It never has been all that easy being the governor of Missouri, I would imagine. And it’s hard to recall a time when there have been more major problems plaguing the state.
Unemployment, poverty and hunger are all increasing. Teachers are underpaid, schools are underfunded and the university is crippled. Highways and bridges are crumbling. Thousands of the poor and handicapped are without support or insurance. There’s even a nasty little fight over the trashing of official e-mails, in apparent violation of the open records law.
You might think all that would be enough to keep a governor fully occupied. Not so. Our boy governor has more important things on his mind. Here’s the opening paragraph of an Associated Press article that appeared in the Missourian last Monday:
“JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt, an abortion-rights opponent, has launched a task force on a scientific quest to determine how abortions affect women — a question so complex that it confounded the U.S. surgeon general.”
The article, by David Lieb, went on to report that the task force met quietly a few days earlier in the governor’s office. Its members were recruited by two anti-abortion activists. Its mission, according to one of those activists, is to “get good evidence about the effect of abortion on women and make decisions about what the state can do to help women who find themselves in the situation of an unplanned pregnancy.”
Just how good that evidence is likely to be and what “truthful, honest information” will be forthcoming is suggested by Gov. Blunt’s comment to Lieb: “I certainly would begin with the presumption that abortion has a negative impact on Missouri children, Missouri women, Missouri men, because it’s harmful to society.”
I don’t object to the governor’s appointing such a task force. That’s one of the perquisites of office. I’m sure he and the task force members are sincere in their beliefs.
What I do object to is the prospect of public money — your and my taxes — being spent to produce yet another anti-abortion screed. The article doesn’t say who’ll pay, so we have to hope it’s the Alliance for Life-Missouri, which supplies much of the task force’s membership.
Nor does the article make clear whether the term “scientific quest” is Lieb’s or the governor’s. It is clear, though, that this promises to be about as unscientific — or, more likely, pseudo-scientific — a quest as you’re ever going to see.
The essence of science, as I understand it, is an open-minded pursuit of truth. This group is made up of closed-minded ideologues, appointed by a guy whose “presumption” foretells the results.
My own presumption is that the governor, who is not a fool, understands that his task force will wind up preaching to the choir. My presumption also is that he doesn’t much care.
With the campaign just beginning and his own popularity low, how better to repair the breach caused in his conservative base by his apostasy on stem cell research than to whip up a bit of anti-abortion passion?
George Kennedy is a former managing editor of the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.