Douthat Denial And “Pro Life” Pabulum

December 9, 2008

douthat1_47e9a94b5a116_mdIn the Sunday New York Times, we were treated to some true historical revisionism in the perpetual struggle between pro-choice and “pro-life” forces on the matter of abortion by Ross Douthat, who is a bit of a cause célèbre among Repugs because of the book he co-wrote with the Gingrichian (word?) title of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.”

I can barely contain my joy (yawn).

Douthat critiques those who challenge the pro-lifers and thus aspire to “care for life outside the womb” too, “change hearts and minds rather than the law,” and “cease trying to roll back the sexual revolution and standing athwart science yelling ‘stop’!”

He continues…

Obviously there’s wisdom in some of these suggestions. But pro-lifers have already taken much of it to heart. Compromise, rather than absolutism, has been the watchword of anti-abortion efforts for some time now. Since the early 1990s, advocates have focused on pushing largely modest state-level restrictions, from parental notification laws to waiting periods to bans on what we see as the grisliest forms of abortion.

This is one of the reasons why I honestly try not to say anything about abortion, and basically why I think no man should either, and that is because we will never be “in the stirrups.”

This post takes you to the testimonials of four women for whom parental notification laws and (in the case of Alabama) introduction of a bill that would “ban all abortions except in the ‘extreme’ case of danger to the mother’s life and find ‘any person’ causing or participating in an abortion guilty of a Class B felony” are hardly “largely modest state-level restrictions.” Also, this takes you to what I thought was some interesting common ground between McCain and Obama supporters concerning education, birth control, and providing assistance to unwed mothers.

Douthat continues…

Apart from its Supreme Court appointments, the Bush administration policy most influenced by pro-life sentiment was probably its AIDS-in-Africa initiative.

Unfortunately, as Jonathan Alter of Newsweek tells us here, Bush’s “pro-life” sentiment was also responsible for his dreadful veto of funding for embryonic stem cell research (remember that one?).

And speaking of that…

…we’re coming off a decade in which pro-lifers responded to the embryonic stem-cell controversy by becoming better versed in the relevant science than their miracle-cure-promising opponents. They insisted, presciently, that scientific advances with non-fetal stem cells, rather than legal restrictions, would eventually offer a way forward.

As noted here…

only embryonic stem cells are capable of growing into any other type of cell — which is why scientists are most interested in working with them.

Embryonic stem cells hold much greater potential for treatment of diseases than adult stem cells. I’m not a scientist, but even I know that; I don’t know what is so “prescient” about failing to use developmental stem cells that aren’t even close to constituting a human embryo when they’re only going to be discarded anyway.

And I wanted to take note of the following also…

In theory, there are many middle grounds imaginable in America’s abortion wars, from bans that make exceptions for rape and fetal deformities to legal systems modeled on the French system, in which abortion is available but discouraged in the first 10 weeks and sharply restricted thereafter.

That’s basically true as far as I can determine, though I don’t recall reading about French President Nicolas Sarkozy implementing a “midnight rule” making it harder for women to access birth control and abortion services as Dubya did here.

Douthat also states that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey is “(a) monument to pro-choice absolutism,” which to me is fascinating given the fact that only one of the five PA abortion law restrictions written by pro-life governor Bob Casey Sr. were ultimately overruled by the high court, and that pertained to spousal notification.

And I simply don’t know what to say in response to this sentence from Douthat: “(The movement’s task must remain the same) not because pro-lifers are absolutists who reject compromise, but because any real compromise will always depend on overturning Roe.”

On the contrary; I think, given this, that “overturning Roe” is as “absolutist” of a position as I can possibly imagine.

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