There is very little to recommend being over the age of 50, but one of the nice things is that it gives perspective and wisdom — the kind of experience that can’t be taught, but can only come from having lived several decades.
There is one thing I have learned – abortion rights are not going away.
That wasn’t always a certainty. Roe v Wade was seriously challenged in the 1980s and 1990s, not only in the political arena, but also in the courts. But that nadir of the conservative anti-abortion movement came in 1992, with the case of Casey vs. Planned Parenthood. The Supreme Court was, like today, leaning conservative. You had Scalia, you had Thomas, you had Alito, you had Rehnquist for crying out loud. And they were handed, on a silver platter, a case in which Roe v Wade could have been overturned, or at least seriously curtailed. The result was 5-4, with the conservatives losing. The Casey case actually strengthened abortion rights.
Having lost in the legal arena, the anti-choice forces spent the next two decades challenging abortion in the political arena. They have had some success there. There was the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision barring the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion unless the pregnancy arises from incest, rape, or to save the life of the mother. That was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. At the state and local levels, a hodgepodge of laws have restricted access to abortion through laws requiring waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, and over-regulation of abortion clinics (like requiring wide hallways). But abortion itself remains legal.
The recent attempt to defund Planned Parenthood is probably the strongest national push against abortion since the Hyde Amendment. It is quite obviously punitive in nature — since the Hyde Amendment already restricts federal funds to go to Planned Parenthood for abortions, the current legislative push seeks to defund Planned Parenthood of federal funds for everything else they do (cancer screening, etc.). And why? Because they sell “baby parts”, which of course is a crass and not-altogether-honest way of saying that Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue to medical research facilities in the hopes of curing disease. Conservatives want to kill Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider) even if it means killing women’s health.
Of course, this dovetails nicely into the “war on women” meme. And Hillary Clinton is right to pound Republicans on this. This issue was a gift to her — she was sagging in the polls and Bernie Sanders has been making a serious play for the nomination (coming within 8 points of Hillary in New Hampshire). Now she can talk about women’s health, and the Republican efforts to kill it.
I am perplexed as to why Republicans want this debate. They seems to care more about two-celled zygotes than million-celled actual women. After they lost the 2012 Presidential elections, they performed an autopsy of their failures, which included statements like this:
When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.
If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues…
The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have. There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the Party’s negative image among women, and the women who participated in our listening sessions contributed many constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand with women throughout the country and grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party.
But rather than do that, they seem to be doubling down on losing the women vote — going so far as to threaten a government shutdown. At first I thought the talk of government shutdown was an empty threat, but maybe I am wrong. Stan Collender at Forbes puts the odds of a government shutdown at 60% (up from his previous prediction of 40% ). Here’s his wonderfully descriptive way of saying what happened.
But the biggest change from last week in the odds of a government shutdown is because of the emergence of the one big thing that has been missing so far from the appropriations debate: a highly emotional, politically toxic and take-no-prisoners issue.
Even the front-runner in that contest right now – Donald Trump – declared his support for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. Any candidate who had doubts about whether or not a government shutdown would be good for their campaign will now have to weigh in with that in mind. Also, we’ve already seen one example of a candidate making a mess of that when, in commenting about Planned Parenthood funding, Jeb Bush said yesterday that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” His campaign pretty immediately tried to walk that one back. Overall it’s very likely that, in order to win the GOP primary, these candidates will all wind up taking positions that their own autopsy suggested were one of the causes of their defeat in 2012.
The craziness of the high rhetoric of this 2016 election campaign is causing Republicans to shoot themselves in the face. It is interesting to watch.