THE BLOG
09/24/2014 01:38 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

Abortion and Incest

Dennis Flaherty via Getty Images

This is the only post that you will read from a Democrat during this election season regarding abortion. The only one. Because I may well be the only Democratic candidate who is willing to undertake a mature conversation on this subject, and not just fling trite clichés in your general direction. So you might as well enjoy it, right?

A few months ago, I was reading the appropriations bill for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. (Yes, I actually read the bills. As Yogi Berra once said, "You can see a lot by just looking.") I noticed something odd. Since 1976, federal appropriations bills often have forbidden the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion, except in cases of incest or rape. This is known as the Hyde Amendment, after its author Henry Hyde (R-IL). It was an anti-choice response to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

So what was odd? That this appropriations bill forbade the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion, except in the case of rape only. Only rape. Not incest. (There also was a provision regarding the life of the mother.)

There isn't a lot of time to goof around over appropriations bills. We generally see them with barely 24 hours' notice. So I wrote a quick corrective amendment, to allow federal funds for abortions in cases of both incest and rape. Obviously, since I'm pro-choice, I regard that as far too narrow. However, in the Tea Party's House, I didn't think that I was going to win that battle that day. I just tried to correct an obvious error.

Why bother? I'll tell you why. Because if you are the victim of incest, and while you are pregnant you end up in federal prison, you can't just flag a taxi and drive over to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. Prison wardens frown on that.

So I walked across the street (something else that federal prisoners can't do), and waited patiently until it was my turn to offer my amendment. I didn't think that it was going to be a big deal.

It was.

Quite to my surprise, the GOP's "floor manager" expressed bitter opposition to the very notion that incarcerated victims of incest might want to terminate their pregnancies. It was intolerable! It was despicable! Had I no respect for life itself???

Well, I lost that vote. That wasn't one of the fifty or so floor amendments that I have pushed over the finish line during the past two years.

I felt bad about it, because I couldn't stop thinking about those female prisoners. It was hard enough that they were being denied control over where their bodies were, but even worse that they were being denied control over what was in them. And control over your own body is the most fundamental human right of all.

Later that day the GOP floor manager, to his credit, came over to me and told me that I had made a good point, and that he would "fix it" next year. So why couldn't he concede that point, and give me my amendment? Because politics, that's why.

I was reminded of this recently because I looked at some video clips of my GOP opponent. My opponent says that she is opposed to all abortions, under any circumstances, period. And then exclamation point.

Here is her "reasoning": When she was born, in North Carolina 57 years ago, abortion was a felony. (As it was in every state except New Jersey, where it was a misdemeanor.) North Carolina did not legalize abortion until 1970. She is concerned that if abortion had been legal in North Carolina when she was conceived, then she might have been aborted. "Therefore," all abortion should be illegal, she says.

Whoa.

Philosophy majors will recognize this as a bizarro, twilight version of Immanuel Kant's "Categorical Imperative." Immanuel Kant might have made that argument, had he not been a great philosopher but rather, an idiot.

Anyway, in just six weeks, the voters in FL-9 will have a choice. They can vote for a candidate who feels some degree of concern about women who are the victims of incest, who are incarcerated, and who then are forced to bear, and then bear, the consequence of that incest. Or they can vote for a candidate who fears that she might be retroactively aborted, and then incorporates that fear into her political platform.

I seriously hope that they vote for me.