Power Politics Gets Nasty

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/07/21/power-politics-gets-nasty/

In a result that was not nearly as close as the final tally indicated, the Massachusetts Senate voted in January to abolish the pre-Roe v. Wade state laws on abortion by a tally of 38-0.

That’s 38 state senators voting to eliminate laws restricting abortion in the Commonwealth. These statutes were made moot by the United States Supreme Court’s determination in 1973 through Roe v. Wade to strip the states of their longstanding authority to regulate or restrict abortion in any meaningful way.

And no, your eyes don’t deceive you. That’s a grand total of zero state senators voting to preserve any legal life-preserver that could possibly provide a meagre measure of protection for some unborn baby someday.

The effort to repeal the existing, if unenforced, laws was dubbed by its supporters the Nasty Women Act, a title whose adjective may — or may not — imply more than intended.

In summertime, the action heated up in the House, once considered the less liberal legislative body, especially on the so-called social issues. Yet, as the Senate has moved far left, the House has followed dutifully. According to the liberal-leaning Politico web site, House Speaker Robert DeLeo quickly acquiesced to pressure from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro Choice Massachusetts. “I share concerns about the changing dynamic of the Supreme Court,” DeLeo tweeted, “particularly with respect to a woman’s right to choose. The House will move forward this session to ensure full access to women’s reproductive health care.”

What’s interesting here is not so much the Speaker following the dominant activist left wing of the Democrat Party, as it is the careful formulation of his rhetoric. Formerly, when the Massachusetts Democrat Party was predominantly Catholic, the preferred rhetorical spin downplayed the pro-abortion reality. Most Catholic Democrat politicians began their formulation carefully:  “I am personally opposed to abortion.” Then came to mandatory pause to guarantee that devout constituents understood their anti-abortion commitment grounded in faith and family.

“But,” they crucially added. “But I cannot impose my personal views on others.” 

For politicians who wanted to emphasize their Catholicism, the phrase might be amended to “But I cannot impose my religious beliefs on others.”

It was a clever, if pusillanimous, formula. Satisfying no one completely, it effectively quieted most everyone. “If you think abortion wrong, I am with you personally and religiously,” the politician implied. “If you think abortion right, I am with you legally and legislatively,” the same politician stipulated. The awkward construct was useful in an era when some truly pro-life Democrats still wielded considerable influence. A party that could nominate and elect pro-life figures like Governor Edward King, Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, Congressman Joseph Moakley, Senate President William Bulger, House Speaker Thomas Finneran, and many others had to make room for a variety of views on abortion and other social issues.

As the current Speaker’s own words indicate, that obligatory nod to both sides is no longer permitted. As the pro-abortion side monopolizes all positions of influence in the Massachusetts Democrat Party, the rhetoric matches the real political muscle of those holding power. No hint of personal qualms. No mention of respecting religious differences. No formulaic invocation of individual conscience. 

Why, there’s not even the need to mention the subject matter at hand:  abortion. Instead, the Speaker defines the issue in the anodyne phrases “a woman’s right to choose” and “women’ reproductive health.” And why not use such phrases? After all, they are the preferred language of those who possess and monopolize power in all three branches of government in Massachusetts — executive, legislative, judicial. The insiders, the power-brokers, the lobbyists all know what the euphemisms mean, and they are the only ones who matter in the halls of power.

Politico reported that “DeLeo’s blessing essentially guarantees the bill’s passage once it is taken up for a vote.” That indicated the so-called Nasty bill would become law by the end of July. And it would be pushed through without any consultation with pro-lifers and without the slightest attempt to find a consensus replacement bill.

And that is exactly what happened. On July 18, the House approved the legislation by a vote of 138-9. Not quite matching the unanimous compliance of the Senate, but not too far off either. As usual, the Democrat House bosses vetoed any amendments, thereby squelching genuine debate on reforms such as the Heartbeat Bill to provide some protection for unborn babies.

Naturally, the media outlets concur with Democrat power-brokers, routinely running stories and headlines that deride anti-abortion laws as “archaic.” Senate President Harriette Chandler, a liberal pro-abortion Democrat like Speaker DeLeo, spoke on WBUR radio saying the law “is ridiculous and medically makes no sense.” The taxpayer-subsidized, politically leftist radio station found balance in a reporter from The Boston Globe, the print edition of the progressive wing of the Democrat Party. 

Globe writer Joshua Miller helpfully pointed out that the laws that Chandler and DeLeo will abolish date back to the mid-nineteenth century. As a distinct religious minority, Catholics exercised little political sway at that time in the Commonwealth. In that period, the Know Nothing Party and other openly anti-Catholic institutions thrived. 

Today, Catholicism still claims the most adherents of any religion in Massachusetts, even as all religions play a diminishing role in public and private life. And the Archdiocese of Boston is led by the most consequential prelate in the nation, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is frequently touted as the singular American who will be considered for the papacy during the next papal conclave.  

Ironically, anti-abortion positions are frequently stereotyped as uniquely Roman Catholic, yet it is a legislature dominated by Catholic Democrats that is intent on undoing what Protestants put in place more than a century ago.

Pro-life activists such as David Franks of Massachusetts Citizens for Life and C.J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League described the legislative maneuver as “political theater,” and “more about pandering than lawmaking.” Those descriptions may well be accurate, but driving the political power play is something far more primal. It is the exercise of age-old, all-out political dominance by those who command the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of state government, along with every lever of money, power, and influence in Massachusetts. 

Whether intentionally or not, pro-choice Senate President Harriette Chandler summed it up fittingly: “Today nasty women and their nasty men are here to say we’re not going to stand for this!”

Even pro-lifers likely agree with that characterization of Massachusetts power politics. 


Joseph Tortelli is a freelancer writer. Read other articles by Mr. Tortelli here.