Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Abortion: A Modest Proposal to Do Away with It

Question: Who's the visitor from Austin, Texas? I love the city of Austin, including the world's one remaining hippie coffee house and Sixth St., my musical version of dying and going to Heaven. Hook 'em horns! I also love all visitors from Alaska, including one from the North Pole! Santa? I have a regular visitor from a Native Alaskan village. I promise to be in Anchorage one day in the not-too-distant future. If you have read the following piece previously, note that there have been changes, indicated by the paragraphs in italics.

Note: Unlike Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal," mine has nothing to do with eating children.

On Wednesday, I'm hoping to do "God's work," to continue coming up with a Human Life Amendment that might actually have a chance of passing. The "abortion issue" is solvable, although perhaps in a way that will make both sides more than a trifle unhappy. I won't finish this until Wednesday, perhaps as late as noon EDT, but I truly do want to solicit your comments as it unfolds.

It will help if you go to http://wikipedia.org/ and look up 'Human Life Amendment." The piece is accurate, and it will tell you that the last serious effort to pass a "pro-life" constitutional amendment took place in 1983, with proposed legislation by Sen Hatch (R, UT) and Sen. Eagleton (D, MO). It failed rather miserably, 49 votes for, 50 against.

As a constitutional amendment, it required for passage 67 votes in the Senate and 291 in the House. If it had gotten through those bodies, it would then have required ratification by three-fourths of the states. I doubt -- everybody doubts -- such an amendment would now get anything like 49 positive votes.

Various candidates, including Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson (although he's rather vague on the subject) have proposed constitutional amendments overturning Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, those amendments have zero chance of passing. That will change to minus-zero if Hillary Clinton is elected President and brings with her, as expected, a big majority of liberal Democrats in Congress.

If you want to know what I'm struggling to deal with, I invite you to read a letter to Mike Huckabee by Dr. Laurence White, a big-time Lutheran pastor in Houston. His approach is to utter, "A curse on both your houses." He says it doesn't matter if Hillary Clinton wins the election, because he's fed up with Republicans who promise progress on the sancity of life and deliver zilch.

I have some problems with Dr. White. He strikes me as more of a nihilist than a theist. He also has a disturbing habit in his writings of comparing the moral climate in the U.S. with that in Nazi Germany, which is preposterous -- and utterly renders him an apostle not for a representative democracy but for a theocracy. His chances of getting his theocracy are about the same as Osama bin Laden's getting us to convert to Islam.

Dr. White's letter is followed by a more sensible e-mail from Larry Perrault, who is basically a wonderful guy who tends to look on politics (always a thoroughly mundane business) in theistic terms. Dr. White quotes the line that "politics is the art of the possible," and then he goes on to demand nothing less than the impossible: the total eradication of abortion.

You can find Dr. White and Larry by clicking on the following: http://www.mikehuckabee.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Blogs.View&Blog_id=350

In my case, I love the possible. I believe that through politics you can accomplish SOME good. You can't accomplish ultimate good, because that is reserved for Heaven and the presence of God.

Quick question: how many abortions are there annually in the U.S.? The CDC (and these numbers are always a couple of years behind) says 850,000. That number has been declining for years, and let us hope it's still doing so.

What is my Human Life Amendment that I believe will move swiftly (or, more probably slowly) through the Congress?

It states, "All abortions after the 10 weeks of gestation shall be illegal in these United States except in proven cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother."

I'm hoping President Sarah Palin, after her surprise upset defeat of incumbent Hillary Clinton in 2012, will propose words very much like mine. With the bright-eyed Republicans Palin brings in with her, she will have a decent chance of getting it through the Congress -- with significant Democratic support.

But what about Roe v. Wade? The Palin Amendment would supersede it. Roe v. Wade would go into what Karl Marx called "the dustbin of history."

Unlike the proposal by Mike Huckabee, whom I love and may end up endorsing -- the Maloneys having a big thing for lost causes -- my amendment will pass. If Hillary, whom Sarah will beat like a rented mule, were still in the Senate, she'd probably vote for it. After all, it was Mrs. Clinton who called "every abortion . . . a tragedy." We may give her a chance to put her money where her mouth is.

Will Dr. White like my amendment? I fear he would put the Lutheran equivalent of a contract out on me. He may ask, after he gets through sputtering, "How many abortions would your so-called amendment prevent?"

My answer would be: approximately 200,000 per year. That is approximately 200,000 more than Dr. White's "hold-your-breath-until-you-turn-blue" approach to life issues.

About this point, my militantly Lutheran (!!!) daughter with the five children would back Dr. White and ask pointedly: "What about the other 650,000?!!?" And I, with my own five children, would say: "Wait until tomorrow to find out. "

We will never reduce abortions in this country to zero. Pre Roe v. Wade as many as 300,000 abortions per year took place, most of them quite illegal. (Nobody knows the precise figures from yesteryear because people weren't talking much about their abortions in those days, but there were a lot of them.)

(I like to fight with Dr. White, because he's nearly as cantankerous as I am. But he and I are in agreement on many more things than either of us would like to admit. We both have a tendency toward apocalyptic language that probably frightens small children and elderly people.)

Let me chip away at the 650,000 while I still have the energy. How many women say they have abortions because they're too poor to have a baby? It's more than 21%, or roughly 175,000 women, many of whom apparently are Black or Hispanic, although a good number of them are Caucasians. [Note: I understated these numbers in a previous draft of this piece.

In my Solomonic way, I ask: what do you do to encourage these women to have their children? Let's see, when people say that they don't have enough money, you follow the lead of the football player in "Jerry Maguire," and YOU SHOW THEM THE MONEY.

Since only a teeny fraction of it would be coming out of my pocket, let's give them $7,000 a year for two years -- and perhaps a smaller sum after that. Every year, you would hand out $1.2 billion, plus whatever it cost (too much) to administer the program and provide appropriate counselling.

Yes, some of these women would still continue to have abortions, but it seems likely that most of them would take the money and then go to term and deliver their children.

But should we actually give people money to have children? In fact, we already do it on a massive scale with the dependent-deductions on federal income taxes.

With my amendment's prohibition on abortion AFTER 10 weeks of gestation, as well as the monetary payments to poor women, the "total" of abortions THEORETICALLY prevented would be in excess of 370,000. As I explained, some of the women involved -- probably tens of thousands -- would fall through the cracks and have pregnancy terminations.

Also, I admit there's some double counting in my numbers, which is impossible to avoid right now. That is, some of the women who'd have abortions in the first 10 weeks would also be poor. But the offer of monetary assistance would be during the first 10 weeks -- and hopefully after. The reason for continuing the payments beyond 10 weeks would be to prevent illegal abortions.

Granted, my recommendations may sound cynical to some people. I don't care how it sounds. I am interested in actually preventing abortions -- as opposed to chanting pro-life slogans for the rest of my days.

The big question is why I think this approach would get through Congress when nothing else has. I will explain but not tonight . . .

Stephen R. Maloney
Ambridge, PA


matt said...

Stephen, I'm finding we're kindred spirits on these matters! We'd rather not burn our bridges behind us by holding out for an all or nothing strategy.

I do think that your amendment will have a much better reception in the Congress than previous amendments. Bill Clinton, who said that abortion should be 'safe,legal,and rare' could be able to support it. Have you found a Congressional sponsor for it yet? And after you introduce it to us, would you mind if we propose it to some of our more conservative congressman/women?

Waiting for the next installment,

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Matt, I hope you'll read all four part of the "abortion series" and give me any additional thoughts. I believe that nearly every human problem is solvable. I'm offering my proposal to any elected official that will run with it -- Republican or Democrat. I might present it to Senator Robert Casey (D, PA, who is pro-life. I think he may be able to unearth some other Democrats who are under-the-radar pro-lifers (such at Tim Johnson of SD and Ben Nelson of NE). I also hope that many states would propose something similar in their state constitutons and then see how SCOTUS responds. The key is that it's different, and that might get some of the feet-in-stone stands (mostly Democrats) out of the mental concrete. Since it involves handing out a fairly large chunk of money, some Democrats may love it. :-) Thanks for visiting.