Your War Bad, Our War Good
Last week, Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng escaped brutal house arrest and beatings and fled to United States protection in the American Embassy in Beijing. News sources within China report that Chen has now left the embassy with a guarantee of safe passage and will remain in China. Chen’s escape from house arrest coincides with a visit to China by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
With the state visit, Republicans have amped up their pressure on President Obama to force China to stop beating and harrassing Chen, his family, and his supporters. Presumed Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney Sunday called on President Obama to “take every measure” to protect Chen. Representative Chris Smith (R-Trenton, NJ) said, in a press release,
Over the next few hours/days, whatever it takes, everything discussed in China between Secretary Clinton and Premier Wen, as well as their staffs, must be through the prism of the struggles, torture, escape and justice overdue Chen Guangcheng, his family and other human rights activists in China.
Chen and his family are being persecuted by local officials (with the apparent collusion of the Chinese Government) for the “crime” of speaking out in defense of women who are being forced to suffer unwanted medical procedures, forced abortion and forced sterilization. For example, Chinese women have had an intrauterine device inserted without their consent, and those trying to stop local officials from doing so have been beaten.
The left and right of the American political spectrum are united in calling for Chinese officials to leave women’s bodies alone, and give women the choice to refuse invasive procedures. But according to Rep. Smith and other Republicans, it’s perfectly fine to insert vaginal probes into women against their will, simply for having the temerity to seek a legal medical procedure.
Smith has been sharply critical of President Obama’s supposed attack on religious freedom, in the form of requiring employers to provide contraceptive services to women as part of health insurance plans. In a press release, Rep. Smith writes,
President Obama is using the coercive power of the state to force people of faith and people of conscience to violate a fundamental conviction or suffer severe penalty.
What Obama has done is unconscionable and violates religious freedom.
By coercing all health insurers including faith-based institutions to pay for all means of preventing pregnancy including subsidizing abortifacients like Ella and Plan B, President Obama demonstrates a reckless disregard for conscience rights.
Everyone must comply regardless of moral convictions or religious tenets simply because Obama says so.
I’ve written about this line of argument earlier on this blog. Despite Smith’s protests, the provision of contraception to women as part of employer-provided health care is not a creation of the Obama Administration. It has been a long-standing policy in place since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that employers were required to provide contraceptive services as part of any health plan that covered other prescription medicines.
In the Republican view, women are apparently unable to follow their conscience in choosing contraception, and will not be given a choice by their employer if that employer objects to contraception. However, if that same woman is to seek out a legal abortion in accordance with her conscience and personal choice, she will be forced to undergo a forced vaginal probe insertion. Such “logic” has been a key part of fueling the “Republican War on Women” meme that I wrote about previously.
Republicans have been oblivious to the American front in this “war”, likening it to a “war on caterpillars”. A forced probe insertion is apparently not a big deal if you’re a man, unless someone were (for example) to ask you to undergo a prostate exam in order to obtain pills for erectile dysfunction. Such bills are facially ridiculous, according to the Ohio and Virginia legislatures.
Meanwhile, those who can easily see the mote in President Obama’s eye, claiming that he is restricting free choice and expression of religious beliefs, considerest not the beam in their own eyes. Pro-life Republicans (sorry for the redundancy) are especially critical of the President’s supposed “inactivity” or lack of concern regarding China’s forced abortion and sterilization policy.
Chinese women should have the ability to determine what medical procedures are performed on them. It’s a basic human right. While Rep. Smith recognizes this right for Chinese women, when it comes to American women, he’s perfectly fine sponsoring legislation which does exactly the opposite. Smith has sponsored or cosponsored at least ten bills requiring pregnant women to have a vaginal ultrasound, an invasive procedure which involves insertion of a vaginal probe. For example, Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater, MN) and Smith introduced H.R.3130 on October 6, 2011. This bill, the “Heartbeat Informed Consent Act” whose stated purpose is “[t]o ensure that women seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound and an opportunity to review the ultrasound before giving informed consent to receive an abortion” says, in part (§2):
(3) On about the 21st or 22nd day after fertilization (which is about 5 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period) the heart of an unborn child begins to beat.
(4) The heartbeat of an unborn child can be visually detected at an early stage of pregnancy using an ultrasound machine, typically, at 4 to 4.5 weeks after fertilization (6 to 6.5 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period) on transvaginal ultrasound, and at 5.5 to 6 weeks after fertilization (7.5 to 8 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period) on transabdominal ultrasound.
In other words, the bill requires abortion providers to insert a vaginal probe into a woman who is potentially less than five weeks pregnant and who is seeking an abortion. (Whether a five-week-old fetus has a “beating heart” is a matter of conjecture, depending on how one defines “heart”. It would be more accurate to say there is a collection of muscle cells in the heart primordium that begins spontaneous rhythmic contraction at 22 days post conception and begins moving blood around, though that distinction is likely too subtle for most who have had neither medical nor biological training.)
It is also interesting to note that §3402 defines those covered by the bill as “any abortion provider in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce…shall comply with the requirements of this title.” Apparently, according to Representatives Bachmann and Smith, abortions provided as part of health care are “interstate commerce”, while all other forms of health care provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, Obamacare, which excludes abortions) is not interstate commerce and therefore not subject to Federal regulation under the Constitution.
Almost all Americans, left and right, agree with Smith that violating a woman’s privacy and autonomy by forcibly inserting an object into a body cavity of a pregnant Chinese woman is a horrible human rights tragedy. Apparently, according to Smith and many of his fellow Republican legislators, violating a woman’s privacy and autonomy by forcibly inserting an object into a body cavity of a pregnant American woman is fine and dandy.
[Updated 6:03 am PDT to reflect Chen’s changed status and correct minor grammatical errors.]
- Mitt Romney: China should make “real effort” to end abuses against dissident Chen Guangcheng(cbsnews.com)
- Chen Guangcheng: Blind Chinese ‘Anti-Abortion’ Activisit Under US Protection(inquisitr.com)
- Secretary Clinton all but mum on Chen Guangcheng case(latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Disgusting… Liberal Media Omits Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng’s Pro-Life Past From Their Reports(thegatewaypundit.com)
- Chen Guangcheng: After Escape, Chinese Activist Faces Uncertain Future (wrc559.com)
- U.S., China still mum on fate of escaped activist Chen Guangcheng (cbsnews.com)
- Pepsi and Chen Guangcheng, Chinese Hero: An Update! (erasetheneed.wordpress.com)
- Escape of Lawyer Chen Guangcheng May Have Been Assisted by Guard (theepochtimes.com)
- Can the US Support China’s Blind Lawyer and His Rescuers? (theepochtimes.com)
- Manthorpe: Fate of China’s blind activist Chen Guangcheng challenges Sino-U.S. relations (vancouversun.com)
- Chen Guangcheng: After Escape, Chinese Activist Faces Uncertain Future (abcnews.go.com)
- Human rights showdown awaits Clinton in Beijing (heraldonline.com)