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Posts tagged abortion
10:58 am - Tue, Feb 4, 2014

The GOP vs. the Free Market

Mother Jones reports that Republican state lawmakers around the country are trying to prohibit insurance coverage of abortion — not just through government exchanges, but in every policy whatsoever.

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10:15 am - Mon, Sep 9, 2013
1 note

Elizabeth Warren, Anti-Choice Activist

Speaking at a recent labor confab, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said

“I believe that if people would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen.”

So if in, say, Alabama, people oppose a trade agreement between a pregnant woman and a Planned Parenthood clinic to exchange an abortion for money, that trade agreement should be forbidden?

This isn’t what Warren meant to say, even though Planned Parenthood certainly qualifies as the sort of Big Business she would despise if it engaged in some other trade.

Still, question: If a free-trade agreement made it easier for Americans to travel abroad for purposes of medical tourism, and “people” opposed that particular trade agreement, would Warren support the proposition that the government should prohibit other people from exercising that sort of choice? If not, then on what basis does she think it should prohibit people from exercising the choice to buy (or sell) other goods and services?

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4:23 pm - Thu, Aug 15, 2013
1 note

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3:38 pm - Mon, Jul 8, 2013
I’m not easily offended**, which admittedly makes me an outlier, but I don’t see what makes this fairly tame ad so awful that some newspapers wouldn’t run it… .

** Annoyed? Different story altogether!

I’m not easily offended**, which admittedly makes me an outlier, but I don’t see what makes this fairly tame ad so awful that some newspapers wouldn’t run it… .

** Annoyed? Different story altogether!

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9:30 am - Mon, Jun 24, 2013

(Luckily for her!)

#gaffes

#logic bombs

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10:58 am - Wed, Jun 19, 2013

Conservatives generally dismiss the doctrine of disparate impact, and liberals generally embrace it. Until the discussion turns to abortion, that is.

* * *

 

E.W. Jackson, the Virginia Republican Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, says “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was.” Jackson may be — as an exquisite Bloomberg headline called him — the “candidate of Virginia’s swivel-eyed loons.” But on this point he is technically correct.

According to a tally at Tuskegee University, 3,446 African-Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968. By contrast, Planned Parenthood performs more than 300,000 abortions each year, and the abortion rate among African-Americans is more than three times higher than the rate among whites. Even if we assume that Planned Parenthood is a wild outlier and performs only 1 percent of all its abortions on blacks, Jackson’s statement still qualifies as true.

But so what? The Vietnam War killed almost twice as many African-Americans as the Klan did. Murder took the lives of 6,329 blacks in 2011, and blacks were the offender in nine out of 10 cases. By itself, Jackson’s statement is not that interesting.

But liberal and conservative reaction to it is. Conservatives (generally speaking) holler and stomp in approval. Liberals (generally speaking) howl in protest. The Washington Post, for instance, denounced “the Planned Parenthood canard,” lamenting “the idea that Planned Parenthood is a racist, even genocidal enterprise” as “scurrilous and estranged from the truth” despite being “an article of faith among some right-wing Republicans.”

This completely inverts the orthodox left and right positions on certain questions of race — specifically, those having to do with the doctrine of disparate impact.

That doctrine says (in the words of the Center for Equal Opportunity’s Roger Clegg) that institutions “can be held liable for policies that have disproportionate racial effects — even if those policies make no racial distinctions, are adopted with no discriminatory intent, and are applied in nondiscriminatory ways.”

So, for example, The Post reported the other day that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has “accused two major companies (BMW and Dollar General) of indirectly discriminating against African Americans by using criminal background checks to screen out workers.” Here in Central Virginia, others have been alarmed by a report on school discipline in Henrico showing black students make up 75 percent of students who are suspended, though they make up only 37 percent of the student population.

Two local black leaders, State Sen. Donald McEachin and Henrico County Supervisor Tyrone Nelson, wrote to the superintendent of the county school system to say they were “deeply disappointed and … very concerned” by the report.

To conservatives, racial discrimination does not explain such disparities; individual behavior does. But the doctrine of disparate impact argues otherwise: It assumes facially neutral lending policies, for example, are discriminatory if they result in fewer blacks than whites getting loans.

This dichotomy of explanation showed up again last week, when the Urban Institute released an update of the Moynihan Report. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s treatise on the plight of the African-American community focused heavily on individual factors — specifically, high rates of single parenthood. The new report downplays that explanation in favor of broader structural ones, such as “geographic concentrations of poverty”:

“Living in profoundly poor neighborhoods undermines people’s well-being and long-term life chances. High-poverty neighborhoods suffer from high rates of crime and violence, poor schools, and weak connections to the labor market. … Neighborhood environment influences teens’ sexual activity. … Young people who live in high-crime areas are more likely to commit crimes themselves, other things being equal.” The new report also cites structural factors such as “disproportionate incarceration” and other “obstacles that ensnare black families.”

To conservatives, this is an error of chickens and eggs. Conservatives would say profoundly poor neighborhoods do not cause crime, violence, teen sex, and so on, but result from them. Disproportionate incarceration does not weaken the black family; weakened families lead to disproportionate incarceration. And so on.

But then the topic turns to abortion and Planned Parenthood, and suddenly tunes change. Conservatives act as if individual agency has little to do with the disproportionately high rate of abortion among blacks. It is, they suggest, entirely the fault of malevolent institutions such as Planned Parenthood — and the fact that abortion has a disparate impact on blacks proves the abortion industry is racist.

And liberals? They retort that this is nonsense. If blacks have more abortions, why, that flows in part from individual choices. As one Planned Parenthood fact sheet puts it, “unintended pregnancy rates are higher for black Americans and Latinas than for white women.” The liberals may be marginally more consistent, since Planned Parenthood goes on to argue that such choices flow from “broader health disparities” such as limited access to birth control. But “marginally more consistent than conservatives” is not anything you would want to inscribe on a plaque, now is it?

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1:00 pm - Tue, Jun 18, 2013
1 note

Today in “Too Stupid for Words” …

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2:59 pm - Mon, Jun 3, 2013
1 note

Hey, wait a second! I was led to understand by about 10 brazillion Internet posts that Those People only care about children BEFORE they’re born!

This stuff about Christians adopting needy kids is totally going to subvert one of my knee-jerk responses to stories about abortion rights and force me to consider the possibility that people I disagree with might be more than one-dimensional.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens.

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10:38 am - Tue, May 7, 2013
5 notes

Teen-Agers, Sex, and Crime

The debate over whether to sell Plan Be contraception to teen-age girls exposes, once again, Americans’ schizophrenic attitudes about teen-agers, sex, and crime.

As far as most conservatives are concerned, young people lack the maturing and judgment to make sensible decisions about contraception and abortion. Yet many of those same conservatives will turn around and insist that a 14-year-old who commits a homicide should be tried as an adult.

For example, Texas sets the age of consent for sexual activity at 17. But it tries children as young as 13 as adults for certain criminal offenses. 

What’s more,

Texas also requires both parental notification and consent before a minor can have an abortion. So in the state’s eyes, some 14-year-olds who commit crimes have the maturity and judgment of fully grown adults, but no 17-year-old has the maturity and judgment to make a medical decision for herself. Those two positions cannot be reconciled.

Texas isn’t alone. Virginia law takes the same two positions. In Mississippi, children as young as 13 can be tried as adults not only for violent felonies, but for any criminal offenses whatsoever – and they must be tried as adults for some felonies, including capital crimes. But both parents must agree before a Mississippi girl just shy of her 18th birthday can have an abortion. In Kansas, the discrepancy is even more stark: 17-year-olds must obtain consent from both parents for an abortion, and the age of sexual consent is 16 – but children can be charged as adults for any sort of crime starting at age 10.

This is simply incoherent.

The orthodox liberal opinion is just as incoherent, but in reverse. Progressives maintain that teen-agers who are too young to drive are mature enough to buy contraception and obtain abortions without parental consent or even parental notification. Yet most also argue that young people who commit crimes should not be held fully responsible because their brains have not developed enough to think through the long-range consequences of their often impulsive behavior.

Public policy has to draw lines somewhere, and those lines often will be set arbitrarily. But they should not be set so arbitrarily that they end up being mutually contradictory.

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12:04 pm - Mon, Apr 29, 2013
1 note

There’s an old joke in journalism that any three anecdotes constitute a trend. If you take Gosnell and this case and this one and this one the one linked to above, then we definitely have a trend.

I support the right to abortion, just like I support the right to keep and bear arms. That doesn’t mean I support homicide, or other lesser offenses, in the name of either.

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5:43 pm - Sun, Apr 14, 2013
22 notes

“U.S. out of my uterus,” reads a sendup of liberal orthodoxy on reproductive freedom. “But first,” it concludes, “buy me stuff for my uterus.” Like a lot of good humor, the joke is not far from the truth.

Progressives groups in Virginia were outraged recently when Gov. Bob McDonnell amended legislation authorizing an insurance exchange to prohibit policies offered through the exchange from covering abortion. The amendment “interferes in private medical and economic decisions,” complained Progress Virginia. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia also condemned the measure, which it said would “restrict private economic interactions in order to advance an extreme anti-choice agenda.” Planned Parenthood objected, as did many Democratic legislators.

On the other coast, however, it’s a completely different story. Or rather, precisely the same story in reverse.

Until last week, lawmakers in Washington state had been debating a piece of legislation called the Reproductive Parity Act. That measure, killed in a Senate committee, would not have forbidden insurance policies offered through the state exchange to cover abortion. It would have required them to.

How did ostensibly pro-choice groups feel about the bill? Planned Parenthood endorsed it. So did NARAL. The measure had the support of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and cleared the Democrat-controlled House principally on party lines. It probably would have cleared the Senate, too, had it gotten out of committee.

But wait a sec. If forbidding abortion coverage “interferes in private medical and economic decisions,” then requiring such coverage does exactly the same. In each case, politicians are using the coercive power of the state to impose their economic preferences on others. So why were ostensibly pro-choice groups trying to get the Parity Act passed?

Because they are not really pro-choice. This hardly qualifies as a new insight — but thanks to Obamacare, these days it sticks out like a porcupine in a petting zoo.

Both Planned Parenthood and NARAL supported passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 — and when the Supreme Court upheld it two years later, they both cheered. The only thing they didn’t like about the landmark law — aside, perhaps, from the fact that it did not go far enough — was a logjam-breaking deal in which the president agreed to sign an executive order preventing federal funds from subsidizing abortions.

As NARAL President Nancy Keenan noted in a letter to The New York Times, “House Republican leaders’ desire to further restrict abortion coverage in health care reform … smacks of hypocrisy. Interfering in families’ private medical decisions and in insurance companies’ business decisions doesn’t sound at all like the smaller, less intrusive government those politicians pledged during the campaign.”

True enough. But, of course, the Affordable Care Act includes many mandates — most salient among them the individual insurance mandate, an unprecedented expansion of federal power that forces every U.S. resident to buy coverage whether he or she wants it or not. Short of conscription, you can’t get much more intrusive than that.

Under the ACA, insurance companies also have to provide coverage for 10 different categories of care, including preventive care. That is the hook on which the Obama administration hung another mandate — the one requiring coverage of contraception. Pro-choice groups loudly, intensely — and sometimes weirdly — fought for enactment of that mandate as well. Their argument seemed to be that the right to choose contraception included the right to have it paid for by someone else, even if that someone had strenuous religious objections.

This is like saying the right to keep and bear arms includes the right to a free Smith & Wesson. But pro-choice groups stuck to their guns, insisting that the government should force companies and institutions that buy insurance to buy contraception coverage as part of it.

Yet once you grant the state the power to compel coverage of a given treatment, then you necessarily grant it the power to forbid coverage of a given treatment as well. It’s a tad rich for pro-choice groups to complain that McDonnell’s measure “interferes in private medical and economic decisions,” when that is the entire purpose of the Affordable Care Act — or to grumble that McDonnell wants to “restrict private economic interactions in order to advance an extreme anti-choice agenda” after they have expended so much effort seeking to restrict private economic interactions in order to advance a pro-choice agenda.

Political winds shift. The good guys will not always hold office. The only way to keep the bad guys from using government power for nefarious ends, therefore, is to deny government much power in the first place. Once again, pro-choice groups are learning the hard lesson that, as Thomas Jefferson is said to have said — but in fact did not — a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.

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11:46 am - Thu, Apr 11, 2013
7 notes

Let me state the obvious. This should be front page news. When Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke, there was non-stop media hysteria. The venerable NBC Nightly News’ Brian Williams intoned, “A firestorm of outrage from women after a crude tirade from Rush Limbaugh,” as he teased a segment on the brouhaha. Yet, accusations of babies having their heads severed — a major human rights story if there ever was one — doesn’t make the cut.

You don’t have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy. This is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” It’s about basic human rights.

- Kirsten Powers, on the media blackout of the Kermit Gosnell trial.

Bonus point: Gosnell is no longer an “isolated incident.

FWIW, I support abortion rights. What I don’t support is the intolerable double standard in the media that treats killing children with guns as front-page news for months on end, but killing children with scissors as unworthy of notice.

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9:58 am - Fri, Mar 29, 2013

Tea Party Test Case

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Republicans win when they stay true to conservative principles,  conservatives claim after every Republican defeat. (examples here, here, and here ). As Texas Gov. Rick Perry said at this year’s CPAC, “”You need to nominate conservatives if you’re going to win elections. You can’t do it with moderates or even moderate conservatives. Americans want the real thing.”

We’ll soon see. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the real thing: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli not only disputes climate change. He has challenged the EPA’s endangerment finding in court and hounded climatologist Michael Mann over emails.

Cuccinelli not only opposes gay marriage, he considers homosexuality “intrinsically wrong.

He not only opposes tax hikes, he has challenged Virginia’s new transporation funding plan, which was championed by the state’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell.

He not only opposes abortion, he equates it with slavery. He not only dislikes Obamacare, he was the first AG to file suit against it.

And the tea party movement treats him like a rock star.

In short, you can’t get much more purely orthodox than Cuccinelli on the big conservative hot-button issues. There is not the slightest chance that he will risk losing by moving too far to the center. So, as political analyst Robert Holsworth told the Washington Post, that makes him “almost a test case of the argument that Republicans win when they don’t trim their beliefs.”

The only flaw in the experiment may be Cuccinelli’s opponent: Democrat Terry McAuliffe. In Virginia’s last gubernatorial election, McAuliffe came in a distant second in the Democratic primary. He is not, to put it gently, the most formidable candidate the Democrats could field. So if Cuccinelli wins, he may owe part of his victory not to his strong views but to his weak opponent.

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3:36 pm - Sun, Mar 3, 2013
2 notes

Abortion and the Auctioneer Effect

“Pray to end abortion,” say many pro-lifers. Given that abortion is a regrettable necessity at best, this is a noble sentiment. Unfortunately, politicians are not inclined to leave an outcome to the Almighty, who might mess it up.

Because they cannot ban abortion outright, conservative politicians have tried to discourage it in heavy-handed and sometimes humiliating ways. Thirty-four states impose regulations specific to abortion providers; 35 require counseling, and 26 impose waiting periods. Eight states, including Virginia, now require women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound. Last year lawmakers in the Old Dominion drew national scorn by proposing a law that would have mandated an invasive transvaginal ultrasound.

Indiana wants to top them all.

Last week the health committee of the Indiana Senate approved a bill to require not one transvaginal ultrasound, but two — one before the abortion, and one afterward — for medical, rather than surgical, abortions. (Medical abortions are those induced by drugs such as RU-486.)

The full Senate later dropped the second ultrasound. But it kept in place requirements that establishments dispensing pills such as RU-486 meet the same construction standards as those performing surgical abortions. As the Indianapolis Star reported, “That requirement means the clinic must have operating and sterilization equipment along with widened hallways and doorways. And that, said Planned Parenthood of Indiana, likely means that its clinic in Lafayette will have to close.”

As elsewhere, the lawmakers backing the bills have tried to portray them as efforts to protect women’s health. But that pose is pretty hard to sustain when you’re demanding wider halls and doorways for handing out pills.

It got harder still when Indiana Democrats suggested the same treatment for men seeking vasectomies or pills to help, ah, turn their floppy disks into hard drives. Surely, Democrats said, men ought to be lectured about the risks — perhaps undergo a prostate exam, even. State Sen. Mike Young, sponsor of a bill requiring informed consent, ultrasound, and other restrictions on abortion, was not amused. “I don’t find these things funny or humorous,” he said. There’s a shock.

Indiana might not require two ultrasounds this year. Yet just by introducing the measure, Hoosier Republicans have raised the bar for lawmakers in other states.

Perhaps one day we’ll see a three-ultrasound requirement. Or a bill requiring not just hospital building-code standards for abortion clinics, but the construction of an entire hospital. Mike Young’s bill requires auscultation of a fetal heartbeat; if an abortion patient would rather not listen to it, she must sign a form to that effect. Perhaps some enterprising lawmaker in another state will require pregnant women seeking abortions to write letters to their unborn children. We eventually might even get around to requiring scarlet letters, too.

This brings up a much broader problem in American politics: Call it the auctioneer effect. Having approved a new law or program to address a circumstance in one year, politicians confront a dilemma in subsequent years: What next? Often — almost always — the problem does not disappear. It wouldn’t do to conclude that, since previous laws and programs have failed, perhaps the problem lies beyond government’s ability to solve. Answer: Write more laws and fund more programs! As in a genuine auction, the winner is the pol who can propose the most.

You can see the auctioneer effect all over the place. You can see it in public education, where ever-increasing expenditures produce flat test scores, which are then met with calls for even more spending. You can see it in the war on poverty, which now boasts 126 separate means-tested programs at the federal level alone. You can see it in gun control, where “high-capacity” once referred to 20- or 30-round magazines but now applies (in New York, and perhaps elsewhere soon) to those holding as few as eight.

And you can really see it in the war on crime, in which politicians seek to out-Roy Bean one another by perpetually ratcheting down thresholds for offenses — and perpetually ratcheting up penalties for same. A couple of decades ago states across the country began passing three-strikes laws, which mete out life sentences after a third offense. Having done that, some then began to demand two-strikes laws. (“Two strikes and you’re out!” bellowed Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell back in 2005, when he was running for attorney general.) How about one? Anybody for one strike?

Humorist P.J. O’Rourke once asked: “When can we quit passing laws and raising taxes? When can we say of our political system, ‘Stick a fork in it, it’s done’?” Given Indiana’s latest shenanigans, the answer to that is: God only knows.

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12:44 pm - Tue, Feb 26, 2013
35 notes

(Virginia became a laughingstock — and rightfully so — after proposing just one…)

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