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To Those Who Thought It Wouldn’t Make a Difference…

April 19th, 2007

In the last election, there were many pro-choice people who really didn’t think that putting Bush into office would make that much of a difference. Similarly, when Alito was nominated, many said to let it slide and let him on the bench, because that wouldn’t make much of a difference, either. Well, good morning to those people: you have just woken up in George Bush’s America. Thanks to you, all this is happening.

Now that Sandra Day O’Connor is off the court and Bush successfully replaced her with one of his right-wing strict constructionists, the court has tilted sharply to the right. People who wanted to let Alito slide through said that everything would be OK–Kennedy would naturally step in and assume O’Connor’s role.

That hasn’t happened.

In a 5-4 decision, one which would not have happened had Justice O’Connor remained on the bench for a few more years, the court ruled that a “Partial Birth Abortion” ban was constitutional, even though it had no exception for the health of the woman. Kennedy was the tie-breaking vote, and wrote the opinion for the majority.

The law in question is entirely a political one. The term “Partial Birth Abortion” itself is not a medical term, but one specifically designed by pro-lifers in an attempt to redefine the very meaning of abortion.

There is a page from the classic conservative playbook where in order to fight against a reasonable opposition stance on an issue, you take the most ugly and onerous extreme of the other side’s content, and then try to make everybody believe that this extreme is equal to the whole. Since most abortions take place when the fetus is so small as to be unrecognizable as human, the pro-life crowd needed a “poster child,” in a gruesome take on the expression, to make abortion seem as horrific as they imagined–in essence, a healthy, viable newborn baby torn to bloody pieces.

So they took the procedure of intact dilation and evacuation (IDX)–already an uncomfortable procedure despite the fact that fetuses aborted were non-viable. They gave it a horrific new name, exaggerated the gruesome nature of the procedure and distorted when and how often it was used, and then tried to make it seem like this was the face of abortion. Soon, every legislative move on abortion by right-wingers focused on this procedure. In PR terms, it helped make abortion in general seem immoral and repulsive; in legal terms, it opened a potential back door to disassembling abortion rights as a whole.

One thing that the whole “partial birth abortion” movement is not is medical. It is completely political, from top to bottom, despite the impact it will have on women’s health.

In immediate practical terms concerning IDX procedures, this ruling may not mean much. The procedure is rare, and is becoming more rare as severe deformities and life-threatening problems are detected earlier on with newer technologies, allowing for a first-trimester abortion.

On the other hand, despite assurances that the term “Partial Birth Abortion” is in fact limited to the IDX procedure, there is concern that overzealous anti-abortion law enforcers will stretch the definition to include more common varieties of abortions, and there is a good deal of doubt as to whether that was indeed the original intent of the law’s authors–to assure critics that the definitions were narrowly intended, but to phrase them vaguely enough so that they could be stretched and expanded later on.

Naturally, the law was challenged, and made its way up to the Supreme Court–and the court’s decision may have done even more damage than the law alone ever could have.

In the majority opinion written by Kennedy, the wording is open and permissive enough to allow states to start writing legislation with more and more restrictions on all kinds of abortions. For example, since it is the first post-Roe ruling that allows a restriction that does not have an exception to protect the health of the mother, it opens the door to the repealing of such exceptions on a wide variety of abortion laws. And since the ruling itself denotes a huge shift in the makeup of the Supreme Court itself, it will encourage massive waves of new anti-abortion legislation in the hopes that the new court will be more receptive. And you can be assured that conservatives in states all across the country are in the process of introducing those laws as you read this.

In the end, what we have is essentially a religious law imposed on the population as a whole. Coming up next: the marriage of church and state. Wheee!

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  1. Tim Kane
    April 20th, 2007 at 11:17 | #1

    While you make a good point about the assault on separation of church and state, I am not sure things will ever make it that far.

    Already the tide is running out on the Neocon movement (an alliance of the resentment: the rich over FDR, southerns over the outcome of the civil war, bigots over civil rights, religious wingnuts over civil liberties).

    The tide of public oppinion is a slow to turn as the Titanic in the face of an ice berg, but it is turning. But like the Titanic, tragedy awaits. Some women is going to be killed because she was forced to go to term with a malignant pregnancy and she’ll leave behind her prior offspring: children without a mother to raise her.

    The problem with all conservative policies on their agenda is that their implementation brings about ruin and catastrophy.

    Because Americans have become largely illiterate in the social sciences: civics, geography, history etc… they are doomed to be taught lessons in reality instead of the classroom. This is nothing more than the nation falling appart from within, only because a few rich people want to control everything.

    Its mass insanity.

    But slowly the public is learning. They are learning in Iraq, and that lesson will be awful, it’s along way from being over. Iraq will likely collapse into a state of anarchy, the price of oil will go through the roof, Iran’s influence might extend to the entire middel east east of Isreal, or maybe war involving Turkey.

    These things have a long drawn out consequence. Its difficult to watch America fall apart, but its boatful of resentments, political dysfunction and massive ignorance on fundemental remedial level of civics makes this difficult to reverse.

    Hard knocks is a difficult way to learn a lesson. But with every conservative catastrophie, more are converted over to the liberal perspective. As Gandhi said, I don’t want to kill them, I just want them to change their minds. He appealed to the conscience. In the end that’s what will change Americans: little girls being forced to have their daddy’s baby; mothers dieing to bring to term a fetus that is not sustainable beyond a few hours after giving birth, $10 or $20 a gallon gasoline, massive poverty, flooded cities, or in the case of Australia a drought that has destroyed their entire bread basket etc….

    This is history repeating itself. The same dynamics brought down Rome, Byzantium, Medieval Japan, Hapsbourg Spain, Bourbon France, Romanoff Russia, Cooledge/Hoover America.

    The consequences are typically devistating.

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