Sunday, July 6, 2008
I just saw an Obama bumper sticker saying "Got hope?"
Increasingly, I don't. I want to. I want, more than almost anything, to get a Democrat in the White House. I want a president who's smarter than a 5 year old, who grasps complicated concepts, who cares about something other than winning the "I'm mightier" pissing contest.
Help us, Barack Obama, you're our only hope.
This week, though, he seems to have decided that kissing right-wing-nut-jobs' asses is somehow helpful. Either that or he's really a lot more conservative than anyone realizes. Or his inexperience is showing......or all 3.
Obama gave an interview for the Christian magazine Relevant. That in itself is pretty strange. Or would be, had Obama not said this week that he wants federal funds to go to religious "faith based" organizations.
"Relevant" magazine is "a multimedia company whose purpose is to impact culture and show that a relationship with God is relevant and essential to a fulfilled life."
So, in this article, Obama discusses abortion, specifically late-term abortion. Both the interviewer and Obama use the term "partial-birth abortion." This is not a medical term, and was invented by the pro-life extremists. That's the first sign that this interview is worrisome.
As if using the uber-right's terminology (rather than informed, medical terminology) isn't enough of a problem, Obama jumps into a totally worthless debate. He falls into the trap by even holding a discussion about late-term abortion. I'll get to that in a minute. This is what he has to say about late-term abortion. It's a direct quote, not a paraphrase:
I have repeatedly said that I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that “mental distress” qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term. Otherwise, as long as there is such a medical exception in place, I think we can prohibit late-term abortions.
Here are the problems with that statement:
1) He thinks that the government should define the occasions in which it's appropriate to perform a late term abortion. I don't see any way in which it's possible for the government to predict any or all of the instances in which such a procedure would be medically necessary.
2) He thinks that these reasons must be physically necessary. "Mental distress" doesn't count. Again, how can a government determine the mental distress? He's basically saying that "health" means physical health and that mental health is inconsequential. People have been working for years to get the medical community to realize that mental health is real and serious and that it impacts a life as much as physical health.
Here are the larger problems:
1) He's having this discussion in the 1st place. Why is that a problem?
This whole interview seems to be saying that late term abortions are happening all the time and that women are having them willy-nilly just for fun.
Anti-abortions activists will tell you that Roe v. Wade allows abortions right up to birth. Also a total myth. It states that after viability, abortion may only be provided "where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." Therefore, any additional ban or discussion thereof is redundant and useless.
The actual statistics say that late-term abortions account for less than 1% of all abortions. Furthermore, there are only 2 clinics in the US that will perform them, though I don't know if there are doctors in other hospitals that will do the procedure in an emergency. 3rd trimester abortions have only happened in wanted pregnancies, in cases in which maternal or foetal health are in serious jeopardy.
Since the procedure is already regulated, rare, and done only in such serious medical emergencies, it's ridiculous for a presidential candidate (or any half-way intelligent person) to frame the argument as if this is a pressing issue to be discussed and decided.
I'm frustrated that Obama fell into the trap. It's important to resist the framework set up by the Christian Right. Their framework is faulty, not scientifically based and illogical. If we continue to allow discussions that use their vocabulary, we'll never get anywhere.
I really wish that Obama had realized that and had supported the "change" he seems so fond of.
A few days later, Barack Obama felt the need to explain what he said. It's just as troubling as the original article:
My only point is this -- historically I have been a strong believer in a women's right to choose with her doctor, her pastor and her family. And it is. I have consistently been saying that you have to have a health exception on many significant restrictions or bans on abortions including late-term abortions.
In the past there has been some fear on the part of people who, not only people who are anti-abortion, but people who may be in the middle, that that means that if a woman just doesn't feel good then that is an exception. That's never been the case.
I don't think that is how it has been interpreted. My only point is that in an area like partial-birth abortion having a mental, having a health exception can be defined rigorously. It can be defined through physical health, It can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue. I don't think that's how pro-choice folks have interpreted it. I don't think that's how the courts have interpreted it and I think that's important to emphasize and understand.
Okay, let's dissect Obama's response:
A woman cannot choose on her own, but rather "with her doctor and her pastor." In other words, the little lady can only choose with the help of some strong, sensible men.....great.....
Next: "I have consistently been saying that you have to have a health exception on many significant restrictions or bans on abortions including late-term abortions."
You have, have you? Well, that's funny because we just determined that THE LAW already limits late-term abortions to instances in which life/health are at risk. Therefore a ban is totally unnecessary.
I will grant him that the middle paragraph is accurate. People do fear that those horrible murderous women are destroying foetuses for fun. Their fears are baseless, though, and we need to work to give facts and accurate information, not stock their anxiety.
Last paragraph: "It can be defined through physical health, It can be defined by serious clinical mental-health diseases. It is not just a matter of feeling blue." What part of LIFE AND HEALTH IN JEOPARDY do you not understand???? Feeling blue? Are you joking? A woman goes to her doctor and says "doc, I'm 23 weeks pregnant and I'm feeling blue." The response is not going to be "okay, well, it's abortion time." Not by any stretch of the imagination!!!
I would really like to think that Obama can help steer this country in a new direction, away from the politics of fear, away from a secular government being run by religious extremists, and away from having leaders who don't understand simple concepts. I would really like to think that he can.
I hope he can. I think he's got to stop trying to kiss up to groups that will never vote for him, stop trying to please everyone by diluting his stances on things that he supports (or opposes) and think before he speaks.