Abortion Rights Left In The Dust
Last week, Sarah Kliff observed, as Steve M. notes,
The divergence in public opinion correlates with divergent state-level policies. For the past decade, the gay marriage movement has gained momentum. Ever since Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2003, eight states have followed to allow similar unions.
The landscape on abortion rights, however, has moved in the opposite direction. States passed more abortion regulations in the 2000′s than they did in the 1990s. And no law to expand access has passed in at least five years.
She concluded "There’s no one explanation for why the two issues, once grouped together, moved in different directions."
There is no one explanation, but there are several possibilities. Steve M. concludes
I think members of a group need to be politicized, and not easily mollified. If politicians feared that women (or fertile women, or fertile heterosexuals of both genders) were highly attuned across the country to the reproductive-rights threat, they might fear punishment at the polls if they pushed for draconian abortion laws. If poor and middle-class voters routinely voted their class interests, politicians would fear crossing them.
Gay people (and their families and friends) have made it clear that they're politically engaged on gay issues. And that makes a big difference.
Even that, however, begs a question: why have gay people and their allies been able to mobilize politically while supporters of reproductive rights have not? Commenting on Steve's blog, "Victor" notes there has been
more and more exposure of people who were gay to the homophobes - who saw that some of their friends and family members were gay, or co-workers, even some church members, and, outside of sexual orientation, weren't some sort of child-molesting deviants, but were people just like them, with the same hopes, dreams, and fears.
The exposure has been dramatized on television, most notably by Will and Grace, which ran on NBC and still is in syndication, and Modern Family, currently appearing on ABC. The popularity (especially of Modern Family) of both programs, as well as the many awards garnered by each, has only added to the acceptance of homosexuals.
By contrast, there has been little knowing exposure to women who have obtained abortions. When a woman gets an abortion, it goes unnoticed by the general public and even to many of her acquaintances. They are, for the most part, still in the closet. Even in libertine Hollywood, in which many gifted and beloved celebrities have declared their homosexuality or been "outed," there have been few women who have stated that they have voluntarily terminated a pregnancy.
The right, "Victor" notes, "had to drop the stigma on 'Adultery' because it's something that conservative politicians, from Gingrich to Vitter to Sanford, have been routinely guilty of." Instead, anti-choice conservatives, presumably convinced abortion is the termination of life, have not been satisfied to press the public into believing abortion is "killing," an arguable proposition. Rather, they label it "murder," which it inarguably is not, given that murder is "the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another, especially with premeditated malice."
Anti-abortion rights activists may claim for public consumption that the woman is a "victim," but the latter is keenly aware that she has engaged in what many individuals condemn as "murder." But the pro-choice movement has decided to avoid countering that argument. Emphasizing the importance of a woman's autonomy and the need to "get government out of the bedroom," rarely is it asserted that abortion- even in the first trimester- is not the taking of a life.
People now have come to know that co-workers, friends, or relatives of theirs are gay. Less common is the understanding that women who have chosen abortion are among their close acquaintances. Many of these have few if any regrets about their choice. But unlike homosexuals, who will live their life with their sexual orientation, the women believe they no longer will need to make a solemn, wrenching decision. They are done, hopefully and probably.
A woman who has sought and procured an abortion cannot be expected to go public- especially when she probably would be standing alone. She may admit of a private, unpopular medical decision and be in the vanguard of a political movement which would help nameless, faceless people whom she has never met, nor will ever meet. Alternatively, she can go on quietly with her life and not face the scorn and verbal (at least) abuse of the anti-choice movement.
Their backs to the wall on same-sex marriage, the right has, on reproductive freedom, done its work and done it very well.