The RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a right-wing crank economics think tank, has called for “a retraction of attacks against the Catholic Church and for a respectful public debate” regarding H5343, which would codify the protections of Roe v Wade into Rhode Island State law.
According to Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO, RI state representatives Joseph McNamara, David Bennett, and Evan Shanley attacked the Catholic Church and RI Right To Life “by implying that they are spreading misinformation.”
Here’s the attack ad the representatives were responding to, which ran in the Warwick Beacon and was reportedly handed out at some Catholic Church services on Sunday.
The ad was sponsored by RI Right to Life. If the representatives were responding to the outrageous and deliberately misleading claims of this advertisement, why does the Catholic Church deserve an apology? There name is nowhere on the advertisement.
Perhaps because the representatives were also responding to the outrageous and deliberately misleading statements of Providence Catholic Dioceses lobbyist Bernard Healey as quoted in The RI Catholic, where he slurred medical practitioners who offer abortion services while mischaracterizing the proposed legislation as, “a radical attempt to remove all state regulation from the unethical and questionable practices of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood and the Kermit Gosnells of the Ocean State.”
Stenhouse echoed Healey when he said, “Certainly Rhode Islanders would not want a butcher like Kermit Gosnell to be able to act with impunity in our state.” Stenhouse then goes on to list Gosnell’s crimes, “In 2013 Gosnell, a Pennsylvania abortionist, was convicted of murdering three infants who were born alive during attempted abortion procedures, and was also convicted of 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortions and 211 counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law.”
Gosnell, it should be noted, was a criminal sadist who was not providing safe reproductive services for his patients. Gosnell preyed on the desperation of mostly poor women of color. Despite complaints, his practice went not inspected for 17 years. Early on, anti-choice activists like RI Right to Life latched onto Gosnell’s story in an effort to smear medical professionals who offer safe and legal abortion. You can read a smarter characterization of Gosnell’s crimes here.
It is the work of groups like RI Right to Life that create unsanitary and dangerous clinics where monsters like Gosnell prosper, by, for instance, advocating for laws that prevent Medicaid from covering abortion or by pushing President Donald Trump to issue a global gag rule that “blocks US federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counselling or referrals, advocate to decriminalize abortion or expand abortion services.” Every time we make it more difficult for women to access safe and factual reproductive health care, we make it easier for monsters like Gosnell to thrive.
Comparing the doctors in our state who do the important work of providing reproductive health care to a criminal like Kermit Gosnell is an outrageous lie, and calling this lie out is not an attack on the Catholic Church, but a necessary defense against the lies that the religious faithful spread in the name of their church.
One wonders how conservative commentator Mike Stenhouse would react if I were to compare him to fellow conservative commentators Milo Yiannopoulos and Dinesh D’Souza or how lobbyist Bernard Healey, who is also a Catholic priest, would react to being compared to any number of pedophile priests. They would understandably think such claims outrageous, misleading and off-point.
Calling the legislation “a radical attempt to remove all state regulation” covering abortion providers is also dishonest. Stenhouse links to a piece on Anchor Rising by the Center’s own Justin Katz that quotes extensively from the statements the statement issued by McNamara, Bennett and Shanley but leaves out the part where the representatives say that they “are open to changing the language in the bill to ensure that no one is able to misinterpret it.”
The debate over H5343 is about whether Rhode Island wants to preserve the reproductive rights of women or allow a potential future Trump dominated Supreme Court take that right away. The extreme, misleading histrionics of the anti-choice right are attempts to obfuscate the issue, and if they truly want to conduct “a respectful public debate” then perhaps they should start by being respectful.