Douthat’s most recent innovation, I think, reveals the core of most anti-choice concern trolling:
Progressives Should Favor Policies They Already Favor!
Douthat adds a new twist to this longtime concern-troll favorite. The centrist variant on this is to lecture supporters of reproductive freedom that accessible contraception can reduce abortion rates as if one had just discovered the meaning of the universe. (A lot of abortion centrists apparently believe that John Kyl’s description of what Planned Parenthood does was intended to be a factual statement.) Douthat’s approach is to offer a false choice between Medicaid expansion and accessible abortion for all women:
It suggests, for instance, that liberal donors and activists should be spending more time rallying against Perry’s refusal to take federal Medicaid financing than around Wendy Davis’s famous filibuster.
It implies that the quest to “turn Texas blue” should make economic policy rather than late-term abortion its defining issue.
The rather obvious answer here is “why not both?” It’s worth noting here that the Affordable Care Act—which Douthat, of course, opposed, and to which supporters of reproductive rights lent essential support—contained mechanisms that would have made refusing the Medicaid expansion much more difficult, only to be thwarted by the Supreme Court.
Douthat’s arguments here are directed to the wrong party. Virtually all progressive supporters of reproductive freedom also support better health care for the non-affluent as well as a variety of other policies that would support parents. The Republican Party, meanwhile, gets ever closer to exemplifying Barney Frank’s dictum that for conservatives life begins at conception and ends at birth.
In addition, it’s wrong to see these as distinct policies—access to safe abortions is an essential part of ensuring quality medical care for women, not an alternative to it. Douthat, meanwhile, is consistent the other way; he believes that the state should force poor women to carry pregnancies to term. As long as he supports putting contemporary Republicans into power at the state or federal level his health care offer to non-affluent women is “nothing,” despite any denials he may continue to unspool in his column.
The sine qua non of concern trolling is to attack anti-choicers for not taking deals that, in addition to being terrible, are not actually available. It’s a neat trick, blaming pro-choicers for the policies favored by their opponents. But this troll won’t guard the bridge. A deal can’t be made with American anti-choicers who prioritize fetal life over regulating female sexuality and who support extensive social support for poor women because for all intents and purposes they don’t exist. I’m also curious what Douthat thinks liberal activists can do to make Rick Perry take Medicaid funding.