The Spectacle Blog

The Abortion Debate in Louisiana: A Defense of Incrementalism

By on 6.13.14 | 5:27PM

With the rise of Sandra Fluke and Wendy Davis, abortion has been frequently thrust into the mainstream debate. Now it's back in the news, this time in a heavily contested race in Louisiana, where Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu is running for her political life against Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy. In the middle of a race where the two candidates could not be more distinct on abortion, Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill today that has pro-life groups celebrating.

Landrieu is angry over what one of the bills is slated to do. According to Reuters:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed new restrictions on abortion clinics into law on Thursday, a move his critics have said will force three of the state's five clinics to close.

The measure, one of two abortion-related bills signed by the Republican governor, requires physicians who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the place where the abortion is performed.

And in an interview in Politico, Landrieu blasted Jindal:

“Nothing on this subject is easy to explain. I have kind of a different record than most. I’ve voted against late-term abortion, I voted for access in the … pre-viability [period],” she said. “Although I personally believe that life begins at conception, I believe the last place the government needs to be is in the church, in the doctor’s office or in the bedroom. And so even people who advocate for less government intrusion, like Gov. Jindal, get themselves in the most personal decisions a family could ever make.”

Without calling out the irony in Landrieu’s Obamacare vote, which injects government directly into your religious beliefs, i.e. Hobby Lobby, and your doctor’s office, i.e. between you and your doctor, Cassidy, in the same piece, criticized Landrieu:

She has supported using U.S. taxpayer dollars for overseas abortions and most folks, even if they are pro-choice, don’t care for that,” Cassidy said, referring to a 1997 vote on lifting an abortion ban on overseas U.S. military bases.

This leads to a larger debate for the pro-life movement that lies in two major areas: incrementalism versus immediacy, and the more divisive argument of graphic versus non-graphic images.

In recent years, the idea of incrementalism, or gradually restricting abortions through legislation, has become mainstream thought in most pro-life groups. This type of policymaking has led to recent pro-life victories in many states. The laws usually restrict or ban abortions after a certain period, or, like the law signed by Governor Jindal, force Planned Parenthood and other providers to strengthen their safety measures, forcing them to shut down.

Incrementalism has been, in large part, a great success. Abortion law currently hinges on viability, which is arbitrary and always changing, because, as science improves, viability is moving closer and closer to conception. This constant change, though, is why complete bans on abortion have often been challenged by pro-choicers with great success—because the science has yet to catch up to a full ban. Incrementalism works with the shifting concept of viability. Abortion will never be outlawed completely, but the idea of making abortion “safe and rare,” using President Clinton’s words which he and his party have strayed so far from, will finally be achieved.

A major obstacle within the pro-life movement, however, is the practice of using graphic images of aborted fetuses. While most mainstream pro-lifers tend to dislike these images, several controversial groups use them at demonstrations and in pamphlets. While the mainstream preaches “change hearts, then minds,” such scenes of violence do anything but. How can images, which intend to stir negative emotions like hate, displeasure, and sickness, change hearts, not harden them?

As the debate over abortion moves along in the United States, with Louisiana as ground zero, the pro-life movement must plan its way forward strategically. They must not let the fringe derail them.

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