Backward & Forward

Custer went forward. Lemmings go forward. The Light Brigade went forward. And now, in an exquisitely apt marketing move, the incumbent president has chosen “Forward” as the slogan for his re-election campaign.

The vice-president, in a noisy visit to Keene State College a few days ago (why does he always wind up yelling at his audience, anyway?), pleased the youthful crowd by declaring “we will not go back to the 50s on social policy.”

So social policy shall move “forward” if the incumbent president is re-elected. Social policy includes abortion, which will remain legal if we choose to move “forward”. Not safe-and-rare, as former presidents have said in an effort to sound moderate.  Just legal, so we don’t go back to the bad old pre-Roe v. Wade days of back alleys & knitting needles and women dying.

Listening at one hearing after another in Concord this year on bills that touch on the life issues, I was struck more than once by how many of Roe’s defenders sounded scared of the future even as they said they were determined not to go back into the past.

Eugenic abortion was surely one of the twentieth century’s most ghastly ideas – one that belongs in the past, even when it’s prettied up with the euphemism “therapeutic.” Yet this year, I heard objections to New Hampshire’s fetal homicide bill (still in the balance, by the way, with yet another vote coming next week) based on the fear that it might interfere with selective reduction. Assisted reproductive technologies that call for implantation of multiple embryos in a woman’s womb also call for the culling of the surplus once pregnancy is established. Apparently, to protect the brave new world, he only way to face the future is by planting one foot firmly in the past.

A bill for informed consent for abortion prompted some women to recount heartbreaking stories of pregnancies gone tragically wrong, with fetal anomalies diagnosed prenatally. The mothers chose abortion, because it “wasn’t fair” to bring such a child into the world. So what’s wrong with informed consent? These women said they resented the assumption that abortion providers weren’t already being perfectly upfront. They also complained that the 24-hour waiting period in the bill would have caused them an additional 24 hours of anguish (with the unspoken corollary being that their anguish somehow subsided once their children were dead). Keep abortion quick and unregulated: no back-alley abortionist from the 1950s could have asked for more. Those shades of the 50s can rest easy, knowing that New Hampshire’s 2012 informed consent bill was killed.

New Hampshire public health officials do not collect abortion statistics, letting the abortion industry voluntarily provide whatever information it sees fit. A bill to require collection of statistics was passed this year after being amended into nearly-unrecognizable form, and now a committee will consider whether it’s a good idea to collect the statistics. (This is glacial progress, as opposed to incremental.) Who fought this one? Abortion providers.  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England along with the Feminist Health Center in Concord and the Lovering Center in Greenland all sent representatives to the hearings on this one. They all earnestly assured legislators that they DO report the number of abortions done at their facilities. Honest. They do not want oversight even to the extent of accounting for the number of procedures or reporting on morbidity and mortality to the women who have abortions. Again, the pre-Roe industry of illegal abortionists would approve wholeheartedly.

In the past, no one kept track of how many women suffered and died after abortion. Bernard Nathanson, MD, a founder of NARAL who later became a pro-life advocate, wrote candidly after leaving the abortion industry that NARAL leaders invented maternal-mortality figures in the late 1960s to try to build support for liberalization of abortion laws. To this day, we don’t know if legal abortion has been any safer for women. The same people who criticize anecdotal reports from pro-life sources, and demand hard figures, flee from those figures when they make their own arguments. (By the way, if you can find Nathanson’s book Aborting America, read it. It’s one of those basic books for the pro-life library.)

Moving forward, really forward, means we will want to know for sure how many women are being left to die or suffer permanent injury after abortion. We will want to know who is doing the procedures and we’ll want to know the safety record of the provider (granting that the babies always wind up dead). We’ll want to know at what point in pregnancy the terminations take place. We’ll want to do more for each other than recommend death when disability looms.

So, forward, Mr. Biden?