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11 July 2013

The Party of Death

'Life begins with the mother’s decision.  Until the moment of birth, the government has no right to influence a mother’s decision on whether to have an abortion.  I’m not going to get into a discussion of when life begins. I’m in favour of choice, period. Pure and simple.'

- General Wesley Clark, 2004 candidate for the Democratic presidential nominee,
Clark: Abortion Decision Is The Mom's Alone,  The Union Leader, 8 January 2004

By Ramesh Ponnuru, 2006

It's an extreme position, to be sure, and one few Americans support when it is put that way.  But Clark's position was no more extreme than that of most of his rivals for the Democratic nomination.  It was no more extreme, indeed, than the law of the land.  Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton established a policy of abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy.  Clark's mistake was to speak too bluntly.  Yet, it is possible to take an even more extreme position.  The Supreme Court, after all, has not required states or the federal government to fund abortion.  Yet, the Democratic Party doesn't just support Roe, it also supports taxpayer funding.  The party's 2004 platform stated: 'Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay.'

The Freedom of Choice Act is an attempt to make good on that promise.  It has been rattling around the halls of Congress for years, and has not had much chance of getting enacted since the Republicans took control in 1995.  But feminists have kept the bill alive in order to remind people of what they stand for.  

Typically, the Freedom of Choice Act has been marketed as a 'codification of Roe.'  The law would put Congress behind the same policy the Supreme Court imposed in Roe.  If the Court ever reversed Roe, then, the congressional statute would still be there to keep anything from changing.  By giving Roe some democratic legitimacy, the law might also make it harder for pro-lifers to generate political support to overturn it.

But, FOCA goes beyond Roe.  Senator Barbara Boxer of California, its lead sponsor, puts it this way: "The Freedom of Choice Act also supersedes any law, regulation or local ordinance that impinges on a woman's right to choose.  That means a poor woman cannot be denied the use of Medicaid if she chooses to have an abortion.'  The federal government and state governments would be required, in other words, to fund abortions.  The bill also nullifies states' 'informed consent' laws, which the Supreme Court has upheld but which Boxer regards as mandatory 'anti-choice propaganda.'  FOCA would 'strike down a host of federal and state restrictions,' exults the National Organisation for Women.  The Freedom of Choice Act, however far away it is from most voters' preferences, is well within the mainstream of the Democratic party.  Its Senate co-sponsors include Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Joe Lieberman, who is widely considered to be one of the most conservative Democrats.

Senator Boxer has been a co-sponsor of versions of FOCA since she was in the House fifteen years ago.  Her website does not exaggerate when it calls her '[the] Senate's leading defender of a woman's right to choose [abortion].'  

The present incarnation of FOCA bears Boxer's distinctive imprint: a note of hysteria.  The opening section of the bill contains 'findings' that she wants Congress to ratify, including these: 'Prior to the Roe v Wade decision, an estimated 1,200,000 women each year were forced to resort to illegal abortions ... According to one estimate, prior to 1973, as many as 5,000 women died each year in the United States as a result of having an illegal abortion.'

Boxer loves to make these points.  After Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement, Boxer threatened to filibuster whomever Bush nominated to replace her: 'It means a minimum of 5,000 women a year will die.  So all options are on the table.'  The 5,000 figure is now a floor, not a ceiling.  She came back to the 1.2-million figure when Bush nominated John Roberts for the seat.

The 5,000 'estimate' dates back to 1936.  That's 'prior to 1973,' all right, but it's also prior to the widespread use of penicillin.  The man, who made the 1936 estimate, 'apoligise[d] for it six years later, saying that 5,000 deaths was an absolute upper bound on the number of maternal deaths from abortion.  In 2004, Cecil Adams, author of the myth-debunking 'Straight Dope' colum, corrected journalist Ellen Goodman after she made a claim similar to Boxer's.  He wrote, 'It's not like this is a news flash, either.  A reasonable approximation of the annual total [of maternal deaths from abortion] in the 60s has been public knowledge for 35 years.'  

The 1.2-million figure is based on highly dubious studies as well.  It doesn't make any sense.  There were 899.000 abortions in 1974 and 1 million in 1975, after Roe.  To believe Boxer, you would have to believe that more women had abortions when they were illegal than had them when they were legal - that is, the legalisation of abortion somehow caused the abortion rates to fall.  Large estimates of the number of illegal abortions are also very hard to square with the relatively low abortion rates reported by the states that had legalised their laws before Roe.  California, for example, reported only 5,000 legal abortions in 1968.

Every link in Boxer's chain of causation was broken.  No nominee to replace O'Connor could possibly have overturned Roe, since there wouldn't be enough other votes on the Supreme Court; overturning Roe would prohibit abortion; and prohibiting abortion couldn't bring back a dystopian past that never existed.  Boxer's threat to filibuster Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court - before she even knew whom he would nominate - proved empty.  John Roberts' qualifications were too impressive for her to get enough Democratic support to mount a filibuster.  But consider what Boxer was saying: She was so worried that the nominee would allow citizens and legislators to vote on abortion policy that she was willing to keep senators from voting on him.  Roe keeps trumping democracy.  

Boxer wouldn't even allow nominees who were suspected of hostility to Roe to get confirmed as federal appeals-court judges.  She torpedoed Bush's nomination of Carolyn Kuhl to one such court because Kuhl, while serving in the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration, had worked on legal briefs that reflected those administrations' opposition to Roe.  Kuhl, said Boxer, was 'far outside of the mainstream.'  

Even if Kuhl did want to strike down Roe, she couldn't have done it as an appeals court judge.  The lower federal courts are bound to abide by Supreme Court precedents.  So the true objection to Kuhl was that, if she were confirmed, it might give her a leg up to get on the Supreme Court some day - where she might vote to let abortion policy be settled democratically. 

 Like Kuhl, Bush nominee Priscilla Owen received the highest rating that the American Bar Associations bestows.  She, too, pledged to follow Roe as an appeals court judge.  But as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Owen had ruled on a parental-notification law.  The law allowed judges, in some circumstances, to rule that the parents not be informed.  (There was no requirement that parents consent, as most states demand before a minor can get a tattoo or buy a lottery ticket.)  Democrats, including Boxer, complained that Owen used this 'judicial bypass' too sparingly.  That was the central accusation against her, and the motive for all of the others.  More than 70 percent of the public favours parental consent laws.  Yet, Boxer seemed to want judged, who would frequently bypass such laws.  

Boxer explained that Owen's nomination was putting the senator's feminism to the test: 

'[A]s someone who worked so hard to support qualified minorities and women, I have been praised by many in my State for doing just that.  But I have to tell you, if you place on the bench a minority or a woman, who has animosity toward the goals of minorities and women, you are dealing a great setback to both minorities and women... [T]his nominee is so far from the centre that she is almost off, to the right. She is barely on that line at all.  That differs from the mainstream values of my constituents and I believe of the majority of Americans.'  

Democrats held up a vote on Owen's nomination for 4 years.

Given her pro-abortion extremism and tendency toward the dire, it is no surprise that Senator Boxer reacts strongly to even mild restrictions on abortion.  When the Senate voted to ban partial-birth abortion, she asked, 'Don't we love our wives?  Don't we love our daughters?  Don't we love our aunts?  Don't we love the women in our lives?'  

You don't have to propose an actual restriction on abortion, however minor, to get this kind of reaction from Boxer.  Republican Congressman David Weldon learned this when he proposed a federal law to prevent doctors and insurers from being forced to participate in abortions - either by performing them, paying for them, or making referrals for them.  Boxer said that the proposal, which became law, 'treats women worse than criminals.'  The right to choose apparently does not apply to those who wish to be able to choose not to be complicit in abortion.  

Abortion wasn't even directly at issue in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.  That act was designed for cases such as that of Laci Peterson and her unborn child, whom she had named Conner.  When Scott Peterson killed both of them, California law treated it as a double homicide.  The Unborn Victims of Violence Act - renamed Laci and Conner's Law after Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, came out in strong support of it - established that attacks on pregnant women fell within federal jurisdiction recognised two victims, too.

Pro-life groups had a straightforward reason to support Laci and Conner's Law:  Criminals, who assault the unborn in the womb, violate their right to life just as surely as abortionists do.  But, why should pro-choice groups have gotten involved?  Like Laci, these women WANTED their babies.  ( In some cases, that's why the fathers assaulted them.)  

But the mothers' view of their babies didn't matter to pro-choice groups.  General Wesley Clark had said that life began when the mother wanted it.  

For the Party of Death, life didn't even begin then.

The above is an excerpt from Ramesh Ponnuru's book, The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life, which was published on 24 April 2006.


In October of 1999, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was on the Senate floor expounding the virtues of and need for a ban on partial-birth abortion. What follows is the colloquy between Senators Santorum and Barbara Boxer that developed when Santorum just wanted an answer to the question of when a baby is 'born.'

Mr SANTORUM:  I think the Senator from California would say that she and I, the Senator from Illinois, the Senators from Arkansas and Kansas, we are all protected by the Constitution with the right to life.

Would you agree with that, Senator from California? Do you answer that question? 

Mrs BOXER:  I support the Roe v. Wade decision.

Mr SANTORUM:  Do you agree any child who is born has the right to life, is protected by the Constitution once that child is born? 

Mrs BOXER:  I agree with the Roe v. Wade decision, and what you are doing goes against it and will harm the women of this country. And I will address that when I get the floor. 

Mr SANTORUM:  But I would like to ask you this question. You agree, once the child is born, separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that? 

Mrs BOXER:  I would make this statement. That this Constitution as it currently is–some want to amend it to say life begins at conception. I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born–and there is no such thing as partial-birth–the baby belongs to your family and has the rights. But I am not willing to amend the Constitution to say that a fetus is a person, which I know you would. But we will get to that later. . . .

I think what my friend is doing, by asking me these questions, is off point. My friend wants to tell the doctors in this country what to do. My friend from Pennsylvania says they are rogue doctors. The AMA will tell you they no longer support the bill. The American Nurses don’t support the bill. The obstetricians and gynecologists don’t support the bill. So my friend can ask me my philosophy all day; on my own time I will talk about it. 

Mr SANTORUM:  If I may reclaim my time, first of all, the AMA still believes this is bad medicine. They do not support the criminal penalties provisions in this bill, but they still believe–I think you know that to be the case–this procedure is not medically necessary, and they stand by that statement.

I ask the Senator from California, again, you believe–you said “once the baby comes home.” Obviously, you don’t mean they have to take the baby out of the hospital for it to be protected by the Constitution. Once the baby is separated from the mother, you would agree–completely separated from the mother–you would agree that baby is entitled to constitutional protection? 

Mrs BOXER:  I will tell you why I don’t want to engage in this. You had the same conversation with a colleague of mine, and I never saw such a twisting of his remarks. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Let me be clear, then. Let’s try to be clear. 

Mrs BOXER:  I am going to be clear when I get the floor. What you are trying to do is take away the rights of women and their families and their doctors to have a procedure. And now you are trying to turn the question into, When does life begin? I will talk about that on my own time.

[. . .] 

Mr SANTORUM:  Once the baby is born, is completely separated from the mother, you will support that that baby has, in fact, the right to life and cannot be killed? You accept that; right? 

Mrs BOXER:  I don’t believe in killing any human being. That is absolutely correct. Nor do you, I am sure. 

Mr SANTORUM: So you would accept the fact that once the baby is separated from the mother, that baby cannot be killed?

[. . .] 

Mrs BOXER:  Define “separation.” You answer that question. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Let’s define that. Let’s say the baby is completely separated; in other words, no part of the baby is inside the mother. 

Mrs BOXER:  You mean the baby has been birthed and is now in the mother’s arms? It is a human being? It takes a second, it takes a minute—

Mr SANTORUM:  Say it is in the obstetrician’s hands. 

Mrs BOXER:  I had two babies, and within seconds of them being born—- 

Mr SANTORUM:  We had six. 

Mrs BOXER:  You didn’t have any. 

Mr SANTORUM:  My wife and I did. We do things together in my family. 

Mrs BOXER:  Your wife gave birth. I gave birth. I can tell you, I know when the baby was born. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Good. All I am asking you is, once the baby leaves the mother’s birth canal and is through the vaginal orifice and is in the hands of the obstetrician, you would agree you cannot then abort the baby? 

Mrs BOXER:  I would say when the baby is born, the baby is born and would then have every right of every other human being living in this country, and I don’t know why this would even be a question. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Because we are talking about a situation here where the baby is almost born. So I ask the question of the Senator from California, if the baby was born except for the baby’s foot, if the baby’s foot was inside the mother but the rest of the baby was outside, could that baby be killed? 

Mrs BOXER:  The baby is born when the baby is born. 

Mr DURBIN:  Will the Senator yield? 

Mrs BOXER:  That is the answer to the question. 

Mr SANTORUM:  I am asking for you to define for me what that is. 

Mrs BOXER:  I can’t believe the Senator from Pennsylvania has a question with it. I have never been troubled by this question. You give birth to a baby. The baby is there, and it is born, and that is my answer to the question. 

Mr SANTORUM:  What we are talking about here with partial birth, as the Senator from California knows, is the baby is in the process of being born— 

Mrs BOXER:  In the process of being born. This is why this conversation makes no sense, because to me it is obvious when a baby is born; to you it isn’t obvious. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Maybe you can make it obvious to me. What you are suggesting is if the baby’s foot is still inside of the mother, that baby can then still be killed. 

Mrs BOXER:  I am not suggesting that. 

Mr. SANTORUM: I am asking. 

Mrs BOXER:  I am absolutely not suggesting that. You asked me a question, in essence, when the baby is born. 

Mr SANTORUM:  I am asking you again. Can you answer that? 

Mrs BOXER:  I will answer the question when the baby is born. The baby is born when the baby is outside the mother’s body. The baby is born. 

Mr SANTORUM:  I am not going to put words in your mouth— 

Mrs BOXER:  I hope not. 

Mr SANTORUM:  But, again, what you are suggesting is if the baby’s toe is inside the mother, you can, in fact, kill that baby. 

Mrs BOXER:  Absolutely not. 

Mr SANTORUM:  OK. So if the baby’s toe is in, you can’t kill the baby. How about if the baby’s foot is in? 

Mrs BOXER:  You are the one who is making these statements. 

Mr SANTORUM:  We are trying to draw a line here. 

Mrs BOXER:  I am not answering these questions. 

Mr SANTORUM:  If the head is inside the mother, you can kill the baby. 

Mrs BOXER: My friend is losing his temper. Let me say to my friend once again–and he is laughing— 

Mr SANTORUM:  I am not laughing. 

Mrs BOXER:  Let me say, this woman is not laughing right now because if this bill was the law of the land, she might either be dead or infertile. So if the Senator wants to laugh about this, he can laugh all he wants. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Reclaiming my time, Mr. President. All I suggest is I was not laughing about the discussions. It is a very serious discussion. 

Mrs BOXER:  Well, you were. 

Mr SANTORUM:  I was smiling at your characterization of my demeanor. I have not lost my temper. I think I am, frankly, very composed at this point. What I will say–and the Senator is walking away–is the Senator said, again, the baby is born when the baby is born. I said: If the foot is still inside the mother? She said: Well, no, you can’t kill the baby. If the foot is inside, you can’t, but if the head is the only thing inside, you can.

Here is the line. See this is where it gets a little funny. 

Mrs BOXER:  Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. President. Let the RECORD show that I did not say what the Senator from Pennsylvania said that I did. Thank you. 

Mr SANTORUM:  Mr. President, I hate to do this, but could we have the clerk read back what the Senator from California said with respect to that question?

I understand it will take some time for us to do that. I will be happy– 

Mrs BOXER:  I say to my friend, I know what I said. I am saying your characterization of what I said is incorrect. I didn’t talk about the head or the foot. That was what my colleague talked about. And I don’t appreciate it being misquoted on the floor over a subject that involves the health and life of the women of this country and the children of this country and the families of this country. 

Mr SANTORUM:  It also involves–and that is the point I think the Senator from California is missing–it also involves when in the process–that is why people on both sides of the abortion issue support this bill, because it also involves what is infanticide and what is not. A lot of people who agree with you on the issue of abortion say this is too close to infanticide. This is a baby who is outside the mother. 
A question for my Hot Air readers, does Barbara Boxer remind you anyone?  Like, nonpartisan, perchance?  On the day that he backed himself into a corner and claimed to be a graduate of Harvard Law School, but incapable of answering the most basic legal questions?


How Americans Look At Abortion

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