July 2, 2022

More on Dobbs

Having already read Justice Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when the Supreme Court announced its final decision, I decided that my time would be better spent reading the dissenting opinion from Justices Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan. Doing so proved very enlightening, and it’s a project I recommend to anyone with the interest and time to take it on. Or you can read below my observations on what the three justices wrote. (My initial essay on Dobbs is here.)

As you might suspect, the three dissenting justices are unimpressed with the reasoning of the majority. Supreme Court justices are not in the habit of calling their colleagues nasty names, but, within the bounds of judicial decorum, I think it fair to say that their dissent is scathing. Their view of what the reactionary justices in the majority were about is best captured in this analysis: 

The majority has overruled Roe and Casey for one and only one reason: because it has always despised them, and now it has the votes to discard them. The majority thereby substitutes a rule by judges for the rule of law.

Much of the dissent is about the flimsy rationale offered for overturning Roe and Casey and the disdain shown by the majority toward both judicial convention and American women.

The Roe decision is nearly 50 years old. The Casey decision came fifteen years later, affirming the basic finding of Roe while rejecting its trimester scheme of Roe and introducing the undue burden standard limiting state-imposed restrictions on abortions.

Breyer, et al., argue that Americans have come to rely on the right to abortion. Extinguishing that right will have profound consequences, particularly for poor women. The court’s majority dismisses the reliance interest of women, however, and argues that any reliance interest that militates against rejecting a prior decision must be “very concrete,” involving, for example, contracts. The dissenters observe

The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.

The propriety of overturning Roe and Casey turns on the validity of the decisions themselves—the dissent actually focuses on Casey, as it was the ruling opinion prior to Dobbs—and on the doctrine of stare decisis, the legal principle that, absent compelling reasons to do otherwise, previous opinions should be respected.

 Breyer, et al., explain that the right to seek an abortion was predicated on the concept of personal liberty derived from the Fourteenth Amendment. In Casey, the court struck a balance between state interests and those of the individual woman. In Dobbs, however, the interest of the woman disappears. The court, they say, does not believe in balance.

Why did the court not recognize a right to abortion in the Fourteenth Amendment? The answer involves the perverse notion of originalism, a legal concept not actually called out by name in the dissent. According to the dissenters, the majority was interested in only one question: Was the right to an abortion understood as a consequence of the Fourteenth Amendment when it was adopted in 1868? Of course, no one suggests that it was. If you buy into the notion that the meaning of a constitutional provision is forever fixed at the time of its adoption—this is the essence of originalism—then you must conclude that there was not a right to abortion in 1868, and, therefore, there is not one in 2022.

We should not be shocked that the court was willing to toss out half a century of legalized abortion based on what men thought in 1868. (Women had no voice in governing back then.) For example, in her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Amy Coney Barrett declared that originalism is the system of legal interpretation to which she is committed. As she explained,

I interpret the Constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. That meaning doesn’t change over time, and it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.

 Breyer, et al., reject this strange view and point out that the court has recognized other rights not enumerated in the Constitution and not recognized in 1868. Frighteningly, Justice Thomas is well aware of this and plans to do something about it in the future.

The dissent offers a long discussion regarding the circumstances in which a prior court ruling may properly be overturned despite the default inaction demanded by stare decisis. It is not enough—non-lawyers may be surprised by this—that a case was wrongly decided. There must be special circumstances that demand a correction. What has changed since Roe and Casey were decided? Nothing of substance. Only the philosophy of a majority of the justices has changed. Ironically, whereas the current court is returning the question of abortion to a time decades ago, many other countries have, in recent decades, expanded abortion rights.

The majority opinion cites a number of cases that were subsequently overruled to justify their action in Dobbs. The dissenters analyze each of these and find significant changes in society to justify the original decisions being overturned. They do not provide appropriate models for the decision in Dobbs.

The dissenters note that the legitimacy of the court is built over time, but that “it can be destroyed much more quickly.” They conclude their remarks with this observation:

In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles.

June 29, 2022

Schroeder Update 13

I continue to work with my rescue cat, Schroeder. Schroeder was not particularly animated at first. He now seems much more like a normal cat. He plays with toys. He responds to catnip. He uses a scratching post. (A post my other two cats never used has been happily adopted by Schroeder.)

Schroeder shows no inclination to become a lap cat. But whenever I walk into the room, though, he walks up to me to get head scratches and other pets. He is an amazingly quiet cat and seems to have more of a quiet squeak than an actual meow.

This cat is amazingly adept at avoiding being photographed. I’ve tried to get video of him playing with a little ball, which he does with great enthusiasm. The moment I point a camera in his direction, he stops doing whatever I was trying to capture in a picture. Here is one picture I did manage to capture; Schroeder is enjoying a catnip cigar:
 

Schroeder with catnip toy
Schroeder with catnip toy

 
When I first brought Schroeder indoors, I confined him to a single room, a home office. He adopted two cozy corners where he tended to hang out. He gradually spent less and less time there, spending more time out in the open or on the back of the couch, where he can look out the windows.
 

Schroeder by couch
Schroeder by office couch


Schroeder at window
Schroeder at office window

 
Lately, I have been leaving the office door open, giving Schroeder the run of the first floor. (My cats Linus and Charlie are downstairs.) He was at first reluctant to venture out into the hallway, and when I followed him to see where he would go, he immediately ran back to the safety of the office.

Happily, Schroeder has not only become more comfortable outside the office, but he has even adopted a new favorite place. I now often find him on a chair facing the glass doors to the back deck. I once tried to sit next to him on the chair, but he jumped down from the chair as soon as I sat down. 

Schroeder on chair
Schroeder on his new favorite chair


Schroeder in living room
Schroeder in the living room

 
Apparently, I’m not going to make Schroeder into a lap cat anytime soon. He is charming in his own way, however, and I think it’s about time to find him a forever home. Once I realize I could not simply return him to the outdoors, that has been the plan.


Note: Schroeder’s story to date can be followed here.

June 28, 2022

Urging the President to Action

I wrote to President Biden today. My message may be read below.

 
Dear Mr. President:

Our democracy is rapidly being dismantled, engineered by a rogue Supreme Court, a feckless Senate, and aided by undemocratic structural features of our Republic. The court has undermined the wall separating church and state, gutted Miranda rights, favored gun “rights” over concerns for public safety, and, most disturbingly, consigned women to second-class citizenship. The court has not completed its reactionary program, and Congress seems unable to come to the aid of our democracy.

The upcoming midterm elections have the potential to make democracy’s plight considerably worse. History presages significant Democratic Party losses in the fall, and your personal approval rating hardly suggests otherwise.

On one hand, your anemic approval rating is unfair. Your administration can claim real accomplishments and cannot logically be blamed for high inflation. But people are justifiably dissatisfied with the status quo. They cannot banish COVID, fix supply chair problems, or roll back price increases posted primarily to increase profits. The party in power invariably takes the hit for the sort of dissatisfaction people are now feeling.

You have acted decisively in the foreign policy arena, but it is a rare voter who is much influenced by that. Alas, you have been less than resolute regarding your domestic agenda. Now, however, is the time for forceful action. Not only will that strengthen the Republic, but it will also, I suspect, increase Democratic prospects in November.

The most obvious issues to address are gun laws, abortion, and the Supreme Court itself. Having just enacted mild gun legislation, Congress is unlikely to want to revisit the matter. I urge you to lean on Congress—essentially, that means on certain Democratic senators—to pass a bill creating federal abortion rights and overriding the many restrictive laws being enacted by Republican state legislatures. This is urgent! If doing this means the filibuster must go—it does—then so be it. If serious arm-twisting is required, by all means, employ it. A majority of Americans will applaud you and may even rethink their voting for Republicans—any Republicans.

An out-of-control Supreme Court drunk with newly acquired power is a more difficult problem and a more concerning one. The most obvious corrective is to pack the court. A nine-justice court is not sacrosanct. Impeachment of some of the justices should also be considered. The charges: misleading senators about their willingness to overturn Roe and having voted to extinguish a human right acknowledged for half a century, and not enjoining laws that were clearly unconstitutional as long as Roe was still the law of the land. Given his own actions and those of his wife, there are independent reasons to want to impeach Justice Thomas.

Even if the impeachment of certain justices fails, the shot across the bow of the Good Ship Supreme Court could have a corrective effect, at least in the short term.

Please, Mr. President, show yourself to be a strong chief executive willing to take strong action to preserve our democratic Republic.

Very truly yours,

Lionel E. Deimel, Ph.D.
Indiana, Pennsylvania

June 27, 2022

Dashboard

I ran across a draft poem the other day that I never did anything with. I’ll clean it up a bit and post it below. It probably is not one of my better efforts. I have no idea when I wrote this.

Dashboard

I’m a fine chap, really—
Friendly, a good conversationalist,
Articulate, but not garrulous.
When I start the engine,
Why does my car confront me
And call me “Airbag?”

June 25, 2022

A First Reaction to Dobbs

I am extremely upset by the Supreme Court’s having overturned Roe v. Wade yesterday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. I need time to read the opinion—opinions, actually—carefully and spend time developing a response that goes beyond fear and outrage. For now, I can only offer a few off-the-cuff observations with the promise of a future more thoughtful response.

What was published by the court lacks a table of contents, and the fact that the file is 213 pages long makes it difficult to find individual items within it. For the benefit of any reader who wants to navigate to particular sections, I offer a high-level table of contents below. Note that the page numbers refer to the pages in the PDF file, as sections are individually numbered beginning at 1.

Section  Page No.
Syllabus1
Opinion of the Court (Alito)9
      Appendix A87
      Appendix B109
Concurring (Thomas)117
Concurring (Kavanaugh)124
Concurring in Judgment (Roberts)136
Dissenting (Breyer, Sotomayor & Kagan)148
      Appendix208

The Dobbs decision was not unexpected, given the leaked draft opinion from Justice Alito. The appearance of the actual decision was nevertheless more shocking than I was prepared for. Most upsetting was the explicit suggestion by Justice Thomas that the court may not be done with extinguishing established rights. The court has sent decisions about abortion law back to the states. Will the same be done by this court for sodomy law, contraception law, miscegenation law, and sex-neutral marriage law? (Will Thomas ultimately have to divorce his white wife?) Buckle your seatbelt!

The trajectory of this court is frightening. We must do something to interrupt its retrogressive program. I’m not sure what that something might be, but Democrats need to figure it out. I hope that enough American voters will pass up voting for Republicans and instead elect more Democrats.

Many have observed that Roe was not a strongly argued opinion. Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was uncomfortable with it. The current court apparently took that opinion at face value and had no interest in finding a firmer constitutional basis for a right to abortion. My suspicion is that the justices had an agenda of killing Roe, and no reasoning, logical or legal, really mattered. After all, Donald Trump promised to put justices on the court who would overturn Roe. He fulfilled that promise three times.

I believe that the Supreme Court has made women permanent second-class citizens. Rather than writing more about this, I refer readers to a post I wrote back in May, A Comprehensive Examination of the Abortion Question. Perhaps in better times, my arguments will be availing.

For now, I have just one more observation. In the future—I hope not the exceedingly far future—Dobbs will be forever linked to Dred Scott v. Sandford and other disastrous Supreme Court decisions.
 

Don’t vote for Republicans.

June 23, 2022

Two Rediscovered Limericks

I’ve been going through old papers and came upon some poems I have never made public. The poems—limericks, actually—were written in April 2006.

The two poems below were written by me with the help of a friend. A decade and a half later, I cannot remember just who contributed what to them.

Robert W. Duncan
Robert W. Duncan
Some context: The poems refer to Robert W. Duncan, who was the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh in 2006. Duncan had been plotting the removal of the diocese from the Episcopal Church. Two years later, he partially succeeded, separating a majority of its parishes from the diocese but failing to abscound with the diocese itself and a smaller number of its parishes. The schism was effected only after the Episcopal Church had already deposed Duncan a few weeks earlier.

For readers unfamiliar with recent Episcopal Church history, I should explain that “a canon named Vicky” in the second poem refers to Vicky Gene Robinson, a canon and gay man who was elected Bishop of New Hampshire. (Why Bishop Robinson has an odd Christian name is another story.) Bob Duncan opposed homosexuality and the ordination of homosexuals. The church’s stance regarding homosexuals was a major rationale Duncan cited justifying his schismatic actions.

Finally, the word “nawab,” also in the second poem, is likely unfamiliar to most readers. It is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable. It is a synonym of “nabob,” a more common word but one that would have created an inferior rhyme.

The poems—

Bishop Bob #1

There once was a bishop named Bob
Who was unfulfilled by his job;
To be a big fish
Was his passionate wish,
So he’d lie, cheat, deceive, plot, and rob.


Bishop Bob #2

There once was a bishop named Bob
Who yearned to become a nawab;
Soon a canon named Vicky,
Whose sex life was icky,
Spurred the bishop to seek a new job.

June 19, 2022

Texas Republicans on Dismantling America

Nearly two weeks ago, I posted “A Democratic Platform for 2022.” This was a minimalist list of policy positions intended to appeal to voters who, in large numbers, are in sympathy with them. I remarked that Democrats “should be dismissive of other matters raised by their opponents and avoid being dragged into complex arguments they are unlikely to win.”

I stand by what I wrote in my Platform, but I was perhaps naïve regarding the range of “other matters” GOP candidates might raise or be tempted to raise. I was astonished and horrified when I read a description offered by Heather Cox Richardson of platform planks recently adopted by the Republican Party of Texas. In her June 18 essay, she wrote

Republican Party of Texas Logo

[D]elegates to a convention of the Texas Republican Party today approved platform planks rejecting “the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and [holding] that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States”; requiring students “to learn about the dignity of the preborn human,” including that life begins at fertilization; treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice”; locking the number of Supreme Court justices at 9; getting rid of the constitutional power to levy income taxes; abolishing the Federal Reserve; rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment; returning Christianity to schools and government; ending all gun safety measures; abolishing the Department of Education; arming teachers; requiring colleges to teach “free-market liberty principles”; defending capital punishment; dictating the ways in which the events at the Alamo are remembered; protecting Confederate monuments; ending gay marriage; withdrawing from the United Nations and the World Health Organization; and calling for a vote “for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.”

The Republicans responsible for these policy positions seemingly take no arrangements in society as given. They have no right to suggest that raising the minimum wage or forgiving student loans is in any way “radical.” These Texans seem to have cornered the market of radical. Their platform, I suggest, would find favor among few American voters.

It is unlikely that Republicans nationally will espouse the sort of platform articulated by their Texas colleagues, but it would be unwise to assume that the views of Texas Republicans are confined to the Lone Star State. I have suggested that a vote for any Republican is a vote to dismantle our democracy. It may actually be a vote to dismantle our entire civilization.

Of late, I have heard many questions regarding what Democrats actually stand for. They stand for, among other things, the negative of every plank adopted by GOP Texans. Well, perhaps Democrats would support the last plank Heather Cox Richardson mentioned. 

June 13, 2022

Hard-Boiled Eggs

I have read many instructions for making hard-boiled eggs. Any method that works for you is fine, of course. Most importantly, your technique should produce eggs cooked perfectly. The eggs should be thoroughly cooked but not overcooked, which is usually indicated by a green ring around the yolk. An ideal procedure should be

  1. Easy
  2. Fast
  3. Effective
  4. Reproducible
  5. Scalable (works for one egg or many)
  6. Yields easily peeled eggs
  7. Offers easy cleanup

I’m not sure my technique checks off all these desiderata—it involves two pans and a cover—but it does the job well and predictably.

My procedure is as follows:

  1. Begin with eggs at room temperature. This is perhaps the least attractive step, as it requires some forethought.
  2. Boil water in a saucepan.
  3. Place the eggs in a steamer insert. Place the insert over the saucepan and cover.
  4. Maintain the water at a boil.
  5. Remove the steamer after exactly 13 minutes, and plunge it into cold water to stop cooking.

If you don’t have time to bring the eggs to room temperature, omit the first step and cook the eggs for about 14½ minutes. (This is a bit of a guess, as I haven’t determined the number experimentally.)

In general, my timings may depend somewhat on the equipment used and your elevation. At higher elevations, your cooking may need to be longer. The equipment I use is shown below.

Saucepan, steamer insert, and cover
Saucepan, steamer insert, and cover

I have always peeled hard-boiled eggs by first tapping the top and bottom of the egg on the counter to crack the shell. I then peel away the shell under running water. This works, though not especially well.

The other day, I accidentally discovered a better technique. I take a cold hard-boiled egg and place it on the counter. I then roll it back and forth under the palm of my hand. This results in the shell being cracked all over, after which it is easily removed from the egg. Be sure that no small fragments of shell remain on the egg.

This technique works really well. Give it a try.

June 7, 2022

A Democratic Platform for 2022

In 2012, I wrote a post titled “A Preëmptive Political Post.” My intention in doing so was to head off feeling the need to write individual posts on a variety of issues likely to surface in the 2012 presidential campaign. The post did not set out a platform for the Democratic Party. Instead, it offered a series of assertions about the way things are and about how they should be. The post has attracted many visitors, but I cannot say how much those visitors read.

Democratic Party Logo
Anticipating the 2020 presidential election, I wrote a somewhat similar post, “A Litany for the Democratic Presidential Candidate.” The items on my list this time looked more like conventional planks on a political platform. The list was very long, however, and it was more wish list than platform.

Twenty twenty-two is not a presidential contest year, of course, but the fall elections could have monumental significance. Democrats fear that they could lose their majority in the House and their at-least-theoretical majority in the Senate. Such an outcome would further cripple the legislative process and provide a ready excuse for electing a Republican president in 2024. How can Democrats fashion a campaign strategy to engage their base and attract the votes of independents and sane Republicans?

My purpose here is to suggest such a strategy. In constructing the list below, as opposed to the long enumerations I offered in 2012 and 2020, I was guided by these principles:

  1. Democrats should campaign on relatively few issues. They should be dismissive of other matters raised by their opponents and avoid being dragged into complex arguments they are unlikely to win.
  2. Democrats must all run on the same platform, even if individual candidates are personally opposed to certain planks or believe voters in their district are.
  3. Democrats should avoid issues seen by many as far-left.
  4. Democrats should embrace issues for which there already is broad support.
  5. Democrats should make promises that seem reasonable, practical, and achievable.
  6. Democrats should emphasize that not only their program but democracy itself is contingent on electing Democrats and displacing Republicans from office.

Item (2) will be a hard sell for some candidates, perhaps even for most. Many voters seem uncertain about what Democrats stand for, and having all candidates singing from the same hymnal will send a strong and coherent message. Arguably, item (3) is entailed by item (5), but it seemed worthwhile to make it explicit. Item (6) represents more of an attitude than a policy. It is a message that candidates must send at every opportunity. Implicit in all the proposed policies is the notion that government can and should make life in the United States better for its citizens.

My list of campaign issues for Democrats follows. It is a list of what a candidate promises to support. Even this list may be too long and may need to be pared down. The list is intended to be in order of importance, with the more urgent issues at the top. My ordering is a best guess, and individual candidates (and even the party at large) may need to adjust the emphasis to better appeal to the electorate. Perhaps each candidate may be allowed to advocate one or two measures not on the list, as long as they are compatible with other positions. Such measures could include tax reform, support for children, and more aggressive antitrust measures.

 

My Proposed Democratic Platform

  1. Enact reasonable gun regulations. This would include effective background checks for all sales and transfers, however made. Sale or possession of assault weapons, defined by function rather than by model number, will be prohibited to anyone under the age of 21. How candidates should treat this issue will depend on what, if anything, Congress does in this area before or during campaigning.
  2. Protect the right to abortion. What this looks like depends upon the forthcoming decision from the Supreme Court. It is important to not get carried away here, even though one can make a rational case for a very expansive right. Following Roe and clarifying Casey seems like a good approach.
  3. Enact legislation regarding climate change: work to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and provide funds to mitigate damage caused by climate change.
  4. Continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. If the war concludes, support reconstruction for Ukraine. This and closely related issues are probably enough of foreign policy for Democratic candidates.
  5. Improve availability and affordability of prescription drugs. It is important to not make this sound too complicated, but the general idea is bound to be popular. The government can negotiate the prices it pays for drugs, subsidize low-margin drugs that companies are reluctant to make, change patent policies that have resulted in patents being issued for trivial variations of drugs that are losing patent protection, and outlaw drug prices significantly higher than those for the same pharmaceuticals sold overseas.
  6. Work for comprehensive immigration reform. What this looks like will have to be negotiated, and it is difficult to know how legislation should look. We can suggest useful principles. Dreamers should be given a path to citizenship. Long-time unlawful residents should be required to pay a penalty but should be allowed to stay. (We cannot deport them all.) Those wanting to enter the country (and particularly those with an asylum claim) deserve to have their cases adjudicated in a timely manner. Such changes will require more personnel and more money.
  7. Expand voting rights. The franchise should be automatic with citizenship. Voting law changes in all states should be subject to Department of Justice review to assure fairness. Apparently, this would pass Supreme Court muster.
  8. Senate candidates should promise to vote to eliminate the filibuster, a major impediment to democratic government.

N.B. Candidates will no doubt have to respond to complaints about the Biden administration. To this, one can respond that (1) at long last, an infrastructure bill was passed, (2) COVID relief was passed, (3) the COVID vaccine rollout was successful, and (4) President Biden built up foreign alliances neglected or damaged by his predecessor. To complaints about inflation, one has to say that it was caused largely by events beyond the president’s control—supply disruptions caused by the pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine. Perhaps the Federal Reserve did too little too late, but the Federal Reserve, by design, is insulated from political influence. Simply because bad things happen while a person is president does not necessarily mean that they were caused by or could have been avoided by the president.

Stopping a Bad Guy With a Gun

June 6, 2022

Chastisement from Church Not Deserved

The title of this post was not of my choosing. It is the headline that The Indiana Gazette gave to a letter to the editor I submitted and which was published on June 2. It will suffice here, however.

My letter was in response to a column by Cal Thomas. His columns appear in the Gazette with alarming frequency, and letters to the editor arguing with his assertions are also common. The essay I responded to in this instance can be read here.

My letter follows. The published version got a bit mangled—“edited” is not the right word—so I have corrected the text below. I don’t think I need comment further.

Cal Thomas asserts in his column, “Theology, politics and abortion” (Indiana Gazette, May 24, 2022) that Roman Catholic politicians such as President Biden and Speaker Pelosi should knuckle under to church abortion dogma. He identifies opposition to abortion as a “central tenet” of the church. Despite his attempts to argue otherwise, however, the Bible is silent on the matter, and the church teaching is a modern one.

I was always led to believe that the central tenets of Christianity involved loving God and one’s neighbor, feeding the poor, comforting the afflicted, and so forth. If Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi support a woman’s right to control her own body, that is no reason to believe they are not sincere followers of Jesus Christ. In reality, they are in good company among Catholic laypeople and the majority of citizens of whatever faith.

Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi have sworn an oath to the Constitution, a document setting forth rules for a secular nation. As free citizens themselves, they may advocate for or against a policy supported by their church. The Catholic Church, however, has no privileged position in American politics; it is simply another lobbying organization advocating an unpopular policy. The president and speaker do not deserve the chastisement of archbishops and sanctimonious columnists.

June 5, 2022

A Diane Duntley Album

For her funeral, I prepared an album of pictures I had taken of Diane Duntley. I had no access to photos taken before I knew Diane, so the album only includes pictures from her later life. Nevertheless, I hope that friends of Diane will appreciate seeing the pictures I selected.

The photo below is one of those in the album. Click on it to see the whole album, which is in the form of a PDF file.

 

Click to see album.

June 4, 2022

A Diane Duntley Tribute

The funeral for Diane Duntley was held in Christ Episcopal Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania. I paid a personal tribute to her, which I have reproduced below. (Her newspaper obituary can be read here.)

The Episcopal Church brought Diane Duntley and me together. Twenty years ago, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh faced a split over issues of sexuality. I became involved with Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh, eventually becoming its president. I have no idea how Diane came to be involved with PEP, but I began seeing her at PEP meetings and getting to know her. When she had diocesan meetings in Pittsburgh but needed to wait for her ride back to Indiana, I drove in from Mt. Lebanon to join her for dinner. She liked to try new restaurants.

We both enjoyed concerts, and Diane often invited me to Indiana to accompany her at events at IUP.

When I was faced with a large rent increase, Diane decided that I needed to move from Mt. Lebanon and into an apartment in her basement. I resisted her entreaties, but she showed up with a student helper, boxes, and, eventually, a moving van. As her health deteriorated, what began as a post-retirement project became a deeper friendship with a live-in caregiver.

I learned that Diane had grown up on a dairy farm in the small Pennsylvania town of Corydon, a town eventually obliterated by the reservoir formed behind the Kinzua Dam. Her mother played a reed organ in the local Methodist church, and Diane took on various church duties. Her first few years of school were in a one- or perhaps it was a two-room schoolhouse. She graduated from Allegheny College, taught in two New York school districts, and eventually earned a doctorate in reading from the University of Buffalo.

She was recruited by IUP to help prepare disadvantaged students for the rigors of college. She didn’t expect to spend her professional career in Indiana, but that’s what happened. Her university work involved little teaching. Instead, she was tasked with a succession of special projects that no one else at the university seemed to want to handle, a role she continued to fill because she always seems to have completed them successfully. As I discovered when I was snatched off to Indiana, Diane was a planner and a force to be reckoned with.

Diane’s parents and her younger sibling, Kevin, died years ago. Diane never married, though she seems not to have had philosophical objections to the institution. Having no children of her own, she devoted her attention to her three nephews and, later, to their sons and daughters. She loved to entertain children and to find engaging things to do with them, whether it was visiting tourist attractions in Pittsburgh or sponsoring a seed-spitting contest off her deck after serving watermelon.

Diane supervised many students in her IUP career, and she hired students to do domestic chores. She didn’t like housework, but she liked working with young people. She was in contact with many of them years later. They sent her notes and pictures of their families

Diane was an active participant in the League of Woman Voters and various university-related groups. Most especially, she was an active Episcopalian. For years, she served on various committees of the Pittsburgh Diocese and was the diocesan representative of Episcopal Relief and Development. At Christ Church, she was noted for preparing food for various occasions, such as Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday. When Christ Church considered buying and reconditioning a replacement organ, Diane was an enthusiastic supporter and funder. Unfortunately, she never got to hear the organ you are hearing today except on the Web. A dedicatory recital had been postponed by COVID. She complained that the organ sounded bad on Facebook. I assured her that it sounded much better in the church.

Diane’s generosity was prodigious but was pursued quietly. She gave money to her family for various purposes, donated to women political candidates, and supported both Christ Church and Episcopal Relief and Development. I sent $25 to Amnesty International to help Ukraine and suggested that she, too, might contribute to the Ukrainian cause. She immediately wrote a thousand-dollar check to Episcopal Relief and Development for the purpose.

Diane had a temper, and it could be quite frightening. Her anger quickly dissipated, however, and it was as though it never was. Perhaps the angriest I ever saw her was in the hospital after her kidneys had finally failed and her messed-up blood chemistry caused her to be delusional. Diane was convinced that Fr. Bill and I, dressed in tuxedos, had made her the butt of jokes at a party. She hated us with a vengeance for that.

Her sanity returned, but she needed dialysis three times a week for the rest of her life.

Diane’s heritage was English and Swedish, a background that made her a somewhat bland cook. Her culinary repertoire was further circumscribed by some passionate dislikes: pickles, olives, peppers of any kind, herbs and spices she had not grown up with. On the other hand, she liked Swedish cheese and sausage, herring, and, I am told, lutefisk. For legitimate health concerns, she avoided tomatoes (well, mostly), alcohol, and shrimp. Diane was an excellent and imaginative baker of cookies, however. Because I had grown up in New Orleans, when I began cooking for the two of us, meal planning became tricky. She thought of me as a gourmet cook, but this was only relative. I did get her to eat gumbo once.

In her retirement, Diane hoped to travel the world, but her mobility issues made that impossible. Although she transitioned from cane to walker to wheelchair, the two of us were able to take various car trips. We traveled for the Episcopal Church and for her interests and mine. She even won a Caribbean cruise and was determined to take advantage of it. She took no shore excursions, but she rented a scooter and scooted about the ship on her own. We both ate well.

Diane tolerated the years of dialysis well, but she seemed to wind down in her final months. One morning, a few weeks ago, she was not doing well, though it was not completely clear why. Her student helper, a personal care assistant, and I decided that it was time for Diane to go to the hospital. From IRMC, she was quickly transferred to West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh. Diane was treated there for weeks and was never to come home again.

I will miss her, and many others will also.

 

Diane Duntley
Diane Duntley (a recent photo made for
a church directory)

R.I.P. Diane Duntley

My friend Diane Duntley died recently, and I will be attending her funeral this afternoon. I will have more to say about Diane shortly. What follows is the obituary that appeared in The Indiana Gazette.

 
Diane L. Duntley, 80, of Indiana, died Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at West Penn Hospital, Pittsburgh, after a brief illness.

She was born July 26, 1941, in Warren, to Paul R. and Audrey (Larson) Duntley, of Corydon.

Diane L. Duntley
Diane L. Duntley
Receiving her A.B. degree from Allegheny College in Meadville, she earned her M.Ed. and Ed.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Diane retired from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she served as director of academic information systems. She was an active professor involved in numerous university activities. Before coming to IUP, she taught at the public schools in both Wilson and Spring Valley, N.Y., as well as at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Diane was involved in various community activities and organizations. Notably, she served on the board of directors of Family Hospice of Indiana County and the League of Women Voters of Indiana County. She was an active member of Christ Episcopal Church, where she served on the Vestry. She held various positions with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and served as the diocesan representative of Episcopal Relief and Development.

Diane is survived by her sister-in-law, Luise Duntley; nephews Steven, Scott and James Duntley; their families; as well as many colleagues and friends.

In addition to her parents, Diane was preceded in death by her brother, Kevin R. Duntley.

At Diane’s request, there will be no viewing. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Christ Episcopal Church, Indiana, with Father William Geiger as celebrant. The service will be preceded by an organ prelude beginning at 1:30 p.m. in honor of Diane, who was instrumental in the restoration of the organ.

The Bowser-Minich Funeral Home, Indiana, is assisting the family with arrangements.

Online condolences can be expressed to the family at www.bowserminich.com.

May 30, 2022

Originalism and the Second Amendment

The Second Amendment, at least insofar as it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court and has been treated as a political third rail by Congress, is proving to be the most dangerous amendment of the Bill of Rights. Its sacrosanct status is making the country increasingly lawless and dangerous. The number of guns in the country continues to increase, and the restrictions placed on gun possession and use, contrary to all reason, continue to decrease. For too many Americans, preserving what they see as their gun “rights” is more important than protecting the lives of young children.

We need to consider the historical context of the Second Amendment, which reads as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, became effective on December 14,1791, not long after the Constitution itself was adopted as our fundamental body of law.

Having so recently won its freedom from Great Britain, the new nation was concerned about maintaining its security and protecting its independence. The Continental Army, which was established by Congress on June 14, 1775, was largely disbanded after the Treaty of Paris. There was strong sentiment against maintaining a standing army. Providing security for the young country fell to the militias and other local officials.

The state militias were expected to handle local conflicts and could be called upon for national defense if need be. They were composed of citizen soldiers who were required to provide their own weapons. Clearly—perhaps not so clearly to Supreme Court justices—the Second Amendment was designed to maintain the militia system, which was well-established when the Bill of Rights was proposed.

The “arms” of the amendment referred primarily to muskets. The pistols and rifles of the 1790s were primitive affairs, and bullets, as we have come to know them, had not yet been invented.

In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). the Supreme Court seemingly ignored the introductory clause of the Second Amendment and declared that the “right” of the amendment applied to individuals for self-defense at home. It seems likely that the court will expand individual gun rights even further in future decisions.

Republican justices are fond of the concept of originalism, that the Constitution and laws mean only what they meant when they were adopted. If this judicial theory is applied to the Second Amendment, should it not only allow individuals to possess muskets or other arms available in 1791? In his draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Alito argues that the Constitution cannot grant a right to obtain an abortion because abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution. (Nor are women, for that matter, as they don’t seem to have mattered much in the late eighteenth century.) Under originalism, how can “arms” encompass modern pistols and assault weapons, which were clearly not even imagined in 1791?

Of course, originalism is nonsense. Carried to its logical conclusion, it ossified our laws, leaving them trapped in a time period ignorant of the modern world. If the Constitution does not give women rights over their own bodies, neither should the Second Amendment give a right to own assault weapons and other modern “arms.”

May 29, 2022

A Church Demonstration of Sympathy and Outrage

The lawn of Christ Episcopal Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania, hosts two sets of crosses today. On one side of the entrance are crosses representing victims of the recent supermarket shooting in Buffalo, New York. Each cross, other than the one in front, carries the name of a person killed on May 14. The cross in front says “Buffalo, NY.”

Sadly, on the opposite side of the church entrance is a larger collection of crosses. These carry the names of the victims, mostly children, killed in the Texas elementary school massacre. The forwardmost cross says “Uvalde, TX.”

The crosses were conceived and executed by the church’s Oremus Prayer Group. It is surprising—it shouldn’t be, of course—that a field of crosses makes a stronger impression on the mind than does a simple cardinal number communicating the same quantity of lives cut short.

Our local church is not one given to public displays, but I happily endorse this one. Also, I have more than once suggested that our rector incorporate more social commentary into his sermons, which typically more resemble Bible studies than powerful messages to the faithful. Today, however, he decried gun culture in his sermon and prayed for the dead in Buffalo and Uvalde by name.

Perhaps recent massacres have shaken the people of America more than usual. It is to be hoped that thoughts and prayers will no longer be enough. It remains to be seen whether any significant actions will follow.


Church lawn with crosses
Church lawn with crosses

Crosses for Buffalo victims
Crosses for Buffalo victims

Crosses for Texas victims
Crosses for Texas victims

May 27, 2022

A New Wine-Tasting Rule

Pre-COVID—will that become a common period designation?—I regularly attended the free wine tastings at a local liquor store. (For non-Pennsylvania residents, I must explain that the distribution of liquor is socialized in this state. Until recently, this was true of wine as well. All liquor/wine stores are run by the state.) My visits provided an opportunity to sample wines and to occasionally buy bottles of those I found satisfying. Perhaps even more importantly, it was an opportunity to socialize with friends who also enjoyed wine. The liquor store was my version of Cheers. The cast of characters was not quite as colorful as those of the TV show, but we had our standouts. Unsurprisingly, wine tastings were discontinued when the COVID pandemic hit the country.

“Cheers” Logo
Logo from the television show
Recently, the wine tastings were resumed. Yesterday, I attended one. The wines were uninteresting, as it turned out, but I did get to see friends I had not seen since the tastings were suspended. As usual, I arrived with my own glass and a bottle of water to wash my glass between wines. (This is a habit I picked up from my son when he was in college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is now a professional winemaker.)

As soon as he saw me sit down at the counter, Matt, the local wine expert and server for the tastings, told me that he could not pour wine into my glass. This was apparently a new regulation handed down from on high. I was incensed. I was sure that few if any patrons in Pennsylvania brought their own glasses to wine tastings and wondered if the regulation was directed at me personally. Matt assured me that he had nothing to do with the new rule, and neither of us could imagine a rationale behind it.

The reason for bringing my own wine glass, of course, is to better see the wine’s color and to be able to swish the liquid around and better perceive its aroma. One cannot really do these things in a plastic cup that holds 50 ml. or so.

Once I recovered from my shock, however, I recognized the obvious workaround. Matt poured the wine into a plastic cup, and I poured the cup into my wine glass. Everyone was happy.

May 26, 2022

Bubonic Plague in the United States

Seldom do I miss an episode of American Experience on PBS. These programs provide insights into both well-known and obscure corners of American history.

The most recent film offered by American Experience is “Plague at the Golden Gate,” definitely a story from an obscure and forgotten episode of our history. Who knew that, at the turn of the last century, the United States faced the threat of bubonic plague emanating from San Francisco? (I was relieved to know that the danger was in our distant past.)

As is typical of the series, “Plague” was informative and entertaining. It was also a bit depressing, as the power elites of San Francisco exhibited their racism toward Chinese residents and their concern for profits over public health.

I appreciate the challenges faced by filmmakers telling a story of a time in which images were not as common as they are today. It can be a struggle to maintain visual interest using available material. “Plague” did a fair job in this regard, making good use of photographs, documents, rare movie film, and occasional contemporary video used to provide context.

I do have one complaint against “Plague, and it’s a beef I’ve had with more than one documentary. More than once, film of a passenger train pulled by a steam locomotive was shown to illustrate the travel of characters in the historical story. As a railfan, I recognize that these film clips are almost certainly not illustrating the exact travel in question but are instead stock footage. One hopes that the footage at least represents railroad equipment of the period, perhaps even shown traveling through terrain that the travelers described would have seen.

I view such interludes of train travel with a less-than-critical eye. Was the locomotive from the right period? The coaches? Can I identify the railroad, and was an eastern railroad standing in for a western one? There are questions I don’t usually ask myself. On the other hand, when I saw a locomotive that was clearly British and could never have appeared on American rails, I sat up and took notice. That seemed less like literary license and more like outright deception.

Overall, the filmmakers did a fine job using available images, and I’m sure they thought they could get away with images of a British train. Or maybe they didn’t even realize their mistake. I’m sure most viewers didn’t. As they say in tennis, however, it was an unforced error and certainly an unnecessary one.

________________

Readers of my blog probably know that I have a special interest in language. The narration of “Plague” contained a delicious phrase I just had to write down for future use. Perhaps you can think of situations to which the phrase “the complacency ignorance” could profitably be applied.

May 25, 2022

Thoughts on Yet Another Gun Massacre

Yesterday’s school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, coming as it did on the heels of the supermarket massacre in Buffalo, New York, made me sadder and madder than I can ever remember being in response to a news story. Why do we countenance such obscenities,  reacting with only “thoughts and prayers”?

Of course, thoughts and prayers provide some small comfort. The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry offered a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them: Give us grace to entrust these innocents to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

President Biden, who knows well what it is like to lose a child, was unusually animated in his response. Speaking of the recurrence of mass shootings, he declared, “I am sick and tired of it.” (I could relate to that.) “Where, in God’s name, is our backbone?” he asked. “It’s time to act!”

Neither Bishop Curry nor President Biden nor I has much actual hope that this country will soon make changes that could turn back the rising tide of multiple assassinations of innocents. Americans long for such changes, but politicians refuse to deliver them. Politicians, primarily Republican politicians, will continue their steadfast inaction as long as voters are more interested in gasoline prices, low taxes, or high school trans girl athletes than in reining in the slaughter of our citizens.

Meanwhile, I fear that children will be afraid to go to school. Will they be reluctant to make friends for fear that their friends could be taken away from them in an instant? Need we send our children to school in body armor? Or will we conclude that public education is too dangerous?

Whereas I have no idea how we can create a safer America, I can certainly dream about how such a nation might look:

  • All guns are licensed for a fixed term and subject to renewal. There is a fee for licensure, and licensing is subject to a background check.
  • All gun transfers, however effected, require revocation of the supplier’s license and the licensing of the receiver.
  • All firearms must carry serial numbers, which are recorded on licenses and entered into a permanent database.
  • Carrying a gun, except for sport, is lawful only for persons with a special need to do so. (A guard for an armored truck, for example, would likely qualify.) This requires a special license and an enhanced background check.
  • The purchase of ammunition and components needed to make ammunition is recorded in a government database that is maintained indefinitely.
  • Hunting with a firearm always requires a hunting license.
  • No civilians are allowed to possess assault rifles, machine guns, etc. Prohibited weapons are specified by rate-of-fire and the ability to deliver a projective capable of a given kinetic energy, rather than a list of gun models.
  • No weapon is legal that can fire more than 10 rounds without reloading. Magazines holding more than 10 rounds are prohibited.
  • No one younger than 21 years of age may buy or own a weapon.
  • Owners of a weapon are responsible for its use and incur liability if, for example, a child gets hold of the weapon and injures him- or herself or others.
  • Violations of weapons laws result in fines, mandatory jail terms, and permanent loss of the right to own a weapon.
  • There are, no doubt, other wise provisions needed that I haven’t thought of.

One could hope that, in the world I imagine here, most police officers would not need to carry a firearm.

-----------------------------

The photograph below was posted on Facebook. It is of Makenna Elrod, a victim of yesterday’s shooting. How can you look at this child and not want to stop this firearm madness?



May 16, 2022

Keep Abortion Legal

My post A Comprehensive Examination of the Abortion Question is admittedly lengthy. Realizing this, I thought it would be helpful to offer a more modest essay in support of abortion rights. Below, I argue that abortions should be legal. While admitting that it may be reasonable to restrict the procedure in some circumstances, I leave it to others to suggest what those circumstances might be.

 

Keep Abortion Legal
by Lionel Deimel

Religious dogma underpins anti-abortion passions. Too often, we fail to dispute its relevance and to claim precedence for individual liberty in a free society.

Principled opposition to abortion comes largely from Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants, who view children, however conceived, as gifts from God not to be disparaged. This view ultimately derives from Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which, notably, cites no directly relevant biblical authority for its moral imperatives.

The problem with viewing a pregnancy as God-given is that seeing God’s hand in human affairs cannot easily be circumscribed. If God’s will creates new life, are not cancers, floods, wars, and earthquakes likewise divine “gifts”? Logically, then, medical intervention, levees, diplomacy, and building codes are unnecessary and perhaps sinful, as they attempt to thwart God’s will. If such conclusions are unacceptable, then the notion of a pregnancy’s being part of God’s plan is in no way dispositive.

The concept of a soul underlies the thinking of many abortion foes. They believe that possession of a soul endows humanness, and the intentional extinction of any human is murder. In the most extreme version of this reasoning, a soul attaches to a fertilized egg, thus creating a sacrosanct entity even before a pregnancy[1] is established. This view logically leads to opposition not only to abortion but also to contraception. If a fetus[2] acquires a soul sometime after fertilization, the use of contraceptives rather than the so-called rhythm method may be seen by women as licit. Pharmaceutical and mechanical contraception are widely used by Roman Catholics despite their church’s prohibitions.

America is a secular nation with a tradition of separation of church and state. Codifying religious dogma in law is improper in principle, especially so when that dogma is espoused by a minority even of believers. Yet this is what abortion advocates would have us do and what legislators are increasingly willing to do.

The impulse to protect human life is deeply embedded in law. Should abortions be prohibited because the fetus is human? It surely is. But so are fingernails and skin shaved off in a fall onto the sidewalk. Is an early-stage fetus a human? The answer must be no. Early on, it is less complex and capable than a goldfish. Even if it has a soul—not a valid legal concern—it lacks the biological mechanisms to appreciate it or to exercise a human will in a meaningful way.

Though a young fetus is not a human, its mother certainly is. According to the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she “has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” This, along with America’s self-declared commitment to individual liberty, suggests that a woman has a right to end a pregnancy within her own body without state interference.

Does the state have a compelling interest in preventing abortions? Early in gestation, it is difficult to see one. If we need more citizens, increasing immigration is a more direct way to obtain them than is requiring women to carry unintentional and unwanted pregnancies to term.

Some argue that an abortion ban is needed for the “protection” of women, but from what harm? Some women regret their abortions; many are relieved by them. An unplanned pregnancy can derail an education or career, can lead to financial hardship, and can endanger a woman’s life. An abortion, after all, is nearly always less risky than carrying a pregnancy to term. A government that “protects” a woman by removing her freedom to terminate a pregnancy is a paternalistic state that infantilizes women and makes them second-class citizens. We are all diminished thereby.

Women have myriad reasons for choosing abortion, and, through much of a pregnancy, we have no right to second-guess their decisions. At some point, of course, it is difficult not to view a healthy fetus as an actual human not subject to abortion. We can debate where that point is; it is surely before the mother is in labor. The Supreme Court once identified fetal viability as the critical point, but the threat now is that the court might instead choose implantation or even fertilization.



[1] Medical science considers the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus as the beginning of pregnancy.

[2] I use “fetus” to encompass a fertilized egg and everything into which it can develop, including, ultimately, a baby. This usage is unconventional but is adopted because no existing word has the intended scope. I use “mother” and “woman” to refer to the pregnant person carrying the fetus, irrespective of any other concerns, such as the genetic relationship of mother to fetus.


NOTE: A PDF of this essay may be downloaded here.

May 14, 2022

Bans Off Our Bodies Rally

People in hundreds of cities and towns were marching for abortion rights today. Indiana, Pennsylvania, is not a city large enough to rival the events in the likes of Chicago or Washington, D.C., but we had a respectable turnout.

I spent last night and this morning making signs for our local event. The products of my efforts can be seen below.




The march organizers supplied signs for the event, and others, as I did, brought their own.

The event began with speeches, though the speakers were basically preaching to the choirs about the need for women to make their own decisions about their bodies. The speeches ended with a plea to vote for Democrats in the upcoming elections, as Republican candidates are uniformly opposed to abortion.

Once the rhetorical part of the program was completed, everyone marched to the courthouse, crossed Philadelphia Street—see photo below—walked back on the other side of the street, and crossed the street again to return to IRMC Park, where we had begun. During our march, signs were visible to cars passing by. Unfortunately, Saturday afternoon did not see a lot of traffic on Philadelphia street, so it isn’t clear what effect our efforts had on Indiana public opinion. But it was satisfying to have participated in the demonstration and enjoyed the camaraderie of like-minded citizens.

                      

May 13, 2022

Mitch (as usual) Got It Wrong

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, trying to counter the outrage over the possible overruling of Roe v. Wade, dismissed the fact that, in so doing, the Supreme Court would be acting against the well-established views of the American people. In an NPR interview, he said, “So, for the Supreme Court on any issue to reach a decision counter to public opinion is exactly what the Supreme Court is about—is to protect basic rights even when majorities are in favor of something else. It happens all the time, so I don’t think that’s particularly unusual.”

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

There is some truth to what McConnell said. The job of the high court is to apply the law and the Constitution to cases before it, irrespective of public opinion. One could argue, however, that the court has more often ruled in favor of public sentiment despite the law. (Think Plessy v. Ferguson or Korematsu v. United States.) In support of his point, McConnell cited Texas v. Johnson, the 1989 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that flag-burning is protected free speech under the First Amendment.

McConnell picked a bad example. True, the public probably did not agree with the decision in Texas v. Johnson, but the public was wrong. The court correctly affirmed a constitutional right in Texas. If Roe is overruled by the justices, they will surely be disregarding public opinion. More importantly, they will be extinguishing a well-established constitutional right.

One may quibble about the reasoning in Roe v. Wade. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with the effect of the court’s opinion, but she argued that a more certain decision should have been based on an equal protection argument. In any case, overturning Roe will not put the abortion issue to rest; it will intensify it. If Americans do not enjoy a right of privacy articulated in Roe, this country cannot consider itself a free nation. Future rulings by this out-of-control extremist court may be expected to restrict even more human rights.

May 12, 2022

Safe, Legal, and Accessible

It used to be common for proponents of legal abortion to assert that the procedure should be “safe, legal, and rare.” The word “rare” was meant to mollify and reassure abortion opponents. The thinking was that abortions could be reduced in number through conscientiously implemented measures such as education and readily available, inexpensive contraception. Abortion opponents, the misnamed “pro-life” crowd, took “rare” to suggest something quite different. To them, making abortions rare was a license to suppress abortions through coercive legislation and misinformation. They have been very good and exceedingly imaginative at that.

The slogan “safe, legal, and rare, has a nice ring to it, and it seems a shame to have to jettison it. On Facebook, I offered the formulation “safe, legal, and common.” Although some liked the replacement of “rare” with its opposite, many were justifiably uncomfortable with the suggestion that we should be increasing the prevalence of abortion as a positive good. Despite what the anti-abortion activists may think, no one sees abortions in the abstract as a good thing.

Even if abortions are safe, which they are, and legal, which they increasingly are not, safe and legal are irrelevant if abortions are not easily and economically obtainable. This led me to consider words to replace “rare.” No single word seemed perfect or comprehensive in its meaning, but “accessible” seemed a pretty good choice. Incorporating this word into the graphic I originally posted on Facebook yielded the graphic shown below. People may use it as they see fit.
 

Abortion should be safe, legal, and available

May 8, 2022

Financing Abortions

I am feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of stories about what life in the United States will be like if Roe v. Roe is overturned. I keep thinking about what I can do to minimize the unnecessary tragedy a radical Supreme Court may be about to visit upon our country. Yes, I can contribute to Planned Parenthood and similar organizations, but my contributions will necessarily be small. Moreover, I am already contributing to Democrats, environmental organizations, cat welfare groups, and institutions involved in mitigating the catastrophe that is the war in Ukraine.

Although I feel incapable of offering really significant monetary aid to women in a post-Roe America, I do have a plan to suggest. Perhaps people can be found to implement it.

Some organizations are providing financial assistance to women who need to seek an abortion outside their state. The need for such support may soon become markedly greater. It will be difficult to meet this need, particularly over the long term, from charitable contributions alone.

Many people willingly take on the obligations of motherhood. For some women, however, the costs, both direct and indirect, of not obtaining a desired abortion are enormous. There are prenatal medical and delivery costs. Then there are opportunity costs incurred both before and after delivery. And, of course, the costs of supporting a child are an ever-increasing, seemingly interminable financial drain. This is to say nothing of the psychological costs to the prospective mother.

If, for any good reason, a pregnant woman wants to end her pregnancy, it is clearly wise for her to spend money on an abortion to avoid the much greater costs of carrying a baby to term and rearing him or her. In the post-Roe world, she may require thousands of dollars to obtain the procedure, but the investment will pay handsomely in the long run.

Such a financial calculus is unassailable, but what if the woman does not have the wherewithal to finance the plan. And what if no charitable organization is forthcoming with assistance? It is unlikely that charitable groups will be able to underwrite abortions for every woman in need of financial assistance. We don’t want a woman’s only option to be trusting an abortion from neighbor Melvin’s second cousin in his basement down the street.

The answer for a woman in such circumstances could be a low-interest “abortion loan.” Such a loan, whether provided by a charitable organization, special-purpose financial firm, bank, or even the federal government, would be sufficient to cover the travel, medical, and incidental expenses related to obtaining an out-of-state abortion. The loan would be paid back in one to five years, depending upon the financial resources of the borrower. Because the lending entity is partially or totally self-financing, the need for ongoing charitable income would be minimal or nonexistent. If the government is the lender, borrowers who have limited prospects for repayment could be allowed to perform community service in lieu of loan repayment.

No doubt some—particularly anti-abortion zealots—would object to abortion loans, particularly if the government is the lender. Nonetheless, the idea has promise. It is unfortunate that we may soon need novel responses to the loss of what has been a constitutional right for half a century, but novel responses may well be necessary.