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A gaffe is not when a politician tells a lie, according to a famous adage by journalist Michael Kinsley. “A gaffe,” he explained, “is when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

When Alabama, Ohio and Missouri enacted broad abortion bans with no exception for cases of rape and incest, they made the same sort of mistake. Their measures gave the public an accurate but alarming picture of how many “pro-life” advocates see the issue. By showing how far they would take their logic, they dramatized the weakness of their case.

In signing the bill, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey cited “Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God.” If every life is a sacred gift from God, how it came into being — by consensual sex or by rape — shouldn’t matter. In either case, the fetus is not to blame and is entitled to protection.

This may sound like a radical position. But it’s more common than you might realize. Last year, a Gallup Poll found that 43 percent of Americans who call themselves “pro-life” don’t favor exceptions for rape or incest.

The Republican Party’s national 2016 platform asserts, “The unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed,” with no mention of exceptions. The Texas Republican Party leaves no wiggle room when it says it wants to “completely abolish legal abortion.” Officials of several organizations have signed a letter urging the Republican Party to ban all abortions.

The absolutists have a point. If the life of the fetus is the sole consideration, other factors don’t matter. What matters least of all are the interests of pregnant women. By rejecting any exceptions, anti-abortion advocates starkly reveal their belief that each uterus belongs to everyone except the person in whom it resides.

If a fetus conceived in rape were granted all the rights of personhood at conception, the pregnant woman would forfeit control over her body, compelled to carry a fetus created without her consent. A vicious criminal could enslave her to bear his offspring — and to endure the lasting consequences of becoming a mother.

Or suppose that a child needs a liver transplant. “Even if, because of tissue type, only her father can provide a segment of liver that her body will not reject, our laws have never required any such sacrifice of him,” wrote Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe in his book, “Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes.”

The fact that the father chose to conceive the child makes no difference. His willingness to engage in behavior that leads to a pregnancy and birth does not obligate him to make such a sacrifice.

The logic of “pro-lifers,” however, would justify even greater violations. Thirteen people die every day in this country awaiting kidney transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation. We could prevent those deaths by requiring kidney donations to those in need, from anyone whose organs would be suitable. But we don’t.

And we’d all agree that if someone needing a kidney tried to extract one from someone without her consent, she would be justified in using force in self-defense, including deadly force.

That’s not because we put no value on the lives of those who would be saved. It’s because we put a higher value on the personal freedom and bodily integrity of those who would be compelled to save them.

Someone impregnated through consensual sex, of course, would be subject to the same constraints. The difference, significant to some, is that she can be said to have incurred the obligation by her own choices.

But compulsory birth in the case of rape is only slightly more objectionable than in other cases. In either, the woman has to surrender her basic physical autonomy for the benefit of someone else, against her own will.

Under other comparable circumstances we would never impose such onerous obligations. Suppose that a man has defective sperm that are certain to produce only fetuses with horrific conditions that will cause death in utero. We could avert these grim outcomes by forcing him to get a vasectomy. But the intrusion on his body and the burden on his freedom would be too radical to accept.

To force women to go through pregnancy and give birth is a violation of the most severe and intimate kind. It’s not an affirmation of life. It’s a denial of the humanity of women.

 

 

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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