Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

Christine Rousselle reports on Sen. Ben Sasse’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, his response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legalization of abortion in New York up to birth and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed bill which would have allowed abortion throughout pregnancy, including for women actively in labor:

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) has announced that he will introduce the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act to the Senate on Monday, and is calling for a voice vote to pass the measure.

Sasse announced on Thursday that he is beginning the Rule 14 process, which would bring the bill directly to the Senate floor and bypass the normal committee consideration of a piece of legislation. He said that he hopes his bill will be passed by a unanimous voice vote.

“On Monday evening, I’m going to be asking unanimous consent–for senators to come to the floor,” he said. “I’m going to ask all 100 senators to come to the floor and be against infanticide. This shouldn’t be complicated.”

Sasse started his floor speech by referencing the “morally repugnant” comments made on Wednesday by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D). In a discussion on a WTOP radio show, Northam addressed questions regarding a bill that would have allowed abortion throughout an entire pregnancy in the state, even when a woman had already gone into labor.

“The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” he said.

The proposed bill was tabled later that day, amid an outpouring of criticism over the remarks by Northam and comments by the bill’s sponsor, Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax). …

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act would penalize doctors and medical professionals who do not provide medical care to infants who survive abortions. The bill is co-sponsored by more than three dozen Republican senators.

The House version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and has 131 co-sponsors, including one Democrat, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL).

Although Sasse emphasized that a voice vote should not be complicated, there is a significant chance the bill will run into opposition. When the House of Representatives voted on their version of the bill in January 2018, all but five Democrats voted against it.

Cases where infants have survived late-term abortions are rare, but do occur. Pro-life activist Gianna Jessen was born in an abortion clinic following a failed saline abortion attempt when her mother was 30 weeks pregnant.

In 2013, Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing babies who had survived abortion attempts at his clinic, as well as one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009. He is now serving several life sentences.

Ben Sasse was right earlier this week in saying, “I don’t care what party you’re from—if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.” And he’s right today in saying that supporting the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act shouldn’t “take any political courage.” But it will.

Unsettled law

Clarke D. Forsythe writes on Roe v. Wade’s 46th anniversary:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade is as controversial today as when it was first decided. … It is unsettled today for numerous reasons, but three stand out: the extreme scope of the court’s nationwide legalization of abortion; the inherent defects that the Supreme Court recklessly built into Roe; and the persistent pressure of the cause for life year after year, which has aggravated Roe’s contradictions.

Roe’s abrupt legalization of abortion throughout America ignited the campaign against it — but successfully overturning Roe will require understanding and emphasizing the defects of the decision. Many of these defects are hidden below the surface of the court’s opinions in Roe and the important companion case, Doe v. Bolton, which was decided the same day. Neither Roe nor Doe had any trial or evidentiary record about abortion, its risks or its implications. Without such evidence, the justices floundered in their understanding of basic scientific and legal questions, and stumbled into a number of egregious mistakes:

1. The justices ignored our legal heritage of protecting the lives of developing human beings to the extent allowed by medical knowledge. …

2. The justices overlooked the growing science of fetology that was underway. Well-documented briefs were filed showing the growing medical data on fetal development. Dorothy Beasley, the attorney representing Georgia in Doe v. Bolton, told the justices in December 1971 that “the State has a greater obligation to protect that fetal life” than ever before. “There are more methods now that can be used to protect it,” she added, “including blood transfusions and surgery while it’s still in the womb.”

Unfortunately, Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion in Roe casually dismissed the science and “the well-known facts of fetal development,” and instead stated, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” …

3. Roe had no foundation in precedent, as numerous legal scholars have recognized.

4. The justices relied on falsehoods about the relative safety of abortion. Anxious for anything that would support their decision, they cited unreliable data about abortion safety from Soviet Bloc countries dating back to the 1950s. Despite the lack of evidence, the justices adopted a mantra — that abortion was safer than childbirth — and that premise shaped major planks of Roe and Doe, including broad deference to abortion providers. …

5. The justices ignored a critical distinction about personhood: Whether or not he or she was recognized as a constitutional “person” and specifically protected against the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, the unborn child was recognized as a human being and increasingly protected against private action by property, tort and criminal law.

Through the briefs and oral arguments, the justices were informed about legal developments that protected the unborn child from conception. As one federal court wrote in 1946, “From the viewpoint of the civil law and the law of property, a child en ventre sa mere [in the mother’s womb] is not only regarded as a human being but as such from the moment of conception — which it is in fact.” …

6. The justices arbitrarily chose fetal viability as the measure of legal protection, despite the fact that viability was not historically the standard of fetal protection. Listen to the original oral arguments in Roe and Doeat www.oyez.org: The word “viability” was never mentioned once in four hours of argument. No party or organization urged the court to extend the abortion “right” to viability or beyond. …

7. The companion case of Doe v. Bolton, decided with Roe, radically expanded the “abortion right” throughout pregnancy. The court required the 50 states to allow abortion “where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” At the same time, it defined the “health” exception as “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” Thus, Roe and Doe set the United States apart as 1 of only 4 nations (of the nearly 200 across the globe) that allows abortion for any reason after fetal viability, and 1 of 7 nations that allows abortion for any reason after 20 weeks.

In the years since Roe v. Wade, obstetric ultrasound machines and other medical and technological developments have permanently changed public understanding about fetal development. Year after year, states have enacted more comprehensive legal protection of the unborn, from conception, in prenatal injury law, wrongful death law and fetal homicide law. …

Abortion is an elective procedure, and in the vast majority of cases it is chosen for socioeconomic reasons. It is not “health care.” Unsafe, a 2016 report by Americans United for Life, documented that 227 abortion providers in 32 states were cited for more than 1,400 health and safety deficiencies between 2008 and 2016. …

In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a majority of the court abandoned the false historical rationale for abortion in Roe but replaced it with the claim that American women need abortion for equal opportunity in society (“reliance interests”). But that claim, too, was flimsy, and factual and legal changes are challenging the court’s assumptions.

Now, for the first time in a quarter century, the court does not have a majority of justices who are invested in Roe as their legacy. Substantial momentum against this legacy has been built through the many efforts in the cause for life, including state legislation, public education and compassionate services to women and their children. As this momentum is reinforced by political victories and pro-life work, expectations are increasing that Roe’s days are numbered.

Clarke Forsythe’s “Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade” tells the full story of Roe and the seven men who imposed unlimited abortion in every state.

Conservation is conservative

Ben Sixsmith write that conservatives would do well to drop their scorn for environmental and conservationist issues. We don’t need to subscribe to anthropogenic climate change to recognize that care and stewardship of the natural world is inherently a conservative impulse:

Mentioning the environment to a conservative is liable to elicit a similar response that mentioning political correctness would from a left-winger: a slight raising of the eyebrows, a slight exhalation of breath and, perhaps, a folding of the arms or tapping of the feet. It smells—it positively stinks—of out-group affiliation. The environment? That’s what those dreadful latté sipping, lentil eating, flip-flop wearing leftists talk about. Are you sure you’re in the right place?

It did not have to be this way. Up until the later decades of the twentieth century, attitudes towards the environment did not fall along tribal lines. Conservationists, like President Theodore Roosevelt, were often conservatives. As environmental causes, like the campaigns against DDT and air pollution, gathered storm in the 1970s, however, conservative were dismayed by the apparent tendencies towards big government and internationalism in addressing them. …

Yet conservative premises could have lent themselves to environmentalism. Conservatives believe—or ought to believe—in low time preferences, prudence and restraint, the fragility of order, and the love of home. … Yes, free market capitalism has enabled growth and innovation, but it is also a force for presentism, insecurity and greed. …

All of us hope to enjoy our lives, of course, but much of what we do to help our fellow men, our children, and our children’s children involves sacrificing our immediate enjoyment for the sake of their interests.

I am not suggesting that the Right has to accept all IPCC predictions, or reject the use of fossil fuels in principle, or eat organic food, or listen to folk music. These are questions that thoughtful people can debate. Yet conservatives—and our unruly cousins, libertarians—must stop embracing overly convenient criticism of mainstream science, and avoid getting drunk off idealistic optimism, and resist the indolent desire to wish environmental challenges away. Our higher virtues of order, prudence, restraint, and what Roger Scruton calls “oikophilia” (the love of home) will be respected and not betrayed if we do so.

René Girard and metaphysical desire

Cynthia L. Haven writes on René Girard:

Armed with a copy of the Iliad and a shovel, Heinrich Schliemann set out to find Troy in 1871. Two years later, he hit gold.

He was vilified as an amateur, an adventurer and a con man. As archaeologists refined their methods of excavation in the subsequent decades, Schliemann would also be deplored for destroying much of what he was trying to find.

Nevertheless, he found the lost city. He is credited with the modern discovery of prehistoric Greek civilization. He ignited the field of Homeric studies at the end of the 19th century. Most important, for our purposes, he broke new ground in a figurative, as well as literal, sense: He scrutinized the words of the text and believed that they held the truth.

“I’ve said this for years: In the global sense, the best analogy for what René Girard represents in anthropology and sociology is Schliemann,” said the French theorist’s Stanford colleague, Robert Pogue Harrison. “Like him, his major discovery was excoriated for using the wrong methods. The others never would have found Troy by looking at the literature—it was beyond their imagination.” Girard’s writings hold revelations that are even more important, however: they describe the roots of the violence that destroyed Troy and other empires throughout time.

Like Schliemann, the French academician trusted literature as the repository of truth and as an accurate reflection of what actually happened. Harrison told me that Girard’s loyalty was not to a narrow academic discipline, but rather to a continuing human truth: “Academic disciplines are more committed to methodology than truth. René, like Schliemann, had no training in anthropology. From the discipline’s point of view, that is ruthlessly undisciplined. He’s still not forgiven.”

I have appreciated Harrison’s analogy, though some of Girard’s other friends will no doubt rush to his defense, given Schliemann’s scandalous character—but Girard scandalized people, too; many academics grind their teeth at some of Girard’s more ex cathedra pronouncements (though surely a few other modern French thinkers were just as apodictic). He never received the recognition he merited on this side of the Atlantic, even though he is one of America’s very few immortels of the Académie Française.

For Girard, however, literature is more than a record of historical truth; it is the archive of self-knowledge. Girard’s public life began in literary theory and criticism, with the study of authors whose protagonists embraced self-renunciation and self-transcendence. Eventually, his scholarship crossed into the fields of anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, psychology, theology. Girard’s thinking, including his textual analysis, offers a sweeping reading of human nature, human history and human destiny.

He overturned three widespread assumptions about the nature of desire and violence: first, that our desire is authentic and our own; second, that we fight from our differences, rather than our sameness; and third, that religion is the cause of violence, rather than an archaic solution for controlling violence within a society, as he would assert.

He was fascinated by what he calls “metaphysical desire”—that is, the desire we have when creature needs for food, water, sleep and shelter are met. In that regard, he is perhaps best known for his notion of mediated desire, based on the observation that people adopt the desires of other people. In short, we want what others want. We want it because they want it.

Girard is probably best known for his theory of mimetic desire; at least, that’s why I know him. I’m reading a lot more about him this year.

Spiritual graces and solidarity

Hannah Brockhaus reports on Pope Francis’s homily from the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, earlier this month:

One of the grave injustices of today, he said, is the vast disparity in wealth which exists in many countries around the world.

“When society is no longer based on the principle of solidarity and the common good, we witness the scandal of people living in utter destitution amid skyscrapers, grand hotels and luxurious shopping centers,” he said. “We have forgotten the wisdom of the Mosaic law: if wealth is not shared, society is divided.”

He pointed out that in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the same idea is applied to the Christian community: “those who are strong must bear with the weak.”

“Following Christ’s example, we are to make every effort to build up those who are weak. Solidarity and shared responsibility must be the laws that govern the Christian family,” Francis urged.

He also reminded Christians that it is a “grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given our brothers and sisters, and to think that God somehow holds them in less esteem.”

“When we entertain such thoughts, we allow the very grace we have received to become a source of pride, injustice and division. And how can we then enter the promised kingdom?” he asked.

“It is easy to forget the fundamental equality existing among us,” he said, “that once we were all slaves to sin, that the Lord saved us in baptism and called us his children. It is easy to think that the spiritual grace granted us is our property, something to which we are due.”

“The gifts we have received from God can also blind us to the gifts given to other Christians,” he noted.

‘I can walk with someone’

Elise Italiano Ureneck writes on her experience moving to Boston, and neighborhood life:

There is no shortage of weighty issues that need to be tackled — human trafficking, drug addiction, sexual abuse and corruption for starters. I often find myself feeling paralyzed by the depth and breadth of the burdens that people bear, of which I am made aware every time I reach for my phone.

My new reality—traveling on foot—has made me consider the merits of scaling back the scope of my responsibility, perceived or expected as it may be.

Excluding my newsfeeds, my world has gotten a lot smaller in radius. It extends only as far as I can walk in a day or as far as the subway can take me. And that reality has created opportunities for encounters with people in the flesh, whose burdens I can alleviate and whose joys I can share.

My regular route to the grocery store now puts me in touch with elderly pedestrians, many of whom need a hand carrying items or help crossing the street. I can’t fix the loneliness epidemic of an entire aging population, but I can walk with someone for half a mile to his bus stop.

And while I cannot rectify a complex and comprehensive epidemic of homelessness, my husband and I can stop every week after Mass and give a cup of coffee to Pat, a homeless man who hangs out at our T stop and likes to take jabs at my sports allegiances.

This is a good follow-on from yesterday’s piece on social and cultural trust. Ureneck provides an example of what greater personal concern looks like in practice, of the sort that can knit communities back together and provide the sort of trust and resiliency that makes a place great.

‘Here we have to schedule them’

Lenore Skenazy writes on “American overparenting,” but I think what is hit upon more fundamentally here is America’s lack of social and cultural trust:

“My daughter always says, ‘Oh, I wish we could have more playdates like in Brazil!'” says Claudia Jorge, whose family of four recently relocated to Havertown, Pennsylvania. “Here we have to schedule them; there she just goes and knocks on the neighbor’s door.”

Tully, the 11-year-old, makes a similar observation about American playdates. “In New Jersey, the parents were watching us all the time. It was kind of weird.”

Jenny Engleka raised her daughter in Mexico, Panama, and Germany before moving back to New Jersey a few years ago when the girl was 12. In Hamburg, she recalls, “kids are traveling all the time by themselves” starting at age 6 or 7. But here, children’s activities are far more likely to be both structured and supervised. “Your weekends are filled up with soccer games. Even for kids that are mediocre players, they’re still quite involved.”

And once they’re in a league, there isn’t much wiggle room. You come, you play, mom drives you home. In Germany, says Molly, the 13-year-old, if someone wants to stay and keep playing lacrosse after practice has ended, she just does. “My sister’s gotten a lot better at lacrosse since she’s been able to go on her own time without bugging my parents about it.”

If the coach is still around, sometimes she—or he!—will take the kid home.

Trust is still normal in most of the world. And something about that trust allows kids to expand. Abby Morton, who raised her kids in Thailand for two years while she and her husband worked there as teachers, still remembers the recycling project one of her sixth-grade students brought in. He’d taken some scrap metal and fashioned it into a working crossbow. “It could shoot a spear!” says Morton, now back in Boston. So she took the class outside and let them try it.

But in the home of the brave, a kid can’t hold a pencil on the school bus.

It’s obvious enough that physical security, surveillance, and locks are inversely related to trust. Strangely, those things are also sometimes inversely related to actual safety, in situations wherein there is lots of security, but those security measures are also frequently compromised or violated.

Generally speaking, I don’t think Americans realize how mislead we are in our media and entertainment culture into thinking that our nation is vastly more dangerous on a day-to-day basis than it really is. We seek an illusory sense of safety and peace, but risk further corroding the fundamental social and cultural trust that’s necessary to sustain authentic peace.

If you want peace, be peaceful. If you want trust, then trust.

Clever Georgetown mural

I’ve written about the value of murals as both public art and as “creative responses to failure.” That is, the physical space for so many murals is a result of a failure of architecture in terms of the existence of “dead” spaces between buildings, or disappeared adjacent buildings, or whatever. Great murals serve not only as forms of public art, but they also stitch some of the aesthetic fabric of our public spaces back together. A great example of this stitching-back-together can be found in Georgetown at N and Wisconsin:

There’s this low-slung little one story vanilla-yellow building, an unoccupied former restaurant where nothing’s been happening since at least September. And there’s this incredible exposed brick wall that towers above the little corner place. Its owners are approaching ownership in the classical sense, recognizing that their property doesn’t justify itself solely by fulfilling bureaucratic minima like filing taxes papers or occupancy certificates, but rather that one has a responsibly to enliven one’s place and, as much as possible, contribute to a sense of harmony in daily life.

Simply, but powerfully, it succeeds. It turns that large blank wall not into a place either for an advertisement or for a loud and bombastic mural that draws a purposeless attention to itself. Rather, with its simple painted windows it acknowledges that such spaces should rightly have such windows. And not just glass orifices in a utilitarian sense, but true windows as places for looking out, with sills where living plants might root themselves. And most importantly, an interested woman and her dog peer out at passersby, as the New Yorkers of Jane Jacobs’s day did in contributing to the life and character and safety of a neighborhood in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and in some way that painted woman reminds one of the sort of neighborhood life we can have again, if we choose to—a life where we know and care about the place we live enough to make it beautiful, and nurture it as a place worth living.

American Youth Philharmonic

Enjoyed my first experience of the American Youth Philharmonic on Sunday at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center in Alexandra:

American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras (AYPO) is a youth orchestra program that strives to provide excellent instruction to the next generation of music leaders and educators in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Students receive training from esteemed coaches and conductors during our Monday night rehearsals, perform in small ensembles for master classes in our Chamber Ensemble Program, and give back to the music community by participating in the Music Buddies Mentorship Program. … Consisting of five separate ensembles — the Debut Orchestra, String Ensemble, Concert Orchestra, Symphonic Orchestra, and Philharmonic — AYPO provides talented young people an opportunity to perform in one of the nation’s premier youth orchestra programs.

Tim Dixon conducted the program, with Peter Sirotin and Oleg Rylatko as guest artists on violin:

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
The Russian Easter Overture—Svetlyi prazdnik, or Bright Holiday in Russian—is a vivid first-hand account of Easter morning service—”not in a domestic chapel, but in a cathedral thronged with people from every walk of life, and with several priests conducting the cathedral service.” This is the first major work by a Russian composer to be based entirely on themes from the obikhod, a collection of canticles of the Orthodox Church—a controversial choice that so offended Tsar Alexander III that he forbid having the overture played in his presence. Rismky-Korsakov uses three original chants, two in the contemplative opening section (“Let God arise!” and “An angel wailed”), and a third (“Christ has risen from the dead”) appears “amid the trumpet blasts and the bell tolling, constituting also a triumphant coda,” as the composer put it.

J.S. Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D major, BWV 1043
The origins of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins are shrouded in mystery. One of today’s leading Bach scholars, Christoph Wolff, believes that this work dates from Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he lived from 1723 until the end of his life. His is a minority opinion, however, and most musicologists support the idea that it is a product of Bach’s time in Cöthen, where he was employed immediately prior to his move to Leipzig. He was there from December 1717 through May 1723 as Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of the music-loving Prince Leopold of Anhalt. Because Prince Leopold adhered to the Reformed faith, his church services didn’t require elaborate music; that freed up his music director to spend most of his time writing secular instrumental pieces such as sonatas, concertos, and orchestral suites.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10
Many composers fumble with numerous first attempts before finding their voice. But some artists succeed in planting their flag early on with astonishing confidence… Written between 1924 and 1925, while [Dmitri Shostakovich] was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory, the [First Symphony] had to wait until the following year before its premiere—but even by that point, the composer was still a teenager. … In the First Symphony we encounter a young artist proudly, exuberantly, even cockily giving free rein to his imagination’s wild but purposeful impulses. Despite the obvious digestion of external influences—Tchaikovsky, early Prokofiev, Stravinsky (Petrushka in particular), even Mahler—a striking sense of a new voice already begins to emerge.