Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Well, you probably know about this by now:

George W. Bush's pro-life stance solidified when he was a teenager in Texas -- after his mother suffered a devastating miscarriage and showed him the fetus in a jar, the former president said in an extraordinary interview that airs tonight.

"She said to her teenage kid, 'Here's the fetus,'" the shockingly candid Bush told NBC's Matt Lauer, gesturing as if he were holding the jar during the TV chat....

"There's no question that affected me, a philosophy that we should respect life," said the former president, who had to drive his distraught mother to the hospital at the time.

"I never expected to see the remains of the fetus, which she had saved in a jar to bring to the hospital," Bush writes in his new book, "Decision Points," in an excerpt Lauer read during the interview....

The Daily Beast recalls a similar story about a well-known religious-right politician -- though it's not the only one, as I'll note below:

Conservative Republican Senator Rick Santorum ... was vocal about the way in which he and his wife, Karen, dealt with the miscarriage of their son, Gabriel, 20 weeks into Karen's pregnancy.

"Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass," The Washington Post reported in 2005.

There's also this concerning Allen Quist, a former Minnesota state legislator and unsuccessful congressional and gubernatorial candidate who's an unswerving religious conservative:

The depth of his conviction on the abortion issue is illustrated in the most traumatic moment in his life. On a winter morning in 1986, Quist's first wife, Diane, 6 1/2 months pregnant with their 10th child, was on her way to a friend's house when her car slid off the road and rammed into a drainage ditch. She was killed, along with the unborn child.

Legislators who went to the funeral said they were shocked to see the fetus in the open casket with Diane.

So there's something, well, archetypal about this kind of story for religious rightists. In that way it reminds me of John McCain's story about one of his POW guards drawing a cross in the dirt -- a story that also, curiously, somehow went untold for years.

I'm a bit puzzled that the story helped turn the teenage Bush anti-abortion back in the 1960s. Around that time, Bush's father was a congressman known for a strong interest in family planning, up to and including abortion, as biographer Herbert S. Parmet has noted:

Bush took up the matter almost as soon as he reached Washington. His commitment was so intense that [Congressman] Wilbur Mills soon called him "Rubbers." ... When, in December of 1969, Representative Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn argued for the liberalization of abortion laws, Bush commended her and added that her suggestion "deserves wide attention." When his panel issued its final report, ...[it] expressed the widespread concern that the continued illegality of abortion only jeopardizes the health and lives of those whose desperation made them turn to shoddy practitioners.... That November, Bush explained to a constituent that whether to give birth to a child "should always remain a matter of individual choice."

Barbara Bush herself is pro-choice. Laura Bush is pro-choice. And yet W wants us to think God made him anti-abortion nearly half a century ago.

But, well, Barbara and W had a complex relationship. Years earlier, when W was seven years old and his sister, Robin, died of leukemia, Poppy and Bar went out golfing the day after she was buried.

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