Bucking Big Tony
moiv printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 03:29:09 AM EST
This Monday, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins came out swinging.

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USA Today this morning gave front-page treatment to a story on the possible consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court amending its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion. "Rules on abortion may depend on where you live," headlined the newspaper. NARAL's Kellie Copeland is quoted saying "[We] feel the fight is coming back to the states." ... What this points to is the impact that the pro-life movement has had on the nation--more states than not would stand on the side of life, showing how far out the courts are on this issue of abortion. Pro-abortionists are growing desperate attempting now not only to silence the voice of the unborn but those that advocate for them as well.

Ummm ... well, Tony, not quite.  Apparently fearing the same firestorm of a backlash that now has quite a few of the heroes of the South Dakota legislature scrambling to defend themselves even against more moderate challengers within their own party, plenty of their co-advocates in statehouses around the country are smelling smoke on the wind ... and prudently silencing themselves.  

The ostensible inspiration for Perkins' rant was Sally Jacobsen of Northern Kentucky University, a professor forced into early retirement after "inviting" some of her postgraduate students to exercise their own right to free speech by pulling up 400 crosses planted on the university campus by a "Right to Life" group.  

[photo removed by request of copyright holder. -- moiv]

But more germane than Perkins's fake snit over a sexagenarian teacher's "lawlessness" is the map heading USA Today's story: 'Roe v. Wade': The divided states of America .  

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On the surface, things seem to be looking pretty good for Tony and his friends.  But a 50-cent tour of some red state legislatures explains why Tony's collar is feeling a little tight these days.

Louisiana's abortion bills promise fireworks, but to what end?

Two lawmakers have filed bills in the current legislative session that would ban abortion and penalize doctors who perform them.
[A]ctivists for and against abortion rights agree on one thing: a Louisiana abortion ban will go nowhere. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, a routine opponent of any restrictions on abortion, is not bothering to go through the motions of testifying against the substance of the bills.
Some anti-abortion legislators agree, though they're reluctant to say it publicly. They can't oppose the measures, for fear of angering their anti-abortion constituents. And only a few will admit that passage of a ban would be little more than a show.
Louisiana isn't the only state following South Dakota's lead. Nine other state legislatures have similar legislation. In Mississippi, an abortion ban passed both houses but died in a conference committee.
The last time Louisiana passed an abortion ban was 1991. It was later struck down in the courts.

Rep. Peppi Bruneau, a 30-year veteran of the state House, recalled that legislators could get little else done that year. Abortion was on everyone's mind.

"It dominated everything," said Bruneau, R-New Orleans. "It became the dominant issue of the session."

Not this time around. Not in Louisiana, and not in several other places.  In the weeks since the nation was rudely jolted awake over the South Dakota ban, an impressive number of  previously reliable "pro-life" legislatures have allowed anti-choice bills to be put down without more than a token whimper.  

Home to the fanatical Senator Tom Coburn, Oklahoma has one of the most rabidly anti-choice Congressional delegations in the country, but you'd never know it if you were sitting in the statehouse in Oklahoma City.

A series of House-passed anti-abortion bills deemed to be punitive by some Democratic state senators went unheard as a deadline expired today for hearing House measures in Senate committees.

Senator Bernest Cain did not place any of the bills on the agenda for the final meeting on House legislation of his Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The Oklahoma City Democrat says the Legislature passed a comprehensive abortion program last year that included parental notification and he considers the new bills "just piling on."

Cain says he considers the bills sent over from the House to be "more political" than a serious attempt to address the problem.

Senate Republican leader Glen Coffee of Edmond said he was disheartened that Cain's committee didn't consider the bills. Coffee says it's Democrats who are playing politics.

Indiana Right to Life blames the longtime Republican Senate leader for killing a bill that would have compelled doctors -- in defiance of medical evidence -- to tell women seeking abortion care that life begins at conception and that a fetus probably feels pain.

The Indiana Right to Life Political Action Committee said Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton, R-Columbus, refused to ensure that a floor vote on the bill was taken before midnight on March 14, the deadline for the 2006 session to end.
"Since the end of the session, much finger-pointing has occurred to try to shift the blame for the defeat of this legislation, but the buck stops with Senator Garton," said Mike Fichter, PAC chairman of Indiana Right to Life.
Fichter said Garton could have used his leadership position to bring that final version of the bill to a vote before the session ended.

Instead, Fichter said, Garton "went out of his way to placate a group of over one dozen moderates in the Republican Senate caucus to do everything within their power to kill this legislation."
Garton ... said he was prepared to vote for it had time not run out on the session.

But somehow, the time for that sure thing of an "Aye" vote just never came.

And other issues near and dear to the hearts of Tony Perkins and his "Values Voters" haven't even gotten that far. Kansans for Life - after heartily supporting a proposal to add graphic descriptions of abortion procedures and fetal pain misinformation to high school sex education classes - suddenly decided that it wasn't such a good idea after all.

The state's largest anti-abortion group is backing off on a proposal to require abortion education in Kansas classrooms.

Kansans for Life reported in a news release this weekend that it wants to make a current bill non-controversial by removing a proposal to educate Kansas students about abortion procedures.

Right now, lawmakers are considering an amendment that would require schools to add descriptions on all methods of abortion, when offering pregnancy-related instruction. That information was to include the probable physical sensations or pain a fetus feels.

That's the first adjective that comes to mind when one considers KFL's legislative agenda, all right -- non-controversial.  The Kansas House added classroom antiabortion propaganda to what began as a Senate bill designed to help Attorney General Phill Kline harass Kansas doctors even more viciously, and then passed the amended bill back to the Senate - where Kansas senators thought twice about reaping a whirlwind of opposition from furious parents.

The Kentucky Legislature -- where earlier this year there was talk of a ban to rival South Dakota's - toughened Kentucky's "informed consent" law to require women to see a doctor in person for counseling 24 hours prior to an abortion, but its hard-line members failed in an attempt to impose restrictions that are now considered standard in many other states .

The Senate added provisions requiring women to sign a form certifying they had been offered the counseling, that they consented to the abortion "knowingly and willingly" and were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It also specified the form women signed must be retained in the physician's office for 20 years and would be available to the state Inspector General for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services "or any other person authorized in writing by the secretary of the cabinet."

Nope, sorry, not this year.

And in Tennessee, a proposed constitutional amendment to remove any guarantees of a right to an abortion within the state's constitution just shriveled up and died in committee.

The friends of Tony Perkins had held high hopes for Mississippi this year. Mississippi was widely expected to follow on the heels of South Dakota, and indeed a state abortion ban was considered to be a fait accompli - with the only question being whether exceptions would be allowed for those twin bugaboos so loved by hypocrites everywhere: rape and incest.  But something funny happened on the way to final passage.  As usual, the official excuse was "we just ran out of time" - but as reported by the Jackson Free Press, Mississippi's solons were thrown for a loop when Rep. Steve Holland [D-Plantersville], who authored the ban language and appended it to a milder bill, decided that it was time for them to put up or shut up.

Republicans in Mississippi have repeatedly used support of abortion rights as a weapon against Democratic opponents, especially in competition for conservative voters.

Holland said he sought to disarm pro-life Republicans in upcoming elections by throwing them an abortion ban bill that they would be forced to duck.

Image hosting by Photobucket Holland's cooperation was required in order to revive the bill's chances, but a commenter on the Free Press blog quoted Holland as saying, "I plan to sit back on my big a** and let it die."

The editors of the Clarion-Ledger summed the situation up nicely.

This was more of an exercise in politics than policy. Mississippi already has one of the most restrictive laws in the nation.

This is a constitutional issue that must be decided by the Supreme Court. Nothing the Mississippi Legislature does is really relevant, except for pandering.

Next year is an election year. The bill provided a "wedge" issue for politicians.

When put to the test, despite all their "pro-life" posturing, Mississippi's pandering politicians found themselves sitting on a bigger wedge than was comfortable.

If you've picked up on the general trend by now, rest assured that Tony Perkins has it engraved on his shriveled little soul.  Maybe that's why last week's headlines blared "Flag burning, gay marriage, abortion top GOP election agenda."

Between now and the November elections, Republicans are penciling in plans to take action on social issues important to religious conservatives, the foundation of the GOP base, as they defend their congressional majority.
"It seems like for only six months, every two years -- right around election time -- that we're even noticed," said Tom McClusky of the Family Research Council.

"Some of these better pass," he added. "You notice when it's just lip service being paid."
[C]onservatives issued a concise warning last month. Four groups representing evangelical Christians said an internal survey found that 63 percent of "values voters" -- identified as evangelical Christians whose priorities include outlawing abortion and banning same-sex marriage -- "feel Congress has not kept its promises to act on a pro-family agenda."

The Family Research Council, which headlined the survey, also announced it would hold a "Values Voter Summit" in September to "raise the bar of achievement for this Congress." At the top of the agenda could be a call for new leadership in Congress if those in power have not acted on social conservatives' issues.

Tony Perkins to Republicans in Washington: "When you run a saloon in Chicago, you buy your beer from Big Al."

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But it ain't necessarily so in Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Topeka, Frankfort, Nashville or Jackson.

[Capone image from Vernacular Photography]

state legislators ought to get Brownback and Frist into a good 12-step program to wean them off Big Tony's Kool-Aid.

by moiv on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 04:17:20 AM EST

And other issues near and dear to the hearts of Tony Perkins and his "Values Voters" haven't even gotten that far. Kansans for Life - after heartily supporting a proposal to add graphic descriptions of abortion procedures and fetal pain misinformation to high school sex education classes - suddenly decided that it wasn't such a good idea after all.

They had good reason for backing off this, I'd say.  By mandating that "The information must include "the probable physical sensations of pain a fetus feels or detects" during the various procedures." they were opening themselves up to a huge blow if the preponderance of scientific evidence ever concluded that fetuses CANNOT feel pain at a certain age or earlier.  That would create a clear border of personhood in many people's minds: cell cultures do not feel pain.  Persons do.  This of course would undermine their core theology, that life and personhood begins at conception, so poof goes the measure.

by jarandhel on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 02:39:08 PM EST

from a friend that the strongly anti-choice Alabama legislature seems to have dived into the bunker as well.

Our state lege adjourned last night with all bills further restricting or prohibiting abortion in AL 'killed', for this year.

Maybe they just (::cough, cough::) ran out of time.

by moiv on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 07:36:10 PM EST

to see what Roy Moore and his theocratic slate of candidates have to say about this.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 09:26:34 PM EST

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