Monday, July 29, 2013

Legislative activity on abortion in 2013

Does it seem like every day you are hearing or reading about one state or another attempting to pass some sort of legislative restriction on abortion? That's because it is true. The last four years or so have seen a dramatic increase in the number of legislative attempts to do the following:

  1. Attack the framework of Roe and Casey directly; North Dakota falls into this category, for example.
  2. Chip away at the Roe/Casey jurisprudential framework, with fetal pain legislation, bans on abortions after 20 weeks, and so on. This kind of legislation does not directly defy the Supreme Court's major abortion decisions-- although they are inconsistent with them-- but attempt to encourage judges to subtly rework the Roe/Casey doctrine. This is what pro-life activists successfully achieved with the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Carhart. 
  3. Enact regulations that, on the surface, look like they are consistent with Roe/Casey but make it harder for women to obtain abortions. For example, many states have attempted to enact additional regulation of abortion clinics, referred to as TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers). Clinics find it impossible to meet the expensive and unnecessary requirements and close; this makes access to abortion harder. Other regulations make the process of obtaining an abortion more unpleasant by, for example, forcing women to undergo vaginal ultrasounds and endure lectures on the features of the fetus before being able to have an abortion.
  4. Deny public funding, support, or subsidization of organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that not only provide abortions but also a broad range of women's health and family planning services. 

If you want to get a better sense of the current legislative landscape, read the recently released Guttmacher Institute report on state law-makign activity in the first half of this year. It is eye-opening reading.

Links:

Report from the Guttmacher Institute (July 8, 2013): State-Level Assault on Abortion Rights Continues in First Half of 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Misreading pro-life legislator Brian Nieves

In the last few election cycles, pro-life Republican lawmakers and candidates have regularly fed the public diet for controversy, with statements about abortion and rape, medically necessary abortions, and related topics.

There is no need, therefore, to gin up an outrageous statement where it does not exist.

The blog Little Green Footballs (LGF), along with The Raw Story and The Huffington Post, reports that a Missouri state senator, Brian Nieves, got into an argument over Facebook with a priest whom he thought was a reporter. Mr. Nieves has a history of mixing it up with constituents and critics and using rather tactless language and imagery when lashing out at those who criticize him.

In the ensuing exchange, according to LGF, The Huffington Post, and The Raw Story, Senator Nieves threw women under the bus by asserting that the life of a pregnant woman faced with a life-threatening abortion is just a "matter of convenience."

Outrageous! Yet what 'we' knew all along: Pro-lifers don't care about women!

But what did Mr. Nieves say, actually? Here is the text of the senator's statement (from LGF):
“Really?!?! Are you sure you want to stick with that definition of partial birth abortion? Really? Didn’t you say you have an advanced degree? Your statement about ‘Life of the Mother’ is one of the most common yet kindergarten ways of proving that you don’t even know what a partial birth abortion is!! You are a ‘priest’ and you speak about matters of life and death for which you don’t have an ounce of knowledge?!? Shame on you.”
“‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience! Tell me this - Do you even know what a partial birth abortion really is? No, seriously, do you actually know what it is?? If so, explain to me what a partial birth abortion is.”
What do you think? In my reading, senator Nieves did not mean that the life of a mother is a "matter of convenience." Instead, Nieves was expressing skepticism that the "partial-birth" technique of abortion was ever used as a necessary means to save the "life of the mother." Senator Nieves, like many pro-lifers, believes that "partial-birth" abortion was never medically necessary-- as such, it could be banned without hurting women. Therefore, when the partial-birth abortion technique was used by doctors, it was really used for abortions that were not medically necessary. In other words, "partial-birth" abortion is a "matter of convenience."

In Senator Nieves' opinion, his Facebook opponent asserting that the "partial-birth" abortion technique saves the lives of pregnant women proved that he did not know what he was talking about.

Senator Nieves, naturally, denied that he said that the life of a pregnant woman is a mere matter of convenience. Inexplicably, though, he did not go to the trouble to explain what he did mean. Instead, he chose to attack liberals as nasty and unpleasant creatures who are always the ones who start fights, etc.

The vast majority of Mr. Nieves' Facebook writings are typical chat room drivel and stereotyping about liberals, so I am not defending Mr. Nieves' quality of mind or eloquence of expression. Or his judgment, for that matter-- an elected politician gets into a public argument over Facebook? For crying out loud. He is not exactly elevating the dignity of the office of state senator.

He does not need his comments misread and misreported to look foolish, and if pro-choice writers on the left are going to criticize conservatives for bending the truth, they need to parse comments more judiciously.

UPDATE: Here are a few web sites that interpret Nieves' comment correctly (and critically): Think Progress and The Gloss 

Links:

Post in Little Green Footballs (July 23, 2013): Anti-Abortion Politician Admits That the Life of the Mother Does Not Matter

Article in The Raw Story (July 22, 2013): Republican lawmaker: Abortion to save the life of the mother  is 'a matter of convenience'

Article in The Huffington Post (July 23, 2013): Brian Nieves, GOP State Senator: Abortions to Save Mother's Life Are 'A Matter of Convenience'

Post at Women in the World (July 23, 2013): Anti-Abortion Pol: Mom Doesn't Matter

Missouri state senator Brian Nieves' Facebook 'rebuttal' of articles/posts about his stance on pregnant women

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The fight over Chen Guangcheng and the maelstrom of American reproductive politics

Chen Guangcheng is the Chinese lawyer and human rights activist who famously managed to escape house arrest and the country of China to land in New York City and a fellowship at New York University to study law. The fact that he is blind (and quite telegenic in his dark sunglasses) made his escape even more remarkable and compelling.

The American dream honeymoon is over. He is leaving New York University after a year and he is looking for a new position, and there are conflicting stories as to what happened. What is more clear is that Mr. Chen is struggling to adjust to the polarized atmosphere of American politics and how that polarization is represented by, and intensified by, divisions over reproductive politics.

Mr. Chen's story involves reproductive politics because of his activism against forced abortion and government abuses associated with China's one-child policy. Pro-life activists strongly oppose China's one-child policy in itself. They also are outraged by the abuse of the policy, in particular the phenomenon of local officials pressuring and/or forcing women to have abortions to meet population incentives and/or directives from higher up in the political food chain.

Pressured or forced abortion is a practice that many pro-choice activists oppose, too, as China represents another form of anti-choice in its vigorous attempts to limit population growth. It is entirely possible, in other words, to be both pro-choice and anti-one-child-policy.

This distinction tends to be lost in the American public discourse over China's policy, especially among pro-life activists. American pro-lifers see China's policy as the end of the pro-choice slippery slope: This is what happens when we embrace the 'culture of death,' utilitarian ethics, and population explosion panic!

One wing of the original pro-choice movement in the United States was in fact mainly concerned about population control, and early, well-intentioned efforts to promote population control, in the late 1960s and 1970s, did have a kind of "we have to meet our target numbers" flavor-- seeing women in the third world as (exaggerating a bit here) baby-making machines that needed to be dialed back a bit. China's government, as is its wont historically, took the blunt instrument approach to population control to its extreme.

(And, even earlier, in the American 'voluntary motherhood' and birth control movements in the Progressive and New Deal eras, there was some concern among political elites about the drop in birth rates among middle-class and upper-class whites in conjunction with a high birth rate among working-class and/or "ethnic"/immigrant groups. Birth control was seen by some as a way to even the score and limit population growth by what they deemed the less desirable parts of the population.)

Among first-world governments and NGOs, the older perspective has been largely abandoned. American and international organizations that promote family planning were positively modified by a feminist, human rights perspective on population control that focuses on choice-- giving women and families in all countries the autonomy and resources to make choices for themselves regarding the timing, spacing, and ultimate number of children they wish to have. The results of choice-based family planning is that birth rates drop to good levels and families and societies are healthier. Girls and women also benefit from choice-based family planning, as they receive more resources and equal treatment within their own families.

If you read pro-life literature and the pro-life press, you'll see that they haven't gotten the memo. They still see China as the final result of 'pro-abortion' activism and thinking, rather than an affront to basic pro-choice principles.

Back to Mr. Chen. American pro-life activists see Mr. Chen as a great symbol of their cause and would like to claim him for their own.

The danger for Mr. Chen is that affiliating and/or receiving support from American pro-life activists might typecast him as being primarily pro-life-- which he may not be-- rather than pro-freedom and pro-democracy. Mr. Chen could lose his broad appeal and his support among human rights activists on the left. Perhaps sensing this danger, Mr. Chen has been circumspect about his own views on abortion.

It is ironic and unfortunate that Mr. Chen, in escaping China to arrive in the land of the free, finds himself trapped again.

Links:

Article in The New York Times (July 10, 2013): After Epic Escape From China, Exile Is Mired in Partisan U.S.

For a good history and summary of American population control efforts and the human rights, pro-choid view of family planning, see the following resources:

An iconic work by a (now) pro-life activist who helped to expose abuses of China's one-child policy is A Mother's Ordeal: One Woman's Fight Against China's One-Child Policy, by Steven W. Mosher

Steven W. Mosher is now president of the Population Research Institute, which is devoted to arguing that overpopulation is a "myth" and fighting "coercive population control." 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Is there a federal power to ban abortions after 20 weeks?

The state of Texas thrust late-term abortion bans into the national spotlight because of legislation passed there over the heroic/infamous filibustering of state senator Wendy Davis. State laws that ban abortions after the point at which a fetus becomes viable are explicitly constitutional under Roe and Casey, so the fact that Texas wants to ban abortions later in pregnancy is itself not a big deal.

Texas' ban is controversial because
  1. it bans abortions after 20 weeks, which is pegged to a specific time (rather than to a specific fetus' attainment of viability) and also weeks earlier than when any fetus is minimally capable of being viable (about 23 weeks); and
  2. the argument for having bans set at 20 weeks is that science has now determined that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks and so aborting a fetus that feels pain is cruel and should be prevented.
This is the hot flavor in anti-abortion legislation, because
  1. fighting for the right of women to have abortions this late in pregnancy makes pro-choice activists and legislators look extreme;
  2. public attention is focused on the (disputed) assertion that fetuses feel pain, which further humanizes the fetus (a tactic used in the classic anti-abortion film, The Silent Scream); and 
  3. it creates an angle-- fetal pain-- for judges to chip away at the jurisprudential logic of Roe and Casey without mounting a direct assault on those decisions. Something similar was done with success in Gonzalez v. Carhart, a 5-4 decision in which the Supreme Court, in essence, found the "partial-birth" abortion technique gruesome enough to allow the federal government to remove it from the toolkit of abortion doctors. Pro-life lawmakers and activists are working to foster, ultimately, a collective judicial epiphany that abortion is a gruesome and cruel attack on little human beings who feel pain. Banning abortions after 20 weeks based on a fetal pain theory is another step (pro-lifers hope) toward that judicial realization-- "there may be some kind of right to abortion, but it can't include this..."
Now U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida wants to get in on the act. I don't doubt that Senator Rubio is pro-life, but the timing of this has presidential primary politics written all over it. This is red meat for a national pro-life conservative base and meant to scare off any potential 2016 challengers to his status as the early front-runner for the Republican nomination.

The problem is that Senator Rubio wants to pass a federal government ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and that is something that should bother conservatives who fret about the federal government legislating in areas of traditional state regulation and outside the constitutional authority of the federal government.

This is a legitimate question: Does the federal government have the constitutional authority to ban abortions after 20 weeks? I have doubts. As a way of working through this question, consider the flimsy justification for the federal ban on the "partial birth" abortion technique found in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (PBABA).

Championed by then-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the PBABA is constitutionally housed under the 'Interstate Commerce Clause' (ICC) power in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate "commerce among the states." While the PBABA has a long list of congressional findings about partial-birth abortion, Congress did not include a single factual finding about how doctors choosing to use the partial-birth abortion technique (as opposed to an alternative technique to achieving the same medical goal) had a substantial effect on interstate commerce or the national economy. Instead, the congressional authority to ban a particular medical technique was justified in the following way:
Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both. 
That's it.

Conservatives who squinted really hard to find the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional should blush at the casual constitutional stretching of the PBABA to include regulating a doctor's choice of which technique to use in a medical procedure.

Even Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is a jurisprudential radical but more jurisprudentially consistent than, say, Justice Scalia, looked doubtfully on the ICC basis for the partial birth ban. In Gonzales v. Carhart, the Court decision upholding the law, Justice Thomas wrote the following in a concurring opinion:
I also note that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court. The parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it.
Was Justice Thomas uncomfortable or relieved that the Court dodged the question?

Why didn't the litigants challenging the law not raise the ICC issue? Because pro-choice litigants generally do not like the Court's recent Commerce Clause jurisprudence, which has been driven by conservative concern over the expansion of federal power to serve progressive ends during and since the New Deal. Taking this conservative jurisprudential route to attacking the PBABA might constitutionally undermine the broad use of federal power that pro-choice liberals support generally.

In my opinion, under the Supreme Court's recent (post 1995) ICC cases, neither the PBABA nor a ban on abortions after 20 weeks is reasonably within the federal government's constitutional authority.

The main obstacle is that one of the threshold indicia for an activity to be regulated by Congress under the ICC is that the activity is in some way "economic" in nature. For example, the sale of drugs, the minimum wage, labor-management relations, white collar crime, and the payment of health care costs all involve economic activity.

Consider the partial-birth abortion technique: Regulating the specific method a doctor uses in performing a medical procedure is not regulating a fundamentally "economic" activity. Banning partial-birth abortion, like banning all abortions after 20 weeks, is non-economic in the same way that the following are not economic in nature: criminalizing the possession of a gun on school property (held unconstitutional in United States v. Lopez); and allowing an individual to file a civil suit against other individual in federal court for sexual assault (a provision of the Violence Against Women Act held outside Congress' authority in United States v. Morrison).

At the same time, banning a particular medical technique is not akin to criminalizing behavior in order to facilitate the exercise of other federal powers-- which Congress may do-- for example, criminalizing the murder of federal workers or preventing destruction of federal property; or criminalizing the local growing and selling of medical marijuana in order to assist in preventing interstate and international drug trafficking, which the Court upheld as within Congress' authority in Gonzalez v. Raich.

I don't see the ICC logic of the current Court allowing for the banning of abortion after the 20 week mark. Conservative politicians and lawyers might make a case for it, but it will be interesting to see how comfortably it fits with their analysis of other ICC issues. Of course, as long as pro-choice liberals refuse to bludgeon conservative lawyers and judges with their own weapon, the dubious constitutionality of federal abortion laws will remain largely a non-issue.

Links:

Article in Politico (July 24, 2013): Marco Rubio wants to be lead sponsor on anti-abortion bill

Article in The Weekly Standard (July 2, 2013): Rubio to Introduce Senate Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

Legal Information Institute (LII) version of Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007)

Text of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sex is life in disguise?

From Kristen Luker, When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex-- and Sex Education-- Since the Sixties (18):
In the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud famously thought that life was sex in disguise. A joke, a pun, a slip of the tongue, a symptom, were all silent expressions of forbidden wishes in nineteenth-centure Vienna, and the forbidden was very often the sexual. By looking at sex and sex education today, I want to argue the other side of that equation: that sex is life in disguise. When Americans talk about sex, we are simultaneously and covertly talking about all the things going on in our world outside of the bedroom. Gender, power, conflict, cooperation, religion, culture, the future, and even (bear with me) the global economy are there . . .
This is a fundamental insight about reproductive politics. Luker is well equipped to identify and communicate it, as she made the same point regarding abortion in her 1984 book Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood.

Many reproductive politics activists on all sides, I believe, generally agree with Luker's assertion, although they might not articulate it as such. I think that most people active in this area of political life agree that beliefs about one facet of sex, relationships, families, etc. are not held in isolation but tend to be part of a constellation of beliefs, interconnected and (they hope or assume) internally coherent-- a kind of ideology of sex and reproduction.

Where they might disagree with Luker, a sociologist, is the degree of independent choice they exercise over the adoption and development of their constellation of views-- whether they choose to believe a set of views or are socialized to believe them, given their experiences and social context (or some combination of choice and socialization).

Sociologists and other social scientists often conclude something like the following: "You believe X not just because X is inherently correct in your view, but also because it is motivated by Y and the situation Z you find yourself in." They also sometimes conclude something like this: "In your words and in the top layer of your thinking you say you believe 1A and for set of reasons X, but in reality you believe something a little different, 1B, and in reality you believe it for a rather different set of reasons."

Naturally, people do not like to be told that they don't mean what they say and they don't say what they mean! Given that many academic researchers come to conclusions about social life that are seen as "liberal," conservative activists and pundits often accuse academics of arrogant presumption and bias-- "quit telling me that I dislike Barack Obama because of his race!" for example.

Activists-- and scholars, too-- might disagree also about the direction of the causal arrow in Luker's work: Does a person develop views about sex and reproduction first, and then these beliefs affect his or her understanding and interpretation of the larger world? Or, does a person's beliefs about the larger world come first and then shape her or his views about abortion, sex, family planning, and sexual orientation (Luker's general conclusion)? Or do they affect each other?

My educated guess is that, for most people, the causal arrow goes both ways, and the degree to which one affects the other (a person's larger worldview more dominant or a person's narrower set of beliefs about sex and reproduction more dominant) depends on a person's specific life experiences.

Therefore, while Luker's work is extremely valuable and insightful, it should be taken as demonstrating one facet of a more complicated social and psychological dynamic.

Links:

Kristin Luker home page at the University of California-Berkeley 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What does the contraceptive mandate actually require?

Paige Winfield Cunnigham published an interesting report in Politico about limits on women receiving free contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act.

Set aside for a moment the politics of which organizations are exempted from the mandate and possible constitutional problems with the ACA. Cunningham reports that the administrative language of the mandate allows insurers to partially limit what specific contraceptives a woman can receive without a copay:
[A] woman with employer-sponsored coverage generally doesn’t have free access to every kind of FDA-approved contraception, with some exceptions if her doctor gives a specific prescription for health reasons. And backers of the requirement are concerned that insurers are imposing limits on coverage that go beyond what HHS intended. 
The most in-depth guidance to date — released by the administration earlier this year — doesn’t detail exactly which birth control the health plans must cover without a co-pay. 
Instead, the rule permits plans to exercise “reasonable medical management.” That means the coverage requirement is satisfied if the plan offers options in each of five major contraceptive categories: barrier methods, hormonal methods, implanted devices, emergency contraception and permanent methods.
The Obama administration really can't win politically when it comes to the contraceptive mandate, in the same way that it can't win when it comes to the ACA in general. Supporters of the mandate are disheartened by all of the exempted organizations, which undercuts the individual and social benefits of providing free, effective contraception to women. Opponents, on the other hand, will never be satisfied with anything short of repeal of the whole program.

Now supporters find that the insurers that do provide contraceptives are going to be stingy with them in the say way that they are stingy with all other types of prescription drugs. With the ACA, one more complication is the new normal.

Links:

Article in Politico (July 23, 2013): Obamacare's confusing birth control rules

National Women's Law Center FAQ page on the contraceptive mandate (May 22, 2013): Contraceptive Coverage in the Health Care Law: Frequently Asked Questions

Employee Benefits Security Administration FAQs (February 20, 2013)(see in particular questions 14-17): FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation XII

National Women's Law Center FAQ page clarifying HHS rules (February 22, 2013): Women's Access to Preventative Services Affirmed by HHS

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Enforcing laws against adultery-- in the U.S.?

One of the candidates for the governorship of Virginia would like to occasionally prosecute people for extramarital affairs. Politico reports:
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli once suggested that society would benefit from enforcing anti-adultery laws, according to a report dating to the Republican’s days as a state senator. 
Speaking to Richmond’s Style Weekly magazine back in 2008, Cuccinelli defended laws criminalizing extramarital sex, saying that such restrictions “ought to stay on the books.” 
“Frankly it wouldn’t hurt to enforce them more,” Cuccinelli is quoted saying. The magazine paraphrased Cuccinelli drawing a comparison to “perjury inasmuch as the occasional prosecution or two would get people thinking twice.” 
Cuccinelli's spokesperson issued the following statement to Politico:
Ken Cuccinelli is someone who believes in and supports the institution of marriage. The campaign for the governorship in Virginia is about the concerns of voters, which include first and foremost creating jobs and growing the economy.
As a response, this isn't bad: Politico, you are raising an nonissue; the voters want us to focus on things that matter to them; this is a distraction.

Note, however, what the spokesperson did not say: You are misrepresenting the tone and context of Mr. Cuccinelli's remarks. Ken Cuccinelli did not and does not want actual enforcement of anti-adultery laws; he was just making the point, in a humorous way, that people could use a little nudging to respect the institution of marriage more than it is currently.

I was ready to dismiss this story as hyperbole until the spokesperson's statement made me do a mental double-take. Does Mr. Cuccinelli actually believe that anti-adultery laws should be enforced from time to time to keep marriages honest? Seriously?

Of course, one can't imagine local law enforcement officials engaging in an "occasional prosecution or two" against anyone in the political or economic elite, so who would be subject to the law's actual and deterrent power?

Luckily for Mr. Cuccinelli, he is safe from being put to the test by the American judges, who would likely strike down any actual enforcement of anti-adultery laws as unconstitutional in a post-Lawrence v. Texas world.

I did not consult any polls before writing this, but I can guesstimate that a high majority of Virginians-- in particular, the citizens of northern Virginia and others who are turning Virginia purple-- think that wanting to revive the enforcement of laws criminalizing consensual adult behavior is, to use the technical term, bonkers.

UPDATE: This story should also be considered in the context of Mr. Cuccinelli's current campaign to bring back Virginia's anti-sodomy law.

Links:

Article in Politico (July 23, 2013): Ken Cuccinelli once backed anti-adultry laws

Article in Style Weekly (May 28, 2008): Adult Supervision

Article in The Huffington Post (July 23, 2013): Ken Cuccinelli's War on Oral Sex

Link to Ken Cuccinelli's web site promoting the reinstatement of Virginia's anti-sodomy law

Monday, July 22, 2013

Erick Erickson and coat hangers: Missing the point

The coat hanger as a symbol and weapon in abortion politics is back-- or did it ever go away?

In an earlier post, I talked about the symbolic power of the coat hanger for pro-choice activists, regardless of how widely it was used in actual self-abortions.

Pro-life activists tend to miss the point of the coat hanger-- the question is not how often coat hangers were actually used before the constitutionalization of abortion in 1973, but how the coat hanger symbolically represents the desperation of women to have abortions and the lengths to which they will go to obtain one-- like using coat hangers, knitting needles, wires, etc. Especially for poor and working-class women, it is undisputed that many women experienced danger, pain, injury, and death in undergoing an assisted or self-induced abortion.

And then there's Erick Erickson, RedState blogger and pundit. He appeared to display a superlative level of willful obtuseness and sadism while gloating over the recent pro-life legislative victory in Texas: He tweeted, "Dear Liberals, go bookmark this site now:" followed by a link to a coat hanger sales web site. The natural first reading of Erickson's tweet is that he was gleefully celebrating the possibility that pregnant women in Texas who wanted an abortion would have to resort to dangerous, coat-hanger-like methods going forward.

Erickson's tweet produced a furor, and he pushed back on his RedState site in the form of a non-apology apology, titled "My Sincere Apology to the Kid Killing Caucus." He explained, in essence, that he was not taunting women with unwanted pregnancies and few options. Instead, he asserted, he was making fun of pro-choice activists and their coat hanger symbolism. He was pointing out in a funny way that pro-choicers, in opposition to the Texas legislation, would go overboard and hyperbolically predict a return to the bad old days. He also employed the tried-and-true "you don't find me funny, which shows you don't have a sense of humor" device-- usually employed, without irony, by someone who traffics in anger and resentment for a living (read RedState and judge for yourself).

Let's take Erickson at his word here. He still misses the point in two ways.

First, he focuses on the part of the Texas legislation that bans abortion after 20 weeks. This, I would assert, is not the most significant part of the legislation. Instead, the law's biggest impact is through its TRAP provisions-- that is, the parts of the legislation that unnecessarily impose regulatory burdens on Texas abortion clinics in order to regulate them out of existence. This is the part of the legislation, denying access to legal abortion for most Texas women, that will produce the conditions under which women will use alternative, and less safe, means to terminate a pregnancy.

Second, he does not understand that coat hangers are symbols of an empirical reality, rather than the empirical reality itself-- just as pictures of late-term aborted fetuses do not pictorially represent the vast majority of aborted fetuses and embryos, but symbolize and bring home the humanity and cost of an abortion (so assert pro-life activists). Erickson either doesn't get political symbolism (which is not good for someone in the pundit business) or he gets the symbolism and doesn't like the fact that it is effective.

Links:

Article in The Daily Beast (July 16, 2013): Meet The Pundit Who Thinks Coat-Hanger Abortions Are Funny

Article in Media Matters for America (July 13, 2013): Fox's Erickson Directs Liberals to Coat Hanger Sales Site After Texas Abortion Bill Passes

Erick Erickson "apology" in RedState (July 13, 2013): My Sincere Apology to the Kid Killing Caucus

Analysis in PolicyMic of a Democratic lawmaker's use of a coat hanger to make a point during the Texas abortion bill debate (July 10, 2013): Senate Bill 5: Texas Rep Resorts to Coat Hanger to Make Her Point

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back this week

Dear readers,

I will be posting new material again this week. So much has happened in the world of reproductive politics while I have been away, so we will have lots to discuss and debate. Thanks for continuing to read my older posts in the meantime.

Best,
JDF