6/5/9 NO “Common Ground” on Abortion

first a news flash: desperate move to "prove" 911 wasn't made-in-usa
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Friday, June 5, 2009 -- 9:03 PM ET
Obama Weighs Plan Allowing 9/11 Suspects to Plead Guilty
U.S. Could Let Guantánamo Detainees Plead Guilty Without Trials. The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques.
The proposal would ease what has come to be recognized as the government’s difficult task of prosecuting men who have confessed to terrorism but whose cases present challenges. Much of the evidence against the men accused in the Sept. 11 case, as well as against other detainees, is believed to have come from confessions they gave during intense interrogations at secret C.I.A. prisons. In any proceeding, the reliability of those statements would be challenged, making trials difficult and drawing new political pressure over detainee treatment... It could also allow the five detainees charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom [after years of torture]....

The draft legislation includes other changes administration officials disclosed last month when President Obama said he would continue the controversial military commission system ... American military justice law, which is the model for the military commission rules, bars members of the armed services who are facing capital charges from pleading guilty. Partly to assure fairness when execution is possible, court-martial prosecutors are required to prove guilt in a trial even against service members who want to plead guilty.... The military commission system has been effectively halted since January while the administration considers its options. The only death penalty case now before a military judge is the case against the five detainees charged as the planners of the Sept. 11 attack... Some experts on the military commissions said such a proposal would raise new questions about the fairness of a system that has been criticized as permitting shortcuts to assure convictions....
Critics of the military commission system say that the battles over its fairness show that any execution would bring new scrutiny around the world. They say the prosecutors should be required to present evidence proving that anyone who is to be executed was actually guilty of the crimes charged. http://www.nytimes.com/?emc=na


No Common Ground
Why We Shouldn't Negotiate with Anti-Choice Terrorists
by Erica C. Barnett

Dr. George Tiller was a lightning rod for anti-choice forces because he performed late-term abortions—abortions after 21 weeks' gestation—for girls and women whose pregnancies had gone tragically, often life-threateningly, wrong. Some were women who wanted their pregnancies, but found out late in their terms that their baby had no brain, or that their twins were conjoined and could not survive, or that their baby was already dead. Others were rape victims as young as 10 or 11, some of them too young to even realize they had had periods.

About 200 men, women, and children gathered at the foot of the reflecting pool in Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill on Monday, June 1, to remember the life and mourn the death of Tiller, who was gunned down at his Wichita, Kansas, church last Sunday morning. He had been the target of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and harassment by anti-choice protesters at his home and clinic for the past three decades. He was 67.

Rose Mineer, who spoke at Monday's vigil, was one of Tiller's patients. Twelve years ago, when Mineer was 17, she was raped. "Through a not-uncommon welter of emotions, including shame and fear and confusion, I hid my pregnancy for four and a half months," she said Monday. By the time she came clean with her family and decided she wanted an abortion, it was too late for a conventional procedure, so she went to Dr. Tiller. "Looking back, the main emotion I remember feeling was a sense of safety and a sense of respect," she said. Tiller "spent an unimaginable number of hours with me over the week I was there. He was totally willing to take a sobbing 17-year-old and just hold her for half an hour while she cried. I never felt the least bit judged, and I think that's how my own personal healing began."

For countless women and girls like Mineer, Tiller was a godsend. His death leaves the U.S. with just two doctors who perform late-term therapeutic abortions—and a medical community in which providing late-term abortions will be seen as more dangerous than ever. "The clinics already knew that there was going to be an escalation, because that's historically what we've seen happen when we get a federal administration that believes in women's right to choose," NARAL Pro-Choice Washington director Lauren Simonds told me Tuesday. During the Clinton years, she said, there were six murders and 17 attempted murders of abortion providers and clinic staff. In the Bush years, there were zero.

So-called mainstream anti-abortion activists were quick to distance themselves from Tiller's murder, denouncing it, in the words of Operation Rescue director Troy Newman, as a "cowardly act" of "vigilantism."

If only that were true.

Tiller's murder was not an isolated act by a lone, crazed individual, as many officials, including President Obama, have insisted. It was the culmination of a terror campaign whose primary currency is intimidation. If you believe, as anti-abortion extremists do, that abortion is murder, then murdering in retaliation makes perfect sense. An eye for an eye. "When the so-called peaceful anti-choice protesters use language that dehumanizes and demonizes our providers by calling them murderers and baby-killers, they are inciting those who are more violent," Simonds said.

In a speech two weeks ago at Notre Dame, Obama encouraged both sides of the abortion "debate" to "open our hearts and minds to those who might not think like we do," to find "common ground" with our ideological opposites. The problem with such lofty supplications is that they presume each side is equally responsible for the contentiousness of the abortion "debate," and that if we'd just sit down and talk, we'd figure out a solution that works for everyone.

But there is no common ground—not when "common ground" is code for ceding women's rights to calm a storm we didn't create. And not when the difference between the two "sides" is that one side believes women have the right to determine their own destinies, and the other side believes women should cede control of our bodies to the state.

Terrorism only works if we give up that ground. You don't negotiate with terrorists, whether they're killing doctors or "only" threatening, harassing, and intimidating them.
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=1635057&mode=print June 2, 2009

The Deadly Illusion of “Common Ground” on Abortion
Response to Obama’s speech at Notre Dame on common ground and abortion
By Sunsara Taylor

In the weeks leading up to Barack Obama’s delivery of the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, the national eye was drawn once again to the question of women’s right to abortion. Anti-abortion Catholics and Christian fundamentalists, many of whom have been at the heart of some of the most violent tactics against doctors, women and clinics, descended on the campus. They trespassed. They got arrested. They put up billboards. More than 70 bishops condemned Notre Dame’s decision. However, on March 17, when graduation day finally arrived, Obama received a standing ovation upon entrance, a glowing introduction from the Catholic president of the university, and repeated cheers as he spoke.

In his speech, Obama called for “fair-minded words” on both sides of the abortion issue. He called on people to express their differences but not to demonize those who think differently than themselves. He called for “common ground” and pointed to where he felt this could be found, as well as some of the challenges he sees in achieving it. To many, these were reasonable words. To many, the response to him by the overwhelming majority of the student body—together with a significant number of prominent Catholic figures—represents motion in a positive direction.

But, when Obama speaks of “common ground” on abortion, he is not standing on some neutral “middle ground”—he is accepting the terms of the anti-abortion movement and adapting aspects of a pro-choice position into that framework while gutting the heart of the abortion-rights position. In so doing, he is legitimizing and strengthening a viciously anti-woman program while both abandoning the much needed fight to expand access to abortion and birth control and giving up the moral and ideological basis on which the pro-choice position stands.

Much of what is wrong with Obama’s approach is concentrated in a few key sentences of Obama’s speech, where he speaks directly to the question of abortion:
“Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions. So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoptions more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term.”

First, and very importantly, abortion is not a “heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make.” A great many women are not conflicted at all about their abortions. Many feel relief and even joy at having their lives and their futures more fully back in their control. This is as it should be. The simple fact is that a fetus is not a baby, it is a subordinate part of a woman’s body. A woman has no moral obligation to carry a fetus to term simply because she gets pregnant. And a woman who chooses at whatever point and for whatever reason to terminate a pregnancy, should feel fine about doing so and should be able to. When it comes to abortion, there really is only one moral question: Will women be free to determine their own lives, including whether and when they will bear children, or will women be subjugated to patriarchal male authority and forced to breed against their will?

By denying the experience of the many women who feel positively about their abortions, Obama is undermining the legitimacy of this response and reinforcing all the many voices in society that tell women they should feel heart-wrenched for terminating a pregnancy.

As for the fact that many women do feel conflicted or even deeply guilty about getting an abortion, this doesn’t prove that abortion is a morally complex issue any more than the fact that many women feel guilty or ashamed after being raped makes rape a morally complex issue. To understand where these feelings of guilt come from, where they do exist, it is necessary to pull back the lens from the individual woman to see the larger culture and forces shaping their responses.

Women have been told—for centuries in every major religion and almost every culture—that the most meaningful thing they will ever do is bear children. Women are conditioned—and expected—to plan their lives around when they will have children, and, once they do, to evaluate every major decision from the framework of how it will affect their children. Women who do not subordinate their own dreams and aspirations to the raising of their children are openly considered selfish and routinely demonized.

On top of this, there have been decades of relentless ideological assault on abortion that has been orchestrated from the highest levels of government and power. Women have been told that they are “murderers” if they choose to abort—by Christian fundamentalists at the doors of women’s clinics across the country, by talking heads on the major media and by blockbuster movies and TV dramas that invariably portray abortion, at “best,” as a desperate and regrettable act. Women have been told there is something wrong with them if they don’t feel guilty. All this conditions the guilt that women feel, where that is part of their experience. But none of this means that there is anything about abortion that women should feel guilty about.

From here, Obama moves forward, stating that “common ground” can be found by working “together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions” and to “reduce unintended pregnancies.” But, as I wrote previously, “To talk today of reducing the number of abortions is to talk about strengthening the chains on women. The goal should NOT be to reduce the number of abortions. The goal should be to break down the barriers that still exist in every sphere of society to women’s full and equal participation as emancipated human beings. In this society, right now, that means there will be—and therefore should be—more abortions.

“This is because there are many, many women who want abortions who are unable to get them due to the tremendous legal, social and economic obstacles that have been put in their way. These obstacles include parental notification laws, mandatory waiting periods, anti-abortion fake clinics that disorient and delay women, the fact that 84% of counties have no abortion providers at all, and countless other cruel and humiliating restrictions.”

Right now, as you read, real women’s lives are being foreclosed and degraded due to lack of accessible abortion services.

As for reducing unintended pregnancies, it would be truly wonderful if all young people received frank and scientific education about their bodies, their sexuality, and how to form healthy and mutually respectful emotional and physical relationships. It would be truly wonderful if birth control were widely and easily available and its use was popularized. This would be the best and most effective way to reduce unintended pregnancies. However, this is not something that the forces behind the “pro-life” movement will agree to. The same biblical scripture that drives these forces to try to force women to carry every pregnancy to term, also drives them to oppose birth control. There is not a single “pro-life” organization that supports birth control.

At its core and from its inception the “pro-life” movement has been driven by the biblical mandate that women must leave it up to god to decide how many children they have. This mandate is rooted in the Christian mythology of “original sin” and its repercussions. As the Bible tells it, “god” created man (Adam) first, and then made a woman (Eve) out of his rib. These two lived in innocent bliss in the “Garden of Eden” until a serpent tempted Eve and Eve tempted Adam to eat the “forbidden fruit.” For this “original sin,” Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise and ever since—so the myth goes—mankind has had an evil nature which has led to all the horrors humankind has inflicted on each other ever since.

Flowing from this—and central to the “right-to-life” movement—a special additional curse is put on women. Right there, in Genesis, the “Lord” is quoted as saying to women, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Later, the Bible articulates that women can only redeem themselves by submitting to men and bearing children: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, providing they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” (1 Timothy 2: 13-15)

There can be no “common ground” with this view, even in the aim of preventing unwanted pregnancies. And, by seeking to find “common ground” here, Obama is just moving the ball further down the court towards enforced motherhood; he is leading pro-choice people away from the fight that needs to be waged for abortion while at the same time setting the stage for another losing battle around sex education and birth control.

What’s perhaps even more outrageous is the fact that Obama — rather than challenging the mandate embedded within the “original sin” mythology that women become obedient breeders—himself cites and legitimates this farcical and very harmful myth. Earlier in his speech, Obama offers a non-explanation as to why “common ground” is often hard to find between, among others, “the soldier and the lawyer” who “both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm” and between “the gay activist and the evangelical pastor” who “both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts.” He says, “part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of men—our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin.”

No. “Common ground” is not hard to find because we demonize those who are fighting to subjugate women, those carrying out torture and war crimes against detainees, or those who want to deny fundamental rights to gay people. “Common ground” is not difficult to find because we have big egos or are too prideful or insecure.

“Common ground” is difficult to find because those who uphold women’s right to abortion are coming from a point of view that is completely antagonistic to those who are trying to take away this right. In the same way, those who condemn torture are coming from a view that is antagonistic to justifying, covering up and continuing that torture. And those who recognize the basic rights and humanity of gay people as well as the need for real education about safe sex are coming from a view that is completely antagonistic to the biblical motivation that sees any sex outside of procreation as an abomination.

As stated earlier, there is no such thing as a “neutral middle ground” between antagonistic positions. Even the illusion of “common ground” can only be achieved when one side capitulates to the terms of the other side. This is exactly what Obama has done.

When it comes to abortion, the “common ground” Obama is putting forward is one where everyone accepts the notion that there is something morally wrong with abortion and where the legitimacy and the very existence of women who are perfectly okay with their abortions is erased. At a time when abortion is very hard to access for a great many women and the freedom to abort is undermined by the mountain of guilt and shame that is heaped on women for even considering this option, Obama’s “common ground” is one which abandons the fight for abortion access and retreats instead to a rear-guard battle to reduce unintended pregnancies without ever even mentioning birth control.

Finally, Obama tips his hat entirely to the anti-abortion position when he says we can unite to “provide care and support for women who do carry their child to term.” Here, in one phrase he accepts the unscientific, anti-abortion rhetoric that refers to fetuses as children. Flowing from this, a woman who chooses to terminate is killing her “child.”

In many ways, the approach Obama has taken to abortion—and what he mapped out in his speech—could prove even more dangerous to women’s rights and women’s lives than the religious fascists who were gathered at the gate. This is because Obama is dragging along many women and men who ought to know better—who, if there were outright attacks on the legality of abortion very well might be up in arms, but who are being lullabied to sleep by Obama’s calm and reasonable tone as he barters away women’s fundamental rights.

It is imperative that people see this speech, and Obama’s position overall, for what it truly is. It is not a reasonable middle ground, but a step-by-step waltz into a world with fewer and fewer rights for women and less and less ground to stand on to resist. It is urgent that people bring forward a new framework: one that values the lives of women above fetuses, one that sees the positive value in women being enabled to live full social lives including by controlling their own reproduction, one that recognizes that this is good for society as a whole.

Common Ground on Late-Term Abortion: Anguish
The Killing of Dr. George Tiller Has Rekindled an Old Debate, but Partisans on Both Sides Acknowledge Each Other's Pain
By Stephanie Simon
In a faceless building by the freeway, George Tiller performed thousands of abortions a year. Some of his patients were well advanced in pregnancy -- seven, eight, even nine months along. And so his clinic became a battleground. Fewer than 1% of all abortions in the U.S. -- perhaps 1,000 a year -- are performed late in the second or third trimester. But they are a potent symbol of a deep cultural divide. In the abortion debate, little elicits more emotion than the idea of killing a viable fetus, weeks or even days from birth.

Dr. Tiller was killed in church Sunday, and an antiabortion protestor has been charged in the case. In the days since, even as they condemn the violence, some abortion opponents have held up Dr. Tiller as a symbol of the worst excesses of a culture they believe devalues human life -- a culture of "abortion on demand." Many of Dr. Tiller's patients have praised him, through tears, as a hero who put his life at risk to help them through their darkest hour.

The bumper-sticker slogans in the abortion debate pit the right to choose against the right to life. Many Americans, though, seek a middle ground. But where to draw the line? At what point does the fetus's interest outweigh the mother's? Looking closely at the extremes of the debate -- at the decisions made in the Wichita clinic -- can help define the stakes.

Both sides agree on one thing: Late-term abortions are anguishing. Nearly all the late-term abortions at Dr. Tiller's clinic involved fetuses that were deformed or disabled in some way, said Peggy Bowman, who worked at the clinic as a top aide to Dr. Tiller for a decade. Some mothers had painted nurseries, set up cribs, purchased tiny booties -- only to get the devastating news, late in pregnancy, that their babies had genetic deformities. So they found their way to the Wichita clinic, where they typically paid Dr. Tiller thousands of dollars to inject a needle into their wombs to stop their babies' hearts. Dr. Tiller also took some late-term patients with healthy fetuses. Though the clinic's medical records typically remain confidential, he said they were only the most desperate cases: very young girls, victims of rape, drug addicts, women in abusive relationships. "The idea that someone would get a late abortion so she fits in her prom dress is outrageous," he once said in an interview.

The procedures are expensive, generally at least $6,000 cash, upfront, though some are covered by insurance. There are risks to the mother -- 8.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 late-term abortions, compared with 7.1 deaths per 100,000 births, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal abortion but is regarded by both sides in the debate as a reliable source of statistics. Late-term abortions also are grueling. In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on one late-term procedure, sometimes called "partial-birth abortion," in which the physician begins to deliver the fetus, feet-first, then punctures its skull. Doctors are still allowed to dismember the fetus in utero. Dr. Tiller's preferred method is also legal. He stopped the fetal heart with an injection of digoxin, a drug used to treat adult heart patients. Then he would induce labor. Patients said they would wait in hotel rooms through two to three days of contractions until they were ready to deliver their stillborns at his clinic.

Such procedures discomfit some abortion doctors. William F. Harrison, who performs abortions in Fayetteville, Ark., said he considered Dr. Tiller a friend and called him "a very brave and great doctor." Yet he has long expressed concern about Dr. Tiller's willingness to abort into the ninth month. "Some of his practices are hard to defend," Dr. Harrison said. Numerous public-opinion polls over the years show Americans are uneasy with letting women choose abortion at any time, for any reason. The polls, from a variety of organizations including FOX News, CNN, Gallup and Harris, generally show that less than 30% of Americans -- in some polls, just 15% -- believe abortion should be legal in every case, though a solid majority supports keeping abortion legal in most cases.

Over the years, Dr. Tiller's clinic -- just one of three in the country to do late-term abortions -- has been bombed, blockaded and vandalized. In 1993, he was shot through both arms by a protester. Opponents have also regularly picketed his home and the homes of his staff. The "Truth Truck," a white van covered with photos of aborted fetuses, is a familiar sight around Wichita. Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said calling attention to late-term abortions emphasized the fundamental truth that abortion ends a budding life. "We've showed that Mr. Tiller was not aborting a blob of tissue; those are real children," Mr. Newman said...

The Wall Street Journal, page A11 June 4, 2009, Wichita Kansas, Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com
Corrections & Amplifications
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Dr. George Tiller performed an abortion for Miriam Kleiman. A different doctor at Dr. Tiller's clinic performed the procedure. The story also said patients pay up front. Some procedures, including Ms. Kleiman's, are covered by insurance.