Editorial: Murphy’s abortion hypocrisy helps no one



U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy in August 2017. (Nate Guidry/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Politicians can often debate the issues — even the most emotional ones — into a state of almost humdrum normalcy. There’s only so many times you can revisit a public outrage and still realize the issue’s real impact.

One of Pennsylvania’s pro-life members of Congress appears to have reached that point on the matter of abortion. In text messages from January recently revealed in public proceedings for a divorce, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., appeared to contradict his public stance against abortion by suggesting to a mistress that she undergo the procedure.

“You have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place, ” Murphy’s mistress wrote to him over text, pointing out the representative’s hypocrisy. “[But] you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options,”

Though it’s easy to reach the conclusion that Murphy’s actions were hypocritical, it’s also worth wondering how he — and perhaps other members of Congress — arrived at such a point mentally. Particularly on the issue of abortion and reproductive health, there’s a large and widening gap between how affected individuals deal with the issue and the rhetoric politicians and pundits use to discuss it.

Among the most egregious examples of this contrast came earlier this week with the House’s vote to send a bill banning late-term abortions to the Senate. The bill, which Murphy cosponsored, would outlaw the procedure after the first 20 months of pregnancy, with exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest, and echoes feverish conservative fears.

President Trump is among those whose views on abortion are almost cartoonishly overstated. At the final presidential debate last October for the 2016 election, Trump breathlessly claimed that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, wanted to “take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

Even if what Trump said about Clinton were true, it should be pointed out that few women have abortions late-term — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1.3 percent of all abortions in the United States occur after the 21st week. Simply stated, the House’s bill addresses a problem that doesn’t appear very pressing.

What is the benefit to distorting an issue like the pro-life movement’s obsessive focus on a facet like late-term abortions that makes up such a small part of women’s experiences? It’s hard to believe that such a focus is intended to benefit the people who actually deal personally with it.

It’s far more likely that Murphy — and others in Congress like him — hold pro-life stances more out of political convenience than conscience. And his warped perception of how abortion affects real people does no credit to the pro-life movement.

Murphy should be pro-life if he truly has a moral conviction on the issue. But his announcement yesterday that he won’t run for reelection to his seat in 2018 was needed. Anything less would be harmful to everyone involved.

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