In the 116th Congress, if you’re a Democrat, you’re either a socialist, a baby killer or an anti-Semite.
That, at least, is what Republicans want voters to think, as they seek to demonize Democrats well in advance of the 2020 elections by painting them as left-wing crazies who will destroy the American economy, murder newborn babies and turn a blind eye to bigotry against Jews.
This sort of tactic is nothing new. Here is a story from 2004:
The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that “liberals” seek to ban the Bible. It said the mailings were part of its effort to mobilize religious voters for President Bush.
They do this stuff because it works. And at this point the Republicans are out of ideas — all they’ve got left is cutting taxes, banning abortion and investigating Hillary Clinton. So they lie.
But the lies work for them, for several reasons. The biggest one is that the abandonment of the working class by the Democratic Party means that there’s a big demographic of Americans that never hear anything Democrats have to say. There is a near complete shut out of Democratic and progressive messaging in large parts of the country. It’s also the case that Republicans spent decades building an interconnected infrastructure of media and think tanks to generate and promote Republican propaganda, and Democrats don’t have anything to compete with that.
And then there’s the fact that some advocacy groups on “our” side, groups that soak up our donations and support, are pretty close to worthless. NARAL is a case in point.
The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws was founded in 1969, when the fight to legalize abortion was being fought state-by-state. When the Roe v. Wade decision struck down most state laws in 1973, the organization changed its name to National Abortion Rights Action League. Today it calls itself NARAL Pro-Choice America, and it is a 501(c)(4) organization headquartered in Washington, DC. There is also a NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and a NARAL PAC.
Why do I think NARAL is a waste of time? Let me count the ways.
Being fervently in favor of reproductive rights, back in the 1970s I became a dues-paying member of NARAL. In the late 1970s I was living in Cincinnati, which is a conservative town with a big Catholic presence. Everywhere I looked, I saw anti-abortion propaganda, from billboards to the way the issue was covered in the local newspapers. I remember a lot of photos of sweet-faced nuns at candlelight vigils on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. If a pro-reproductive rights viewpoint was presented at all, it was badly written and on page B12. I wrote many letters to editors in those days, none of which were published.
Where was NARAL? One day their newsletter arrived in the mail. And I learned from the newsletter that the organization had decided to put all of its resources into lobbying. There would be no public outreach or even attempts to get the pro-choice perspective into the nation’s newspapers. Just lobbying.
That’s when I stopped sending them money.
In the years since I’ve observed anti-abortion talking points dominate news coverage. I’ve seen the same stupid and easily refutable arguments made, over and over, and rarely answered. I’ve seen nothing in the way of public education about abortion law and practices in the U.S., a topic of which most Americans are grossly ignorant, which is why the Right gets away with lying about it.
The single biggest lie about abortion law that the Right has used successfully for years is that abortion is legal in the U.S. throughout pregnancy, and even immediately after. They can murder newborn babies! But no, they can’t.
The fact is that Roe v. Wade allows states to ban elective abortions after the gestational age at which a fetus might be viable. Then as now, that’s considered after the 23rd week of pregnancy. According to Alan Guttmacher, 43 states have gestational limits on legal abortion ranging from 20 to 24 weeks.
The remaining states are California, Colorado, District of Columbia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. There’s a big fight going on in Vermont right now over abortion access. It turns out that while there is no specific gestational limit on the books in Vermont, there are no abortion providers in Vermont performing third-trimester abortions.
The Vermont Medical Society testified before the House Human Services Committee on H.57 earlier this month.
“Vermont law currently is silent on abortion and allows abortion with no restriction,” it said. However, in 2016, the latest year for which abortion data is available, “91.7 percent of all Vermont abortions happened within the first trimester (12 weeks or less) and only 1.3 percent of Vermont abortions occurred in 2016 after 21 weeks.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control on abortions nationwide in 2015 shows that seven abortions were conducted in Vermont after 21 weeks — 0.7 percent of all abortions in the state — but doesn’t give a more specific breakdown for when those procedures were performed.
The medical society added that woman simply do not elect to terminate pregnancies in the final few months, as opponents of H.57, like Coyne, suggest.
“‘Late term’ abortion is a social construct introduced to create an image of an elective abortion that happens closer to 8-9 months, which does not happen and is not a term that is used medically,” the society says.
And even if a woman wanted to abort a pregnancy that late, there are no providers who would do it in Vermont, according to the medical society.
“No abortion providers in Vermont perform elective abortions in the third trimester,” it says.
Lucy Leriche, the vice president of public policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the only time when a woman might get an abortion that late in their pregnancy would be “under really severe circumstances for health of mother or because the viability of pregnancy is at risk.”
Doctors who do carry out elective procedures that late in pregnancy, she added, would face dire professional consequences for violating their licensure and committing medical malpractice.
If you check out the circumstances in the other states, you find the same thing. Even where there is no specific gestational limit on elective post-viabillity abortions, doctors simply don’t do them, and women aren’t asking for them. When pregnancies have to be terminated in the third trimester because the mother is at risk, every effort is made to save the baby.
Yet for years — nay, decades — the anti-reproductive-rights people have been keeping their supporters whipped up with stories of full-term babies killed in abortion procedures. This simply is not happening. Why hasn’t there been a robust public education effort being made all this time explaining the facts?
NARAL? (Cricket chirps)
For that matter, the whole emphasis on “choice” is off. Where abortion is criminalized, women still get abortions. Criminalization doesn’t even slow it down, as a great deal of real-world experience shows us. That doesn’t mean that criminalization doesn’t cause a lot of suffering to women or doesn’t force some women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. Criminalization has many consequences no one is talking about. In Latin American countries, for example, women suffering natural miscarriages are criminally investigated. See “What Happens When Abortion Is Banned?” for the real-world details. See also “When Abortion Is Illegal, Women Rarely Die. But They Still Suffer.” From the latter article:
If other countries are a guide, abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place: According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal. In parts of the world where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8 to 11 percent of all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.
But abortion-related deaths are much less common than they were a few decades ago, especially in countries with functional health-care systems. Since the early ’90s, abortion fatalities have declined by 42 percent globally. This is despite the fact that about 45 percent of all the abortions in the world are still performed in “unsafe” circumstances—meaning without the help of a trained professional or with an outdated medical method. Unsafe abortions are more common in countries where the practice is illegal.
While fewer women are perforating their uterus or dying of sepsis, if women who attempt to perform their own abortion are taken to the hospital with complications, they might be reported to the authorities and face jail time.
That’s the future criminalization will bring us.
The 501(c)(4) portion of NARAL has an annual budget of about $8.5 million, according to several sources. According to a recent annual report from NARAL, 85 percent of their budget is spent on “program services.” My impression from reading the report is that their biggest effort these days is working to elect pro-choice politicians to office, and that’s fine. But wouldn’t some effort at public education pay bigger dividends?