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October 12, 2012 10:58 AM Reproductive Rights As a Trifle

By Ed Kilgore

While we are on the subject of abortion policy, Michael Barone’s take on the Veep debate included a cynical thought that you often hear expressed by “sophisticated” conservatives who figure all the baby-killer talk is just yahoo-bait for the “base,” and understand nothing will actually affect the lives of people they know:

[M]oderator Martha Raddatz’s question about abortion, inviting Biden to appeal to the issue that supposedly “women” care about more than any other, struck a tinny note as young voters are not afraid that abortion will somehow be suddenly criminalized by the Supreme Court, as Biden suggested it would although a reversal of Roe v. Wade would only send the issue to the states, few if any of which would vote to criminalize abortion.

The assumption here is that the anti-choicers who have an absolute, in-writing veto power over judicial appointments and reproductive right policies in the next Republican administration will stupidly be satisfied with a reversal of Roe v. Wade that—haha, fooled you!—actually doesn’t change anything. Legislatures and governors in some of those flyover states might ban abortions, but surely women can just jet off for a weekend in Chicago or New York and take care of the problem, right? I mean, that’s what they did before Roe, and it worked pretty well, right?

I don’t know what’s worse in this attitude: the contempt towards serious anti-choicers, who will not rest until a gun is held over every pregnant woman (and that means from the moment an ovum is fertilized!) in the whole wide world to ensure she carries the fetus to term, or the contempt towards women, especially poor women, whose ability to prevent the gun from being held on them is treated as a minor inconvenience of, well, coalition politics.

Truth is that if Roe is reversed, politics in the states will revolve around abortion policies to an extent that is hard to imagine now, and even in many of the “liberal” states, clever restrictions and other harassments of women or of abortion or contraceptive providers will be devised. It will be Cold War 24-7, and it also won’t keep anti-choicers from continuing to press the constitutional argument (which two or three of the current Supreme Court Justices may already quietly accept) for banning abortion nationally and making every zygote a “person.”

Anyone, Democrat or Republican, who thinks reproductive rights as we understand them today is a trifle is in for a rude shock if we lose them.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 12, 2012 11:13 AM:

    Humsies... Roe v. Wade hasn't even been overturned yet and certain Red States have already effectively banned abortions...

  • Bob Roberts on October 12, 2012 11:14 AM:

    Or more worryingly as soon as Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House they might decide abortion is the stone they break the filibuster over and pass a nationwide ban.

  • elisabeth on October 12, 2012 11:19 AM:

    this morning the NYTimes reports that there will soon be an abortion provider in Belfast. Just as with same-sex marriage, the movement toward human rights (which include women's rights!) is a world-wide phenomenon, and despite the desperate attempts of the right-wing, and even if there are isolated law changes, generational change will ensure a reversal of the pendulum eventually. Even if women do have to become underground providers on their own, there will be just more and more defiance of these laws if they are passed.

  • c u n d gulag on October 12, 2012 11:20 AM:

    It's no "trifle!!!"

    A lot of seniors, women AND men, fought and marched for a woman's right to choose.
    And others of us middle-aged ones, for the right to continue to have that choice - in all 50 states, and US territories.

    What people might be missing, when St. Paulie of the Zygote talked about banning abortions 'through the legislative process," is that he was dog-whistling to the Jesus-freaks about "The Personhood Amendment," which would outlaw abortion the nano-second the sperm met the egg.
    And believe me, with the "right" SCOTUS, it will be approved judicially - to give it just that extra cherry on top of legality, in addition to the religious righteousness.

    We older and middle aged people did what we could do, to a fair amount of success - declining success, but success none-the-less.

    Now, it's up to the younger women and men to keep up the fight for women to have control of their own bodies and destinies.

    Remember, while we Liberals look at 'The Handmaid's Tale" as a dystopian, yet fictional, look into the future, the religious Conservatives have looked at it as an "Instructional Manual."

  • PTate in MN on October 12, 2012 11:21 AM:

    An excellent post, Kilgore. We've already seen what kinds of legislation the militant conservatives will try to push through at the state level. And, why the 40 year crusade to strike down Roe v Wade if NOT to outlaw abortion?

    And it is not just abortion, next up on the winger agenda is the suppression of birth control.

    Any women who votes for a Republican is making a huge mistake. Unless, of course, her ambition is to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

  • Daryl McCullough on October 12, 2012 11:23 AM:

    I know personally that many sincere Christians are Republican specifically out of opposition to abortion. So there are serious anti-abortion people. But I think that for many of the "pro-life" politicians, it's just snake oil for the rubes. For example, with this guy:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/scott-desjarlais-abortion-pro-life_n_1953136.html

    Scott Desjarlais runs on the "sanctity of life", secretly pressures his mistress to get an abortion.

  • American Liberal on October 12, 2012 11:30 AM:

    Here is where Biden needed to press Ryan. Ryan says that he believes abortion should be left to democracy, not the courts. Biden should have pressed: "fine, this is a democratic moment. We are voting in less than a month. Do you favor outlawing abortion throughout the country?"

  • Stetson Kennedy on October 12, 2012 11:34 AM:

    Barone is full of crap. As has been noted, many states have been trying to all but outlaw abortion for years, and the whack jobs in the House have tried passing bills severely restricting access.

  • Frank Wilhoit on October 12, 2012 11:37 AM:

    The core proposition here is that the Church must, of right, be above the Law.

    This is the most disruptive challenge of its kind that has been put forward since the English Civil War. I am baffled that no one is calling it out.

    I have given you the phrase, precisely descriptive: "faith-based nullification". Use it!

  • Frank Wilhoit on October 12, 2012 11:40 AM:

    The essential proposition here is that the Church must, of right, be above the Law.

    This is the most profoundly disruptive challenge of its kind that has been put forward since the English Civil War. I am astounded that no one is calling it out.

    I've given you the phrase to describe this: "faith-based nullification". Use it!

  • Lifelong Dem on October 12, 2012 11:42 AM:

    A state doesn't have to pass legislation banning abortion in order to effectively stop the procedure. One state (Kansas, I think) passed a slew of regulations that abortion providers had to meet, regulations so exacting that no provider actually could meet them. Presto! Abortionists all gone.

  • CharlieM on October 12, 2012 11:51 AM:

    If Lyin' Ryan thinks so sneeringly little of basic civil rights that he thinks they should be left to a "democratic process" then how's about we have a vote on whether persons named Paul Ryan should have their balls cut off. I mean....democratic process and all.

  • Peter C on October 12, 2012 11:51 AM:

    I think we've got to stress the link between fanatical 'pro-life' stances and their harmful effect on the availability and prevalence of contraception. Ryan's plans (and the amendments that he has co-sponsored) hit contraception just as hard as abortion. No one plans to need an abortion, but women everywhere base their plans on contraception. I think the Republicans have made a strategic error by making this link; they show themselves as people with a 12th century mindset about the role of women in our society.

    I have an 18 year old daughter (the pride and joy of my life) and she's listening. My mother-in-law fears that women of her generation will vote the way that their husbands tell them to. But my daughter and her generation won't give up their autonomy like that.

    Time is on our side. The Republicans know this. They will make a play for all the marbles before their window of opportunity closes. We must hold the line a little longer. We owe it to our daughters (as well as our sons).

  • Zinsky on October 12, 2012 11:56 AM:

    I don't know why Biden, and progressives in general, don't loudly point out that making abortions illegal doesn't reduce the number of abortoons. In fact, it increases the number of women who die from back alley abortions, so that the "net body count" would be higher in the U.S., if Roe v. Wade were repealed. If these right-wingers are truly "pro-life", and don't want human beings to die, aren't they pursuing the wrong solution? To me, this completely shuts down their side of the argument!

  • Mimikatz on October 12, 2012 12:03 PM:

    As lifelong Dem says, abortion is for all intents and purposes illegal in some states. It is so unavailable in many states that for many women it might as well be illegal. And the rabid anti-choicers, who see this fight as a holy crusade that is necessary to stop an existential threat to their persons are not going to stop. Think those crying women outside Terry Schiavo's hospital. Think Prohibition, when rabid anti-alcohol folks teamed with racists and xenophobes scared by immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, suffragists and, yes, progressives to enact draconian laws. And many of them are after contraception too, because it (1) allows people to have sex for pleasure and (2) it emancipated women more than any other event, policy or invention, and we know that that is the root of many people's anxiety about the modern world.

    I'm turning 70, I was in college when even birth control was illegal most places, when pregnancy and abortions, botched ones, were things that happened to people I knew well, when sex was fraught with anxiety and every late period was cause for panic. Believe me you younger people don't want that, but it is just exactly what the severely anti-choice people do want. And they will try to get it through an act of Congress that makes the issue unreviewable in federal court. Maybe even by simple majority through Budget Reconciliation because it defunds all contraception and Planned Parenthood and so saves money, or through some other dodge.

  • Impishparrot on October 12, 2012 12:06 PM:

    So women just "jet set" to abortions? How ignorant, callous, and misogynistic!

    First, a woman's has got to go through those scanners at the airport, and one of the first question they ask a woman is, "Are you pregnant?" Now, she has a choice. The woman could lie saying "No," choosing to expose the fetus to dangerous radiation. It is highly conceivable that in one of those states "that might ban abortion," she would be prosecuted for child endangerment, attempted murder, or murder, were it revealed that she went out of state to terminate the fetus. Some states have already attempted to try women for miscarriages -- and in the not to recent past.

    If this woman says, "Yes, I am pregnant," she has created an official document that would likely prove she left the state to terminate what her state of residence legally considers murder. Maybe women who can afford private jets could avoid this conundrum, but most women just do not have those resources.

    The author does not even mention that fact that these laws infringe on my personal right to privacy. The government has NO RIGHT to tell me what can grow or not grow in my own body. Typical misogynistic talk that some men think it is hunky-dory for women to give up reproductive rights. How about you give up yours? Let's pass a law to keep men loaded up on salt-peter and estrogen until the government thinks they're rich enough, or religious enough, conservative enough, Republican enough, or heterosexual enough to become a father?

    Now we can have a real conservation on what is at stake here.

  • Peter C on October 12, 2012 12:09 PM:

    The Blunt Amendment (that every Republican Senator except Snowe voted for) was packaged as a 'religious freedom' issue, but it tried to establish an employer's ability to impose their religious views on his employees contraception options. I hate our healthcare system. I'd rather get MY healthcare from MY democratic government than from MY boss. My boss has incentives to minimize the cost of my healthcare, but has massively failed to contain them. My government has incentives to keep me well and has erradicated polio and tuberculosis and typhoid and dysentary and is working hard (against the free market) to minimize lung cancer and heart disease ...

  • jim filyaw on October 12, 2012 12:15 PM:

    the first reaction is to dismiss barone as a f-king idiot; he isn't. he's worse, a con artist. i can name thirty states off the top of my head that would make it a criminal offense before the weekend for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. if roe is overturned, unlucky women who can't afford to make it to the coasts are truly f-ked.

  • schtick on October 12, 2012 12:27 PM:

    What sane argument do you expect from the teapubs? They are pro-life UNLESS it is murder. How many times I have seen and heard this. They can't even admit that they are anti-abortion.
    The only reasoning I can come up with that they are also anti-contraception is they want the po folks to pump out those babies to send them off to die in war. How is THAT pro-life?
    You can bet their wives, daughters and mistresses will get whatever they need, be it contraceptives or abortions.

  • JoAnn C on October 12, 2012 1:08 PM:

    Why aren't the Republicans pushing for a federal income tax deduction for unborn children? That would be consistent with the personhood viewpoint. This should be a debate question. . .

  • POed Lib on October 12, 2012 1:42 PM:

    It's not abortion itself. It's that conservatives believe that the sexual act should always include the possibility of pregnancy. They will be eliminating contraception as well.

  • BJ smith on October 12, 2012 2:14 PM:

    Any woman who is not far far right & really believes a modern family should have 18-20 children & somehow knows her God will provide, would have to be nuts to vote R
    epublican.

  • POed Lib on October 12, 2012 2:23 PM:

    Frank Wilhoit: Right you are. The notion is that faith institutions can make whatever rules they want, and this is unfair, unequal, and wrong.

  • KarenJG on October 12, 2012 2:27 PM:

    ImpishParrot wrote:

    The author does not even mention that fact that these laws infringe on my personal right to privacy. The government has NO RIGHT to tell me what can grow or not grow in my own body. Typical misogynistic talk that some men think it is hunky-dory for women to give up reproductive rights. How about you give up yours? Let's pass a law to keep men loaded up on salt-peter and estrogen until the government thinks they're rich enough, or religious enough, conservative enough, Republican enough, or heterosexual enough to become a father?

    To expand on the point of "what's at stake here" - it's not a moral issue, it's a "right to bodily integrity" issue. "Unelected judges," in our system, have the job of making sure that rights are protected, regardless of whether the majority agrees. That's what the whole argument that "rights should not be subject to the tyranny of the majority" is all about.

    Look. No one in this country can be forced to even give blood without their consent. Not even to their own born, objectively "alive" child. Not even if it would save that child's life.

    To use an example I think is even more relevant than ImpishParrot's: Banning abortion is even worse than "a law to keep men loaded up on salt-peter and estrogen." Banning abortion is like forcing a person to serve as a human life support system for another "person" (who isn't even objectively a person).

    Suppose any man alive (and ONLY men) could be required to serve as a human dialysis machine for a relative who developed kidney problems. Twice a week, you'd have to go in and have your circulatory system hooked up to another person's circulatory system, so that your kidneys could clean their blood of waste products for them. THAT'S the equivalent of banning abortion - albeit, a smaller, less invasive, less dangerous version of it.

  • MsJoanne on October 12, 2012 2:37 PM:

    You neglect to mention that overturning Roe v. Wade is a stepping stone to damaging Griswold v. Connecticut. Until women are completely under the thumb of their men (father, husband or if none of the above, brother), they are nothing short of uppity women who do not know their place. And as long as women have a way to determine if or when they want to reproduce, Griswold can not survive.

    This is the Christofascist GOP we're talking about here.

  • MsJoanne on October 12, 2012 2:41 PM:

    Suppose any man alive (and ONLY men) could be required to serve as a human dialysis machine for a relative who developed kidney problems. Twice a week, you'd have to go in and have your circulatory system hooked up to another person's circulatory system, so that your kidneys could clean their blood of waste products for them. THAT'S the equivalent of banning abortion - albeit, a smaller, less invasive, less dangerous version of it.

    THIS!

  • Mitch on October 12, 2012 2:44 PM:

    @Daryl McCullough

    "I know personally that many sincere Christians are Republican specifically out of opposition to abortion."

    This is a very true statement, and I will add to it that many of the strongest opponents of abortion are women. I was dragged to many anti-abortion rallies as a child, and have seen no evidence that the anti-abortion crowd consists of men forcing patriarchy onto women.

    The prime example for me is one of my high school ex-girlfriends. A bright, lovely, young woman who ended up pregnant at age 20 (by her boyfriend after me) and chose to have her child. This ended up causing her to quit college for a while (she did eventually continue her education) and she lived in poverty for years afterwards, only recently has she managed to be able to stand on her own feet.

    She has many liberal views, particularly socially, but she also agrees with progressive taxation and the majority of social programs. However she cannot support the Democrats because of abortion. To her, abortion is an insult to motherhood and indicative of irresponsibility. She could be okay with it in cases of rape or health (which parrots the GOP line) but otherwise thinks that it should be illegal. The way she sees it, she lived up to her actions, and would rather have her daughter than the possible life she could have had otherwise. To her, women who choose abortion are beneath contempt and, yes, guilty of murder. Unlike my family, she does not feel this way for religious reasons, instead her views are a result of her own history.

    Personally, I feel that abortion should remain legal for the safety of those women who undergo it. As others have mentioned, outlawing abortion does nothing to prevent it. It has occurred through all of human history (and was often replaced by infanticide when actual abortions were impossible) and will not stop due to any laws.

    I would rather protect the lives of those women who decide to undergo abortion, than callously toss them aside. I will add that the few women I know that have had abortions did not do so lightly, in the casual manner implied by conservative arguments. That is another reason that I support keeping it legal.

    But we do ourselves, and our side of the argument, a disservice if we assume that all opponents of abortion are mindless reactionaries, die-hard partisans, bullying misogynists or religious zealots.

  • T-Rex on October 12, 2012 3:54 PM:

    If you think we'll miss Roe v. Wade, just wait till Griswold v. Connecticut goes too, soon to be followed by Lawrence v. Texas.

  • TCinLA on October 12, 2012 4:06 PM:

    Thank God that back in 1975, when he had 2/3 Democratic majorities in the State Senate and the Assembly, and a Governor who would sign it, good old Willie Brown put both the right of privacy and the right to choice in the California constitution. It doesn't matter what the five Nazis in Washington have to say.

    Just another reason for California to secede as its own country and get away from the rest of the losers. Go, Bear!!

  • paul on October 12, 2012 10:33 PM:

    What other issues should we "leave to democracy"? Whether corporations have the same rights as people? Nah, that's too important, has to be enforced by the supreme court.

  • PTate in MN on October 13, 2012 12:32 AM:

    Frank Wilhoit: "This is the most profoundly disruptive challenge of its kind that has been put forward since the English Civil War.

    This is probably too late in the thread for anyone to read, but this is an important observation. However, Most Americans do not have the grasp of history that Frank Wilhoit has. In fact, I'm convinced that 12-20% of Americans are completely reactive, unable to connect what is happening now with what happened last week, much less 350 years ago. But what Frank says, yes.

    What keeps striking me right now is that we are re-fighting the same battles that were fought as the nation-state, that idea, emerged as a form of governing. One of the battles fought by the emerging nation-state was over the role of the church. For the nation-state to survive, the church had to become subordinate to the law. Yet here we are in the 21st century, with the church again challenging the authority of the State.

    The second battle was that of integrating the elites. The emerging nation-state needed to find ways to align the interests of the elite with those of the state. What is clear is that our wealthiest .01% are no longer integrated. Seeing no reason to support the state, they are willing to spend billions of dollars to weaken it.

    So what happens to the Nation-State when the church re-emerges as a political competitor and the elite are no longer integrated into the body politic? What kind of government will follow? This is really a question I don't want answered.