Anti-Christ Legions of the Underworld

If you think that doctors should practice medicine according to their own consciences, you’re the Anti-Christ.

… ought to be the name of a Heavy Metal band.

But it’s actually how a spokesman for Colorado Right to Life described the ACLU, for its support of the right of a physician at a Catholic hospital to give medical advice dictated by medical research rather than by a bishop. Full quote: “It’s not surprising that the Anti-Christ Legions of the Underworld would use the police-state force of government to compel an institution to aid and abet the dismemberment of unborn children.” Note that the “police-state” tactic under discussion is defending a professional practicing his profession according to his own conscience against outside pressure.

Query to supporters of “conscience clauses” allowing individuals and institutions to opt out of providing medical services or products of which they conscientously disapprove: Do you believe that Dr. Demos is entitled to the conscientous practice of medicine? If not, what is the meaning of “conscience clause,” execept that everyone should have to conform his conscience to yours?

If states embrace Romney’s so-called ‘moderate’ stance, they would ban maybe 90% of abortions

Me in the Nation, and a pretty chart made by the editors.

In 2004, Lawrence Finer, Lori Frohwirth, Lindsay Dauphinee, Susheela Singh, and Ann M. Moore surveyed women patients at eleven large abortion providers.  Their numbers, though imperfect, are pretty compelling when one considers the actual impact of proposed policy changes in the event Roe vs. Wade is overturned. The table below indicates women’s “most important” reason to seek an abortion. It presumably captures urgent cases such as a serious threat to women’s health. (Great graphic. One typo. “>0.5” should be “<0.5.”)

There’s one immediate implication to these numbers. Governor Romney is more civil and rhetorically moderate than Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock. Yet if states were to embrace Romney’s preferred policyof banning abortions with exceptions for rape, incest, and (I infer) serious threats to maternal health, they would ban almost all abortions in America.

I say more about these issues, in The Nation, today.

Paul Ryan, the Fourteenth Amendment, and “personhood”

The “Sanctity of Life” bill, if it became law, would require states to treat abortion – all abortion – as murder.

With more and more smart, honest conservatives getting fed up and switching sides, the remaining smart, honest conservatives are especially precious for those of us who don’t want to talk only to members of the Blue team. So Ramesh Ponnuru is a scarce resource, and I wouldn’t criticize him if I didn’t have to.

But I’m utterly puzzled by Ramesh’s criticism of Amy Odell and his followup criticism of Kevin Drum over the proposed Sanctity of Life Act, a Congressional “personhood” bill sponsored by a 55 extremists, including Paul Ryan.

Ramesh’s position is that the bill wouldn’t criminalize abortion. He accuses Kevin, who disagrees, of bad lawyering.

Well, I’m not a lawyer at all, but (as Sam Ervin once said) I understand the English language; it’s my mother tongue.

The full text of the bill is at the jump. The substance of it is that Congress, acting explicitly under its power “to enforce, by appropriate legislation,” the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, declares that every fertilized egg is a person, with all the legal rights of a person, including the “right to life.”

Now, what does the rest of the Fourteenth Amendment say? Why, it says, among other things, that “no state shall … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So, for example, a law forbidding the murder of white people only, leaving blacks unprotected, would be void as denying equal protection.

Assume for the moment that the law were to pass both Houses, that President Romney were to sign it, and that the Supreme Court’s Right-to-Life caucus were to get a fifth vote to hold that the law was constitutional.

Then no state could criminalize the killing of the “post-born” without also criminalizing the killing of the “pre-born,” any more than it could criminalize the murder of whites while permitting that of blacks. (That’s what makes “Dred Scott” a RTL dog-whistle, valid even in Confederate territory.)

Thus, unless a state wanted to declare open season on all of its citizens, it would have to criminalize abortion, and do so without any exceptions whatever: not rape, not the life of the mother, not nothing. I suppose you could run an IVF clinic, but you’d have to keep every fertilized egg alive indefinitely; it would be a person in law, and disposing of it would be murder.

So when the bill goes on to provide that “the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions,” “authority” really means “obligation.” Buzzfeed backed off on the original claim, but it seems to me they were wrong to do so.

So yes: Mitt Romney, who said in an unguarded moment that he’d be “delighted” to sign a bill banning “all abortion,” has chosen as his running-mate a Congressman who co-sponsored a bill to do precisely that.

Footnote Note that the short title of the bill betrays its theocratic roots. Congress has extensive powers, but even under the most generous interpretation of the Necessary and Proper clause they don’t extend to defining or protecting sanctity.

Continue reading “Paul Ryan, the Fourteenth Amendment, and “personhood””

Crucial distinction

There’s a difference between voting for a vicious law and being a vicious person.

The Republican majority in the Texas Legislature, which passed the law imposing pointless suffering on a woman whose pregnancy went wrong, isn’t actually a bunch of ignorant, sadistic morons.

They just play them on the campaign trail, and in Austin.

Seriously. Very few of them would really have been willing, in real life, to subject this utterly innocent victim to what she went through. Had they been forced to sit with her and her husband through the grotesquely unnecessary 24-hour waiting period, almost all of they would have begged to be let out. But under the influence of factional passion and Teahadi/theocon political pressure, they voted for something utterly meaningless and vicious.

Invitation to Red commenters here, and Red bloggers: come up with a justification of this law as applied this case. I defy you.

Sauce for the gander

Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy has introduced a proposal requiring men who ask their doctors for Viagra to sit through a film showing treatment of its most common side effects, including that mythical four-hour erection.  Apparently it’s not a pretty sight.  Her proposed amendment to the Ultrasound Opportunity Act (obviously named by Eric Blair) parallels the Act’s requirement that women go through a medically unnecessary ultrasound before having an abortion.

Rep. Cassidy, a serious and thoughtful legislator, has declined thus far to accept a suggested friendly amendment requiring these same men to have a pointless and un-anesthetized anal probe.   Nor does anyone recommend modifying the proposal to require colonoscopies, because those would actually benefit the men, and therefore not be parallel to a vaginal invasion at all.

As I stood on a street-corner yesterday leading chants of “Birth control is basic health care!” and “Women are not livestock!” (the latter because the ultrasound bill and other Illinois proposals restricting women’s rights have been sent to the reliably and fanatically anti-choice Agriculture Committee), I wondered if I’d somehow fallen through a wormhole and ended up in 1963.  Hell, even Mad Men has gone further than that.

But if the Republicans want to fight the presidential election on this issue, they can bring it on:  Democrats at every level will win in a landslide.



Herman Cain is pro-choice: he believes that a woman who becomes pregnant as the result of rape should be able to *choose* between bearing her rapist’s child and going to jail.

Since Herman Cain seems to be having a hard time explaining his position on abortion, the spirit of post-partisanship calls on those of us who aren’t his friends politically to help out.

You can see where he’s pinned. Cain knows that he’s supposed to be anti-abortion, and that he’s also supposed to be for minimal government. The problem is that hasn’t been in politics long enough to believe the requisite number of contradictions before breakfast. So he managed to say that he was “pro-life” and that he believed in choice. That makes him sound like all the other pols who say they’re personally against abortion but believe in the right to choose. And he knows that “pro-choice” is about as popular with the base as Barack Obama. So Cain is backpedaling furiously, if not very coherently.

Cain’s actual position actually rather simple, and it makes him both anti-abortion and pro-choice.

See, he believes that a woman who becomes pregnant as the result of rape should be able to choose between bearing her rapist’s child or, alternatively, having a dangerous back-alley abortion and going to jail for it.

What could be fairer than that?

Footnote Cain isn’t nearly as dumb as Rick Perry, but he’s even more clueless about the issues than Sarah Palin was. I completely believe him when he says he doesn’t know what a neo-conservative is and doesn’t either know or care who’s the president of Uz-beki-beki-stan-stan.