Monday, April 24, 2023

Then and Still, Abortion

Lindsay Graham made a telling claim about abortion rights to Dana Bash on Sunday's "State of the Union" on CNN.

Pursuant to the Hyde Amendment, no federal funds can be used for abortion unless the pregnancy occurs because of rape or incest or endangers the woman's life. Thus, there is something impressively slick- and tactically significant- about "abortion up to the moment of birth, taxpayer-funded." On Sunday's State of the Union on CNN, Dana Bash interviewed South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham and this exchange about abortion transpired:

BASH: Senator, I have heard you say both on this issue, that it is a state issue, but now you do support a federal ban. So who's right here?

GRAHAM: Right.

Well, I have been supporting a limit on late-term abortions for -- since 2015. I had a bill to limit abortions at 20 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother. Seventy percent of Americans support limiting abortion when the -- when the unborn child can feel pain; 50 of 53 European nations limit abortion at 15 weeks or less.

BASH: But my question is, is it a federal issue or a state...

GRAHAM: The modern Democrat -- yes, it's a human rights issue. Does it really matter where you're conceived?

At 15 weeks, you have a developed heart and lungs. And to dismember a child at 15 weeks is a painful experience. It's barbaric. It's out of line with the rest of the civilized world. Only North Korea and China allow abortion demand up to the moment of birth, except the Democratic Party.

Of course, there is no "abortion on demand." No one can walk into the office of a doctor, even one who performs abortions, and "demand" an abortion. It's not only a brazenly dishonest claim, but one which trivializes both the heightened stress of asking for termination of pregnancy and the risk undertaken by the medical professional in performing the procedure.

Aside for that, the Democratic bill, which passed the House of Representatives on July 15, 2022, only indirectly addresses the issue of when termination of pregnancy would be permitted.  The Poynter Institute's Politifact analyzed the veracity of the remark of U.S. Representative Marianette Miller-Meeks, two days after passage in her chamber of  the Women's Health Protection Act of 2022, "I also spoke this week against the radical left’s abortion bill that would permit abortion up until delivery." It noted  

Miller-Meeks’ newsletter comment has a point that the bill "would permit abortion up until delivery." However, she glosses over a crucial qualifier: The bill would allow such abortions only under extreme circumstances, in which medical professionals determine that the mother’s life or health is at risk.

It’s worth noting that late-term abortions — the kind that would need to be approved under these circumstances — are rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its latest count from November 2021 that of the 629,898 abortions performed in 2019, almost 93% of them were at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy. About 6% were performed between 14 and 20 weeks, and less than 1% were performed at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy.

The figures are based on reports by health agencies throughout the U.S., although California, Maryland and New Hampshire did not report.

So under the Democratic bill which died, women would have been allowed to terminate their pregnancy up to the time of birth- but only if their physician determined that continuation of pregnancy would have jeopardized her life or health. And such late term abortions constitute far fewer than 1% of all abortions.  Federal funds could be used only if the woman's life is threatened.

Personally, I would have preferred a bill focused on reproductive health of women without language satisfying the id of LGBTQIA and anti-racist advocates:

The terms “woman” and “women” are used in this bill to reflect the identity of the majority of people targeted and affected by restrictions on abortion services, and to address squarely the targeted restrictions on abortion, which are rooted in misogyny. However, access to abortion services is critical to the health of every person capable of becoming pregnant. This Act is intended to protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy—cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender, and others—who are unjustly harmed by restrictions on abortion services...

Reproductive justice seeks to address restrictions on reproductive health, including abortion, that perpetuate systems of oppression, lack of bodily autonomy, white supremacy, and anti-Black racism. This violent legacy has manifested in policies including enslavement, rape, and experimentation on Black women; forced sterilizations; medical experimentation on low-income women’s reproductive systems; and the forcible removal of Indigenous children. Access to equitable reproductive health care, including abortion services, has always been deficient in the United States for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) and their families.

It's striking that the Republicans evidently lack a political strategist who would tell them how to target references to "people with the capacity for pregnancy- cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals" and "enslavement, rape, and experimentation on Black women," language which could not have been more off-putting if it were specifically phrased to alienate voters. Nonetheless, this was ignored by the GOP.

Thus, on Monday morning, in an interview unrelated to the 2022 bill, South Carolina's Nancy Mace told CNN's Kaitlan Collins that Democrats support abortion up to the moment of birth. Most voters, if they were made aware of the language of the proposal, would have recoiled at this wokiest of woke depiction of American society and indictment of Americans themselves. Instead, Republicans reinforce their image as the anti-choice party in a country now decidedly pro-choice.

It is telling that Mace, whose views of reproductive rights are the most moderate of nearly any GOP member of Congress, would repeat the grossly misleading claim that Democrats are fine with abortion as the baby comes through the birth canal. Lindsay Graham did the same 24 hours earlier.  Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis chooses a different emphasis, brags that "Florida is where woke goes to die," and his prospects of becoming the party's 2024 presidential nominee plunge.  It's a testament to the power of the evangelical base of the Republican Party that GOP politicians, offered a tempting political target, instead distort Democratic views of abortion whenever and wherever they can.

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