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Still Screwing Up America

Linda Hirshman, lawyer, former professor of law and philosophy, author, and abortion zealot, has vindicated Bernie Goldberg's choice to include her in his book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. In her latest Washington Post column, “If Roe Goes, Our State Will Be Worse Than You Think,” Hirshman surpasses the media hysteria about what will allegedly happen if Roe v. Wade is reversed.


Hirshman's eye-popping opening to her “No Roe-We Can't Go” travel tale begins:

In the 1980s, when abortion was severely limited in then-West Germany, border guards sometimes required German women returning from foreign trips to undergo vaginal examinations to make sure that they hadn't illegally terminated a pregnancy while they were abroad. According to news stories and other accounts, the guards would stop young women and ask them about drugs, then look for evidence of abortion, such as sanitary pads or nightgowns, in their cars, and eventually force them to undergo a medical examination -- as West German law empowered them to do.

The story Hirshman describes demands credible source citations. She says there are corroborating “news stories,” but doesn't identify them. You have to wonder if there's an abortion bias at the Post that's supplanting its editorial standards.

If, as Hirshman claims, West German women had suffered the abuses she described, wouldn't the entire free world have heard complaints from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, at the UN, at the Hague, to name a few? Wouldn't papers such as the Post have reported on it? Wouldn't we have heard about it from NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and NOW?

The fact that West German women did “travel outside the country” for abortion in the 1980s is also acknowledged in a New York Times column by Marlise Simons in 1990, based on her interviews of women and physicians in both East and West Germany. If border guards had a history of invasive searches for evidence of abortion, certainly Simons would have heard about it in her interviews and would have mentioned it if she had.

The facts don't support Hirshman's claims, and neither does the West German abortion law.

On Feb. 25, 1975, the West German Constitutional Court reviewed the country's revisions to the penal statutes regulating abortion. Among other things, the court held: “The woman upon whom the operation is performed is not subject to punishment.” The court also acknowledged that “better situated women can, especially by traveling to neighboring foreign countries, much more easily obtain an abortion by a physician than poorer or less clever ones.”

Hirshman leaves no doubt that her fear-mongering is meant to influence the presidential election:

Sounds like a nightmare of a police state, doesn't it? Like something that could never happen in this day and age -- and certainly not in the United States? But depending upon the outcome of this presidential election, it could happen here. This is how.

She expects us to believe that a McCain administration would permit government abuse of American women traveling interstate based on “his bold statement that life begins at conception.” Is Hirshman the only one who doesn't know that John McCain is opposed to roughing up terrorist detainees?


She says that if Roe v. Wade is reversed, “some states with criminal abortion laws will almost certainly also forbid their residents to cross state lines to obtain an abortion.”


Here's another major problem for Hirshman. Before Roe was decided, most states had “criminal abortion laws,” but none of them forbid traveling to states that allowed abortion. She admits the very thing that undercuts her theory:


In 1972, roughly 40 percent of the women who got abortions in the United States did so outside their state of residence. There are now more than a million abortions a year. Can you imagine how many women will travel elsewhere if their home states prohibit abortion unless the mother's life is at risk?


By the way, the plaintiff Roe alleged “that she could not afford to travel to another jurisdiction in order to secure a legal abortion under safe conditions.”


Hirshman tries to bolster her plot by citing laws that forbid a third party to transport a minor across a state line for an abortion in order to avoid the state's parental notice or consent law. Since the laws don't prohibit the minor herself from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion, what are the chances that any legislature would enact a law prohibiting an adult woman from doing so?


“How would state laws forbidding pregnant women to leave be enforced?” Hirshman's delusion continues:

The Hope Clinic in Granite City, Ill., is just 10 minutes from the Missouri border. Police from the prohibiting state can just take the license plates of local vehicles at the abortion clinics across the state lines and arrest the women when they re-enter the state. Or a traffic stop can produce a search. Tips from pharmacy workers, disapproving parents or disappointed boyfriends can alert the police to arrest the pregnant woman for intent to seek an abortion out of state. The state law may allow interested parties to seek injunctions to stop her from leaving.

It seems a long way from McCain's bold statement that life begins at conception to police cars waiting on an abortion clinic side street in Granite City. But it's not.

A line from the film A Few Good Men comes to mind: “I guess you were absent the day they taught law at law school.”

If Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney writes a book about her nutburger claim that “the Department of Defense executed 5,000 prisoners with one bullet to the head and then dumped their bodies in a Louisiana swamp during Hurricane Katrina,” she should ask Linda Hirshman to write the preface.


By way of disclaimer, I'm a prolife zealot. Roe v. Wade belongs on the ash heap of history along with other travesties of constitutional law.  Those interested in a reasoned, expert analysis of what reversing Roe v. Wade would mean, should consider reading a symposium, “One Untrue Thing,” available at National Review Online.


Jan LaRue, Esq., is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Culture and Media Institute.