The Supreme Court handed victory to right-wing rhetoricians last week, including Portland’s own favorite cut-and-paster, David Reinhard.
The successful rhetorical strategy was on display in Sunday’s Oregnoian. On the left side of the Opinion page, Susan Nielsen adroitly depicted a right-wing Supreme Court that has successfully taken a chunk out of Roe V. Wade, and has endangered the lives of pregnant American women.
On the right, Reinhard ignored the opposing argument entirely. He went through a gruesome description of the procedure now outlawed in America, and then, he described it again. (Apparently, 750 words is too long for Reinhard to go without cutting and pasting again.)
Intact dilation abortion? Partial birth abortion? A clue that the radical right had already won this rhetorical battle was that now everyone uses the term “partial birth abortion,” despite no medical text using this term. It is now, legislatively, the name of the procedure.
What matters, the Supreme Court has told us, is not what it is called; what matters is that it is gross.
Reinhard did not need to address the progressive objection in the law as passed by Congress in 2003: it provides NO exception for the health of the mother, which is the entire reason the appeal went to the highest court in the land. It removed an option from doctors and patients, despite the fact that at times it is medically necessary.
I know someone who had this procedure ten years ago. When she was five months pregnant with her first child, she had an amniocentesis. This diagnostic tool revealed that the fetus was horribly deformed, and a birth would likely be lethal for the mother. Its head was abnormally large, ruling out the option of a standard abortion. If this now-illegal procedure had not been available, this woman and her husband would have faced a life-threatening labor for a baby that would, if lucky, live for two weeks.
To say nothing of the risk to the mother’s life, the financial costs of such a tragedy were also aborted. Today, she has two healthy children, and she is alive. The family was not forced into medical bankruptcy because of right-wing angst over a gross medical procedure.
For this is the successful key to the argument against partial-birth abortion. They may say that it is unnecessary, that it is cruel, but what really helped them win the debate is that it is gross. Any conservative argument against it includes grisly descriptions intended to make the reader uncomfortable, and this discomfort has helped to endanger the lives of women in order to protect biological constructs that may or may not become people some day.
Take note, lefties. Reinhard and his ilk have won this battle because he does not acknowledge his opponents arguments; indeed, he does not need to. All he needs to do is make us squeamish, and then repeat what he says, again and again.
Cut and paste.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where this technique can win the battle of ideas.