The Harmful Hypocrisy of the 'Right to Life' Movement

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Signs in support of Planned Parenthood at Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard on Nov
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Signs in support of Planned Parenthood at Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard on November 29, 2015 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The investigation moves into its third day after a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood, killing three and injuring nine. (Photo by Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

This is from Mathew Chapter 7:

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye.

The hypocrisy displayed by radical ideologues in their ruthless effort to end abortion (and/or to use the abortion issue for political gain) is breathtaking. Most fundamentally hypocritical is their strident espousal of the principal that all human life is sacred from conception to delivery, while simultaneously showing callous indifference to life once it has taken its first extra-uterine breath.

There could not be a more dramatic example of hypocrisy than "right-to-lifers" who commit murder. Spurred on by hate spewing political and religious leaders, deranged and anger-filled followers somehow find justification for cruel and criminal violence. How tragically ironic are the gun toting "lovers-of-life'"who are willing to murder innocents, as in the recent Planned Parenthood slaying.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the killings occurred in Colorado Springs, the fourth most right wing city in the U.S., center of radical speech directed against abortion in general and specifically against Planned Parenthood.

Life is passionately defended only if the subject of concern is fetal life. "Right-to-life" politicians are often vehement supporters of the death penalty, seemingly oblivious to the obvious internal inconsistency in their attitudes to the beginning and the ending of life. And they generally oppose gun control, despite the fact that guns are now responsible for about as many deaths as car accidents. And you won't see "right-to-life" politicians leading peace marches opposed to the heedless killings of civilians consequent to our careless foreign wars.

And it gets even worse. Paradoxically, the most vocal "right-to-life" politicians, seemingly so solicitous of the welfare of the fetus, are the very same people who suddenly care not a jot for the needs of the living baby. Save the fetus at all costs, but then shamefully neglect the child it inevitably will become. The politicians who insist most that every fertilized cell must be considered a fully formed human are most likely to vote against all social, educational, and medical programs that might assist the resulting child to have a decent and healthy life.

Once born, human life is suddenly no longer sacred. Attention to baby and child welfare suddenly becomes less important than lavishing welfare on corporations and bloating the hoards of the mega rich.

And then there are the radical hypocrites who would withhold abortion even if those fetuses were resulting from incest and rape, even if the birth directly threatens the health of the mother. Dogged adherence to dogma trumps their compassion and common sense.

World class hypocrites are the fake libertarians who argue strenuously for the protection of individual liberty and personal privacy, but are blithely willing to intrude upon a woman's most intimate decision about her own body and the welfare of her family.

We are approaching a crucial tipping point in the abortion battle, occasioned by a case soon to be decided in the Supreme Court, and by the concerted propaganda campaign against Planned Parenthood.

My wife, the psychiatrist Donna Manning, discusses these issues from the perspective of a woman who lived through the struggle to legalize abortion. She writes:

Abortion became a constitutional right with the Roe v. Wade case in 1973. The Supreme Court ruled that the protections provided by the 4th, 5th, 9th and 14th Amendments are "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." The right to abortion, however, is not absolute. It might be overridden by a "compelling state interest" to protect the health of the woman.

The 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey Supreme Court decision constrained Roe v. Wade by recognizing the states' right to consider the health of the woman involved so long as rulings didn't place an "undue burden." The crucial question was left unclear: What constitutes undue burden?

Sandra Day O'Connor who wrote the decision, defined "undue burden" as existing when the "purpose or effect of the regulation is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability." But how substantial does the obstacle have to be?

Since 2011, 24 states have passed some 200 pieces of legislation intended to limit a woman's ability to exercise her constitutional right to abortion. Here listed are some of the obstacles and restrictions that have been passed by different state legislatures:

● Mandatory waiting periods
● Scripted texts that MD's have to read to patients to dissuade them from having an abortion
● Mandatory ultrasounds
● Requiring patients to listen to fetal heart beats
● Limiting liability coverage MD's can receive for abortions
● Intrusive patient reporting requirements
● Restrictions on medication abortions
● Reducing the gestational limit to 20 weeks
● Allowing employers to disallow coverage for contraception on religious grounds that would redice the need for abortion
● Abortion clinics must qualify as ambulatory surgery centers
● Abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
● Women are diverted to 'Pregnancy Centers' to coerce and discourage them from having an abortion.

The Supreme Court's current review of undue burden originates in a Texas case. This is not surprising because the Texas legislature and governor have been particularly aggressive in passing laws to incrementally make abortion a practical impossibility for its citizens. Starting in 2011, Texas women were forced to submit to an ultrasound the day prior to an abortion -- to hear the fetus' heartbeat and see its body.

Subsequent restrictive state laws governing providers have already caused the closure of more than half of Texas' previous 41 clinics and threaten to leave no more than 10 surviving ones -- none west of San Antonio. One fifth of the women in Texas would face hundreds of miles of travel to receive an abortion.

The Supreme Court will determine the constititionality of Texas' HR2, whose provisions require abortion clinics to adhere to surgical-level building requirements and abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The justices' deliberations do not concern whether abortion is a woman's constitutional right. The constitutional right to abortion is already settled law. The question instead will revolve around the intent of the Texas legislature.

Was the law passed to protect the health of the women, or was it intended instead to provide such practical burdens to receiving abortion services that these would be curtailed?

The answer is crystal clear. Texas' incremental legislation is intended to prevent and obstruct abortion. It hides this real intention under the fake sheep's clothing of protecting the mother from the presumed physical and/or psychological risks of having an abortion.

In fact, delivering a baby is significantly more dangerous than abortion, especially if a pill is used. A first-trimester abortion is one of the safest of medical procedures, with minimal risk (less than 0.05%) of complications requiring hospital care. The risk of death by surgical abortion is about 14 times less than death through with completed pregnancy.

There is also no credible research to support an increase of psychiatric problems after an abortion. A report by the American Psychological Association concluded that the "relative risk of mental health problems is no greater if the woman has an elective first-trimester abortion than if she delivered the pregnancy."

A study of women who terminated pregnancy compared to those turned away because their pregnancies were too far along showed no difference in subsequent levels of depression and anxiety. The turnaways actually had significantly worse outcomes in their physical health and economic stability. Women forced to have unwanted babies are disadvantaged economically and three times more likely to be below the federal poverty line two years later. Kids are expensive and prevent mothers from working. Living in poverty is bad for the baby, for sibs, and for the mother.

The "undue burden" considered by the Supreme Court justices should include all the many problems that accrue from having to undergo a full term pregnancy and bring up a child who is unwanted and difficult to provide for.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Medical Association have submitted briefs to the supreme court arguing that the Texas law:

"Does not serve the health of women in Texas, but instead jeopardizes women's health by restricting access to abortion providers. There is no medical basis to require abortion providers to have local hospital-admitting privileges."

Preventing abortion is also very expensive as public policy. Medicaid pays for almost three-fifths of Texas births. When the state cut $73 million from family planning in 2011, poor women delivered an estimated 24,000 more babies, costing taxpayers $273 million. And this doesn't even count all the considerable downstream extra public costs for providing the extra kids with medical and mental health care, education, social services and prison beds.

The same legislators who fight desperately against abortion also fight desperately against budget deficits. The two goals are completely inconsistent unless you are willing to deprive vital services for those children you insisted be born. Save the life and then ensure it will be miserable.

Justice Kennedy, who will undoubtedly be the Supreme Court's swing vote, has been on both sides of similar cases in the past. His decision in this case will be especially difficult, coming as it does in the midst of a particularly ugly election campaign in which Planned Parenthood has become a major target of the Republican Party. I haven't agreed with many of Justice Kennedy's previous decisions, but he has been known often to do the right thing despite party fealty and political flak. I am hopeful that he will rise to this occasion.

Thanks, Dr Manning. I hope you are correct in your optimism.

Everyone has the right to be religious. But equally, everyone has the right not to be religious. And no one should have the right to impose their own religious or non-religious beliefs on anyone else. And people who really care about life should not be so ready to resort to violence or to neglect the needs of kids once they are born.

Those women who believe that abortion is immoral should, of course, never be forced to have one. But equally, those women who don't have this belief should be free of arbitrary interference in the exercise of their constitutionally protected rights.

Any libertarian, who is not a hypocrite, will defend women, as well as men, from unnecessary state interference in what should be private, personal decisions.

Any promoter of the sacredness of life and positive family values, who is not a hypocrite, will support changes in the tax code to reduce inequality and to increase government funding of social services.

Anyone worried about women's health, who is not a hypocrite, will support Planned Parenthood because it provides the only healthcare available to many hundreds of thousands of women.

And as for the hypocrites, I would borrow Pope Francis' "who are they to judge" and Mathew's "stop judging, that you may not be judged."

It would also be nice if, for once, the Supreme Court followed the law and not loyalty to the party line or personal religious belief. Chipping away at abortion rights in piecemeal fashion provokes and intensifies the conflict and brings out the worst in opportunistic politicians and radical right religious leaders. Much of the civil discord caused by the abortion issue would end if the Supreme Court were finally to clarify unequivocally that the law of the land is the law of the land. It can do this by discouraging Texas hypocritical legislative incrementalism. Its decision in this one case could further the current trend of allowing abortion to be a tool of ambitious politicians or it could help return decisions to the privacy of the doctors office where thdy belong.

Several of the Republication presidential candidates and Congressional leaders have openly targeted Planned Parenthood for political gain. The Colorado killer's first words to the police -- "no more baby parts" -- was clearly a horrid distortion of their false and imflammatory rhetoric.

The decent thing for the politicians to do now is to condemn the Colorado Springs violence and vow to avoid future remarks that might provoke similar violence. Don't hold your breath. If this election cycle proves anything, its that dirty politics often trumps simple decency (pun fully intended).

A small, but highly committed, radical minority is fighting foul to undo hard won constitutional rights that have the broad support of a majority of people in the U.S. and everywhere else in the developed world. We can't be intimidated by their violence or fooled by their tricks.