Anti-Choice Balloon Payment Due

You may well consider the manuevering among Senate Republicans over an amendment to “defund” Planned Parenthood as part of a transportation bill to represent just another episode of symbolic Kabuki Theater. After all, pursuing such an amendment would have almost certainly run into the teeth of a Senate Democratic filibuster, and failing that, a presidential veto that Republican do not have the votes to override. So who really cares how far down the road to perdition the amendment was allowed to proceed?

But for serious antichoice types, the answer to this question would be: We do, and thus the entire GOP we’ve been propping up for decades should, too. That’s pretty much the message sent by conservative columnist Emmanuel Gobry at The Week today:

I sincerely believe in the pro-life agenda. And it frustrates me to no end that even as pro-lifers have delivered electoral majorities to the GOP over and over again, the GOP has not kept up its end of the bargain. Five Republican-appointed justices sit on the Supreme Court, and yet Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.

Early this year, the GOP failed at what should have been a simple task: Pass an enormously popular late-term abortion ban. Passing a bill that polls well, and is symbolically very important to your biggest constituency, ought to be the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. But Republican politicians couldn’t even do that.

And now, after the devastating revelations that Planned Parenthood routinely engages in the sale of baby organs for profit — something that is illegal, unethical, and disgusting on at least 12 different levels — GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t bring himself to allow to the Senate floor a bill to defund that activity by Planned Parenthood. Why not? Because he wants to pass a highway bill instead — a pork-laden monstrosity that comes with the disgusting cherry on top that is the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a corporate welfare program that free-market conservative activists particularly detest

The road Gobry wants the GOP to take on abortion legislation will inevitably end at a government shutdown that will backfire on Republicans. And Lord knows Senate Republicans have used every code word imaginable to elicit a negative position on Roe v. Wade from judicial nominees, especially since the Souter “stab in the back,” but hey, the current fly in the ointment, Anthony Kennedy, was the appointee of The Gipper himself, the man who made uncompromising opposition to reproductive rights an unchanging part of the GOP platform.

But I guess if you think legalized abortion is an American Holocaust, as folks like Gabry often suggest, then you’re probably going to insist on results for your decades-long investment of energy, money, votes and agitprop. I mean, if anti-choicers can successfully convey the lie that they are only concerned about a tiny number of late-term abortions that “shock the conscience” of the casual, murder-tolerating Good Germans in the political center–when their real goal is to ban the vast majority of abortions that occur in the first trimester, that do not shock that many consciences–then can’t the GOP contrive some way to get the ball over the goal line? So that leads to the sort of strict liability, “no excuses” demand that Gobry issues:

We should rule with fear. For the past 30 years, we’ve been bringing a hymnal to a gunfight. The Tea Party has shown how it’s done: Don’t like someone? Primary them. End their political career. That’s the only thing politicians fear.

I’m done waiting. I hope you are, too.

Before you chuckle at the arrival of another intra-GOP fight over priorities, keep in mind that if Republicans win the White House and hang onto the Senate, they will indeed run out of excuses for saying “later” to their antichoice activists. Perhaps they’ll be forced to resort to the “nuclear option” to get rid of any possible filibuster against antichoice legislation or the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. As for said nominee, I think we will see an end to all of the dog-whistling about abortion; no matter how much it violates every premise of our legal system to pre-commit judges to a position on future litigation, we’ll see nominees who are all but visibly frothing to overturn Roe. In other words, if 2016 goes their way, the antichoicers may be able at long last to call in what I’ve referred to as a balloon payment on their mortgage on the soul of the GOP

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.