Yesterday, during committee markup of a probably-doomed abortion bill making its way through the House, Rep. Bob Goodlatte argued that restricting access to abortions creates jobs. “Having new children brought into the world is not harmful to job creation,” he said, himself employing litotes for a job it maybe didn’t need to do. It was a peculiar line of reasoning, partly for the sheer bulk of its verbiage—more on that later—and partly because of its ambitious attempt to connect an old controversy to the political byword of the day. Strap on your chunky glasses, because Rep. Goodlatte is the subject of today’s Close Reading.
The 2012 Republican National Convention begins Monday in Tampa, and the internet is all a-twitter with leaked planks from the draft version of the party platform. Whatever you do, don’t listen. Party platforms are not legislation; they are by definition grandstand-y and ideological, and they are composed by people who can politely be called true believers. You have to be a special kind of Republican to go to Tampa in August. Party platforms composed at national conventions are like the specific words a crazy man keeps shouting at you on the subway: not a prediction of what’s going to happen, really, but an indication of how somebody thinks.
Fellow Ross Douthat hater Miracle Mike Sebba sent me this link to a Sunday Times column in which the spoon-faced conservative explains eugenics. He devotes the first five paragraphs to the dim science of Spencer and Sanger,* but his real purpose is to get us to modern fetal genome mapping. We can do that now—the whole famn detal genome with saliva and blood samples from parents. Douthat compares the practice to amniocentesis screening for Down Syndrome, where 90% of positive results end in termination of the pregnancy. Then he hits us with his thesis:
Is this sort of “liberal eugenics,” in which the agents of reproductive selection are parents rather than the state, entirely different from the eugenics of Fisher’s era, which forced sterilization on unwilling men and women?
That’s some dirty rhetoric from Douthat. He’s got god on his side, but luckily for us we have close reading.
Let’s say that you believe abortion should be illegal, in part because you have carefully considered the civic and cultural ramifications and in part because that’s what they said at your church, where you go with the kids you already have and the spouse who is the only person you will have sex with ever again. I’m messing with you—you’re not going to have sex with your spouse again. Anywhom, you are strongly committed to your anti-abortion position—which you call pro-life, although you are also for the death penalty—but you just can’t get enough people to vote for it. The Supreme Court said that abortion is legal, and even though they’re clearly the most bullshit branch of government, we still have to do what they say. The best alternative is therefore a constitutional amendment, but every time you get the words “abortions will be illegal” onto a ballot, a bunch of people vote against it. They’re mostly college kids and secularists and sluts who live in cities—clearly the most bullshit portion of American society—but, again, their votes somehow count as much as yours. You can’t make abortions illegal because the majority of Americans don’t want that. You must therefore figure out how to make them operatively illegal by passing laws that people don’t notice or care about, so that everyone else in America will abide by what you know is obviously right. For example, you can make a law that says any fertilized egg is, in fact, a person.
If you are a regular viewer of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, which at this stage of American discourse are types of news, you probably already heard about Jon Kyl’s claims regarding Planned Parenthood. During debate on the Senate floor, Kyl said that abortion is “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.” That number turns out to be off by a mere 2900%; abortion is actually about 3% of what Planned Parenthood does, which puts them well below such organizations as Courtney Love.* Shortly afterward, a spokesman from Kyl’s office told CNN that the Senator’s remark was “not intended to be a factual statement.” See, Jon Kyl wasn’t lying: he was merely making a statement that he did not consider accurate but his listeners did, as part of a persuasive argument he conducted in his capacity as a United States legislator. The absurdity of this defense has not escaped the internet, and Senator Kyl has consequently achieved the highest grade of infamy possible in contemporary western culture. He has become a meme.