Readers will recall the name Jack Smith, editor of the Catholic Key, the diocesan newspaper in Kansas City-St. Joseph, who launched a vile, unsubstantiated, and personal attack on Sister Carol Keehan, suggesting that her support for health care reform was motivated by money-grubbing acquisitiveness, an odd charge to lay against a woman whose salary goes not to her but to her order. It was the vilest thing I have read in the Catholic blogosphere all year. It is also worth noting that Sister Carol’s position on health care reform has been much closer to that of the bishops than have some of the writings to appear in Mr. Smith’s pages, but never mind.
So, I was unsurprised that a man whose writings betray no sense of hesitancy before the sin of slander should now display an astonishing degree of ignorance by quibbling with a small line in an article I wrote. My sentence was this: "The Hyde Amendment is nearly as settled law as is Roe." Smith argues that Roe can only be overturned by a constitutional amendment or by appointing more anti-Roe justices to the Supreme Court, which he thinks unlikely given the current make-up of Congress and current President’s pro-choice position. He notes that the Hyde Amendment is an annual legislative act that can be undone anytime, that Hyde is "about as ethereal as a law can be."
Let us start with Smith’s claims about what it would take to overturn Roe. Suffice it to say that since that decision was rendered, Republican presidents have controlled the White House for 24 years while the Democrats are only in their thirteenth year of being able to appoint justices to the Court. The reason Roe has not been overturned is, sadly, because the American people don’t want it overturned, Republican political leaders have been content to pay lip service to the pro-life cause and pro-life leaders have done a fine imitation of Pavlov’s dogs in praising the GOP and denigrating Democrats. The only way to overturn Roe is to change American culture.
Smith’s inability to grasp this leads to the real problem with his article which is its almost total ignorance of American politics. He says that the Hyde Amendment is ethereal. Well, let’s see. It has been re-approved every year since 1977 by an act of Congress, and this despite the on-going efforts of pro-choice forces to get it overturned. Hyde has been passed by Democratic Congresses and Republican Congresses. It has been a part of laws signed by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents. When the Hyde Amendment first passed, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia sent only Democratic Senators to Washington. In 1977, Ronald Reagan was an ex-movie actor, ex-Governor and a former and failed presidential candidate. In 1977, the Colts were still in Baltimore. In 1977, Karol Wojtyla was the Archbishop of Krakow. In 1977, Leonid Breshnev was still alive and ruling the Kremlin. In 1977, Barney Frank was still in the closet and not yet in the Congress. You get the idea. Year in and year out, for all the other changes that have occurred, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by Congresses of both parties. Ethereal? Maybe not so much.
So, why go on and on about the prospect of something happening, the Hyde Amendment being overturned, that is about as likely as pigs flying? To scare people. Indeed, my original article was in response to a piece by Deal Hudson in which he was scaring people about the public option funding abortion. Now, Mr. Hudson has replied also, and claims he is not a "deceitful bogeyman" but he misses the point too. The problem is not that Hudson himself is a deceitful bogeyman. The problem is that he creates deceitful bogeymen to scare others. I think Hudson’s sin is far worse than merely lying. But, Hudson, like Smith, provide evidence of an ancient truism: Those who cannot invoke facts will rely on fear to make their case. But, it is a shameful thing to do.