PILING ON. My colleagues Ezra, Paul, and Bean have already given plenty of whacks to this unspeakably atrocious op-ed by Melinda Henneberger. Others have already noted the most obvious problem: her complete lack of evidence, apart from meaningless random anecdotes, for the claim that abortion "had been very good for Republicans." (As Paul says, it's odd that Republicans went out of their way to publicly obfuscate Alito's position on abortion if this position is so popular.) There's the familiar problem about counting women who leave the Democratic party over abortion but ignoring those who come to the party over abortion. She also, in the classic fashion of abortion "centrists", keeps talking about a moral "middle ground" without explaining how these moral ambiguities can actually be expressed in legislative enactments. And, certainly, like virtually everyone who favors states and the federal government forcing some women to carry pregnancies to term, she stays well away from looking at the actual effects of such regulation.

In addition, I note that Henneberger is as shaky on the law as she is on the politics. The Senators did not "overstate the impact" of Carhart II at all. Rather, because unlike Henneberger they understand the incrementalist strategies of anti-choicers, they were correctly noting the decision's impact on future cases as well as Kennedy's explicitly sexist assumptions (the latter of which, needless to say, Henneberger ignores entirely.) She then asserts that "most people differentiate between a fetus in the early weeks of development and at nearly full term," which is true, but since this distinction is also made by Roe v. Wade itself ("[i]f the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period"), it is irrelevant to anything but her strawman-building. Despite her implications, "partial birth bans" apply to some pre-viability abortions and don't actually stop any post-viability abortions. And, finally, we get the tired trick of arguing from Daniel Patrick Moynihan's authority about why bans on a procedure given a scientifically meaningless, made-up name by cynical forced-pregnancy lobbyists trying to incrementally roll back reproductive rights are in fact rational. But, of course, the legal distinction between D&X and D&E abortions is completely irrational; which way a fetus's feet are pointing in the womb is of no serious moral import.

And this is what's most striking about Henneberger's silly op-ed. Not only does she draw a line in the sand on legislation that poses a risk to women's health while not protecting fetal life at all, she uses this transparently ridiculous position to preen about her superior moral principles and the deeply sincere commitments of "pro-lifers." To call this self-parody would be too kind.

--Scott Lemieux

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