Ross Douthat’s op-ed in the NYT is a showcase for the deceptive rhetoric of the right. The piece is a long paean to the supposed reasonableness and willingness to compromise of the anti-choice movement. He wraps up by attempting to lay the “blame” on Roe and Casey for the “failure” of Americans to reach peace on safe and legal abortion:
But no such compromise is possible so long as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey remain on the books. These decisions are monuments to pro-choice absolutism, and for pro-lifers to accept them means accepting that no serious legal restrictions on abortion will ever be possible — no matter what the polls say, and no matter how many hearts and minds pro-lifers change.
Wow. Where to begin.
In his op-ed, Douthat describe’s the anti-choice’s movement’s move to promote restrictions rather than outright bans is a “compromise”, rather than simply a strategy to get around a fundamental constitutional right that has widespread popularity.
He attempts to lay claim to some members of the right’s attention to issues other than abortion as compromise. (If so, then one would expect — but be disappointed by — the general failure on the right to describe as “compromises” the pro-choice movement’s ongoing attention to directly-related issues such as providing birth control education, birth control, and full reproductive care, including overturning of the hateful Mexico City policy; allied issues like women’s healthcare, AIDS/HIV prevention, needle swapping programs; and a wide swath of other social justice programs commonly found in the portfolio and donation lists of pro-choice activists.)
The waning of anti-abortion terroristic violence is apparently also a sign of the larger movement’s compromise. This doesn’t quite square with the movement’s apologists’ earlier claims that the terrorists were exceptional. But when signs of compromise on the extremist wings of your movement are in short supply, you take what you can get, I suppose.
Unbelievably, he lays claim for the anti-choice movement scientific progress in stem cell research, attempting to use scientific progress to justify his movement’s anti-science rhetoric:
As for the movement’s supposed antipathy to science and social change — well, no doubt you’ll find more believers in young-earth creationism or divinely ordained patriarchy at a pro-life rally than you would at the Harvard Faculty Club. But here, too, the easy stereotypes are increasingly detached from reality.
He conveniently ignores the ideologically-driven “abstinence-only” sex education curricula, ad the propensity of his movement to work against not just “abortion” but all birth control. I’m not sure how he manages to describe as “increasingly divorced from reality” (italics mine) the steadily increasing push toward science ignorance manifest in the creationist- cum- intelligent design movement. Or the general censorship and manipulation of scientific data and research programs that the “culture of life” Bush Administration has offered us.
And finally, to top it all of, he describes Roe and Casey as “monuments to pro-choice absolutism”. Apparently he has never read Roe, or else feels no qualms in distorting it utterly, since Roe embodies compromise in every particle of the decision. Between a woman’s right to control her own body, and the State’s interest in the life of unborn children, Justice Blackmun took the common division of pregnancy into three trimesters, and established a compromise system that simply mandated a minimum of respect for women’s ability to control their own bodies in certain circumstances. (Well, with their physicians, of course. *eye rolling* ) In the first trimester, a woman’s right is paramount. In the second trimester, the State has a good bit more leeway to regulate abortion. And in the third trimester, when the fetus is potentially viable, the State has significant rights to curtail abortion, save only to protect the mother’s life or health. (Or, as John McCain put it so memorably in “derisive air quotes”, “health”. Samantha Bee, The Daily Show.
Casey of course was yet another attempt to chart a compromise, allowing all the restrictions that anti-choicers had been pushing, so long as they do not place an “undue burden” on the woman’s right to choose. In practice “undue burdens” must be pretty “undue” indeed, as women in large swathes of the country have no ready access to abortion at any time, but must travel, sometimes out of state, be delayed, lied to, frightened, and otherwise manipulated.