Yet another Republican opens his yap about reproductive issues and some stupid falls out. This time it’s Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, who thinks fetuses masturbate. If they feel pleasure, surely they feel pain, his argument goes.
In fairness, when you operate in an information bubble, you’re going to see a lot of this type of pseudo science, and you’re not going to be equipped with any critical thinking skills or factual information to debunk it. So after we’ve all had a good laugh at Rep. Burgess’ expense, let’s look at what’s behind the right-wing’s use of pseudo science in the first place.
First and foremost, it’s the right’s attempt to sidestep Roe v Wade:
The fetal-pain bills do not directly challenge the Supreme Court’s judgment. Instead, they assert a new theory for outlawing abortion. The Nebraska bill states that “by twenty weeks after fertilization there is substantial evidence that an unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience pain.” The legislatures passing these laws say that preventing this pain is a compelling state interest that justifies prohibiting abortion.
Hence, the loophole: Although the Supreme Court has identified preserving fetal life after viability as a compelling interest, the justices have never said it is the only one.
This tells us two things: first of all, that conservatives have given up on their “repeal Roe v Wade” battle cry. And second of all, it tells us conservatives know their anti-choice argument fails on its core merits, which has always been morality.
Conservatives have always maintained that they think abortion is morally wrong. That’s fine if that’s what you think, but clearly they haven’t gotten any traction with this approach or they’d be passing laws saying as much. And no wonder! They have zero credibility on the morality front in the first place. You can’t hear Rep. Marsha Blackburn say the House’s 20-week abortion ban is “for the children” without wondering why she doesn’t give a crap about children who are already born and maybe need some food stamps and education. Seriously, watching Republicans over the past 10 years has been absolutely hilarious. They really don’t care about anyone unless they’re in utero. After that, you’re on your own.
Clearly they’ve failed to make their morality case. So instead Republicans have adopted the value set of the culture at large — science! facts! pointy-headed experts with lots of alphabet soup behind their names! The fact that their “science” is completely bogus is something they hope you don’t hear.
The TV has been full of footage of Tennessee Rep. Diane Black and Marsha Blackburn claiming “the science is on our side”. Except it’s not. And Black is registered nurse, fer crying out loud. Her husband is a doctor! They should know better.
(By the way, who supplied all the B-roll of Republican women making anti-choice speeches on the House floor? I find it curious … )
Junk science is becoming a favorite ploy of the right. We’ve seen it with the climate change debate. And in fact, as this piece points out, the pseudo science ploy goes all the way back to Big Tobacco:
Probably the most prominent example of junk science involves what Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway call the “Tobacco Strategy,” which refers to the way that tobacco companies marshaled their own research “experts” (that were both bullied and bought) for judicial trials in the 1970s and 1980s that involved plaintiffs alleging serious health complications as a result of smoking cigarettes. The tobacco companies found that as long as they could present reasonably credible scientists to testify in suits alleging long-term physical harm from cigarettes, they would win lawsuits and avoid paying damages. Tobacco experts routinely testified that cancers, emphysema, heart attacks, and strokes were not prompted by cigarette smoking based on their own studies or cherry-picked data that argued against a causal link between smoking and negative health effects.
In both the case of cigarette smoking and fetal pain, the use of junk science demonstrates how credible, peer-reviewed scholarship is too often disregarded for pseudoscience that touts conservative values at the expense of empirical data. In these examples and in many more, junk science serves to manipulate public perceptions of the scientific process.
Funny how so much of our modern politics — propaganda, astroturfing, junk science, etc. — goes back to Big Tobacco. The thing is, Big Tobacco lost! They lost. We’ve got smoking bans everywhere and the rate of smoking in adults has been dropping for decades. Heck, I remember when you could smoke on airplanes, in movie theaters and even in grocery stores! Now some landlords are banning smoking in their rental units. So for all the junk science and astroturfing, they still lost.
And the anti-choice crowd is going to lose, too. Because truth always comes out. Always. Saying you have the science on your side doesn’t work when you don’t.
And I think it’s kinda cute that the right-wing anti-choice crowd will disparage our modern “permissive” culture every chance they get while at the same time adopting that value system themselves to make their arguments. It’s kinda sad.