranglehold on the women’s vote ignores the way sonograms and the Gosnell case influence public opinion on late-term abortion. Though Wendy Davis vaulted to national liberal stardom last year on the strength of a filibuster against a bill that banned late-term abortions after 20 weeks—the period after which most fetuses become viable outside the womb—if the GOP can focus its candidates on this issue, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that it will work against them. Republicans also think they have another, related winning issue in the attempts to push back against the ObamaCare mandate forcing employers to pay for abortion and/or requiring the use of public funds to pay for them.

As long as Democrats can portray Republicans as troglodytes who think, as Akin did, that women’s bodies magically protect them from pregnancy in cases of rape, they are on firm ground to pursue their war on women theme. But if Republicans can manage to stay on message on late-term procedures and the impact of ObamaCare, there’s every reason to believe widespread concerns over  abortion will attract more voters to their candidates.

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Why a Feminist Heroine Revised Her Bio

Has there ever been a more meteoric rise to national political prominence than that of Wendy Davis? A year ago Davis was so obscure a Democratic Texas state senator that even savvy liberal Beltway pundits couldn’t have picked her out of a police lineup. But her June 25 filibuster of a bill limiting late-term abortions and imposing more rigorous safety standards on clinics catapulted her to superstardom in the national liberal media. The legislation she managed to stop that day eventually passed (and has, despite the expectations of many liberals, largely survived judicial scrutiny) but Davis’s stand had already made her a heroine to a national media that was all too happy to celebrate her act as heroic even though they treated filibusters conducted by conservative Republican senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in Washington last year as a foolish waste of time.

Indeed, Democrats could scarcely believe their luck when they learned Davis was not only a photogenic blonde whose pink sneakers became an icon for abortion-rights supporters but also had a biography that sounded like political gold. Thanks to the values of the liberal media, soon the nation learned that she was a former single teenaged mother who, by dint of old-fashioned guts, smarts and gumption, had worked her way through college and then through Harvard Law School before turning to politics. With that kind of background and the notoriety the filibuster gave her, it’s little wonder that she became a darling of national liberal political donors such as Emily’s List and the almost certain Democratic nominee in the 2014 governor’s race.

But it turns out the true account of her life doesn’t exactly match up to the story she’s been selling while raising money for her campaign. As the Dallas Morning News reported in a story published over the weekend, “facts have been blurred” in order to make her seem more sympathetic. Davis conveniently omitted some details that are germane to her tale of poverty and valorous self-sufficiency. According to the Morning News:

In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.

“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”

That sounds like typical backtracking from a politician caught fibbing. If it doesn’t deflate her boomlet, it was exactly what Democrats, who were hoping that Davis could take advantage of feminist fervor and changing demographics to give Texas Republicans a fight, didn’t want to hear.

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Has there ever been a more meteoric rise to national political prominence than that of Wendy Davis? A year ago Davis was so obscure a Democratic Texas state senator that even savvy liberal Beltway pundits couldn’t have picked her out of a police lineup. But her June 25 filibuster of a bill limiting late-term abortions and imposing more rigorous safety standards on clinics catapulted her to superstardom in the national liberal media. The legislation she managed to stop that day eventually passed (and has, despite the expectations of many liberals, largely survived judicial scrutiny) but Davis’s stand had already made her a heroine to a national media that was all too happy to celebrate her act as heroic even though they treated filibusters conducted by conservative Republican senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in Washington last year as a foolish waste of time.

Indeed, Democrats could scarcely believe their luck when they learned Davis was not only a photogenic blonde whose pink sneakers became an icon for abortion-rights supporters but also had a biography that sounded like political gold. Thanks to the values of the liberal media, soon the nation learned that she was a former single teenaged mother who, by dint of old-fashioned guts, smarts and gumption, had worked her way through college and then through Harvard Law School before turning to politics. With that kind of background and the notoriety the filibuster gave her, it’s little wonder that she became a darling of national liberal political donors such as Emily’s List and the almost certain Democratic nominee in the 2014 governor’s race.

But it turns out the true account of her life doesn’t exactly match up to the story she’s been selling while raising money for her campaign. As the Dallas Morning News reported in a story published over the weekend, “facts have been blurred” in order to make her seem more sympathetic. Davis conveniently omitted some details that are germane to her tale of poverty and valorous self-sufficiency. According to the Morning News:

In an extensive interview last week, Davis acknowledged some chronological errors and incomplete details in what she and her aides have said about her life.

“My language should be tighter,” she said. “I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.”

That sounds like typical backtracking from a politician caught fibbing. If it doesn’t deflate her boomlet, it was exactly what Democrats, who were hoping that Davis could take advantage of feminist fervor and changing demographics to give Texas Republicans a fight, didn’t want to hear.

It is true she was a single, divorced mother who went on to be the first in her family to graduate college. But not only did she fudge some dates (she was divorced at 21, not 19), the true story is that her second husband paid her college tuition and then, to enable her to attend Harvard Law School, he emptied his 401(k) account and took out a loan. He also took full care of her child by her first husband and the one they had together, while she was in Cambridge, Massachusetts for three years alone. She left her husband to divorce him immediately after he’d paid off her law school debts. He sought and was granted custody of both his stepdaughter and daughter after the divorce. 

Over time, the Davises’ marriage was strained. In November 2003, Wendy Davis moved out.

Jeff Davis said that was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.”

Wendy Davis said that as a lawyer, she contributed too. …

In his initial divorce filing, Jeff Davis said the marriage had failed, citing adultery on her part and conflicts that the couple could not overcome. The final court decree makes no mention of infidelity, granting the divorce solely “on the ground of insupportability.”

Amber was 21 and in college. Dru was in ninth grade. Jeff Davis was awarded parental custody. Wendy Davis was ordered to pay $1,200 a month in child support.

“She did the right thing,” he said. “She said, ‘I think you’re right; you’ll make a good, nurturing father. While I’ve been a good mother, it’s not a good time for me right now.’”

These new details don’t paint the state senator in the best light. But neither do they disqualify her for high office. She’s a bright, hard-working woman who came from a modest background and went on to build a successful career. In that sense, she could viewed as a role model to young people. But when the “blurred details” are included in her biography, what we see is not a feminist heroine who persevered despite the disadvantages of being a young mother struggling against poverty and patriarchy. Instead, she comes across very much like the stereotypical male politician who exploited a helpful spouse and then sacrificed his wife and children on the altar of ambition. How many male governors, senators, or members of the House fit that description? One shudders to think.

The point here is not what we think about Davis’s life. The details of her divorces and how she made the jump from single mother to Harvard-educated lawyer/legislator aren’t relevant to the question of who should be governor of Texas or whether we agree with her stand on abortion. But they do tell us she isn’t a 21st century feminist version of Horatio Alger, a ruse that materially aided her rise from obscurity.

As with most such fibs, it was entirely unnecessary and now, rather than an asset, her fabricated bio will become a GOP talking point in a race in which polls already put her well behind her Republican opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The unvarnished facts about her life posed no impediment to her political future but, with a little editing, they were made to tell a slightly different, but far more compelling story than the one about Jeff Davis paying for her education and then being dumped along with the kids.

The fact that Wendy Davis should turn out to be, like countless male politicians, a trimmer when it comes to the truth about her life, isn’t terribly surprising, especially when you consider how disingenuous many of her arguments about late-term abortion were in her celebrated filibuster. But it should serve as a reminder to true believers of all political stripes that when politicians seem too good to be true, it’s usually because they are.

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Cuomo’s Version of Liberal Tolerance

There’s no sign that Hillary Clinton will forgo a run for a Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 that appears to be hers for the asking. But should she pass, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will likely be one of the main contenders. As such, he has spent the last year shoring up his left flank by departing from the moderate policies that he ran on in 2010 and that characterized his first two years in office. But Cuomo’s pivot left has now escalated to the point where he not only wishes to impose liberal ideas on a blue state apparently all too eager to accept such dictates but to make it clear that those who oppose him are no longer welcome to stay.

That was the upshot of a remarkable rant by Cuomo on a public radio station in Albany. As the Albany Times Union reported, in the course of an angry critique of the national Republican Party and as well as New Yorkers who oppose his SAFE Act—a draconian gun-control bill railroaded through the New York legislature not long after the Newtown massacre—Cuomo said the following:

You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

Cuomo’s astonishing statement may please a suddenly ascendant left wing of the Democratic Party that is now feeling its strength after the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City and thinking about how it could influence the 2016 Democratic race. But it also demonstrates a disturbing degree of intolerance that illustrates the general rule of thumb, that conservatives believe liberals to be wrong and liberals think conservatives are evil. While this will endear Cuomo with his party’s base, it may come back to haunt him if he ever gets the chance to campaign on the national stage.

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There’s no sign that Hillary Clinton will forgo a run for a Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 that appears to be hers for the asking. But should she pass, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will likely be one of the main contenders. As such, he has spent the last year shoring up his left flank by departing from the moderate policies that he ran on in 2010 and that characterized his first two years in office. But Cuomo’s pivot left has now escalated to the point where he not only wishes to impose liberal ideas on a blue state apparently all too eager to accept such dictates but to make it clear that those who oppose him are no longer welcome to stay.

That was the upshot of a remarkable rant by Cuomo on a public radio station in Albany. As the Albany Times Union reported, in the course of an angry critique of the national Republican Party and as well as New Yorkers who oppose his SAFE Act—a draconian gun-control bill railroaded through the New York legislature not long after the Newtown massacre—Cuomo said the following:

You’re seeing that play out in New York. … The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

Cuomo’s astonishing statement may please a suddenly ascendant left wing of the Democratic Party that is now feeling its strength after the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City and thinking about how it could influence the 2016 Democratic race. But it also demonstrates a disturbing degree of intolerance that illustrates the general rule of thumb, that conservatives believe liberals to be wrong and liberals think conservatives are evil. While this will endear Cuomo with his party’s base, it may come back to haunt him if he ever gets the chance to campaign on the national stage.

Cuomo’s reference to abortion opponents is especially interesting in the way it seeks to declare them not only out of the political mainstream in New York (which is undoubtedly true) but also worthy of being driven out of the Empire State. As Kathryn Jean Lopez noted in National Review on Friday, the governor’s rant demonstrates the distance both the Democratic Party and the Cuomo family have traveled in the last 30 years. As Lopez writes, in 1984, one of Cuomo’s predecessors as governor of New York—his father Mario—famously articulated a nuanced position in which he restated his personal opposition to abortion while defending its legality and public funding.

This same intolerance is made manifest in the federal ObamaCare mandate that seeks to force Catholic charity groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor pay for abortion drugs and contraception for its employees. That is a far cry from Mario Cuomo’s attempt to build a wall between private opposition to abortion and a public right to it. The Democrats of Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo will now brook no opposition to their dictates or, in Cuomo’s case, even allow opponents to reside in “his” state.

However, the spark for Cuomo’s anger—opposition to the gun bill he promulgated in his State of the State last year and then rammed through the legislature inside of a day as a sop to public anguish about Newtown—also demonstrates the incoherence of this new extreme liberalism. The SAFE act imposed new bans on assault weapons, gun magazines, and imposed even broader rules for background checks for legal gun purchases. But in the year since it was passed, it has gone largely unenforced since it has sown almost universal confusion among law-enforcement personnel and gun venders and owners who are unsure what is and what is not rendered illegal by the vague language in the sloppily-drafted legislation Cuomo championed.

One needn’t be an opponent of legalized abortion or a member of the National Rifle Association to understand the dangers of this sort of rhetoric and a legislative agenda driven by such sentiments. Liberals have spent the past few years posing as the champions of tolerance while denouncing the Tea Party and conservative Republicans as extremists. But now that the left wing of the Democratic Party has taken back the reins of the party from more centrist forces—or in Cuomo’s case, a former moderate has put his finger in the wind and changed his direction accordingly—the same dynamic could undermine their attempts to win national elections. Just as the GOP must worry about letting its most extreme elements dictate policy and candidates, Democrats should think twice about the spectacle of one of their leading lights going so far as to tell opponents of abortion and gun control to leave New York. If Clinton passes on the presidency and Cuomo makes a run for the White House, that intolerant line won’t be forgotten.

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Sotomayor Gives Hope to ObamaCare Foes

For most of the last three years since ObamaCare was passed by Congress, liberals have dismissed efforts to overturn the portion of the law mandating that employers pay for contraception and abortion drugs as the province solely of right-wing extremists. They have mocked the notion that the religious rights of churches, religious groups, and believers who own private businesses have been violated by the government’s order.  Even as lawsuits challenging the legality of the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate have gradually made their way through the federal system, the reaction from the White House and prominent liberal outlets such as the New York Times has been to deny the legitimacy of the debate. Even worse, they have maliciously tried to turn the discussion from one of religious liberty to a false charge that it is the plaintiffs in these suits that are trying to impose religious views on their employees.

But with the Supreme Court already agreeing to consider some challenges to the law, the effort to ignore the appeal to religious liberty received another blow this week when Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed to issue an injunction against enforcement of the mandate pending resolution of litigation. While in no way a guarantee of future success in court, the liberal Sotomayor’s ruling preventing the government from imposing fines against the Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor for refusing to obey the ObamaCare dictate is a sign that the plaintiffs have not only a strong argument but a reasonable chance to prevail. This should encourage those who entertain the hope that the administration’s abuse of power may yet be reversed. But it also demonstrates the seriousness of an argument that liberals would prefer to ignore.

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For most of the last three years since ObamaCare was passed by Congress, liberals have dismissed efforts to overturn the portion of the law mandating that employers pay for contraception and abortion drugs as the province solely of right-wing extremists. They have mocked the notion that the religious rights of churches, religious groups, and believers who own private businesses have been violated by the government’s order.  Even as lawsuits challenging the legality of the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate have gradually made their way through the federal system, the reaction from the White House and prominent liberal outlets such as the New York Times has been to deny the legitimacy of the debate. Even worse, they have maliciously tried to turn the discussion from one of religious liberty to a false charge that it is the plaintiffs in these suits that are trying to impose religious views on their employees.

But with the Supreme Court already agreeing to consider some challenges to the law, the effort to ignore the appeal to religious liberty received another blow this week when Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed to issue an injunction against enforcement of the mandate pending resolution of litigation. While in no way a guarantee of future success in court, the liberal Sotomayor’s ruling preventing the government from imposing fines against the Denver-based Little Sisters of the Poor for refusing to obey the ObamaCare dictate is a sign that the plaintiffs have not only a strong argument but a reasonable chance to prevail. This should encourage those who entertain the hope that the administration’s abuse of power may yet be reversed. But it also demonstrates the seriousness of an argument that liberals would prefer to ignore.

The injunction in this case is significant because it stops the government from stifling challenges to ObamaCare before the legal process is completed. With organizations and companies that defy the mandate subject to crippling fines that could put them out of business, plaintiffs can be effectively destroyed before a definitive ruling has been reached. While the lower courts in 18 out of 20 such cases have rightly granted such injunctions in the federal system, Sotomayor’s rescue of this group of charitable nuns who had been previously denied judicial relief is a signal victory. That a liberal who is an Obama appointee would act in this way demonstrates that the challenge to the mandate is not a case of conservative groups tilting at windmills.

Liberals have used complaints about the mandate to promote the myth that conservatives were waging a “war against women” as if free contraception were a basic constitutional right. It also ignores the government’s effort to restrict the rights of those being asked to pay.

As some federal courts have already ruled in related cases, the imposition of the president’s vision of a health-care system where all employers — including religious believers whose faith precludes such actions — must pay for contraception or abortion drugs places a severe burden on the free exercise of the religious freedom of those involved. In the absence of the demonstration of a compelling government interest that would force nuns or other groups or individuals opposed to such practices to pay for such services, the law is a clear violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well as a blow to First Amendment rights. In response to these appeals, the Justice Department has dismissed the idea that anyone’s rights are violated and instead argued that those who work for the nuns or any other religious group or company owned by believers are entitled not only to access to such services but that their employers must pay for it. If this argument were to prevail, the result could be a new and dangerously restrictive definition of religious freedom that would confine the right to practice one’s faith to houses of worship and in the home but not in the public square.

Anyone who attempts to predict how the Supreme Court will rule on any aspect of ObamaCare is unwise, as Chief Justice John Roberts’s illogical opinion, upholding the law as a tax, proved in 2012. But the injunction from Sotomayor, who has already upheld the constitutionality of the law, has to scare liberals who have assumed there was no merit whatsoever to the religious freedom challenge.

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“The Best Keepers of the People’s Liberties”

According to a CNS News report, a new ObamaCare regulation will enable members of Congress and their staffs to use federal subsidies to pay for elective abortions. Though it will get less attention than the broken “if you like your plan/doctor, you can keep your plan/doctor” promise, this story arguably is of more significance–if not policywise, than at least symbolically.

This latest report will suffer from a phenomenon I’ve referenced before: the sheer quantity of bad news about ObamaCare means the public can only absorb so much of it at a time. Combine that with the fact that the American public is famously unenthusiastic about prioritizing issues like abortion in the national conversation, and this report is likely to be overlooked. That would be too bad, as CNS explains:

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According to a CNS News report, a new ObamaCare regulation will enable members of Congress and their staffs to use federal subsidies to pay for elective abortions. Though it will get less attention than the broken “if you like your plan/doctor, you can keep your plan/doctor” promise, this story arguably is of more significance–if not policywise, than at least symbolically.

This latest report will suffer from a phenomenon I’ve referenced before: the sheer quantity of bad news about ObamaCare means the public can only absorb so much of it at a time. Combine that with the fact that the American public is famously unenthusiastic about prioritizing issues like abortion in the national conversation, and this report is likely to be overlooked. That would be too bad, as CNS explains:

The federal subsidy members of Congress and their staff can now use to buy health-insurance plans that cover elective abortions contradicts a vow Obama made in a nationally televised speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9, 2009.

It also contradicts the express purpose of the executive order on abortion funding that Obama promised to issue in March 2010 when the House of Representatives was preparing to take its final vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

That executive order promise was part of the compromise that essentially ended Bart Stupak’s time in Congress. The former Democratic congressman was one of the few remaining pro-life Democrats, and he held out on supporting ObamaCare–resistance that had enough support to stall the bill–until he could be assured the new health-care law would not use taxpayer dollars to fund elective abortion.

Stupak’s principled stand was a bluff, however. When Democrats, who largely support abortion-on-demand, along with the intensely pro-abortion Obama, pushed back on amending the bill to protect life, Stupak accepted the promise of an executive order from Obama instead. Few thought Obama would keep his promise, so none of this is terribly surprising, but the pro-abortion regulation would be the undoing of the one promise that, perhaps more than any other, secured the passage of ObamaCare.

Conservatives are at another disadvantage here, however. People are rarely able to muster the outrage for stories about process that they are about policy. But Obama’s behavior on the health law has certainly been outrageous. He has been treating the bill passed by Congress as a rough draft, issuing regulations after the fact that he couldn’t get passed by Congress in an already unpopular law. He understood the will of the people well enough–he just wasn’t particularly bothered by it.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Obama is easily bothered by the will of the people when it contradicts his own vision for society. He has been, on the ObamaCare issue and others, strikingly reminiscent of the unnamed “Anti-republican” in James Madison’s brief satirical dialogue defending popular self-government, Who Are the Best Keepers of the People’s Liberties? The two characters are a bit exaggerated, but the stakes were high enough that he could be forgiven a touch of rhetorical excess. What’s interesting is the extent to which the exaggerated thoughts of the “Anti-republican” seem far less cartoonish when applied to modern Democrats.

The “Anti-republican” claims that “The people are stupid, suspicious, licentious. They cannot safely trust themselves. When they have established government they should think of nothing but obedience, leaving the care of their liberties to their wiser rulers.” His “Republican” interlocutor objects that suppressing people’s freedom to save them from themselves only makes them more likely to be taken advantage of without recourse. They should respect and obey their government, but also “watch over it.”

“Anti-republican” responds:

You look at the surface only, where errors float, instead of fathoming the depths where truth lies hid. It is not the government that is disposed to fly off from the people; but the people that are ever ready to fly off from the government. Rather say then, enlighten the government, warn it to be vigilant, enrich it with influence, arm it with force, and to the people never pronounce but two words — Submission and Confidence.

“Republican” responds that this is a “perversion of the natural order of things” by making “power the primary and central object of the social system, and Liberty but its satellite.” The “Anti-republican,” in full statist/technocratic mode, objects that the “Republican” just isn’t getting it:

The science of the stars can never instruct you in the mysteries of government. Wonderful as it may seem, the more you increase the attractive force of power, the more you enlarge the sphere of liberty; the more you make government independent and hostile towards the people, the better security you provide for their rights and interests.

“Republican” pleads for humility:

Mysterious indeed! But mysteries belong to religion, not to government; to the ways of the Almighty, not to the works of man. And in religion itself there is nothing mysterious to its author; the mystery lies in the dimness of the human sight. So in the institutions of man let there be no mystery, unless for those inferior beings endowed with a ray perhaps of the twilight vouchsafed to the first order of terrestrial creation.

Of course, all this is a bit more imaginative and erudite and even captivating in its own way compared to the discourse we have today, but the outlines and the principles are there. The story of the enlightened technocrat who knows better than the ragged masses and just wants you to trust him is an old story made new. Madison even somehow anticipates engines of outcast utilized by the left to squash debate–a sort of primitive Attack Watch. “Republican” gets the better of the exchange and ends with a libertarian flourish worth savoring, and keeping in mind:

Anti-republican. — You are destitute, I perceive, of every quality of a good citizen, or rather of a good subject. You have neither the light of faith nor the spirit of obedience. I denounce you to the government as an accomplice of atheism and anarchy.

Republican. — And I forbear to denounce you to the people, though a blasphemer of their rights and an idolater of tyranny. Liberty disdains to persecute.

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Glamorizing Abortion

Last month a Texas state senator shot to fame filibustering a draconian GOP-sponsored bill that would have severely hindered abortion rights in the state by closing some clinics and outlawing certain procedures. She did it in pink running shoes before changing into Reed Krakoff pumps for a Vogue photo shoot about the filibuster. That senator was of course Wendy Davis, and the description above is how reporters in the liberal media framed Davis’s 11-hour standoff against the Republican majority of the Texas legislature.

The majority of Americans, even those who otherwise identify as pro-choice, were uncomfortable with the “rights” that Davis was so enthusiastically defending, according to poll after poll. Despite the narrative that this bill endangered abortion as a whole, it’s clear that Americans see the distinction between first-trimester abortion and what Davis was fighting for: late-term termination of fetuses that have the capability of experiencing pain and surviving outside the womb. At the time Jonathan explained:

I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

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Last month a Texas state senator shot to fame filibustering a draconian GOP-sponsored bill that would have severely hindered abortion rights in the state by closing some clinics and outlawing certain procedures. She did it in pink running shoes before changing into Reed Krakoff pumps for a Vogue photo shoot about the filibuster. That senator was of course Wendy Davis, and the description above is how reporters in the liberal media framed Davis’s 11-hour standoff against the Republican majority of the Texas legislature.

The majority of Americans, even those who otherwise identify as pro-choice, were uncomfortable with the “rights” that Davis was so enthusiastically defending, according to poll after poll. Despite the narrative that this bill endangered abortion as a whole, it’s clear that Americans see the distinction between first-trimester abortion and what Davis was fighting for: late-term termination of fetuses that have the capability of experiencing pain and surviving outside the womb. At the time Jonathan explained:

I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

The narrative formed about Davis from the start centered not on her extreme position on abortion, but instead on her attractive appearance and pink sneakers. A recently published profile in Vogue discusses her looks at length, to the exclusion of the policy that she spent 11 hours defending in her now famous sneakers. In just the first paragraph of the piece, Vogue describes the woman in the image accompanying the text as “a stunning blonde, petite at five feet four inches and barefoot in 7 for All Mankind jeans and barely there makeup.” 

RedState blogger Erick Erickson found himself in quite a bit of hot water this week after referring to Davis as “Abortion Barbie” on his Twitter feed. Liberals are outraged at the comparison between the “stunning blonde” (as Vogue describes her) and the iconic doll known for her attractive blonde looks. The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson explains that the outrage stems from the assumption that by calling Davis “Abortion Barbie,” Erickson was really demeaning her intelligence. While Erickson’s tweet explains that Davis didn’t understand the facts of the Kermit Gosnell case (which is accurate), he in no way insinuates that is due to stupidity. Davidson seems to believe that implying that someone is a “Barbie,” a doll that has been marketed as a doctor, pilot, architect, and computer engineer, is an insult to intelligence verses a physical descriptor of a thin, attractive blonde woman who favors the color pink. 

The manufactured outrage surrounding Erickson’s comments, with no mention of the shallowness of Vogue‘s treatment of a sitting state senator in a state as large and influential as Texas, speaks volumes to just how committed the left really is to feminism, and how desperate they are to defend what they truly value: abortion, of any kind, on-demand. While Vogue can dwell on Davis’s physical appearance to the exclusion of all else, her detractors are vilified for doing the same. One can understand why Vogue would take this angle: it’s far more preferable to talk about Davis’s fashion choices (which are discussed at length throughout the piece) verses what she was made famous defending: subpar standards at clinics that perform major medical procedures on women and the dismemberment of fetuses who have been scientifically proven to feel pain. The Vogue/Erickson controversy is yet another example how the left insists on having its cake and eating it too, not to mention how the media continues to allow them to get away with it.

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What Davis Doesn’t Know About Gosnell

For months, most of the mainstream media treated the Kermit Gosnell murder case as if it was as significant as a suburban traffic court dispute. Only in the waning days of the trial of the Philadelphia doctor for the murder of infants born alive as a result of botched abortions did the topic attract much coverage. Yet even then, few journalists chose to think seriously about the implications of a case that raised serious questions about the quality of care and possibly illegal practices at clinics, especially those that specialized in the kind of late-term abortions that Gosnell performed. That unwillingness to address the core issues at the heart of this story would have important political consequences.

The Gosnell coverage deficit and refusal to think about what late-term abortion in this country actually means would dictate the subsequent media treatment of the battle in the Texas legislature over abortion. While the conservatives who proposed a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks were directly influenced by the Gosnell horrors, the mainstream liberal media saw only an attack on the right to abortion on demand and responded accordingly. Thus, when a heretofore-obscure Texas state senator staged a filibuster that successfully prevented (at least for a while) passage of the late term ban, overnight she was turned into a liberal national heroine with no one in her vast cheering section ever pausing to ask what she thought about Gosnell. Nor did they ask about the argument that since medical science now made most such babies viable outside the womb, perhaps the ban was a defense of human rights rather than an attack on women.

Thanks to the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, we now have an answer to that question. But it appears neither Davis, who appears to be using her status as the pro-abortion champion as a platform to run for governor of Texas, nor her supporters who have responded angrily to the Standard’s chutzpah, have actually given a serious thought to Gosnell or have the slightest understanding of what it means.

McCormack cornered Davis at the National Press Club where she was taking yet another bow from the media for her role in defending the right to abort infants that would likely survive outside the womb:

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For months, most of the mainstream media treated the Kermit Gosnell murder case as if it was as significant as a suburban traffic court dispute. Only in the waning days of the trial of the Philadelphia doctor for the murder of infants born alive as a result of botched abortions did the topic attract much coverage. Yet even then, few journalists chose to think seriously about the implications of a case that raised serious questions about the quality of care and possibly illegal practices at clinics, especially those that specialized in the kind of late-term abortions that Gosnell performed. That unwillingness to address the core issues at the heart of this story would have important political consequences.

The Gosnell coverage deficit and refusal to think about what late-term abortion in this country actually means would dictate the subsequent media treatment of the battle in the Texas legislature over abortion. While the conservatives who proposed a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks were directly influenced by the Gosnell horrors, the mainstream liberal media saw only an attack on the right to abortion on demand and responded accordingly. Thus, when a heretofore-obscure Texas state senator staged a filibuster that successfully prevented (at least for a while) passage of the late term ban, overnight she was turned into a liberal national heroine with no one in her vast cheering section ever pausing to ask what she thought about Gosnell. Nor did they ask about the argument that since medical science now made most such babies viable outside the womb, perhaps the ban was a defense of human rights rather than an attack on women.

Thanks to the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, we now have an answer to that question. But it appears neither Davis, who appears to be using her status as the pro-abortion champion as a platform to run for governor of Texas, nor her supporters who have responded angrily to the Standard’s chutzpah, have actually given a serious thought to Gosnell or have the slightest understanding of what it means.

McCormack cornered Davis at the National Press Club where she was taking yet another bow from the media for her role in defending the right to abort infants that would likely survive outside the womb:

THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The supporters of these bans, they argue that there really isn’t much of a difference between what happened in that Philadelphia case with abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell [killing born-alive infants] 23 weeks into pregnancy and legal late-term abortions at 23 weeks. What is the difference between those two, between legal abortion at 23 weeks and what Gosnell did? Do you see a distinction between those two [acts]?

SEN. WENDY DAVIS: I don’t know what happened in the Gosnell case. But I do know that it happened in an ambulatory surgical center. And in Texas changing our clinics to that standard obviously isn’t going to make a difference. The state of the law obviously has to assure that doctors are providing safe procedures for women and that proper oversight by the health and human services department is being given. It sounds as though there was a huge gap in that oversight, and no one can defend that. But that’s not the landscape of what’s happening in Texas. 

As McCormack later pointed out, the one thing Davis claimed to know about Gosnell was actually wrong. Gosnell was not operating an ambulatory surgical center, just an ordinary abortion mill that was known for being willing to violate the Pennsylvania law that prohibited late-term abortions. That’s significant because the Texas law she sought to filibuster required clinics in the state to conform to the standards of care at such facilities.

But the main point here is that, like the liberal media, Davis thinks the Gosnell case is irrelevant to the question of whether states should demand that the loose regulatory regime that currently applies to abortion clinics should be changed to require them to be as good as ambulatory surgical centers or whether viable 20+ week babies should be allowed to aborted. Rather than ponder whether such atrocities are occurring elsewhere under the guise of legality, they prefer to grandstand on the issue and claim defending dangerous late-term procedures that often border on, if not cross over into, infanticide is the same as protecting the right to perform abortions in the first trimester.

As McCormack also noted, Davis doesn’t recognize any limits on abortion and, like many others in the pro-choice community, pretends that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision protected all abortions, including late-term procedures, a position that is patently false.

Predictably, the Standard has been attacked by the left for even raising the question of Gosnell to Davis. In doing so, Media Matters repeated the liberal talking point that what Davis was doing in Texas was protecting the right to legal abortion while what Gosnell was doing was illegal. It quoted former New York columnists as saying that the issue with Gosnell was making abortion accessible and safe. But this is based on the myth that women went to Gosnell because they had no alternatives. In fact, his clinic was located in the middle of Philadelphia, where other clinics, including one run by Planned Parenthood, were available.

It is no small irony that abortion advocates claim that they want the procedure to be safe while simultaneously dismissing the idea that their clinics should have high health standards. While the assertion that all but five clinics in Texas would be closed by the regulations is almost certainly false, it still begs the question of why Davis and her supporters are so adamant about opposing improving facilities at what are well known to be highly profitable businesses.

The fact remains that those like Davis who seek to oppose all restrictions on abortion, even a reasonable one such as a ban after the point of viability is reached, are the real extremists on the issue. Gosnell is relevant to her celebrity because it is built on a willful desire to allow potential atrocities to continue undisturbed and a blind refusal to contemplate the moral and ethical issues behind late-term abortion. That so many in the media still seek to stifle such a discussion is nothing less than a disgrace.

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On Abortion, It’s Liberals vs. Public Opinion

If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

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If pro-abortion activist Wendy Davis was seeking to move the polls on public attitudes toward abortion and her own political fortunes, she seems to have succeeded–though surely not in the direction she intended. After Davis’s media blitz, Texas voters still made clear they’d vote against her for governor. And now the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll confirms what has been the case all along: Davis and the Democrats hold extremist views on abortion.

The Post reports: “By a margin of 56 to 27 percent, more Americans say they’d prefer to impose limits on abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than the 24-week mark established under current law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” That 20-week mark was the subject of the restrictive abortion bill that Davis worked so hard to stop in Texas–though the Texas bill also sought to upgrade health facilities for women, which Davis also strenuously opposed.

The media, which tends to be far more pro-abortion than the rest of the country, has tried to cloak that extremism with spin. In the case of Davis’s poll numbers, they were forced to argue that “Wendy Davis won’t be the next governor but could help Democrats win the larger political war.” In the writeup of the new abortion poll, the Post adds:

More broadly, overall support for legal abortion remains stable, with 55 percent saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 41 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. That finding is similar to a 2012 Post-ABC poll and surveys in recent years.

Pro-abortion activists may see that as a silver lining, but it’s not much out of step with the rest of the poll. Most abortions take place before the 20-week mark, which means a bill restricting abortion after that point would still mean abortion in most cases would be left in place. An additional ten percent of respondents didn’t think the 20-week restrictions would go far enough, making the Wendy Davis Democrats true outliers in public opinion.

The real silver lining for the left, if there is one, would be this part of the poll:

By more than a 2 to 1 margin — 66 to 30 percent — Americans say they prefer that abortion laws be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, rather than a state-by-state approach. This applies to both hardcore abortion rights supporters and opponents: 73 percent of those who say abortion should always be legal want a national rule, as do 72 percent of those who say it should be illegal in all cases.

A majority of Americans want a national abortion standard subject to Supreme Court approval of its constitutionality. This is where the left has some success. When American voters disapprove of liberal culture-war stands, the courts can often be counted on to legislate from the bench, especially when pressured by the administration and the media to get in line. The high court has already established precedent inventing a right to abort children in the Constitution, so getting national law to conform with popular opinion would be an uphill slog.

The other interesting aspect of the poll is the support for abortion, or opposition to the abortion facility regulations, that didn’t come from the self-identified liberal end of the spectrum:

Meanwhile a Columbus, Ohio, resident who asked that he only be identified by his first name, Robert, and described himself as “a conservative Republican” who backs abortion rights, said he did not understand why politicians were seeking to rewrite the nation’s abortion laws.

“I would really prefer that government focus on fiscal issues, and stay out of the social issues,” he said.

And Milo Shield, a professor at Augsburg College who lives in Prescott, Wis., said he also supports abortion access without restrictions until the 24th week of pregnancy. He questioned Wisconsin’s new law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, which Planned Parenthood said could shutter two of its four clinics in the state.

“There doesn’t seem to be data about whether it makes a difference to have a doctor present or hospital admitting privileges,” said Shield, who considers himself a libertarian and does not affiliate with either party. “I don’t know what Wisconsin’s rationale was. It’s like creationism — it’s shrouded in science, but not science-based.”

The second commenter here identifies as a libertarian, and the earlier comment was from a “conservative Republican” who expressed a fairly libertarian attitude by telling the government to focus on fiscal issues “and stay out of the social issues.” The libertarian approval of unrestricted abortion is something I find baffling. The science is pretty clear: the unborn child is the same human person before and after birth. Any policy approach that gives some people less value and fewer rights than others doesn’t strike me as particularly “libertarian.”

But it does get at a point encountered often in political discussions: people just aren’t that comfortable talking about abortion, at least to the extent they are usually comfortable talking about, say, taxes. The media plays a role in this, casting opposition to abortion as part of a “war on women,” a shameful smear that is simply not supported by the polling but which is intended to foreclose debate precisely because Americans side with conservatives on this issue more than Democrats, and certainly more than abortion absolutists on the left.

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The Blind Dissident and the American Left

Chinese dissident and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng got a taste of American partisan politics almost immediately after appealing to the U.S. for asylum last year. In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a high-profile visit to Beijing. She was representing the administration of Barack Obama, who was locked in a general-election campaign against Mitt Romney, who was taking a more hawkish line on Chinese trade and currency shenanigans to try to exploit what he felt was a foreign-policy weakness of the president’s.

That meant that Clinton’s trip would be under the microscope and every word overanalyzed. On top of that, Clinton is mulling a presidential bid in 2016 and her Chinese counterparts were quite aware that they were dealing with Obama’s possible successor. The optics and the politics had to be just right for a whole host of domestic reasons, to say nothing of the pressure from the Chinese side, which was preparing for a leadership shuffle of its own. And that’s when Chen threw everybody’s plans off.

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Chinese dissident and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng got a taste of American partisan politics almost immediately after appealing to the U.S. for asylum last year. In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a high-profile visit to Beijing. She was representing the administration of Barack Obama, who was locked in a general-election campaign against Mitt Romney, who was taking a more hawkish line on Chinese trade and currency shenanigans to try to exploit what he felt was a foreign-policy weakness of the president’s.

That meant that Clinton’s trip would be under the microscope and every word overanalyzed. On top of that, Clinton is mulling a presidential bid in 2016 and her Chinese counterparts were quite aware that they were dealing with Obama’s possible successor. The optics and the politics had to be just right for a whole host of domestic reasons, to say nothing of the pressure from the Chinese side, which was preparing for a leadership shuffle of its own. And that’s when Chen threw everybody’s plans off.

A public spat over human rights may have been the last thing Clinton and her Chinese counterparts needed at the moment, but the hearty attention being paid to her visit made it precisely the right time for Chen, known as the “blind dissident,” to make his move. Not only did his surprise visit to the American embassy add a layer of tension to Clinton’s visit, but he was also famous for warning of the dark side of China’s one-child policy and calling attention to the Chinese government’s forced abortions.

As soon as it became clear that Clinton’s attempts to get the Chinese government to let her grant Chen American asylum were off to a rough start, Romney criticized the administration’s handling of the issue and Republicans in Congress called a hearing to highlight Chen’s case. Romney was criticized for jumping into the case and the press used the incident to highlight division within Romney’s campaign. The congressional hearing, led by the staunchly pro-life Republican Chris Smith, featured a phone call to Chen directly. Chen was officially a partisan issue.

Smith’s hearing was derided by media voices as well, but it later emerged that the hearing is almost surely what secured Chen’s freedom after Clinton’s efforts went nowhere. Considering that back story, today’s New York Times feature claiming Chen’s first year in the U.S., at a brief fellowship with New York University, was beset by controversy and his work somewhat discredited by his association with conservative activists falls flat. The Times reports:

Chen, 41, has found himself enmeshed in controversy. Backed by a coterie of conservative figures, Mr. Chen has publicly accused N.Y.U. of bowing to Chinese government pressure and prematurely ending his fellowship this summer. The university says the fellowship was intended to be for only one year. Some of those around Mr. Chen also accuse the university of trying to shield him from conservative activists.

The sparring has grown fierce, with N.Y.U. officials accusing one of those conservative activists, Bob Fu, the president of a Texas-based Christian group that seeks to pressure China over its religious restrictions, of trying to track Mr. Chen surreptitiously through a cellphone and a tablet computer that Mr. Fu’s organization donated to him.

The controversy kicked up by Mr. Chen’s accusations against N.Y.U. has dismayed some of his supporters so much that a wealthy donor who had pledged to finance a three-year visiting scholar position for him at Fordham University recently withdrew the offer. That means Mr. Chen, who declined to be interviewed for this article and who returns to New York from a visit to Taiwan on Thursday, has to line up another source of financing. If that does not pan out, he will be left with a single job offer: from the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative research organization in New Jersey that is perhaps best known for its opposition to same-sex marriage and stem cell research.

With regard to the NYU controversy, it’s doubtful either side has a monopoly on the truth. The university seems to have wanted to have its cake and eat it too, by welcoming an international celebrity (and doing its part to help end a diplomatic standoff by offering Chen a fellowship) but hoping to keep the feisty dissident quiet enough not to antagonize the Chinese government, since NYU is opening a campus in Shanghai. There is also the matter of the three NYU researchers, all Chinese citizens, who have been charged with accepting bribes from Chinese entities to pass on the information about their work, which was sponsored by a U.S. federal grant from the NIH. Chen’s departure from NYU was unceremonious to say the least.

At the same time, it’s difficult to imagine NYU is guilty of some of the accusations leveled by Chen’s supporters, including that Chen was muzzled by an official NYU minder whose job it was to run interference for the school. There are few places more admiring of Chinese-style statism and authoritarianism than elite American universities, but that doesn’t mean they function as Stalinist reeducation camps or thought prisons.

But any intellectual romance Chen hoped to have with the American left or academia was doomed from the very start. The defense of unlimited, unregulated abortion is sacred to the American left. So is the idea that increasing the size and scope of government is the solution to virtually any problem, including those created by big government in the first place. The language the left deploys in these fights dehumanizes unborn children and deemphasizes individual rights and individual identity–“the government is us,” as President Obama said just this week. Chen has dedicated his life to warning of the consequences when those principles are taken to their frightful extremes. And he doesn’t seem to have any interest in stopping now.

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Abortion Horrors Make Texas Look Smart

The prevailing narrative about our contemporary political situation for liberals is that it is conservatives and Republicans who oppose compromise on every front. While that might be a fair characterization of the stand many House Republicans have taken on immigration reform, as a rule of thumb, that is a hypocritical and false position when analyzing the debate about taxes, entitlements, health care and many other issues since Democrats are no less ideological than the GOP on these questions. But that doesn’t stop liberal publications from continuing to put forward this line, especially with regard to social issues such as abortion. Today, the New York Times attempts to point out the folly of Texas conservatives who have pushed for a new law imposing limits (no abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for the mother’s health) and standards on the practice of abortion by comparing it to a new set of regulations that have promulgated in Maryland. But although the conceit of the piece is ostensibly about the sensible conduct of Maryland officials in contrast to the alleged extremism of the Texas GOP, it isn’t entirely supported by much of the content of the article.

Though the editors of the Times may have intended this feature to be another salvo on behalf of the pro-choice position in the culture war over abortion, the tale it tells underlines the concerns about illegal and dangerous practices that is driving the debate in Texas and elsewhere. By pointing out that the Maryland rules were impelled by abuses by abortionists and by also letting slip that one of the key elements of the Texas bill—compelling abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgery centers—was already in place in Pennsylvania without making it impossible for women to obtain first trimester abortions, the Times undermines the claim that what was filibustered in Austin to the cheers of liberals around the nation was either extreme or unreasonable. Nor do the claims that abortion is universally safe sound convincing after the account of yet another Gosnell-like atrocity.

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The prevailing narrative about our contemporary political situation for liberals is that it is conservatives and Republicans who oppose compromise on every front. While that might be a fair characterization of the stand many House Republicans have taken on immigration reform, as a rule of thumb, that is a hypocritical and false position when analyzing the debate about taxes, entitlements, health care and many other issues since Democrats are no less ideological than the GOP on these questions. But that doesn’t stop liberal publications from continuing to put forward this line, especially with regard to social issues such as abortion. Today, the New York Times attempts to point out the folly of Texas conservatives who have pushed for a new law imposing limits (no abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for the mother’s health) and standards on the practice of abortion by comparing it to a new set of regulations that have promulgated in Maryland. But although the conceit of the piece is ostensibly about the sensible conduct of Maryland officials in contrast to the alleged extremism of the Texas GOP, it isn’t entirely supported by much of the content of the article.

Though the editors of the Times may have intended this feature to be another salvo on behalf of the pro-choice position in the culture war over abortion, the tale it tells underlines the concerns about illegal and dangerous practices that is driving the debate in Texas and elsewhere. By pointing out that the Maryland rules were impelled by abuses by abortionists and by also letting slip that one of the key elements of the Texas bill—compelling abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgery centers—was already in place in Pennsylvania without making it impossible for women to obtain first trimester abortions, the Times undermines the claim that what was filibustered in Austin to the cheers of liberals around the nation was either extreme or unreasonable. Nor do the claims that abortion is universally safe sound convincing after the account of yet another Gosnell-like atrocity.

The centerpiece of the Times account is the story of Dr. Steven C. Brigham, a New Jersey-based practitioner who was charged with fetal deaths as the result of botched abortions that took place at his Elkton, Maryland clinic. The Elkton office, which was no more than a bare office in a mall, was where he completed late-term abortions that were begun in New Jersey where he had no legal right to conduct such procedures. Though he had a long record of abuses (he was banned from practicing medicine in Pennsylvania—the state that failed for decades to uncover the horrors committed at Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic) and had already transferred corporate ownership of his clinics to his mother, Brigham had a thriving business doing questionable and clearly unsafe late term procedures. He was found out when an 18-year-old patient with a 21-week-old fetus had her uterus and bowels pierced during an abortion carried out by Brigham and an inexperienced associate. Only after his victim was taken to Johns Hopkins University to save her life and one of the doctors there reported what had happened was Brigham called to account. After an investigation, he was charged with murdering numerous fetuses that were 24 or more weeks old. But the charges were dropped since prosecutors had no confidence that they could convict him. He lost his license to practice medicine but otherwise got off scot-free.

The article is at pains to give abortion advocates space to claim that it is generally safe. But after reading the Gosnell story and this one, it’s not clear to me why any objective observer would think that most abuses or problems are being accurately reported. It is likely that most first-term abortions are generally safely conducted in most places in this country. But the dangerous abortions are the ones being done on late-term fetuses that are either already illegal or being done in clinics that are not authorized to carry out the practice. To assume, as one doctor quoted in the piece asserts, “having an abortion is safer than an injection of penicillin,” is a leap of faith that isn’t borne out by the accounts of horrors provided in this same article.

The new Maryland regulations are less stringent in some respects than the ones proposed in Texas. They focus on whether clinics can respond effectively to emergencies, and do not require them to adhere to all the minute requirements imposed on hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers in most states. Nor do they require all doctors practicing in them to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. But they do impose standards on abortion providers that butchers like Gosnell and Brigham could not satisfy.

The implication is that Texas should pass laws that are equally lenient. That is debatable, but it is a reasonable position. However, liberal arguments about the Texas law haven’t been about how it can be changed in order to be more workable but instead have operated under the premise that any new regulations aimed at protecting women’s health in these clinics are, by definition, an attack on the right to abortion.

Moreover, as even the Times points out, the more restrictive path offered by Texas Republicans isn’t, as the left has tried to argue, synonymous with banning abortion. The article rightly notes that in 2011, Pennsylvania adopted one of the key elements of the Texas bill, requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers. That has forced some of their owners to spend money to make their facilities safer, but it has not shut them down. The claims that the changes will invariably bankrupt abortionists are belied by the generally profitable nature of their trade.

But no matter how much they claim that Gosnell and Brigham are exceptions, we know that the abortion industry—like any other big business or trade association—has a vested interest in underreporting problems and cooking statistics that might otherwise hurt public confidence in them. Though abortion rights advocates claim the alternative to preserving the laws as they now stand are back-alley coat hanger abortions, it’s becoming obvious that there are licensed doctors who are currently spilling blood in this manner and claiming they are following the law.

Like Gosnell, what Brigham was doing was slaughtering otherwise healthy babies that were clearly viable if taken out of the womb. You don’t have to oppose all abortions to know that late term procedures under these circumstances are morally repugnant. What conservatives in Texas are trying to do is to make it harder for such atrocities to happen and to make legal abortions safer. The Times may have thought it was illustrating how wrong the Texans have been. But the more we learn about this troubled industry, the weaker the arguments of their defenders sound.

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Will Late-Term Abortion Fight Go National?

If you relied on the fawning media coverage of Texas legislator Wendy Davis and her filibuster of a bill restricting abortion in Texas, you’d never know what it was Davis was actually taking a stand against. The Texas legislature proposed a bill that would have forced abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to further protect the health and safety of the women who use them, and it would have tailored the state’s abortion laws according to public opinion.

That helps explain why Davis resolutely refused to say what she was doing. In interviews she would avoid uttering the word “abortion” and was sometimes helped in this Orwellian quest by the rather embarrassing journalists from major networks who mostly asked her about her shoes. But then a funny thing happened: pollsters went out to take the temperature of the public on the issue, and the results revealed the vast canyon between the elite media and the American public on abortion–a divide which is stark on many issues, but perhaps none more so than this one.

And it’s throwing a wrench in the Democrats’ plans to “turn Texas blue,” reports Politico. Democrats were hoping to enlist Texas Hispanics in the effort, but there is an obstacle:

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If you relied on the fawning media coverage of Texas legislator Wendy Davis and her filibuster of a bill restricting abortion in Texas, you’d never know what it was Davis was actually taking a stand against. The Texas legislature proposed a bill that would have forced abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to further protect the health and safety of the women who use them, and it would have tailored the state’s abortion laws according to public opinion.

That helps explain why Davis resolutely refused to say what she was doing. In interviews she would avoid uttering the word “abortion” and was sometimes helped in this Orwellian quest by the rather embarrassing journalists from major networks who mostly asked her about her shoes. But then a funny thing happened: pollsters went out to take the temperature of the public on the issue, and the results revealed the vast canyon between the elite media and the American public on abortion–a divide which is stark on many issues, but perhaps none more so than this one.

And it’s throwing a wrench in the Democrats’ plans to “turn Texas blue,” reports Politico. Democrats were hoping to enlist Texas Hispanics in the effort, but there is an obstacle:

On the surface, at least, the polls don’t look promising for a party that’s basking in the national spotlight because of a fight over abortion rights. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 53 percent of Hispanic Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. That’s a lower percentage than white evangelical Protestants and Mormons, but it’s higher than all other religious voting groups, including white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, and Jews.

And Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, cited a poll by the Wilson Perkins Allen research firm that found a 2-1 “pro-life” margin among the state’s Hispanic voters. The poll, conducted for the state GOP, showed that 62 percent of Texas Hispanics who voted in the 2012 election described themselves as pro-life while just 32 percent called themselves pro-choice, according to Chris Perkins, the pollster who worked on the survey.

It turns out that Texans don’t vote based on the color and style of Wendy Davis’s sneakers. The Politico story quotes liberal activists saying that they kind of knew that already and preferred to conduct their Hispanic outreach without emphasizing the national Democratic Party’s uncontained enthusiasm for abortion. The Democrats’ position on abortion conflicts with Hispanics’ religious belief, and it also conflicts with basic biology. Hispanics in Texas are more pro-life and pro-science than most Democrats, but, Politico adds, “The fight was forced upon them, they say, when Gov. Rick Perry added the anti-abortion bill to last month’s special session and revived it in a second special session that started July 1.”

No one is actually forced to defend unsafe, unlimited and unregulated abortion; Texas Democrats are merely following the national party’s lead. As for the religious aspect, it could not have helped Democrats that their supporters showed up to chant “hail Satan” in Austin. But the Politico story includes this revealing bit of strategy from the left: “Some Democratic strategists say the key to winning over Latinos is to avoid focusing too much on any one issue — especially abortion.” Democrats seem to understand that if voters ever figure out the true aims of American liberalism, they’ll run in the other direction.

The mainstream media obviously didn’t get that memo. Journalists seem eager to nationalize this debate, and they may get their wish. Marco Rubio is reportedly on the cusp of sponsoring a Senate bill that would limit late-term abortion:

Anti-abortion groups have asked Rubio to take the lead, and while his office says no final decision has been made, the senator is expected to sign on this week after returning from a family vacation.

The bill, which has zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, would make exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother — but not for cases when a mother’s health is deemed in danger.

The most common reason to propose legislation that won’t pass is to get everyone on record about it. Congressional Republicans will keep proposing bills to repeal ObamaCare to make a point about the bill’s continued unpopularity. If Rubio wants the Senate to vote on a bill restricting late-term abortion, it’s because he thinks he’s on the side of the public–and Democrats aren’t.

The other possibility is that Rubio is trying to get back in the good graces of conservative primary voters after incurring their wrath by backing comprehensive immigration reform. This may give him something of an edge over his rivals by being the public face of the pro-life movement, but it won’t make too much of a difference. Rick Santorum will still be more associated with opposition to abortion than any newcomers, and the other prospective 2016 GOP candidates in the Senate will vote for the bill anyway.

In all likelihood, Rubio is reading the national polls and thinks Democrats have more to lose from a vote on abortion than Republicans. But Rubio better be prepared for the waves of hostility from the media if he takes up this fight. If you’re on the side of life, you don’t get asked about your shoes.

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Texas Filibuster Ignores Gosnell Lessons

Liberals have a new folk heroine today. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is the idol of the left after her 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature helped derail a bill that sought to restrict late-term abortions and enforce new health regulations for clinics that perform the procedure. As far as Davis was concerned, the legislation that would have banned (with some exceptions) abortions after 20 weeks was nothing less than an attack on a woman’s right to choose and had to be stopped at all costs. A crowd of supporters that had thronged to the Austin statehouse agreed with the Fort Worth Democrat and their demonstration disrupted the proceedings long enough to prevent the bill’s passage before time ran out on the legislature’s session. The president of the United States also applauded the spectacle. As the Washington Post noted, President Obama took time out from his African tour to tweet about the Austin dustup in a post that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight” and added the hashtag #StandWithWendy.

As far as the mainstream liberal media is concerned, not only is Davis the winner of the exchange but the attempt to pass the bill is yet another example of the extremism driving Republicans these days. The GOP legislators who sponsored the bills are, we are told, just another bunch of Todd Akins who will, if unhindered, doom the Republicans to perpetual defeat as an enlightened America rejects their unhinged efforts to impinge on the freedom of women.

But I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

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Liberals have a new folk heroine today. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is the idol of the left after her 11-hour filibuster in the Texas legislature helped derail a bill that sought to restrict late-term abortions and enforce new health regulations for clinics that perform the procedure. As far as Davis was concerned, the legislation that would have banned (with some exceptions) abortions after 20 weeks was nothing less than an attack on a woman’s right to choose and had to be stopped at all costs. A crowd of supporters that had thronged to the Austin statehouse agreed with the Fort Worth Democrat and their demonstration disrupted the proceedings long enough to prevent the bill’s passage before time ran out on the legislature’s session. The president of the United States also applauded the spectacle. As the Washington Post noted, President Obama took time out from his African tour to tweet about the Austin dustup in a post that read, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight” and added the hashtag #StandWithWendy.

As far as the mainstream liberal media is concerned, not only is Davis the winner of the exchange but the attempt to pass the bill is yet another example of the extremism driving Republicans these days. The GOP legislators who sponsored the bills are, we are told, just another bunch of Todd Akins who will, if unhindered, doom the Republicans to perpetual defeat as an enlightened America rejects their unhinged efforts to impinge on the freedom of women.

But I have one question for those insisting that this is the only possible interpretation of what happened yesterday: Doesn’t anybody remember the Gosnell case? After what we saw happen in Philadelphia, no matter whether you favor abortion rights or oppose them, how can any measure that is aimed at preventing late term abortions (which are already illegal in most parts of the country after 24 weeks) and ensuring the places where they occur will be prepared to deal with medical emergencies including live births be dismissed so cavalierly?

It is likely true that many of those who supported the Texas bills were motivated by a desire to chip away at abortion rights. But, like the battle over background checks for gun purchases, you don’t have to be against the Second Amendment to understand that some gun regulations are sensible and even necessary. In this day and age when medical science has made it possible for babies born after 20 weeks to often survive outside the womb, the discussion about late term abortions can’t be conducted in absolute terms about choice in the way they once were.

Exceptions to this provision are possible due to health concerns or other problems (something the Texas bill took into account), but as the evidence in the Gosnell case showed, the line between a permissible abortion and infanticide can become very hazy at that late stage. The willingness of the pro-abortion rights community to embrace such procedures and to view any limits on them as a threat to all women is no different from the way the National Rifle Association views background checks as the thin edge of the wedge that threatens to take away all Second Amendment rights.

More to the point, the main argument of Davis and the chorus that is echoing her points in the media today is that the impact of the bill’s new health regulations would have closed down every abortion clinic in Texas and thus created a de facto ban. This is almost certainly an exaggeration, as it is likely that some clinics in Texas already meet the standards set by the state for hospital-style surgical centers and that doctors who work there should have admitting privileges to local hospitals or could do so without going out of business. Indeed, we would certainly hope that Planned Parenthood clinics–which we are assured provide the best care for women–would already do so.

But if that is not currently the case with most clinics in Texas, then the question should be: why not? Rather than flaying those seeking to require these standards and questioning their motives, those who truly care about the health of women should be asking the owners of these clinics why they are operating without being prepared to assure the safety of their patients.

If the Gosnell case—in which Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an otherwise respected and experienced Philadelphia physician and clinic owner was found to have murdered live infants who were the result of botched late-term abortions and to have operated a facility that did not meet even the most minimal health standards—should have taught us anything it is that abortion providers need to be held accountable and to be required to be prepared to assure the safety of those who make use of their services.

Amid the cheers Senator Davis is hearing today, there ought to be someone asking whether she or her highly-placed supporters really believe the American people think there is something extreme about opposing the abortion of a healthy baby that has been in the womb for 21 weeks or in demanding that those who perform such procedures be able—unlike Gosnell—to give assurances about the health of the mother.

It needs to be repeated that you don’t need to oppose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy—something most Americans don’t wish to be made illegal—to understand that a defense of late-term abortion or inadequate clinics is not about women’s health or constitutional rights.

Some on the left feared that the Gosnell case might discredit the pro-choice cause and that is almost certainly what caused most of the media to initially ignore the story and then to downplay or minimize it once they did notice it. If this country can have a discussion about late-term abortions of healthy fetuses and inadequate clinics without Gosnell being mentioned—as was the case with almost every account of the Texas filibuster—then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Gosnell case and the awful lessons that must be drawn from it about the state of the abortion industry have already been forgotten.

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The GOP’s Moron Factor

Republicans have spent the last several months arguing about the lessons of the 2012 election with both establishment types and grass roots activists mixing it up on a variety of issues. But if there was one conclusion that surely everyone in the party agreed upon it was that GOP candidates and officials needed to avoid mentioning rape, especially when discussing their opposition to abortion. The spectacular idiocy of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin—who publicly doubted that women could become pregnant as a result of rape—didn’t just transform his opponent Claire McCaskill from a certain loser to an easy winner and sink Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, when the latter said something not quite as foolish. It also allowed Democrats to trash all Republicans as Neanderthal nitwits seeking to abuse women.

But apparently Arizonan Republican Representative Trent Franks didn’t get the memo. Franks demonstrated that yesterday when he claimed during a Judiciary Committee debate that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is “very low.” But Franks had to repeat the assertion even in a later clarification before he realized what he had done. With a single phrase, Franks had handed Democrats on the committee and elsewhere a chance to revive their fake “War on Women” theme that helped mobilize the Democratic base in 2012. Though it can be asserted that they didn’t need any new excuses to try the same tactic in 2014, Franks has made it a lot easier. Just as was the case in 2012, Republicans are learning the hard way that foolish statements—even if they are ripped out of their context or unfairly characterized—allow Democrats to change the subject from serious moral issues to a topic they’d rather talk about: why some Republicans are morons.

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Republicans have spent the last several months arguing about the lessons of the 2012 election with both establishment types and grass roots activists mixing it up on a variety of issues. But if there was one conclusion that surely everyone in the party agreed upon it was that GOP candidates and officials needed to avoid mentioning rape, especially when discussing their opposition to abortion. The spectacular idiocy of Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin—who publicly doubted that women could become pregnant as a result of rape—didn’t just transform his opponent Claire McCaskill from a certain loser to an easy winner and sink Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, when the latter said something not quite as foolish. It also allowed Democrats to trash all Republicans as Neanderthal nitwits seeking to abuse women.

But apparently Arizonan Republican Representative Trent Franks didn’t get the memo. Franks demonstrated that yesterday when he claimed during a Judiciary Committee debate that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is “very low.” But Franks had to repeat the assertion even in a later clarification before he realized what he had done. With a single phrase, Franks had handed Democrats on the committee and elsewhere a chance to revive their fake “War on Women” theme that helped mobilize the Democratic base in 2012. Though it can be asserted that they didn’t need any new excuses to try the same tactic in 2014, Franks has made it a lot easier. Just as was the case in 2012, Republicans are learning the hard way that foolish statements—even if they are ripped out of their context or unfairly characterized—allow Democrats to change the subject from serious moral issues to a topic they’d rather talk about: why some Republicans are morons.

Can it be that conservatives have already forgotten how one ill-considered vulgar insult uttered by Rush Limbaugh diverted the public’s attention from the Obama administration’s attack on the religious freedom of Catholics and others who opposed its Health and Human Services mandate? In the space of a couple of days, instead of a national debate about the way ObamaCare was violating religious liberty and imposing a burden on Catholic institutions to pay for services that violated their consciences we got a full-scale argument about the way Republicans were oppressing women. Liberal activist Sandra Fluke was transformed into a feminist hero instead of being mocked, as she should have been, for her upper-middle-class plea for free birth control.

It is true that this was largely the work of a mainstream liberal media that preferred to demonize conservatives rather than to focus on a threat to religious freedom, but surely Rush and others on the right were already aware that the world isn’t fair and that they must always remember that the media playing field is tilted against them. Anyone who doesn’t already know this isn’t smart enough to be in Congress. It was in the context of that gaffe that Akin’s comments and those of Mourdock became a rallying cry from Democrats last fall.

Franks has done something just as stupid. His remarks came in the middle of a debate about a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks including those as a result of rape or incest. Abortion rights advocates view any attempt to restrict the procedure in much the same manner as the National Rifle Association sees even the most reasonable regulations of guns, and it is to be expected that this measure will be fought tooth and nail. The wisdom of the 20-week bill can be debated, but it is part of a necessary discussion about the morality of late-term abortions in an era when medical advances have changed the way we look at such pregnancies. Yet rather than discuss the fact that babies aborted after 20 weeks are likely to be viable human beings—a fact that was highlighted during the Kermit Gosnell trial—the national discussion has turned again to Republicans and rape.

In his defense, Franks is right to assert that the instances of a rape victim waiting until 20 weeks to have an abortion are probably quite rare. But that wasn’t what he said at first. What he did utter was close enough to Akin’s infamous crack that it ensured that he would be the latest Republican turned into a piñata for liberals. Franks and other Republicans not only need to learn how to discuss social issues without sounding cavalier about rape. They need to remember that if they don’t stick to their moral talking points Democrats looking for another Akin will sucker them into rape comments.

Some would argue the GOP is better off forgetting about social issues altogether but so long as the national discussion is focused on conservative principles, such as the value of life or religious liberty, the Republicans have the high ground. But the moment they start using the words rape and pregnancy in the same sentence they are doomed. The outcome of future elections may well hinge on whether Republicans can remember this very simple rule.

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The Dangers of Unrestricted Plan B Access

The battle over universal access to the sale of emergency contraception, known as “Plan B” or the “morning after pill” has, it seems, reached a conclusion. In April the FDA announced that it was lowering the minimum age for over-the-counter sales of the drug to 15 from 17, and today the White House announced it was withdrawing its previous opposition to the ruling, and removing all opposition to age restrictions in general, making it possible for any girl, of any age, to obtain the drug. Previously President Obama said he was “bothered by the idea of 10- or 11-year-old girls buying the drugs as easily as ‘bubble gum or batteries.’” President Obama went from being uncomfortable with 15-year-olds obtaining the pill to comfortable with 11-year-olds doing so in two short months. Like other “evolutions” by the Obama White House, this was likely spurred on by pressure from his far-left base, in this case “reproductive rights” advocates who see any attempt to regulate birth control or abortion as an affront. The Obama administration has reversed its opposition to over-the-counter sales of the pill, now putting it within reach of any consumer, regardless of age. 

The message this sends to children and parents alike is troubling, to say the least. In a world where a 26-year-old is young enough to still qualify as a child on their parent’s health insurance, a child of 10 years of age can walk into any neighborhood drug store and purchase a massive dose of hormones with no oversight or supervision, not from their parents and not from medical professionals. As any parent will tell you, they are deluged with permission slips–to ride the bus, to participate in after-school activities, for the school nurse to administer Tylenol or prescription drugs. In this culture of treating young adults as toddlers, which the president and his fellow liberals do nothing but perpetuate, the FDA and White House’s decision is glaringly hypocritical. A child cannot decide to take a pain reliever for a headache while on the school campus, but they can have full access to a powerful drug that might have an impact on their development.

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The battle over universal access to the sale of emergency contraception, known as “Plan B” or the “morning after pill” has, it seems, reached a conclusion. In April the FDA announced that it was lowering the minimum age for over-the-counter sales of the drug to 15 from 17, and today the White House announced it was withdrawing its previous opposition to the ruling, and removing all opposition to age restrictions in general, making it possible for any girl, of any age, to obtain the drug. Previously President Obama said he was “bothered by the idea of 10- or 11-year-old girls buying the drugs as easily as ‘bubble gum or batteries.’” President Obama went from being uncomfortable with 15-year-olds obtaining the pill to comfortable with 11-year-olds doing so in two short months. Like other “evolutions” by the Obama White House, this was likely spurred on by pressure from his far-left base, in this case “reproductive rights” advocates who see any attempt to regulate birth control or abortion as an affront. The Obama administration has reversed its opposition to over-the-counter sales of the pill, now putting it within reach of any consumer, regardless of age. 

The message this sends to children and parents alike is troubling, to say the least. In a world where a 26-year-old is young enough to still qualify as a child on their parent’s health insurance, a child of 10 years of age can walk into any neighborhood drug store and purchase a massive dose of hormones with no oversight or supervision, not from their parents and not from medical professionals. As any parent will tell you, they are deluged with permission slips–to ride the bus, to participate in after-school activities, for the school nurse to administer Tylenol or prescription drugs. In this culture of treating young adults as toddlers, which the president and his fellow liberals do nothing but perpetuate, the FDA and White House’s decision is glaringly hypocritical. A child cannot decide to take a pain reliever for a headache while on the school campus, but they can have full access to a powerful drug that might have an impact on their development.

Previously, any teen under the age of 17 had to get a prescription to obtain the drug, which, taken up to 72 hours after intercourse, greatly lowers the likelihood of unwanted pregnancy. The reasoning behind the previous ruling was the hope that medical professionals would ensure that 14-year olds having intercourse were doing so with due care and legally (i.e. not as victims of statutory or forcible rape). According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), a left-leaning policy organization with strong ties with Planned Parenthood:

Concerns about statutory rape are particularly acute in regard to the youngest adolescents. Although relatively small proportions of 13-14-year-olds have had intercourse, those who become sexually active at an early age are especially likely to have experienced coercive sex: Seventy-four percent of women who had intercourse before age 14 and 60% of those who had sex before age 15 report having had a forced sexual experience. As policymakers and the public have become increasingly aware that the sexual partners of minor adolescent women are often not adolescents themselves but men 3-6 years older, concern has grown that protective measures, in the form of increasing enforcement of statutory rape laws, are necessary to guard these young women from abuse and exploitation.

With the Obama administration’s decision to provide access to these young women, one outside barrier between a child and victimization has disappeared. 

How likely is it that a young girl would be able to secretly make an appointment with her family doctor in order to obtain more reliable forms of birth control? If Plan B is the only accessible form, how many young girls will start to use the hormone as their primary source of birth control? Does the FDA know how regularly taking large doses of Plan B (it’s called “emergency” contraception for a reason) in girls as young as 11 years of age will affect their biological development as they reach puberty? While the Obama administration was still against the ruling to allow unrestricted access to the drug, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius said:

After careful consideration of the F.D.A. summary review, I have concluded that the data submitted by Teva [an Israeli pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug] do not conclusively establish that Plan B One-Step should be made available over the counter for all girls of reproductive age.

Despite the fact that outside studies haven’t been conducted on the safety of the drug for girls as young as 10 and 11 by any agency besides the company most likely to profit from the drug going over-the-counter, the Obama White House has changed course after they themselves stated the need for independent review of the safety of these drugs for 10- and 11-year-old girls, 10 percent of whom can bear children.

The justification for this reversal seems to be the desire to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies. The argument is that if girls were required to gain their parents’ consent for using Plan B, fear of punishment or shame about becoming pregnant would prevent them from speaking about their problem. That would, we are told, make unwanted pregnancies and abortions more likely to happen. When the pill was first introduced onto the market, many claimed the frequency of abortion in the United States would plummet. Yet that has not been the case. In 2007 the Washington Times reported:

A review of 23 studies on EC “demonstrate convincingly that greater access [to the pills] increases use,” Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond, James Trussell and Chelsea B. Polis said in their article in this month’s issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

But predictions that easier access to EC would produce “a direct, substantial impact … may have been overly optimistic,” they wrote, calling for more research “to explain this finding.”

“To date, no study has shown that increased access to this method reduces unintended pregnancy or abortion rates,” the authors concluded, adding that while some of the 23 studies taken individually have deficiencies, “the consistency of their primary findings is hard to ignore.”

The safety of sexual intercourse for minors, however, is a topic that has been widely studied. The risk of cervical cancer for women is higher for women who became sexually active before their 18th birthdays due to an increased risk of contracting the HPV virus. It is recommended that any woman, regardless of age, receive the Gardasil vaccine to prevent HPV before they become sexually active and that they receive regular exams every year after becoming sexually active. The likelihood is that 11-year-old girls are not aware of this and wouldn’t act on it even if they did. But if their parents are not aware of their sexual activity, how can these girls be protected? 

Given all of this information, which the Obama administration was aware of when it opposed unrestricted access just last week, the decision to reverse course and allow 10-year-old girls access to this medication is the wrong decision. While these ideologues claim to have the best interests of young girls in mind, you don’t have to be an opponent of abortion to understand they have instead made it more dangerous for young girls and women who need the protection of our society most. 

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Gosnell Not as Unique as We Thought

Throughout the discussion about the crimes of Kermit Gosnell we were repeatedly assured that the atrocities that took place in his clinic were exceptional and should in no way be imputed to other providers of abortion services. This is a tenet of faith for those seeking to defend abortion rights since they seem to fear that any attention focused on late-term abortions impacts the discussion about the legality of the procedure under any circumstances. But if Gosnell is not quite the outlier that some have tried to argue that he is, then the nation may have to confront the fact that what went on in West Philadelphia isn’t the only place where infants were slaughtered as the result of botched abortions.

Thus, the news today that another such case may be about to surface in Texas may realize the worst fears of both sides in the abortion debate.

As the American Spectator notes (they cite a Houston Chronicle story that is difficult to find on its website), former employees of a Houston clinic are claiming that babies were routinely killed in the same fashion as the ones Gosnell was convicted of murdering: by snipping their spinal cords. Like the testimony in the Philadelphia case, reading this account is not for those with weak stomachs. The details of fully formed infants being mutilated in this manner are horrifying. While those implicated are entitled to a presumption of innocence and we should wait until police complete their investigation, these new hair-raising allegations should cause enforcement officials and health care inspectors, not to mention the rest of us, to wonder just how common such activities really are.

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Throughout the discussion about the crimes of Kermit Gosnell we were repeatedly assured that the atrocities that took place in his clinic were exceptional and should in no way be imputed to other providers of abortion services. This is a tenet of faith for those seeking to defend abortion rights since they seem to fear that any attention focused on late-term abortions impacts the discussion about the legality of the procedure under any circumstances. But if Gosnell is not quite the outlier that some have tried to argue that he is, then the nation may have to confront the fact that what went on in West Philadelphia isn’t the only place where infants were slaughtered as the result of botched abortions.

Thus, the news today that another such case may be about to surface in Texas may realize the worst fears of both sides in the abortion debate.

As the American Spectator notes (they cite a Houston Chronicle story that is difficult to find on its website), former employees of a Houston clinic are claiming that babies were routinely killed in the same fashion as the ones Gosnell was convicted of murdering: by snipping their spinal cords. Like the testimony in the Philadelphia case, reading this account is not for those with weak stomachs. The details of fully formed infants being mutilated in this manner are horrifying. While those implicated are entitled to a presumption of innocence and we should wait until police complete their investigation, these new hair-raising allegations should cause enforcement officials and health care inspectors, not to mention the rest of us, to wonder just how common such activities really are.

One needn’t support the pro-life side of the abortion debate to understand that Gosnell may have changed the nature of the national conversation at least as far as late-term abortions are concerned. Advances in medical science since Roe v. Wade was decided have made it more difficult to act as if a fetus in the sixth, seventh or eighth month is merely a clump of cells rather than a human being who can survive outside the womb. If clinics are performing late-term abortions, including in states like Pennsylvania where they have long been illegal, it is because the health care industry and regulators have largely turned a blind eye to the possibility that Gosnells exist.

If the Houston case proves to be another trip into the nightmare world of the Gosnell case, then it will be a signal that complacence about such abuses must end. As long as we can pretend that Gosnell was a singular monster rather than a product of a culture that considered such infants, whether inside the womb or out of it, as a problem that needed to be fixed by snipping their spines or tearing them to pieces, then we needn’t be haunted by the possibility that more such cases are lurking below the surface of our national consciousness.

We know that women that resort to butchers like Gosnell or others who behave in the same fashion because they are desperate. We also know the children who survive the ordeal of botched abortions have the odds stacked against them, both medically and in terms of what is most likely a life of deprivation. But that is no excuse for refusing to protect them. If we are a civilized society, the thought that there are more Gosnells out there—something that seems more likely than not in the wake of the news about the Houston case—should motivate all of us, no matter where we stand on Roe, to speak out and act to ensure such persons are prevented from killing any more infants.

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