The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

‘Safe and Rare’ Also Means ‘Post-Birth Abortion’

Ralph Northam at a campaign stop in Richmond, Va., in 2017. (File photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Virginia governor makes the cause of pro-lifers much easier with his honest brutality, a couple of questions about the account of the actor attacked in a potential hate crime in Chicago on Tuesday night, Rand Paul gets some justice, a bad deal in Wisconsin gets worse, and an event in Washington you won’t want to miss.

The Democrats’ Brutal Honesty and Honest Brutality About Abortion

When President Bill Clinton said that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” in 1996, he staked out what looked like something of a middle ground on the single most passion-stirring issue in American politics. In the eyes of one group of Americans, Roe v. Wade had finally ensured that no woman would face life with an unwanted pregnancy and child; in the eyes of the other, the American government had legalized the murder of children as long as the child was on one side of the birth canal — and later, in defenses of partial-birth abortion, as long as some part of the child was still in the birth canal.

But there was always an uncomfortable contradiction in Clinton’s formulation. If abortion was sufficiently morally justified to be safe and legal, why did it have to be rare? And if it was sufficiently morally troubling that it should be rare . . .  should it be legal? (Advocates for the unborn would also ask, safe to whom?) Throughout the Clinton presidency, more than a few pro-lifers observed that the administration did plenty to ensure abortion was safe and legal but not so much to make it rare.

Perhaps that contradiction was always untenable, at least in Democratic circles. This debate was always marked by galling dishonesty. For many years, pro-choice advocates insisted that partial-birth abortion was extremely rare, probably about 500 cases in the entire country per year, and almost always for reasons of medical need.

Then a Bergen Record investigation in 1997 found that clinics in the state did about 1,500 per year. One doctor told the paper, “most are Medicaid patients, black and white, and most are for elective, not medical reasons: people who didn’t realize or didn’t care how far along they were. Most are teenagers.” Pro-choice advocates insisted the article had to be false disinformation, but this would require us to believe that abortion doctors wildly exaggerated the frequency of and reasons for the procedure — a perfect definition of “argument against interest.”

Continuing the tradition that the public not be informed about what the laws actually are, Governor Ralph Northam made comments this week that either he doesn’t know what’s in the bill his party is supporting or he straight-up lied. Discussing a new abortion bill brought up by Democrats in the state legislature that would legalize abortion up until the point of birth, Northam insisted late-term abortions would only occur if there was approval by “more than one physician.” That’s actually what the proposed legislation aims to change, requiring only one doctor.

Northam then elaborated on a scenario where the infant would be born alive, and then not resuscitated if the child was not wanted: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

It was reminiscent of Barbara Boxer’s spectacularly weird assertion on the Senate floor in 1999 that human life begins not at conception, not at some point during the pregnancy, not at birth, but when the infant leaves the hospital:

SANTORUM: But I would like to ask you this question — you agree, once the child is born, separated from the mother, that that child is protected by the Constitution and cannot be killed? Do you agree with that?

BOXER: I would make this statement, that this Constitution as it currently is — some want to amend it to say life begins at conception. I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born — and there is no such thing as partial-birth — the baby belongs to your family and has the rights.

A moment later:

SANTORUM: I ask the senator from California, again, you believe — you said “once the baby comes home.” Obviously, you don’t mean they have to take the baby out of the hospital for it to be protected by the Constitution. Once the baby is separated from the mother, you would agree — completely separated from the mother — you would agree that baby is entitled to constitutional protection?

BOXER: I will tell you why I don’t want to engage in this. You had the same conversation with a colleague of mine, and I never saw such a twisting of his remarks.

Clarity helps prevent a “twisting of remarks.” Declaring that a child “has the rights” “when you bring your baby home” is precisely the sort of thing that would lead people to believe that a U.S. senator believes that human beings aren’t guaranteed a constitutional right to life until some period of time after birth. Northam’s comments indicate that he finds it morally acceptable to not resuscitate a newborn baby if that death is the outcome that “the family desired.” They don’t merely want to defend partial-birth abortion; they’re willing to defend post-birth abortion.

If you’re pro-life, the comments of Governor Northam can be horrifying and depressing, but also invigorating. Since the mid-1990s, the Democratic party has concluded that procedure worth being “safe and legal” has no reason to be rare.

It easy to forget that abortion advocates are losing this debate; the abortion rate reached a historic low in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, and the decline in abortions was seen in women across all age groups. The number of abortion providers continues to decline.

And even some Democrats are having second thoughts:

Del. Dawn Adams, D-Richmond, said she “did not exercise due diligence” before co-sponsoring the abortion legislation with Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax. Tran became the focus of a social media firestorm this week after Republicans circulated video of her saying the bill would allow abortions up until the moment of birth if one doctor certified that the mother’s physical or mental health was at risk.

“I made a mistake, and all I know to do is to admit it, tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may,” said Adams, a first-term delegate who won a close upset victory in 2017 in her suburban district and could face a competitive re-election campaign this year.

In testimony, Tran said that the law would permit a woman to have an abortion performed while she was in labor. “This remains a crime and would not be something any sane licensed physician would perform,” Adams said. “The code is very specific and clear about what this means and it is different from an abortion, even late term.”

Just What Happened on that Dark Street in Chicago Tuesday Night?

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s claim of being attacked by two men yelling “MAGA country” seems like another one of those circumstances where it is wise to be circumspect until more evidence comes in verifying or contradicting his account. Certainly, many aspects of the actor’s story seem particularly odd. He said he was walking back to an apartment after a late-night meal at a Subway restaurant around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

You may have noticed that Chicago is enduring the most intensely cold weather in 30 years, with temperatures and wind chill so low that frostbite can occur within minutes. It would be an exceptionally unusual night to select to go around downtown Chicago looking for a member of a minority group to attack. On the other hand, it’s probably the kind of night where people wearing ski masks wouldn’t seem unusual.

Smollett told police that two men recognized him, yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, hit him in the face, poured what was suspected to be bleach on him and put a rope around his neck. After describing the attackers as men wearing ski masks and all black clothing in an initial report filed with police, Smollett told detectives in a follow-up interview that the men yelled “This is MAGA country.”

Then there’s this detail:

Smollett was talking to his agent on the phone when the attack started, Guglielmi said. Detectives could not “independently verify” that claim because neither man wanted to turn over their cell phones. But police have no reason to doubt the story, according to Guglielmi.

Chicago police released surveillance images of two possible persons of interest in the reported attack, but it’s not much of an image, just two dark figures in the lower right-hand corner of the picture.

One other detail: Household bleach freezes at around 18 or 19 degrees Fahrenheit. The overnight low on the evening of January 28-29 was nine degrees below zero. Smollett’s account would require the assailants to have some way to keep the bleach from freezing as they were walking around outside that frigid evening.

(I like to think that in some alternative universe, I’m either a quirky FBI agent or a wise-cracking genius who consults with a city police force and teams up with an attractive, female, by-the-book, exasperated-but-not-really homicide detective.)

The Guy Who Attacked Rand Paul Is Going to Pay

Good for Sen. Rand Paul:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was awarded more than $580,000 in damages and medical expenses on Wednesday in his lawsuit against the neighbor who tackled him and broke several of his ribs in a dispute over lawn maintenance.

A jury in Bowling Green, Kentucky, deliberated less than two hours before delivering the award to the Republican lawmaker who had been attacked while doing yard work at his Kentucky home.

Paul’s attacker served a 30-day prison sentence after pleading guilty to assaulting a member of Congress, paid a $10,000 fine and served 100 hours of community service in the criminal case.

ADDENDA: Former governor Scott Walker, you’ll always be one of my favorites, but there’s no other way to say it. The Foxconn deal was bad — it was bad corporate welfare, it involved bad eminent-domain use, and lo and behold, the bad deal is getting worse in projections of job creation. National Review tried to warn him and other Wisconsin Republicans . . . but they didn’t listen.

The National Review Institute invites you to the 2019 Ideas Summit in Washington, D.C. on March 28 and 29! This year’s conference, “The Case for the American Experiment,” will bring together the conservative movement’s most influential thinkers and policy makers for discussions and presentations on American exceptionalism, and the country’s resilience and economic recovery. Space is limited, so please register today!


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