Strange stirrings

I don’t read Josh Marshall much these days because of his histrionic tendencies and his way of signing off posts with the equivalent of a hastily scrawled, “I don’t know, we’ll see.” But I agree with his conclusion of how the Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations won’t shake the Senate GOP at all:

The chance of letting that opportunity slip through their fingers is unthinkable.

The White House and Senate Republicans are likely thinking that regardless of the credibility of the claim or what they think of it, Kavanaugh absolutely positively has to be confirmed. Because it’s not just about Kavanaugh. If he’s not confirmed it opens up the possibility that they won’t get the chance to replace Justice Kennedy and secure the fifth vote on the Court at all. Given that the Garland seat was stolen, should Democrats reclaim the chamber, I don’t think they should approve any nominee from President Trump. That’s unlikely. But Democrats won’t give the President the opportunity to nominate a maximalist right wing judge the way Republicans are now. That’s a big difference.

Ever since Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade, giving the New Right the means by which to command a dormant voting bloc (i.e. evangelicals), modern conservatism has spent millions creating political action committees and weirdly named Pinterest groups; modern conservatism’s reason for existing has been to deliver a Supreme Court majority sufficient enough to send abortion back to states where it is legal, condemning millions of poor women to coat hanger procedures because they lack the wherewithal to travel while conservative wives themselves pay for clandestine abortions. Despite Jeff Flake’s protestations and Susan Collins’ finely calibrated mewlings of ambiguity, I can’t imagine more than forty years of effort yielding, not when gutting the Fourteenth Amendment

Dismissing Roe myths

The most common arguments I endure from opponents of Roe v. Wade concern its reputation as a feebly written decision (“Even Ruth Bader Ginsberg said so!”) and as an unwarranted federal protection of a matter best left to the states. Scott Lemieux swats aside these arguments. Few felicities of judicial language have been the subject of as much mockery as FDR appointee William O. Douglas’ phrase in his concurrence in 1967’s landmark Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Court ruled that bans on contraception violated the right to marital privacy: “The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.”

Erratic and downright slipshod, the latter in his last decade, Douglas was one of the last justices to write his own opinions, which like Oliver Wendell Holmes bent toward the brief and aphoristic; he wanted his opinions to be understood by the average person. No one quibbled with his intelligence or ability. Nor his ambition (Roosevelt goosed him into thinking he’d be president one day).

Lemieux:

Opponents of Roe writing for general audiences routinely invoke the “penumbras” phrase, from Justice William O. Douglas’s opinion striking down a ban on the use or distribution of contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut, as if doing so self-evidently renders the opinion absurd. Douglas had used that phrase to defend the idea that the Constitution includes an implicit right to privacy, in at least some matters of marriage and family, and the Roe majority cited it to extend that idea to the realm of abortion.

But Justice Douglas’s observation that “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance” describes a perfectly banal concept: The enumeration of rights, individually or collectively, implies the existence of other rights. As Douglas himself pointed out, in Griswold, the Supreme Court has enforced a “right of association” although that phrase is not found in the Constitution, because guarantees of the right to free speech and to petition the government would mean little without the right to form political associations.

Douglas became the longest serving Supreme Court justice in history. His replacement? John Paul Stevens, who on his 2010 retirement took second place.

As for the federalism question, the stakes are grimmer:

As previously discussed, Congress has passed, and the Supreme Court has upheld, a nationwide ban of what anti-abortion groups have labeled “partial-birth abortions.” To find the last time the House of Representatives passed an abortion regulation, you would have to go all the way back to … this January, when it passed a bill that would require doctors to provide medical care for a fetus born alive during an abortion procedure.

And last year, the House passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in every state in the union. So far, these bills have died in the Senate. But since the Republican Party is becoming more and more hostile to abortion rights, abortion would remain a national issue. Should the filibuster be eliminated or substantially watered down, a Republican government with slightly larger Senate majorities than it has now would be able to pass national abortion regulations.

The other myths that Lemieux deflates include the purported ease with which American can get abortions as opposed to the French, Roe‘s rescinding of any state regulation, and the strength of public opinion. It’s the kind of article I’d share with friends or print to stick on the refrigerator door.

Missouri legislators to women: stay home

Should you have the luck to land a job in Missouri and you’re a woman, you best hope your landlord doesn’t ask for medical records. Its senate has legislation that allows bosses and landlords to “discriminate against women who use birth control or have had abortions.” More:

Known as SB 5, the bill was first passed by the Senate on June 14 following a special session called by Greitens. His aim was to overturn an ordinance that prevents employers and housing providers from punishing women for their reproductive health choices, according to a report by Feministing, a feminist website.

The ordinance was passed by the city of St. Louis, and Greitens had said it made the area into “an abortion sanctuary city.” The Senate seemed to agree with him, as did the House, which on Tuesday passed an expanded version of SB 5 that included more anti-abortion restrictions. Given the Senate’s vote on June 14, it it seen as likely to approve the updated version of SB 5. This would mean that landlords could refuse to offer housing to women based on their reproductive health choices, while employers could fire female staff members who were using birth control, or refuse to hire them. And while of course this isn’t information most landlords or employers have access to, under SB 5 they could ask women what forms of reproductive health care they are using.

As the last sentence suggests, the idea that this proposed could be enforced is laughable. BOSS: “Show me your Aetna insurance bill; let me see if there’s an abortion rider.” Unless, of course, legislators assume women are guilty until proven innocence — that is, they’ve all had abortions or used birth control, therefore the burden is on them to prove otherwise. It makes as much sense as paying informants in Planned Parenthood clinics.

Don’t think this proposal couldn’t pass. State legislatures are laboratories for sinister nonsense designed to restrict the individual rights of citizens.

‘Social issues’ ARE economic

An election battle over the mayoral race in Omaha has given the New York Times the excuse to run yet another story pitting “economic justice” versus “social issues”:

Not every liberal sees the issue as so clear-cut. Ms. Weingarten, who was a Clinton supporter, argued that the question of whether to focus on economic justice or social issues was “not an either-or” proposition. The red-and-blue-state tour that Mr. Sanders and the Democratic National Committee officials are on “conveys to the public that the Democratic Party is first and foremost a party of economic opportunity,” she said.

That back-and-forth is an extension of Democrats’ soul-searching after losing an election that they thought they would win. Many Democrats believe that Mrs. Clinton erred by not making economic populism more central to her campaign against Mr. Trump, relying instead on a mix of cultural liberalism and character attacks.

Just as the Republican establishment battled the nascent Tea Party over conservative purity after its 2008 loss, Democrats are enduring internecine strife over what it means to be a progressive.

For the love of god, not again. When a woman decides to get an abortion, bringing the pregnancy to term depends on whether she can afford to raise a child. When trans citizens fight for access to bathrooms, they don’t want to be killed. When gays and lesbians want marriage, they want the tax breaks and spiritual comfort that the institution brings (my skepticism about the latter is of no account). How are these three things not examples of “economic justice”? Running a candidate who opposes or is at best lukewarm about access to safe abortions depends on any number of factors,most importantly whether the voters in that district think the candidate understands the district’s problems. The rest is balderdash, an effort by political reporters to engage in false equivalency.

The problem with “pro-life” as a position

After Friday’s nationwide March for Life, Alan Levonovitz, assistant professor of religion at James Madison University, asks obvious questions:

Why, as I look out on the sea of signs at today’s the March for Life, do I see nothing about maternity leave, much less paternity leave? Why aren’t expansive parental leave policies front and center on every pro-life website, and on the lips of every pro-life politician?

Why does every speaker fail to mention contraception? Why isn’t sex education front and center on every pro-life website, and on the lips of every pro-life politician?

Why is adoption mentioned only in passing, if it is mentioned at all?

To their credit, I saw several liberal sentiments at the march held by St. Brendan’s yesterday morning. We would be better off if abortion rights partisans would call themselves “pro-abortion” and its opponents “anti-abortion.”

The right and abortion

Normally I don’t quote World Net Daily, but this piece of filth is exactly what I had in mind when Trump made his comments about women who get abortions. I quote Digby, not the site:

No GOP candidate can seek the highest office in the world without being thoroughly grilled on every nuance of his or her position on abortion.

Leftists do this because any answer that supports the life of the baby in any way is fascist and anti-woman. They never grill pro-abortion candidates on their barbarism of their abortion-on-demand positions or the extremism of taxpayer financing of partial-birth abortion.

This week, it was Donald Trump who walked into the buzz saw. Did he make a gaffe or make all of us face an inconvenient truth?
[…]
When pressed by Chris Matthews, Trump said women who abort their unborn babies should perhaps receive some form of punishment if indeed the abortion in question was banned and, therefore, breaking the law. Trump said he hadn’t thought of what the punishment should be, but you could tell that he hadn’t seen the memo from the GOP consultants that said you aren’t supposed to discuss the personal responsibility of women in this scenario.

His view was consistent with many things conservatives say. He just didn’t know this was the unspeakable – kind of like saying we should stop illegal immigration was the unspeakable before Trump dared to say otherwise.

I have been a post-abortive counselor, and what Mr. Trump may not know is that many women are victimized by abortion, because the abortion industry spends millions of taxpayer dollars teaching little girls that pregnancies are just a bunch of tissue. Their $9 billion per year, taxpayer-funded industry depends on vulnerable women believing that lie.

But there are women who are older, wiser, repeat aborters who definitely know better.

Is there a pro-lifer out there that doesn’t think that in a perfect world – where we agreed abortion was, for example, illegal after the first trimester – that the woman could, if working with full knowledge, be held accountable for her complicity in the abortion? Shouldn’t this, like any law that is broken, be considered in a case-by-case manner?

“If conservatives want to talk about the power of women,” the article says, “the rule of law and personal responsibility, gray areas in abortion cannot be glossed over.” Intellectual consistency. And hang this dead bird around the GOP’s necks.

Ah, Florida…

Dr. Julio Gonzalez smiles after it was announced that he won the GOP Primary for House District 74. Gonzalez celebrated election night at Ophelia's Pasta House in Nokomis.  (August 28, 2014) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Rachel S. O'Hara)

Florida reminds its citizens that a majority of its legislature consists of morons who drool into plastic cups but consider themselves godfearing men and women:

The bill, filed Wednesday by Florida Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R – Venice) would allow “a health care facility,” “an ambulatory surgery center, “a nursing home,” “an assisted living facility,” ‘a hospice… that is owned or operated by a religious institution,” or simply “a health care provider” to refuse to treat a patient or administer a medication if that procedure is contrary to the “religious or moral convictions” of the facility or health care provider.

This means that any Florida health care provider could refuse to, say, provide birth control or perform an abortion on a woman.

For LGBTQ patients, things look even bleaker. HB 401 could reasonably allow doctors to refuse any treatment to patients who live in violation of their beliefs, as long as that patient isn’t in “imminent danger of loss of life or serious bodily injury.”

The bill goes even further in its protections. Doctors will not only be able to refuse treatment to patients, they will also be shielded from liability from both lawsuits from patients and disciplinary action from their employer.

No doubt acquaintances on social media will crow about the right of private business to discriminate. Health care is not private, unless you reject Medicaid and Medicare patients. Moreover, “religious liberty” is the last refuge of fag baiters who lack the courage to admit their feelings.

‘Abortion can be the moral choice’

“All In” played choice bits from today’s House-Planned Parenthood hearings. Allen Drury’s Advice and Consent could not have presaged so lurid a set of exchanges:

Chaffetz, who took the gavel for this often politically contentious committee at the start of the new Congress in January, put up a chart that purported to show Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screenings going down over time as the number of its abortions spiked.

Richards appeared flummoxed, saying she didn’t know where those numbers came from.

“You’re going to deny?” Chaffetz incredulously replied.

Richards said she would deny those numbers because she’d never seen them.

With every exchange, Richards and Chaffetz raised their voices until both were practically yelling over each other.

Chaffetz told her he pulled them from her corporate reports. “Oh,” Richards said, appearing deflated.

Then staff behind Richards leaned over to whisper into her ear. She interrupted Chaffetz.

“Excuse me, my lawyer is informing me that the source of this is actually Americans United for Life, which is an antiabortion group,” she said. “So, I would check your source.”

It was Chaffetz’s turn to appear deflated. “Then we will get to the bottom of the truth of that,” he said.
3. What was Planned Parenthood apologizing for?

And:

CHAFFETZ: Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct?

RICHARDS: I don’t have the figures with me. But …

CHAFFETZ: It was. Congratulations. In 2013, your compensation went up some $240,000. Your compensation, we’re showing based on tax returns, is $590,000, correct?

RICHARDS: That’s not my annual compensation. I — actually, my annual compensation is $520,000 a year. I believe there was a program that the board sort of put together for a three-year — I’m happy — again, I think we have been extremely forthcoming with all of our documents.

I suppose I understand the hesitation to defend abortion on its own terms; it explains the halting answers about salaries and the emphases on mammograms. But I’ve argued repeatedly that American women not subpoenaed by Congress are forthright about why they end pregnancies. Besides fetal retardation and the danger to the mother, there’s economic reality: no government agency should compel a woman to carry a child that she can’t pay for. Her — our — first priority is to the living.

Searching for ayes from respected sources, I found one from, who else, Katha Pollit:

If having another child means the other kids don’t get the care and support they need, why is it automatically considered the right motherly thing to add to the family because a condom breaks? Isn’t your first responsibility to the kids you already have? I think if women can manage to have their kids when they are best able to care for them, while also fulfilling a few of their own hopes and dreams, they are doing pretty well.

Pollitt, I should remind readers, wrote well about the Kermit Gosnell’s Pennsylvania abbatoir in 2011; the right can’t Willie Horton her. Categorizing (hence dismissing) abortion as a “social issue” is only the most egregious offense.

Hello, shutdown, my own friend

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Here it comes!

The 40 or so Republican conservative representatives from the so-called Freedom Caucus who have been threatening to unseat House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) significantly increased their insistence that the continuing resolution (CR) needed to avoid a shutdown not be considered if it includes continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

One member of the Freedom Caucus — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA CA +0.00%) then resigned from the group over its threat of a shutdown.

Joined by others, many of these same GOP representatives also made it clear that they were extremely unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over the way he’s handling the disapproval of the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran. They called for the use of the “nuclear option” that would change Senate rules and prevent a filibuster.

McConnell refused.

McConnell, meanwhile, continued to make it clear that the votes do not and will not exist in the Senate either to pass a CR that defunds Planned Parenthood or to override the inevitable presidential veto of one that does.

So it’s come to this: the government may shut down on Oct. 1 because the GOP caucus wants to rescind funding for Planned Parenthood. Two years ago almost to the week, a similarly drooling GOP caucus shut the government down over the Affordable Care Act. Because the GOP gained impressive majorities in the House and Senate in 2014, I can understand the cockiness — we did it once, right, and we weren’t punished! The party’s chances of recapturing the White House are higher than Democratic pollsters are telling readers, unless the Dems have intel they’re keeping quiet; but I’m trying to understand what the, to use the expression, long game is. Only if Marco Rubio is the nominee does the GOP have a hope of reclaiming the voters whom Donald Trump has alienated, and I doubt Rubio’s chances because he has the charisma of a hat rack and cares about no Hispanics except dying Cuban exiles. And how many white women will vote for the Republican nominee after this? A rhetorical question. Democrats would be morons not to run ads from now until November 2016, but with this chair they are.

‘Where you fall on the Planned Parenthood videos really reflects where you fall on the fundamental questions of abortion’

Vox reporter Sarah Kliff watched twelve hours of those Planned Parenthood videos released by the laughably named Center For Medical Progress. She concluded:

Planned Parenthood workers are comfortable with fetal tissue research because they are comfortable with abortion — they don’t believe a first-trimester fetus to be a living, feeling human being, and so they see the donation of fetal tissue for medical research to be an obvious, unalloyed good. Their critics oppose abortion — they believe abortion to be murder and fetal tissue research to be a form of desecration. Where you fall on the Planned Parenthood videos really reflects where you fall on the fundamental questions of abortion.

I wrote the same thing three weeks ago. Elsewhere she expresses discomfort with the behavior of one of the PP employees negotiating the price of fetal tissue procurement and, to her mind more ominously, weighing which abortion procedure will produce an intact tissue specimen. It’s this kind of talk that inspires the Ross Douthats and David Brookses of our media sphere to pontificate about the moral chaos into which abortion plunges clinicians and patients.  But Kliff admits that the Texas PP employee was subtler and showed nuance, which will win no one points in Iowa.

That’s the point. With Huckleberry Huckabee and the junior footstool from Florida threatening to use the Fourteenth Amendment to protect unborn lives and denying victims of rape and incest any recourse, respectively, only a forceful defense will do.

Meanwhile, Florida!

At issue are the details of a 2006 regulation by AHCA, which defines the first trimester as the first 12 weeks after egg fertilization, or the first 14 weeks after the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period.

Acting on orders from Scott to investigate every Planned Parenthood location in Florida, AHCA found cases where mothers received abortions 13 weeks after their last menstrual period. AHCA spokeswoman Katherine Riviere said in a statement Monday that Planned Parenthood reported the unlawful abortions.

‘Abortion is basic health care’

Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt’s article is what I wanted to read. With Marco Rubio, the Florida senator and presidential aspirant with the personality of an empty aquarium, acting indignant last Thursday night at the idea of supporting abortion rights for rape and incest victims, it’s time to “inject” this “issue” back into the debate. But supporters are rusty. I’m sure many do think abortion is murder but support it anyway; explaining this position requires an agility that a tub of guts like Angus King or well-rehearsed Hillary Clinton can’t muster. Better to be unequivocal and risk being called a monster than to waffle and please nobody. Matson and Merritt waste no time on weasel words:

Abortion is basic health care. One in three women have abortions, and they are doing nothing wrong. Women are fully capable of making their own moral decisions, and suggestions to the contrary are just plain sexism. There is no hope for gender equality – social, political, legal, economic – until every person is free to have sex and have children on their own terms. This can’t be achieved through access to contraception or abstinence alone. Abortion must be accessible and affordable for women to have a fair shot, plain and simple. It is equally important to embrace a full reproductive justice agenda that affirms the right to abortion, the right to be pregnant and have quality health care to support positive birth outcomes, and the right to raise families in safe and healthy communities.

Speaking of the junior senator from Maine, here’s the explanation: ninety percent of PP services “have nothing to do with abortion, they have to do with women’s health.” Ah. “Why are these legislators arguing defensively, instead of making a strong case for the right to reproductive health care?” ask Matson and Merritt.

Defunding Planned Parenthood: ‘completely unresponsive’ to ‘full content’ of videos

The Senate vote to “defund” Planned Parenthood failed (one of the few Democrats to vote for it, Joe Manchin from the state of Water Pollution, can sell his vision of biological necessity to his poor and diseased constituents), but the prospect of shutting down the government — again — because Republican legislators are terrified of their base is too bewitching to resist. Brian Beutler:

If these conservatives were foremost concerned with the ethics of fetal tissue donation, they could propose banning it outright, or at least tissue obtained from legal abortions. Instead, they are proposing to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. This non sequitur gives away the plot, and all of the cross-ideological sympathy they might have had at the outset.

If the videos genuinely exposed a criminal organ harvesting operation, eliminating its federal funding would be an on-point response. In reality, the effort to defund Planned Parenthood is completely unresponsive to the full content of the videos.

So was prosecuting Bill Clinton for sex, the second Iraq war, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi, but I am at sea.