Guest post by Don Pesci
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that passed the fiery abortion ball back to the states – where, some Constitutional scholars have argued it always belonged – a strategic rift has opened between U.S. Representative Jim Himes, perceived by some in Connecticut’s chattering class as a moderate, and U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, a leading progressive Democrat.
The High Court decision will not affect the availability of abortion in Connecticut. In fact, abortions in the state will become more not less prevalent, owing to a push by progressive Democrats such as Governor Ned Lamont and many Democrats in the state’s General Assembly to provide abortion seeking refugees from other states a “safe harbor” in Connecticut, where they may seek abortions without being molested by their own state’s restrictive abortion laws.
The Himes- Blumenthal rift concerns political strategy on the matter of abortion following the Supreme Court finding. If both politicians were Caesar, whose God-like word was law in post-Republican Rome, the abortion discussion would be mooted by a show of imperial force.
Part of the Supreme Court decision rests on the notion that abortion frisson in the nation could only accelerate if, in a Constitutional Republic, laws were enforced – and in some cases created from whole cloth – by courts rather than legislators.
A rigorous review by the High Court of an earlier decision that had stripped states of decision making power in the matter of abortion, depositing what should have been a legislative function at the feet of the judicial department, found – not a shocking surprise to many Constitutional scholars – that the earlier court decision was deeply flawed.
The reshuffle, from judicial departments to state legislative bodies, will now allow states a measure of statutory freedom that had been rudely aborted -- pun intended -- by the Court’s earlier Roe v Wade decision.
In a Constitutional Republic such as ours, voters are sometimes distressed to find that their elected representatives are often quite happy to allow courts to decide legislative matters. By such means, campaign shy legislators escape sometimes well-deserved whippings at the polls. Politically, the High Court decision already has moved protests, pro and contra, from federal courts to state legislative buildings.
Himes, according to a piece in CTMirror, “floated an idea at a private Democratic caucus meeting last Wednesday about voting on individual componentsof a bill that would broadly protect abortion access. He suggested voting separately on provisions that would preserve abortion rights for women whose lives are in danger and those who are survivors of rape and incest (emphasis mine). Himes’ remarks at the meeting and proposal were first reported by Politico.”
Having huddled with poll watching political strategists in the the Democrat Party, “The congressman said the party’s suggestions for messaging when they’re back home in their districts — including blaming the Senate as the cause for inaction and telling people to vote for more Democrats — are ‘pretty ineffective.’”
The Himes strategy, the Congressman said, “…grew out of the thought that the recommendations we were getting were landing flat in my district. Let’s take advantage of the alignment [and] the opportunity to save some lives.”
Let us not quibble – abortions, successfully performed, do not in most cases involve saving either the life of the prospective mother or that of her unborn fetus – and focus instead on the politics of Himes’ strategy and Blumenthal’s very different strategy. Both Catholic and Jewish orthodoxy permit abortions to save the life of the prospective mother, life-taking in such cases being the exception that proves the rule that giving birth is preferable to aborting life.
Blumenthal’s take on the strategic utility of Himes’ strategy is unambiguous and wholly political: “When asked about Himes’ strategy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he’s skeptical of voting on smaller pieces of legislation and, like some others in his party, worries this will let Republicans off the hook.
Blumenthal told CT Mirror during a Friday event with abortion rights advocates, “Generally, the slimmed down versions of protecting women’s reproductive rights fail to do the job. Proposed alternatives are filled with gaps that swallow the protections. These exceptions swallow the rule. I’m very leery of so-called substitutes that give Republicans a pass.”
Blumenthal’s rule is simple and inviolable: There can be no restriction whatever on abortion. That rule is, at the very least, wildly ironic coming from a politician who, for two decades as Connecticut’s Attorney General, bullied his way into public prominence by imposing restrictions upon quite a few Connecticut businesses and state employees whistleblowers who sought to alert the public that all was not right in some state financed agencies that he, as Attorney General, was statutorily obligated to defend in court cases. It is, most jurists will agree, impossibly self-serving to operate both as defense attorney for whistleblowers and a prosecutor of parties open whom whistles have been blown.
Of the two strategies outlined above, Himes’ is the more practical and moderate. Democrat pragmatists should post above Blumenthal’s Washington DC office, the note Dante plastered over the gates of Hell in his Divine Comedy: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.