Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Wingnut Whistle
You've heard of those whistles that only dogs can hear? Well, there's apparently something in the following exchange that only wingnuts can hear, from a 1996 U.S. Senate debate over what doctors call "dilation and extraction," or "D&X," but conservatives call "partial-birth abortion":

Sen. Santorum: "That doesn't answer the question. Let's assume that this procedure is being performed for the reason that you've stated, and the head is accidentally delivered. Would you allow the doctor to kill the baby?"

Sen. Feingold: "I am not the person to be answering that question. That is a question that should be answered by a doctor, and by the woman who receives advice from the doctor. And neither I, nor is the senator from Pennsylvania, truly competent to answer those questions. That is why we should not be making those decisions here on the floor of the Senate."
Wisconsin state senator Bob Welch, one of the four candidates for the Republican nomination for Feingold's U.S. Senate seat, blasted Feingold in the Capital Times today for his opposition to the law banning the procedure, which was struck down by the Ninth Circuit earlier this month. Welch quotes the Santorum/Feingold exchange in his op-ed, and says Feingold's answer acknowledges "tacit support for post-delivery abortion, otherwise known as infanticide!"--which is presumably the part only Republicans can hear. (The exclamation point is Welch's, and it's just precious.)

I don't read Feingold's response that way--although enough people in 1996 did so that Feingold ended up apologizing and had the exchange stricken from the Congressional Record. To me, Feingold's response was precise and correct--neither he nor Santorum, nor Welch, is a medical doctor, and thus shouldn't be making medical decisions. What offends conservatives about such measured, reasonable language is precisely its measure and reason: He didn't break down weeping and wailing and asking "Who will save the babies?", which is, to radical pro-lifers like Santorum and Welch, the only proper response to such a question.

Welch maintains most Wisconsinites "reviled" the Ninth Circuit's decision, but that's his opinion only, and nothing more. One fact that's better supported is that pro-life rhetoric to the contrary, nobody likes the idea of D&X. But it's not as if this procedure happens thousands of times each day around the country--only about one percent of abortions are performed this way (after 21 weeks), totaling something like 2,000 cases per year. And it must remain an option, because in some cases, to save the life of the mother, it's the only option available.

Recommended Reading: Sometimes a movie is just a movie. Very few people are going to try to argue, for example, that Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has any significance greater than being a presumably pleasant way to kill 2 1/2 hours and $10. But then again, nobody involved with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is claiming it was authored by God, either. One of the many predictions I have made in this blog that turned out to be wrong was the one last summer that said Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ wouldn't have much impact when it was finally released. Although it's long since departed the megaplex for the $2 second-run theaters, it continues to inspire critical commentary. Francine Prose reviews it in the June Harper's, and at Salon on Monday, film producer Alessandro Camon put it alongside the torture photographs from Abu Ghraib. He finds the roots of both in good old fashioned pornography. More intriguingly, he finds a source for the popularity of The Passion of the Christ in Americans' envy of the religious convictions of the 9/11 hijackers. It ain't light reading, but it pays off.

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