The Washington Post

Va.’s anti-abortion bill: This is conservatism?

The Virginia legislation, itself something of an abortion, is being modified after having been withdrawn or whatever. Great confusion attends the deliberations of McDonnell, who discovered in his 57th year that a vaginal probe would be intrusive. Still, what remains is a medical procedure of some sort so that the pregnant woman will discover that she is indeed pregnant. She would be confronted with a printout of the ultrasound image, which, under the original legislation, she would have to purchase.

In all fairness, then, members of the legislature would have to purchase their own brain scan, maybe frame the thing and hang it in their office. Then, possibly, their constituents would understand how avowed conservatives could have the government require a woman to undergo some sort of ultrasound procedure and — mandate of all mandates — have to pay for it herself. If this is conservatism, it is indistinguishable from what conservatives say they hate.

It is at moments such as this that I miss L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia’s former governor. When he ran for office (1989), he ingeniously defined his pro-choice position as conservative. He was, of course, right. The very notion that the government does not have the right to tell a woman what she must do with her body — how she must make a very personal decision — should be the essence of conservatism. Instead, in the name of less government and less-intrusive government at that, we get the government itself telling a woman she must humiliate herself with a tutorial on pregnancy and the creation of life before she makes an extremely personal decision.

As with the Republican presidential debates, it soon becomes apparent that on social issues, conservatives have no cruising speed. They evince meanness. In the case of abortion, it is not enough to oppose it. A woman must be confronted and, if possible, shamed — given the printout, lectured on what it shows, the unspoken rebuke sounded over and over again: See, see, see! This is not so much as pro-life as it is anti-woman. I’m sure that would show up on the brain scan.

Richard Cohen writes a weekly political column for The Washington Post.


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