American Abortion Hypocrisy

Passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) touched a lot of hot buttons among advocates and the opposition. One of the final thorny issues right up to the weekend that the bill passed was whether or not the bill properly honored the Hyde Amendment. It took a Presidential signing statement to appease Representative Bart Stupak and convince him to vote for the bill. The entire affair highlighted for me two levels of hypocrisy within our country where abortion is concerned.

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Let’s start at the legislative level. Roe v. Wade in 1973 established that first trimester abortions were legal in the United States without restriction. Yet in 1976 an appropriations bill rider sponsored by Representative Henry Hyde restricted federal funding of abortion (primarily via Medicaid) without restriction. The wording of the amendment was subsequently changed to allow federal funding in the case of rape, incest or risk of mother’s life. This is where the first layer of hypocrisy arises. If Roe v. Wade does not make distinctions for first trimester abortions, why should the Hyde Amendment? One answer of course is that without the Hyde Amendment, the tax dollars of pro-life people would be going toward abortions. However I say, so what? We do not, on an individual basis decide how our tax dollars are used. I personally might like less of my tax money used for the military but ultimately I have no choice in the matter. From what I can see, the Hyde Amendment makes a value judgment that directly contradicts Roe v. Wade. Either first trimester abortions are legal or they are not. If they are legal, there should be no judgment restricting the funding of them.

But the typical wording of the Hyde Amendment, “except in cases of rape or incest”, raises a deeper level of hypocrisy of which many if not most pro-life advocates are guilty. If we agree that life begins at conception, then from my perspective the only viable reason to terminate a pregnancy is to save the life of the mother. The life inside the mother did not choose to be conceived under the circumstances of rape or incest. To terminate that life is to hold against that life a circumstance for which it was not responsible. The counter argument is that the mother and potentially the child may  suffer irreparable psychological harm if the pregnancy is carried to term. Is this potential worth terminating a life? I would say not.

I maintain that the rape and incest exceptions are deeply rooted in America’s sexual hangups. Now I am hardly advocating rape and incest as normal sexual choices but I suspect that other countries in which sex is not viewed as shameful, have a much more mature and reasoned approach to these issues. Both should be viewed as unfortunate events but not life ending events. There can be healing. There are of course genetic health issues related to incest but even that is not a compelling reason for abortion in my judgment. As a disabled person I am particularly sensitive to the notion that some babies are worth being born and some are not.

Frankly, I think our country wants to have its cake and eat it too. Either the Hyde Amendment should be dropped or Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Postscript: Despite all my reservations about abortion there is primarily one reason why I end up on the pro-choice side of the argument. I cannot abide the notion that a legislative body that is a good 70% male will dictate a biological outcome for a situation that is uniquely female. No man has ever faced nor will ever face the choice of terminating a pregnancy. Perhaps when NOW (National Organization for Women) and the League of Women Voters comes down on the pro-life side of the argument, then so will I.

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One Reason Why Reconciliation is Much Ado About Nothing

The plan to use the reconciliation process in the Senate to pass fixes to the Health Insurance Reform law has conservative’s undies in a knot. One of the claims is that reconciliation undermines protection of the minority opinion. This is patently ridiculous, as well explained by my BlogTalkRadio show co-host Sandi Behrns. Now that every two-bit ignoramus has suddenly become a Constitutional expert, some education is needed. Her piece, reprinted with permission appears below. Well done Sandi.

Alright, I’ve had it. The problem with these here intertubes is that any ole ill-informed oaf with an opinion can publish. That in and of itself wouldn’t be such a problem if there weren’t so many other ill-informed oafs chomping at the bit to believe it, forward it, copy it on their own blogs, re-tweet it on Twitter, post it to Facebook, or toss it into the maelstrom of right-wing forums. The collective effort pushes the stupid and degrades the quality of political debate in this country. An alarming amount of the time, you can’t debate someone with an opposing viewpoint without first educating them. Drives me nuts!

So what’s got me so frustrated this time? A profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and what it says about the rules and nature of the House and Senate. For some time now, there has been discussion of the filibuster, both in terms of efforts to reform it and efforts, like reconciliation, to avoid it.  A commonly held misconception these days is that the filibuster is delineated in the Constitution. (Why do I have to say this?) Not true.  What the Constitution simply says is that the Senate and the House are to write their own rules. The Senate rules held the potential for a filibuster since 1806 (although it was theoretical) and the first filibuster occurred in 1837. Still, it was an exceedingly rare occurrence until the 1970’s. As we all are now acutely aware, its use has dramatically spiked since the GOP lost control of the Senate in 2006, accelerating even more since President Obama took office. I believe that bit of information as mostly been disseminated. Although I am certain there are some that still believe the filibuster is in the Constitution, I’ll leave that point alone.

More insidious, and more difficult to effectively educate against is a belief that the Senate was not intended to hold votes on a majority rule basis. (An example can be seen here.)  “What?!”, you say. Bear with me and I will attempt to explain the thinking. It goes something like this:

The House was set up to be directly representative of the people, so majority rule votes are the law in the House. The Senate, however, was intended to be a check on the power of the majority (to protect against the tyranny of majority factions.) Therefore, the Senate was never intended to be held to majority rule votes of 50% plus one. This is why the filibuster (now that the GOP needs it) is sacrosanct.

Darn it! They were so close to the truth. Too bad they fail to grasp the obvious. The Senate is not majority rule, but not because it does or should require a supermajority. Rather, it is implicit in the very nature of the Senate itself. A little elementary civics: unlike the House, where representatives are determined by population, the Senate allows for two Senators per state, regardless of population. The result of this is the over-representation of smaller states. For instance, Wyoming, with a population of just over 544,ooo people, has two Senators, while California, where a single city has a population over 18 times that size, has the same allotment.

The Senate then, by its very composition, laid out in the Constitution, is not democratic. This satisfies the founders’ desire to put some limit on the over-rule of minority rights by majority factions. Within the Senate itself, any vote is inherently a check on the majority rule of the directly representative House. When California’s 37 million constituents get the same vote as Wyoming’s 544,000, it is clear that the majority is not ruling. There is no need for a filibuster to protect that discrepancy. The fact that the Senate rules allow for a filibuster is fine, but the rules also allow for reconciliation. Both are within the legal, constitutional framework of the Senate.

Everyone in the US that has made it through sixth grade should know this. So what to make of the people pushing this falsehood? Why are they misinterpreting the Constitution? Why are they referencing Madison’s Federalist papers when they clearly don’t understand them, either? There are three possibilities:

  1. They are intellectually challenged and simply cannot grasp this concept.
  2. They are willfully choosing to misrepresent the language of the Constitution and the founders’ writings to suit their viewpoint.
  3. They have been intentionally misinformed by others guilty of number 2.

I will leave it to you to determine the answer for any offenders you encounter.

Reprinted from The Cassandra Files.

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No, You Cannot Have Your Country Back

I want my country back!

That was the hue and cry of the Tea Party movement in the summer of 2009. Many Republicans heard the call, dug their heels in and stood against anything that the Obama administration wanted to do. Today those people lost a bit more of “their country” when President Barack Obama signed into law the most sweeping social welfare legislation of the past 45 years. There are already states attorneys-general lined up to challenge the constitutionality of the law. I think those men, the Tea Party Movement and the Republican Party have lost sight of what America is.

There are those quick to throw the Constitution in our face when we ask government to take more responsibility for the welfare of our citizens. What these people conveniently ignore is that the Constitution is not the end of our country, it is the start of it, the opening ground rules so to speak.  Our founding fathers recognized that they could not predict every contingency that would influence the course of our nation. Hence Article V of the Constitution allows for amendments to be made to it. In addition to those amendments our country is governed by federal, state and local  legislation. This is how a civilized society operates, with a written code of order.  The Framers had the wisdom to define some specifics but to know that some latitude was needed to ensure the nation could evolve. In particular, the Framers knew the importance of distinguishing between a right and a privilege and they made sure that the Constitution could not be used to abridge the rights of our citizens. The ninth amendment states:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

via Bill of Rights Transcript.

Furthermore, our Declaration of Independence made it clear which fundamental rights our founding fathers believed in:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

via Declaration of Independence – Transcript.

It is to the extent that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been advanced in this country, that we have fulfilled the promise of our founders. What makes our country arguably the greatest country in civilized history is our ability to evolve, our ability to recognize when we have wronged our citizens and then correct that wrong. What makes our country great is that against the tide of cynics who wish to protect their own comfort and safety, we have enacted legislation that protects the vulnerable. We have a rich history of making this country fair for all people, whether it was freeing blacks from slavery, to giving women the vote, we have time and time again taken a nation built by and for Christian white men and expanded it to be the most inclusive nation on the face of the Earth.

Today’s health insurance reform legislation, while far from perfect, takes us another step in that direction. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi gave a concrete example on the floor of the House Sunday night. How can we be free to pursue the American Dream if we cannot change jobs for fear of losing our health insurance? This country, without health insurance reform, restricts the liberty of its people. Insurance reform is consistent with this nation’s commitment to protect its people. Life threatening illness is not consistent with life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.  A country in which only the rich can enjoy the “privilege” of good health flies in the face of the very fundamental rights our founding fathers delineated. Therefore access to health care is not a privilege, it is a right and it must be protected by our federal government.

Today was a step toward  answering the call of the Tea Party movement and the Republicans. Today we said:

If you want a country where the rich only get richer and the poor only get poorer then
No, you cannot have your country back!

If you want a country where the noble concept of self-reliance is used as an excuse to ignore those in need through no fault of their own then
No, you cannot have your country back!

If you want a country where the middle class and poor can be bankrupted by illness because it’s just not your problem then
No, you cannot have your country back!

If you want a country where morality takes a back seat to political expediency then
No, you cannot have your country back!

The truth is that you really started to lose “your country” on January 1, 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. While very limited in scope, this was the first document to really redefine what liberty meant in this country.  It is sad that so many of you have still not seen the light more than 140 years later. You still do not recognize that it is America’s heart that makes it unique among civilized countries. Our country at its best recognizes and encourages the contributions of all its citizens and every legislative milestone that makes it more likely that more Americans succeed is a victory for all of us.

So Tea Party member, Republican, Conservative, status quo lover, you cannot have your country back because your county is not the “real” America. The real America is a country that constantly strives to be a more perfect union. Today’s signing of health insurance reform into law marked another step in progressing toward that goal.

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