Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


Democratic Ineptitude on Abortion? Or Canny Hardball?

posted by swaldman

David Kirkpatrick’s New York Times article about abortion-and-health-care politics included the stunning disclosure that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is meeting today with the leading pro-life Democrat for the first time.
According to the Times piece, Rep. Bart Stupak, a Democrat of Michigan, got a call from President Obama ten days ago urging him to “get this thing worked out among the Democrats.”
Let me get this straight: 40 pro-life Democrats said long ago that they wouldn’t support health care unless they can be assured the plan doesn’t subsidize abortion, and Pelosi is only now meeting with their leader? The Catholic Bishops said they want to support health care reform if they can get a tenable abortion position, but the Speaker hasn’t met with the member of Congress closest to their views until now?
This underlines a point I’ve been making to my pro-choice readers who think that having won the election, they don’t need to accomodate pro-life viewpoints: “You” didn’t put Obama in the White House or Democrats in Congress. A diverse coalition did. One quarter of Obama’s vote was pro-life. 40 Democratic members of the House are pro-life.
Again, I’m not arguing a particular substantive position. I’m just saying that from a tactical perspective, for those who believe passing health care reform is important, it’s astounding that a full-court outreach to pro-life Democrats is happening so late in the game. Maybe there was some brilliant strategy for waiting until now — i.e. waiting until after the bills passed committee, and Stupak had less leverage, to engage with him. Or maybe Stupak was the obstacle or Kirkpatrick got it wrong or there were productive negotiations going on outside Pelosi’s office.
In any event, this is a significant development. If Democrats devise a compromise that Stupak et all can live with, then they’ll bring over the other pro-life Democrats — and probably the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.



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Julie

posted September 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm


From the referenced NYT’ article:
“Supporters of the current segregated-money model argue that 17 state Medicaid programs that cover elective abortions use a similar system, dividing their federal financing from state revenues they use to pay for procedures.”
Maybe Pelosi assumed the same method used in 17 states would be acceptable. The state Medicaid programs are required to comply with the Hyde Amendment.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 29, 2009 at 11:25 pm


It’s tactical hubris, Steven. They thought that they could muscle this through without a problem. These meetings with the pro-life leaders now are damage control. Too late, I think. Now they need the votes, but in so trying to muscle it through, they have revealed their ultimate aims to the pro-lifers.
This is gonna be a tough sell at this point.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 30, 2009 at 9:31 am


“Democratic Ineptitude on Abortion”
Redundant.



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Panthera

posted September 30, 2009 at 10:44 am


Gerard,
Since it is my side, not yours which is in power at the moment, it is incumbent upon us to reach out the olive branch to you.
Especially since your side, when in power, only used that branch to thrash us. If for no other reason, we must show that we are not the unconscionable murderers and perverts so many on your side portray us as being.
Our positions are implacable. Your absolute demand that all abortion cease will never be granted by my side. Our position that women have freedom of choice will never be accepted by your side.
We saw three hundred years of conflict in Europe over a similarly contentious issue, settled, finally with the Treaty of Augsburg. An armed truce, if you will.
Complicating the issue for my side is the (historically justified) fear that if we were to give you even some of what you want, you would then immediately demand that any recognition of human status for gays be completely stripped when the repeal of DADT and DOMA finally come to question.
In short, we have empirical evidence that your side must not be trusted. Your side has, sadly, the statistical evidence that abortions occur on an appallingly large scale, every day.
Even when your side held the entire government and Constitution hostage, your side was unable to end abortion. Now that we hold two of the three organs (and, thank goodness, habeas corpus is restored) it is up to us to work with you and search for solutions.
I asked the question a few days ago, shall we ban the construction of all roads which pass by a hospital which performs abortions? Shall we truly refuse to support any university which teaches the natural sciences because some small percentage of their future graduates will go on to be doctors and and smaller percentage of them perform abortions?
This is the place your side has come to from my perspective. What about all the deaths that lack of health insurance will continue to cost? Through no fault of their own, many tens of thousands of Americans die each year because of our poor system. That is fact, a moral absolute on the same level as the death of every fetus in your eyes.
Can we find a compromise? You are not going to end abortion, even the strictest regimes have been unable to do that. Does this mean you absolutely must refuse any improvement for anyone?
To show my good faith, I suggest the German solution. Abortion remains illegal, but not punished. Two independent doctors must confirm a real danger to the pregnant woman’s life within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, should she carry to term. All other abortions are forbidden.
Isn’t half a loaf better than none? Short of killing us all, your side can’t win absolutely here.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:14 pm


Panthera,
I wish I could sit with you over a few pots of coffee and hash all of this out in person. From your condemnations of Republicans and Christians, of Conservatism and the Pro-life Movement, when you talk, of ‘my side’, I’m not really sure where that places me.
The issues of homosexuality and abortion are entirely separate issues. Leave them as such.
On abortion. Before Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, both handed down the same day, abortion was properly interpreted under the Constitution, a States’ Rights issue. The states that had abortion were moving on an abolitionist trajectory. Then the Supreme Court stepped in. Were the Roe and Doe decisions to be reversed, the issue would be once again kicked back to the states.
This will never be settled through judicial fiat. True reform will only come from a grassroots level of understanding the identity and status of the human embryo. That’s as it should be.
Can I compromise? Engage in a sort of Sophie’s Choice? No! I’m not the author of life and death. God is. I shall continue to teach, exhort, and advocate for all unborn children. Well-intentioned as it may seem, I cannot usurp that prudential judgment that is God’s alone. As the law is configured now, each woman has a choice, for moral good or moral evil to be done in determining whether the child within lives or dies. What pro-life advocate can write off some to save others? In so doing, they begin the road to cooperation in the deaths of some, where hitherto, they had no cooperation in those deaths.
Our way in the pro-life movement will take a long time, but will eventually effect just and permanent change. The abolitionists were at it for centuries with slavery. What if they had accepted a permanent compromise? How many morally or intellectually enlightened people today do you suppose would accept such a compromise over slavery?
We’re only into this movement for a few decades. We have not yet reached a critical mass of disgust and revulsion, of women who have experienced the shattering of their lives post-abortion. Technology is increasingly putting the lie to the pro-choice denials of the humanity of the child within the womb. See this video of the baby using 4D ultrasound, from 8 weeks to delivery. It’s only 3 minutes in length.
http://www.truthbooth.org/viewvideo.asp
No true pro-lifer would ever give the nod to the butchering of even one baby, even if it meant the lives of thousands, or millions; no more than a true abolitionist would ever give the nod to the enslavement of one slave. There simply can be no compromise with evil. It’s winner takes all, and I’m willing to see this contest through to the end, arriving there honorably and with hands free of the blood of innocents.
The lives that could be ‘saved’ through such compromise are illusory salvations. As long as choice exists, there can be no outside agent restricting access for some, allowing it for others. We would be treated to the same rhetoric about women resorting to back alley abortions, which would then effect the reversal of the compromise, leaving the pro-life movement forever guilty of winking and nodding at abortion. All credibility would be lost.
“Isn’t half a loaf better than none?”
Not if you belong to the half being sucked into a meat grinder.
As for ‘my side’ and homosexuality, things are not so monolithic over here as you would portray them.
God Bless



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Panthera

posted September 30, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Gerard,
I truly wish more on your side saw things as you do. Today, your side won a law-suit permitting hospitals to ignore legal powers-of-attorney which grant gays the right to visit their partners in the hospital.
Oh, once it gets out of Florida, we will probably win. But this is the monolith I see on the conservative side.
Where do we go from here? Although I disagree with you, I understand your position. Because this leaves your side incapable of any compromise, doesn’t this necessarily mean all other cultural issues – gay rights, health care, torture, returning to regulated markets, etc. must necessarily serve as endless battle grounds by proxy? We have had a complete still-stand in the US for decades now because of this. Now, when my side is willing to talk and yours won’t budge, it is ultimately going to result in my side either going it alone (well possible, Snow won’t support a filibuster) or losing everything, yet again.
Can we say the death of tens of thousands of Americans every year is a fair price to pay for not achieving some compromise? I hope not!
Personally, I find abortion abhorrent. Since I am neither a woman nor shall ever father a child, I feel myself without standing to decide for a woman. My dad turned over one of our charitable funds to me this last month. I directed that half should go to supporting unwed mothers in our community who fall through the many gaps and holes. I’m trying on my end.
Your side can’t win, not today, not in many many years. My side is strong enough to defend Roe vs. Wade, but not strong enough to succeed in those issues we agree on without you. Total, complete stand-off, with the hateful bible-thumpers the only winners.
We have to do better, we just have to.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm


Panthera,
“Personally, I find abortion abhorrent. Since I am neither a woman nor shall ever father a child, I feel myself without standing to decide for a woman.”
You touch the essence of the argument. You are a human. A living sensate member of the species, and so is the baby. It is the defenseless baby for whom we decide.
It is Roman Polansky’s 13 year old victim for whom we decide.
It is all the potential victims of rape and pedophilia for whom we decide.
It is all the potential murder victims for whom we decide.
It is all the potential slaves for whom we decide.
It is all the potential victims of genocide for whom we decide.
We do not sit and say, “Well, personally I’m not a pedophile, a rapist, a murderer, a slaveholder, so I have no standing to tell these classes of people what they may do.” It’s preposterous on its face. You shouldn’t adopt that position when it comes to abortion. The decision to engage in predation on another innocent and defenseless human being is always and everywhere an atrocity and should be outlawed. In deciding to protect humans from predation, we opt against the choice of the predator, by definition.
“Because this leaves your side incapable of any compromise, doesn’t this necessarily mean all other cultural issues – gay rights, health care, torture, returning to regulated markets, etc. must necessarily serve as endless battle grounds by proxy?”
Principled people of good will do not fight proxy wars. They address the issues head-on, one at a time. The best thing that could happen to politics at the Federal level would be to have abortion returned to the state level and clear away that animosity from Congress. The same for gay marriage. The job of the Federal government is the national defense and securing of an environment that promotes commerce and free trade. I trust the people in the several states to do what is right. Manipulation of the issue at the Federal level is an act of desperation in the face of the will of the people, and only serves to fan the flames of rage on both sides.
We do have several disagreements here. But I see you as an honorable man, and that’s what remains in the crucible after all else dies down. It’s ultimately all that matters.
God Bless.



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Julie

posted September 30, 2009 at 2:51 pm


“The states that had abortion were moving on an abolitionist trajectory.”
The above statement is not factual. The states were moving the opposite direction. In fact, several states had implemented laws allowing abortion with no exception. The history of abortions is very interesting. For thousands of years there were no abortion laws.
The practice of abortion dates back to ancient times. Many early laws and church doctrine focused on “quickening,” when the initial motion of the fetus can be felt by the pregnant woman, as a way to differentiate when an abortion became impermissible. In the 18th–19th centuries various doctors, clerics, and social reformers successfully pushed for an all-out ban on abortion. Wikipedia – History of abortion
Gerard has the right to his beliefs about abortion, he does not have the right to impose his believes on everyone. Panthera is correct about the right not being willing to compromise. Many pro-choice individuals would approve paying for all abortions. The Hyde Amendment was already a major compromise.
While I do not believe in abortions, except to save the mother’s life, I believe the prohibition of funding abortions for the poor is discrimination. People with money have always been able to obtain safe abortions. Gerard is correct about, “This will never be settled through judicial fiat.”
Most/all Republicans will use anything to fight against health care reform for their own political gain. Their primary objective is damage to Obama. Republicans have been paying lip service to the abortion issue since Reagan because people continue to be fooled by their empty promises.
Douglas Johnson, Legislative Director, National Right to Life Committee continually makes false statements about the abortion issues in the different health care reform bills. See PolitiFact: “National Right to Life Committee claims under Baucus bill, federal funds would subsidize abortions. … We found Rep. John Boehner’s claim that Democratic plans for health reform would provide federal subsidies for abortion False as it related to the Capps Amendment in a House version of health care reform, and we find it’s even more of a stretch in Baucus’ plan, which does not even include a public option. And so we rule this claim False.”
http://tinyurl.com/ycs2yh3
1967 Apr. 25: Colorado Gov. John A. Love signs the first “liberalized” abortion law in the United States, allowing abortion in cases of permanent mental or physical disability of either the child or mother or in cases of rape or incest. Similar laws were passed in California (Republican Ronald Reagan signed), Oregon, and North Carolina.
1970 – Hawaii, New York, Alaska, Washington and Florida repealed their abortion laws and allowed abortion on demand. Roe v. Wade had tighter restrictions.
1970 Apr. 11: New York allows abortion on demand up to the 24th week of pregnancy, as Republican Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller signs a bill repealing the state’s 1830 law that banned abortion after quickening except to save a woman’s life. Similar laws were passed in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state.
1971 January 8: Republican President Richard Nixon signed a congressional act repealing the District of Columbia’s anti-abortion law.
1972 January: Gallup polls showed that 57% favored leaving decisions about abortion to a woman and her doctor. 54% of Roman Catholics agreed with this position.
1972 August: Gallup polls revealed that 64% of the general public and 56% of Roman Catholics favored leaving the decision about an abortion to a woman and her doctor.



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Panthera

posted September 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm


Same here, Gerard – you are honorable.
Disqualifies us both from the current ‘Christianity” which holds sway in America, today.
By the by, there is a slight problem with state by state marriage. The real rights which we are denied are all federal. I think ‘civil union’, the solution to the problem between the Roman Church and the Protestant over here, is the answer for America.
God bless us all, indeed.



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Gerard Nadal

posted September 30, 2009 at 6:53 pm


Julie,
“Gerard has the right to his beliefs about abortion, he does not have the right to impose his believes on everyone.”
Which is why Gerard said he will continue teaching and exhorting, waiting for society to reach a critical mass of revulsion, much the same as it did over slavery. Gerard also said he was willing to wait it out for some time, citing the centuries it took the abolitionists to achieve their vision. Doesn’t sound like Emperor Gerard imposing anything on anyone, does it?
I appreciate your passion, but please do not ascribe to me words and motives that are not mine.
God Bless.



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Panthera

posted October 1, 2009 at 6:11 am


I note that opinion polls are beginning to sway back towards people wanting a genuine health care reform. Apparently, the politics of lies (false witness!) and hatred towards those who have dark skin can only carry so far.
It is, however, enormously disturbing that a large part of the anti-choice group has decided to make a stand using health care as their captive. It won’t get them anything they want, will however drive those of us who are sympathetic yet not absolutist even further away from them. It will also make those of us who fear that giving in on any one single point to them will lead to their killing human rights for gays even more resolute.
Personally, I would like to see the laws changed so that every woman who can safely bring a pregnancy to term is given the means so to do. Every woman who would pay for such a pregnancy with the loss of her life or severe risk, would remain free to choose an abortion rather than be condemned to die. I’d still permit abortion within the first 12 weeks for women who are the victims of rape or incest.
Unfortunately, the lines are too fiercely drawn for my suggestions to stand a chance. The price of absoluteness is paid with many lives lost and many hurting people being abandoned to hurt even more. This is insanity.



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Gerard Nadal

posted October 2, 2009 at 12:10 pm


Panthera,
“Unfortunately, the lines are too fiercely drawn for my suggestions to stand a chance. The price of absoluteness is paid with many lives lost and many hurting people being abandoned to hurt even more. This is insanity.”
This situation can ONLY yield to absolutism one way or the other. It is its nature. Just as with slavery, President Lincoln declared that we will be all one thing, or all the other, but we cannot exist with some states free and some slave; so too with abortion.
Were the legislative proposals which you suggest to be enacted, we would hear the cries that women, who fell outside of the permissive window and conditions, were being forced into back alley abortions. The same justification used today.
What would you do then, Panthera. Would you tell these women ‘too bad’ and criminalize their illegal abortions? If your principles would have you do that in the future, why not call for that today?
There is simply no way this nation would accept a compromise that restricted abortion to some, but not others. It will be all one thing or all the other.
We will eventually arrive at a critical mass of revulsion for the practice, much the same as with slavery. Definitely not in my life. Perhaps in my children’s, but it will come to pass.
There is simply no compromise to be had.



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