The XX Factor

Why Won’t the Person Who Said “Baby Killer” ‘Fess Up?

The hunt is on for the person who yelled “baby killer” as Rep. Bart Stupak was giving his speech last night. (You can hear the words pretty clearly on this videotape. ) Apparently some of his House colleagues heard the person but are not giving him up. “Members have a right to make an idiot of themselves once without being exposed,” said Rep. David Obey, a Democrat from Wisconsin.

But why the shame? Why won’t the person who yelled it just ‘fess up with pride? Either this person believes Bart Stupak is a baby-killer, or everything that happened last night is just abortion theater. That’s why the Obey quote is so weird. He wasn’t making an “idiot of himself.” He was defending the unborn, as the members said in speech after speech last night.

This is the eternal problem with abortion politics. The language-“baby killer,” “defending the unborn”-is so loaded. And yet it does not mean what it actually means. The pro-choice side has gone through several phases of tweaking its terms over the last 20 years, from “My body, my choice” to “safe, legal, and rare.” But the right is still stuck on “baby killer.”

Photograph of protesters by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.