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NRLC Challenges Pro-Abortion Blogger Robin Marty: Show Us All the Mythical D.C. Abortion

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Editor’s Note: The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has repeatedly informed Congress in recent months that abortion is currently legal in the District of Columbia, the nation’s capital, for any reason up until the moment of birth. There is no law restricting abortion, even after “viability.” The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has urged Congress to enact the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 3803), which would declare unborn children to be pain-capable at 20 weeks fetal age and prohibit abortion, except in cases of life endangerment to the mother, after that point.

In a May 17 story on the bill, the Associated Press (AP) contradicted the NRLC statement. The Associated Press (AP) asserted that abortions were legal in the District of Columbia (DC) only for certain reasons after “viability.” This assertion was based on misinformation provided by local officials. Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), promptly challenged this statement by the AP. The AP conducted further investigation and issued a formal correction, confirming that abortions for any reason are legal in the District.

On May 29, Robin Marty, a regular contributor to one of the more prominent pro-abortion websites, RHrealitycheck.org, issued a harsh attack on the AP for issuing the correction. Mr. Johnson responded to Marty’s attack, and the bulk of his response is reproduced below. The complete exchange is available for the time being at www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/05/29/associated-press-pressured-into-anti-choice-correction#comments.

Douglas Johnson: I am here to discuss the AP’s initial error and its subsequent correction, as well as the current state of abortion law in the District of Columbia. Regrettably, Robin Marty has made a similar error to that made by the AP in its initial story. It will be interesting to see if she will correct herself once she has conducted further research.

In her article, Marty states, “In D.C., an abortion post-viability is allowable for the exact same reasons it is allowed under the established criteria in Roe v. Wade: life or health of the mother.” This is an error in reasoning that has been previously identified as a “schoolboy error.” (Is this still a valid assumption?) She appears to have assumed that Roe v. Wade itself imposed some affirmative limitations on abortion. By this, I mean that it imposed constitutionally required limits that are therefore in force everywhere. However, this premise is erroneous. I am unaware of any attorney, on any side of the abortion issue, who has ever defended such an assertion.

To the best of my knowledge, and based on my research, the U.S. Supreme Court has never held that any legislative body is required to adopt a limitation on abortion at any stage of pregnancy with respect to any jurisdiction. Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and all other abortion-related Supreme Court decisions address solely the limitations on abortion that the Supreme Court will permit state, local governments, or Congress to implement.
It should be noted that this discussion does not address the potential constitutional requirements or limitations with respect to abortion policy that might be identified if the Constitution were properly interpreted. The focus of this discussion is on the actual statements and actions of the Supreme Court with regard to the subject matter.
The following point is of significance: the Supreme Court’s pronouncements regarding the limitations it would permit governments to impose with respect to abortion are irrelevant to the current legal situation in the District of Columbia. This is because a local legislative body, the District Council, has repealed the entire abortion law.

The legal system in question permits all actions unless they are explicitly prohibited by law. Consequently, abortion is now lawful in the District of Columbia for any reason until the moment of birth.
In light of this, it is necessary to revisit the AP’s original May 17th account: The sentence in question can be interpreted to mean that abortions in the District would be unlawful if performed after viability, unless they are performed to protect the life or health of the mother.

Consequently, if the original AP statement had been accurate, it would follow that if an abortionist were to enter the prosecutor’s office with an affidavit in which he swore that he had performed an abortion after viability that was not necessary “to protect the life or health of the mother,” he would have confessed to an act that was unlawful, and therefore would face arrest and/or other sanctions. Moreover, if the original AP statement had been accurate, then the NRLC would have been providing Congress with false information. For example, in the NRLC’s May 14, 2012 letter to U.S. House members, the NRLC asserted that abortion is legal in the District of Columbia at any point up to the moment of birth for any reason.

The AP statement was subsequently found to be false. Consequently, the NRLC challenged the AP’s erroneous assertion, prompting the AP to conduct an investigation and subsequently issue a correction.

It is important to note that the issue at hand has no bearing on the interpretation of the term “health” as it is used in Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, or any other Supreme Court opinion. Furthermore, the issue of what “health of the mother” means in the context of abortion-related statutes and what “viability” means in the context of statutes is a matter of interest and importance, but is irrelevant to the current legal situation in the District of Columbia. This is because there is no law that limits abortion to “health” cases, whether before or after viability, in the District. The District Council repealed the sole existing law. This is evident from the fact that there is no longer any legal basis for limiting abortions to cases of “health” before or after viability.

I would like to make a prediction, which I hope will not come true. Robin Marty may attempt to avoid the point by deflecting attention away from her error. She may attempt to change the subject to discuss the self-imposed policies of certain abortionists with respect to gestational age, reasons, or other factors. She may attempt to redirect the discourse to her presumed knowledge of the current “availability” of abortion in the District of Columbia. These inquiries may be pertinent to a future discussion, but they are not directly related to the initial error by the AP or the misguided assumption of Robin Marty that a law exists where none does.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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