NYT Columnist: Forfeit Roe, Save Doctors!

In Tuesday’s New York Times online edition, the paper’s neo-neo-con columnist Ross Douthat laid out a sprawling argument that seemed to conclude that pro-choice activists and the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling were responsible for violence against women’s healthcare providers, including the murder of Dr. George Tiller last week.

“If anything, by enshrining a near-absolute right to abortion in the Constitution, the pro-choice side has ensured that the hard cases are more controversial than they otherwise would be,” wrote Douthat, who argued that

One reason there’s so much fierce argument about the latest of late-term abortions–Should there be a health exemption? A fetal deformity exemption? How broad should those exemptions be? –is that Americans aren’t permitted to debate anything else.

Douthat elaborated on what seemed to be a plan for conciliation: “If abortion were returned to the democratic process, this landscape would change dramatically,” because “arguments about whether and how to restrict abortions in the second trimester–as many advanced democracies already do–would replace protests over the scope of third-trimester medical exemptions.”

It is true that if you take away constitutional protections, people opposed to those protections will be happier. For instance, those rightists who called for jailing reporters who reported secret aspects of the Bush White House’s warrantless wiretapping and black sites programs would probably be happier if the First Amendment were suspended to make such jailing possible. But what about the Constitution? And what about those who lost their protections? One begins to sense that Douthat’s plan for reconciliation would only make one side happier.

It’s also worth noting that, as much as Douthat may think they are all powerful, pro-choice advocates are incapable of making concessions regarding the Constitution. Roe was enshrined ” by the U.S. Supreme Court, which will also be in charge of future decisions regarding its disposition.

But just when you thought Douthat’s plan might be somewhat was lopsided, he explains how there really is something in it for the pro-choice people:

The result would be laws with more respect for human life, a culture less inflamed by a small number of tragic cases–and a political debate, God willing, unmarred by crimes like George Tillerâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s murder.

As Village Voice blogger Roy Edroso summed up the Times columnist’s reconciliation plan, ‘So, see, Douthat gets the end of abortion on demand, and you heathens get killed less often by right-wing nuts; he’s meeting you halfway.â┚¬Ã‚

Megan, a blogger at Jezebel.com, put it slightly differently: ‘To sum up: If we just roll over, accept the end of abortion access and let them teach us about respect for human life, they won’t kill any more abortion providers. Good to know whose hands Douthat thinks Tiller’s blood is really on.â┚¬Ã‚

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.