Monday, March 22, 2010

Pro-life through the funhouse mirror

I, apparently, am the face of pro-choice America.

Me and Bart Stupak, congressman from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We've been written right out of the ranks of pro-life Americans by Republicans, members of a party that stood strong by a president who thought it perfectly fine to honor the human dignity of "enemy combatants" through life-affirming torture sessions.

We've been condemned to pro-abortion hell by none other than Phyllis Schlafly, who said the House's final passage of health-care reform "clarified that you cannot be pro-life and be a Democrat."

One GOP congressman put an exclamation point on Stupak's pro-life excommunication by yelling
"Baby killer!" at the Democrat on the House floor. It's a pity the marathon House session didn't run just a little longer, so that anonymous Republican could have gone for the tea-party hat trick by calling Barney Frank the F-word and John Lewis the N-word.


Because that's the patriotic, all-American and pro-life thing to do, apparently.

IT DOESN'T matter to the tea partiers, or to the Republican caucus, or to the nation's Catholic bishops that virtually every expert out there (except for their own) said the Senate health-care bill -- which the House was voting to ratify and send to President Obama for his signature -- was no pro-abortion document.

An interview with a law professor -- Timothy Jost of Washington and Lee -- by NPR's Robert Siegel on All Things Considered last week
was particularly informative:
SIEGEL: And first, is the Senate bill more tolerant of abortion and federal spending on abortion than the House bill is?

Prof. JOST:
No, it is not.

In the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement against the Senate bill, Cardinal Francis George wrote this: The Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde Amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures.

You would say that's not true?

Prof. JOST:
That is not true. The bill explicitly cross-references the Hyde Amendment at a couple of different places. One is, it provides that no federal funding for the new premium subsidies or cost-sharing reduction subsidies - the money that's going to go help people buy health insurance - that none of that money can be used to pay for abortions.

And secondly, it provides that the conscience protections, and the protections against discrimination against providers who are unwilling to provide or pay for abortion - is also preserved under the Senate bill.


SIEGEL: You've studied both the House and the Senate bill.

Prof. JOST: Mm-hmm.

SIEGEL: How would you characterize both of them - on a crude spectrum, from pro-choice to pro-life? How do these bills look to you?

Prof. JOST:
I think they are both basically pro-life bills. I think they are bills that - the Senate bill has some provisions that are stronger than the House. Senate bill, for example, provides $250 million to provide support for pregnant and parenting women who want to bear and keep a child. That's not in the House bill. So there are some provisions in the Senate bill that are stronger than the House.

The bishops prefer the approach that the House bill uses to the provisions of the Senate bill. But they're basically equivalent. Both bills prohibit federal funding for abortions through the premium subsidies. And as a practical matter, both of them are going to make it more difficult to get abortion coverage through an insurance policy. That is true under the status quo.

SIEGEL: Professor Jost, you've been studying health law for quite a while. Is there something about these bills that is especially confusing or opaque that would lead to these very different interpretations, whether one is much more pro-life than the other? Or are people just being tendentious in their readings of these two bills?

Prof. JOST: I think people are being distrustful in their reading. I think that there's a tendency to sort of assume the devious motives on the parts of others, you know - which may, in part, be justified. This has been a pretty intense debate in our country.

But I think in this case, it is just not justified, that - I think that the senators who drafted these amendments are pro-life senators who intended to make sure that federal funding doesn't go for abortion. And so I think that there's sort of an unwarranted belief that people are proceeding in bad faith when in fact, they're proceeding in the best of good faith and trying to achieve the same goals.
AND THUS Stupak and his tiny band of pro-life (er . . . baby killing?) House Democrats sought refuge in the cover of a presidential executive order reaffirming what already was plain in the Senate language. That Obama even would compromise that much infuriated pro-choice advocacy groups.

Unfortunately for Democrat pro-lifers, it seems there is no cover from zealots eager to excommunicate from the pro-life movement anyone deemed less pure -- or less right-wing -- than themselves. Pity poor Bart Stupak, for there most certainly is no cover from wild-eyed Republicans' verbal brickbats in the "people's house."

He's not a Catholic lawmaker acting in good faith as he exercises his prudential judgment on legislation that's as pro-life as he has the power to make it -- a bill most "experts" say is pretty pro-life indeed.

No, Bart Stupak is a "baby killer." A traitor. An ex-pro-lifer.

Someone, in the words of Schlafly, who "
will be forever remembered as being among the deciding votes which facilitated the largest expansion of abortion services since Roe v. Wade."

IT MATTERS not a whit that any of this is only true in the peculiarly peculiar alternate universe inhabited by the Republican Party and their useful -- and angry -- idiots in professional pro-liferism. Ask Ben Nelson; he got the Stupak treatment before Stupak got the Stupak treatment.

When you so sell your political soul down that particular River of Denial, it's easy to equate "pro-life" with a party willing to see 47 million (and climbing) Americans subsist with no health insurance at all. It's no big whoop to equate saving lives with maintaining the status-quo probability of losing everything if you get sick enough.

In the funhouse-mirror world of professional, political pro-liferism -- or perhaps the better term is "anti-abortionism" -- it's far better to maintain a system where it's a lot cheaper for low-income, uninsured women to get an abortion than it is for them to get prenatal care. See "Nebraska, State of" and "Heineman (R-Neb.), Gov. Dave."

Anti-abortionism is good with all that, just so long as it keeps civil society unsullied by health-care reform legislation that's merely "pretty good, considering" from a pro-life perspective instead of the New Jerusalem come down to earth. Yesterday.

The tyranny of dying for lack of decent health care -- the tyranny of money being, in too many cases, the final arbiter between living and dying if you're sick in America -- is really the preservation of liberty . . . or so we're told by the voices coming from the funhouse. Tyranny is only tyranny if it's the tyranny of "socialized medicine."

Elder care is "death panels," prenatal care is an abortion waiting to happen, fundamentally pro-life legislation is "
the largest expansion of abortion services since Roe v. Wade"
. . . and Bart Stupak is a "baby killer."

THESE VOICES -- the ones from the funhouse . . . the ones in the heads of those deep inside political pro-liferism -- come up with the damnedest things indeed. Like this:
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, will be the featured speaker at the 27th annual Life Centers Celebration of Life fund-raiser in Indianapolis. President Bush will join special musical guest, Grammy Award-winning artist Sandi Patty, and 2009 Miss America Katie Stam at Conseco Fieldhouse on Thursday, April 15 at 7pm.

"We are honored to welcome President George W. Bush, whose strong record on life issues demonstrates his belief that every life matters," Brian Boone, Life Centers president and CEO, said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate life - with a keynote address from a public servant who made the sanctity of human life a priority."

The proceeds from the event will benefit Life Centers, a nonprofit Christian ministry which helps women in unplanned pregnancies by providing free services including pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, confidential peer counseling, 24-hour help line calls, post-abortion and maternity support at its eight pregnancy resource centers across Central Indiana.

"We are grateful that President George W. Bush will inspire our community to create a culture of life at the crossroads of America and to show compassion to women in unplanned pregnancies," Boone said.
THE GEORGE W. BUSH who approved federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The George W. Bush of waterboarding fame. The George W. Bush who went to war in Iraq for, as it turns out, no discernible reason other than to "get" Saddam Hussein and to "establish freedom."

The George W. Bush of torture at Abu Ghraib, torture at secret CIA prisons and torture at Guantanamo.

The pro-life movement -- or, more precisely, the political operatives and conservative ideologues who've hijacked the pro-life movement -- say Bart Stupak is a baby killer and that neither of us are real pro-life Catholics.

To be authentically "pro-life" is to take marching orders from one bunch to whom George Bush is a hero?

To be a real pro-life Catholic is to treat as holy writ the political judgments of a "hapless bench of bishops"
ostensibly capable of deciphering the pro-life bona fides of health-care policy but decidedly less facile at keeping pervy priests from diddling little boys? I'll declare unyielding fealty to Catholic bishops' take on health-care reform when they take responsibility for their own complicity in perpetuating the moral horror of sexual abuse in the church.


GO AHEAD, "pro-life" movement. Excommunicate me, and Bart Stupak, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, and every other "formerly pro-life Democrat" for thinking that the health-care reform proposal ratified by the House was "good enough for government work."

We'll see you in hell.

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