Monday, October 29, 2012

David Frum getting real

David Frum has a new editorial up on CNN entitled "Let's get real about abortion."  Anyone who talks about "getting real" on an issue has set himself up a pretty high standard, since he is effectively calling the discussion up to that point unreal -- he is saying that he is bringing sense to the subject for the first time.  Unfortunately, Frum fumbles even a basic understanding of the problem.

To begin with, he regrets that the moderator in a recent Indiana senatorial debate did not follow up one candidate's answer with what Frum admits was an "argumentative" question.  The question was narrowly partisan.  To quote just part of it:
OK, Mr. Mourdock, you say your principles require a raped woman to carry the rapist's child to term. That's a heavy burden to impose on someone. What would you do for her in return? Would you pay her medical expenses?
By the very question, Frum exposes his ignrance of the issue.  He seems to think that requiring a raped person to carry a baby to term implies a responsibility to offer something to the victim in return, as though the government were commonly in the business of compensating victims of crime.  If a criminal robs your house, does the government restore your property?  If a drunk driver turns you into a paraplegic, does the government pay for your medical expenses?  If someone murders you over an argument, does the government pay your family?  In ever case, no.  Your only hope for compensation is from the perpetrator, and that is rarely fulfilled, unless the perp happens to be a millionaire like O.J. Simpson.

Frum's hypothetical moderator continues,
If a woman has her credit card stolen, her maximum liability under federal law is $50. Yet on your theory, if she is raped, she must endure not only the trauma of assault, but also accept economic costs of potentially many thousands of dollars. Must that burden also fall on her alone?
I am flabbergasted at the trifling nature of this argument.  Comparing rape to credit card theft?  We have special laws limiting liability in the case of credit cards because -- well, I'm not exactly sure why, but it probably has something to do with the bank and the merchants sharing some responsibility for validating the user's identity.  But if someone hacks into your bank account and steals a million dollars, you are out of luck (at least over the insurable limit of $100,000), and if someone steals a million dollars in cash from your home, good luck getting that back.  The idea that rape is peculiarly like credit card fraud and not just about every other kind of crime, violent and otherwise, which is not limited by the government, strikes me as inane.

I am remaining neutral on the actual question of abortion for rape victims.  If you think rape victims should be permitted access to abortions, you can surely think of a better argument than Frum's.

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