Uncivil Tongues: The Bad Manners of the Babykillers

Calling abortion rights advocates “babykillers” is pretty much a no-no in our civil society, and for good reason. Such talk only serves to inflame: nobody likes being demonized so they get pissed and return fire; on the other side, demonization and over-the-top rhetoric just opens the gates for more of the same from the maddened crowd.

On yet another 50-50 issue in a 50-50 country, we just don’t need the noise.

I’m not one to troll the news or the internet for the dumbest, loudest MFers on the other side of the aisle [I’m a gentleperson of the right and I don’t mind] to rail against, but Nancy Pelosi is no mere blogger or even backbencher—the erstwhile Speaker of the House is still the House Minority Leader.

“Under this bill, when the Republicans vote for this bill today. They will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health care providers don’t have to intervene if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling.”

Huh? Not just me, but somebody on her side of the aisle is obliged to say, WTF? If there’s a rhetorical or substantive difference between “babykiller” and “[Republicans] will be voting to say that women can die on the floor” I’d like to know what it is.

Perhaps someone will try to defend her out of culture war loyalty, but on substance, Politico tells us that the bill still provides the customary exceptions for “cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother.” If accurate, that puts Rep. Pelosi’s charge in the neighborhood of a dirty lie, since it wouldn’t permit anyone to “die on the floor.”

And even if Politico isn’t quite accurate here, surely there’s a more statesmanlike way for a top Congressional leader to convince the American people that the bill is imprudent.

[The bill is an attempt to restore the status quo ante Obamacare, where the 1976 Hyde Amendment bans government money being spent on abortions—a position still held by more Americans than not. It was also the goal of the late, great Stupak Amendment, the last gasp of the last Democrat pro-lifers in congress.]

Now, I’m used to overstatement, demonization and over-the-top rhetoric like this from the Pelosis of America: I know even her supporters are inured to it, so numb they barely notice. We barely raise an eyebrow, perhaps whimper a faint protest. But this isn’t right, unless it’s OK for me to start calling her and hers demagoging partisan hack babykillers.

Which I’d rather not. I’m a civil fellow, a good citizen, play by the rules. I’d rather the gentlepersons of the left get their own house in order. Because if they can be held responsible for the incivility and divisive rhetoric of anyone, surely it’s ex-Speaker Pelosi, only months removed from the third-highest office in the land per the 25th Amendment.

There are cynically partisan reasons to hope she just keeps digging deeper and her supporters help: I like to think that the American voter is as repulsed by this sort of talk as they would be by “babykiller,” the sort of rhetoric that’s the last resort of the unreasonable. Abortion is perhaps our most difficult issue of conscience of all, and I do believe that the vast majority of Americans have searched the souls on it good and hard, regardless of their eventual position on the spectrum.

Each side seeks to coax the conscience of the other; “babykillers,” or letting women “die on the floor” are of the same stripe, divisive enemies of the clarity of good conscience that we all seek.

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past contributor to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.


  1. Politico is missing the key part of the story that i assume Pelosi is referring to in her ill-tempered statements. Currently if a woman is at a hospital that doesn’t perform abortions but her life is at risk without one the hospital is legally bound under the EMTALA law to stabilize her and transport her to a hospital where she can have have the treatment she chooses. In the R bill at issue hospitals will not have to do that; they could refuse the treatment the patient wants and needs to save her life but not do anything to allow her to have choose her own path. What that would mean in actual situations? It is unlikely but a hospital could refuse to perform a life saving procedure for the mother and do nothing to help her. Or at least they could nothing that the woman wants then wait until she codes and do what they thought was best on her.

    • Perhaps, Mr. Gregniak, although “health of the mother” per Politico seems to contraindicate that.

      But you allow the main point, for which I thank you, that Rep. Pelosi’s rhetoric is inappropriate, if only because it condemns and does not seek to convince.

      As for the rest, you may be right–I look forward to unpacking the specifics, for we must. Which opens the door to the coming crisis of freedom of conscience for the health provider. It’s only on the horizon right now, but it’ll come into clearer focus as every voluntary agency in society is transformed into an Agent of the State, and all matters of personal conscience are subjugated to the law.

      Because this one’s coming, brother, esp in an Obamacare-type overarching political-medical regime. This is no small part of the resistance to such a regime. Bart Stupak knew it, that’s why he made his attempt at a stand and accepted President Obama’s empty promise—“executive order”—that such a thing would not happen.

      For Rep. Pelosi is showing just how empty that promise was.

      Because it ain’t all about money and single-payer and the banal and boring wonkage of how to pay for it—it’s about what the gov’t Leviathan will use its power to dictate about the very meaning of life.

      Bart Stupak knew that and fought against it—I saw him in a town meeting on C-Span and admired him as man of good conscience—but he just wasn’t strong enough. So here we are, sliding down Stupak’s slippery slope, to the oblivion of the conscience.

      • We saw this with Catholic adoption services.

        They shut their doors.

        I imagine that a hospital or two might shut their doors, if it comes to that.

        I imagine that the hospital closing its doors will be seen as every inch the victory that the closing of Catholic adoption services was seen as.

        • Maybe. IIRC the adoption agencies in Massachusetts were fine with remaining open and placing children with gay parents, but the church hierarchy forced the closure.

          If a similar situation takes place with regards to hospitals, I suspect that the lay hospital staff might have more political power vis-à-vis the clergy than the adoption agencies did.

          Similarly, there’s a lot of infrastucture involved in a hospital, while an adoption placement agency is just a couple of offices. I suspect that the most likely fate of a catholic hospital that closes for ideological reasons it that it will be sold to a different owner but remain open.

      • Wait…the R’s try to change a law that has been in place for decades but somehow this is O’s doing?? Oh please save me from the slippery slope the laziest argument in the world. Shouldn’t lovers of freedom and an individuals right to choose be at least a bit on the side of the, you know, patient and her right to choose what happens to her body. In this situation nobody was forcing a hospital to preform a procedure at all. You may have also heard of Medicare/Medicaid and the VA which have been around for years and whatever the hell they mean for the “meaning of life.”

        It is nice that you name check a Dem pro-life person. Now for balance you can note all those pro-choice peeps for the R’s.

        • This isn’t about abortion as much as civility, Mr. G. If you must go to the politics, better to the particulars of the bill in question than R-D grenade toss, which we can get anywhere and everywhere else on the internet.

          Unless you want to play Pelosi, in which case you simply reinforce the point of the OP, and any further participation will be superfluous if not an obstacle to further and deeper principled discussion. Thank you for your reply.

          • What does a coathanger in a closet say?
            In my not so humble opinion, it calls the other side murderers. But subtly so.

            Your civility is fake, and only rewards those clever enough to mask their extreme statements.

            To evoke 9-11 during a commercial about missed 911 calls is probably overplaying your hand, but according to you, it remains civil so long as it is subtle.

          • Here’s the wacky thing:

            According to legislation on the books, there aren’t that many countries with more lenient laws than the US. As a matter of fact, many countries in the EU have much more restrictive laws on the books with regards to abortion than the US does (though I do not know whether these laws are followed).

            There is a lot of space between Where We Are Now and Coathangers.

            There’s Denmark.

  2. I’m pro-choice and I’ll state flatly that Congresswoman Pelosi’s remarks are indefensible. Not just shrill, not just hyperbolic, but the sort of hysterical rhetoric that makes real dialogue between people of differeng points of view impossibe. The idea that Republican lawmakers want mothers in the midst of medical emergencies to be abandoned by their doctors to die on the floor of a hospital is a malignant and shameful lie. Ms. Pelosi is more than smart enough to know it, too; she either just plain doesn’t care, or she thinks that the moral cause of preserving choice somehow justifies this means.

    The honorable thing for her to do is retract her remarks and apologize. I’m, well, not holding my breath.

    A related question: how often are therapeutic abortions — those necessary to save the life of the mother — really performed? More than zero per year, I’m sure, but I suspect that the ratio of abortions done by medical emergency to abortions done for other reasons is quite small.

    • Yes, Burt, late-term or “therapeutic” abortions are quite rare, and warrant their own quiet room to sort out.

      Thanks for addressing the main thrust of the post, and returning the respect for differing opinions on this most difficult of issues. As stated, there are few who haven’t given this much heartfelt and principled thought, and we cannot hand it over to those who can’t or won’t.

    • A quick note on terminology:

      All non-urgent*, elective abortions are “therapeutic abortions.” Not just late term or ones to save a mother’s life. The term “therapeutic” is affixed to differentiate from a “spontaneous abortion”, which is med-speak for miscarriage (ie not an abortion at all as you or I would use the term).

      * – I’m actually not sure what the term is for an abortion that is immediately necessary to save a mother’s life. That may be considered therapeutic or there may be another term for it.

      • Apologies if my terminology is clumsy. I’m aiming at “abortions immediately necessary to save a mother’s life,” which seems like it would be a rare circumstance.

        • I don’t really have an answer on the question (which is why I stuck to terminology). I’ll ask the wife if I get a chance.

          I can say that the full-on year she worked at the pregnancy trauma center, which handled a very high volume of patients (which made it ideal for a training center) it did not once come up. If it had, she would have told me about it due to the politics of the place (A hospital associated both with a public state university and the Catholic Church). However, it’s possible that the cases went somewhere else before it got to her. The university people butted heads with the Catholic people a lot due to the ideological/theological leanings of the latter and the whole thing made it so my wife decided she would never work in a Catholic hospital again.

          I don’t doubt that it happens, but I personally have no reason to believe that it is anything but a very rare circumstance (which doesn’t mean anything if it happens to you, of course). I think that medical indications are more likely to be shades of gray. Cases where it’s in the best interest of the health of the mother to terminate, but it’s not emergency room urgent or it’s not life-and-death*. More like the mother is being adversely affected over the longer term or unable to bear (healthier) children in the future. That sort of thing.

          She’s at work right now and I can’t ask her, so if anyone has more authoritative info, I won’t contest it until I have a chance to ask her about it.

          * – In fact, if I recall, she said that if the mother’s life is actually in peril, the baby is not going to survive anyway.

          • Will,
            I got at least one instance, involving hypertension…
            I figure most of the time when baby and mama are incompatible (due to something like blood type, or what have you), the mother gets told early, and does something about it.

    • the sort of hysterical rhetoric that makes real dialogue between people of differeng points of view impossible.

      If we restrict abortion, the terrorists win!

      Come to think of it, there is some truth in that.

    • The most honorable thing for Ms. Pelosi to do, would be to jump into a cab and then jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d be more than happy to cover cab fare as well as a very healthy tip to the driver for liberating us from this toxic waste of a human being, Nancy Pelosi. Botox=toxic waste.

      One other thing. Gentlemen, a most interesting conversation was taking place up above. Question: Beneath the surface of this dialogue, are we dealing with the laws of thermodynamics? You remember those pesky little Newtonian morsels tossed by the Great One, Sir Isaac. Motion, Inertia, Force. Or, once an object is in motion it stays in motion unless acted upon by other forces. Like one of Babe Ruth’s moon shots that’s still in orbit circling the earth. Or any force applied to an object changes its velocity–it can be slower or faster depending on how it is applied. But the greatest of all has to be for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. If this is true, why are we still having arguments about Theism and Atheism? Does Dark Matter rule the day? If nothing comes from nothing and this ain’t “nothing” brother, we live in a created universe, end of story, case closed. My father was right along–yes, the King of Metaphysics, Herr Heidegger, blew the tops off all you metaphysicians, with the most fundamental, mind-blowing question a human being can ask: Why is there something rather than nothing? It’s an untouchable, unanswerable, philosophical concept but so much damn fun to think about, we’ll still be asking it 100,000 years from now.

  3. It’s encouraging to read where certain Catholic hospitals are refusing to do abortions. Perhaps the Micks will have a decent schism and the baby-killin’ Catholic Democrat wing can have their own Satan-Moloch Catholic Church.

    • Bob, do you mean this “Moloch”? “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

      dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

      angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

      who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

      Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!

      Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgement! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!

      Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!

      Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovas! Moloch whose factories dream and choke in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!

      Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!

      GO,GO, GO, Allen!!!

      • I’m going to leave the Ginsberg up, just because it’s so cool.

  4. I agree completely that demonizing and caricaturing rhetoric doesn’t belong in discussions and debates about abortion policy. It’s an offense against truth, and it’s counter-productive. Neither side will see abortion cease to be a 50-50 issue until one side is more persuaded to embrace the opposition. The proponents of each side can enact all the pro-choice or pro-life legislation they want, but any victory will be fleeting when more or less half the country adamantly opposes the legislation.

    I see four possible outcomes to this culture war: 1) The fighting continues indefinitely, 2) the country becomes predominantly pro-choice in opinion and policy, 3) the country becomes predominantly pro-life in opinion and policy, and 4) some compromise is reached that is sufficient to make both sides relatively pleased. Nasty rhetoric furthers the first possible outcome and hinders the other three.

  5. And yet the Dems that decry Repubs for their lack of civility continue with their own incivility. Dem’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.

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