Politics & Policy

Drowning Out Sense

Howard Dean on abortion.

I have no idea if Howard Dean is telling the truth when he says he has never performed an abortion and that he does not have the necessary training. But I do have reason to wonder. Dean, it would seem, has spent way too much time as a politician around abortion-advocacy doublespeak: He may not know the truth anymore.

A Peoplemagazine interview with Dean and his wife last week went where the Deans obviously did not want to go: to their days working for the abortion mill Margaret Sanger built.

The relevant section goes like so:

Q: Were you both active in Planned Parenthood in Burlington?

Judy: We both worked there, while we were residents, but I wouldn’t call it active.

Howard: And no, neither of us ever did an abortion.

Q: Why do you say it that way?

Howard: Because I always get asked that.

Q: Why didn’t you perform abortions?

Howard: Because we don’t do them. They don’t train residents to do that.

Judy: When we were residents, we were working there basically to get GYN experience because you don’t generally do it on hospitalized patients. And then you start to have a practice without having a lot of GYN experience.

Q: Do you have a moral opposition to performing the procedure? I mean, you’re both physicians, you at some point–

Howard: I think that’s a private matter between the physician and the patient. I don’t have a moral problem, but neither of us is trained to do abortions. We’re both internists. Internists don’t do abortions. … It would be malpractice if we did.

Q: Would you do them if you’d had the training?

Howard: I’ve learned long ago not to answer hypothetical questions like that. Both of us chose internal medicine, so we never had to make that choice. I firmly believe in the right to choose. This is a private matter between a doctor and a patient. It’s none of the government’s business.

Those answers emanated disingenuousness. From the very beginning of the scarlet-a conversation, the Deans takes issue with the word “active” in regard to his time spent working at Planned Parenthood. And yet, when Howard Dean spoke to NARAL activists last January with pride: “I served on the board of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England for five years. When I became governor I had to resign because all–we contracted all our family planning services through Planned Parenthood in Vermont.” Doesn’t sound like a man who was only there as an internist because he wanted a little gyn experience.

In that same speech, Dean told activists hungry for red meat the story of a girl who wanted an abortion. He said:

Let me tell you a story. As many of you know I’m a doctor. I’m an internist, and I take care of all ages pretty much from five to 105, and one time I was sitting in my office, and it was not unusual for young kids to come and talk to me because I knew the whole family, and one time a young lady came into my office who was 12 years old and she thought she might be pregnant. And we did the tests and did the exam and she was pregnant. She didn’t know what to do. And after I had talked to her for a while I came to the conclusion that the likely father of her child was her own father. You explain that to the American people who think that parental notification is a good idea. I will veto parental notification.

Heartbreaking–except he left out a key fact. The girl was lying.

Tim Russert called him on it later in the year:

Russert: There’s this article in USA Today: “Dean told a powerful story but left out a key fact. What Dean didn’t say was that he knew the father was not responsible, someone else was convicted.” That’s a pretty big omission.

Dean: I don’t think it’s–omission. A pretty big omission, you mean?

Russert: Yeah. That’s a pretty–to say that…

Dean: I don’t think it is at all.

Russert: To suggest her father may have been…

Dean: I thought it was. At the time, I thought it was.

Russert: But when you told that story, you knew otherwise.

Dean: That’s right.

Russert: Why didn’t you say that?

Dean: Because it didn’t make any difference….

In other words, Howard Dean is already on record lying about medical experiences in order to pander to the abortion lobby. We already know he’s dishonest. So none of what he says on the topic should surprise anyone.

This all makes what he said during a conference call last week a little more understandable. Dean claimed, “No doctor is going to do an abortion on a live fetus. That doesn’t happen. Doctors don’t do that. If they do, they’ll get their license pulled, as well they should.”

Now, of course, doctors do, by definition, perform abortions on live fetuses: If they were not live, there would be no need for the abortion procedure. What he likely meant was that doctors do not perform abortions on delivered babies–perhaps referring to the type of procedure prohibited by the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. Or perhaps he was making a disingenuous point about partial-birth abortion. Either way, he didn’t make much sense–Dean is so busy spinning to suit his audience on a topic he knows is unpopular with most Americans that his stories don’t make sense even to him anymore. Undoubtedly he is counting on not being called on it.

And as an added question mark–Vermont is actually one of two states that allow non-physicians to perform abortions. What was that about malpractice, again?

But in the end, Dean’s doublespeak and nonsense-speak don’t bother him: The truth, as he has said, doesn’t make a difference.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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