Monday, November 14, 2005

Lying About Alito

This impassioned little piece of hyperbole from the former NARAL Pro-Choice America president is the latest broadside against the nomination of Samuel Alito. The trouble is that it's a bald faced lie.

Notice how she interchangeably uses the words "notification" and "permission." She never, ever, as she claims, had to get the father's "permission" to get an abortion. If the nurse indeed told her that, then her beef is with that nurse, not the law or Alito. The two are quite different, obviously.
Here's what the "burden" ACTUALLY was:

Section 3209 of Pennsylvania's abortion law provides, except in cases of medical emergency, that no physician shall perform an abortion on a married woman without receiving a signed statement from the woman that she has notified her spouse that she is about to undergo an abortion.

The woman has the option of providing an alternative signed statement certifying that her husband is not the man who impregnated her; that her husband could not be located; that the pregnancy is the result of a spousal sexual assault which she has reported; or that the woman believes that notifying her husband will cause him or someone else to inflict bodily injury upon her.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1993). Note that she didn't need her husband to sign anything. All she needed to do was call him and then tell the doctor she called him. If she had merely the belief that he would hurt her, she didn't have to do that. I agree with Judge Alito that this doesn't constitute an "undue burden," especially if we think fathers have both duties and rights as parents in this country. If NARAL disagrees that fathers matter, I expect to see them oppose child support laws as well.

NARAL wants you to believe that with Alito on the court, burquas and the repeal of the 19th Amendment are inevitable. The trouble is, they're lying to you. Don't believe it. And if you're part of these organizations, ask yourself why they feel the need to play so fast and loose with the truth in order to sell their agenda to the public.

NOTE: My personal views on abortion are still pretty unformed. I don't like it, but I am persuaded that making it illegal wholesale (a) could be more harmful, and (b) have a lot of religious overtones that make me a little uncomfortable. If I were a legislator, I might very well vote to keep legal a scheme not unlike the Roe v. Wade court's recommendation. But the jurisprudence behind that decision is an embarrassment, and allows constitutional protections to shift out from underneath us based solely on the policy predilections of 5 unelected people. Just a preemptive note for the inevitable "obviously you want women impaled with coat hangers!" commentors.

UPDATE: A commenter correctly pointed out that Ms. Michelson was not talking about the PA statute as it was decided in Casey. Mea culpa - I jumped to exactly the conclusion that she wanted me to, that Alito's decision would have had a direct and negative effect on her. In fact, they had nothing to do with each other. Because she implied that it did, I stand by my belief that this is deliberate dishonesty about Judge Alito perpetrated by those who think (a) judges should decide policy by fiat, and (b) this judge doesn't share their policy views and will act accordingly.


SirWhoopass said...

The author writes of her own experience from an abortion in 1969. Orrin claims that she did not need her husband's consent, but I am not convinced that is true.

The notification provision (3209) that Orrin quotes was not put into effect until 1989, twenty years after her experience. It says nothing about the law in 1969.

Spousal consent laws were not invalidated until 1976 (Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52). While not evidence, in itself, that spousal consent was required for the author in 1969, it does make it plausible. The author correctly frames the Casey decision as about notification while only writing about her own experience as about consent.

One might make the argument that using the consent antecdote and then discussing the case about notification is misleading (perhap deliberately so). I would not, however, characterize it as a "bald faced lie".

Orrin Johnson said...

Hmm... That's fair. I'll update the post to correct myself. But the author talks about how see feels that Alitos' desion making process would take things BACK to those days, and that simply isn't true. By relating her experience directly to Alito's opinion in Casey, she is knowingly misleading the reading audience (even I was fooled). I still call it a lie.

Derek said...

LOOKING BACK more than three decades to one of the most difficult times in my life, it's hard to say what seems more insulting: being forced to obtain my husband's permission to have an abortion after he had just abandoned my family or — many years later — Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s ruling that a similar requirement was not, in constitutional parlance, an "undue burden."

In 1969 — in those distant but suddenly closer days before Roe vs. Wade — my husband deserted me and our three small daughters. After learning I was pregnant, and making the wrenchingly personal decision to have an abortion, I was forced to submit to an invasive and humiliating interrogation before a hospital review board in Pennsylvania. It ultimately gave its permission. I was in the hospital preparing for the procedure when a nurse informed me I would need my husband's permission too. I found him a few days later and he gave it.

I guess I'm missing how you could have been confused that she was relating her personal experience from the late 60's. Unless of course you read it TO disagree with it.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I keep hearing thrown about is how overturning Roe v. Wade would make abortion illegal - which is not entirely accurate. What it would do (which you may have mentioned in a previous post, but I'm too lazy to go back and look), is put the decision back where it belongs - in the hands of the state legislatures.

Although some states might do away with abortion (Mississippi comes to mind), Roe has been the law for so long now that I think it will be a hard sell for anti-abortion groups in the majority of states.

That said, while Orrin was incorrect as to this particular article, I also see many commentators who use "notify" and "consent." interchangeably when discussing Casey.

Orrin Johnson said...

Derek, what I didn't check to make sure of was that the 1969 law had been amended or changed. It's certainly not inconceivable that a same or similar law remains on the books for 20 years. Again, shame on me - I should have been more careful. But as I said, her article sought to draw exactly the inferrence I made - that Alito voted to keep the very law that caused her so much consternation. Hence the title, "This Time, It's Personal." And that is without question dishonest.

Cato said...

If abortion really is a constitutional right (sounds reasonable to me, but I see a lot of rights in there that might not be), the fact that most states would keep it isn't much consolation if it loses that constitutional status. I agree that it makes the issue much less urgent for those of us living in "Blue" states. Washingtonians aren't going to lose legal abortion no matter what happens wit Roe v. Wade.

Derek said...


I refuse to believe that you honestly thought that the law in Planned Parenthood v Casey was on the books for 20 years after Roe without being challenged.

I won't believe that you are that silly. I will believe that you refused to think before you called this woman a liar however.

PubliusRex said...

Well, the absolute barbarity and narcissism of our current society is in rare form here; from the hollow discomfort posters here have with the idea that a husband and wife should decide together on terminating a pregnancy to the flippant comment that outlawing the wholesale slaughter of unborn human beings should be avoided because of "religious overtones."

Despite Orrin's factual glitch, the larger point stands. This is not the first time a left wing fringe group has less than honestly tried to distort the impact of Alito's jurisprudence.

It's all from the same playbook. Whether its distorting Casey into, "Alito [rather than the PA legislature] thinks women should notify their husbands before having an abortion" to (in another case) "Alito thinks machine guns should be legal," (rather than Alito thinks the commerce clause does not permit certain legislation outlawing certain machine guns), it's all a charade. More dressing legal arguments in political garb and then pretending the two are inseparable.

Ironically it's decisions like Roe, decided on political grounds and weakly justified on non-existent legal grounds, that has lead us to this point.