Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

In Which Bitch Ph.D. Supports a Pro-Life Bill

Recently, I gave Dr. B a hard time in connection with her comments about Judge Alito's pending confirmation hearings. Moreover, in conversation with friends who are fans of Dr. B, I've been a bit dubious (albeit agnostic on the assumption that there are aspects to the brouhaha to which I am not privy) about her banning of Paul Deignan from the comment thread to the same post I criticized (and, interestingly on much the same substantive grounds as Deignan did), which has turned into a bit of a teapot tempest in Dr. B's blogging circle.

But I haven't quite been able to bring myself not to visit her always engaging and entertaining site, and today I'm reminded why. Always primed to throw a curveball, Dr. B yesterday announced her support for the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Students Act of 2005, a bill introduced by Elizabeth Dole (R--N.C.), which "would establish a pilot program to provide $10 million for 200 grants to encourage institutions of higher education to establish and operate a pregnant and parenting student services office. The office would serve pregnant and parenting students and help students who are considering adoption instead of abortion."

What renders her apparently unequivocal support somewhat surprising (note, however, she acknowledges that she's basing her support on the write-up contained in the above-cited article), is that the bill comes from an anti-abortion senator and is being touted principally by the anti-abortion lobby.

At first blush, at least, the draft bill looks like the sort of sensible legislation that can come from widespread political cooperation between the parties when some of the partisan rancor is dropped in favor of a respectful effort to identify common ground, a process of compromise it's hard to imagine the Framers didn't have in mind in devising our system of government. These sorts of things provide a welcome change from business as usual inside the Beltway. Dr. B's detailed articulation of why the Act would be a step forward, notwithstanding its origin in the anti-abortion camp, reinvigorates my faith in her willingness to deviate from reflexive rhetoric and evaluate policy proposals on their merits rather than their provenance.

It seems foolish, and against the country's best interests, not to make every reasonable accommodation to mother's seeking to better themselves through education.


Blogger bitchphd said...

Thanks, that's decent of you.

Re. the Alito thing, I meant to respond but was hideously busy (as I should be now, with the grading that's sitting in my bag). But I did want to differ with your point about his use of the word "unfortunate" in Alexander v. Whitman: yes, I realize that he seems to be saying that what's "unfortunate" is the majority argument's use of the "non-persons" distinction. But I'm not so sure that it doesn't also imply--or couldn't also be read/referred to as implying--that the distinction between fetuses and persons isn't "unfortunate."

In other words, I object to your characterization of my analysis as "intellectually dishonest"--as I said in the comments to my various Alito posts, I'm not a lawyer or a legal analyist, and so I may be mistaken in my understanding of the parameters for reading or interpreting legal statements. But simply *as* a statement, I think Alito's comment can be read as containing the subtext I attributed to it.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous binky said...

Three comments in one:

1) re: intellectuall dishonesty: I too flogged Moon over intellectually dishonest vs layperson's understanding - maybe he thinks so highly of us that deep down he believes we could be experts on the law too?

2) universities are often terrible at supporting student-parents (not to mention staff parents and faculty parents...the tales I could tell of female professors forced to use a research sabbatical as maternity leave) and this initiative is a good idea. It's also the kind of thing that feminists argue for, i.e. supporting the choices women make for themselves.

3) mothers not mother's (can you tell I've been reading term papers?)

3:11 PM  
Blogger Moon said...

Hi Dr. B. I suppose you've forgotten, but you actually did respond and at some length in private correspondence, which I appreciated (though I would have preferred to have that discussion in comments, with the tacit invitation to others to chime in).

The "intellectual dishonesty" contention pertained specifically to your very selective misquotation (and that's what it was, since regardless of the overtone, "unfortunate" as a matter of simple grammar did not modify what you claimed it modified) of Alito's very brief opinion coupled to your failure to furnish the quote in its context, a passingly brief concurrence it would have been no trouble for you to reproduce in full. You quoted three individual words and glued them together with misleading language. Furthermore, you didn't acknowledge that yours was a more remote or marginal interpretation; rather, you stated it as fact. If you had written, as you just now did here, that you thought the "unfortunate" terminology could be read to imply something beyond what it said on its face, given context, justifiable concerns that as a conservative jurist he will be hostile to Roe and so on, I might still have criticized your analysis but I would not even have considered employing the "dishonesty" terminology.

I didn't believe, and I still don't, that your plainly deliberate cut and paste approach to what he wrote was fair or terribly honest. Furthermore, I think your avocation pretty much obviates any charitable assumption that you didn't know what you were doing in patching his words together the way you did. If you encountered words cobbled together like that by someone with a large, credulous audienceto misrepresent someone else whose views you share, I suspect you'd be on the guilty party like white on rice. That same impulse animated my criticism and my characterization.

Furthermore -- and this remains true of everyone who endeavored to respond to my comments on this narrow point -- you made no effort to engage the critical, admittedly hypertechnical point about the concurrence: that Alito was explicitly expressing reservations about a particular maneuver by the majority to grant for argument's sake, as the majority believed its standard of review required, the truth of the mother's assertion that her fetus was a human being from the moment of conception (again, this was a devil's advocate adoption of the claim; the majority in no way indicated that it accepted the assertion on its own terms). The majority did so simply to demonstrate that even on the most ludicrously generous reading of the plaintiff's pleadings, the reading typically required of appellate courts in the summary judgment context, she still could not prevail.

To the extent that the intellectual honesty thing seemed to apply more broadly, in all sincerity, I apologize. I recognize that certain errors (for example, the inaccurate meme about Alito ruling that the FMLA doesn't apply to state employees at all) were stated by some and propagated by others in good faith. In my caveats I was careful to acknowledge that I was using your post as a proxy for all of the insubstantial rhetoric that emerged from the left in the immediate wake of Alito's nomination in lieu of rigorous legal analysis. I was, and remain with respect to certain sloppy comments, tremendously frustrated that some of my favorite commentators were so hasty in their attempts to get out in front of public discourse regarding the nomination that they were largely inadvertantly flouting the most basic rules of interpretation.

Since then, I've been pleased to observe and propagate on my site an emering narrative of reasons to oppose Alito's nomination that is couched in fair and legally informed analyses of his opinions and extra-judicial writings and comments. It makes for a much for interesting -- and honest -- debate.

3:23 PM  
Blogger bitchphd said...

I do remember emailing you; I meant "responding in that particular post" by commenting.

Anyway, I still disagree w/ the "intellectual dishonesty" thing. You are correct: I should have linked to the text of what he wrote. I no longer remember why he didn't, although I think it had something to do with not being able to track it down (hence the news article instead). I suspect, although I couldn't swear to it in a court of law (ha!) that the stringing-together-words thing that you're criticizing really is me cobbling together an argument from various news sources which quoted bits and pieces, rather than a deliberate misrepresentation based on reading the original text.

Sloppy, maybe; dishonest, no; defendable, as in my previous comment, yes, I think so.

3:56 PM  
Blogger deignan said...

Common ground exists.

Moving Forward on Abortion

Discussion is a good thing.

1:35 PM  

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