Fix Bayonets!

Much political chatter this year has urged prochoice advocates and politicians to move to the right. How many more times are they required to recite the pledge — ”We want abortion to be safe, legal, and rare” — while prolife purists fight to make it unsafe and illegal? — Ellen Goodman

Amen, Sister Ellen.

Ms. Goodman says the new South Dakota law that bans abortions except to save the life of the mother has awakened some people to what the so-called “right to life” movement is really about.

As Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America put it simply: ”They’ve come out from behind the curtain.” Forget the political jockeying by prolifers to gain a foothold with moderates. Never mind laws on parental notification and consent in the name of family involvement. Or attempts to ban one abortion procedure at a time. Or laws to mandate misinformation and waiting periods.

Until now the antiabortion right has not only tried to frame itself as moderate, it has dressed up in woman-friendly camouflage. It has touted research that makes one false claim after another linking abortion with depression and breast cancer. It has cast women as the hapless victims of abortion and portrayed its own side as protectors.

Every time I hear the Fetus People express concern about the “dangers” of abortion I want to scream. A first-trimester abortion is, statistically, considerably safer than pregnancy and childbirth. This goes double for young teens. But abortions become more dangerous the longer they are postponed. So, if you actually care about safety, you want to close as many abortion clinics as possible, mandate waiting periods, and otherwise make women jump through as many hoops as you can devise before they can finally have the procedure. Oh, wait …

I am sick to death of “pundits” and “experts” who advise us liberals that we’re the ones who have to adapt on the issue of abortion; we’re the ones who have to compromise; we’re the ones who have to prove we have hearts. Bleep that. Consider the experience of Marie Myung-Ok Lee when she arrived at an abortion clinic —

As I exited the car like some kind of odd celebrity, I wasn’t prepared for the older woman who shoved her face an inch from mine and screamed that I was murdering my baby. I wasn’t prepared for the looks of pure hate, no, the looks that could kill. I seem to vaguely recall being warned not to make eye contact, but I did, and I saw what I thought was someone who would gladly murder me to keep me from entering the clinic.

Myung-Ok Lee was not, in fact, pregnant.

Michael Bérubé has a post up directed at moderates and others who didn’t believe the anti-choice people were serious. Ralph Nader, for example, quoted in 2000 —

Mr. Nader said he did not think there would be much difference between the justices Mr. Gore would choose and those Mr. Bush would appoint. After all, Democrats had helped confirm Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, hadn’t they? Besides, “You can’t really predict how Supreme Court justices will behave.”

And he called the possibility that a court packed with Republican appointees could overturn Roe v. Wade a “scare tactic.” On Sunday, Mr. Nader said in a television interview that even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, the issue “would just revert to the states.” Just?

“Here’s what happened on that,” he said wearily. “The scare tactic is that would end choice in America, and I just said that’s not true, but I should have been astute enough not to mention that.”

He said he did not in any case believe for a moment that Mr. Bush would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. “The first back alley death, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble and they know it,” he said. He described the party’s opposition to abortion as just for show, “just for Pat Robertson.”

This was part of Ralph’s “Democrats are just as bad” rationalization, btw; the claim that it didn’t matter whether the nation elected Bush or Gore in 2000. They were both just alike, Ralph said. Thanks, Ralph.

Anyway, Michael B. writes, too many men on the left didn’t believe the rightie culture warriors really mean what they say.

If there’s anyone out there who still thinks that way — let me introduce Bill Napoli.

“They mean it,” Digby says.

They really mean it. This is no bullshit. There is no downside to overturning Roe for them — and if there is, they don’t care. If they want to overturn Griswald, they’ll do that too. They fought the gun control fight when people were freaking out over crime in the streets and political assassinations. Conservative absolutists don’t give up just because liberals get up-in-arms. They certainly don’t care if we think they are shrill.

We’re up against utterly irrational extremism here. We’re not going to change their minds. But they are a minority. The majority of American support Roe v. Wade and don’t want laws like South Dakota’s put into effect. Bleep moving to the Right. We’ve got to say to the majority, these people want legal control of your reproductive system. Is this OK with you? If not, will you please wake the bleep up and pay attention to which bleeping political candidates you vote for?

Scott Lemieux has a new series posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money on the importance of Roe v. Wade and why arguments that it was “wrongly decided” are a pile of pooh. Check out:

After South Dakota, Pt. 1: The Side of Principle

After South Dakota Pt. II: Stand Up For Roe

After SD Part III: The Best Defense of Reproductive Freedom Is A Good Offense

In this last post, Scott argues that the South Dakota law presents us with an opportunity to go on offense and change the debate.

Even before this pro-choicers already had many opportunities, starting with the fact that the national Republican Platform endorses a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first-degree murder in all 50 states. When was the last time you heard a Democratic politician mention that, even though maximizing the public’s knowledge of their opponent’s most unpopular positions would seem to be Politics 101? Instead, taking the advice of people like Saletan they accept the debate as it has been arbitrarily carved up by disingenuous pro-lifers, getting in sucked into ludicrous ginned-up non-issues like the “partial-birth” nonsense. The Republicans have been masterful about playing both ends, and keeping the debate focused on tangential side issues. The way to counteract this is not to go along with the existing discourse, but to change the terms of the debate, to make clear what Republicans want to do and put the debate in terms of keeping abortion legal, where public opinion massively favors the Democrats. The draconian (and illegal) actions of the South Dakota legislature provide an excellent frame for making this clear, but the Democrats need to start playing some offense.

During the 2004 election I kept hearing that Kerry didn’t know how to “talk” about abortion. That’s because he had to simultaneously express the view that he didn’t like it while proposing to keep it legal. Too much nuance.

Here’s our new message: The Fetus People want to ban all abortions, and when they’ve accomplished that they want to ban birth control. Here’s your choice: Vote for them, and they own your reproductive system; or vote for us, and you can make your own choices. Don’t like abortion? Don’t get one.

Not too nuanced, I don’t believe.

There’s Got to Be a Morning After

More reproductive rights news to follow up “The Daughter Effect“:

Tony Pugh of Knight Ridder reports that Rep. Henry Waxman (da man!) discovered the Bush Administration is not being honest (ah-HEM!) about its morning-after-pill policies.

Internal documents made public Thursday have raised new questions about the federal government’s continued refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive known as “Plan B.”

The documents, obtained by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., show that in February 2004, policymakers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found no problem in allowing the so-called morning-after pill to be sold without a prescription to women of all ages.

Yet 18 months later, former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford cited concerns about selling the drug to younger teens as a major reason for blocking the move.

The move prompted outrage from women’s rights groups and Democratic lawmakers, who claimed that the agency was blocking the measure for political reasons despite scientific evidence that showed nonprescription sales of the pill were safe.
One FDA official opposed to the decision resigned.

Here’s the juicy part:

Barr Laboratories, the maker of Plan B, originally sought to sell the drug over-the-counter to women of all ages. Only after meeting resistance from FDA officials and conservative organizations did the company opt to require prescriptions for women ages 16 and under.

The FDA records indicate that the change was engineered by FDA senior officials who worked behind the scenes against the company while appearing to remain neutral.

After mid-level FDA officials made their recommendation to approve Plan B sales without prescriptions, their superiors told them that FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan and other senior managers at the agency “cannot support the non-prescription switch of Plan B,” according to the agency’s records.

By that time, the FDA already had begun urging Barr to seek over-the-counter sales for those 17 and older.

Barr eventually did so, but the request was tabled in August 2005 by Crawford, who claimed the move raised “difficult and novel policy and regulatory issues.” The FDA hasn’t yet decided the matter, and Plan B remains available by prescription only.

However, seven states allow Plan B to be sold over-the-counter. These are Washington, California, Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, Maine and New Hampshire.

What I want to know is. when is it going to be the morning after for the bozo Bush appointees in the FDA responsible for this nonsense?

The Daughter Effect

This Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial needs more attention —

A new report posits what many fathers of daughters already know — that having a daughter can change a man’s political perspective on women’s issues. …

… Having a daughter is likely to literally bring such issues home, forcing lawmakers to view them in real, not abstract, terms. It always helps to put a human face on an issue. It would seem even more so when that face is your child’s.

It may, as well, make it easier to recognize that reproductive choices belong in the personal province of a woman and her family, not the state.

The report is called “Female Socialization: How Daughters Affect Their Legislator Fathers’ Voting on Women’s Issues,” and it was written by Ebonya Washington for the National Bureau of Economic Research and dated January 2006. It is available for download for a $5 fee at the NBER web site. Here is a summary. I also found what might be a preliminary version of the report in PDF format — “Female Socialization: How Daughters Affect Their Legislator Fathers’ Voting on Women’s Issues” by Ebonya Washington, Yale University, May 2005. It may not be exactly the same as the more recent NBER document, but it’s free.

Anyway, Washington looked at voting patterns in the 105th Congress and found that having daughters is a “positive and significant predictor” of how legislators vote on reproductive rights. I skimmed through the Yale version of the report and found these points:

1. The daughter effect is more pronounced in male legislators than in female legislators.

2. Although the daughter factor has some effect across all “gender gap” issues, it is most pronounced in the area of reproductive rights.

3. Point #2 is significant because public opinion polls on reproductive rights actually show less of a “gender gap” than some other issues, such as crime, defense, gay rights, and welfare spending. This suggests that fathers’ opinions are not changing just because they are exposed to their daughters’ points of view.

4. The older the daughter, the more pronounced is the daughter effect. It seems to grow over time.

You can glean more about factors and methodologies from the paper. There’s, like, tables and Greek letters and everything. The point is that the mere fact of having daughters, especially daughters approaching reproductive age, seems to have a statistically measurable impact on the way legislators, especially male legislators, vote regarding reproductive rights. (My skimming through the report didn’t tell me how big the daughter effect is; perhaps someone who understands statistical analysis could take a look and explain it. I would appreciate that muchly.)

I wrote recently that “whether one is pro-choice or anti-choice does not depend on whether one thinks embryos are human beings. It depends on whether one recognizes that women are human beings.” The study seems to corroborate this.

Bitter and Sweet

It’s been a hard five years, folks, and there’s more hard times ahead. But today let’s take a moment to enjoy a delicious, self-gratifying wallow in I told you so.

Paul Krugman kicks off the wallow:

Bruce Bartlett, the author of “Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy,” is an angry man. At a recent book forum at the Cato Institute, he declared that the Bush administration is “unconscionable,” “irresponsible,” “vindictive” and “inept.”

It’s no wonder, then, that one commentator wrote of Mr. Bartlett that “if he were a cartoon character, he would probably look like Donald Duck during one of his famous tirades, with steam pouring out of his ears.”

Oh, wait. That’s not what somebody wrote about Mr. Bartlett. It’s what Mr. Bartlett wrote about me in September 2003, when I was saying pretty much what he’s saying now.


The truth is that everything the new wave of Bush critics has to say was obvious long ago to any commentator who was willing to look at the facts.

Mr. Bartlett’s book is mainly a critique of the Bush administration’s fiscal policy. Well, the administration’s pattern of fiscal dishonesty and irresponsibility was clear right from the start to anyone who understands budget arithmetic. The chicanery that took place during the selling of the 2001 tax cut — obviously fraudulent budget projections, transparently deceptive advertising about who would benefit and the use of blatant accounting gimmicks to conceal the plan’s true cost — was as bad as anything that followed.

The false selling of the Iraq war was almost as easy to spot. All the supposed evidence for an Iraqi nuclear program was discredited before the war — and it was the threat of nukes, not lesser W.M.D., that stampeded Congress into authorizing Mr. Bush to go to war. The administration’s nonsensical but insistent rhetorical linkage of Iraq and 9/11 was also a dead giveaway that we were being railroaded into an unnecessary war.

Some are not giving up on the Iraq-9/11 connection. Recently Michael Barone published an utterly nonsensical screed in which he blasts people who hold the view “with religious intensity” that there was no Iraq-9/11 connection. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he thunders. “We do not know that there was such collaboration. But we also do not know that there was not.”

So let’s get this straight. Barone admits that no evidence has come to light that Saddam Hussein had any connection to 9/11. He admits the 9/11 commission found no evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. There is documentation — which Barone doesn’t mention — that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden never liked or trusted each other, but leave that aside. Barone’s point seems to be that people who don’t believe in a 9/11-Saddam Hussein connection — because we have no evidence to support it — are being irrational, or else are trying “to delegitimize our war effort.” Those who hang on to their belief in such a connection in the absence of evidence are smart.


Krugman points out another cognitive anomaly:

… we should guard against a conventional wisdom that seems to be taking hold in some quarters, which says there’s something praiseworthy about having initially been taken in by Mr. Bush’s deceptions, even though the administration’s mendacity was obvious from the beginning.

According to this view, if you’re a former Bush supporter who now says, as Mr. Bartlett did at the Cato event, that “the administration lies about budget numbers,” you’re a brave truth-teller. But if you’ve been saying that since the early days of the Bush administration, you were unpleasantly shrill.

Similarly, if you’re a former worshipful admirer of George W. Bush who now says, as Mr. Sullivan did at Cato, that “the people in this administration have no principles,” you’re taking a courageous stand. If you said the same thing back when Mr. Bush had an 80 percent approval rating, you were blinded by Bush-hatred.

This isn’t just a right-wing phenomenon, of course. A lot of liberal bloggers and Democrats who originally had supported the invasion of Iraq still seem to think they are “smarter” on security issues than those of us who saw what a sham it was from the beginning. Go figure.

Dear former hawks: I told you so.

At the Washington Post, Peter Baker writes that the rats are deserting the ship.

“He has no political capital,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. “Slowly but surely it’s been unraveling. There’s been a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the — I don’t want to call it disloyalty — the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress.”

We don’t want to call it disloyalty. No, no, no. Loyalty is more important than responsibility to the Right. Let’s call it we don’t want to be tied to this loser when the mid-term election campaigns heat up.

You know something significant is happening when even David Broder notices it.

… the [Dubai port] conflict brought to the surface deep-seated resentments from the Capitol end of Pennsylvania Avenue toward the people around the president — and, surprisingly, toward Bush himself. The harmony that had prevailed during most of Bush’s tenure — the deference that a Republican-controlled Congress has generally shown to his wishes — disappeared. Even the normal circumspection with which congressional Republicans treat the White House withered in the unexpected heat of this dispute.

Broder goes on to wag a finger at Democrats — “Liberals such as Schumer” — for “playing with fire” by trying to “stoke the fever” of “nativist sentiment.” Which of course (cough) Republicans would never do (snort). I think some people have some catching up to do.

But the American People are finally seeing the light. Ron Fournier of the Associated Press writes today that large numbers of Americans are so disillusioned of Bush they might consider voting for Democrats. Wow.

More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush’s performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency. …

… “I’m not happy with how things are going,” said Margaret Campanelli, a retiree in Norwich, Conn., who said she tends to vote Republican. “I’m particularly not happy with Iraq, not happy with how things worked with Hurricane Katrina.” …

… The poll suggests that most Americans wonder whether Bush is up to the job. … Personally, far fewer Americans consider Bush likable, honest, strong and dependable than they did just after his re-election campaign.

Dear American People: I told you so.