Let’s stipulate at the outset that the trial of Kermit Gosnell — who is charged with murdering seven babies and one patient in his nightmarish, unmonitored Philadelphia abortion mill — which began on March 18, should have received more coverage from national media outlets. (You can catch up with the story by reading Mollie Wilson O’Reilly’s dotCommonweal posts here, here, and here – published in January and February 2011.) As New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan has pointed out, while her paper’s work on Gosnell was “not insubstantial,” there “certainly could be more coverage.” But was the relatively limited national coverage of the early stages of Gosnell’s trial, following, as it did, lots of coverage of the nauseating grand-jury report two years ago, motivated by journalists’ prochoice bias, as so many critics claim? Was it a “full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media”? Or merely one that looked planned because of the media’s uniformly prochoice ideology? Is this such an open-and-shut case of media bias? I’m dubious. Read the rest of this entry »
Posts Tagged ‘abortion’
It’s far from conclusive, but there’s growing evidence that the Affordable Care Act could lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions performed in the United States. (If true, it also follows that repealing the Affordable Care Act would result in more, not fewer, abortions than leaving the law in place.)
Writing for The Atlantic, Brian Fung reports, “As the number of insured has gone up in Massachusetts, new state data show a corresponding decline in the number of abortions performed there since 2006.” Since passage of “Romneycare”, Massachusetts’ abortion rate has dropped 17%.
Fung hastens to add, “it’s possible that the decline in the abortion rate had nothing to do with Romneycare”, noting that Massachusetts’ abortion rate has declined steadily since 1991.
Nonetheless, researchers think there’s a link. Fung quotes Dr. Patrick Whelan, who first identified the trend as saying, “When women have more stable access to medical care, they’re more likely to see doctors, they’re more likely to have somebody inquiring about their sexual health. The fact that you have somebody who cares about you results in people being healthier, and that includes not getting pregnant if they don’t want to be.”
A major talking point in the Church’s opposition to the contraception mandate has been that the mandate goes beyond requiring employers to cover contraception and requires them to pay for products that, in the Church’s view, amount to abortion. For example, the Notre Dame complaint (.pdf) repeatedly claims that the mandate requires Notre Dame “to provide, or facilitate the provision of, abortion-inducing drugs.” (see, e.g., para. 87, 90, 107, 109, 125, 140, 146, 147, 149, 156…and many more) The complaint asserts that, as a matter of fact, Plan B “operates by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb.” Count IX of the Notre Dame complaint claims that the mandate is illegal precisely because it violates the APA’s commitment not to require employers to cover abortion services. When the complaint lists the services to which it objects, it routinely uses the following formulation: ”abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives.”
Why this emphasis on abortion in a complaint to block the contraception mandate? The question is made a little more urgent by today’s article in the New York Times reporting that the weight of scientific evidence is decidedly against the claim pressed by the Notre Dame complaint (and many Catholic opponents of the mandate) that Plan B “operates by preventing a fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb.” Read the rest of this entry »
It almost seems absurd to repost information that is available in dozens of other places on the Internet, but a few folks have asked my take on the current health care endgame.
After legislative maneuvering last week that led to the excision of the so-called “public option,” the Senate Democrats have 59 of the 60 votes they need to pass a motion to end debate on the bill (known as “cloture”) and move to a vote. Assuming the bill then passes, it gets sent to a joint House-Senate conference committee where it gets reconciled with the House reform bill. The consolidated bill is then sent back to both chambers for up/down votes. In the Senate, this vote can also be filibustered.
So where is the final vote in the Senate going to come from? There are two plausible options at this point. The first is Ben Nelson (D-NE), a relatively conservative Democrat who has raised concerns about the bill’s treatment of abortion (he supported the failed Senate version of the Stupak Amendment) and the fiscal burden it would place on states.
The second is Olympia Snowe (R-ME) a relatively liberal Republican. Snowe has been concerned about the financial impact of the individual mandate and was more open to a “triggered” public option than some conservative Democrats. She has also stated that she is less inclined to support the bill if Reid tries to hold the Senate vote before Christmas. Snowe is also pro-choice, so any changes that move the bill in a more pro-life direction are not going to be much help in getting her vote.
Which Senator is more likely to come on board? Reid seems to be focusing on Nelson right now. Yesterday, Nelson reportedly rejected a compromise on the abortion language drafted by Bob Casey (David Gibson has the details). Today he spent the morning in a meeting with Harry Reid. His comments after the meeting suggest that he is still negotiating seriously. One key question is whether improvements to the abortion language would be enough to bring Nelson aboard, or whether he will use an impasse on abortion to justify a vote against a bill he clearly dislikes on other grounds as well.
Meanwhile, rage on the Left about the excision of the public option has reached a fever pitch, with Howard Dean and MoveOn.org now actively campaigning to defeat the Senate bill. Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO has strongly suggested that the labor federation may oppose the bill, but SEIU’s Andy Stern is (somewhat reluctantly) on board. The split in labor reflects differences in their base. SEIU, which left the AFL a few years back to form a rival federation known as Change to Win, represents health care workers and low wage service workers, both of which stand to gain from reform. The AFL-CIO represents industrial and buildings trades workers who are unhappy about the tax on high-end health benefit plans.
A lot of the criticism from the Left has focused on Obama’s leadership. They think he could have done more to pressure senators and build support for a public option. I think it’s true that the White House did not have the “fire in the belly” for the public option (nor do I, for the record). I think the critics vastly overestimate, though, Obama’s ability to bring pressure on the senators who have created the most difficulty for him. Obama is relatively unpopular in places like Arkansas and Nebraska. I joked to one colleague today that the only way that Obama was going to be able to pressure Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) was by threatening to come to Arkansas and campaign for her.
What does seem clear is that Obama and the Congressional Democrats need to end this impasse soon. Obama’s poll numbers, while relatively stable in recent weeks, have fallen markedly since early in the year. Congressional Democrats have lost the generic ballot advantage they had over Republicans early in the year. If this struggle carries over into 2010, there is an increasing risk of losing Democrats facing tough re-election fights.
If health care reform does not get done in this Congress, it is fair to ask whether it can ever be done. The political parties have become more ideologically homogenous and the ideological divide between them seems to be increasing. There is now an effective 60 vote requirement in the Senate on many major pieces of legislation. Historically, the United States is a center-right country that generally embraces solutions from the left only in times of economic crisis (and sometimes not even then). The Democrats are almost certainly going to lose several seats in both the Senate and House next year, giving the Republicans an effective legislative veto. Advocates for health care reform can quibble about the details, but in terms of passing major reform, the time may well be now or never.
In what seems to be a rejoinder to America magazine’s strong, persuasive editorial on the controversy surrounding President Obama and Notre Dame, Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne/South Bend restates his case against inviting the president to speak at commencement and awarding him an honorary doctor of laws.
At the outset it should be acknowledged that in responding to the controversy Bishop D’Arcy has not shown the same flair for the dramatic exhibited by some other bishops. (Consider Bishop Doran of Rockford, Illinois, who, after declaring Notre Dame president John Jenkins no stranger to sponsoring smut–that would be the dreaded Vagina Monologues–suggested he rename Our Lady’s University “Northwestern Indiana Humanist University,” which Doran publicly communicated through the Cardinal Newman Society.) While one might disagree with Bishop D’Arcy’s version of events, it’s tough to take much issue with the way in which he has voiced his displeasure. In other words, he’s never approached the unhinged shenanigans of some of the protesters at Notre Dame. (Speaking of, I never thought Randall Terry could jump the shark. Wow, was I wrong.)
But that doesn’t mean Bishop D’Arcy is right.
Are opponents of health care reform trying to help scuttle the Obama plan by steering it into the rocky shoals of the abortion debate? Catholic Charities USA, outspoken in calling for Congress to enact health care reform, seemed to say as much in a statement it issued in response to “inaccurate online media reports.”
Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, denied claims that he supported health care reform without regard for whether it would lead to more abortions. “These attacks appear to be politically motivated by opponents of health care reform,” he said. “They are distortions of the truth and disingenuous. Catholic Charities USA will continue to work to reform health care in a way that is consistent with the teachings of our faith.” He appeared to be responding to stories carried on pro-life Web sites.
Catholic Charities said its position on health care reform legislation and abortion is consistent with statements from the U.S. bishops.
Sandro Magister today draws attention to an article in 30 days in which Card. Georges Cottier, O.P., former theologian of the papal household (Magister Sacri Palatii–a great title!), comments on the speeches given at the Notre Dame commencement, particularly that of President Obama. Magister (not of the sacred palace) says that the journal has close ties with the Vatican, and implies, it seems that Cottier’s piece must have been vetted on high.
The neoconservative Weekly Standard is best known as former vice president Dick Cheney’s favorite humor magazine. And it is funny–truly. Who can forget those satirical pieces warning of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, or the one–written in code!–about demure, heavily mascaraed Iraqi and Al Qaeda secret agents canoodling while passing nuclear secrets over heavy pastry in Vienna? And then there was the wild Monty Python-like script for “democratizing the Middle East at gunpoint.” The magazine’s limericks are even better. How do the staff poets manage, again and again, to rhyme same-sex marriage with pedophilia, feminism with mandatory castration, and capitalism with tantric sex? Perhaps genius is the only explanation.
Occasionally, the Weekly Standard attempts a serious piece of journalism. This is always a stretch for writers and editors, especially religiously motivated neoconservatives, committed to the long struggle against what is derisively called “the reality-based community.” Thus did an unnamed senior Bush adviser famously explain the idea of Bush’s “faith-based presidency” to journalist Ron Suskind: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Too true. A good example of the Weekly Standard‘s penchant for “creating other new realities” was a May 18 article, “God and Obama at Notre Dame,” by Joseph Bottum, who edits First Things, an occasional sparring partner of Commonweal. Addressing the alleged scandal of honoring prochoice President Barack Obama at the nation’s best-known Catholic university, Bottum took the occasion to announce–in that Trotskyite way neocons have of anointing themselves the irresistible wave of the future–that Notre Dame, “still living in a 1970s Catholic world, has suddenly awakened to find itself out of date.”
If you had a penny for every time a First Things writer has pronounced this or that Catholic (and especially this magazine) “out of date”–well, you’d have almost as much money as First Things gets each year from right-wing foundations. To be sure, Bottum takes pains to inform his readers that the Obama/Notre Dame controversy was not about politics, but culture. Reaching for the highest rhetorical notes in his impressive register, he argues that legalized abortion is irrefutable evidence of America’s corruption and decline, if not impending doom. “For American Catholics,” he writes, “the church is a refuge and a bulwark against an ambient culture that erodes morality and undermines families.” Notre Dame’s alleged squishiness on abortion, exemplified by its invitation to President Obama, means it lacks “the cultural marker that would make [it] Catholic in the minds of other Catholics.” Until Catholic universities understand this, the essay pronounces, “they will not be Catholic–in a very real, existential sense.”
Bottum’s writing has always been brightened by a wonderful indifference to mundane facts, a winning embrace of the fantastical. Still, it is rather stunning, in the aftermath of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis, to read that Catholics find a refuge and a bulwark for their families in the church. (That must be why every parish in the country requires anyone involved in church work to attend a “safe environments” workshop. And you have to attend in the real, not merely the existential sense.) Just as problematic is the attempt to define who is or isn’t Catholic. Granted, reading this or that person or group out of the church is a passionate hobby for some. But doing so in the “existential sense” seems a bit squishy for the editor of a magazine that prides itself on its gimlet-eyed defense of “orthodoxy.”
Doubtless those of us condemned to live in the reality-based community will be “left to just study” Bottum’s existential claims. In the meantime, those among us who are journalists need to remind Bottum of the first two rules of the profession. First rule: to the best of your ability, get the facts right. Second rule: if you do make a mistake, acknowledge the error and correct it. Bottum needs to understand that even Dick Cheney’s favorite humor magazine should try to avoid blatant errors and misrepresentations. To help him, we sent the following letter to the Weekly Standard hoping to correct a number of erroneous statements Bottum made about Commonweal in his essay.
To the Editors:
Joseph Bottum’s article in your May 18 issue, “God and Obama at Notre Dame,” contained a number of serious inaccuracies regarding Commonweal magazine and the content on our blog, dotCommonweal.
After quoting from an editorial that appeared in America magazine, Bottom writes, “America was soon joined by the other old-line American Catholic magazine, Commonweal, which could not bring itself to express the least sympathy for the protesters.” He then refers to an article from the Web site of the magazine he edits, First Things, that was excerpted, linked to, and discussed on the Commonweal blog (http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=3129). But his characterization of that discussion is misleading in several ways: First, a post by an individual blogger on dotCommonweal is not in any way an expression of Commonweal magazine’s editorial stance. Comments from blog readers are even more obviously not to be interpreted as the voice of the magazine. And the claim that our bloggers and commenters have been uniformly unsympathetic to “the protesters” at Notre Dame in general, or to Lacy Dodd, the author of the First Things Web article, in particular, is false. In fact, the blog post Bottum refers to described Dodd’s article as “a moving testimony.” And it gave rise to a lively discussion that included a wide variety of opinions, which Bottum’s account completely mischaracterizes.
“Commonweal put a notice of the article on its own website, and 83 comments later, the young woman had been called everything but a slut,” Bottum claims. In fact, Bottum is interpreting several commenters’ respectful criticisms of Dodd’s argument as attacks on her person and her personal decisions, which were in fact widely praised. When Bottum writes, “Her story was ‘flimsy,’ ‘manipulative’…” he is apparently quoting the following sentences: “It’s a moving story, but a flimsy argument.” And “Bless the young woman for all she did to keep her baby, but her article is emotionally manipulative.”
More seriously, Bottum distorts two phrases from another comment when he writes, “She was just ‘a horny kid,’ one of the ‘victims of the Russian roulette moral theory of premarital sex’ so rampant in the protesters’ troglodyte version of Catholicism.” In fact, the use of the former phrase did not refer to Ms. Dodd, and Bottum’s interpretation of the latter phrase is totally inverted. Here is the original comment (which was addressed to another commenter on the blog):
Your metaphor of the pregnant ND girl and the Blessed Mother also implies that the Holy Spirit was just a horny kid. Come off it.
Do I feel sorry for the ND girl? Of course, and also for her child and even the father. They are all victims of the Russian roulette moral theory of premarital sex – take a chance! :-( But contraceptives are not fail-safe, and it does a tremendous disservice to kids to let them think it’s OK to act otherwise. The possibilities of negative consequences are simply to [sic] great to risk.
Yes, the old teaching ‘no marriage, no sex’ is a hard saying. So?
In context, the line Bottum quotes as an attack on the moral outlook of “the protesters” is in fact an endorsement of abstinence education. And his suggestion that Dodd was called “a horny kid” is simply false.
Bottum should know better than to pretend that comments on a blog post are representative of a magazine’s editorial stance. But if he insists on using blog comments to make his argument, he ought to make sure he doesn’t misconstrue their meaning. In this case, he has not served your readers accurately or well.
The Editors of Commonweal
Our letter was printed in the June 15 issue of the Weekly Standard, along with Bottum’s unrepentant response. There Bottum ingeniously notes that “every word I quoted appeared on the Commonweal site.” That is undeniably true, but true only in the sense that every word he quoted also appears in the dictionary. He further asserts without plausible argument that “the words I quoted were a precise and fair summary of the expressed views of Commonweal and its writers.” This immediately brought to mind Humpty Dumpty’s brilliant retort in Through the Looking Glass: “When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.” Understandably, we were left scratching our heads, fearful that Bottum had succumbed to what the pope calls “the dictatorship of relativism.” Upon further reflection, however, we grasped what he was so wittily telling us. Obtusely we had failed to see that “God and Obama at Notre Dame” was satire after all, right from the start and all the way to the closing lament (ha, ha, ha) about the brokenness of Catholic culture and the U.S. church. And so we hereby withdraw our objections, and will wait (what else can we do?) for Bottum to act again, creating reality as he goes merrily along. He’s an empire now. No one dares dispute it.