Fritz Hippler was a German filmmaker during the Nazi era. His most prominent sin was to make a scurrilous piece of anti-semitism, Der Erwige Jude, (The Eternal Jew). Hippler is said to have claimed that two things are necessary to promote a lie to the masses. The first was to reduce an issue to a simple black-and-white choice that “even the most feebleminded could understand.” The second was to repeat the oversimplification over and over. If these two steps were followed, people would always come to believe the Big Lie.
Orwell suggested a similar technique in his novel 1984. IngSoc (Newspeak for English Socialism) required members of the Inner Party "[t]o tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed . . ."
We don't - "Bushhitler" notwithstanding - face the threat of totalitarianism today. But the principle of the Big Lie lives on. In January, I pointed out that claims by One Wisconsin Now and Rep. Terese Berceau that Wisconsin statutes - although rendered unenforceable by Roe v. Wade - actually provide for women who have abortions to be placed in jail.
As Charlie Sykes and Patrick McIlheran point out, Planned Parenthood insists on prominently repeating this falsehood in a series of radio ads attacking certain named Republican legislators. Jim Ott - who has to be one of the most decent people in politics - is one of them and defends himself in today's Journal Sentinel.
The claim that, in a post-Roe world, women who have abortions could be prosecuted is flat out false. It's not even debatable. While sec. 940.04 provided for such penalties, they were repealed by sec. 940.13. In a comment on Patrick's blog, OWN's Cory Liebman says that no one can tell which statute the court would enforce.
Yes, we can. There is no chance - none - that any court would find those penalties to be extant today. In fact, the Legislative Reference Bureau's description of the very law that Berceau and OWN were promoting says that current law "prohibits prosecution of and imposing or enforcing a fine or imprisonment against a woman who obtains an abortion or otherwise violates any abortion law with respect to her unborn child or fetus."
There is no principle of statutory construction that would point to enforcing criminal penalties set forth in an earlier statute that are unambiguously repealed by a later one, particularly since the legislature has since enacted other statutes dealing with abortion and the protection of fetal life that also reflect a judgment not to impose criminal penalties on women who have abortions. There are plenty that make clear that the latter repeal of those penalties must be respected.
If Roe is ever repealed and Cory Liebman wants to bet on which statute a court would apply, I will take 940.13 and whatever number he proposes as long as he shows me that he can pay.
I am not, of course, calling the people at Planned Parenthood "Nazis" although its founder, Margaret Sanger, had more than a little in common with them. I don't even want to call them liars because, as regular readers of Shark and Shepherd know, that's not what I do here.
But that's what they are. This is one of the most mendacious and deliberately misleading things that I have seen in politics since Fair Wisconsin's robocalls designed to confuse voters over the meaning of a "no" vote on the marriage amendment.