Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Romney And Abortion

This NPR story Romney And Abortion: Another Shift In The Works? does a pretty good job of summarizing the various positions Romney's had on the issue. It also points out how crazy the discussion has become. It's a big deal in the debate if he adds just one word "health" to the list of exceptions.

Now it's true that it is significant, but it just seems like this argument has been going on since the 70s and things have now been coded into sound bites that require too much to parse. "The health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it," said Ryan on the House floor during a debate in 2000. A right winger once told me that the problem is that it includes "mental health" which is used to justify abortion on demand at any stage of the pregnancy. The article points out that conditions like diabetes and breast cancer come up too and can seriously complicate a pregnancy. And for those reasons I think the state really should stay out of it and let the woman and her doctor (and in cases where it's a good relationship) and the father make the decision (how libertarian of me).

There's a real moral question on this issue, I get that. But by having to parse individual words like "health" or "legitimate" we just avoid having the conversation. It's a difficult issue to poll because of the wording but results are pretty consistent. 20% think abortion should never be legal, 20% think it should always be legal and the rest, 60% think it should be legal in some circumstances, rape, incest and life of the mother being the most obvious. Sometimes I've seen it as 30-30-40 but it's still similar. But if you ask if a cancer patient, getting chemo, who accidentally gets pregnant should be able to decide whether to carry the baby to term, I bet most people would allow the choice or at least not want the state to make the decision for her and certainly not put her in jail if she gets one illegally. I think if these things were spelled out instead of coded, more people would be obviously supportive of abortion rights. By the polls only 20-30% want it illegal in all circumstances, that means 70-80% want it legal in some.

I'd really like a constitutional amendment to settle this once and for all. It's too much of a litmus test for politicians and Supreme Court justices (and by the way, in March Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 80 and Scalia turns 77 and in July so does Kennedy). Let's spell out what the exceptions are, debate it, and move it on already.

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