Politician, Thy Name Is Hypocrite

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What’s worse — politicians passing a bad law or politicians passing a bad law while attempting to make it look reasonable with meaningless window dressing?

You wind up in the same place, but I’ve gotta go with the jerks who pretend.

Let’s take, oh, I don’t know, abortion. Sure, lawmakers who vote to ban it know they’re imposing some voters’ religious beliefs on the whole nation. But maybe they can make it look kinda fair.

For instance Mark Ronchetti, who’s running for governor in New Mexico, was “strongly pro-life” until the uproar following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe. Now, his campaign website says he’s looking for a “middle ground” that would allow abortions “in cases involving rape, incest and when a mother’s life is at risk.”

That’s a very popular spin. The public’s rejection of the court’s ruling, plus the stunning vote for abortion rights in a recent statewide referendum in Kansas, has left politicians looking for some way to dodge the anti-choice label. Without, um, actually changing. “I am pro-life, and make no apologies for that. But I also understand that this is a representative democracy,” said Tim Michels, a Republican candidate for Wisconsin governor, when he embraced the rape-and-incest dodge.

Mehmet Oz, who’s running for Senate in Pennsylvania, used to support abortion access back when he wanted the world to call him “Dr. Oz.” But now that his day job is being a conservative Republican, he’s “100 percent pro-life.” Nevertheless, he still feels there should be an exception for cases of … rape and incest.

We’ve come a long — OK, we’ve come at least a little way from the time, a decade ago, when Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, argued it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” And Akin did lose that race.

The backtracking can get pretty creative — or desperate, depending on your perspective. In New Hampshire, Don Bolduc, who’s running for the Senate, was strongly anti-choice before he won the Republican primary. (“Killing babies is unbelievably irresponsible.”)

Now, Bolduc the nominee feels a federal abortion ban “doesn’t make sense” and complains that he’s not getting the proper respect for his position. Which is that it’s a state issue. And that his opponent, Senator Maggie Hassan, should “get over it.”

These days, it’s hard to sell an across-the-board rule that doesn’t take victims of forced sex into account. In Ohio recently, Senate candidate J.D. Vance tried to stick to his anti-abortion guns, but did back down a smidge when questioned about whether that 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who was taken out of state for an abortion should have been forced to have a baby.

And then Vance quickly changed the subject, pointing out that the man accused of raping her was an “illegal alien.” This is an excellent reminder that in this election season there is virtually no problem that Republicans can’t find a way of connecting to the Mexican border.

As sympathetic as all rape victims are, the exemption rule would not have much impact. No one knows exactly what proportion of pregnancies are caused by rape and incest, but the number “looks very, very small,” Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute told me.

And what about, say, a young woman who’s already a teenage mother, working the night shift at a fast-food outlet, whose boyfriend’s condom failed? No suggestion for any special mercy there. You can’t help thinking the big difference is a desire to punish any woman who wanted to have sex.

Another popular method of dodging the abortion issue is fiddling with timelines. Blake Masters, the ever-fascinating Arizona Senate candidate, originally opposed abortion from the moment of conception. (“I think it’s demonic.”) Now his revamped website just calls for a national ban once a woman is six months pregnant.

And we will stop here very, very briefly to mention that the number of six-month abortions is infinitesimal.

Whenever this issue comes up, I remember my school days, which involved Catholic education from kindergarten through college. Wonderful world in many ways, but there wasn’t much concern about keeping religion out of public policy. Especially when it came to abortion. Any attempt to stop the pregnancy from the moment of conception on was murder.

That’s still Catholic dogma, you know. Politicians who think they can dodge the issue with their rape-and-incest exceptions appear to ignore the fact that as the church sees it, an embryo that’s the product of a rape still counts as worthy of protection.

It took me quite a while to get my head around the abortion issue and I have sympathy for people who have strong religious opposition to ending a pregnancy.

Some folks who hold to that dogma try to encourage pregnant women to have their babies by providing counseling, financial support and adoption services, all of which is great as long as the woman in question isn’t being forced to join the program.

But anti-abortion laws are basically an attempt to impose one group’s religion on the country as a whole. It’s flat-out unconstitutional, no matter how Justice Samuel Alito feels.

And the rape-or-incest exception isn’t humanitarian. It’s a meaningless rhetorical ploy intended to allow politicians to have it both ways.

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