Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2000/ 5 Tishrei, 5760
Election-year reality check:
Abortion is here to stay
It was supposed to dominate the election, according to pundit predictions back in
January. And then . . . silence. Since the primary elections, abortion talk has been as
scarce as a Monica sighting.
Pro-life Republicans have been uncharacteristically quiet, while Democrats remain smug
in their anything-goes corner. Suddenly, just weeks before the election (coincidentally
nine months later, maternity-ward veterans can't help noting), the A-word is back in all
its vainglorious ambiguity. Renewed interest, or the final gasps of a moot point?
At one end of the spectrum, discussion centers on giving American women access to the
so-called morning-after RU-486 pill, which causes spontaneous abortion of a fertilized
embryo in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration approved
use of the pill Thursday, thus ending a 12-year stalemate during which politicians tried
to nail down the exact moment life begins.
At the other, legislators grappled with a bizarre bill in the U.S. House of
Representatives clarifying for idiots that a breathing, moving newborn with a beating
heart is, in fact, a human being. The "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act" passed
380-15 and would resolve finally the prickly question of whether an unwanted baby can be
destroyed post-"birth," should an abortion fail. The bill is not expected to go
to the Senate before legislators adjourn and, therefore, will die a natural death.
Those who voted against the legislation noted that the bill was unnecessary -- it's
against the law to kill people, and viable babies out of the womb already are considered
people -- and accused the bill's authors of seeking to make pro-choice legislators look
bad. They're probably correct, though one can imagine that babies intended for the Great
Vacuum Beyond are grateful, nonetheless. Hey, one less thing.
And so here we are, stuck somewhere between conception and viability, grappling with an
issue of which most Americans are sick and even Republicans seem weary. What seems
understood at this point is that approval of the RU-486 pill was overdue for reasons that
the facts make clear and that abortion is here to say -- even if the Republicans take the
In capsule, the RU-486 pills are effective (92 percent to 95 percent effective in the
first seven weeks) and safer than surgical abortions, which kill 80,000 women per year
throughout the world. Even though 5 percent to 10 percent of women still require surgical
abortion after administration of the pill, the more palatable consequence is that most
abortions will occur earlier, thus reducing the likelihood of our needing to entertain
laws with names such as "Born-Alive Infant Protection."
Because more doctors can prescribe the pills and supervise the results, RU-486 makes
birth control available to more women for whom "choice" is most often something
that happens on the cereal aisle. According to the National Abortion Federation, 84
percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider. Abortion is here to stay, meanwhile,
because no one's going to touch it. Not Al Gore, certainly. He'll perform one himself if
that's what it takes to get him elected. But neither is George W. Bush, whose slogan
should be: "Read My Smirk." Dubya's done everything but put a
"Pro-choice" sticker on his limo.
The smirk says: Bush has two daughters, and no Yale Daddy worth his frat paddle is
going to make his baby have a baby if she doesn't want to. He has said he supports
abortion in cases of rape or incest, thus separating himself from the rigid hard-right. He
promised not to make abortion a litmus test for Supreme Court appointments.
Abortion has been absent these many months because the debate, implicit in the
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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04/04/00: Sue-happy American society is out of control
03/30/00: Duct-taped baby serves as warning
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02/14/00: College testing via
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12/02/99: Blaming the victim --- men
11/30/99: Baby-killer's story has less-than-Precious ending
11/23/99: Pendulum swings back toward discipline, responsibility
11/18/99: Put the babies first in this mighty mess
11/11/99: Skip the applause for this baby news
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06/10/99: We owe children an apology
©1999, Tribune Media Services