Musgrave’s Anti-Abortion Hit Squad

Despite the fact that, at least in the Interior West, the Republican crusade against abortion has cost the party its political dominance, some Republicans are hell-bent on continuing that push.

As “Bob’s Blog” from the Coloradoan points out:

[Former Congress Member] Musgrave was defeated soundly in 2008 by Democrat Betsy Markey. She was hired earlier this year by the Susan B. Anthony List, which focuses on supporting anti-abortion women running for office, to head a new project called “Votes Have Consequences.” The new program plans to target a small number of incumbent House members in 2010 who are believed to be “out of step” with their districts on issues important to the pro-life movement.

In other words, the goal of the group is to oust social moderates in favor of hard religious-right candidates, who can then presumably follow in Musgrave’s footsteps and lose in the general.

Musgrave recently wrote an article for the Weekly Standard with Marjorie Dannenfelser. Notably, while the two continue to call their position “pro-life,” at no point do they confront the arguments that their anti-abortion position is in fact anti-life. Nor do they make any effort to defend the view that a fertilized egg is a person with the full rights of a newborn.

I will not rebut every claim made in the article, but I will address two points.

Musgrave and Dannenfelser write:

When it came to choosing the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, an obscure but important officer in charge of defining each administration’s official stance with regard to the Constitution and federal law, the president nominated not simply a supporter of Roe but former NARAL counsel Dawn Johnsen. She believes that pregnancy is the moral equivalent of slavery, and that therefore the anti-slavery 13th Amendment to the Constitution protects abortion on demand. Johnsen made this argument in her best-known legal brief, to the Supreme Court in Webster v. Reproductive Services.

This claim by Musgrave and Dannenfelser is simply false. Johnsen did not equate pregnancy with slavery.

Fox offers the relevant context:

In a brief filed when she was a lawyer with the National Abortion Rights Action League, Johnsen cited a footnote that said forcing women to bear children was “disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the 13th Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest.”

And Johnsen is correct. Forcing a woman — and the key term here is “forcing” — to bring a fertilized egg to term is “disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude.”

It is unfortunate that Musgrave and Dannenfelser choose to distort Johnsen’s views rather than present some sort of argument against them.

Musgrave and Dannenfelser are very concerned with allowing medical personnel to choose whether to perform or recommend abortions. (The writers are “pro-choice” when it suits them.) They think “pro-life leaders in Congress” should make sure that any political takeover of medicine ensures this medical right to choose.

But what should trump here is property rights and the right of contract. Hospitals and other medical facilities have the right to set their own terms, and doctors who work their can choose to uphold those terms or find employment elsewhere. A private Catholic hospital has every right to post on its front door: “We do not recommend or perform abortions.” Then potential customers know the hospital’s policies and can choose their health care accordingly.

Notice that what Musgrave and Dannenfelser do NOT endorse is liberty in medicine. The problem is that, to the degree politicians take over health care, politicians set the terms of health care. That is one of the reasons why politicians should not take over health care.

But the religious right does not truly care about establishing free markets (though a few religious conservatives endorse free markets or at least pay them lip service). This is not a surprise, because the entire purpose of the religious right is to use the force of politics to advance their faith-based agenda.