The Antiabortion Movement’s Brewing Civil War
Some antiabortion activists were crowing about their apparent victories in North Dakota last week — including an unprecedented ban on abortion at six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant — but, notably, that’s not what Peggy Noonan wanted to talk about on “Meet the Press” yesterday. When Chuck Todd asked her if such legislation “could be what motivates evangelicals again,” Noonan promptly changed the subject. It was no accident.
“The real story this week is the haunting and disturbing story of this doctor in Philadelphia — [Kermit] Gosnell, who is being tried this week,” she said, adding, “This was a man who had an abortion mill, that was in fact a death mill for babies essentially born. Being tried now, we’ll see how it goes. But this is a story that is haunting, about the implications of decisions made by courts.” (In fact, Gosnell is accused of crimes that have never been sanctioned by any court, and appears to have been exploiting gaps in access for low-income women.) The point was this: Noonan, in keeping with the bigger antiabortion groups, doesn’t want to talk about banning abortion in the first trimester, when it is overwhelmingly supported by Americans. They would rather change the subject to grislier, rarer, later procedures. Too bad for them that a growing number of state legislators aren’t getting in line.
For years, a civil war has been brewing in the right-to-life movement, between the absolutists, who want to pass Personhood amendments and “heartbeat” bans that grab headlines, and the careful incrementalists, who are mounting a long-term campaign to stigmatize abortion and make it inaccessible through seemingly common-sense restrictions.