Whether you want it or not
What the new abortion wars reveal about Trump conservatism
© 2018 Philip Cohen used under a Creative Commons license
I mentioned last week that conservatives were keeping their powder dry on the Georgia abortion law. I supposed at the time that the possibility the law offered of sending women to prison for having abortions or even miscarriages made them want to keep quiet about it until Roe was overturned and Gilead proclaimed, at which point they’d party hearty.
That’s true as far as it goes. At National Review, David French dismissed the women-in-prison angle rather loftily — which I guess is the smart play when you’ve got Witchfinder General written all over you and every woman in America is freaking out. These ladies were duped by “lurid headlines and fundamentally mistaken premises,” tsked French. “Georgia courts have held that it does not apply to a woman who self-terminates, only to third parties who perform an abortion.” Then he dusted off his hands: “now you know these claims are false.”
But at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern pointed out that Georgia’s law is a “personhood” law clearly defining a fetus as a human being — which grants it the same protections as a real human, and renders abortion murder for legal rather than rhetorical reasons:
The argument that no woman suspected of self-termination would ever be charged with murder seems to assume that no prosecutor would dare use the law this way. This trust is misplaced. In 2015, a Georgia prosecutor charged a woman with malice murder, which is punishable by life in prison or death, after she used black-market misoprostol to induce a miscarriage; he only dropped the charges after deciding that the law on the books did not support the prosecution. At the time, after all, a fetus wasn’t a human. Now a fetus will be a human under Georgia law. There is no legal reason why prosecutors cannot charge women who self-terminate with murder, exactly as one tried to do just a few years ago.=
Nonetheless conservative media, when it has chosen to speak of it, has joined French in waving away the danger of prosecution (“The Media Are Lying To You About Georgia's Pro-Life ‘Heartbeat Bill’” — Daily Wire). The time is apparently not judged right for saying the bitches should hang — even Kevin D. Williamson, who has called for just that in the past, has been keeping mum on that score.
But as Alabama and Missouri have stepped up with their own drastic anti-abortion laws, the brethren have been cheering and rubbing their hands at the prospect that one of these bullets will slay Roe. At RedState’s front page right this minute we have literally 10 stories based on and approving of the attack on abortion: “WATCH: Crazy, Charging Woman Assaults Pro-Life Protestors in Alabama, Steals Their Phone”; “How Missouri’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Differs From Others” (“while it is likely the Alabama bill which just passed will also face a high profile legal challenge... the Missouri bill approaches the challenge with a bit more subtlety”); “Desperately Seeking Relevance: Kirsten Gillibrand Says Pro-Life Views Should No Longer Be Tolerated In The Democratic Party”; “WATCH: ‘Jane Roe’ Of Roe V. Wade Considers Her Part In Its Creation The Worst Sin She Committed”; “Model Emily Ratajkowski Gets Naked And Promotes The Abortion Of Black Babies”; “WATCH: Joy Behar Suggests Alabama’s White Pro-Life Senators Get Forced Vasectomies”; “Unhinged Transgender Activist Assumes The Genders Of Alabama Pro-Life Legislators And I Am So Triggered”; “When Does Life Begin? Another Chance To Decide”; “Alyssa Milano: Fetal Heartbeats Don’t Begin At Six Weeks. Planned Parenthood: Yes They Do”; and “Pro-Abortion Tweeter Tries To ‘Gotcha’ Pro-Lifers, Instead Gets Roundly Roasted.”
(Example from the last one: “Dear Pro-Life friends: what have you *personally* done to support lower income single mothers?” “I teach many of their kids on a daily basis and often have to come to the kids’ defense when no one else in society will.” Well, that showed them!)
Some of the conservative cheers for these laws veer into the ultra-creepy-crazy; there was theocon Matt Walsh’s eminently dunkable claim that raped 12-year-olds would benefit from being forced to bear their rapists' babies because that’s the only way one could prove they were raped. And at PJ Media Tyler O’Neal, in a spiel about how scientific developments have rendered abortion rights moot, said “artificial wombs may enable women to give up their babies without killing them, letting them grow in a bag and be adopted.”
But whether they went the limit or just thanked Jesus and Trump for bringing America a few steps closer to making women into brood slaves, they’ve all been very creepy — and for the most part utterly oblivious to the fact that large majorities of Americans do not want abortion made illegal across the board. The editors of National Review make a little feint at reasonableness — “Pro-life Americans should think long and hard about whether their righteous impatience is leading them to make imprudent mistakes that will ultimately set back the cause of protecting life” — but as the establishment flagship they pretty much have to, and they still call for Roe to be struck down. Everyone else has been acting as if it doesn’t matter in the least what the heathens think.
And this is finally what the benefit of Trump has been to the holy rollers and Jesus freaks of this movement. His politics and his governance have shown an unprecedented lack of interest in what anyone outside his base thinks or cares about — it’s like he expects a miracle, or Russia, to save him in 2020, or thinks four years is long enough for him to grift all he can out of the job and would be happy to be forced out then. (It may be that he only resists impeachment now because he thinks there’s still enough left to steal to make it worth his while.)
Thus his tariffs, his sabotage of federal housing, the environment, the freaking Food and Drug Administration etc. The first principle of most of his atrocities is that it doesn’t matter whether the things his Republican partners in crime have told him to destroy are popular; where establishment types would hedge, he just barrels ahead.
It turned out conservatives didn’t need a Man of Principle to get what they wanted — they actually needed the opposite, a crook who’ll do anything as long as he can get more advertising and international business for his hotels and walk away actually-rich at last instead of pretend-rich. Maybe you thought your Christian conservative friends never wanted you to suffer, and hoped that, by their moral example, Christ would change your recalcitrant heart, and society would learn the injustice of abortion. Maybe they thought they hoped that, too, once upon a time. But not any more: Trump told them: I really don’t care, do u? And they decided that they didn’t either.
Have a great weekend, all.
My guess is that this will go the way of so many other losing social causes: Conservatives proclaim victory, party like it's 1999, and then begin to recognize that people THEY know and love are directly affected by this. When some arch-conservative's daughter bleeds out in the downstairs bathroom because she perforated herself with a knitting needle, we'll start hearing about how maybe there should be some exceptions.
There will always be abortions for those wth the right connections (white, middle class, in blue states). The old term of art was "menstrual extraction," allegedly to correct amenorrhea. Two physicians would have to authorize such a procedure. At New York Hospital a physician would approach other physicians in the coat room with a request to second the authorization. My dad (solid FDR-hating Eisenhower Republican) signed many of these. No one was fooled, these were first trimester abortions and, given the diagnostic technology of the time, well past the deadlines set by the troglodytes in the former Confederacy. The poor went to abortionists who made the infamous Dr. Kermit Gosnell look like Albert Schweitzer.