John McCain has as good as promised that he will nominate Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. One of the problems that many of us have had with Hillary Clinton's "courageous" and "determined" fight for the nomination--a fight that was doomed at least two months ago--is her insistence, as late as yesterday, that she is the stronger candidate against McCain. For her to continue to make this particular claim, which is contradicted by nearly all polls taken in the last months (which generally show them both beating McCain, with Obama often slightly ahead against McCain), could have the effect of undercutting Obama's chances. Indeed, many cynics think that is exactly what she is trying to do, thus opening the field for her to run against McCain in 2012.
I have written before that American women, including the most fervent Clinton supporters, now need to embrace Obama (not literally, of course) as the clear advocate for women's rights--including, of course, reproductive rights--in this election. To drive home the point, I would refer readers to an essay in the Health section of the New York Times today by a retired gynecologist in his mid-80s, one Waldo L. Fielding, entitled "Repairing the Damage, Before Roe." Fielding describes his time in New York hospitals during the 1940s and 1950s, when, he writes,
There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.
Fielding recalls the botched coat hanger abortions he saw:
In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.
But coat hangers weren't the only objects used:
Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.
The worst case he ever saw, Fielding says,
... was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.
This is the era that a McCain victory threatens to bring back. I think that Clinton supporters understand this full well, and that whatever bitterness remains from the primary campaign will soon dissipate when American women--and all Americans who care about the future of their country--see what is really at stake in this election.
Image: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Update: New York Times columnist Bob Herbert thinks that the primary campaign has done irreparable damage, to the Democrats' chances of winning in November. While he puts most of the blame on the Clintons, he does not spare Obama's gaffes. Let's hope he is wrong.
News Update: The Washington Post reports (with accompanying video) that soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome are living in barracks right next to firing ranges. There seems no end to the callousness with which returning troops are treated. But I am sure it is nothing a flag pin on a lapel can't fix.