I wondered what had gotten Erick Erickson upset again earlier this week besides the rise of atheism among convenience store employees. When he and the Plankton with a Hairpiece, the senior senator from Florida, agree on a rhetorical point, I figure I better investigate. Testifying before a subcommittee, a Democratic legislator in the Virginia House of Delegates supported a bill that would eliminate words “substantially and irremediably” from an existing law allowing third trimester abortions under life-threatening circumstances.
But there’s contempt for women embedded in the idea that, absent legal prohibition, someone on the verge of giving birth might instead terminate her pregnancy to avoid the brutalities of labor,” Michelle Goldberg writes in a New York Times column.
“No matter what the law were, in real life, these things don’t happen,” said Frances Kissling, president of the Center for Health, Ethics and Social Policy and the former head of Catholics for a Free Choice. “I am not saying that there would not be one woman out of 20 million who decided at the 33rd week of pregnancy that she needed an abortion, and I would suggest that she probably does have mental health problems. However, this woman is not going to find anyone who will do this.”
Kissling is well known in the pro-choice movement for thinking deeply about the ethical gray areas surrounding abortion. As she points out, there are only about a dozen doctors in the country who perform third-trimester abortions at all, and she’s spoken to several of them, asking specific questions about patients they’ve turned down. “What I have learned is that all of them have limits and have declined to do abortions in certain circumstances for certain reasons,” she said. (The murderous abortionist Kermit Gosnell, serving a life sentence in prison, is an exception, but he was operating outside the law.)
Showing his usual subtlety, the president has jumped into the fray too. Because many liberals get squishy about abortion, I’ve seen anxiety on Twitter about whether We Want This Kind of Discussion in 2020. To which I respond, hell yes. A homosexual man with a sister, two nieces, and many powerful working women in my family, I’ve, to use the vulgar parlance, evolved on abortion accessibility too, in part because the right has, as it has on so many areas of public policy, pushed me to it.
With Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand running for the Democratic nomination, Americans will for the first time hear from women who will defend a woman’s access — with force and without equivocation, I presume — to an abortion even late in her pregnancy. They will have realized that conservatives will yell about this no matter what they propose, so they might as well embrace the moral option; they will have realized that conservatives don’t want other people to get the abortions they will quietly endorse when their daughters or wives get pregnant and for which they will cross state lines to get. And not one of these men have been in the positions of these women, as reporter Jia Tolentino has been at pains to point out. Tolentino links to her summer 2016 Jezebel Q&A with a woman who endured precisely this psychological torment.