The Politics of Abortion
Updated: Mar 14, 2020
When talking with voters, I prefer to discuss the danger of criminalizing abortion, rather than about a woman’s right to choose. I do support a woman’s right to choose, but I’m not going to support it after it no longer exists.”
Trump and McConnell have, by the installation of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, already done their damage. I anticipate that Roe v. Wade will be overturned sometime this year, and if not this year, then almost certainly next year.
What will happen then?
The Sanctity of Life crowd, of course, thinks that it has the answer. They assume that we will just go back to the era before Roe, where abortionists were prosecuted and women weren’t, and that everything will be hunky-dory. They are gravely mistaken. The future War on Abortion, if we allow it to occur, will be much worse than the War on Drugs.
What about the Choice advocates? What is their plan? My impression, regrettably, is that most of them don’t have a plan, beyond putting ever more energy into marching, demonstrating, and protesting in favor of a woman’s right to choose; all of which, post-Roe, will be useless and impotent. It won’t persuade the Supreme Court to resurrect Roe. It won’t persuade three-fourths of the states to ratify a formal amendment to the federal constitution. And although an amendment to the New Mexico constitution is much more plausible, it is a very risky move---desperate, almost.
So instead of emoting over the loss of Roe, we need to ask, like any competent general, “What is the defensible position to which we can retreat?” An army can do a lot of retreating and still win a war, if the retreat is handled well. That was the French experience in World War I. But a rout (the French experience in World War II) is very different.
The real plan should be to concentrate on opposition to the criminalization of abortion. If we are successful in that, then, on a practical level, we won’t have lost anything. We may not have the “right” to abortion, but we will still have (in New Mexico and other Blue States) the same access.
This requires us, however, to reach out to voters who have moral concerns about abortion, but who are not anti-abortion fanatics. The fanatics are disturbing, but they are a minority. Most people
who oppose abortion really don’t want criminalization; not when they are persuaded to consider what it would really involve. And make no mistake: we need the votes of those people. The only reason that Trump is President is because of the support of religious persons who would never have voted for an ignorant, bigoted, irreligious lout if it haven’t been for his abortion stance. We don’t need to compromise our principles, but we need to reach out to those people. They only want a little respect as a precursor to listening.
This obligates us to resurrect a long-abandoned slogan: “Keep abortion legal, safe, and rare.” That last word is a tacit acknowledgment of the moral element in abortion, and its deletion was a grave political error. The modern slogan, “Abortion is healthcare”, which essentially denies any moral considerations, is simply infuriating to a significant portion of the electorate. It is infuriating because there obviously is a moral component to abortion. We deny that at our peril.
Those of us who wish to see abortion remain legal should consider ourselves as defenders of a besieged medieval city. There are many historical instances in which the attackers were defeated because, after breaching the city wall at great cost and effort, they found themselves facing a second wall that the defenders had built just inside the breach. The time to build the secondary wall, however, is not when the primary wall has just collapsed. That’s a bit late.