Pollak on Keenan on The Let Women Die Bill

| March 18, 2014

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Your present assignment is to deeply analyze and critique one of Pollak’s criticisms of Keenan. You should not do anything that is not part of this one specific task. Do not make any comments that are not strictly necessary in order to accomplish a deep critique of this one specific criticism. I strongly suggest that you read the whole of this prompt, follow all the links given here, and do a proper job of researching and analyzing this issue before you come to any conclusions, and complete a logical analysis before you start writing. This assignment has turned out to be amazingly difficult for some students. In fact, I have been shocked at how badly some students have done at this assignment.
Prefatory Note
Before you start, I want to make a short comment about the probable impact of a "Let Women Die Bill" if it existed and had been passed. (I’m not saying it existed, I’m not saying it didn’t. I’m just talking about what would have happened if a bill like that became law.) The answer, in my opinion, is not much. Nancy Keenan says there was a bill that said that if a hospital refused to perform an abortion, the government could not do anything, such as withholding federal fans, to punish the hospital. She also said that this rule even applied if the refused abortion was necessary to save the woman’s life. This sounds shocking, but there are a couple of reasons to think, if it is true, it is not actually a big deal. First, the hypothetical bill in question (which may or may not have existed) does not mention emergency treatment at all. Emergency medical treatment is covered by an actual law called EMTALA, which specifically says that the government must punish any hospital that lets anyone suffer a life-threatening emergency when medical treatment can save them. EMTALA isn’t mentioned in this possibly nonexistent bill, so it’s hard to make a case that the bill would magically make EMTALA no longer the law. Second, even if such legislation did become law, and it did override EMTALA, it is highly doubtful that doctors in any American hospital, even a Catholic hospital, would actually allow any woman to die when an abortion would save her. I base this claim on the fact that, while Catholic hospitals already regularly refuse to perform abortions, they have performed life-saving abortions when necessary (Phoenix Case). So I personally think this particular point is not actually a big issue out there in the real world. However, here in this class, I want you to practice the skill of critical thinking on this particular criticism, by Joel Pollak, of what Nancy Keenan specifically said about this bill in her press release.
I’m even perfectly happy for everyone to assume that Keenan was wrong, or at least overly excited, about this bill (if it existed), because the question is not "was Keenan over the top," but did Joel Pollak justify his claims about what Keenan said? Thus, you need to get the meaning of Keenan’s statement correct, the meaning of Pollak’s claim about that statement correct, and Pollak’s reasoning in support of his claim about that statement correct before you go on to critically analyze that reasoning. (After you’ve done this, you can make your own comments on whether the LWDB would be a big deal if it existed. Just make sure you do the real assignment before you do so.)
Basic Task
In Nancy Keenan’s NARAL press release, she writes:
Rep. Ryan . . . supported the;Let Women Die Bill, which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she could die without it.

In his response to Keenan’s press release, Joel Pollak says.

For example, one of the lies told by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is that Ryan “supported the ‘Let Women Die Bill,’ which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she could die without it.” It goes without saying that there was never any such piece of legislation. The actual bill to which Keenan is referring was called the “Protect Life Act,” H.R. 358, and it is about protecting religious freedom, not banning abortion. The act was passed in response to concerns that the Obama administration would force Catholic hospitals (and others) to provide abortions. Keenan makes it seem as though Ryan had voted to ban abortion at all hospitals, even if the mother’s life was in mortal danger. He did not. (Update: It is worth noting–since Keenan does not–what Ryan’s position on abortion actually is: he has always opposed it, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger–precisely what Keenan tries to lie about. The Associated Press noted as far back as 1998, during Ryan’s first run for Congress, that “Republican nominee Paul Ryan has opposed abortion in general except to save a woman’s life.;)

Your task is to evaluate Pollak’s claim against Keenan. What does independent research tell us about the veracity of Keenan’s exact claim about Ryan? What does logical analysis tell us about the cogency of Pollak’s reasoning against this claim? Is Pollak correct when he describes Keenan’s statement as a lie? What does your analysis of this small dispute say about Pollak’s diligence, intelligence and integrity? Do you think that Pollak has done the kind of careful research one should do before one accuses another person of lying? If we assume that Pollak is completely honest here, and is saying exactly what he actually thinks, what does his claim here about Keenan say about his ability to think logically? Finally, if we don’t assume he is completely honest, what does his behavior in this one small matter say about his personal integrity?

I should point out that I am not asking you to preserve any previously expressed or privately held opinions. If Pollak was wrong in the last dispute, he could easily turn out to be right in this dispute. You should approach this issue with an open mind, and you can change your mind about anything at any time. If you previously thought that the evidence supported one side, but now see that the evidence supports the other side, you are supposed to go with what you see the evidence saying right now. Your most important cognitive faculty is your ability to change your mind. If you think you have to stick with some previously expressed thesis, you are not exercising free will, and you are not thinking for yourself.

Things You Might Want To Think About

Here are some questions you should probably think about before you come to an overall decision. You can pick and choose which issues you investigate based on what you think you need to understand in order to answer the questions at the end of this page. Remember, though, that you are required to come to a correct conclusion about this issue, so skipping questions that might help you actually understand this issue is not a good idea. Many of the questions in the following sections come with links to websites that might help you answer them:

The Precise Meaning of Keenan’s Statement

The first thing to do is make Keenan’s actual statement as clear as possible. A good way to do this is to take the sentence ""Rep. Ryan . . . supported the "Let Women Die Bill," which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she could die without it." and put it into your own words without thinking about what anyone else says about it. To do this, you might have to turn Keenan’s one long sentence into several sentences, or even a paragraph, as you make sure that everything Keenan said is precisely represented in your paraphrase, without adding, changing or subtracting anything at all.

The Precise Meaning of Pollak’s Statement

Pollak says quite a lot about this issue, so fairly and precisely representing his statements is going to take some time and effort. I suggest you take each of Pollak’s claims and represent it in at least a sentence of your own ways. You might want to even make a numbered list of his claims. Again, his statement was: "For example, one of the lies told by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, is that Ryan “supported the ‘Let Women Die Bill,’ which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she could die without it.” It goes without saying that there was never any such piece of legislation. The actual bill to which Keenan is referring was called the “Protect Life Act,” H.R. 358, and it is about protecting religious freedom, not banning abortion. The act was passed in response to concerns that the Obama administration would force Catholic hospitals (and others) to provide abortions. Keenan makes it seem as though Ryan had voted to ban abortion at all hospitals, even if the mother’s life was in mortal danger. He did not. (Update: It is worth noting–since Keenan does not–what Ryan’s position on abortion actually is: he has always opposed it, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger–precisely what Keenan tries to lie about. The Associated Press noted as far back as 1998, during Ryan’s first run for Congress, that “;Republican nominee Paul Ryan has opposed abortion in general except to save a woman’s life.)” Again make sure you don’t add, change or subtract anything from his statement about Keenan’s statement.

What is the “Let Women Die Bill?”

Next, if you haven’t already done so, you should explain exactly what Keenan most likely meant by “The Let Woman Die Bill.” Here are some links to people using that term in other articles:

NARAL Pro-Choice America
Laura MacCleery
NARAL again
The Guardian
San Francisco Chronicle
Jezebel
Daily Kos
Think Progress
Another Think Progress
RH Reality Check
After carefully skimming a few of these articles, work out just what Keenan is referring to when she says the "Let Women Die Bill." You might also think about how likely any of her readers are to be confused by her use of this term, if they had been following the relevant news articles. If you think that there’s a chance that a significant number of people who read NARAL and Politico.com will not know what he’s talking about, go a google search on "Let Women Die Bill"

If You Referred To The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "Obamacare," Would You Be Lying?

At a certain point, Pollak seems to argue that Keenan is lying because she refers to H.R. 358 by a nickname that is different from it’s official title. If this were to make sense, it would mean that anyone who referred to any bill by any name other than it’s official name would be lying, which, of course, would include anyone who referred to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "Obamacare." So, in order to evaluate what Pollak might be saying here, you would have to think about whether you would be telling a lie if you used the term "Obamacare."

What Does H.R. 358 Actually Say?

It might be helpful to your analysis to know exactly what the relevant section of H.R. 358 (which amends Obamacare) says precisely. So here is the relevant section of H.R. 358: (I’ve split it up a bit, and added line numbers for ease of reference.)

‘(g) Nondiscrimination on Abortion-
‘(1) NONDISCRIMINATION-
A Federal agency or program,
and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act
(or an amendment made by this Act),
may not subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination,
or require any health plan created or regulated under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act)to subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination,
on the basis that the health care entity refuses to–
‘(A) undergo training in the performance of induced abortions;
‘(B) require or provide such training;
‘(C) perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions; or
‘(D) provide referrals for such training or such abortions.
I will try to interpret this from congressese to plain English.

This is about doing bad stuff to people on the basis of abortion.
DON’T DO IT.
This rule applies to all parts of the federal government
and any other kind of government that get money from the federal government because of Obamacare,
or any law that was amended by Obamacare
This rule says that these kinds of government are not allowed to punish hospitals or persons for certain things.
This rule also says that they can’t make any health plan controlled by Obamacare punish hospitals or persons for these things.
The things that they are not allowed to punish people for are listed on the next four lines.
They can’t punish people for refusing to get training to perform abortions.
They can’t punish hospitals for refusing to train people to perform abortions.
They can’t punish hospitals for refusing to perform abortions, participate in abortions, cover abortions or pay for abortions.
They can’t punish hospitals for refusing to tell people where they can get abortions, or where they can get training to perform abortions.
In my opinion, this text says that if an entity providing health care, such as, say, a Catholic hospital, refuses to perform, or train its staff to perform, or to refer patients out for abortions, no government entity can do anything bad to them for it, such as withholding federal funds from them. If you agree with me on this bit, then well and good. If you disagree with me about this, and think that this section says something different from what I think it says, write out what you think it says, and support your interpretation with appropriate quotations from the text of H.R. 358.

You can read the actual text of H.R. 358 at H.R. 358. Or you can read a summary of it at (Summary of H.R. 358)

Do Pollak and Keenan Agree that H.R. 358 Allows Hospitals to Refuse To Provide Abortions?

Pollak says the act was passed in response to certain concerns. What were these concerns?
Based on your reading of Pollak, what does he think the bill is intended to prevent?
If the bill becomes law, what will the bill allow hospitals to do, according to Pollak?
If the bill becomes law, what will the bill allow hospitals to do, according to NARAL?
Is there any substantial difference between your answers to 3and 4?
If so, what is that difference? If you can’t say what the difference is, there is no difference.
On Monday, Bootsie prevents Snudge from forcing Johnson to juggle cats. On Tuesday, Bootsie forces Snudge to allow Johnson to not juggle cats. Is there any difference between being prevented from forcing someone to do something and being forced to allow people to not do that thing? If you think there’s a difference, say what that difference is. If you can’t say what the difference is, you should admit that there’s no difference.

I may be missing something, but it seems to me that Keenan and Pollak both agree that H.R. 358 says that hospitals must be allowed to refuse to provide abortions. If you agree with me, that’s cool. But it may be that I’ve missed something, so you could think about whether there’s any difference between Keenan and Pollak on this point. Yes, Keenan says it forces the government to allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, and Keenan says it prevents the government from forcing hospitals to perform abortions, but is there any logical difference between these two statements?

If you think that Pollak and Keenan disagree about this particular point, tell me which one of them thinks that H.R. 358 does not prevent the government from forcing hospitals to provide abortions, and then back up that claim with evidence from the relevant test. (Just saying evidence exists is not enough. You have to actually present the evidence. If you can’t present evidence, there is no evidence.)

Does Pollak say that H.R. 358 does not allow hospitals to refuse to provide lifesaving abortions?

Keenan says that H.R. 358 (the "Let Women Die Bill") allows hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even if the woman’s life is in danger. Does Pollak ever explicitly disagree with this claim. If you can find anywhere in Pollak’s article where he says that H.R. 358 (the "Protect Life Act") does not allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions if the woman’s life is in danger, copy that bit into your paper and say exactly what it says.

Does H.R. 358 allow hospitals to refuse to provide lifesaving abortions?

There are two important possibilities for H.R. 358:

1. H.R. 358 allows hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, but makes an exception for life-threatening situations, so that H.R. 358 does not allows hospitals to refuse to provide abortions when the woman’s life is in danger.

2. H.R. 358 allows hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, and does not make an exception for life-threatening situations, so that H.R. 358 does allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions even when the woman’s life is in danger.

So which is it? Read the excerpt given above, or go to the main text H.R. 358 or the summary, and figure out if H.R. 358 says that hospitals can’t refuse to provide an abortion if the woman’s life is in danger. If H.R. 358 doesn’t say this, then the act does not make an exception if the woman would die if she didn’t get an abortion, and this section basically does allow hospitals, and other healthcare providers, to refuse to provide abortions, even if such refusal would result in the death of the woman seeking the abortion.

I will give you one HUGE hint here. If HR358 did make an exception for life-threatening situations to a hospital’s right to refuse abortions, there would be text saying that there was such an exception to a hospital’s right to refuse abortions, and you would be able to quote that text in the paper, so if you can’t quote it, it isn’t there. So the way to finally answer this question is to look at your own paper, and see if you have written down a quotation from HR358 that specifically limits a hospital’s right to refuse to provide abortions to cases where the woman’s life is not in danger. (If your quote does not specifically reference a hospital’s right to refuse to provide abortions, either by including words that explicitly state that right, or by specifically referencing the sections (Subsection (g)(1) A-D) that allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, then your quote is not evidence that HR358 contains an exception to a hospital’s right to refuse abortions. (Sections that make exceptions to other provisions of HR358 do not count here. You need to provide evidence of an exception to a hospital’s right to refuse abortions.)

Does Pollak Prove That H.R. 358 is Not the "Let Women Die Bill?"

Does Pollack give evidence that the term "Let Women Die Bill" does not refer to H.R. 358? If so, what is that evidence? Remember that Pollak saying that there’s no such bill is not evidence. Pollack saying that H.R.358 is not about abortion is not evidence. Evidence would be quotations from relevant parts of the bill, or statements from reputable, independent authorities, or other documentation, or something else beyond just his say-so.

Did Keenan Lie About H.R. 358 Being About Religious Freedom?

Did Keenan/NARAL say that H.R. 358 was not about religious freedom? (If you answer "yes" give the specific quote where they specifically say that.) Did NARAL deny that forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions would infringe their religious freedom? (If you answer "yes" give the specific quote where they specifically say that.) What, if anything, did NARAL say about H.R. 358 and religious freedom?

Did Keenan Lie About H.R. 358 Being About Banning Abortion?

Did NARAL say that H.R. 358 was about banning abortion? (If you answer "yes" give the specific quote where they specifically say that.) Did Keenan say anything about Ryan’s vote for H.R. 358 that could be reasonably construed as implying that Ryan had voted to ban abortion at all hospitals? (If so, what did she say? Give the quote and pick out the exact words where it states or implies that Ryan had voted to ban abortion at all hospitals?)

Did Keenan Lie About Ryan’s Views in 1998?

Did Keenan say that Ryan personally opposed life-saving abortions? (If so, give a specific quote where she specifically says that.) Did Keenan say that Ryan had ever said that he opposed abortions that would save women’s lives? Did Keenan ever refer to what Ryan believed about abortion in 1998? (If so, give a specific quote where she specifically refers to his expressed personal beliefs.) Apart from the H.R. 358 vote, does Keenan say anything about Ryan’s position on abortions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger?

Does Pollak Prove That H.R. 358 does not allow hospitals to refuse to perform abortions when the woman’s life is in danger?

Does Pollak give any reason to think that H.R. 358 does not give Catholic hospitals the right to refuse to provide abortions? (If so, what is that reason?) Does Pollak give any reason to think that H.R. 358 restricts this right to refuse to provide abortions to cases where the woman’s life is not in danger? (If so, what is that reason?)

Does Pollak Prove That Ryan Did Not, or Would Not Vote For H.R. 358?

Does Ryan’s personal willingness to allow life-saving abortions necessarily mean that he thinks other people should be forced to provide such abortions if their religion tells them not to? Does Pollak give any reason to think that Ryan didn’t vote for H.R. 358? (If so, what is that reason?) Does Pollak give any reason to think that Ryan didn’t vote for the bill that Nancy Keenan (and others) call the "Let Women Die Bill?" (If so, what is that reason?)

Did Ryan Vote For H.R. 358, the ;Let Women Die Bill?;

Based on your reading of H.R. 358: Protect Life Act (On Passage of the Bill), did Ryan vote for or against H.R. 358? (Search the page for Ryan, Paul.
Your Paper
Here’s what I want you to write in your paper for this assignment. Each of the following points should be explained clearly and completely in its own separate paragraph. Some paragraphs will be long and complicated, others will be short and simple. all you need to worry about is making your point as clearly as possible, and including all necessary details.
Your thesis about whether or not Pollak has proved that Nancy Keenan lied about anything here, and your main reason(s) for thinking what you think here.
What you think Keenan’s Statement means exactly, in your own words, without any quotations.
What you think Pollak’s Statement means exactly, in your own words, without any quotations.
What exactly is meant by the "Let Women Die Bill" in Keenan’s statement, and why do you think it means what you think it means?
Would you be lying if you used the term "Obamacare," and what does your answer imply for this issue?
What does H.R. 358 actually say?
Do Pollak and Keenan agree that H.R. 358 allows hospitals to refuse to provide abortions?
Does Pollak say that H.R. 358 does not allow hospitals to refuse to provide lifesaving abortions?
Does H.R. 358 indeed allow hospitals to refuse to provide lifesaving abortions? (Explain your answer.)
Does Pollak prove that H.R. 358 is not the "Let Women Die Bill?" (Explain your answer.)
Did Keenan lie about H.R. 358 being about religious freedom? (Explain your answer.)
Did Keenan lie about H.R. 358 being about banning abortion? (Explain your answer.)
Did Keenan lie about the views Ryan held in 1998? (Explain your answer.)
Does Pollak prove that H.R. 358 does not allow hospitals to refuse to perform abortions when the woman’s life is in danger?
Does Pollak prove that Ryan did not, or would not vote For H.R. 358?
Did Ryan vote for H.R. 358, the so-called "Let Women Die Bill" or "Protect Life Act?"
Make any final comments you might have about how well Pollak reasoned about this issue, or what this demonstrates about his integrity as a writer.
(Optional) Make any comments you like about Keenan’s use of the term "Let Women Die Bill" to denote H.R. 358, or anything else you think relevant.
And again, I want to emphasize that you must explain, elaborate and support your answers as you go on. Don’t just say "yes" or "no." Say exactly what the true situation is, explain why you think your answer is correct, and support your answer with whatever evidence you can find.
I should point out, again, that we are not really dealing with a representative dispute here. I did not do any research about whether either writer is representative of liberals or conservatives in general, and it might turn out that, in the real world, that the worst thinker here is not at all typical of their political persuasion. If Nancy Keenan turns out to be a dishonest idiot, that does not imply that any other liberal writers are dishonest idiots, and if Joel Pollak turns out to be a genius, that does not necessarily imply that any other conservative writers are geniuses.
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