Liberals have been shooting themselves in the foot over the abortion issue for years, in part because they remain woefully ignorant of what Roe v. Wade actually established. And now they’re doing it again.
In 1997 Elana Kagan, then a White House adviser, wrote a memo to President Clinton supporting a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Daschle that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The memo has come to light, and some lefties are going ballistic about it.
But the truth is that by 1997 elective post-viability abortions already were illegal in most states, and this was not in violation of Roe v. Wade as long as an exception was made for the life and health of the mother.
This gesture on Kagan’s part was not made in a vacuum. In 1997 the Republican Congress was working overtime to pass a bill that banned the intact D&E procedure, or what the Fetus People misnamed “partial-birth abortion.” In their propaganda the FPs were conflating the D&E with “late term” abortions, even though it was mostly a second-trimester procedure.
Some Dems and a few pro-choice Republicans were talking about a simple ban on all elective post-viability abortions, regardless of the procedure used, as a kind of controlled burn to reduce the chance that a federal “partial-birth” law might pass in the future. You know, the way one was passed in 2003 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007.
I am sad to say that many of my fellow liberals are too stupid to understand that being in favor of such a ban in 1997 — or now, for that matter — doesn’t mean one is anti-choice. It means one is thinking strategically. I agree with Jeff Fecke — “when we look at what Kagan actually said in her memo to Clinton, we see someone who was proposing something less than a ban on late-term abortion. Indeed, we see someone who was trying to preserve as many rights for women as possible.”
I thought the ban was a good idea at the time, for the simple reason that it would have deflated many of the FP’s misleading talking points and left intact D&E alone. In fact, I’ve thought since the 1970s that NARAL and NOW and other organizations were idiots for not pushing for a federal law that restated and reinforced what the Roe v. Wade decision established.
Instead, many pro-reproduction rights advocates took the remarkable position that they supported Roe, and supported state laws that followed the Roe guidelines, but a federal law that supported the Roe guidelines was unthinkable. And I don’t think this was because they were closet libertarians.
Yes, Roe established that states may not ban all abortions. However, Roe allows the states to ban some abortions. Specifically, states may ban elective abortions after 23 weeks’ gestation, or the point at which the fetus might be viable. A full-term pregnancy lasts for 38 weeks.
So, since 1973 states have been able to enact bans on abortions in the last 14 weeks of pregnancy, as long as exceptions are made for the life and health of the mother. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 38 states have such a ban in place.
And I understand that physicians won’t perform a third trimester abortion unless there is a medical reason to do so even where it is not specifically illegal. Because terminating a pregnancy becomes much more medically complicated later in the pregnancy, as a practical matter women who are terminating for non-medical reasons should terminate as early as possible. And, in fact, 88 percent of abortions in the U.S. are performed in the first 12 weeks of gestation. Only 8% of all abortion providers in the U.S. offer abortions at 24 weeks.
I understand the one thing the Daschle ban would have changed is to place more restrictions on post-viability abortions done for mental health reasons as opposed to physical health reasons. I explained a couple of years ago that this was not necessarily a problem, as long as the legislation made clear that a pregnancy could be terminated if the fetus was severely compromised and would not long survive after birth.
And I’m going to keep explaining this as long as there’s anyone out there who is confused. Which is pretty much everybody.