Joe the Plumber, and Roe v. Wade

It often strikes me as interesting which news items catch fire, and burn steadily, and which sort of smolder briefly and then flicker out. Everyone knows that John McCain has run, by far, the most dishonest, dishonorable campaign in decades; the news that Joe Werzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber” — whom McCain brought up last night as an example of an ordinary American whose valiant attempt to realize the American Dream will be crushed because Obama is going to raise his taxes — is not a licensed plumber, owes back taxes, and is related through his father to Charles Keating, shouldn’t come as such a shock. Not that it isn’t newsworthy. But the disparity in the level of outrage between Sen. McCain’s deceptive handling of Werzelbacher’s personal and professional history, and McCain’s blatant contempt for women’s health in the context of so-called “partial birth abortions” is — at least for me — kind of hard to miss, or ignore.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about any one particular blog’s failure to mention McCain’s dismissive response when Obama said he voted against the ban on “partial birth” abortion because it did not have an exception for the health and life of the woman. Several bloggers — including Kyle at this very blog — brought up McCain’s attitude on this issue as one that, in addition to being heinous in and of itself, would very likely hurt him with women. I’m talking about the apparent lack of concern, not to say outrage, in the political blogosphere as a whole, about the fact that one of the two candidates for President of the United States does not believe that a woman’s health or life should be a reason for an exemption from this total ban on a medical procedure.

For what it’s worth, here are excerpts from the legislation specifically addressing the lack of a health exception:

The Congress finds and declares the following:

(1)  A moral, medical, and ethical consensus exists that the practice of performing a partial-birth abortion — an abortion in which a physician delivers an unborn child’s body until only the head remains inside the womb, punctures the back of the child’s skull with a Sharp instrument, and sucks the child’s brains out before completing delivery of the dead infant — is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessaryand should be prohibited.

(2)  Rather than being an abortion procedure that is embraced by the medical community, particularly among physicians who routinely perform other abortion procedures, partial-birth abortion remains a disfavored procedure that is not only unnecessary to preserve the health of the mother, but in fact poses serious risks to the long-term health of women and in some circumstances, their lives. …

3)  In Stenberg v. Carhart (530 U.S. 914, 932(2000)), the United States Supreme Court opined “that significant medical authority supports the proposition that in some circumstances, [partial birth abortion] would be the safest procedure” for pregnant women who wish to undergo an abortion. Thus, the Court struck down the State of Nebraska’s ban on partial-birth abortion procedures, concluding that it placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions because it failed to include an exception for partial-birth abortions deemed necessary to preserve the “health” of the mother.

(4)  In reaching this conclusion, the Court deferred to the Federal district court’s factual findings that the partial-birth abortion procedure was statistically and medically as safe as, and in many circumstances safer than, alternative abortion procedures.

(5)  However, the great weight of evidence presented at the Stenberg trial and other trials challenging partial-birth abortion bans, as well as at extensive Congressional hearings, demonstrates that a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses significant health risks to a woman upon whom the procedure is performed, and is outside of the standard of medical care.
(13) There exists substantial record evidence upon which Congress has reached its conclusion that a ban on partial-birth abortion is not required to contain a health” exception, because the facts indicate that a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses serious risks to a woman’s health, and lies outside the standard of medical care. Congress was informed by extensive hearings held during the 104th, 105th, and 107th Congresses and passed a ban on partial-birth abortion in the 104th, 105th, and 106th Congresses. These findings reflect the very informed judgment of the Congress that a partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman, poses serious risks to a woman’s health, and lies outside the standard of medical care, and should, therefore, be banned.

This is what the Supreme Court upheld a year and a half ago. And it’s flat-out false. Anyone who insists on arguing otherwise can go talk to these women, who are alive today because of late-term abortions (h/t Nicole Belle).

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