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July 24, 2014 4:35 PM Sticking to the Big Antichoice Lie

By Ed Kilgore

Today’s “news” item that’s no news at all comes from the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters, whose piece has this not terribly factual headline: “Conservatives Write an Assertive New Script to Fight Abortion.”

Peters appears to begin from the premise that most Republicans never talk about abortion at all, which must be news to the GOP legislators promoting antichoice bills all over the country, or to the many conservatives all over creation obsessed with making sure private employers don’t have to besmirch themselves with any involvement with “abortifacient” birth control.

So that mistake may explain why he thinks it’s a big scoop to discover that the prominent antichoice group the Susan B. Anthony List is putting on a “boot camp” to help GOPers talk about abortion. And here’s the not-so-new “script:”

“Don’t let them corner you,” said Marilyn Musgrave, a former Republican congresswoman from Colorado who is a longtime anti-abortion activist. She advises candidates to pivot to the more complicated question of terminating pregnancies after the 20th week, which is now illegal in nine states. Polling also shows that large majorities think second-trimester abortions should be illegal. “Put them on their heels,” Ms. Musgrave added. “Ask them: ‘Exactly when in a pregnancy do you think abortion should be banned?’  ”

Don’t quite know how Peters has missed this, but Musgrave is articulating the anti-choice movement’s basic strategy for the last two decades or so. Way back in 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress enacted a “partial-birth abortion” ban motivated by precisely this strategy (it was vetoed by Bill Clinton, but was revived under George W. Bush and enacted in 2003).

Whatever else you think about this “shrewd” focus on late-term abortions, it’s the Big Lie of the antichoice movement, which universally favors a total ban on abortions, give or take the tiny number performed as the result of rape or incest (very, very few serious RTLers will support even those exceptions). To some extent, this represents an incremental strategy for a movement that was losing ground by the end of the 1980s. But sometimes it’s a deliberate distraction, as with all these state late-term abortion bans that also happen to include “health” provisions aimed at shutting down abortion clinics entirely. You can argue, I suppose, that pro-choicers do the same thing by focusing on the early-term abortions that enjoy high public support. But the fact is 91% of abortions occur in the first trimester, so that’s where the focus ought to be.

In any event, I don’t see anything the least big novel or unorthodox about teaching GOP pols to pledge themselves (as they are constantly expected to do) quietly to the most radical antichoice position possible while limiting their public remarks to the late-term abortions that represent less than one percent of actual abortions. They’re being taught to lie about their views and intentions, and then switch back to the usual stuff about Big Government and debt and The Welfare and so on and so forth.

UPDATE: Got so annoyed at this article I forgot to mention how hilarious it is that Kellyanne Conway is still getting paid to remind Republican pols not to talk about rape! Talk about remedial education.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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