One of the funniest shows on television is “Veep,” an HBO production that stars Julia Louis Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer. I was recently binge-watching the show and came across one that dealt with abortion. Meyer had just declared that she was running for President and during her campaign the current President came out to declare his support for making abortion illegal after 20 weeks. That put Meyer in a tough position because she was totally pro-choice but was uncomfortable butting heads with her President.
So, she and her aides sit down to try to craft a position on abortion that doesn’t go too awry from the President’s position but does not tick off the pro-choice groups. Staff starts throwing out different cut off dates. “How about 22 weeks?” says one aide. “That will keep you somewhat aligned with the Prez but you can tell the pro-choicers that you are more liberal on the issue.” She doesn’t buy it. Then they discuss 23 weeks, 24 weeks. Meyer keeps shaking her head, frustrated at the difficult and totally silly conversation.
She then suggests inviting lobbyists from both sides of the issue to try to craft something in the middle, hoping to assuage both Planned Parenthood and the local bishop. The efforts prove useless.
Finally, in exasperation, the VP screams out “I just want the fucking government to stay out of my snatch!!”
It was friggin hilarious and the episode captured some of the more ludicrous political situations that occur in the halls of Congress when the professionals start trying to craft positions on abortion. They try to cater to both sides and paddle right down the middle – and they always get creamed.
I’m reminded of my good friend, former Congressman Jim Moran. Jim was first elected here in Northern Virginia and his main campaign issue was that he was pro-choice. His team actually produced an award-winning commercial touting his pro-choice credentials. He won year after year in a landslide and became a leading spokesman for the pro-choice movement.
But Jim was also a good Irish Catholic boy from Boston and one day he called me to ask questions about something called “partial birth abortion.” He confided in me that he was horrified by the procedure and I had to candidly tell him that any abortion, especially one on a more developed fetus, was not pretty. He finally told me he would vote to ban the procedure.
It pained him to oppose his friends in the pro-choice movement but he at least had the courage to tell them up front what he was doing in advance and he gave a speech in the House of Representative explaining his position. After he voted with “the enemy,” the pro-choice shit hit the fan. Ultimately, the major groups decided to not contribute one dime to his next campaign (where they had maxed out in the past). Oh, Jim won his re-election handily but he lost some good friends who didn’t think he should have a conscience and was instead a traitor to the cause. It hurt him deeply and after he got over the pain, he felt anger.
The point is that anyone who seeks a middle ground on the abortion issue is going to tick off both sides. You can’t win. In retrospect, maybe Jim just should have issued a press release saying “the government should just stay out of women’s snatches.”