Pro-life Congressman blasts Family Research Council over election attack ads

A pro-life Congressman is speaking out about the decision of the socially conservative Family Research Council to run ads attacking him just prior to last week’s election. The first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) was unseated last week by pro-choice Cedric Richmond. Rep. Cao, who has a solid pro-life voting record, was attacked by the Family Research Council on conservative talk radio due to his votes in favor of including sexual orientation in hate crimes law and his support for repealing the military ban on gays serving openly.

About the ads, Rep. Cao told me late yesterday:

For a conservative Christian organization to attack a Republican pro-life candidate in a general election is as ignorant as it is inexcusable.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported last week that FRC bought ads on the conservative talk radio station WRNO, known locally as “Rush Radio” due to the conservative nature of the programming. The ad attacked Cao’s votes on gay issues, saying his record “places your personal liberties at jeopardy.”  

Several pro-life activists I spoke with declined to comment. The National Right to Life Committee did not respond to several requests. However, one pro-life activist denounced FRC’s actions. Psychologist Rachel MacNair, Vice-President of Consistent Life, a pro-life think tank, told me that

FRC sabotaged the pro-life cause — not just in losing a vote in Congress, but in the far deeper matter of public persuasion for the ultimate goal of making abortion unthinkable.

Can you be pro-life and moderate or supportive on gay issues? Public opinion polls show that the public is become more moderate on gay issues while growing more negative toward abortion.  If these trends continue, pro-life political groups may need to decide which social issue is more important to them. In the case of Rep. Cao, FRC’s anti-gay sentiment trumped support for a pro-life Congressman, one FRC endorsed in 2008.

Earlier today, FRC Action president Tony Perkins issued a statement to me defending the move to oppose Cao.

First, FRC Action is not a Republican organization. We are a conservative Christian organization that advocates for the family based upon biblical values and truths.  Many of the problems we face today in America are the result of Republican leadership.

When Cao first ran in 2008, he sought my support and promised to be a conservative, morally based vote for the family.  I endorsed him in that race and because of the unique situation with Jefferson under indictment and no other viable Democrat in the race, Cao won.  In the last two years he has amassed one of the worst voting records of any Republican in Congress on our issues.  By the way, the homosexual community masquerading as Republicans in New Orleans decried our ad against Cao because he was pro-life.  Cao was at best a pro-life vote, under pressure. 

Cao was the lone Republican who voted for the government takeover of healthcare when it first passed the House.  A lot of time and energy was spent on getting him to vote against the measure when it came back to the House from the Senate with taxpayer funding of abortion included.  It he was truly pro-life, he would have been leading the charge against President Obama’s plan; instead he was meeting with him in the White House.  Secondly, we are not a single issue organization that only focuses on the life issue.  We look at where Members stand on life, marriage, family and religious liberty.  Cao’s score on FRC Action’s vote scorecard was 62, lowest of the Louisiana House delegation.  His score was lower than Charlie Melancon, the one Louisiana Democrat in the House.

Cao repeatedly voted for key provisions of the homosexual agenda including: Hate Crimes, the overturning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” even though military leaders said don’t do it.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when he recently helped the Log Cabin Republicans (homosexual Republicans) raise money for their political operation.  It was the Log Cabin Republicans that recently filed a lawsuit against the military in an attempt to force them to allow open homosexuality in the military, which military leaders have said could potentially undermine their ability to accomplish their mission.  The Log Cabin Republicans succeeded at the district court level and for one day the military was forced to change their policy and even had to recruit homosexuals.  That case is currently on appeal. 

I also wanted to send a very clear message to Republicans across the country; if you take a stand against the family, we will take a stand against you.  These squishy Republicans need to know that we will come after them, just like the Democrats. 

For his part, Congressman Cao disputes aspects of Perkin’s account. According to Taylor Henry, Communications Director for Rep. Cao, the Congressman “did not personally solicit the endorsement of FRC.” In fact, Henry told me, “Congressman Cao does not recall ever meeting Tony Perkins” and he “did not make any promises to Perkins.” Henry said he cannot speak for the 2008 campaign staff so there may have been some contact at that time but Congressman Cao made no personal commitments to vote with the FRC. 

Regarding his votes on hate crimes and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Henry said Congressman Cao voted in keeping with his views that gay people should receive equal protection under the law.

See also FrumForum on this story.

Michael Brown responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Are evangelicals obsessed with homosexuality?

On Tuesday, I posted a link to a column in the Washington Post by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about a debate he had with Michael Brown, head of the FIRE School of Ministry, regarding the topic: Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis? I did not watch the debate since I read up on the Rabbi and believed I already agreed with him. I have had many discussions with Michael Brown and those affiliated with him and know we are far apart.

After I published the post, Dr. Brown contacted me saying that the Rabbi had misrepresented him and the debate. Just this afternoon, the Washington Post published Brown’s rebuttal and I agreed to post a link to it in the interest of fairness. I have no plans to watch the debate to fact check. Interested readers can read both sides and decide whether or not to invest the 3 hours. From Brown’s post:

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not only “America’s most famous rabbi” and my frequent opponent in public debates. He is also a dear personal friend, which is why I was more than a little mystified to see his editorial, published one day after our November 1 debate.

The title of that debate, as proposed by Shmuley but not to my liking, was, “Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis?” In my opening comments, I answered this question in the negative, stating that America’s greatest moral crisis was certainly not homosexuality but rather the lack of the knowledge and consciousness of God, because of which every area of society suffered.

I also explained that what two gay men did in private was between them and God and was certainly not our greatest moral crisis, and I stated emphatically that rampant heterosexual divorce had done more to destroy marriage and family than all the gay activists combined. I then addressed the church’s sins against the LGBT community, for which I have publicly apologized a number of times. (Those reading Shmuley’s report on the debate would not have a clue that I made any of these statements.)

Boteach made the case that evangelicals now put too much emphasis on winning the culture war against gays. Brown disagrees:

As to the alleged evangelical obsession with homosexuality (an accusation raised through the debate by Shmuley), I asked the almost entirely evangelical audience to respond to four questions: How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand!

The truth be told, there is no “gay obsession” in evangelical churches, and, where pastors and leaders are concerned about the effects of gay activism, they are hesitant to speak up, lest they be branded intolerant bigots, homophobes, Hitlers, or jihadists, not to mention accused of inciting violence against gays.

While I mean no disrespect to his audience, I am not going to trust that they are a representative sample. I certainly disagree with Brown about the obsession of some evangelicals with homosexuality. Worldnetdaily is obsessed. Sally Kern said homosexuality was a greater threat than terrorism and certain evangelicals promoted Rallies for Sally. Brown’s contention seems odd when writing about a debate over homosexuality being the greatest threat to morality. About being labeled Hitlers, perhaps Brown does not read Bryan Fischer’s love notes to gays where he blames them for the deaths of 6 million Jews. In the name of Jesus, the American Family Association’s Fischer does some pretty good branding of his own. If such people are criticized sharply by gays, it is not hard to see why.

Here’s another example of how a focus on homosexuality has distorted social conservatism. The Family Research Council actually ran ads against LA Rep. Joseph Anh Cao, Vietnamese-American who voted against Obamacare because he was not convinced abortion funding was excluded from the bill. His pro-life position is firm and yet FRC ran ads against him because of Cao’s support for equal rights for gays. Guess who was elected in Cao’s district? His opponent, Cedric Richmond, a pro-choice Democrat. I wonder if NARAL sent FRC a thank you note.

Paul Kengor: God Gets His Healthcare Bill

Note: The recent healthcare reform certainly is historic, in the sense that it most likely will be considered an important, perhaps defining, event in the Obama Presidency. Whatever eventually happens politically as a result, there are important elements of public discourse which marked the debate. One of those elements –religious rhetoric– is the subject of Dr. Kengor’s column.  

God Gets His Healthcare Bill

By Dr. Paul Kengor 

The most frustrating thing I’ve dealt with in professional life was eight years of outrageous, baseless charges against President George W. Bush on matters of faith. Even when Bush was simply asked about his faith, and responded with utterly benign statements, like saying he couldn’t imagine surviving the presidency “without faith in the Lord,” or noting he prayed before committing troops, echoing every president from Washington to Lincoln to Wilson to Carter to Clinton, he was viciously assaulted.

“We are dealing with a messianic militarist!” thundered Ralph Nader.

“He should not be praying,” intoned Lawrence O’Donnell to the MSNBC faithful.

Repeatedly, I was called to respond to this nonsense. My retort was agonizingly simple: I merely ran through example after example of American founders, presidents—Democrats and Republicans—saying either precisely what Bush said or something far more extreme, like Woodrow Wilson claiming God called upon him to found the League of Nations, or FDR mounting a battleship leading troops in a rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

What I said rarely mattered. Every Bush mention of God was a signal, somehow, that this Bible-quoting “simpleton” was trying to transform America into a “theocracy.”

Alas, there was another tactic I used: I quoted current Democrats on the campaign trail, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, invoking the Almighty. I knew that if these politicians reached the White House, they’d say the same as Bush, or much worse—with no backlash from the secular media. Quite the contrary, liberals would roll out the red carpet, enthusiastically welcoming faith into the public square.

All of that is prelude to my point here today:

The Religious Left, from “social justice” Catholic nuns and Protestant ministers to the Democratic Speaker of the House and president of the United States, have been incessantly claiming God’s advocacy of their healthcare reform. That’s no surprise, just as it’s no surprise that the press is not only not outraged but silently supportive. There’s nary a whimper, let alone howls, of “separation of church and state!”

Consider a few examples, most telling in light of passage of the healthcare bill:

Last August, President Obama addressed a virtual gathering of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. He told them he was “going to need your help” in passing healthcare. Obama penitently invoked a period of “40 Days,” a trial of deliverance from conservative tormentors, from temptation by evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, “We are God’s partner in matters of life and death.”

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for—among other things—abortion funding as part of an eternally widening “social justice” agenda. The Religious Institute, which represents 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in “healthcare” reform, adamantly rejecting amendments that prohibited funding. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already “unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized” abortions.

Here we see the Religious Left’s continued perversion of “social justice.” Behold: social justice abortions.

Early last week, a group of 59 nuns sent Congress a letter urging passage of the healthcare bill. This came in direct defiance of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which insisted the bill “must be opposed” because of its refusal to explicitly ban abortion funding. What the bishops said didn’t matter, one nun told Fox’s Neil Cavuto—supporting the bill is what “Jesus would do.”

The liberal media cheered on the nuns, gleefully exaggerating the sisters’ influence. In a breathtaking display, the Los Angeles Times beamed, “Nuns’ support for health-care bill shows [Catholic] Church split.” Quoting the nuns, the Times reported that the letter represented not more than 50 nuns but over 50,000. (I’m not kidding, click here.) Like Jesus with the loaves, the militantly secular/liberal Times had displayed miraculous powers of multiplication.

Finally, last Friday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, invoked the Solemnity of the Feast of St. Joseph on behalf of the healthcare bill. She urged American Catholics to “pray to St. Joseph”—earthly guardian of the unborn son of God. Such overtures are hardly new for Pelosi, who routinely exhorts Democratic disciples to vote the liberal/progressive agenda as an “act of worship.”

All of that is prelude, of course, to what happened the evening of March 21, 2010, A.D., with a rare vote not merely on a Sunday—God’s day—but the final Sunday in Lent, the week before Palm Sunday that initiates the Lord’s Passion. To President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and the Religious Left faithful, Jesus, presumably, has gotten his healthcare package.

Amid that process, secular liberals got religion, as their political soul-mates spearheaded this “change” in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s a quite radical departure from eight years of scourging George W. Bush every time he confessed he prayed. At long last, there is room for Jesus in the inn, so long as the Savior “supports” a certain agenda. Who says conversions don’t happen?

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include “God and George W. Bush,” “God and Ronald Reagan,” and“God and Hillary Clinton.” The topic of this op-ed will be discussed at length by several speakers at our coming April 15-16 conference on “The Progressives.” Click here for more information.

Cooking up an easy way to make a big impression on health care reform

How to be organized without really looking organized.

This came today:

Friend —

All throughout August, our members of Congress are back in town. Insurance companies and partisan attack groups are stirring up fear with false rumors about the President’s plan, and it’s extremely important that folks like you speak up now.

So we’ve cooked up an easy, powerful way for you to make a big impression: Office Visits for Health Reform.

All this week, OFA members like you will be stopping by local congressional offices to show our support for insurance reform. You can have a quick conversation with the local staff, tell your personal story, or even just drop off a customized flyer and say that reform matters to you.

We’ll provide everything you need: the address, phone number, and open hours for the office, information about how the health care crisis affects your state for you to drop off (with the option of adding your personal story), and a step-by-step guide for your visit.

According to our records, you live near Sen. Arlen Specter’s office in Pittsburgh, PA.

Sign up now to visit Sen. Arlen Specter’s office in Pittsburgh this week.

(Not your representative, or think there might be another office that’s easier for you to get to? Click here to find a different office.)

As you’ve probably seen in the news, special interest attack groups are stirring up partisan mobs with lies about health reform, and it’s getting ugly. Across the country, members of Congress who support reform are being shouted down, physically assaulted, hung in effigy, and receiving death threats. We can’t let extremists hijack this debate, or confuse Congress about where the people stand.

Office Visits for Health Reform are our chance to show that the vast majority of American voters know that the cost of inaction is too high to bear, and strongly support passing health reform in 2009.

Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like this before. The congressional staff is there to listen, and your opinion as a constituent matters a lot. And if you bring a friend, you’ll have more fun and make an even greater impact.

Click below to sign up for an Office Visit for Health Reform:

http://my.barackobama.com/OfficeVisit

Wherever you live, these visits matter: Many representatives are pushing hard toward reform, and they are taking a lot of heat from special interests. They deserve our thanks and need our support to continue the fight. But those who are still putting insurance companies and partisan point-scoring ahead of their constituents must know that voters are watching — and that we expect better.

Earlier this week, the President wrote that “this is the moment our movement was built for” and asked us all to commit to join at least one event this month. This is the way to answer that call, and rise to the challenge of this moment together.

Thank you for going the extra mile when it matters the most,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart

Director

Organizing for America

When people opposed to the President’s health care reform plan show up to town hall meetings, they are minions of big insurance. When his supporters show up, they are constituents.

Please be sure to send this post to flag@whitehouse.gov

Abortion amendment to health care reform bill passes then fails

I spent some time watching the House Energy and Commerce Committee consider a variety of proposed amendments to the House health care reform bill (HR 3200).

Several abortion related amendments were considered culminating in a dramatic reversal of an amendment offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA). Pitts offered an amendment making it clear that no public funds were to be used for abortion as a consequence of the health care reform bill. Initially, this amendment passed the committee by a 31-27 vote. Oddly, pro-choice Democrat and chair of the committee, Henry Waxman (D-CA) voted in favor of the Pitts amendment. However, House rules allow the chair to reconsider an amendment if the chair originally voted in favor. Waxman then brought up the amendment for reconsideration and switched his vote, along with one other Democrat, plus one who did not vote before. Here’s how the AP told the story:

Abortion measure passes, then fails, in House

(AP) –

WASHINGTON — An anti-abortion amendment to a sweeping health overhaul bill was voted down in a House committee late Thursday — a dramatic reversal just hours after the measure initially was approved.

The amendment said health care legislation moving through Congress may not impose requirements for coverage of abortion, except in limited cases. It was approved in the Energy and Commerce Committee after conservative Democrats joined Republicans to support it.

But committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., invoked House rules that allowed him to bring up the amendment for a second vote, despite Republican objections.

This time, one conservative Democrat — Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee — changed his vote from “yes” to “no.” And a second conservative Democrat who hadn’t voted the first time — Rep. Zack Space of Ohio — voted “no.”

It was enough to take down the amendment on a 30-29 vote.

Prior to the first consideration, the House subcommittee consider the Capps amendment which supporters said would prohibit abortion with public funds. However, pro-life representatives expressed doubts that the amendment as worded would prevent the Secretary of Health & Human Services from allowing such abortions in the public health plan option. All pro-life groups opposed the Capps amendment. However, it passed 30-28.

The conscience clause amendment passed by a voice vote. The one allows pro-life health care providers to opt out of conducting abortions. If pro-life groups are correct about the ineffectiveness of the Capps amendment, and this bill is passed by House and Senate, the conscience clause will unfortunately be necessary.

No health care reform before August

Reid says health care reform won’t happen before the August recess.

From Politico:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that the Senate would not attempt to pass sweeping health care reform until after returning from the August recess.

“It’s better to get a product that’s based on quality and thoughtfulness than on trying to just get something through,” Reid told reporters.

What he said.

It will drag on a long time now, I suspect.

Might change the tone of this rally a bit…

Health care reform: Deja vu all over again

Eleven years ago, I wrote a brief history of health insurance for the Journal of Psychology and Christianity (“Managed care: It’s like deja vu all over again,” 1998, vol. 17, 131-141) as a part of special issue on managed behavioral health care.

I thought of that article this past week while reading various news reports about President Obama’s push to enact some version of health care/health insurance reform. I argued in that paper that managed care was one on many private sector arrangements designed in part to avoid government run national health insurance (NHI).

managed care

Obama says health care reform will lower costs, however, the Congressional Budget Office says reform as envisioned will spike the deficit by over 200 billion during the next decade.

For some reason, Democrats want us to believe this:

Democrats insisted the budget analysis ignores savings and Obama’s pledge not to add red ink to the federal ledger.

For about 100 years, the debate has come and gone. When a politician or anyone really says, buy now or else you lose your change, I worry. We needed the bailout now, we needed to bail out GM now, and now health reform now

President Obama urged Congress yesterday to push past their growing doubts and pass a comprehensive health-care reform package this year, saying that a better opportunity to remake the nation’s health-care system may not arise for generations.

Here is more on the CBO estimates. If you can read this and believe the current plans will be cost neutral, then you have more faith than I do.

The concern I have at this point in history, is that the private sector seems to have rolled over and may expect that NHI is truly inevitable this go around. The hope to offset more federalization of health care probably rests with conservative Democrats and resistance to two main policy points: one, the increases to budget deficit as noted and two, the proposed inclusion of abortion in any federal plan.

More on Ginsburg and unwanted populations

Ginsburg article wrap up regarding those “populations we don’t want to have too many of.”

World Magazine – Paul Kengor and I team up to discuss Ginsburg’s awareness of minority concerns regarding abortion and population control since at least the early 1970s.

Crosswalk – I take a little trip back to the 1970s and discuss the “population explosion.” Remember that? I grew up in Southern Ohio and remember thinking that we could get a lot more people in our neck of the woods. Also, there is a prophetic quote about health care from Richard Nixon in this piece.

Michael Gerson – Eugenics? Possibly; elitist and/or insensitive may better describe Ginsburg’s remarks.

Jonah Goldberg – Explores the question of eugenics.

On flip side, Andrew Sullivan takes Gerson to task for his contextual criticism. However, Sullivan provides no substantial exploration of Ginsburg’s remarks.

Ginsburg Was Right about Abortion and Population Control

In her remarks to Emily Bazelon, which I linked to on Sunday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the following regarding Roe v. Wade, a feminist legal agenda and population control:

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Except she wasn’t “altogether wrong” — at least she wasn’t wrong about Roe v. Wade being “set up for Medicaid funding” and population control. Surrounding late 1960s and through the 70s, there was much public debate about the “population explosion.” In 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut struck down a law banning contraceptives. This case helped to establish the right to privacy as based in the Constitution which, in turn, was basis for Roe v. Wade.

As an example of the zeitgeist of the time, here are some excerpts from the 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report on Population Growth and the American Future. The Commission recommended that

…present state laws restricting abortion be liberalized along the lines of the New York statute, such abortion to be performed on request by duly licensed physicians under conditions of medical safety. In carrying out this policy, the Commission recommends:

That federal, state, and local governments make funds available to support abortion services in states with liberalized statutes.

That abortion be specifically included in comprehensive health insurance benefits, both public and private.

Sarah Weddington, co-counsel with her husband Ron Weddington, submitted this report as a part of her brief supporting Roe. Ron Weddington’s views were more pointed. He wrote then President-elect Clinton in 1992 and advised the president-to-be that traditional Democratic programs would not be effective unless Clinton started “immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country.” How did Weddington propose to implement this draconian suggestion? He wrote to Clinton:

No I’m not advocating some kind of mass extinction of these unfortunate people. Crime, drugs and disease are already doing that. The problem is that their numbers are not only replaced but increased by the birth of millions of babies to people who cannot afford to have babies.

There I’ve said it. It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it, because we are liberals who believe in individual rights, we view any programs which might treat the disadvantaged as discriminatory, mean-spirited and well…so Republican.

…government is going to have to provide vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions…RU486 and conventional abortions.

Weddington ended his letter with more words of sympathy for the children of poor families—and the need to prevent their existence:

We don’t need more cannon fodder. We don’t need more parishioners. We don’t need more cheap labor. We don’t need more poor babies.

So where Ginsburg was altogether wrong was not in her understanding of one of the forces behind Roe v. Wade. Where she was wrong was in her understanding of the High Court in the subsequent decisions regarding public funding of abortion. In any case, Ginsburg has been a consistent champion of tax-payer funding for abortions, even when she thought one purpose of Roe was to curb growth of “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

For Weddington such a policy seemed to be “discriminatory, mean-spirited and well…so Republican.” However, Ginsburg views public financing of abortion as a way to reduce, what she perceives as, gender discrimination. Which is it?

One thing seems sure. The issue of public abortion funding is as current as now. Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee rejected a bid by GOP Senators to eliminate abortion as a benefit in any government subsidized health reform package. If abortion as a benefit survives, then it will no doubt be challenged in the courts, eventually reaching the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg is ready.

UPDATE: Since it is relevant to the above topic, I want to include the entire article by Paul Kengor and I and posted at World magazine on 7/16/09. In it, we find more information about what Ginsburg may have meant by “populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Disturbing Declarations

As Sonia Sotomayor was readying for her confirmation hearings, The New York Times Magazine cast a loving gaze toward the lone female Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In so doing, the Times inadvertently shed light on some remarkable thinking by Justice Ginsburg. Those thoughts are so bracing that they ought to upstage the abortion questions surrounding the Sotomayor nomination.

Ginsburg long ago declared her support for Roe v. Wade. Now, however, she has declared something more.

When the subject in her interview with the Times’ Emily Bazelon turned to abortion, Ginsburg said, “Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. . . . So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.”

Bazelon then asked, “Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?”

Ginsburg replied, “Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae-in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.”

Ginsburg is correct in noting that concerns about population growth animated many of those who backed Roe v. Wade. For instance, Sarah Weddington, co-counsel in Roe, along with her then-husband, Ron, wrote in her book A Question of Choice that team Weddington submitted as evidence the controversial 1972 Rockefeller Commission Report on Population Growth and the American Future, which included a call for public funding of abortion.

As for Ron Weddington, his views are even more direct, as was evident in a January 1993 letter to President-elect Bill Clinton. Weddington advised Clinton to strive “immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy, and poor segment of our country.”

How did Weddington propose to implement this draconian suggestion? In his letter to Clinton, he candidly wrote, “[G]overnment is going to have to provide vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions . . . RU486 and conventional abortions.”

Weddington ended his letter with more words of sympathy for the poor: “We don’t need more cannon fodder. We don’t need more parishioners. We don’t need more cheap labor. We don’t need more poor babies.”

A year later it was Clinton who appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court. For Ginsburg, that path was paved with help from one of the Weddingtons. As Sarah Weddington said in a 2007 interview, “I’ve also known Ruth Bader Ginsburg for years, and helped her get her appointment.”

Thanks to The New York Times Magazine, it looks like the Weddingtons and Ginsburg may be kindred spirits more than we had realized.

In fact, the Times piece prompts us to reconsider previous Ginsburg statements relating to “populations” that the justice doesn’t “want to have too many of.”

For instance, in an April 6, 1984, address to the University of North Carolina School of Law, published in the North Carolina Law Review, Justice Ginsburg described a 1971 speech where she faced tough questions on abortion policy:

“The questions were pressed by black men. The suggestion, not thinly veiled, was that legislative reform and litigation regarding abortion might have less to do with individual autonomy or discrimination against women than with restricting population growth among oppressed minorities. The strong word ‘genocide’ was uttered more than once. It is a notable irony that as constitutional law in this domain has unfolded, women who are not poor have achieved access to abortion with relative ease; for poor women, however, a group in which minorities are disproportionately represented, access to abortion is not markedly different from what it was in pre-Roedays.”

Ironic indeed. Instead of reducing “cannon fodder and cheap labor” via abortion, as the Weddingtons of the world had hoped, the Supreme Court upheld congressional bans on federal funding of abortion. According to her recent interview, Ginsburg was surprised the court upheld such bans. She continues to lament the fact that government does not fund abortions. Why?

Ginsburg’s comments to The New York Times Magazine open a floodgate of disturbing questions regarding a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Perhaps even more amazing than her comments was the lack of clarification or follow up from theTimes. Maybe another newspaper can do the job. These questions are too serious to be left to speculation.

While I think Ginsburg would be fine with expanded access to abortion for poor women, I am not sure she believes poor women should be targeted. She believes all women should have access to abortion. She was repeating the irony that at least some of those who advocated for abortion wanted to reduce poor populations but, as it turned out, affluent women have access whereas many poor women don’t.

To me, an appropriate move would be to restrict abortion to medical necessity for rich and poor women and reject any elitist notion that poor people can be reduced by abortion. As those black men protested and Ginsburg acknowledged, such policies have unacceptable adverse effects on minorities.

What did Justice Ruth Ginsburg mean when she said “populations that we don’t want to have too many of”?

Read this GetReligion post and ask yourself, what could she possibly mean?

This section of a New York Magazine article out this week is what is at the focus of what should be significant controversy.

Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Roe was decided in the way it was to curb population growth? — “…particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Which populations would those be, Justice Ginsburg?

And we may never know because the no one writing for a big paper or news outlet (save the UK Telegraph) has picked up this story.

Message to the US Senate: Please ask Sotomayor if she believes Roe was decided in order to help set up Medicaid funding to support aborting certain populations.