Smoke and Mirrors and Abortion

For years the Fetus People have based their entire movement on falsified framing, and they are still at it. They are particularly lavish with the phrase “late-term abortion,” drizzling it over their rhetoric like syrup over pancakes. Michael Gerson is doing it today, for example. However, to them “late-term” is a mercurial qualifier with no fixed boundaries and little relationship to actual human gestation. It means whatever they want it to mean.

For example, back when the fight was over the intact D&X procedure, or what the FPs kept calling “partial-birth abortion,” The Fetus People did such a good job conflating the terms “Partial birth” and “late term” that when the Supreme Court sided with them that the procedure could be banned, the FPs celebrated the end of late-term abortion. I wrote about this a lot at the time; see “Better Middle Than Late” and “More Late-Term Confusion.”

For example, this person sincerely believed that the “partial-birth” controversy was about aborting potentially viable fetuses, which it wasn’t. He wrote,

If a late term pregnancy was so harmful to the mother’s health, then the mother should just deliver the baby and give the baby a chance to survive. But this procedure wasn’t really about saving the life of the mother. It was about killing an unwanted baby.

But most, if not all, of these procedures were done before the gestational age at which a fetus is viable. So no matter how the pregnancy was terminated, there was no “chance to survive.” And elective post-viability abortion already was, and still is, illegal.

Let’s review:

The SCOTUS decision in Roe v. Wade allows states to ban elective abortion when the fetus is potentially viable, and it seems all have done so, although I understand that in 9 states the law is not officially in effect because of a pending court challenge. However, per Roe guidelines, after the gestational age at which a fetus might survive, an abortion cannot be performed legally in 41 states by any means unless there is a medically compelling — life & health of the mother — reason to do so.

For the most recent information on the status of abortion law in each state, see the Guttmacher Institute, “State Policies on Later Abortions,” updated July 1, 2013.

So when Michael Gerson writes in his most recent column:

The national abortion settlement declared by Roe v. Wade — rooting a nearly unrestricted right to abortion in the right to privacy — has been unstable for 40 years. The reason is a tension between the state of the law and a durable public consensus that human life has an increasing claim on our sympathy as it develops. This view does not reflect either pro-life or pro-choice orthodoxy. But it predicts a more sustainable political resolution.

The media have a slothful tendency to place Americans into rigid categories of pro-life and pro-choice. The reality is more complicated. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 79 percent of people who describe themselves as pro-choice support making abortion illegal in the third trimester.

… he is willfully ignoring what he must know, that, for all practical purposes,

elective abortion already is illegal in the third trimester
… and Roe is fine with this. Roe isn’t the problem. The problem is with bleeping stupid pinhead troglodyte righties who form opinions based on abject ignorance of both law and pregnancy.

Here’s what they’re up to: First, the Fetus People are hoping the public, including their own minions, have forgotten their victory over “late-term abortion” back in 2005 so they can recycle the old propaganda about those awful late-term abortions that are going on.

Second, they are trying to close the “life and health” exceptions, because they’d rather see a woman die than willfully refuse to drop her calf, so to speak. Of course, many of them have persuaded themselves that circumstances in which a fetus must be sacrificed to save the mother never happen, just like pregnancy resulting from rape never happens. It’s so much easier to achieve moral clarity if you ignore the messy reality of things.

Third, they are re-defining “third trimester” downward so that it starts sometime in mid-pregnancy. Notice how Gerson goes on about the third trimester when the laws being pushed by the Right these days would ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation, which is seven weeks earlier than the third trimester actually starts, and well before the viability threshold.

A full-term human pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Even the math impaired can probably figure that 20 weeks is smack in the middle of the gestation period, not late in the gestation period. And no human fetus has ever survived outside the womb after only 20 weeks’ gestation.

Gerson continues,

But because the Supreme Court imposed a national settlement at odds with natural sentiments, pro-choice advocates are on the defensive. Their political challenge is to prevent the working of politics. Their real opponent is democracy, as state after state considers late-term abortion restrictions.

Pro-choice advocacy organizations have always stood by Roe, which means they are perfectly fine with states passing late-term abortions restrictions as long as (1) late-term bans really are late-term, meaning no sooner than the 24th weeks of gestation (the common viability threshold, which is still three weeks before the third trimester begins); and (2) allow for exceptions for life and health of the mother, giving private physicians reasonable discretion as to what that means without being second guessed by a bunch of pinhead troglodyte legislators.

So, again, Roe isn’t the problem, and reproductive rights advocates are fine with states banning genuinely late-term elective abortions, and have been since Roe was decided in bleeping 1973. But as part of the propaganda effort, shills like Gerson have to paint reproductive rights advocates as the unreasonable ones who don’t understand that late-term abortions are different.

See also Charles Pierce, “Stop Blowing Up Clinics and You’ll Have a Point“; and Tim Murphy, “Texas Lawmakers Too Busy Targeting Abortion Providers to Deal With Exploding Fertilizer Plants.”

10 thoughts on “Smoke and Mirrors and Abortion

  1. It’s so much easier to achieve moral clarity if you ignore the messy reality of things.

    And if you’re arrogant enough to think you know everyone’s real motives. To me one of the most obnoxious things about anti-choice zealots is how comfortable they are making statements like the one you quoted: “But this procedure wasn’t really about saving the life of the mother. It was about killing an unwanted baby.”

    Seriously? How often do women just change their minds six months into a pregnancy? Ever? The women I know who have had abortions knew they didn’t want a baby as soon as they knew they were pregnant.

    It really shows a lack of compassion to think it’s more plausible that a woman would just change her mind after five or six months of pregnancy than that she would have to make a painful decision after getting some bad news about her or the baby’s health.

    Of course the first sentence you quoted from this person shows how much compassion he has. (I’m guessing it’s a man.) “If a late term pregnancy was so harmful to the mother’s health, then the mother should just deliver the baby and give the baby a chance to survive. ”

    At least he’s hones. Pregnancy threatening your health? Maybe even your life? Tough shit. Have the kid anyway.

  2. Christian Conservatives POV:

    We define “late term abortion,” as anything done to any single cell, or clumps of them, within the woman’s body, as soon as the man has finished his “business,” done his Christian duty to procreate, and pulled out – within the confines of a heterosexual marriage, of course.
    This also applies if some hussy, tramp, or slut tempts the man beyond his God given point of manly endurance. Except of course, she’ll have none of the benefits of being the wife.

    That’s why we propose, “The Once the Man’s Stick’s Out of It – the Woman’s Stuck With It,” Act of 2013.
    You want to get back in our good graces after flirtin’ with them Messikins, Senator Rubio?
    HOP TO IT!!!

  3. It takes a deep, intense dislike of women to assert the kind of crap Gerson does. This isn’t just willful ignorance; this is loathing.

    As Liz Lemon used to say: “Blurgh.” After 40 years I am so, so very tired of it. Gerson can go bite himself.

  4. Yeah, the slimebags have been moving the goalposts again. I noticed the other day that Fred Barnes was writing about how the Wendy Davis/Texas dustup and the North Carolina in-the-dead-of-night laws had both brought renewed focus to the issue of “late term abortion”, skillfully, for a slimey propagandist, sliding right past the fact that both of those bills use the 20 weeks number, which is, as you point out, NOT, I repeat, NOT “late term”, and no fetus would survive, and many cruel and awful abnormalities aren’t even detectable yet.

    I really hate those bastards.

  5. The aspect that bothers me the most or nearly so – is the automatic exemption that the rich enjoy in restricting women’s choice. If you are a millionaire in Congress, which is becoming the norm – and your wife gets pregnant courtesy of the gardener – who is a minority – the complexion of the baby could prove to be an embarrassment. But it’s no problem, even if you passed a COMPLETE abortion ban – you are exempt from your own law and the consequences of your wife’s indiscretion. She has a passport and a vacation to Sweden will restore the reality you want to present to the world.

    A poor woman, who makes the same slip in a moment of passion, hasn’t got that option. Your dear trophy wife made a mistake – but a single black woman is obviously a slut who deserves to be punished with an unwanted child.

    Democrats should be proposing the ‘Abortion Vacation Amendment’. Whenever a restrictive bill is proposed, democrats should point out how the law isn’t applied equally – unless you require every woman between 12 to 50 who is considering travel out of the state, submit to a pregnancy test. If she’s packin’ a baby on the way out, and she’s without a baby when she returns – she goes directly to jail while an investigation is conducted.

    Obviously, such a law is not going to pass. But it’s farcical enough to attract attention to the dual paths of reality – one condemns a poor woman to the whims of religious fanaticism – while the statute automatically exempts a woman of means from the same fate. It should be pointed out just how many members of the state legislature KNOW the law won’t apply to his wife or daughter – because he has money.

  6. Love their use of the word “natural” as a positive descriptor of what they want. There is a lot of “natural” stuff that nobody wants.

  7. Doug,
    I like the idea of that “Abortion Vacation Amendment,” just for the pure theater of it.

    “To my esteemed Republican colleague from _______________________, I’d like to ask – isn’t this the third one of your aides, going on vacation to Europe this year? How many facts do you need to find about Sweden?”

  8. Don’t forget that Gerson was Bush’s speechwriter. He’s the one who crafted the whole religious themed crusade against evil doers.. Either you’re for us or you’re against us. If you didn’t agree with the invasion of Iraq then you were an Al Qaida sympathizer by default.

    As far as I’m concerned, Gerson poisoned the well when it came to reasonable dialog for Americans to understand the damage Bush was doing to America by invading Iraq.
    In my mind there’s no redemption for that asshole, so I expect his distortions about abortion to be in keeping with his ability to twist issues to suit his agenda.

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