Politics & Society
May Thu 02, 2013
Well, if some of our friends on the right wanted a culture war, they seem to have gotten it. President Barack Obama on Friday became the first president to speak at a Planned Parenthood conference. His speech , which can be found here, was presented as some kind of cultural triumph on MSNBC. Rachel Maddow, who is very bright and quite capable of dissecting difficulties in politicians’ verbiage, had nothing but praise. Chris Hayes, whose new show precedes Maddow, painted the speech in historical terms - “first time in its 97-year history” he said. Let’s look at that verbiage. Let’s look at that history.
Perhaps it is not surprising that President Obama failed to mention the most significant current court case involving women’s health: The trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. The media have been reluctant, at best, to cover the gruesome story. Melinda Henneberger has a great column up at the Washington Post, asking if there are other abortion providers like Gosnell, willing to let a child, who is born alive, struggle for life without trying to save its life. Of course, the Post’s editors couldn’t find room in the print edition of the paper this morning for Henneberger’s column, what with the need to feature so many photos of the after-parties at the White House Correspondents Dinner. But, you can read her column by clicking here. The President, in his speech, employed the kind of phraseology that is common but no less Orwellian for its commonness. “Forty years after the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to privacy, including the right to choose, we shouldn’t have to remind people that when it comes to a women’s health, no politician should get to decide what’s best for you.” The phrase “right to choose” seems to come to a stop too suddenly. It seems to require a direct object, no? As in, “a right to choose abortion.” Or, the President could have elucidated the choice at issue, as in “a right to choose to end the life of the unborn child.” Nah. He would not say that. Really, does he think it is an oak tree growing in the womb? Not once in his speech did the President mention the word abortion. I have told the tale before, but it is useful here too. In the days after Benedict’s resignation, I got a call from a producer at a television talk show. She wanted to know if the cardinals might elect a new pope who would “take a more liberal position on issues like abortion.” I replied that the Church already has the liberal position on abortion: We stand up for the person who has no voice. Most of the president’s speech focused on not having anyone tell a woman what she can and cannot do. But, of course, our laws tell women – and men – that there are lots of things they can’t do with their bodies. They can’t drink too much and get behind the wheel of a car. They can’t take certain drugs that are illegal. They can’t break into their neighbor’s house and steal a television set. Telling people what they can and cannot do is what law is all about. By saying that only the mother has anything to say in the decision to terminate a pregnancy, it is the pro-choice crowd which is denying the interests of the unborn children, half of whom are women too. Actually more than half because, sex selection abortions remain very common in some countries and not unknown here in the U.S.
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