In a new James O’Keefe-style sting operation on Planned Parenthood, the pro-life organization Live Action set out to prove, and succeeded in doing so, that Planned Parenthood will help any woman abort their fetus for any reason, even the most reprehensible. In previous stings, Live Action caught Planned Parenthood employees accepting donations in order to reduce the number of African Americans born in the United States. This time around, they appear to show that not only will they help a woman abort at the last possible week in order to achieve the desired sex of the baby, but they’ll also give tips on how to manipulate Medicaid in order to do so.
Planned Parenthood, which counts on taxpayer dollars to fill one third of its operating budget, is no stranger to controversy about its questionable ethics and has again refused to apologize for them. The Huffington Post reports:
This spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America also told The Huffington Post that the organization condemns seeking abortions on the basis of gender, but its policy is to provide “high quality, confidential, nonjudgmental care to all who come into” its health centers. That means that no Planned Parenthood clinic will deny a woman an abortion based on her reasons for wanting one, except in those states that explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortions (Arizona, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois).
Reading about the movement toward some version of a pro-life view that Alana, Jonathan and Pete discussed last week, it struck me that there’s such a squishy amorphous center, with the only clear positions on the issue at the fringes.
It seems to me that the general vagueness can be put down to the fact that even after four decades of debate, we still haven’t given ourselves really honest answers to the stark questions surrounding abortion. And I’m not talking about the constitutional issues.
Does life begin at conception? If life doesn’t begin at conception, when does it begin, and what do we mean by “life” anyway? Is it a “fetus” in there, or a baby human being? Is it painful for the “fetus” to be chopped up and vacuumed out?
The fact is, these aren’t difficult questions to answer.
I wanted to add to the comments of Jonathan and Alana regarding the new Gallup poll showing that just 41 percent of Americans now say they are pro-choice (a new low) while 50 percent identify as pro-life.
In terms of the actual number of abortions in America, the figure had dropped from a national high of more than 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.21 million today, a low not seen since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision legalizing the practice in Roe v. Wade. And as the Gallup survey suggests, America is becoming more, not less, pro-life. (A Gallup poll conducted in May 2009 found 51 percent of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42 percent “pro-choice.” This was the first time a majority of U.S. adults identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question more than 15 years ago.)
What explains both the drop in the number of abortions and the shift in public attitudes?
Recent polls have shown that the Democrats’ efforts to use social issues to help demonize Republicans and mobilize support for President Obama’s re-election are flopping. The gender gap between the parties is evaporating rather than getting wider, as liberals had hoped. It is in this context that the Gallup poll on attitudes toward abortion that Alana mentioned earlier must be understood. The problem for the president is not just that a clear majority of Americans now call themselves “pro-life” rather than “pro-choice.” As Alana and Adam Serwer have noted, a close reading of the survey shows most of those polled don’t share the opinions of many in the pro-life movement. But these findings ought to inform our understanding of attitudes about social issues in general that extend beyond the narrow choice/life dichotomy at a time when the Democrats are trying desperately to gin up fear about a Republican war on women.
The point here isn’t that most Americans take an ideological approach to this issue. As Gallup points out, since the very beginning of polling about abortion, only a minority of Americans thought it should be legal under all circumstances (currently 25 percent) with a comparable number believing it should be illegal under all circumstances (currently 20 percent). The majority of Americans are in the uncertain middle, believing it ought to be legal only under some circumstances even if many of those holding such views identify with the pro-life movement. That is why a campaign geared toward polarizing the country on social issues will not help win a general election for the candidate of either major party.
The percentage of Americans identifying as “pro-choice” has been steadily decreasing in recent years, and this year is no exception. Gallup found that just 41 percent now say they are pro-choice – a record low – while 50 percent identify as pro-life.
But as Adam Serwer points out, that isn’t the whole story. The majority of Americans, 52 percent, still say that abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances,” which many pro-life activists would find unacceptable. From the Gallup survey:
Gallup’s longest-running measure of abortion views, established in 1975, asks Americans if abortion should be legal in all circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances. Since 2001, at least half of Americans have consistently chosen the middle position, saying abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, and the 52 percent saying this today is similar to the 50 percent in May 2011. The 25 percent currently wanting abortion to be legal in all cases and the 20 percent in favor of making it illegal in all cases are also similar to last year’s findings.
Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng is still confined to a hospital in Beijing, and the Chinese government is reportedly dragging its feet on issuing him a passport. As with any case like this, time is not on Chen’s side. With each passing day, media attention and public pressure diminishes. Already, the Chinese government is allegedly holding members of Chen’s family under house arrest. And obviously the crackdown could get worse as the story continues to fade from the front pages.
In an effort to keep attention on the case, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) plans to hold a hearing on Chen’s plight next week, Josh Rogin reports:
In an interview in the Capitol building, Smith said he intends to hold another congressional hearing on May 15 on the Chen case — to follow up on the hearing he held May 3, which Chen actually phoned into. Smith has invited Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and State Department Counselor Harold Koh to the hearing, but those officials have yet to RSVP.
“I don’t think they want the hearing frankly. But we need to keep the focus on this,” Smith said. …
“The administration has hermetically sealed his message, the man and why he was in trouble, from this incident,” Smith told The Cable. “Have you heard anybody talk about that he was defending women from forced abortion? Hillary Clinton? Not a word. I Googled it.”
As Pete noted yesterday, the talk about the evolution of President Obama’s stand on gay marriage tends to gloss over the fact that rather than a straight path to enlightenment, it has been a typical cynical politician’s approach to controversy. Since he supported it while running for the State Senate, opposed it while running for the Senate in 2004 and for the presidency in 2008 and now supports it again in 2012, we can see that his position was not principled but the product of careful analysis about the needs of the voters he was facing in each case. This is hardly shocking, but I suspect the president won’t be branded as a flip-flopper by his adoring fans in the mainstream press.
That’s significant not so much because it reveals the media’s bias on social issues but because it shows the different standard to which Mitt Romney has been subjected for his stands on social issues by some of the same outlets that are celebrating Obama’s statement today. Though Democratic strategists are currently attempting to paint Romney as a right-wing extremist, for most of the last year they and their allies in the press regularly lambasted Romney for being a serial flip-flopper. But in the wake of Obama’s politically motivated zigzag path to support for gay marriage, isn’t it time to acknowledge there is no difference between that and Romney’s equally tortured route to opposition to abortion?
To be precise, it’s Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute that will reportedly host Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – the official behind the birth control mandate – as its commencement speaker.
As you might imagine, the Catholic Cardinal Newman Society is furious:
It is scandalous and outrageous that America’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university has elected to provide this prestigious platform to a publicly “pro-choice” Catholic who is most responsible for the Obama administration’s effort to restrict the Constitution’s first freedom — the right to free exercise of religion — while threatening the survival of many Catholic and other religious colleges and universities, schools, charities, hospitals and other apostolates.
Georgetown insults all Americans by this honor. The selection is especially insulting to faithful Catholics and their bishops, who are engaged in the fight for religious liberty and against abortion. The contrast is stark between Georgetown University and those faithful Catholic colleges and universities that have stood for faith and freedom.
There is a war on women taking place. The Democratic machine is working at high-speed disseminating the phrase, and in the meantime, distorting the truth on the real nature of the war. What the left has portrayed as a “War on Women” is viewed by many, including this blog, as a “War for Religious Freedom.” Being a free-thinking feminist myself, these are some timely battles in the “War on Women” that I’d love to see these self-proclaimed feminists on the American left express at least a modicum of concern over:
- Widespread rapes taking place in camps occupied by women who lost their homes in the Haitian earthquake.
- A teenage Moroccan girl was recently forced to marry her rapist by a judge, leading to the girl’s suicide.
- Disfiguring and sometimes fatal acid attacks on women around the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Bangladesh and Cambodia
- Sex-selective abortion (also known as gendercide) that has erased the possibility of life for over 163 million women worldwide
- A wide gender disparity in primary and secondary education worldwide
Instead of tackling any one of these important issues that set back the clock on women’s rights centuries, the feminist left has decided that the possible denial of free contraception is what constitutes a war on the fairer sex. By focusing on this to the exclusion of all else, by being the cheering section for an administration that does nothing for human rights, these “feminists” are helping to set back women’s rights back to the Stone Age.
Earlier today, I made the case that Rick Santorum’s language has been intemperate of late. The problem for Mitt Romney is a different one: opportunism. I have in mind, among other things, last week’s debate, when Governor Romney, in criticizing Santorum, said, “Well, I’m looking at [Santorum's] historic record” — including “a whole series of votes. Voting to fund Planned Parenthood…” and more.
This charge is technically correct but incomplete. In fact, it creates an utterly false impression. Santorum voted for a large spending bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood, the kind of difficult and prudential judgment members of Congress are often forced to make. (It helps explain why long-serving members of Congress rarely win the presidency.) But that vote cannot obscure this fact: Santorum has been one of America’s most vocal champions for the pro-life cause, to the point that he opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest, and we all know he would defund Planned Parenthood in a millisecond if he could have his way. On culture of life issues, Rick Santorum is among the least compromised of all politicians.
There’s been a trend this week of prominent conservative women writers warning about Rick Santorum’s out-of-mainstream social views. They’ve all touched on a similar concern: Santorum’s past comments on social issues are so extreme that they likely render him unelectable.
This is alarming enough on its own. But the increasingly vocal criticism from right-leaning female pundits also indicates another problem on the horizon for Santorum: can he rely on the conservative media, particularly the women, to have his back on social issues in a general election?
Pro-choice groups have been pushing back against a Virginia bill that would require women to undergo ultrasounds before an abortion procedure. The complaints are the ultrasounds are needlessly invasive, not medically necessary, and would be forced on women seeking abortions, even if they don’t want them.
This criticism misses one crucial point: Planned Parenthood policy already requires ultrasounds before abortion procedures.
The backlash against the new Virginia legislation requiring ultrasounds before an abortion procedure – which some have bizarrely compared to “forcible rape” – may be even more overblown than initially thought. Apparently, ultrasounds are already part of the abortion procedures at Virginia Planned Parenthoods.
The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood didn’t immediately return calls yesterday. But here’s what it said on the recording for its abortion services information hotline:
“Patients who have a surgical abortion generally come in for two appointments. At the first visit we do a health assessment, perform all the necessary lab work, and do an ultrasound. This visit generally takes about an hour. At the second visit, the procedure takes place. This visit takes about an hour as well. For out of town patients for whom it would be difficult to make two trips to our office, we’re able to schedule both the initial appointment and the procedure on the same day.
Medical abortions generally require three visits. At the first visit, we do a health assessment, perform all the necessary lab work, and do an ultrasound. This visit takes about an hour. At the second visit, the physician gives the first pill and directions for taking two more pills at home. The third visit is required during which you will have an exam and another ultrasound.”
You could probably come up with some decent arguments against the legislation passed by the Virginia legislature, which would require women to receive ultrasounds before undergoing an abortion. Or, as Slate does, you could just descend into hysteria and wild-eyed fear-mongering:
I am not the first person to note that under any other set of facts, that would constitute rape under state law. …
The ethical and professional obligations of physicians who would merely like to perform their jobs without physically violating their own patients are, however, immaterial. Don’t even bother asking whether this law would have passed had it involved physically penetrating a man instead of a woman without consent. Next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument about the obscene government overreach that is the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care law. Yet physical intrusion by government into the vagina of a pregnant woman is so urgently needed that the woman herself should be forced to pay for the privilege.
One of the most persuasive cases against nominating Mitt Romney is that he would make it difficult for Republicans to attack Obama over health care during the general election. But conservatives need to go beyond just asking themselves what ground they want to challenge Obama on. They also need to ask themselves what ground they want to spend the general election defending.
If Mitt Romney is the nominee, Republicans will have to scale back the all-out assault on ObamaCare they hoped to pursue. But at the same time, they won’t have to spend the race mounting a vocal defense of RomneyCare, since Democratic attacks aren’t likely to focus on that issue. Instead, Democrats will target Romney on class warfare, business regulations, taxes, Wall Street, and so on.
Last week the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it was ending funding to Planned Parenthood after the remainder of its current grants had been paid out. After an explosion of outrage from the left, Komen days later announced it would continue to fund Planned Parenthood in an effort to appease the powerful pro-abortion lobby. Many credited the initial decision to their new Senior Vice President for Policy Karen Handel, a pro-life Republican who had just been defeated in her bid for Governor of Georgia. With Handel’s resignation today, it has become clear that the cancer organization will continue to provide funding to the largest abortion provider in the United States.
With this controversy Planned Parenthood has sent a clear signal: Reevaluate our funding at your peril. It doesn’t matter why you put a stop to your support, we have millions of pro-abortion supporters in the public and media ready to unleash a campaign of vitriol against your organization if you cross us.
On his blog, Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times writes, “Abortion is legal. It is a safe medical procedure. And it is rare. That’s exactly how it should be. Government has no business violating women’s privacy rights and making decisions about their reproductive rights. It is the worst kind of ‘big government’ imaginable.”
On the claim that abortion is a “safe” medical procedure: it isn’t a particularly safe medical procedure for the unborn child being aborted. As for abortion being rare, there are roughly 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States each year, meaning more than 3,000 per day, and approximately 50 million since the legalization of abortion in 1973. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to withdraw its grants from Planned Parenthood. I said, “The left immediately went into spin mode, claiming the funds were used for breast screenings and without Komen’s grants, women’s health would be jeopardized.” Initially, the reasoning given was that the abortion provider was under congressional investigation. Later, the Foundation changed its explanation to indicate that the reason Planned Parenthood would no longer receive funding was because it does not provide mammograms to its patients. For the third time in two days, Komen has again changed its story, this time apparently caving to the rabidly pro-choice lobby. This morning, Komen released a statement:
We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
This year’s presidential campaign is a reminder that most members of the press, and almost everyone on the left, view social conservatives through the prism of two issues–abortion and gay marriage. (When possible, the burning national issue of whether states should be allowed to ban contraception is thrown in as well, as we saw during this weekend’s debates.) The narrative that’s been affixed is a simple one: those who oppose the right to an abortion and gay marriage are almost by definition unenlightened and/or bigoted. It doesn’t matter that most people who are traditionalists are none of these things. Nor does it matter that there are nuances and shades of gray in most people’s views on both issues (mine included). The subtleties get thrown aside in an effort to put people in neat little boxes. There are the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.
This has important implications for our national life, including this one: more than ever before the champions of cultural conservatism need to be people who embody grace, who can articulate the moral good in a way that is non-censorious, and who can speak to these issues with honesty, fairness, and sympathy. They have to possess the ability to place social concerns in a larger frame. And importantly, they – indeed, all of us – need to resist the temptation to speak as if these issues are morally and socially uncomplicated. There is a good deal more ambiguity on these matters than either party platform allows for.