The signing

Score one for the self-righteous right
— for the moment

With great pomp and circumstance, President George W Bush, aka The Shrub, yesterday signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Bush declared that the act puts an end to "a terrible form of violence...directed against children who are inches from birth." The White House transcript show Bush's remarks interrupted by applause some 25 times.

Bush signing partial birth abortion bill

The signing took place in the Ronald Reagan Building and was, as usual, a photo op staged by the White House with consummate skill. Look at the picture: an array of six American flags draped with all the stripes perfectly aligned; lighting angled just-so to produce a slight halo effect around the heads of the president and admiring witnesses; a simple antique writing table contrasting nicely with the polished hardwood floor; a dark background to set it all off without visual distraction. You have to give these guys credit; they do know their stage craft.

Appreciative audience claps for Bush signing Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act

As President Bush prepared to sign the abortion bill Wednesday, his audience included, from left, with steepled fingers, Adrian Rogers, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention; Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition; Jerry Falwell; Janet Parshall and Jay Sekulow, radio talk show hosts; Cardinal Edward M. Egan; Attorney General John Ashcroft; and Senator George Allen.

But now take a second look. Ask yourself, "What's wrong with these pictures?"

It just strikes me as odd that the people most interested in banning abortion are all post-menopausal white guys. There are women in the House and Senate — where were they? There are non-whites in the House and Senate — where are they? The act was supposed to represent "wide agreement amongst men and women on this issue, regardless of political party" — where are the liberals?

The only woman visible in the audience is Janet Parshall, identified by the NY Times as "radio talk show host." A quick Google search revealed that both Parshall and Jay Sekulow are on the religious right, and each has a website: Janet Parshall's America and American Center for Law and Justice, respectively.

People can certainly differ on the question of abortion. For myself, I think it is something for the woman, her doctor, and the fetus' father to decide. To the extent I think there's something wrong with abortion it is that it represents a failure — a failure to teach people about contraception and about the responsibilities that go along with conceiving children. I have to believe that the decision to seek an abortion is a wrenching one. The government just shouldn't be involved. There's a lot of wisdom in the old saying, You can't legislate morality.

And this is the problem I have with Republicans and the right: they always want to deregulate business but want to regulate individuals, particularly when it comes to social and cultural affairs.

In his remarks, Bush talked about "a basic standard of humanity, the duty of the strong to protect the weak" and said that "the most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent." Who can argue with that? I just wish he would see the connection between those lofty words and what the government could be doing to better the plight of the poor, the unemployed, the disenfranchised. The richest nation on earth could use its wealth to show "compassion and the power of conscience" when it comes to other nations. A little humility and hesitancy about sending people to the death chamber would also be a nice show of humanity.

As far as I can tell, this Act is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. To judge by the rhetoric, you'd think that late-term abortions were frequent and cavalierly undertaken. There's just no evidence of that. Rather, this Act is probably the camel's nose under the tent, a first step toward once again criminalizing abortion altogether.