Here’s something that showed up on the DR website a couple of days ago:
Bill on abortion access voted down in US Senate
Reuters/Ritzau, DR.dk, May 12
That’s a very crisp and succinct headline in English.
The actual Danish headline speaks of “fri abort,” which I translated here as “abortion access.” I’ve often translated it in the past as “unrestricted abortion.” That’s a better translation on several levels but would be conceptually misleading here precisely because it would be unintentionally accurate.
Just for context, here’s an excerpt from an article on the history of Danish abortion rights:
In Danish (my emphasis):
Loven fastslog i § 1, at ”En kvinde, som har bopæl her i landet, har ret til at få sit svangerskab afbrudt, hvis indgrebet kan foretages inden udløbet af 12. svangerskabsuge.” Dermed var der med ikrafttræden den 1. oktober 1973 indført fri abort i Danmark.
In English (leaving the key phrase untranslated):
The law stated in § 1 that “A woman who is resident in this country, has the right to have her pregnancy terminated if the procedure can be performed before the end of the 12th week of pregnancy.” Thus, with the entry into force on 1 October 1973, (fri abort) was introduced in Denmark.
“Fri abort” plainly does not mean “unrestricted abortion.” Otherwise it would make no sense to say this highly-limited legality of abortion was “fri abort.” Nor does it mean (as Google translate interprets it) “free abortion.” (That would be gratis abortion.)
I draw these distinctions because the article makes to mention of the fact that the Senate bill was in fact proposing unrestricted abortion: it effectively called for the purging of all restrictions on abortion throughout the fifty states. Sections 3(a)(8 & 9) of the bill (complete text of the bill here) make this very clear:
The 3(a) part reads: “General Rule.—A health care provider has a statutory right under this Act to provide abortion services, and may provide abortion services, and that provider’s patient has a corresponding right to receive such services, without any of the following limitations or requirements:”
Eleven such prohibited limitations are then enumerated.
The eighth is: “A prohibition on abortion at any point or points in time prior to fetal viability, including a prohibition or restriction on a particular abortion procedure.”
“Fetal viability”—the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb—is generally believed to begin in about the 24th week of gestation. Section 2 of the bill provides its own definition:
The term “viability” means the point in a pregnancy at which, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, based on the particular facts of the case before the health care provider, there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained fetal survival outside the uterus with or without artificial support.
So right off the bat, all abortions through the first two trimesters would be legal. No restrictions.
That surely plays well with America’s Democratic base, but it’s not a political winner (as DR implies it is) with the broader public: polling shows that about 60% Americans support unrestricted access to abortions in the first trimester, but only 28% of Americans support unrestricted access to abortions in the second trimester.
Here in Denmark, abortions are banned in the second trimester (with the usual exceptions for rape, incest, and endangerment of of the mother’s life), but the article neglects to mention this. Those primitive American senators, voting down a bill that… uh… would have been rejected even in Denmark.
But wait, there’s more.
The ninth type of prohibited regulation is: “A prohibition on abortion after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
At first glance that may not seem extreme: it’s just saying that abortions can’t be banned after viability if continuation of the pregnancy could endanger the mother.
But that’s not a thorough reading.
Anti-abortion Americans were troubled by the “or health” phrasing here. The overwhelming majority of Americans approve of abortions at any point in a pregnancy where the mother’s life is jeopardized by the pregnancy. Abortion opponents therefore felt the addition of “or health” was an overbroad allowance intended to allow as many exceptions as possible.
It’s not clear to me that, as some anti-abortion activists and politicians have claimed, this bill would represent absolutely unlimited abortion rights all the way up to the emergence of a baby from the birth canal in theory: but I can easily imagine how it would manifest that way in practice.
That seems to have been the same conclusion drawn by the handful of Senators who are ostensibly in favor of abortion rights but who voted against the bill on the grounds that it went too far. (For example, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.)
There’s no discussion of any of this in the article published by DR:
A Democratic bill that would ensure the right to abortion throughout the United States has fallen in the US Senate, writes the news agency Reuters.
The proposal would move the issue of abortion under federal law. Thus, the Democrats would ensure access to abortion throughout the country.
That’s the only description of the bill they offer.
The article then describes the political justification for forcing a vote on the bill (to give the Democrats some “tail winds” going into the midterms), and explains its context (the leaked majority opinion to overturn Roe v Wade), and then gives Majority Leader Chuck Schumer the last word:
Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in his speech ahead of the bill Wednesday:
“The question is simple: women’s rights face the greatest threat in half a century. Will this chamber intervene and protect their right to self-determination?
“Or should five unelected justices remove a fundamental right from millions of women in this country?” Schumer said, referring to the five Supreme Court justices who are expected to reject the consideration of the Roe v. Wade decision.
How about a quote from at least one of the pro-abortion rights Senators who nevertheless voted against the bill. just for a sense of balance? If the bill was so simple and vital and important and good that its defeat is inherently newsworthy (suffice to say DR doesn’t run news blurbs on every failed bill in the U.S. Senate), oughtn’t the reasons for its defeat be at least mentioned?
I mean, but was nevertheless defeated in a Senate controlled by Democrats, surely Danes deserve and was defeated anyway despite Democratic control of the Senate,
I wouldn’t expect DR to bother presenting any of the anti-abortion arguments, but would it have been so awful to explain that some pro-abortion Senators considered the bill excessive, and to share their arguments with Danish readers?
“The bill’s failure was anticipated all along due to strong Republican opposition,” the article informs us. “The bill would require at least 60 votes to advance in the Senate, where Republicans hold 50 of the 100 seats.”
The average Danish reader’s takeaway can only be that any access to abortion is opposed reflexively by the entire Republican party, which simply isn’t true. (Collins and Murkowski in fact introduced their own bill to federalize the legality of abortion earlier this year.) The average Danish reader would also have no idea that the bill would have legalized abortion all the way through the end of the second trimester.
And with respect to Chuck Schumer’s histrionics, it might have been worth noting that it was also “five unelected justices” who created the “right” to an abortion in the Roe V. Wade ruling of 1973. It was “five unelected justices” who created the “right” to gay marriage in the Obergefell ruling of 2015. Given a Supreme Court with nine justices, in fact, Schumer’s contempt for any number of “unelected justices” deciding anything can only be interpreted as contempt for the very existence of the Supreme Court.
Or, of course, it could be interpreted a gaseous outburst of partisan rabble-rousing.
Either way, we have yet another example of DR presenting an American story uncritically through the lens of the Democratic Party.
And once again DR’s readers will know less about American after reading an article in DR than they knew about it beforehand.