But I suspect the heinousness of this latest attack is no accident. The conservatives understand the art of negotiation and I think they have put this provision in there for the express purpose of creating a firestorm, drawing the attention of the pro-choice groups and then "reluctantly" giving it up in exchange for the Democrats giving in on all the other, less sexy, changes they really want. Changes which will restrict abortion for far more people throughout the country than this rape redefinition ever would.
Too often in the past we have fallen for this kind of distraction. She goes on.
The fight to extend the Hyde Amendment and make it the permanent law of the land has been going on for more than 30 years. It has been a hard fought battle, with the forces for women losing in increments, over and over and over again, mostly due to the fact that they've been used as bargaining chips in "more important" battles. Frederick Clarkson wrote a great piece about this battle a while back at Religion Dispatches which is well worth reading in its entirety, if you aren't aware of this history:
They are going to be willing to lose on this in order to claim some crafty bi partisan victory by getting rid of this provision. It is like being distracted by a shiny object in the street while a Mack truck comes barreling down toward the baby carriage in the cross walk.
The whole bill is 100 times more dangerous than the narrowing the rape exception, as awful as that is is. And it is awful....it is not the worst part of the bill. We need to focus on the whole, far more dangerous bill. Do not be distracted. It's what the magician does when he's sawing the pretty lady in half. Don't fall for the trick or trying to save one pretty lady.
I don't want to "win" by changing the rape exception, ( and the incest exception) back to what it has been, but then pass the whole bill. Nor do I want to "win" without having an argument on the whole bill.
You win the rape argument, you help anywhere from hundreds to maybe thousands of women. But you lose the argument on the rest of the bill, you lose the ability to get an abortion for MILLIONS of women. I would rather lose that battle and win the war. Winning the war means defeating the ENTIRE bill so the rape provision disappears as well.
I would rather make sure that the radical ideas underlying the whole bill get a very thorough debunking. And radical and far reaching they are. As KagroX said so insightfully.
Take the rape provisions out, and you're left with a bill that paves the way for using the tax code to select every American's health care options for them, direct from Washington.
I will go into that tomorrow in the last post on this.
NOW, IF the rape exception is used to discredit the intentions behind the entire bill and it is used to highlight the animosity the right wing has to ALL WOMEN, then use the rape exception. That would be great to use it that way. But the movement, the choice movement and those who support us must not let the tail wag the tiger. What history has shown is that when only one part of a complex bill gets ALL the attention, then that is all that may get better.
Winning only on the rape exception is losing.
The best way to win on the whole bill is to play offense not defense. The best way to defeat the whole bill is to go after the Hyde amendment. This bill is once more outflanking the choice community who is still trying to recover from the Stupak induced losses. It would be really good if the national groups would learn how to play offense.
Secondly it would be a hell of a lot better if our friends in Congress would focus on the bigger loss, not this smaller distraction which the right will oh so "gudgingly: give up. They are willing to lose small to win big.
As digby says
So now we are dealing with a new congress that is determined to pick up where the health care bill left off. And it appears that the Democrats are getting distracted by the bright shiny object and failing to engage on the real issue the Republicans are targeting, which is a further restriction on abortion rights and the final codification of Hyde. And as usual, I have to wonder if they can possibly be this dumb or if they are preparing to cave as part of their ongoing quixotic strategy to find "common ground" going into 2012. Indeed, considering the president's comments about "tradition" I have to think he would be more than willing to entertain a bipartisan agreement on this issue. There is no reason to believe that he won't sign the bill. (Of course, he and the Democrats can heroically take credit for ensuring that there was no "rape" provision, so we'll all be asked to cheer our team for the good work they are doing on our behalf.)
In my view, if there is to be any chance that this "compromise" doesn't happen, pro-choice groups should not play this game at all. They should not play their designated role in this as Wasserman-Shultz did yesterday and instead demand that Hyde be rolled back completely. It is an unconscionable exception to every other law in this land in that it allows individuals and institutions to decide their "consciences" don't allow them to pay taxes for a specific program. (The irony of this happening at the same time that liberals are fighting like wildcats for the health care mandate is more than I can take.)
Let's talk about radical demands. REPEAL THE HYDE AMENDMENT If we compromise around the rape exception, we get this bill that denies millions of women access to abortion. If we want a good compromise so that this bill doesn't pass, let's widen the debate. Let's do what the right has successfully done for 30 years. REPEAL THE HYDE AMENDMENT.
Think like the generals at the battle of Salamis, Actium and throughout the ages. Outflank them. Demand the repeal of the Hyde amendment so that for the first time in 30 years, the middle will have moved back to where it began.