Alibi V.14 No.11 • March 17-23, 2005 

Ortiz y Pino

An Honest Woman Hits a Nerve

Whatever else one might say about the neocons and their allies on the right, the anti-abortion forces, the "shrink-guv'mint-down-to-drownin'-size" fanatics and the "Sun Never Sets on the American Empire" gang, you have to give them credit for one thing. They are much more skillful at crafting labels and nifty monikers for what they are up to than are we plodding, earnest liberal/progressive/Democrats.

Maybe it's all those years they've spent in focus groups and polling consumers with Madison Avenue techniques (time liberals spent painting signs for anti-war rallies and holding car washes for Planned Parenthood), but dang, they sure have appealing names for their initiatives.

Sure, they are usually completely misleading, but titles like "no more partial birth abortions" and "No Child Left Behind" immediately produce an emotional "Yes!" reaction from all of us when we first hear them. Only those who have the energy, leisure and motivation to dig deeper will discover the falsity involved in such slick sloganeering. For most Americans, if it says "lo-carb" or "fat-free" on the package, we believe it's gotta be good for us.

Every now and then, though, something happens that affords us a peek behind the camouflage. It seems to be happening less often than it used to, of course, as reporters have more and more taken to thinking of themselves as representatives of corporate interests, not the little guy on the street. But even our current lap-dog media folks can't avoid being struck by truth every so often.

Like two weeks ago on the floor of the State Senate when Albuquerque Republican Diane Snyder stood up to join the debate on a proposed "parental notification" bill. That's another of those warm and fuzzy phrases used in a bill title that the GOP has become so adept at crafting to mask a harsher reality.

I mean, who in their right mind could be against requiring young women seeking an abortion to secure their parents' permission first? It almost conjures up a Norman Rockwell cover, doesn't it? Little Molly sitting down with Mum and Pa in the sitting room, all of them eager to put their heads together and come up with some supportive way to solve this little, er, dilemma.

But Diane Snyder, and I suspect a lot of others in the Senate that night, knows better. Sure, according to the available data, 70 percent of teenagers seeking abortions are already doing so after discussing the situation with their parents. But Snyder silenced the usually noisy chamber and gallery with her story of a friend from her college days who had been unable to get her family's support and had turned to an illegal, back-alley abortion instead—with tragic consequences.

Then she went on to speak the unspoken truth behind the legislation on the floor. It was not really intended to support young girls faced with having to make the choice of whether to seek an abortion or not; it was simply intended as a ploy to create another barrier between them and the option of an abortion.

A girl in this situation who, for whatever reason, doesn't want to involve her parents can go to court and get approval to pursue the abortion without parental consent. But if she lives in a small town, such a step will probably be discussed over coffee at every café the next morning. And if she lives in a bigger town, finding her way through the tangled maze of our judicial system could prove daunting.

Even in bigger communities where some degree of anonymity might be presumed, going to court involves sophistication and access to resources that make it a theoretical right at best. So Senator Snyder hit a nerve with her comments, for she revealed that what this measure truly intends is not the protection of young women, but the exposure of old politicians. It is designed to force elected officials to go on the record ... and go on the record in sound-bite terms that most would find impossible to square with their own nuanced beliefs.

Snyder said it well: "I live in a district that is divided on this issue. If I vote for this, I will become a target for the Democrats in the next election and could lose my seat over it. But if I vote against it, the right to life supporters will run another Republican against me in the primary and I'd lose, but whoever beat me would probably lose the seat to the Democrats in the general election."

She is an honest woman, but honesty is not always a welcomed quality in our politicians. We'd rather believe that every time they vote it is because of strongly held beliefs or out of responsiveness to constituent requests. Unhappily, there are sometimes more cynical or strategic motives involved.

So what in the world could be wrong with requiring parental consent? Snyder knows that the world is not the Pollyanna world of primary colors and sunshine we might like it to be. This measure is a potentially deadly one for young women who might opt for back alley solutions. Families do not act supportively just because lawmakers pass bills that require them to. But then, that was not really the purpose of this bill.

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