Archive of Articles in the "Religion" Category

Friday Talking Points -- As We Wait For The Debate

[ Posted Friday, June 21st, 2024 – 17:41 UTC ]

Maybe it's just us, but this week seemed like a waiting game. Perhaps the midweek holiday had something to do with it, but everything in the political world right now seems to be on hold in anticipation of next Thursday's first presidential debate. The debate is going to be incredibly early in the campaign schedule, but nobody really knows what this will mean until after the dust settles. Who will benefit the most from the earliness of it all? Well, that all depends on how they do, of course.

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Friday Talking Points -- SCOTUS Season Continues

[ Posted Friday, June 14th, 2024 – 16:36 UTC ]

The biggest political news of the week by far was Hunter Biden being convicted in record time on all three felony gun charges lodged against him. The jury spent only about three hours before returning these verdicts, which completely undercut the narrative Donald Trump has been spouting about how the justice system is "two-tiered" -- by which he means: "weaponized against Republicans while Democrats get a free pass." Kind of hard to make that argument when the president's own son just got convicted of felonies and is facing up to ten years in prison.

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Mifepristone Wins, I.V.F. Loses

[ Posted Thursday, June 13th, 2024 – 15:13 UTC ]

There was significant news today on reproductive rights, from two separate directions. The Supreme Court unanimously (!) overturned a case that challenged the F.D.A.'s approval of mifepristone, one of the two most commonly used abortion pills in the country. The unanimity was possible because the high court essentially punted on the legal question and instead ruled that the plaintiffs had no legal standing to bring their case. Meanwhile, in the Senate, a bill to create a federal right to in-vitro fertilization failed, mostly on party lines. Last week a bill that would have given federal protections to contraceptives also failed. Both will be used in campaign advertising by Democrats to paint Republicans as being against both contraception rights and I.V.F.

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Friday Talking Points -- Shake, Rattle, And Roll

[ Posted Friday, April 5th, 2024 – 17:56 UTC ]

Living in California means not being generally surprised by earthquakes, but we realize that this is simply not so in New York City and the Northeast in general. So when a 4.8 temblor hit New Jersey, we certainly could sympathize. However, it seems East Coast tectonic zones have a certain personality trait that goes (we can't resist) right down to the bedrock? Here was the tweet that the "USGS Earthquakes" account put out this morning:

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The Comstock Act Needs To Go

[ Posted Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024 – 16:18 UTC ]

Up until the advent of Donald Trump in American politics, there had been a pervasive attitude among many politicians that there were certain norms and traditions that had been established and long-followed, so there was no need to codify any of them into actual laws. One of these was the belief among Democrats that Roe v. Wade was settled law and that as time went on it had become increasingly impossible to even consider that it would ever be overturned. The judiciary had staked out certain rights, so there was no need for Congress to enact the same rights -- doing so would actually be redundant.

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Friday Talking Points -- M.T.G. Threatens An M.T.V.

[ Posted Friday, March 22nd, 2024 – 18:18 UTC ]

For once, big things are actually happening in Congress. No, really!

As we write this, the House has passed the final budget bill for this fiscal year (by a vote of 286-134) and sent it over to the Senate. The Senate may pass it tonight, if senators like Rand Paul can restrain their natural urge to be total [insert favorite plural derogatory expletive here]. If they do throw a monkey wrench into the works, we could have a very short-lived partial government shutdown, but if it gets resolved before the weekend is over then it won't do much damage at all. Either way, the bill's got the votes to pass the Senate, so it's now only a matter of time until President Joe Biden can sign it and the budget that was supposed to be in place on the first of October last year will finally be finished.

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Friday Talking Points -- R.N.C. Purge

[ Posted Friday, March 15th, 2024 – 17:29 UTC ]

This week President Joe Biden and Donald Trump both secured their respective parties' 2024 presidential nominations. Most Americans, if the pollsters can be believed (and they do all seem to be telling the same story), are not exactly thrilled with this rematch and would have preferred different choices. But we are where we are, so that's not going to happen for another four years.

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Nikki Haley's Incoherence On I.V.F.

[ Posted Monday, March 4th, 2024 – 16:26 UTC ]

During her campaign for president, Nikki Haley has been trying to have it both ways on the issue of abortion by tailoring the way she speaks about it to try to be everything to everybody. She speaks of bringing everyone together to achieve some sort of "consensus" -- which seems downright impossible given the positions staked out by both sides of the debate. And, true to form, ever since the Alabama supreme court tossed in vitro fertilization into the political arena, Haley has likewise been trying to have it both ways on the legal questions that have arisen. Except that on this issue, Haley has a more personal stake, having had her own children using I.V.F. So when she was interviewed on Meet The Press this weekend, host Kristen Welker tried to pin Haley down on her position. What she got from Haley was complete incoherence. Haley contradicted herself repeatedly, coming down on every possible side of the issue at once. To say she was talking out of both sides of her mouth is actually an understatement.

The legal issue Alabama raised is the question of "personhood" -- is an embryo consisting of four cells a human being with full constitutional rights or not? The court said it was. Which means that destroying an embryo is nothing short of manslaughter or murder, according to the laws on the books. Which is why while watching the interview I was rather astounded that Welker didn't ask Haley a very obvious question that would have highlighted the central issue in a way that nothing else could. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

From the transcript of the show, here is how the conversation started:

[HOST KRISTEN WELKER:] Welcome back. This week, a single Republican lawmaker blocked legislation that would have created federal protections for I.V.F. access nationwide. Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who blocked the bill, said it was, quote, "vast overreach." I asked Ambassador Nikki Haley whether she supports federal protections for I.V.F.

[FORMER AMBASSADOR NIKKI HALEY:] What I support is that we make sure that every parent has the right to have those fertility processes. I had my two children through fertility [treatments]. I want every parent who wants that blessing to be able to have that. And government shouldn't do anything to stop it.

[WELKER:] So, should there be federal protections for people for I.V.F.?

[HALEY:] I think there should be protections for the embryos, so that parents feel like they're protected and respected. But I think the conversation of what happens with those embryos has to be between the parents and the physician, period. We don't need to go and create a bunch of laws for something when we don't have a problem. There is not a problem, in terms of what is happening, so we shouldn't have government create one. This is -- this is not a hard thing. When parents decide they want to have a baby and they can't, the blessing that Michael and I had, to be able to go through the fertility processes to have our babies was a personal one that we wanted to have just with our doctor. We don't want to have that conversation with government.

The verbal gymnastics are breathtaking, even in a single one of Haley's answers. She starts from the position "every parent has a right" to use I.V.F. and the "government shouldn't do anything to stop that." But the government (the court) in Alabama did do something to stop it, which is the whole issue. So should there be federal protections for I.V.F. services and the women who want to use them? Haley does not say.

Instead, she starts doing verbal backflips. There "should be protection for the embryos," which is, incidentally, exactly what the Alabama court ruled. So Haley seems to agree with their decision. But then "the conversation of what happens with those embryos has to be between the parents and the physician, period." Which means the government shouldn't be involved in the decision at all, which seems to argue for federal protections for I.V.F. rights, which would preclude state courts and legislatures from intruding on the conversations between parents and physicians.

Haley's next sentence is vague. She doesn't think there is any problem, so governments shouldn't pass a bunch of laws that create a problem. But that's just what Alabama and all the other states with "personhood begins at conception" laws have already done. Haley blithely states that "there is not a problem," when there definitely is -- just ask any of the women in Alabama who had their treatments interrupted by the court's ruling. Haley doubles down on this for the rest of the answer, stating that I.V.F. decisions were personal ones that her and her husband "wanted to have just with our doctor" and that they didn't want "to have that conversation with the government." But the women of Alabama already had to face this problem, a fact Haley refuses to admit. They had to face this problem because there aren't federal laws protecting I.V.F. rights.

To her credit, Welker then asked a very obvious and pertinent question:

[WELKER:] You're saying that the decision should be between parents and the physician, no one else. Why doesn't that same standard apply to an abortion, for example?

[HALEY:] Well, what I have said is: This should be in the hands of the people for the people to decide. They should decide whether their states are going to be pro-life or pro-choice. They should decide whether their states are going to be I.V.F. or not I.V.F. I personally think we want as many fertility options for people as they can. That's my opinion.

So now Haley is in favor of states' rights -- she's find with "the people" in each individual state deciding what reproductive laws they want to have. But this completely contradicts where she started from: "I want every parent who wants that blessing to be able to have that. And government shouldn't do anything to stop it." She's moved from there to saying that each state should decide whether they intrude on decisions made between parents and doctors, which is pretty much the exact opposite.

Haley then doubled down and tried to retreat to her "can't we all just get along" rhetoric:

[WELKER:] It --

[HALEY:] But other states may decide something different. Alabama was going in one direction. I don't think that's a direction you want to go, the same way I don't think that the conversations that people have been having on abortion are good conversations. They divide people, instead of bringing people together. And I think these need to be handled with respect and humanizing these situations, instead of demonizing them.

This is hokum. It is feel-good-ism masquerading as a serious political stance. Because on the question of abortion (and, now, I.V.F.), people are already divided. It's not "having the conversation" that divides people, it is the issue itself. Alabama went in one direction -- one that is completely at odds with Haley's belief that all parents should be able to decide these things for themselves. But Haley's response is to shrug her shoulders and essentially say: "Oh well, that's what your state decided, guess you have to deal with it." That is not consensus, that is political cowardice.

This is where I wish Welker had asked one more very obvious and pertinent question, at some point in the following exchange:

[WELKER:] You have said embryos are babies. It sounds like you don't want the government involved when it comes to I.V.F., but you do when it comes to abortion.

[HALEY:] My personal opinions is that embryos are babies. Somebody else's may be different. I treated -- the way Michael and I looked at it was we always looked at it that way. But everybody looks at this differently, and you are looking at a situation where, one, you're not talking about masses of embryos, but, two, you've got to talk with your doctor about what's viable and what's not. It's a very technical process that you can't just blanket a law around.

[WELKER:] Well, and that's why -- I just want to get the bottom line here, because, as you rightfully say, I.V.F. is a process in which embryos are sometimes destroyed or donated. Do you support I.V.F. as it is practiced in the United States?

[HALEY:] Yes, of course.

The question I really would have liked to hear Haley answer was: "During your own I.V.F. treatments, were any of your embryos destroyed in any way? Or is every single embryo you created in the process still frozen and in storage somewhere? If so, what are you going to do with them? Keep them frozen forever? Should every parent have to pay for eternal storage for their unused frozen embryos? Or should parents be legally able to opt to discard them?"

This would have really put Haley on the spot. Because odds are ("I.V.F. as it is practiced in the United States") the Haleys didn't save every single embryo created, and that some were in fact destroyed. How would Haley have handled being asked that?

She could have gotten indignant and refused to answer: "That's a private matter between me, my husband, and our doctors." But if Alabama had its way, this wouldn't be a purely private matter. It would be, under state law, a matter for cops and prosecutors and courts to investigate -- to see whether manslaughter or murder charges should be brought.

Haley could have lied and said no embryos were discarded, but this obviously would have the possibility of coming back to bite her later, if she told such a lie and it were exposed.

Or she could have retreated into vagueness again: "It's a very technical process that you can't just blanket a law around." Which is precisely the point -- that both I.V.F. and abortion are personal reproductive choices that are unique medical circumstances to each individual -- and that the government should not be involved because blanket laws always lead to unforeseen outcomes.

Haley then closed with her standard abortion mishmash, which is presented as a practical argument about the Senate and what is politically possible, mixed with a bunch of Kumbaya idealism about what everyone wants.

[WELKER:] And should there be federal protections for that?

[HALEY:] Yes, to make sure that I.V.F. is there, to make sure that parents have it, all of that. But keep in mind, too, even when you're talking about the issue of abortion -- and I don't think the fellows have talked about it well at all -- we have to go back to, "What is it that we want?" We all want to say, "How do we save as many babies as possible and support as many moms as possible?" That's why I've said, with a federal law, rather than going and demonizing this issue, let's find consensus and say, "Why can't we come together on banning late-term abortions? Why can't we come together on encouraging adoptions? Why can't we come together on saying doctors and nurses who don't believe in abortion shouldn't have to perform them? Why can't we come together and say contraception should be accessible? And why can't we come together and say no state can tell a woman who's had an abortion she's going to jail or getting the death penalty?" Why don't we just start there?

[WELKER:] Is consensus realistic, though? This is an issue that's been debated for over 50 years. Is that realistic, consensus?

[HALEY:] Consensus is available when you tell the American people the truth. The American people have been told to have options that aren't realistic. You can't get consensus unless you have a majority of the House, 60 Senate votes, and a signature of a president. That's not going to happen without consensus.

So Haley ends with another contradiction. She says she does want federal protection for I.V.F., which completely contradicts her earlier lackadaisical attitude towards individual states doing whatever they felt like doing, no matter the consequences for women.

Throughout it all, Haley turns in an Olympic-level verbal gymnastics performance. She thinks that what she and her husband did should be available to all women, she thinks government shouldn't even be in the discussion, she's fine with embryos being destroyed, but she also thinks that states should be able to decide for themselves and tough luck to the women who live there, but also that there should be federal protections that would preclude states from deciding for themselves, but it'd be really hard to get consensus at the federal level so why don't we just leave everything the way it is and not make "blanket laws" because "there is not a problem, in terms of what is happening, so we shouldn't have government create one."

In a word: incoherence. Haley wants to have it all ways, at the same time. She's hoping that everyone that feels a particular way about these things will only hear the parts of her interview where she seems to agree with them and ignore the parts where she agrees to the exact opposite. Haley's incoherence is quite transparent about wanting to be all things to all people.

It would indeed have been instructive to try to nail Haley down on the question of whether any of her own embryos had been destroyed during her I.V.F. treatments. It would have personalized the issue in a way that wouldn't be possible for any male politician, that's for sure. Haley keeps sticking to her insistence that she believes that "embryos are babies," which means that if some of hers were destroyed she is morally responsible for "killing her own babies."

Yes, that's a brutal way to put it. Yes, it's an incredibly intrusive question to even ask. Yes, it really should be a private thing between you and your doctor -- but it's not. Not anymore. Now it is a political matter being decided by moralizing judges and legislatures and governors. As such, any candidate who wants to be president of the whole country needs to have a position on it, and it certainly would be relevant to voters to hear from a person who has been through the I.V.F. process exactly what she thought of the legal ramifications of "fetal personhood" laws -- because that is precisely where the debate now stands. Kristen Welker missed a golden opportunity to highlight the issue in an absolutely unique way, which is a shame. Nikki Haley wants to have it all ways on these issues, and since she has her own unique perspective on things, she shouldn't be allowed to get away with such vague incoherence.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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Friday Talking Points -- A Cinder Block On The Scales Of Justice

[ Posted Friday, March 1st, 2024 – 19:37 UTC ]

This week, the Supreme Court didn't just stick a thumb on the scales of justice for Donald Trump, it tossed on a cinder block instead. By delaying any decision -- for months and months -- on Trump's ludicrous claim to total immunity from everything and anything he's ever done, the court will allow Trump to win even if he loses his appeal. Because Trump's main objective in the January 6th insurrection case against him is to delay, delay, delay. The Supreme Court is aiding and abetting this scheme in rather blatant fashion.

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It's Not Just About Abortion

[ Posted Monday, February 26th, 2024 – 15:45 UTC ]

Democrats are beginning to widen their political message in a way that could prove to be a big winner for them not just in November but for years to come. So far, the fallout from the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade has been overwhelmingly positive for Democrats, since the majority of Americans actually favor abortion rights for all women. And now Democrats have the clear opportunity to link a number of other things to the proven political winner abortion rights has turned out to be. In fact, they should adopt a new slogan: "It's not just about abortion."

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