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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marketing the Message

Too many times during this last Presidential election, an important message about conservatism was lost in the debate due to poorly chosen words. The art of communication has almost been lost in the past few generations and that lost art is being exploited by political opponents and forced politicians into the game of essentially not saying anything important in order to avoid saying the wrong thing.

The most egregious and classic example of this was when Todd Akin said:

“Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child”- Todd Akin 2012.

An idiotic thing to say, to be sure, since there is no such clear evidence that the percentage of chance for a pregnancy is any less because a woman is raped.  Lost in the shuffle however, was the argument in the second part of what he said, which was his attack on abortion—being a punishment for an innocent child as an additional crime. He completely went into the weeds on some pseudoscience rather than discussing the heart of his argument about abortion being tantamount to the murdering of a child, which is a far more debatable subject, and the technicalities of the legal differences between statutory rape and forcible rape.

The worst part of it was his using the term ‘legitimate rape’ instead of using ‘forcible rape’ which is a legal term used by the FBI and other government offices for many years to differentiate from ‘statutory rape’.  The left then linked his comments to a 2010 bill which on abortion funding, and the requirements of the bill regarding payments to cover ‘legitimate rape’.

Nobody bothered to communicate properly that that bill was written that way to PROTECT women, not entrap them as feminists claim. You see, many states have laws about rape, and most were redesigned in the last few years. Law enforcement was having a problem with young kids getting laid in the back of their dad’s Chevy being arrested for rape (an 18 yr. old having sex with 17 year old). Under current laws at that time, the 18 year old would have to be arrested for rape if an angry dad called the police about the matter—and the young person would spend years in jail and registered as a sex offender.

Thus the laws were changed—statutory rape in most states now has different classes, typically defined by age between the perpetrator and the victim. A 30 year old having sex with a 15 year old is treated substantially different now than an 18 year old having sex with a 17 year old.

With the law change though, now women who were young and involved in a minor infraction case (they might be 18 or 17 with another 17 year old) could not get abortions in the cases of rape, or were getting them outside federal guidelines—because the pregnancy was now considered a lower class statutory case and the language had been muddled. Therefore the funding laws had to clearly define rape and the differences between various statutory rapes and forcible rapes.

Right to life people wanted to prevent kids making bad decisions from having late-term pregnancies aborted under the new rape guidelines. It had nothing to do with misogyny or any other reason, and was the same position the left had on the issue—abortions under law were legal within the guidelines set down from Roe vs. Wade. No late term abortions would be legal or could be federally funded—except in cases of rape or incest. The changes in the bill would now match individual state codes, and allow proper access for minors to abortions, or bar them through the exploitation of loopholes.

Naturally, it was all about the communication and marketing and explanation—Akin was using poor wording and a weak pseudoscience argument to defend himself. The GOP bailed out and burned the guy in order to protect them from the ensuing backlash.

None of it would have happened had the GOP simply clarified and simplified their position on abortion and Roe vs. Wade in the first place.  Conservatism does not seek to ban abortion in the United States, even if some religious right groups do. Justice Anton Scalia said it best, and defined the conservative Constitutional argument on Roe vs. Wade best in a 1992 dissenting opinion:

There is a poignant aspect to today’s opinion [upholding Roe v. Wade]. Its length, and what might be called its epic tone, suggest that its authors believe they are bringing to an end a troublesome era in the history of our Nation, and of our Court. Quite to the contrary, by foreclosing all democratic outlet for the deep passions this issue arouses, by banishing the issue from the political forum that gives all participants, even the losers, the satisfaction of a fair hearing and an honest fight, by continuing the imposition of a rigid national rule instead of allowing for regional differences, the Court merely prolongs and intensifies the anguish. We should get out of this area, where we have no right to be, and where we do neither ourselves nor the country any good by remaining.

In short, since the Constitution does not set a federal standard for abortion it should be left up to the states. There is no legal precedence for a federal standard for abortion, and by setting one, it is dividing the nation further.

Repealing Roe vs. Wade would not make abortion illegal; it would merely revert to state control. Would some states make abortion illegal? Possibly-- but those states would be in the minority and women would still have access to cost efficient abortions. Abortion would still be legal in cases of rape (now properly defined) and incest. Furthermore, some states might even go farther in allowing abortions, opening up other options for women, or in some left leaning states, allowing for partial birth or late term abortions.

Conservatism means smaller government and more freedoms for the people of America. It means more local and state control not federal intervention, which would result in a less divided society and more cohesion on national issues. Most importantly, since laws would be made mostly locally rather than federally, individuals would have more say in the laws that affect them on a regular basis and be less dissatisfied with government in general. 

It’s too bad conservatism is constantly poorly explained by the GOP, and dumped in order for political expediency, or religious fervor. It’s the only form of political ideology that has a proven track record of success.