I can imagine this might sound believable to a voter who doesn’t have the time to investigate the claim, which has become a persistent, and appalling, mischaracterization of the Protect Life Act, which the House voted on almost a year ago. One of the first to tell this lie was, again, Nancy Pelosi, who announced at the time: “Under this bill, when the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health care providers do not have to intervene if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling.” Democrats and abortion-activist groups have been fundraising off it, dubbing it the “Let Women Die Act.”
In truth, the legislation was simply an attempt to undo some of the rupture in the bipartisan consensus on conscience protection caused by the president’s health-care legislation. Despite the images Democrats continue to paint of hypothetical women dying on hospital floors, and of heartless pro-life doctors and hospital workers letting them die, the act sought to prevent health-care providers who are opposed to abortion on religious or moral grounds from being forced to participate in one. It also sought to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortion coverage. However, the law specifically exempts from that ban an abortion “in the case where a pregnant female suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the female in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”
The shrillness of the “Let Women Die” claim — along with terrible convention optics that included a floor debate over whether God could get a namedrop in the party’s platform (He ultimately was included and appeared to be booed) — betrays the extremism of the president and his party. The content of the Democratic convention and the policies of this administration give all Americans the opportunity to insist on more during the coming weeks — a probing, an education. Some questions to ask include: What, Mr. President, do you mean by freedom? When you talk about women’s health, you mean abortion, don’t you? What does that really mean for a religious believer with objections? What does religious freedom mean to you anyway?
The Obama campaign opened up to us in Charlotte. These next weeks are for a more careful look, without the stage and the props. Now is the time to cast aside the pomp and circumstance and insist on a robust accounting of ideas and consequences. Elections are about stewardship, and our politics will ever be only as responsible as our voters are about the rigor with which we make our electoral choices.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.