By Dave Andrusko
To quote the immortal seer Yogi Berra, it’s “déjà vu all over again.” Our Hall of Fame catcher knew a lot about cycles and repetition, even if he didn’t necessarily articulate his wisdom in the most elegant fashion.
What’s that to do with us? Read NRLC Federal Legislative Director Douglas Johnson’s analysis posted earlier this week and the remarks of NRLC President Carol Tobias at a press conference hosted yesterday morning by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) upon his introduction in the U.S. Senate of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S. 1553). The pattern of distortion surrounding the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is uncannily like that which enveloped the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban.
Mrs. Tobias and Mr. Johnson provide the kind of in-depth, factual insights gleaned from decades of experience that help pro-lifers, especially newcomers, understand that from the pro-abortion side, there really isn’t anything new under sun.
The specifics may change slightly, but whether you’re talking about the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban or the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the pro-abortionist’s approach is the same: make statements that are demonstrably wrong and then sit back smiling, confident that a sympathetic press corps will lap upwhat you say uncritically.
I will tackle just one of the many egregious misstatements (to put it politely) in the context of examining why the truth is forever waging an uphill battle. The posts alluded to above are absolutely must reading because they look at so many more.
First, there is the impact of credentialism laced with what we call “ advocacy malpractice” around here. In a nutshell some pro-abortionist with a title gets reporters together and says things that are patently untrue. But because he or she has credentials, by extension what they say is treated as gospel. They are the “experts.”
One example Mrs. Tobias mentioned in her statement is Dr. Hal Lawrence, the chief executive officer of ACOG. Dr. Lawrence held a conference call to “educate” journalists on January 14, 2015, she noted. Politico reported: “Lawrence said that less than 1 percent of all abortions occur after 20 weeks, but those that do are mostly situations where the life of the mother is at risk or there are severe medical complications.” [italics added for emphasis].
But there is abundance of evidence that this is not the case. Such abortions are not “rare”: a conservative estimate is at least 11,000-13,000 abortions are performed annually after this point, probably many more.
As Mrs. Tobias rightly observed, “If an epidemic swept neonatal intensive care units and killed 11,000 very premature infants, it would not be dismissed as a ‘rare event – it would be headline news on every channel, a first-order public health crisis.”
Likewise the best evidence is that “the great majority of abortions performed in the late second trimester are not performed because either mother or baby faces an acute medical crisis.”
This almost perfectly tracks the lies we heard in the mid-to-late 1990s when Congress debated the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. We were told such abortions rarely occurred and on those infrequent cases they were only or virtually only in acute medical circumstances.
In truth, there were thousands of partial-birth abortions performed annually and “in the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along,” as Ron Fitzsimmons, the executive director of a trade association of abortion providers, the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, confessed in early 1997.
Second, the Supreme Court and “viability.” In this instance I’ll just quote Mrs. Tobias at length. Paraphrasing wouldn’t do her justice. (“Gonzales” refers to the 2007 Supreme Court Gonzales v. Carhart ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban on partial-birth abortions, both before and after viability.)
I have read or viewed hundreds of news stories about the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act over the past six months, and at most a handful, or less, have made any mention of the Gonzales ruling – even though it is the most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion, and it dealt with a law aimed at a class of mostly late-second-trimester abortions. Yet many of the stories repeat, not only as advocates’ claims but as simple fact, that the Supreme Court will not permit limits on abortion before “viability,” which some go on to define as occurring weeks later than the current medical data indicates.
We believe that the approach that the Supreme Court adopted in the Gonzales ruling opens the doors for legislative bodies to extend broader protections to unborn children both before and after viability, based on valid governmental interests that legislative bodies may recognize. (Some prominent pro-abortion legal scholars also read the Gonzales ruling in this way.) In the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, Congress declares a government interest in protecting the right to life of an unborn child who has reached the point at which he or she can experience pain during the process of being aborted, and asserts that unborn children, at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, have that capacity.
There is much, much more in Mr. Johnson’s and Mrs. Tobias’ analyses, including the whole issue of when the unborn can feel pain and the seeds of confusion deliberately sown by opponents regarding the various findings and operative provisions in the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be revisiting the issue of deliberate distortion and reporters who operate as unwilling (or willing) amplifiers.