The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, November 21, 2003
 

The anti-abortionists' legislative technique


Having flagged the energy bill as a fine example of the chiseller's art earlier this week, a piece in Salon (compulsory ad) runs through the pro-life playbook.

It's asymmetric warfare, not totally dissimilar from what's going on out in Iraq: no frontal attack on Roe v Wade (pending the arrival of the missing Fifth Horseman), but guerrilla raids on isolated targets. Including partial-birth abortion [1] (was the phrase a K Street invention, I wonder?) and a putrid little number to be known as Laci and Conner's Law - aka the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2003 (HR 1997).

The wedge of which UVVA is the thin end? It would enshrine in Federal law the notion that a fetus is an unborn child. The title of the new section (ยง1841) it would insert in USC Title 18 is
Protection of unborn children
and the idea is used throughout the bill.

As the piece says
Though it makes an explicit exception for abortion, within the rhetoric of a law that defines killing a fetus as murder the exception seems absurd -- and that's precisely the point.

There's also a bill to ban RU-486, and another - a sort of abortion Mann Act - to punish an adult taking a minor across a state line for an abortion free of parental consent rights: identical (to my naked eye) bills HR 1755 and S 851.

The attritional work by legislators meshes with the efforts of the picketers and doctor-killers to make it just too damned unpleasant for clinics to carry on. The result: whatever the legal position might be, so many counties don't have abortion providers that there's a de facto abortion ban already in place pro tanto. Which has the effect of lowering expectations for the existence of abortion provision amongst women generally.

So low, that, according to the piece,
An April 7 survey commissioned by the Center for the Advancement of Women, a feminist group, found that only 41 percent of women see keeping abortion legal as a top priority for the women's movement.

An isolated number like that is apt to mislead - but, on the face of it, the pro-abortion base is toppling.

(John Ashcroft is revealed to have a subtle sense of humour: he's delegated enforcement of the PBA ban to the Civil Rights Division. So, not only does he get the kind of liberal attorney that no doubt gravitates to that Division prosecuting abortion doctors, but he buttresses the perception of the fetus as a person who has civil rights.)

At the current rate of progress, by the time the Fifth Horseman arrives, most of his abortion work may, in effect, have been done.

(There's a compare and contrast to be done with the way that the civil rights movement worked in the 50s and 60s, in a synergetic combination of action in the streets, the courts and legislatures. Wearing down and worrying away, taking little victories when they offered themselves, but keeping the ultimate goal always in mind.)

  1. Which was (I record for future reference!) S 3, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, now PL 108-105.

    Also noteworthy for future reference is the fact that, of the Dem presidential candidates, Gephardt (the first - and quite probably the last - time I get to type the name, which I spell seriously wrong before checking! Is the guy is a household name even in his own household?) and Edwards failed to vote on approval of the conference report for S 3.

    There's a piece detailing other potentially voter-unfriendly roll-calls that one or more of the Little League have missed. (Caveat lector - it says that Kerry missed the vote on partial birth abortion: but the Senate record shows Kerry voted against the conference report.)



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