Surprisingly, some of the stupidity is coming from the federal bench.
Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., blocked President Obama’s executive order to expand embryonic stem cell research. His eminence declared that the order violated a ban on the use of federal money for research that destroys embryos.
His ruling is from the right-wing playbook. Destroying an embryo is destroying life, a sacred taboo of anti-abortionists. “Murder most foul!” they cry.
No moral or ethical issue is at stake here. What is at stake is the betterment of the lives of thousands of living human beings.
Moreover, the judge’s legal interpretation flies in the face of 11 years of policy by Republican and Democratic administrations. Congress has never disputed the policy.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, rightly deplored the ruling.
“This decision has the potential to do serious damage to one of the most promising areas of biomedical research just when we were gaining momentum,” Collins said. “It just pours sand into that engine of discovery.”
That discovery engine holds promise for sufferers from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, strokes, spinal cord injuries and diabetes in young people.
The decision was aptly described in a New York Times editorial as “a huge overreach.” An appellate court thought so too, ordering federal funding to continue while it considers Judge Lamberth’s order.
The stay delighted Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, because it allows “important lifesaving research to continue.”
One other point: while judges so often thwart the tyranny of the majority, they also allow their politics to intrude on decision-making. Lambreth was appointed by the reactionary President Reagan.
Meanwhile, states continue to squeeze the right to abortion like a boa. Abortion is legal—but barely in many regressive states. The obstacles and barriers are getting ever harder and higher.
Tennessee enacted two anti-abortion laws. One banned abortion insurance coverage, the other required clinics to post signs declaring it illegal to coerce women into having an abortion.
Nebraska has banned all abortions after 20 weeks on the bogus theory that the fetus can feel pain after five months. Utah passed a law making it a crime for a woman to pay a man to beat her into a miscarriage.
Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill requiring abortion providers to fill out a 10-page questionnaire on each abortion and post details on the Web. Arizona is demanding stricter reporting requirements for abortion doctors.
Some state legislatures are forcing women to undergo biased counseling, giving inaccurate and misleading information about condoms and disease prevention. They are pushing legislation allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control.
Twenty states have passed laws requiring ultrasounds, hoping to deter abortions when women see and hear lurid depictions of the fetus. Some states are considering increased waiting periods.
These restrictions, harassments and intrusions on privacy are vastly eroding Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The aim of anti-abortionists is “to get five,” the five justices needed to overturn Roe.
Reversal would be disastrous. Aside from the desperate need for abortion by some women -- medically, financially and psychically -- “repeal” would lead to back-alley abortions and other fatal measures.
So any undecided justice needs to heed the words of Dorothy Samuels, New York Times editorial writer: “The painful decision to end a pregnancy should be made in private between a woman and her doctor, not in politically driven debate by state legislators.”
Meanwhile anti-abortionists are winning the public relations battle. A retrograde Supreme Court in 2007 upheld a federal ban on late-term abortion, which PR by right-wingers turned into the horrible-sounding partial birth. (Late-term abortions are essential to save women’s lives and to prevent the birth of deformed children.)
Opposition to abortion has been led by the puke-inducing pundits of the airwaves—all of them men. They labeled the Tiller abortion clinic in Wichita, Kan., a “death mill” and a “baby killer.”
Dr. George Tiller was killed in 2009 by an anti-abortion fanatic. His clinic is now closed, a clinic that was a godsend to many women.
Seven other abortion doctors have been killed in the war zone. Abortion clinics have been fire-bombed, targeted by arsonists and victimized by vandals.
Clinic staffers have been stalked and assaulted verbally and physically.
Good Christians, presumably, committed these crimes. Nevertheless they are terrorists.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.