Slippery Slope for Choice in Salem

Jon Perr

The Oregonian reports that the national debate over fetal protection laws has come to Salem.  The GOP-controlled Oregon House passed a variant of "Laci's Law" by 35-23.  Mercifully, Senate Democrats seem prepared to show the resolve their Congressional colleagues lacked in stopping this slippery slope erosion of Americans' reproductive rights.

The record for Democrats nationwide over the past 12 months is not a proud one.  In 2004, John Kerry and Congressional Democrats found themselves faced a seemingly unstoppable onslaught on reproductive rights.  On the heels of the Scott Peterson case, new legislation swept the country defining as separate crimes the injury to or killing of both a woman and her fetus. "Laci and Connor's Law," as it was called, was passed by 30 states.  Wavering in their defense of reproductive rights, Congressional Democrats unfortunately voted in large numbers for what became the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA).

Like the UVVA, the Oregon House Republican measure takes the dramatic step of conferring legal status upon a woman's fetus.  The murderer of a pregnant woman would,  under the GOP bill, be charged with murdering the fetus as well. As Clackamas Republican Linda Flores put it, "this acknowledges that there are two victims, not one."

Oregon Senate Democrats look determined to do better than their Washington colleagues.  Majority Leader Kate Brown made it clear that the Senate will likely not consider the House measure.   And while some Senate Democrats are considering a "compromise" extending death penalty to cases involving the murder of a pregnant woman, the Democratic line against establishing fetal personhood seems solid.    As Rep. Mike Schauffler summarized the threat of the GOP approach, "it is a step in the direction of eroding my wife's and daughter's right to make their own medical decisions."

The battle in Oregon is just the latest in the national war on choice. The much longer and protracted debate over partial-birth abortion showcases conservatives’ 1-2-3 slippery-slope formula for sabotaging the American consensus for abortion rights. First, highlight a viscerally gruesome medical procedure (as in the case of intact dilation and extraction) that evinces a powerful gut-level reaction or a case that generates natural feelings of sympathy (e.g. Laci Peterson). Second, play on and publicize apparent majority support for banning the practice in question. Last, brand the practice using a term, such as "partial-birth" or "unborn victim", which makes opposition virtually impossible.

In 2004, Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry received an understandably emotional letter from Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson's mother, asking him to support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. "Our grandson did live," Rocha wrote. "He had a name, he was loved, and his life was violently taken from him before he ever saw the sun."  Kerry, in the center of a political firestorm, remained firm:

I believe that an attack on a pregnant woman should carry increased penalties. However, legislation granting a fetus the same legal status in all stages of development as a human being is not the appropriate response. I have serious concerns about this legislation because the law cannot simultaneously provide that a fetus is a human being and protect the right of the mother to choose to terminate her pregnancy. Therefore, I do not support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

Kudos to Senate Dems for showing the same unshakable commitment to reproductive rights.

(For more background on the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act debate among Democrats, see "Slippery Slope: Democratic Wavering in the Battle for Reproductive Rights.")

  • Daniel (unverified)

    Heaven forbid that a life be called a life. Here's a question for you pro-abortion folks: At what point did your life begin? Was it the second trimester? At birth? When you turned one? When were you officially a "person"?

  • Sam Kauffman (unverified)

    You wrote: "Majority Leader Kate Brown made it clear that the Senate will likely not consider the House measure." Was this before or after Senator Brown's 45-minute speech in support of the expanding the death penalty in Oregon?

    In my view calling the death penalty expansion bill a "compromise" when Senator Brown is clearly such a strong death penalty proponent is something of mischaracterization.

  • Ruth Adkins (unverified)

    you pro-abortion folks Huh? Who's that? No one is "pro abortion." Making abortion safe, legal, and rare; and working to protect mothers and children before and after birth, is the true pro-life position.

    The fact is, Republican/right-wing policies have led to an increase in the number of abortions. If you want to decrease the number of abortions (as do we all), vote Democratic.

  • CAM (unverified)

    "At what point did your life begin? Was it the second trimester? At birth? When you turned one? When were you officially a "person"?"

    I presume you know exactly when your conception date was and that you do not determine your official age from that nasty little flaw in the pro-life argument that the rest of us refer to as your "birthday?"

    No. Didn't think so.

  • Daniel (unverified)

    Funny, none of you actually answered my question. And a birthday is just that, the day of your birth, not when your life started.

  • (Show?)

    Hey Daniel,

    I think my life started when I was born. May 11th, 1961 at around 7:19pm

  • Ruth Adkins (unverified)

    My life started the day I was born.

    Anything related to my existence before the date of my birth, was up to my mother, in whose body I was carried, and since I was lucky enough to have a dad on the scene, my dad.

    Daniel, I don't care to get drawn into a discussion of trimesters, viability, prenatal complications, etc. The bottom line is pro life means you care about women's and children's life before AND after birth. Like Democrats do. And that you work to enact policies that minimize the number of abortions. Like Democrats do. And that you work to ensure that women-esp. poor, rural, vulnerable women --do not resort to unsafe, life-threatening abortions. Democrats are doing that work to help keep women safe. And that you are not about telling women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. Republicans used to be about minimizing government control, now the right-wingers are all about government control and intrusion. I am sick and tired of it.

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