The Catholic Church has taken up a new strategy to fight against abortion and gay rights–talking about “religious liberty” to reject equal rights for gays and the right of women to control their own bodies.
I would say that whenever an institution is forced from the support of direct oppression to taking on the mantra of being oppressed, it’s a sign of victory for progressive forces. It doesn’t mean the victory will be complete–white homeowners used this very language in the 1960s and 1970s to protect their neighborhoods and schools from integration. But even in this case, this move was a significant response to just how much the civil rights movement had accomplished.
While I am less confident about the long-term availability of legal abortion in this country, the Catholic bishops are clearly being routed on gay marriage. I’d expect to see more of this language, talking about how not encouraging kids to beat up gay kids impinges upon their free speech.
Irin Carmon has an excellent piece about the “Personhood Amendment” being proposed in Mississippi, which should be read in its entirety. The key issues under discussion:
That’s partly because the Personhood movement hopes to do nothing less than reclassify everyday, routine birth control as abortion. The medical definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterine wall. If this initiative passes, and fertilized eggs on their own have full legal rights, anything that could potentially block that implantation – something a woman’s body does naturally all the time – could be considered murder. Scientists say hormonal birth-control pills and the morning-after pill work primarily by preventing fertilization in the first place, but the outside possibility, never documented, that an egg could be fertilized anyway and blocked is enough for some pro-lifers.
Personhood represents an unapologetic and arguably more ideologically consistent form of the anti-choice movement. It aims squarely for Roe v. Wade by seizing on language from former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun – the author of the Roe decision — during the hearings that the case would “collapse” if “this suggestion of personhood is established … for the fetus.”
The strategy of Mississippi anti-choicers, first of all, is yet another reminder that attempting to reach common ground on reducing unwanted pregnancies is unlikely to work. Second, I agree with Carmon that the strategy probably represents overreaching. Abortion criminalization is a minority position, but has enough support to win in conservative states. But opposition to birth control is extremely unpopular, and the shift in poll numbers against the initiative that has occurred as the opposition has made the anti-birth control implications clear is striking. If it’s a political loser in Mississippi, it will be a loser anywhere.
Unfortunately, even if this amendment fails Mississippi anti-choicers have very successfully used Casey-approved regulations to make abortion inaccessible. Raney Aronson-Rath’s documentary on the subject is essential viewing on the subject.
In theory, increased access to contraception could provide common ground between supporters and opponents of abortion rights. When it comes to actually existing American anti-choicers, however, the norm is opposition to all forms of reproductive freedom as part of a seamless web of reactionary, misogynist conceptions of human sexuality.
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I’ve learned not to be surprised by people who believe that judicial opinions create a unique backlash, but I find the idea that the country was much more ready for Brown than for Roe particularly baffling. Race played far more of a role in the development of the New Right than opposition to abortion rights, which was inevitable in any case.
For those of you who are interested in that kind of thing, the Greenhouse/Siegel article I link over there is really good.
As a counterpart to her ongoing analysis of the proliferation of misogynist sex-is-icky comedy, Dana Stevens makes an important point about the contemporary romantic comedy as part of a review of the poorly-received I Don’t Know How She Does It:
In an unintentionally disturbing subplot, Kate’s assistant Momo, a single, career-focused woman in her mid-20s who’s sworn never to have children, accidentally finds herself pregnant. After Momo mumbles her intention to “take care of it,” Kate clasps her by the shoulders and, eyes glassy with maternal zeal, essentially bullies her into having the baby. Not that I expect a character in a mainstream Hollywood movie to seriously consider, let alone go through with, an abortion—that would probably require a Supreme Court injunction at this point—but the movie’s unquestioning embrace of Kate’s pro-life proselytization felt somehow creepy. Couldn’t they at least have a conversation? (In the book, a much older character, Kate’s best friend Candy, finally decides to continue with an unplanned pregnancy after the two friends engage in a frankly ambivalent discussion: “I’m getting rid of it.” “Fine.” “What?” “Nothing.”) I Don’t Know How She Does It purports to be about the difficult choices of modern motherhood, but it’s too prim and cautious a movie to dip a pedicured toe into the murky waters of real choice.
Obviously,the larger problem here is that young women in romantic comedies virtually never have abortions in situations in which many of them would. The problem isn’t any individual decision so much as the general trend.
But, at least as Stevens describes it, in this movie it seems particularly irritating even in itself because it’s so gratuitous. This isn’t a case like Juno or Knocked Up where if a young woman chooses to have an abortion there’s no movie. The anti-choice protagonist apparently isn’t in the novel the movie was adapted from. Leaving aside the movie’s apparent sympathy for the lead character’s behavior, the conflation of loving one’s own children and assuming that other women should always choose to bear a child doesn’t seem like the likely value system of an educated Boston professional woman. And the idea that an intelligent, self-assured professional woman would make such a fundamental life (and potentially career) choice based on a single incident of bullying-without-argument seems even less plausible. That this writing comes from one of Hollywood’s most prominent writers of films directed at women is particularly depressing.
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Alleged sensibly moderate Republican Michael Gerson displays some actual sensible moderation:
Try to imagine a parent-daughter conversation about sexual restraint and maturity that includes the words: “Honey, I’m going to deny you a vaccine that prevents a horrible, bleeding cancer, just as a little reminder of the religious values I’ve been trying to teach you.” This would be morally monstrous. Such ethical electroshock therapy has nothing to do with cultivation of character in children. It certainly has nothing to do with Christianity, which teaches that moral rules are created for the benefit of the individual, not to punish them with preventable death.
This approach to moral education may appeal to a certain kind of conservative politician. How could it possibly appeal to a parent, conservative or otherwise?
Alas, I don’t think this argument is going to go anywhere among other Republicans. I fully expect Rick Perry to pledge to make Jenny McCarthy his Surgeon General to repent for his heresy of accidentally advancing a good policy.
Prick Erry is, of course, also a radical anti-choice crank. But don’t kid yourself, this will really hurt him among the two or three Tea Party voters who only care about fiscal issues.
Of course not.
To amplify Matt’s response to Althouse’s silly dodging and weaving about Paul merely wanting to “divert the matter to the state courts,” let’s consider the content of the federal abortion bill Paul has repeatedly introduced. Among other things, the bill states that:
(1) the Congress declares that–
(A) human life shall be deemed to exist from conception, without regard to race, sex, age, health, defect, or condition of dependency; and
(B) the term ‘person’ shall include all human life as defined in subparagraph (A); and
(2) the Congress recognizes that each State has the authority to protect lives of unborn children residing in the jurisdiction of that State.
States have already have laws banning homicide, and if fetuses are “persons” under the equal protection clause (whose core purpose is to prevent states from denying the protection of generally applicable laws to classes of persons) all 50 states would be required to prosecute all abortions not necessary to save a woman’s life as first degree murder. Perhaps some state courts would try to argue that the complete exclusion of this federally defined class of “persons” can survive strict scrutiny, but presumably this isn’t Paul’s intent or preferred position. Far from leaving the abortion issue to “the states,” the intended effect of the Sanctity of Life Act is to create a national abortion code that would apply severe criminal sanctions to women who obtain abortions. The bill empowers state courts in the sense that it strips jurisdiction from federal courts, but state courts would be working under federal law that seeks to criminalize abortion.
As Matt implies, the best defense you can make for the claim that Paul just wants to return abortion to the states and doesn’t want women to be subject to criminal sanctions is that he’s a manipulator and hypocrite who pretends to want the federal government to nationalize fetal personhood but really considers the bill he supports a symbolic nullity. Admittedly, Republican abortion politics is replete with exactly this kind of cynicism, but in Paul’s case there’s reason to actually take his stated positions seriously. And if you do, it’s pretty clear that he wants all American women to face severe criminal sanctions if they obtain abortions. And, certainly, Paul — like virtually all anti-choice Republicans — has never believed that abortion policy should be “left to the states.”
If anti-choicers were motivated by a desire to protect fetal live, rather than the desire to impose reactionary gender rules, they wouldn’t be opposed to providing contraception too. Needless to say, that’s not the wingnuts we actually have.
As I’ve mentioned before, another way of seeing just how bad the Supreme Court’s recent campaign finance decision is to compare it to the infamous 1991 case Rust v. Sullivan. In the latter case, the Court upheld the gag order issued by the Reagan administration which prevented medical professionals who receive federal funding from even discussing abortion with their patients. Federal funding, in other words, was used to suppress speech that the government didn’t like, and yet the Supreme Court held that this did not violate the First Amendment.
In the Arizona campaign finance case, conversely, the state engaged in no restriction of speech at all, let alone one that discriminated on the basis of viewpoint. People who opt out of the state’s public finance system are not punished unless you think that wealthy people have an inherent right to keep the floor to themselves. Nobody is ineligible for public funding because they express views that governor disagrees with. With Rust v. Sullivan being good law, this should have been the easiest case imaginable — and yet the Court ruled that it was unconstitutional.
The punchline you can already see coming is that Kennedy and Scalia were part of the majority in both cases, and Roberts wrote a brief in favor of the gag order in his role as Deputy Solicitor General. (I suppose we don’t know how Alito and Thomas would vote on Rust, in the same sense that we don’t know to an absolute certainty if the sun will come up tomorrow morning.) If principle had anything to do with this line of conservative jurisprudence, we could simply assume that Rust v. Sullivan had been overruled — but it doesn’t.