I'm starting to suspect that the New York Times is giving increasingly ill-considered and poorly written conservatives column space in an effort to undermine the idea that Republican ideology has any intellectual validity.
Otherwise, I don't really see what the papers' editors are thinking, between hiring neocon idiot Bill Kristol and then replacing him with slut-shaming, supposedly new-idea-having former Atlantic blogger Ross Douthat. Having already definitively determined that feminism makes women unhappy by reading one study abstract, today, Douthat turns his attention to late-term abortion.
You see, Douthat totally understands why late term abortions might be necessary, and the courage it took for Dr. George Tiller to continue performing this vital health service for women...he just thinks the late doctor was an amoral baby-killer who didn't understand God. As for all the women who have written testimonials about their experiences with late-term abortions, Mr. Douthat read them, and he thinks they're all assholes.
They help explain why Tiller thought he was doing the Lord's work, even though that work involved destroying something that we wouldn't hesitate to call a baby if we saw it struggling for life in a hospital bed.
And let's not forget the amoral part: Douthat's been listening to the very people who advocated violence against Tiller, his patients, his staff and the clinic, and so he knows that Tiller was just willy-nilly performing late term abortions on perfectly healthy fetuses and mothers all the time. How does he know? Because the anti-abortion movement told him and the state government, over and over again, to try to get Tiller jailed.
But his critics were convinced that he performed them not only in truly desperate situations, but in many other cases as well. Over the years, they cobbled together a considerable amount of evidence - drawn from the state's abortion statistics, from Tiller's own comments, and from a 2006 investigation - suggesting that Tiller abused the state's mental-health exemption to justify late-term abortions in almost any situation.
This evidence is persuasive, but not dispositive. We may never know how many of George Tiller's abortions were performed on healthy mothers and healthy fetuses.
Well, I mean, the courts found it "dispositive," which is why on what few charges the anti-abortion movement managed to gin up against him, Tiller was acquitted. But, by all means, lets continue to smear Tiller as an amoral baby-killer. It'll help strengthen Douthat's argument!
Douthat also understands why, having read the real stories of women who endured the sorts of pregnancies that needfully ended in late term terminations, why pro-choice types think abortions should remain legal. He just thinks we're wrong, i.e. causing needless social strife and even violence. I mean, most abortions are elective, Douthat says! (And even most late-term ones, he additionally asserts without evidence!)
The same is true of the more than 100,000 abortions that are performed after the first trimester: Very few involve medical complications of any kind. Even the now-outlawed "partial-birth" procedure, which abortion-rights supporters initially argued was only employed in the direst of dire situations, turned out to be used primarily for purely elective abortions.
Now that last bit is a careful bit of language on Douthat's part. Because, in reality, there's no evidence even in the Slate article that Douthat links to that the abortions were elective; the best that the article's author Franklin Foer can muster is that the procedure known as "intact dilation and extraction" was "safer and more convenient" than alternative methods (because, really, why would you want to use the method least likely to cause the death of the mother?) and that two newspapers concluded, after speaking to a couple doctors, that second-trimester intact dilation and extractions were "mostly" performed on poor women who were unable to get into a practitioner in time for a first trimester abortion — which doesn't necessarily make them "elective."
Douthat then sets up his pro-choice strawman to knock down: as far as he's concerned, pro-choicers people deny that a fetus has a "claim to life" — i.e., is already a human being — and that's why we don't care whether a fetus is healthy or the mother was simply too lazy to use birth control. And in our zeal to protect the right of every woman to make the best choices for her (and, yes, in some cases, the fetus she is carrying), it's our fault that we've made abortion politics so controversial.
If anything, by enshrining a near-absolute right to abortion in the Constitution, the pro-choice side has ensured that the hard cases are more controversial than they otherwise would be. One reason there's so much fierce argument about the latest of late-term abortions - Should there be a health exemption? A fetal deformity exemption? How broad should those exemptions be? - is that Americans aren't permitted to debate anything else. Under current law, if you want to restrict abortion, post-viability procedures are the only kind you're allowed to even regulate.
In other words, since Roe v. Wade protects women's right to any abortion pre-viability, the "debate" over late term abortions — as epitomized in Douthat's own column by one George Tiller — is so "fierce" because poor anti-abortion activists have nothing else to fight about. Apparently, Douthat has missed the efforts by South Dakota to make abortion illegal, the efforts by Colorado to pass a personhood amendment, the efforts activists in states like Mississippi to drive all clinics out of business (thus, eliminating abortion in the state) through over-regulation and all the other various things anti-abortion activists are actively doing to overturn Roe v. Wade in addition to fueling hate-filled and violent rhetoric against all abortion providers, including late-term providers like George Tiller.
Douthat's final argument is — I swear — that pro-choice people who want to prevent violence against abortion providers should simply accept the end of Roe v. Wade and allow states to make abortion illegal. I wish I was kidding.
If abortion were returned to the democratic process, this landscape would change dramatically. Arguments about whether and how to restrict abortions in the second trimester - as many advanced democracies already do – would replace protests over the scope of third-trimester medical exemptions.
The result would be laws with more respect for human life, a culture less inflamed by a small number of tragic cases - and a political debate, God willing, unmarred by crimes like George Tiller's murder.
To sum up: if we just roll over, accept the end of abortion access, and let them teach us about respect for human life, they won't kill any more abortion providers. Good to know whose hands Douthat thinks Tiller's blood is really on.
Not All Abortions Are Equal [NY Times]
Related: Bill Kristol Spews, America Heaves [Wonkette]
Faerie Tales And TheModern Neo-Con [Wonkette]
Fear Of Reese Witherspoon Look-Alikes On the Pill [Brad DeLong]
Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class And Save The American Dream
Ross Douthat [The Atlantic]
Abortion Apostate [Slate]
Antiabortion Efforts Move To The State Level [Washington Post]