By Bob Cesca: I've made this confession before, but it bears repeating given the subsequent quote from Michele Bachmann.
When I was in high school, I was a very serious Republican. In fact, I was the founding president of my high school's Republican club. In addition to that, I used to be the conservative voice of the opinions section of the high school newspaper and often sparred (in print) with fellow journalism geek named Carl. It was Carl who gets partial credit for my transformation into a liberal Democrat.
Here's how he did it.
It was one question during a debate about abortion. One interrogative sentence. I remember exactly where Carl and I were standing in the library when he asked me this question: "If your girlfriend got pregnant, what would you do?" Almost without thinking, I replied, "It would be her choice to make -- ohhhh." I had admitted to being pro-choice without realizing I was pro-choice until that very minute. And of course, being intellectually honest, I conceded the point to Carl.
With that one question, Carl had ignited an epiphany of sorts that led me to liberalism. Naturally it should be "her choice." It was so obvious. What was I supposed to do? Hold her hostage and force her to birth our (rhetorical) child? Her body, her choice. (Entering college the following year and learning more about life, politics, science and the world in general continued my liberal awakening.)
Since then, in every political item I write, I always strive to create that one point like Carl had in 1989 -- the most incisively salient point possible that could potentially stir a similar transformation in conservatives who read my stuff. If nothing else, that is my primary goal as a writer and blogger: to either create a similar question, or to provide ammunition for readers to do the same thing.
However, there's one aspect of this story that's an important "x factor" in the equation. In order for conservatives to experience a similar epiphany, they have to possess a spark of intellectual honesty. They have to be able to admit to their inconsistencies and concede to reality. Sadly, many conservatives are so wrapped up in a sports-franchise view of politics they refuse to acquiesce a point or to even recognize the barrage of empirical truths karate-chopping them in the face.
Take Michele Bachmann, for example. She's easily one of the most far-right conservatives in Congress in addition to being a radical anti-choice "pro life" zealot. She claims to be anti-choice since the age of 16 when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down. She voted against funding Planned Parenthood, she supports 14th Amendment (personhood) rights for unborn fetuses thus criminalizing abortion and she introduced legislation to force women seeking abortions to listen to the sound of the fetal heartbeat. Just about as extremist as they the come.
And yet she said this on Meet the Press yesterday:
BACHMANN: What we want is women to be able to make their own choices [...] We want women to make their own choices in healthcare. You see that’s the lie that happens under Obamacare. The President of the United States effectively becomes a health care dictator. Women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care. We want women to have their own choices, their own money, that way they can make their own choices for the future of their own bodies.
She literally admitted to being pro-choice on national television. She might still be anti-abortion, in the sense that she thinks abortion is vile, but she said she's in favor of allowing women to choose what happens to "their own bodies."
Sound familiar? When pressed about reproductive healthcare, just as I was at the naive age of 18, she snapped into the only logical answer: women should be given total latitude over their personal medical choices.
Michele Bachmann is pro-choice.
The only other option is to say no, women shouldn't have any choice in their healthcare options -- and that would sound ridiculous coming from someone who claims to be a small government conservative. And yet so many conservatives fail to see this glaring hypocrisy: they support small government, they're against the government interfering in healthcare, and yet they're mandating transvaginal procedures and telling women what they can and can't do with the contents of their reproductive organs. Total hypocrisy and a complete lack of intellectual honesty.
While we're here, Sarah Palin admitted to the same thing several years ago during her infamous interview with Katie Couric.
COURIC: Palin says she makes no apologies for her pro-life views and opposes abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.
PALIN: I’m saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in.
"Choose" means the same thing as "choice," no? And by saying that she would counsel someone to "choose" implies that she’s in favor of it — "pro," if you will.
Earlier in the 2008 campaign, Palin said:
"We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support."
She's "proud" of Bristol's choice -- her "decision." If she was truly anti-choice and anti-abortion, she would have done what anyone would do if another life was in danger of possibly being killed: she wouldn't have allowed Bristol the decision-making latitude and forced her to have the baby -- with or against Bristol's will. Pro-life dogma mandates that the mother has no choice in the matter.
During a "pro-life" fundraising dinner in 2009, she admitted to considering the option of aborting Trig when she received the results of her amniocentesis. She said she made the "good decision to choose life." Again, a choice. She talked about girls making "the choice to let the child live." Literally the word "choice."
She's in favor of having the right to choose, which, by definition, is pro-choice. If she was truly against women having the choice, she would have said something like, "I had no choice but to have Trig. Choosing wasn't any part of the equation." The very fact that she had an amniocentesis showed that choice was a factor. If the Palins were truly pro-life, the health of the baby would be irrelevant. They should simply have the baby and let the chips fall where they may.
Ultimately, conservatives have totally missed the reasonable position regarding abortion. Instead of banning choice (Palin and Bachmann are clearly against banning choice), conservatives should be making it easier for women to choose "life." They should be pushing for totally free healthcare, and in some cases job support, housing and food, for pregnant and post-natal women -- and their children. If the health and life of the fetus is so important, then caring for that life should be priority number one for conservatives. But they'd rather make the "choosing" process wrought with government intrusions and harrowing mandates with, in the case of working class women, absolutely no means of birthing a child without going broke in the process.
I'm sure there are many other examples of self-proclaimed "pro-life" conservatives admitting to supporting choice. The challenge, again, is to get them to concede that they admitted to it. That's a much more grueling mountain to climb.