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November 30, 2006


Brought to you by the Party of Ideas -- just so they can prove Dems are the Party of No.

As for why Republicans lost, I think their corruption mattered a whole lot more than their general indifference and incompetence in operating the government.

On 11/8, I remember wondering what stunts the Congressional Republicans might try to pull in the waning days of lame duck power. What is amazing is that they have basically abdicated in advance, except for stupid stunts like this abortion bill.

In other words, the only faction of the Republican Party that even cares to try to do anything after 11/7 is the religious right. Got to admire their never say die spirit.

Am I the only one who's thinking that the Repubs are deliberately doing this - conspicuously doing nothing and walking away from the mess they've made of the last twelve years, in particular the last six, just to spite the Dems? It smells like it.

So to justify their collective existence and appear that they're, you know, a legislative body and all, they're wasting their time and effort on what has all the hallmarks of a gratuitous piece of negligence, a travesty of research that to say the least, appears to lack the empirical basis necessary for conclusiveness; at the most, it simply looks like a turd they want to rub in the noses of both Dems and docs alike.

Where's the Surgeon General on this? Off performing surgery in a barber shop with ether for anesthetic? Or a couple of shots of whiskey with a bullet between the teeth?

Jesus Christ on a popsicle stick...

I knew something like this was coming, but didn't expect it so soon at the federal level.

How did I know? Because of a question posed by the Virginia Family Forum, a 501(c)3 affiliate of Dobson's Forum on the Family, in a robo-call 'survey' in October to frequent voters that was a device for identifying those worth later contact to get out the vote.

Among the twenty or so questions (on the 'marriage amendment', abortion, estate tax, the whole right-wing litany) was one asking if the person being called supported legislation "to allow women having abortions to request anesthesia for their unborn babies". I knew right then that we'd see a bill in the next session of the Virginia legislature; I never dreamed the loons who run Congress would deal with it in the lame duck term, much less instead of finishing their work on the spending bills.

There aren't words to express the depth of my disgust.

I'd be really surprised if there weren't still a boatload of "abortion causes breast cancer" people lurking in the cubicles of the HHS.

I find this to be a depressingly predictable move on their part, especially after all the talk of reinstating Lott in a leadership position.

Could we please get back the Republican party that seemed like cranky old men, rather than the one we currently have, which is more like a five year old throwing a tantrum?

I wonder if this kind of compelled speech provision can really be constitutional.

No, but that means the right wing of the Republican party win twice: once, they get to look good to their base, posturing about how much they care for fetuses. And again, when their legislation is overturned by the court, they get to look good to their base by posturing about "activist judges".

the press has already decided that the Dems are pretty much just as bad. that the Dems haven't actually had a chance to try is irrelevant.

all hail the liberal media.

I won't judge the R vs D in this area, since I don't know how 'normal' it is to leave a pile for the incoming party.

I'm just not sure this is the best example. I remember when they used to think babies had no pain sense, and the didn't sedate them. Unfortunately they seemed to be wrong about that, and started to sedate since the babies responded better.

Preterm neonates are responding better to sedation too. My little niece had to be operated the day after her birth, at 27weeks and 2 days gestation. No one suggested that she would not be sedated for the operation - and we would have raised hell if they HAD.

The trouble with pain is that you cannot measure it. You can measure the obvious signs, but not everybody moans and groans on schedule - especially babies. When they started measuring side effects, like bloodpressure, they DID notice effect in babies. You cannot measure that in the womb though.

Yes, cleek, I expected the honeymoon period for the new Democratic Congress to be of negligible, if not zero, length, but I foolishly overlooked the possibility that the length would be negative. After all, the old Congress is still around to talk about.

Marbel: I'm just not sure this is the best example.

I take your point. I gather the current thinking is that fetuses are not conscious - that the oxygen level in fetal blood does not permit consciousness. But you're right that it would be difficult-to-impossible to measure that.

Before given stages in development, it is physically impossible for a fetus to feel pain. After given stages in development, it may be physically possible, whether or not the fetus is conscious at the time. As I understand it, for the small minority of abortions carried out late-term, the fetus is either dead already or must be killed in the uterus before it can be removed: the only detailed description I've read of an abortion of a fetus so late term that the only way to abort was induced labor, the fetus was killed in the uterus, and it seems impossible from the description that it could have suffered more pain than it was already in even if it had been conscious to feel the pain.

The woman chose to abort, just prior to 24 weeks, because the fetus had severe spina bifidia, and would have lived a few hours in extreme pain before dying if it had been born alive. Presumably, if fetuses can suffer pain, it was suffering in the uterus, too. (I'd find the link if I could remember where I read it: a woman who had testified before her state congress because they wanted to remove her right to choose and she wanted to tell them what that would mean for her.)

dutchmarbel: I don't know how 'normal' it is to leave a pile for the incoming party.

Not at all. This is of a piece with the way they've behaved all along: screw governing. Base-pandering politics above everything else.

"Base-pandering politics above everything else.

Oh, not entirely above everything else...

I'd like the new Democratic congresspersons to take cameras into offices vacated by the GOP, just in case the departing GOP'ers decide to trash Congress literally rather than just metaphorically.

It's what they falsely accused the Clinton Administration of doing, after all. And if the GOP is about anything besides pandering to its base, it's about malice and projection.

Dutchmarbel: to expand on what Nell said: it's quite unusual for an outgoing Congress to leave this many appropriations bills unfinished under any circumstances. It's doubly unusual in this case, when they're basically letting the opposing party make a bunch of major decisions that they could have made.

On the other hand, it's not at all out of character for this bunch to leave their jobs undone, and to try to duck out of responsibility for what will inevitably be spending increases while forcing the Democrats to do this instead of whatever they would have wanted to do otherwise.

(Marbel: I'm just not sure this is the best example.)

I take your point. I gather the current thinking is that fetuses are not conscious - that the oxygen level in fetal blood does not permit consciousness. But you're right that it would be difficult-to-impossible to measure that.

Before given stages in development, it is physically impossible for a fetus to feel pain. After given stages in development, it may be physically possible, whether or not the fetus is conscious at the time

The problem is that you DO have contact with the baby in your womb when it is big enough. They respond to stimuli, they cuddle up to your hands. This can be all reflexes, that's hard to know - but if it responds to the discomfort of loud music I'd expect it to respond to the discomfort of pain.

I also agree with you that it might be in pain in the womb too - and even if it isn't there can be reasons to abort it due to expected pain (and no prospects for good life). In the Netherlands they will not abort after 22 weeks, but a special kind of severe spina bifida is the main reason for our rare but existing euthanasiation of newborns.

I'm just responding to the idea that late in gestation a fetus doesn't feel pain. Also because I know they said the same things about babies in the past.

My main problem with this law is that it puts the responsibility with the parents/mother - probabely in an attempt to quilttrip them some more. It should be a doctors guideline I think.

Hilzoy & Nell: in that case it is indeed very weird to leave all those bills. I also wasn't sure because your bills seem to work very different from our laws. Our laws are more about one thing (not with unrelated amendments attached). And indeed; what you do not pass when you have the power is usually a missed opportunity. Doesn't that irk the republicans that still voted for them? Or is it one of those things nobody realizes?

@dutchmarbel: I don't think there's wide recognition yet of the likelihood that the Republicans will just leave the spending bills sitting there.

The news story linked in Hilzoy's post is just about the only one out there on the subject, and I'd certainly know nothing about it if Josh Marshall hadn't pointed to it (and the failure of other media to pick up on the story).

The extent to which the spending bills became giant omnibus bills with many unrelated laws attached is not entirely a Republican development, but it certainly intensified under their "leadership." In the olden days, the authorization bills (which set a ceiling for spending, creating the overall budget framework) were the first items tackled and passed in each session. Then the various appropriations (the actual money allotted) would be dealt with, interspersed with other legislation. The effect was that budget and spending issues dominated alternate years.

Now they're so dragged out, combined, and larded with earmarks and unrelated bits, and spending is so out of control, that hardly anyone but lobbyists pays any attention, and certainly only the leadership and the lobbies have any idea when particular spending bills will come up. Sweet for the American people, eh?

In the Netherlands they will not abort after 22 weeks, but a special kind of severe spina bifida is the main reason for our rare but existing euthanasiation of newborns.

This makes very little sense to me. If it is ok to euthanize a severely disabled newborn, why is it not ok to abort an equally damaged fetus? And what would they do in the Netherlands if a woman came in 23 weeks pregnant with severe chorioamionitis, out of control gestational diabetes, moderate pulmonary fibrosis*, and a fetus that was stuck in a position that made it impossible to deliver vaginally (ie due to spasm from any one of several rare neuromuscular disorders)? Say "hope your life has been nice so far, 'cause it's over now"?

*A combination with which major surgery, such as a c-section is almost completely contraindicated: just not going to go well. Minor surgery, such as a D and X, that can be done under lighter anesthesia (ie concious sedation) is still risky but still possible under such conditions.

@Dianne: I'm not a doctor so I can't tell you what happends in those special medical conditions. If the pregnancy is threatening the life of the mother, the baby is usually delivered (with a c-section if they have to be really fast). I assume there are conditions where it would be necessary to kill the fetus in the womb, but I am not medically savvy enough to discuss those. Life of mother goes first, but there has to be life threatening danger.

I do know from what I read about late term abortions that killing or letting the baby die after birth seems te be humaner than most methodes used to kill it in the womb. I also know that they often can only really diagnose after birth, when they can see the baby. And euthanatia has more strict rules than abortion. Till 22 weeks gestation that is, since it is illegal to abort after that period - which means that IF it would happen, it would be investigated by the health-inspection.

Dutchmarbel: In the scenario I set up, a major operation such as a c-section would be likely deadly to the mother because of comorbid medical conditions and the fetus is not deliverable by the vaginal route--it's simply stuck. (Incidently, this wouldn't happen to a viable fetus. Intrauterine spasm just doesn't happen unless something is drastically wrong.) I strongly suspect that in that circumstance the doctors would do what they had to do to save the mother and work out the justification afterwards.

As far as whether abortion is more or less humane than euthanasia, why not just give enough anesthesia to the fetus such that it can't feel anything even if one makes the assumption that it ever could at its stage of development and with an oxygen saturation that would put an adult in a coma? Of course, if it is something that one can't evaluate properly until after birth, then it must wait, but some conditions, like anencephaly, are pretty obvious and the outcome is never going to be anything other than death so why wait and risk the mother's life and health further?

Late late late reply, but these days are stacked with childrens celebrations and festivities in this part of the world - and my husband broke his wrist which is not handy if you have three little boys...

I wouldn't mind anesthesia, but I think that the grief and mourning for a baby that cannot live is hard enough with an otherwise undamaged corpse. For the friends I know who had babies die just before or after birth the pictures and the togetherness were very important in coping. They still have the pictures, and things like handprints/footprints that the hospital often makes.

A friend of a friend who had a late diagnosis of anencephaly had an early inducement of labour (like 90% of the parents, only 10% goes full term). The baby was born breathing and lived a few hours. The photo's and memorabilia of those hours are very important to her - as they are for most parents who lose their baby.

Well, Marbel, this is why I'm pro-choice. I believe a woman who needs a late-term abortion should get to decide for herself, with medical advice, what procedure to be used and when/whether to have it. I am utterly opposed to having the right of a woman to decide that for herself taken away from her and handed over to legislators or doctors.

My objection to your POV is not that what you say is not true and doubtless for many other woman: it's that it would be wrong to remove by fiat any choice out of those available, just because you think you would find some of those choices completely unacceptable.

But Jes, we've had this discussion before and you think I am not pro-choice because I think the child has rights too, once it is viable, whilst you feel that the child is only entitled to protection after it has left the womb.

For me your postition is so radical and unrealistic that I see no point in discussing it. Frankly, I can understand people who feel that a little clump of cells should be seen as a baby better than I can understand your position, even if I totally disagree with them and am closer to your postion in the abortion debate.

In my reality last term terminations are never decided by only one person, be it doctor or be it women. Just like the *when* is usually a mutual decision, where practical and emotional issues have their impact. If I say that 90% of the parents who's baby is diagnosed with anencephaly has early induced labour and 10% decide to go full term, do you think the doctors make that decision for them?

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