The Death Pimps II
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Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 12:52:06 AM EST
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIn their avid thirst for the blessing of the Christian right, GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback lined up last fall to prostrate themselves before James Dobson and Tony Perkins. In the grip of his own presidential fever, John McCain soon joined them in espousing the religious right's agenda.

Catholic bishops are frustrated by Rudy Giuliani, who says he is personally opposed to abortion, but would not impose his beliefs on the nation. Some Catholic bishops condemn Giuliani's more moderate position on abortion as "pathetic," saying "he shares the identical position on abortion as John Kerry and Hillary Clinton."

John Allen Jr.... of the National Catholic Reporter, said U.S. bishops who want to withhold Communion from Catholic politicians can find support in Pope Benedict XVI's comments -- made to reporters en route to Brazil this year -- that essentially endorsed the idea that Mexican legislators who voted to legalize abortion have separated themselves from the church.

"If you are an American bishop who is inclined to move in that direction, you're going to feel like the pope has got your back."

With the competition for "values voters" in mind -- as Democrats audition for the Catholic and evangelical vote, as Congress increases funding for abstinence-only programs enriching the war chests of the Religious Right, as Focus on the Family thanks Democrats for Life for voting against their party [pdf link] to support the Mexico City Rule banning life-saving contraception, and as the anti-choice Mellinda Henneberger calls "Pro-choice a Bad Choice for Democrats" in the New York Times -- let's examine the "Culture of Life" in action.

"By their fruits shall ye know them."

Once upon a time, McCain played harder to get.

In his unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination in 2000, McCain called [the Christian right] "the agents of intolerance." ... For a taste of their views, you can visit the Web site of Concerned Women for America (C.W.A.), which bills itself as the "nation's largest public-policy women's organization." Its mission is "to protect and promote biblical values among all citizens," the Bible being "the inerrant Word of God and the final authority on faith and practice." As for dissenters from C.W.A.'s stand on issues like the "sanctity of human life," a handy link to Bible passages explains "why you are a sinner and deserve punishment in Hell."

A woman who dissented from that narrow view of godliness by having an illegal abortion might get to hell sooner than most. That's the only thing that criminalization of safe and legal abortion ever has accomplished through all of recorded time, and all it ever will accomplish -- killing women before their time. That's the sordid little secret that no one wants to talk about, because saying such a thing out loud dirties the whited sepulcher of moral purity. And the truth never matters when power-hungry candidates are selling their souls to be anointed as the chosen one.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingBrownback expressed more moderate views until after he had safely cinched his party's nomination in 1993. Last winter, the Kansas City Star reprinted a 1996 story detailing Sam Brownback's flip-flop on abortion rights. Even the executive director of Kansans for Life said, "He changed his position." Brownback said that "his stand on abortion has often been misunderstood, partly because his thoughts weren't fully formed" earlier -- but now God's senator is definitely 100% right-to-life for everyone but women.

After repenting of his criticism of Jerry Falwell, and hiring a former Falwell staffer for his campaign, John McCain is bent on appeasing any lingering doubters in the conservative Christian camp, since his flip-flops on abortion have become the stuff of political legend.

John McCain, August 1999

"I'd love to see a point where Roe v. Wade is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

Now McCain is all in favor of those "illegal and dangerous operations," the ones that women in the United States used to die from. As Scott Lemieux points out, "while McCain made some egregious panders about abortion when running in a primary in which his major opponent already had the social conservative vote locked up, McCain is in fact a consistent supporter of criminalized abortion."

He said so again last January.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRepublican presidential candidate John McCain, looking to improve his standing with the party's conservative voters, said Sunday the court decision that legalized abortion should be overturned.

"I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned," the Arizona senator told about 800 people in South Carolina, one of the early voting states.
He also talked about his experience as a prisoner of war during Vietnam, and described some of the torture he suffered. His captors "wanted to make us do things that we otherwise wouldn't do," including confessing to war crimes, McCain said.

He and fellow prisoners were beat up for practicing their religion, but they continued to do it. "Sometimes it is very difficult to do the right thing," he said.
McCain is trying to build support among conservatives after a recent rebuke from Christian leader James Dobson, who said he wouldn't back McCain's presidential bid.

A rebuke from Dobson must carry more weight than the lives of women who would be sacrificed to the ubiquitous abortion bans springing up in statehouses around the country like a crop of poisonous mushrooms.

The usual exceptions -- rape, incest, and "life of the mother" -- are tacked on to soothe the unease of "family values voters" gullible enough to believe that those words actually mean something.

Rape and incest provisions in this year's abortion bans submit a woman to interrogation and the intrusive collection of DNA by law enforcement within a narrow time frame -- an even further violation of her person and her privacy.

"Life of the mother" means even less -- much less. Managua, South Dakota, a comparison of the 2006 South Dakota ban with the ban enacted in Nicaragua last fall, examined that deceptive exception in depth.

[T]he Nicaraguan Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics unequivocally stated that the new law would "endanger women and make doctors reluctant to perform life-saving procedures."

"When a woman arrives at a hospital with vaginal bleeding ... we're going to be afraid to do anything," said society President Efrain Toruno. ... "If we treat her we could be prosecuted, and if we don't we could also be prosecuted."

Dr Marvin Buehner of South Dakota writes in the current issue of the British Medical Journal that the South Dakota law poses an urgent and identical danger to women.

"The environment of intimidation here is still so pervasive that neither I, nor my colleagues, nor our state medical association spoke in objection when the legislature proposed a sweeping abortion ban, vetoed in 2004, or when it was reintroduced this year."
He has publicly testified that the law does great harm to women with complicated pregnancies and has worked with the South Dakota State Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to oppose the law for its "horrific medical consequences."

Dr. Buehner ... said there are certain illnesses that require abortion before effective treatment for the woman. Cancers of the reproductive organs could require chemotherapy and radiation best done after the pregnancy has been aborted, he said. Treating a pregnant woman could amount to malpractice.
"You'd end up with a dead fetus, an irradiated pelvis with an immune system compromised by chemotherapy," he said. "And when the woman starts to hemorrhage from her miscarriage, removing the pregnancy from the uterus would be a perilous medical misadventure."

Gynecological oncologist Dr. Maria Bell of Sioux Falls is another doctor who has spoken out frequently, citing health serious conditions -- in addition to cancer, in which she specializes -- such as the retinopathy of severe diabetes, which can leave a woman no alternatives except therapeutic abortion or permanent blindness.

OB/GYN Dr. Keith Hansen of Sioux Falls ... fears the ban could result in the unnecessary death of pregnant women and leave doctors open to a felony charge.
"If somebody has a 10-percent chance of dying, is that what they mean? Or is it 30 percent or 50 percent or 80 percent," he said. "By the time you figure out somebody is at a high risk of dying, they're probably going to die."

In Nicaragua the ban quickly and predictably took its toll, the first victim dying within weeks.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Men dressed as priests protest in support of therapeutic abortion in front of the National Assembly Building in Managua, Nicaragua. [Photograph: Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters]

A Managua hospital allowed 19 year-old Yasmina Bojorge to die of internal bleeding, forced by law to delay life-saving treatment because her 300-gram fetus was still alive.

[The following excerpts are translated from original press reports in Spanish]

After three days doctors at Bertha Calderón Hospital confirmed the death of the fetus and tried to induce a natural delivery, which proved impossible. The young woman developed an internal hemorrhage and died this morning in the operating room.
A local television station showed scenes of the young woman's family crying alongside her corpse and that of her unborn child.

In February a second young woman died to preserve the "sanctity of life." After five days of fighting a raging infection that could not be properly treated while her fetus lived, and then enduring two D&Cs and a hysterectomy that all came too late to save her life, Francis Zamora expired of endotoxic shock.

Text and photo from Nicaragua's El Nuevo Diario

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting "The country's laws have changed," that was the reason why Francis Zamora, age 22, left her three children orphans. Her children do not understand about laws, only that their mama will not be coming home.
Her mother, María Mora Valle, lamented the Calvary suffered by her daughter (inset photo), who had feared dying and leaving her three children unprotected: ... Bryan, six years old; Mariela, five and Wilmer, her youngest, a year and a half.
"They told me that they couldn't do anything, that the laws of the country had changed and that they had to wait until the fetus emerged on its own. Perhaps if they had done the D&C earlier, she wouldn't have died," her mother told us, as she held the toddler in her arms. Her older grandchildren looked at the funeral wreaths as tears ran down their faces.

And what do Nicaragua's "sanctity of life" leaders have to say? Not surprisingly, they sound remarkably like the U.S. bishops, James Dobson, Tony Perkins or the CWA.

One of Nicaragua's top pro-life leaders and the president of the Nicaraguan Association for Life, Dr. Rafael Cabrera, spoke up this week about the harassment and pressure the people and government are receiving from various international organizations and authorities to reverse its decision to outlaw abortion.
He went on to note that the attempt to make a distinction between abortion and "therapeutic" abortion is a sign of ignorance, as "abortion is the elimination of a living baby from the womb of the mother, period."

As in the US, Catholics for a Free Choice (Católicas con derecho a decidir) object that "the Catholic hierarchy has stripped them of the right to make decisions about their own lives. 'It worries us that the Church concerns itself about the unborn and doesn't defend the children left as orphans, or the thousands of children who die of hunger.'"

Before Roe v. Wade ensured safe abortion care, and while John McCain was staying true to his religious values in North Vietnam, the same endotoxic shock that killed Francis Zamora was a too-frequent cause of death for women right here at home. And physicians such as Dr. Eugene Glick never will forget it.

I remember getting introduced to something called septic abortion. It is a condition that is caused by the breakdown of bacteria in an infected site. I remember a woman losing the tips of her fingers because of the endotoxic shock causing the blood vessels to shrink down. It was just terrible.
The image that I retain was that of a 31-year-old Mexican-American woman who died of endotoxic shock with her husband and four or five children around. I see the bed. I see the kids crying and I see the husband crying. It's a strange condition, this endotoxic shock. Your ability to reason and talk is fine. You just don't have any blood pressure and have a blue coloration. We know they're going to die and yet they haven't lost it. The last thing that goes is the brain. The kidney is shut down. The heart's going a little irregular and there's nothing we can do, because the bacteria and clots have gone throughout the body into all the blood vessels of all the vital organs, and yet they're talking to us. It's a sense of helplessness.

That's what McCain, Brownback, Romney and their ilk are campaigning for when they pander for the approval of the pseudo-religious mouthers of "moral values." The continuing push to limit access to contraception and criminalize safe abortion care represents not a return to godliness, but a true culture of death.

Either religious or political leaders operating from such a base desire for supremacy over women, regardless of its toll in blood and grief, deserve to be called exactly what they are -- death pimps.

[Nicaragua protest image: The Guardian.UK]

An earlier version of this piece appeared previously at Talk to Action.

Some are speaking out ...

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said: "To violate human life is always and everywhere wrong. In fact, we don't think it's a matter of church teaching, but a matter of the way God made the world, and it applies to everyone."

... and some are holding their fire -- but according to Frank Pavone, only because they're scared of the IRS.

The Rev. Frank Pavone, leader of Priests for Life, a Catholic anti-abortion group, said he believed that some bishops were reticent because -- after the last campaign season -- many were warned by their legal advisers not to violate Internal Revenue Service rules that prohibit churches from endorsing or denouncing political candidates.

Pavone, of course, doesn't let a little thing like federal tax law stand in his way.

by moiv on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 01:05:29 AM EST

What a pathetic field of Republican presidential candidates we have this time around! Hypocrites, panderers, liars, warmongers and crooks. They're all trying to fake their way through their own Republican litmus testing. But they're flunking. Have the twisted Christians learned their lessons after getting in bed with the GOP? Will they see through the deception and stay home on election day?

by justintime on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 02:40:37 AM EST

The laity is not what it used to be 50 years ago. They have learned to ignore the hierarchy on contraception, and in a personal way on abortion (ie, they get abortions at the same rate as rest-of-population). Then, the pedophile-protecting bishops scandal. I have heard several lay Catholics vehemently objecting to the archbishop sticking his nose into electoral politics in 2004, and I imagine the reaction will be the same or greater in 2008, what with the Iraq and Katrina debacles.

by NancyP on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 08:05:59 PM EST

spent one-thousandth of the money and political capital they expend on wiping out reliable contraception and abortion on opposing war and capital punishment, there would be no executions in the US and Bush would never have dared to invade Iraq.
When was the last time you heard of a warmongering Catholic politician threatened with excommunication or being turned away from communion?
How about Oklahoma's former governor Keating, who has no problem with the death penalty and never seemed to bat an eye at presiding over executions? So far from censuring him for his "anti-life" attitude, the American Catholic bishops picked him for the national board to oversee church policy and investigations of clergy sexual abuse of minors.
Thank you again, moiv. You rock!

by nogodsnomasters on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 05:14:11 PM EST

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