Why is Gay Marriage Winning While Abortion Rights Lose?
April 25, 2015 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Katha Pollitt believes it's because, unlike gay marriage, "Reproductive rights are inescapably about women." Same-sex marriage is something men want. Lesbian couples account for the majority of same-sex marriages, but even the vernacular "gay marriage" types it as a male concern. That makes it of interest to everyone, because everything male is of general interest. Though many of the groundbreaking activists and lawyers who have fought for same-sex marriage are lesbians, gay men have a great deal of social and economic power, and they have used it, brilliantly, to mainstream the cause.

According to Gail Collins in the New York Times, abortion rights doesn’t have the advantage gay marriage does of having the business community behind it to "rise up in support," when bans are proposed and enacted.

Marilyn Katz in In These Times comes to similar conclusions and believes it’s down to “the power of money and never-ending misogyny,” even among gay rights allies. She adds While I and most other feminists applaud the successful protests against Indiana’s retrograde actions and have been among the most staunch defenders of gay rights—and in fact I would argue that we are the birth mothers of the movement through our insistence on decoupling sex from procreation—I find the disparate trajectories of our movements and society’s disparate response to our injuries more than a little disturbing.

Meanwhile, Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern points out how conservative attempts to link abortion and gay rights have failed (to the benefit of gay marriage) because It’s Logical to Oppose Abortion and Support Gay Marriage.

Catholic Millennials follow the pattern by being more in favor of gay rights and contraception but still split on abortion.

Amanda Hess describes the existence of antichoice activism by gay activist Jimmy LaSalvia who says “"There are many people in the LGBT community who think that abortion is about personal freedom, just like gay rights is. It is about personal freedom—but only in the sense that the personal freedom of an unborn child is important."
posted by emjaybee (132 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
It has been difficult and upsetting to watch the setbacks in abortion rights (and in women's rights more generally), while at the same time enjoying the unexpectedly rapid gains in LGBT rights. I don't know the exact answer, but basic misogyny seems likely to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:57 PM on April 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Full disclosure, I have not read all the links yet, so apologies if they do address this point. I'm extremely sympathetic to this point of view, and I think Katha Pollitt is mostly right. At the same time, for a long time abortion was winning while gay rights were hardly spoken of. I mean, it shouldn't be a zero sum game at all, but we do need to include a historical perspective on that count. And I wish we didn't just accept Katha Pollitt's framing that abortion rights are "about sex." They certainly are, in part, but more truthfully, they are about providing a needed control on fertility and planning when in your life you are able to give a child proper care - abortion rights are about women's educational and career progress, about the health of families, about providing optimal conditions for raising children. They are actually pro-family, and as much as I detest the very real fact that a lot of opposition comes from people who just don't believe women should be sexually autonomous, I also don't think that limiting discussion to that framing does the issue justice.
posted by Miko at 9:02 PM on April 25, 2015 [22 favorites]


According to Gail Collins in the New York Times, abortion rights doesn’t have the advantage gay marriage does of having the business community behind it to "rise up in support," when bans are proposed and enacted.

As long as there is a large number of people who believe abortion is the killing of a human being, it's going to be a hard sell for the business community to rally around in the same way it has for gay rights. It's easier to take a (cowardly but sometimes helpful) agnostic position on gay marriage because you can just say, "Leave these two consenting adults alone and mind your own business." With abortion, there are a lot of pro-life people who believe there is a non-consenting party at risk. I think it's going to be a few more years until the business community is ready to go there, and it's going to take a lot of hard work to sell them, but it will get there.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:06 PM on April 25, 2015 [16 favorites]


This seems like a no-brainer. Ultimately, it's about empathy. As soon as you accept that gay people are just people, it's pretty easy to empathize with someone wanting to marry the person that they love. It also becomes increasingly hard to empathize with someone who wants to stop that marriage.

By contrast, I think it's a lot harder to accept that a fetus is just some tissue. Everybody has been a child, and many of us have children of our own. As a result, empathy can fall on either side -- especially in the abstract versus specific situations. (Consider how people's attitudes shift when "rape", "incest" or "risk to the mother's life" becomes involved. I think that's because these facts shift the balance of empathy.)

I'm 100% in favor of safe, legal abortion-on-demand, and I'm certain that a good chunk of anti-abortion attitudes come from anti-woman (or at least anti-women's-sexuality) attitudes. But I don't understand the almost willful blindness on the part of some pro-choice advocates for the complexity of feelings that motivate anti-choice attitudes.
posted by Slothrup at 9:15 PM on April 25, 2015 [114 favorites]


No, it's about public perception and strategy.

"Gay Rights," ultimately, is about "leaving everyone alone to live their lives." LGBT rights have been abstracted from "procreation," and so LGBT rights are orthogonal to actual babies. This is a key point: same-sex marriage takes away nothing from different-sex marriage. Most folks realize this and comfortable with this. The Christian Right hates this, but they can shrug it off (through stupid "Right to Discriminate" laws). They've lost this battle.

"Reproduction Rights" is entirely about "procreation," the Christian Right's hobby horse. "Save the Babies!" "Women, Obey Your Husbands!" Investigate the history of any religious cult and you'll find men asserting control over women. The anti-abortion activists have been very successful in framing this as, "oh! The poor stupid women who don't know what's best for them!" A lot of men resonate to this. Weirdly, so do a lot of women.

The two issues have next to nothing to do with each other, IMO.
posted by SPrintF at 9:20 PM on April 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it's because capitalism. They [massive multinationals] can make lots of money off gay shopping and not much off of abortions.

Also, there is a more convincing moral argument to be made against killing people than against people loving each other.

I say this as a queer pro-abortion-on-demand dyke. But some people genuinely oppose abortion because of a strong moral belief. The "moral belief" piece of the anti-gay sentiment is much less defensible.
posted by latkes at 9:22 PM on April 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


As soon as you accept that gay people are just people, it's pretty easy to empathize with someone wanting to marry the person that they love. It also becomes increasingly hard to empathize with someone who wants to stop that marriage.

I disagree. There are plenty of people, many politicians and legislators included, who are taking the position that they accept gay people just fine, and think that they are indeed "just people," but still don't believe that they are entitled to the full benefits of marriage.

This is a key point: same-sex marriage takes away nothing from different-sex marriage. Most folks realize this and comfortable with this. The Christian Right hates this, but they can shrug it off (through stupid "Right to Discriminate" laws). They've lost this battle.

I disagree. It very much remains to be seen whether they've lost the battle, or whether the SCOTUS will rule in some way that manages to split the difference without granting full equality. Nothing is written in stone yet, no matter what the polls say. Even if the Court rules in a way that validates same-sex marriage, states that currently do not recognize same-sex marriage could use "religious freedom acts" to continue discrimination in whatever form they can get away with, and given the Court's ruling in Hobby Lobby, such discrimination would not seem to be unconstitutional. "Religious freedom acts" are not just "shrugging it off"; they may be stupid, but they do what they are written to do, and that's to discriminate and deny equality.
posted by blucevalo at 9:37 PM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


This makes sense to me, especially with how marriage has become The Gay Issue and big organizations like the HRC tend to be willing to throw any LGBTQ person who isn't a white, middle class and in a heteronormative relationship under the bus.
posted by NoraReed at 9:38 PM on April 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm also not certain that any issue that impacts a subgroup of men automatically becomes a general interest issue. There are 1,001 issues impacting African American men that society seems pretty comfortable with turning a blind eye to. The line seems to have been drawn at, "We should not let police murder them in the street for no reason," but we seem to be having problems with getting the courts to make that one stick.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:47 PM on April 25, 2015 [16 favorites]


I've noticed a lot more hatred for gay people recently from bigoted people who blame us for a lot of society's ills. The homophobia behind this is really frustrating, because we are on your side, and there are many, many, many more of you than there are of us. We are doing what we can to help, but there are a lot more anti-choice women than there are pro-choice gays, and our voices are marginalized as it is. Same-sex marriage (which benefits gay women, as well) is not a done deal in the U.S., where recently someone in California proposed a law to make it legal to execute gays. Literally. Like the state should code that into law. And as bad as the abortion rights situation absolutely is, no one is putting a law forwards to literally kill women specifically for being women.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:50 PM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm also not certain that any issue that impacts a subgroup of men automatically becomes a general interest issue. There are 1,001 issues impacting African American men that society seems pretty comfortable with turning a blind eye to. The line seems to have been drawn at, "We should not let police murder them in the street for no reason," but we seem to be having problems with getting the courts to make that one stick.

Pretty much all political sides are managing to royally fuck up on everything that primarily impacts Black people. Structural inequality, flagrant racism in the court/justice/prison system, murdering cops, etc.

And as bad as the abortion rights situation absolutely is, no one is putting a law forwards to literally kill women specifically for being women.

When states are restricting abortion rights, they are killing women specifically for being women, or at least for having uteruses (since non-binary people and trans men often also sometimes need abortions), because pregnancy and childbirth are very dangerous, and some people who are forced to seek illegal abortions will die of complications. However, unlike that California proposed law, anti-choice legislation actually regularly passes, whereas that bigot stunt bill will likely never go anywhere.
posted by NoraReed at 9:58 PM on April 25, 2015 [31 favorites]


It's like the homophobic myth that all gay people are wealthier than others, which was disproved with recent polling, but still gets trotted out as a reason to stop us from getting married, ie we don't need the benefits of marriage because we each all own two vacation homes and a yacht. Now we shouldn't get marriage rights because we hate women's freedoms or some such homophobic nonsense. More polling is needed, I guess.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:04 PM on April 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Just a point, lungful, but that case in California was a proposed ballot proposition, and as a remnant of California's Progressive movement all it took was $200 to put it forward. It's still a horrible awful thing to have happened, but legislatively I think it's less significant than those laws that state legislators propose that have zero chance of even leaving committee.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:05 PM on April 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


The way I understood it, no one dies when two gays get married. A baby dies during an abortion, though. For people who believe that, it's a sufficient reason to oppose abortion, and it has nothing whatever to do with patriarchy or any kind of conspiracy.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:09 PM on April 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


This seems like a no-brainer. Ultimately, it's about empathy.

And for some reason all the empathy goes to the fetus rather than the pregnant adult. Which is the problem.
posted by jaguar at 10:23 PM on April 25, 2015 [34 favorites]


I think it's fairly simple: Weddings have great optics and medical procedures don't. I mean, there are other money and power and constituency dynamics in the actual legislation, but if you're talking about changing tides in public perception, it's the feel-good wedding appeal.
posted by vunder at 10:23 PM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The way I understood it, no one dies when two gays get married. A baby dies during an abortion, though. For people who believe that, it's a sufficient reason to oppose abortion, and it has nothing whatever to do with patriarchy or any kind of conspiracy.

Beliefs change, though. Abortion as the unifying cause of the Right is a relatively recent thing. I think Pollit is largely right: Gay marriage takes something that profoundly challenges the traditional power structure and channels that into a buttress for that same structure. Abortion, or the ability of women to control their sexual recreation and procreation, removes one of the strongest mechanisms of that traditional power structure: the subservience of women. We know that best way to introduce equality into a society is to improve education and economic conditions for women, and that least equal societies we know of are deeply patriarchal: women with the ability to have control over their own lives have far less children, and seek opportunities outside of the domestic sphere.

What happens if participation in traditional power structures becomes completely optional? That is to say, what if there weren't serious, potentially dangerous consequences for women opting out of that structure? Wouldn't they look completely different?

What if the issue of Gay equality weren't marriage, something that reinforces those power structures, but something that challenges them?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:27 PM on April 25, 2015 [19 favorites]


It's not a zero-sum game, but I care a lot less about marriage than I do about other queer rights, especially since so many of homeless kids are LGBTQ, and it seems like not a week goes by lately without hearing about another trans person being murdered or committing suicide. Put that on top of the state-sanctioned murder of Black people, especially young Black men, and the increasing erosion of women's right to choose in so many places where women are often poor and unable to travel to get the medical procedures that they need, and yeah, gay marriage tends to sort of slip by the wayside for me. It's a nice barometer for how homophobic everything is, and I'm glad that it's spreading, because I think it should be legal, but I think that the overwhelming focus on middle-class heteronormative white gay people (particularly men) and their marriages has been, in many ways, detrimental to many vulnerable groups of queer people.

Focusing on gay marriage allows people to be okay with their gay neighbors or to vote for gay marriage and continue ignoring other queer issues: access to hormones and surgery through the healthcare system, bathroom access, legal name changes and gender changes identification, the disproportionate number of homeless kids who are queer, HIV rates and access to safer sex education and supplies, etc. Gay marriage as one of the Big Liberal Issues does seem to take up a lot of air, sometimes, and while it occasionally gives me something to celebrate, it doesn't fix any of the structural inequalities and enforced marginalization that has me so scared for the lives, safety and futures of so many of my queer friends.

I'm living in a state where gay marriage is legal and threats to abortion rights have generally been shut down, so I'm lucky to be relatively secure in both sets of rights. But as far as my fear for me personally, the erosion of abortion rights scares me a lot more than any mainstream homophobic stunt bills, or even than the bigger Big Homophobic Stuff Said By Big Homophobes, because it's a part of a larger cultural narrative that puts the needs of women (and non-binary folks and trans men) after the wants of (cisgender) men.
posted by NoraReed at 10:33 PM on April 25, 2015 [32 favorites]


Weddings have great optics and medical procedures don't.

And it just takes a bit of abstraction to appreciate that tissues =/= baby without the uterine container (= woman, so far, mostly) + time, also that "because Nature" isn't the only ethical framework around.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:35 PM on April 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now we shouldn't get marriage rights because we hate women's freedoms or some such homophobic nonsense. More polling is needed, I guess.

I am not sure where you got this in the article or the discussion.
posted by schroedinger at 10:36 PM on April 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Another thing: How many gay people do you know? Chances are that you know at least a few. How many women than have considered abortion or who have had one do you know? Odds for the majority of people is, you don't. The idea of having an abortion is something that you only make known to people very close to you, but otherwise you live with the inner conflict of the decision to do it or not, keeping it to yourself. Being gay is something that (for those who aren't closeted, and the fact that they feel scared to come out is a whole 'nother set of societal problems) you just are. People know gay friends, family members, co-workers, acquaintances, friend-of-a-friend types, etc.

The difference there is that with gay people being able to live more out in the open, and even conservative people realizing they know more gay people than they thought, is that the rest of society is by and large realizing that gay people aren't screwed up weirdo monsters. The cases of gay couples they've seen and in some cases married gay couples are just cases of normal people, good people, who just wanna get along in life like everyone else. This is easy for people to accept. With abortion, however, it's all in the shadows. Most people don't know that they might know someone who has had or has considered an abortion. It's easy to demonize abortion when you just boil it down to a medical procedure and it's easy to call it a murder when you can't attach it to someone you may know. You don't see the woman who struggles with a very tough choice, who may be looking at raising a baby alone with no money, or any other myriad of factors.

I don't discount the misogyny factor at all. Hell, if us guys had to suffer the consequences of pregnancy, abortions would be easy and legal. But I do think that people being able to put a familiar face to something causes them to soften their perspective.
posted by azpenguin at 10:44 PM on April 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


How many women than have considered abortion or who have had one do you know? Odds for the majority of people is, you don't.

I think you mean "odds for the majority of people is oh yes you absolutely do."
posted by incessant at 10:48 PM on April 25, 2015 [68 favorites]


More to the point, you might know any number of women that have had an abortion, but not know that they had one. And there's a pretty good reason for that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:56 PM on April 25, 2015 [22 favorites]


I am not sure where you got this in the article or the discussion.

Wherever someone says that the fight for same-sex marriage rights equals support of white, gay, rich people — which is happening here — the undercurrent of homophobia is pretty obvious. It's just a different dog whistle for the same tired, old stereotypes, with the only difference that it isn't coming out of Santorum's mouth, perhaps.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:00 PM on April 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


How many women than have considered abortion or who have had one do you know? Odds for the majority of people is, you don't.

if by "the majority of people" you mean "men" then i suppose that could be true.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:01 PM on April 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


But a lot of people are way more comfortable with middle-class and up cisgender white gay people (especially men) who fit into gender roles that they are comfortable with than other people under the rainbow/queer/LGBTQ umbrella(s) who aren't as likely to be depicted on primetime sitcoms. This is because we live in a white supremacist, kyriarchal society, and claiming that I'm homophobic (??!?) for stating that our culture is stratified and prejudice is real and informs what politics people support is a load of unadulterated horseshit.
posted by NoraReed at 11:05 PM on April 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have had an abortion. Thirty percent of women have an abortion before age 45. Ninety percent occur during the first 12 weeks; mine did.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:08 PM on April 25, 2015 [56 favorites]


I consider this part- a big part- of the overall War Against Women. It's part and parcel of the active assault on women's rights and freedoms. ranging from anti-abortion legislation, all the way down to GamerGate and the Sad Puppies. Sure they will target nonwhites and LGBT people, but that's secondary. The overall assault is concerned with making women terrified, silent, and limited in their options.
posted by happyroach at 11:12 PM on April 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I suspect class consciousness has a lot to do with it. People tend to be more judgmental about issues that don't concern them personally, which is why I'm a big fan of unrationed social services.

Older and wealthier women tend to be less affected by restrictions on abortion: they are either out of their childbearing years or they figure they could still get an abortion if they needed one. This means they're less concerned when they hear about a clinic closing or some new law about confronting women with fetal hand-puppets: as far as they're concerned, anyone who really needs an abortion could always go interstate. So the people who are the core of political movements and fundraising are partially neutralised; they don't have the sense of personal urgency that would make them join a cause that is so heavily stigmatised. In contrast, wealthier gay men are precisely the ones who are most likely to benefit from recognised gay marriages, and that need doesn't change as they age.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:13 PM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The idea of having an abortion is something that you only make known to people very close to you, but otherwise you live with the inner conflict of the decision to do it or not, keeping it to yourself.

The very most powerful thing women can do to maintain their abortion rights is to speak out about their abortion experiences. Keeping your abortions a secret is harmful to maintaining your rights.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:30 PM on April 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


Older and wealthier women tend to be less affected by restrictions on abortion ... they're less concerned Women are more pro-choice than men, and the percentage of people who are in favor of abortion rights rises with income.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:31 PM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The idea that this argument is motivated by homophobia doesn't really go anywhere, given this is a phenomenon that's been seen before, particularly in relation to bodies and medicine; there's plenty of work to suggest that while HIV/AIDS campaigners - intially largely young-ish middle class white gay men - in the 1980s and '90s did amazing work for the core patient group of largely young gay men, there was a knock on effect that other groups - particularly women, sex workers, drug users, children - were disadvantaged when it came to drug research, trial recruitment, and general public health interventions (Epstein's Impure Science is the classic sociology/history of that argument).

I'm also disturbed by the people saying this is 'just' about ethics: it is in no sense inevitable that someone's (genuine, strong) ethical objection to abortion is unmoveable and absolute, while their objection to homosexuality is somehow flexible and alterable. At various times and in various places (including under other Christian doctrines) the situation has been quite reversed, and it was entirely possible for people to be kinda-ok with abortion but totally horrified by gay sex. Assuming that pro-life is a less changeable POV than homophobia just means that we're accepting the very cultural dynamic the article points out: some moralities are more important than others and cannot/should not be challenged. Shrugging and saying 'well, people really think abortion is murder' doesn't actually explain what's happening.
posted by AFII at 11:43 PM on April 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


a lungful of dragon: "Wherever someone says that the fight for same-sex marriage rights equals support of white, gay, rich people — which is happening here — the undercurrent of homophobia is pretty obvious. It's just a different dog whistle for the same tired, old stereotypes, with the only difference that it isn't coming out of Santorum's mouth, perhaps."

Er - that is not happening here. Very distinctly not. In fact, it's funny that you bring up dog whistles, because the whole point here is that "gay marriage" is being sort of turned into a dog whistle, or being cast in a particular way, when it isn't that particular way. I think it's true that society has a skewed view of what gay marriage really is - don't you agree? I think it's true that society views gay marriage as largely white, male, and upper-middle-class. None of the articles here are saying that gay marriage is a bad thing, and they are not saying that support of same-sex marriage equals support of largely upper-middle-class white men. It's just that people often support the right things for the wrong reasons - and if (as the authors suggest - and I suspect they're right) many people are supporting gay marriage because they have an idyllic picture in their heads of Will from Will & Grace in their heads, then, yeah, they are supporting the right thing for the wrong reasons.

And those reasons are wrong because they'll cause problems down the road - whenever same-sex couples don't meet the exacting expectations of straights who had a certain narrow picture in their minds when they said they were allies.

So it's worth pointing it out when people are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. It's worth pointing out especially in this case, when it seems that those wrong reasons are plainly causing ethical ambivalence in the context of other issues. It's worth remembering that this is absolutely not 'women vs gays' or anything like that; it's about making sure all of us get respect and freedom, and that means paying attention to all of these intersectional issues.
posted by koeselitz at 11:51 PM on April 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


And I want to say: a lot of the things Katha Pollitt says are things that the gay rights movement said first. Every once in a while now you'll meet a gay person who is against marriage, full stop, as they believe it represents a capitulation to traditionalist repression, but I remember when that was a relatively common viewpoint; being an outsider forces you to examine the structure, and in many cases brings you to question whether it should exist at all. Over the past couple decades we've abandoned that and begun to take the tack of 'demanding a place at the table' of traditional marriage structures, but it's still a question worth asking: is that because traditional marriage structures are themselves good, or because we just suddenly can imagine actually getting that place at the table, so abandoning outsider status to that degree seems like a dream come true?

It really is true that same-sex marriage means ushering same-sex relationships into this structure that is marriage, rechristening them as an acceptable part of the traditional mores we hold; I am on the side that believes that's good, although I can see the perspective of the side that distrusts implicitly the structure that excluded them for literally thousands of years. While traditional structures can be expected to accept a change which implicitly legitimizes them, they cannot abide a radical bodily freedom which places individual liberty and self-determination above the control they demand from us in our presumed role as makers and maintainers of children - namely, traditional structures are not likely to support abortion.

And I still see the perspective of those in the early gay movement who rejected not just homophobia but also the whole heterosexist traditional family structure which demanded that they conform by forcing their bodies to take part in procreative acts against their will through standard marriages. I can imagine some of those old friends shaking their heads at this conflict - 'this is what you get,' they'd say, 'for capitulating to the regime of marriage: the traditionalists still just want to take our bodily freedom away, and they'll keep doing it, by enforcing monogamy through taboo and banning abortion and a thousand other small measures. This is why the whole structure has to be questioned.'
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 AM on April 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


One thing I find very interesting is that the rest of the west is nowhere near so speedily mirroring either the US' progress on gay rights, nor the rollback of abortion rights. I feel like there are some culturally specific factors at play here, which makes me hesitant to ascribe the universal or monocausal reasoning some have done.

I wonder what it is specifically about the US which has pushed both of these issues they way they are going.
posted by smoke at 1:31 AM on April 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


For some mildly conservative people gay marriage looks like a potentially dangerous, subversive group coming onside and helping to defend a more or less traditional, settled, lifestyle.
posted by Segundus at 1:49 AM on April 26, 2015


It's strategy. Gay rights exists because gays came "out of the closet" en mass to convince straight people they deserved rights. Women have not come "out of the closet" about their abortions.

We'd need to overcome the "my friend's abortion is different" bullshit too, but that's okay since an average American knows about 5x as many women who've had abortions (30%) as gay people (3%).

I believe most European countries adopted civil unions before U.S. states, smoke, except the crazy pants catholic or orthodox ones.

Abortion fairs better than gay rights in countries where gays cannot come out of the closet without risking their lives.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:54 AM on April 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


It kinda feels like victim-blaming to put the onus on uterused folks who've had abortions to start telling the world about it when it's a personal thing that they might not want to talk about to, you know, everyone, and it's also something that just doesn't come up in conversation much. It's not a numbers issue, it's that generally relationships involve another person who is sharing your life, so that tends to come up. Unless you're gonna start inviting the doctor who performed your abortion to your office Christmas party and your family's dinner or something.

It's just a part of your medical history; it's not something other people need to know, and given the political atmosphere, it can be dangerous for people to know it. I mean, when you get situations where a teenage girl who has clearly and unambiguously been raped by a group of peers and she STILL GETS BLAMED FOR IT, why would you ever want to subject yourself to the scrutiny of everyone around you calling you a baby-murdering (insert patriarchal epithet)? Why throw the misogynistic mob more fuel to get at you with? Especially in circumstances of rape, incest, any other kind of coerced consent, abusive relationships, etc, why would you want to share the medical details of a traumatic time in your life with the world? There's nothing to gain from it and a lot to lose, and throwing your hands in the air and saying that "oh well the stigma won't go away until the uterus-havers all start talking about their abortion" conveniently excludes everyone else, particularly the cisgender men who are actively working on taking these rights away, from responsibility. Fuck that noise.
posted by NoraReed at 2:19 AM on April 26, 2015 [61 favorites]


What NoraReed said - demanding that people who've had abortions disclose that and discuss them publicly puts the responsibility in the wrong place. Especially since there's a lot of us who never had one only by blind luck.
posted by gingerest at 3:06 AM on April 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


The fact that pro choice advocates can be so clueless about the moral quandaries presented by abortion sorrows me. You fight your fight with blinders on you are more likely to get sucker punched, more likely to lose. It will even potentially make you look heartless to some people in the middle and perhaps sway them away from you.
posted by caddis at 4:19 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The other thing to keep in mind is that the erosion of abortion rights is largely an American phenomena. It is not a universal feature of human psychology playing out politically. In much of the Western world abortion rights have been pretty steadily ahead of gay rights.
posted by srboisvert at 4:57 AM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Pollitt and Katz also talk about the rollback of access to birth control, and I think that is vital. If the subject here was limited to abortion rights and gay rights, then I could acknowledge that this might be happening because of the viewpoint that abortion is murder. But that simply isn't the case. This is part of a wider campaign against women's reproductive freedom and health. For those who may not have seen it, here is a chart demonstrating stated intent vs. policy for limiting reproductive rights.
posted by heatvision at 5:04 AM on April 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


The biggest thing that's not being addressed is that abortion is legal. Yes, that's under fire, but the actual legal question in the US was decided 42 years ago. People who fought and agitated for it and were 18 at the time turn 60 this year. There simply hasn't been the fire under the feet to keep pro-choice groups like NARAL active aside from lobbying efforts, which have tied abortion heavily to the Democratic Party.

Abortion was pretty much used as a rallying cry to draw evangelical Christians to conservative politics. It became an effective wedge issue to draw people to the two major parties, whether for or against, rather than being an issue of actual rights as it was framed by the Supreme Court. If abortion is going to last, it needs to be a human rights cause again, just like it was in 1973 and like gay marriage is today.
posted by graymouser at 5:04 AM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


There was a great segment on This American Life yesterday about changing peoples' minds on abortion and gay marriage. I've been thinking for a while that one reason gay marriage progressed so quickly is that a lot of people started coming out -- it was no longer possible to "not know any gay people" (and have plausible deniability with that statement). But it's still not socially acceptable to come out as having had an abortion. I'd never tell someone they had to do so, just like I'd never tell someone they had to disclose their sexual orientation, especially because it could put their physical safety and mental health in jeopardy.

But 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetimes. The chance that you don't know someone who had an abortion is small.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:06 AM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


The other thing to keep in mind is that the erosion of abortion rights is largely an American phenomena. It is not a universal feature of human psychology playing out politically. In much of the Western world abortion rights have been pretty steadily ahead of gay rights.

Restrictions on abortion and birth control track pretty well with the importance given to religious affiliation as a component of national identity. Abortion is still criminalized in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for example, almost entirely for religious reasons. Likewise Poland. And Malta prohibits the practice entirely, the only EU country that does so.

However, it's worth noting that in many countries in Western Europe, there are heavy restrictions beyond the first trimester. That said, they have much better support for contraception overall; again, the countries where religious identity is still largely merged with civic identity are the outliers.
posted by kewb at 5:23 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The other thing to keep in mind is that the erosion of abortion rights is largely an American phenomena.

This erosion is moving us closer to where the rest of the West (Canada aside) is.
posted by jpe at 5:27 AM on April 26, 2015


I just heard that This American Life segment. Two women who didn't know each other began a conversation. One asked the other how much she supported a woman's right to choose on a scale of 0 to 10, and the other woman, a strongly Catholic mother, said 0 - under no circumstances did she think abortion was justified. They continued their conversation about their childhoods, experiences as immigrants etc. and then the first woman revealed that she'd had an abortion earlier that year. The anti-choice mother expressed her condolences and sympathy for the first woman's fears of discussing her abortion with her parents. She said she'd never love her own daughter any less for having an abortion. Asked again how supportive she was of abortion rights, she now said 10. The narrator went on to say that similar results have been seen in many other such conversations, but only when the question is posed by a woman who reveals that she has had an abortion.

I think Katha Pollitt's theory makes sense, but given that abortion rights generally used to be stronger than they are today I think it's likely more complicated than that. The number one driver of the shift away from homophobia (to say nothing of same-sex marriage) is visibility: knowing that people around you whom you like and/or respect are LGQBT. I don't expect most women will become more willing to discuss their abortions, but certainly a vigorous campaign of increased visibility could shift attitudes. But that would take a media and funding in favor of giving the issue more visibility and that's where I think Pollitt's analysis comes into play.
posted by callistus at 5:27 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Found this list of the male/female breakdown of state legislatures in the U.S. It turns out that just 24.1% of state legislators across the U.S. are women.

Percentage of women in Congress is even lower--about 17%.

So, that might have something to do with the issue.

I'll confess I had no idea those percentages were so low. I'm still living in some kind of mental fantasyland where we live in a modern, equal, enlightened, etc etc etc country
posted by flug at 6:23 AM on April 26, 2015 [5 favorites]




Like others have said (better perhaps), there is a closet problem with abortion. There may be an idea that "other women" get abortions. Not your neighbor, your teacher, your coworker, your mom.
posted by nickggully at 6:47 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It may have something to do with the fact that both issues have been strategized and continuously pressed by their respective sides. Both sides have succeeded in shaping the narrative and public opinion at the other side's expense. Two generations have been raised with no memory of when abortion was illegal and the ugly repercussions this had for women.
posted by echocollate at 6:56 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think Katha Pollitt is mostly right.

That's a strange thing to say when you follow it up with a one-line demolition of her central claim: At the same time, for a long time abortion was winning while gay rights were hardly spoken of

I mean, unless you believe that in the mid-C20th misogyny wasn't an issue then the notion that gay rights wins because it's "about men" and abortion rights lose because it's "about women" just cannot, and doesn't fly. For the long decades when gay men could only dream of the political and public-opinion victories that reproductive-rights campaigners were winning, homosexuality was still "about men," culturally, and that did nothing to alleviate the viciousness of the cultural and legal oppression gay men faced.

This is pretty clearly the case of the possession of a hammer making everything look like a nail. The history of attitudes to abortion in the US is complex and needs to be teased out by looking at changing demographics and the specific history of the shifting coalitions of support that the two major political parties draw on. To just say "oh, it's misogyny!" is, in the end, completely unilluminating.
posted by yoink at 7:19 AM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


The biggest thing that's not being addressed is that abortion is legal. Yes, that's under fire, but the actual legal question in the US was decided 42 years ago.

So, there's the legal question 'is abortion legal', and then there's the practical question 'can a woman in the United States procure an abortion', and the answers are vastly different, depending where the woman is located and their income level. I personally think the practical question is more important.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:21 AM on April 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


NoraReed, can you not see how the situation was no different for gay people coming out of the closet? Things are very different now, but at the time, people coming out of the closet had everything to lose, but did it anyway. Someone who has had an abortion shouldn't have to reveal that fact, and I completely agree that there can be terrible repercussions to it. It could be humiliating, it could lead to people being estranged, it could result in physical threats or worse. And of course women have a right to their privacy. All this is true for coming out of the closet too, especially 25+ years ago.

Why should I, as a gay man, have to subject myself to that? I don't have to, and women don't either with regard to abortions; however, the benefit to gay people coming out in such large numbers is immeasurable and there wouldn't have been even close to the progress made on gay rights if it hadn't happened. Abortion shouldn't be a shameful thing just as being gay isn't a shameful thing, but as long as it remains hidden and secret, it will be very difficult to shake off that cloak.
posted by jamincan at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


And as long as domestic terrorism is tolerated against pro-choice targets and women, it will remain hidden and secret.

The domestic terrorists who call themselves pro-life have been very successful and more so because it should be unambiguously terrorism as they have practiced it over the last thirty years with bombings and murders but because it's a womens' issue no one calls it such.
posted by winna at 7:51 AM on April 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


"there's plenty of work to suggest that while HIV/AIDS campaigners - intially largely young-ish middle class white gay men - in the 1980s and '90s did amazing work for the core patient group of largely young gay men, there was a knock on effect that other groups - particularly women, sex workers, drug users, children - were disadvantaged when it came to drug research, trial recruitment, and general public health interventions"

Yes, this is true. However, the sheer number of AIDS victims at that time were young gay men. By orders of magnitude. Whose struggle was for the most part completely dismissed by mainstream media and the government, who were told by their families and churches "well, this is what you deserve".

It took a very vocal, very visible series of actions by the gay community of ALL stripes - I think it was the first time I ever saw anything like the unified response the AIDS crisis created - to get anything done, and even then AIDS didn't get the attention it deserved until those other groups began to be seriously affected before real action and funding became available.

And I don't think it's "victim blaming" to ask for people who've had abortions to speak up in defense of their decisions to have them. I think it's appropriate. LGBTQ people coming out has had a tremendous effect on the advancement of LGBTQ rights. Why would it be any different for people who have had an abortion?
posted by disclaimer at 8:01 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The coming out comparison is interesting to think about, and hard to imagine how it could translate to abortion. But now I'm imagining an Abortion Pride Awareness (?) Parade that would have all the usual parade suspects (local businesses, local news stations, veterans groups, sports teams, elected government officials' offices, etc, etc), but all the parade participants have had an abortion, or have had a partner get an abortion. It wouldn't be a very fun parade, but seeing so many people whose lives would be potentially very different if abortion were illegal, I think would be pretty powerful. And seeing that they're just regular people that work at restaurants and car dealerships and whatever. And let the Pro-Life groups come protest...we'll see which side is bigger. If it were popular enough, even organizing such an event would make many people think about abortion more than they ever have before. Is Channel 7 News going to be in the abortion parade? What about the Mayor's office? And if not, then why exactly? You're in the St. Patrick's Day parade, and the Labor Day Parade, and the Gay Pride Parade... Do you really have no employees who have had abortion directly affect their lives? Or is Bob Jones Ford-Lincoln-Mercury not participating in this particular parade because they don't support a woman's right to choose? It obviously wouldn't work everywhere, but then neither do gay pride parades.
posted by gueneverey at 8:16 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It kinda feels like victim-blaming to put the onus on uterused folks who've had abortions to start telling the world about it when it's a personal thing…

Welcome to realpolitik. Here's how it works: feel victimized, stay silent, and kiss your rights goodbye. The End.

The alternative is to speak up and take your rights back. Just like the victimized women before they got the vote and property rights and autonomy. Just like the victimized blacks before they got the right to ride at the front of the bus, walk through the main entrance, and get to vote. Just like victimized queers before they got the right to not be beaten, to live together, to marry. Just like every marginalized, trod-upon, victimized group that won any fight for their rights.

This is how reality works. That you personally don't like it does not change the reality of it. Saying that it's unfair and victimizing may be true and may sweep you off your feet with upvotes, but reality DGAF.

Speak up publicly about your abortions or lose your rights. That is how this world works. Bottom line.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:28 AM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think that having had an abortion is in any way analogous to being gay. Being gay is a fundamental fact of a person's identity, and coming out is not just a political act. It's also something that people do so that they can live authentic, honest lives. For most women who have abortions, it's not a fundamental fact of their identity. It's a one-time medical procedure that they had, like having an appendectomy, except not as big a deal medically as an appendectomy. Their lives would have been very different had they not had access to it, which would also be true if appendectomies were difficult to obtain, but having had an abortion is not a vital part of their day-to-day lives. I think it would be good if women were more open about having had abortions, but the comparison to being gay is very weird.

It's very awesome, though, that as per usual, a bunch of guys who are utterly, completely insulated from this issue apparently feel entitled to tell the stupid little ladies what we're doing wrong.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:32 AM on April 26, 2015 [37 favorites]


> The fact that pro choice advocates can be so clueless about the moral quandaries presented by abortion sorrows me.

I'm not clueless about "the moral quandaries", I simply disagree. Abortion is a personal, medical decision, not a communal, moral/religious one.
posted by worldswalker at 8:37 AM on April 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


Being gay is a fundamental fact of a person's identity, and coming out is not just a political act. It's also something that people do so that they can live authentic, honest lives. For most women who have abortions, it's not a fundamental fact of their identity. It's a one-time medical procedure that they had, like having an appendectomy, except not as big a deal medically as an appendectomy.

This is a very important distinction. Marriage (in the legal sense) is also a government construct that conveys tangible government benefits - by its very nature it's of public interest. It's not so clear why the state/public should have an interest in a medical procedure (beyond that it's performed safely, in the same nature as other medical procedures). I fundamentally disagree (with SCOTUS) that the state has an interest in a viable fetus.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:54 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The alternative is to speak up and take your rights back.

It's not that I think speaking up is somehow a bad idea; it's that presenting this as The Answer - rather than A Thing That Would Help - puts all the responsibility for addressing the issue on people who have already, in all likelihood, suffered because of it.

Allies are important in any struggle, IMO, but their role should rarely (if ever) be to give instructions that do not involve any action, effort, or risk-taking on their own behalf. It matters that it was Harvey Milk and not a straight guy telling people they needed to come out.
posted by heisenberg at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Being gay is a fundamental fact of a person's identity, and coming out is not just a political act. It's also something that people do so that they can live authentic, honest lives. For most women who have abortions, it's not a fundamental fact of their identity. It's a one-time medical procedure that they had

I came in to say exactly that. Having an abortion does not define a woman; it is not who she is but a thing she had done. I don't hear calls for all men who've had vasectomies or vasectomy reversals to cry it from the rooftops in order to hold on to their reproductive rights. Oh hang on - that's because no one is trying to take them away.
posted by billiebee at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


The difference between male and female support for abortion is still too small to make a big deal about. When people are daily programmed to think about abortion by making it a constant election issue, unresolved medieval values related to purity seep forward and many are persuaded by default to imagine the fetus as a blank slate with only good potential (which means they get to redeem themselves by being opposed to abortion, but once the baby is born, they go back to caring less what happens to it). The opposite may happen on gay rights issues. In a time when gayness is regarded as morally corrupt, it is possible to imagine that marriage might help reform their character. Whatever other political calculations were made, gay marriage also tacks right on the moral compass as perceived by the self-righteous. Back recently when abortion was once freely and openly tolerated, marriage was more or less out of fashion and boring.
posted by Brian B. at 9:00 AM on April 26, 2015


I'd never tell an individual woman that she should tell other people about her abortion regardless of the context of her life any more than I'd tell a gay person they should come out regardless of their situation. But in both cases, lessening stigmas changes the conversation, and so removing that tool from the political and social change toolbox entirely seems really wrong and shortsighted to me.
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Please educate me, Heisenberg: what other alternative exists?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:06 AM on April 26, 2015


jeffburdges: "It's strategy. Gay rights exists because gays came 'out of the closet' en mass to convince straight people they deserved rights. Women have not come 'out of the closet' about their abortions."

jamincan: "Abortion shouldn't be a shameful thing just as being gay isn't a shameful thing, but as long as it remains hidden and secret, it will be very difficult to shake off that cloak."

disclaimer: "I don't think it's 'victim blaming' to ask for people who've had abortions to speak up in defense of their decisions to have them. I think it's appropriate. LGBTQ people coming out has had a tremendous effect on the advancement of LGBTQ rights. Why would it be any different for people who have had an abortion?"

five fresh fish: "Speak up publicly about your abortions or lose your rights. That is how this world works. Bottom line."

Uh - guys? This tack right here is getting way out of hand, and it's frankly the source of a whole lot of gendered tension; could we examine it for a moment?

The underlying notion - that abortion rights are eroding because woman who have abortions have been unwilling to speak up and 'come out' in the same way that gay people have spoken up and 'come out' - rests first and foremost on the idea that women who have abortions have not spoken up about it. But they absolutely have! Have you heard of the National Organization for Women? Of the broad and influential protests that women organized through it and other bodies in the 1960s and 1970s? Women stood up, en masse, and demanded these changes; thats why they happened in the first place. Remember, we're not talking about rights that have never been given at all; we're talking about rights that were largely granted and then taken away. Do you really want it to be necessary for gay people to stand up and fight the same fight a generation from now, when they try to take same-sex marriage away?

Probably the reason why you can't see an exact analogue to the gay rights movement - a bunch of women standing up and declaring that they've had an abortion, for instance - is because this is one way getting an abortion really is completely different from being gay. Why was coming out such an important and bold stance, one that helped the cause of gay rights immensely? Because being gay, for thousands of years, was invisible. Gay people worked hard to "pass," to hide their orientation, affording straights the luxury of pretending they simply didn't exist; there were rumors about the well-dressed fellow with a lisp who worked at the flower shop, or the two middle-aged women with short hair who lived together, but nobody ever imagined that that big strong black man with a deep voice around the way was gay. Standing up, coming out, saying that one is gay, had a huge amount of power, because it took away the straight illusion that homosexuality is an ephemeral disorder easily ignored, and forced them to see that rejecting gay people means rejecting their brothers, their sisters, their daughters and their sons.

This has never been the primary tactic of the women's rights movement, and the abortion rights movement specifically, because invisibility has never been the problem there. Men have never denied that women exist, or pretended that most women aren't women just to maintain that illusion. They have never convinced themselves that the pregnant woman sitting in front of them is not actually pregnant. That would be a bit silly even for the most patriarchal loon. Abortion, unlike gay freedom, is a necessity because it's a medical procedure the object of which is an obvious and broadly observable biological fact. So the strategy in calling for the liberty of women in the self-determination of their bodies wasn't a 'coming out' en masse - women were already out if the closet, by definition, as women, as women who have gotten pregnant, as women who wanted or needed abortions, etc. The strategy was to demand this fundamental freedom. And women did it - with tenacity, with strength, with bravery, and with heroism.

So let's not pretend that women have been resting on their laurels while gay people have been fighting for their rights. Remember the timeline: the gay rights movement actually learned a lot from the women's rights movement, which came first, particularly since the gay rights movement actually had a lot of veterans from the women's rights movement in it. We're working together here, and asking others to 'catch up' in this was is rude and crass.
posted by koeselitz at 9:19 AM on April 26, 2015 [36 favorites]


It's like the homophobic myth that all gay people are wealthier than others, which was disproved with recent polling, but still gets trotted out as a reason to stop us from getting married, ie we don't need the benefits of marriage because we each all own two vacation homes and a yacht. Now we shouldn't get marriage rights because we hate women's freedoms or some such homophobic nonsense.

This is... Incomplete. It is a true fact that in American politics the people who get listened most to are wealthy white men with a relatively conventional gender presentation. It is a true fact that much of the discourse-defining, tapped into politicians, activist groups have very explicitly chosen to play up those qualities - from the Mattachine Society to the HRC today. It is a true fact that many of the people driving those groups intentionally made decisions to simplify the world of queerness, for realpolitik reasons but I think also because the personalities involved wanted nice sharp boundaries to police. (I was just the recipient of a rant about the historical origins of bi-invisibility). It's not homophobia to point out these true facts about political realities and histories, and the knock-on effects on those people simplified out of the picture.

(I won't even start on how actually pernicious I think the "born this way" ideological strand is or how long term dangerous it probably is.)

I say this as a yuppie yuppie gay. The call is coming from inside the house.
posted by PMdixon at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Gay marriage does not interfere with the great multi level marketing ponzi scheme, our economy is based upon, while abortion and birth control, do. The the teaching of abstinence creates unlimited growth of a consumer based economy, while abortion inhibits. It is that simple. No idealogy, no theology involved, except as shills for the real $motivator.
posted by Oyéah at 9:52 AM on April 26, 2015


Gay marriage does not interfere with the great multi level marketing ponzi scheme, our economy is based upon, while abortion and birth control, do. The the teaching of abstinence creates unlimited growth of a consumer based economy, while abortion inhibits.

I'm not sure that I'm following this.It's not as if contraceptives or even reproductive health services aren't consumer products and marketable services. There's a strong argument to intersectionality regarding unpaid or underpaid "feminine" work and the economic status of women more generally. Is that what you're referring to, or are you making a different argument?

I still love KathrynT's formulation of this idea. That one became part of my personal lexicon almost immediately.
posted by kewb at 10:07 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


We're working together here

This is key. Protecting abortion rights is not a responsibility falling only to people with uteruses (let alone to people who have already had an abortion), any more than protecting LGBT rights is a responsibility falling only to LGBT people or working toward racial equality is a responsibility falling only to people of color. This is part of why it troubles me to hear arguments that sound like "members of Group X should be doing Y" from people who are not members of Group X, especially when unaccompanied by any consideration of what people who are not members of Group X can or should be doing as well.

I'm a woman. I have not had an abortion, but if I get pregnant, I will have one. I think it's important for me to say that - notwithstanding koeselitz's totally valid points about the very different roles of "coming out" and visibility in the reproductive rights struggle vs. the LGBT rights struggle, I do think many pro-life folks assume that they do not know anyone who has had (or would have) an abortion, which makes it easier to demonize people who have had (or would have) abortions. It's harder to demonize a non-theoretical person you've actually met.

But I'm also not going to tell anyone who has had an abortion whether they should or should not tell people about it. It's not my place.
posted by heisenberg at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, like there aren't a TON of campaigns to encourage women speaking up about their abortions already. If you haven't heard of them, my guess is that it's because you haven't been paying attention. We're trying that tack, don't worry.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:30 AM on April 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seriously, three seconds of googling brings up 45 million voices, the 1 in 3 campaign, and Sea Change. Talking about abortions is not a new suggestion, whether or not it is a useful one.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:39 AM on April 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


My sister is an attorney, a single mom, and a social justice warrior. She lives in a state where gay rights are increasing while abortion rights and equal pay for women are declining. We struggle with how to talk about this topic because we love the LGBT people in our lives but it's hard to see issues that's affect women take a backseat, especially since her child is a beautiful bright little girl who will likely be fighting the same war when she grows up.

Sexual orientation is part of someone's identity. Choosing to have an abortion is not part of someone's identity but a being born a woman is. I didn't choose to be born with female sex organs, but because of those sex organs, my bodily autonomy is up for debate under certain circumstances.

During debates over gay marriage, I was struck by the idea that those who thought gay marriage should not be legal believed that love between two same-sex partners was somehow less than that of two opposite sex partners. I think love between two people should be celebrated, and I think everyone should have more or less complete bodily autonomy, regardless of their sex.

Thinking that I don't have complete bodily autonomy makes me feel like I am less than my male counterparts. I can accept that I am less than, but not my niece. And it bums me out that people who have benefited from my support of gay marriage think that me and my sister and my niece and women everywhere are less than, but I'm not giving up. My niece is counting on me.
posted by kat518 at 11:03 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


A problem with coming out as an abortion-rights strategy is that it's really easy to then get sucked into a game of "was that abortion justified?," and that's a hard game to win. My friend had an abortion when she was in college, and that abortion allowed her to become the first (and so far only) person in her family to get a four-year degree. It allowed her to go to grad school and have a professional career. But her family members already have some misgivings about her jump in class status, and she has to work really hard to reassure them that she doesn't think she's better than them just because she went to college and has more money and waited to have kids until she was in her 30s. They might hear her abortion story, not as something that humanizes that choice, but as an example of selfishness or a judgment on their lives. After all, what her abortion enabled her to do was to have a life that was different from theirs. Women are constantly held up to scrutiny and found wanting, even by their nearest and dearest. If you're honest about your abortion, there's no reason to think it will change anyone's mind about abortion, rather than giving them another reason to judge you and find you wanting.

I wish there was some easy, clear strategy towards convincing people to support abortion rights in effective ways, but I don't know what that is.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:04 AM on April 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


As others have said, the conservative lawmakers and lobbyists aren't just pushing to prohibit abortion but to restrict access to contraception as well. That movement is about denying that women are fully adult and autonomous. Fighting back is not about saying "I've had an abortion" but about refusing to put our own choices up for approval at all.
posted by jaguar at 11:09 AM on April 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


And they're criminalizing women who are pregnant and want to stay pregnant if they're not living up to some idealized version of the perfect mother. It's really not about abortion, it's about controlling women.
posted by jaguar at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Combining the War on Drugs and the War on Women into some kind of all star team of counterproductive, invasive, evil public policy. Wow.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:21 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


kat518: “Sexual orientation is part of someone's identity. Choosing to have an abortion is not part of someone's identity but a being born a woman is. I didn't choose to be born with female sex organs, but because of those sex organs, my bodily autonomy is up for debate under certain circumstances.”

It's actually interesting to think of the abortion issue alongside the same-sex rights issue. I think at this point the reason same-sex marriage has succeeded is because we've consistently used the "born like this" tactic. If homosexuality is a natural condition, something we're born with that we can't shake, then the idea that homosexuality is sin is obliterated; it's not sin, it's just our inherent sexual attraction. It's worth noting that a number of us gay rights partisans have not been entirely in agreement with that doctrine. What if being gay is a choice? Shouldn't it be a choice that people are allowed? Sexuality is a complicated thing, and it makes sense to at least consider that in some cases it really might be something we can decide, at least on some level.

In fact, we've come to see this so much through the lens of identity that it's often hard for us to remember that gay rights, too, was originally and naturally about freedom. It was about the freedom a person ought to have to fuck other people of their gender – the freedom to do it once and decide they weren't totally into it; the freedom to do it dozens of times just because they think it's kind of fun; the freedom to do it over a whole lifetime because it's their truest expression of love. The old regime of marriage and family stood against this exercise of personal freedom; it asserted that people are not free to fuck whomever they like, but are required to fuck other people only in prescribed conditions within the confines of relationships stamped with the imprimatur of traditional marriage.

But because people who prefer sex with others of their gender tend to be invisible – because that traditional societal structure has made them invisible – the best way to fight against the structure was for people to stand up and announce that they were people who preferred others of their gender sexually. And the most convincing way to do that was to point out that this was in large part a matter of identity: the sort of person you like to fuck has a lot to do with who you are as a human being. And the most convincing way to insist on identity was to point out that identity is often inborne, and is very rarely changed.

Which is why – I think – the fight over the past decade to legitimize same-sex marriage has been largely bloodless and is now seen as a foregone conclusion. Americans, by and large, support it, a continually and egregiously annoying minority notwithstanding. That's because gay rights in this issue is not about freedom – about the freedom specifically to do whatever one wants with one's body by fucking whomever one chooses to – but about just respecting other people's identities. In other words, about justice.

Abortion is pretty clearly about the same freedom gay rights is originally about: the freedom to do whatever you choose with your body. But Americans are, for better or for worse, a lot more receptive to arguments based on justice instead of freedom. Tell them that gay people can't help it, that gay people were just born that way, and they'll feel some pity and agree that gay people deserve respect, too. But as long as it was framed as a freedom – the freedom to fuck whoever one wants – Americans were not really broadly receptive to gay rights.

Maybe the best way to approach this is to point out, as kat518 does, that this is an issue of justice, too. Nobody chose to be born a woman. Nobody chose to be born with parts that mean that when they fuck other people they're likely to end up with something growing inside them. And for people to be treated equitably, they need to be allowed to do what they choose with their bodies.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on April 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Nobody chose to be born a woman. Nobody chose to be born with parts that mean that when they fuck other people they're likely to end up with something growing inside them. And for people to be treated equitably, they need to be allowed to do what they choose with their bodies.

That would kind of fit in with/subvert that "pre-pregnant" idea that was pushed a few years back. Maybe we can rally around the identity of Pre-Pregnant Americans.

I'm not sure at this point whether I mean that facetiously. It would be interesting to think about how that would shift the fight.
posted by jaguar at 11:32 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you're exactly right, koeselitz. Popular acceptance of gay marriage does seem to rest on the same kind of essentialism that equates women with their bodies and insists that birth is a natural outcome of conception. The idea of "choosing", constructed selves is hard for a lot of people to grasp; the outcomes of those constructions and choices are for sure more vulnerable to judgement than the ones that come out of biological imperatives.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:48 AM on April 26, 2015


I see a lot of pro choice arguments like "my body, my choice" bandied about like that is a convincing argument to the American public.

The government places all sorts of restrictions on what people can do with their bodies and very few Americans have any problem with that. Want have an unapproved medical device implanted? Or perhaps inject a drug into your veins purely for pleasure? Or maybe you wish to engage in prostitution? Or maybe it is as simple as working for less than the minimum wage.

All of these things are illegal which impinges on your personal bodily autonomy. But the fact means very little to the public. These other examples also have little to do with misogyny [sex work being an exception]. My belief is that the opposition to abortion has less to do with misogyny and more to do with the questionable rights of a fetus.
posted by nolnacs at 12:14 PM on April 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm extremely sympathetic to this point of view, and I think Katha Pollitt is mostly right. At the same time, for a long time abortion was winning while gay rights were hardly spoken of. I mean, it shouldn't be a zero sum game at all, but we do need to include a historical perspective on that count.

I think part of the historical context with abortion were the Supreme Court decisions in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1989 and 1992, respectively. With those cases, the Supreme Court made it much easier for anti-abortion legislatures to have laws that thwarted access to abortion upheld as constitutional, but it didn't overrule Roe v. Wade outright. As a result, this huge pro-choice counter-mobilization occurred, culminating in the 1989 and 1992 March for Women's Lives, two of the biggest demonstration held in Washington D.C. up to that time. In my memory of the time, a lot of politicians (mostly Democrats, but some moderate Republicans too) suddenly changed from saying they were pro-life to saying they were pro-choice.

In social psychology terms, I think a lot of women were motivated by a profound sense of loss aversion. What I mean is that, under normal political circumstances, Americans of both sexes are extremely ambivalent about abortion, but circa 1989-1992, when lots of American women reasonably thought their reproductive freedoms would be taken away forever, they fought to ensure they wouldn't lose them, because you often only start to value something at the point you know you might lose it. This mobilization helped put Bill Clinton into office. Clinton appoints several pro-choice Supreme Court justices, and then the sense of loss aversion begins to subside. As the pro-choice movement got less vigilant, the anti-abortion movement made more gains, until we get to the point where the movement can capitalize on the anti-Obama backlash symbolized by the Tea Party (and how the media often misrepresented the Tea Party as a "libertarian" movement).

Similarly, when the first few states began to make same-sex marriage legal, it became much easier for gay marriage activists to advocate for it, because they were no longer perceived as advocating to be granted a new benefit, but could cast themselves as defenders of a right they already had. Conversely, it became easier to make gay marriage opponents look worse, because they couldn't say any more they were defending an existing natural order. Instead, they were trying to take away something from real-life gay couples that was rightfully theirs.

The phenomenon of loss aversion also explains why Second Wave feminists have a harder time getting younger cohorts of women involved in reproductive rights activism, because if you came of age after Roe v. Wade, you've never really experienced losing your abortion rights or understood what it would be like to go without them, at least not in the same visceral way that the Second Wave feminists would. I think this explains why support for abortion is weaker among women the farther you get away from the cohort that came of age before Second Wave feminism.
posted by jonp72 at 12:41 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz I think has a good point. There's a strong strain of gender essentialism in American culture, and when it comes to women, their function is defined as bearing children, raising families, and giving sexual satisfaction. That's why women choosing to not have children is seen as an unnatural choice.

Combine it with Americans vague notions of genetics, and you get the idea that GLBT people are some sort of mutants- a notion that the "born this way" argument subtly encourages. If people are fundamentally biologically gay, well that can't be helped. But a women choosing to not have a child when she could is a threat.
posted by happyroach at 12:46 PM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


My belief is that the opposition to abortion has less to do with misogyny and more to do with the questionable rights of a fetus.

At the level of the anti-abortion movement, I might agree with you. However, when it comes to anti-abortion legislation at the state level, it's easier to see evidence of misogyny. The most convincing argument for me comes from Jean Reith Schroedel's Is the Fetus a Person?: A Comparison of Policies Across the Fifty States. Schroedel argued that, if anti-abortion legislation were motivated by concern for fetal personhood, then the states that enact the strictest anti-abortion legislation would also be likely to enact laws that protect fetuses in other ways. Instead, Schroedel found that "fetal battering" statutes, laws that are deter battering of pregnant women by criminalizing the injury done the fetus, were more likely to be enacted in the more pro-choice states than in the more pro-life states. Since their is no lobby or political action committee that publicly advocates for the interests of fetal batterers (as a standard poli sci interest group analysis might assume), Schroedel found it extremely hard to conclude that the reason for this pattern wasn't the result of misogyny, in which pro-life states were more interested in controlling women than in consistently providing protection to fetuses. Anti-abortion activists can be motivated by a noble belief that they are defending fetus who cannot defend themselves, but this noble belief can be twisted into something altogether more misogynist once it makes its way through our laboratories/"sausage factories" of democracy in our state legislatures.
posted by jonp72 at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


Are you saying that "lifestyle modifications that improve pregnancy outcomes" is not code for "stop drinking alcohol and start baking pot brownies or tripping on mushrooms", jaguar?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:40 PM on April 26, 2015


My belief is that the opposition to abortion has less to do with misogyny and more to do with the questionable rights of a fetus.

The American evangelical and Catholic cultures that are the ones that are loudest about abortion are also incredibly misogynistic in other ways. They sincerely believe that God intends women to be so different from men that we are basically excluded from large parts of their religion, not allowed to preach or lead prayers, perform sacraments, or even teach men about religion. They sincerely believe that our bodies should be hidden from view at all times (ironically, this is because they sincerely believe that men are stupid and helpless in the face of our bodies, which is really misandry, too). They sincerely believe that we are not as smart or as capable as men, and thus should be discouraged from pursuing careers better suited for men and that education is thus wasted on us. They sincerely believe that the best use of our lives is to produce as many children as possible and spend all of our time catering to the needs of those children (and our husbands, obviously).

Although the misogyny of conservative evangelicals and Catholics is extreme, it has shaped and has echoes throughout American culture. Given all of this, the idea that their opposition to abortion is the one aspect of this culture that is not deeply misogynistic boggles the mind. And the fact that many smart women, including some I've been friends with for years and some I'm related to, go along with all of this is very very sad.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:55 PM on April 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


> My belief is that the opposition to abortion has less to do with misogyny and more to do with the questionable rights of a fetus.

If anti-abortion advocates care about fetuses so much then you'd think that we wouldn't see an insistent rise in maternal death rates in the United States and clinics to provide prenatal care to pregnant women would be widely and easily accessible and affordable. Their actions speak louder than their words.
posted by rtha at 2:57 PM on April 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


You're assuming that people's beliefs and policy preferences are logically consistent which is clearly false.
posted by Justinian at 4:11 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


NoraReed, can you not see how the situation was no different for gay people coming out of the closet? Things are very different now, but at the time, people coming out of the closet had everything to lose, but did it anyway. Someone who has had an abortion shouldn't have to reveal that fact, and I completely agree that there can be terrible repercussions to it. It could be humiliating, it could lead to people being estranged, it could result in physical threats or worse. And of course women have a right to their privacy. All this is true for coming out of the closet too, especially 25+ years ago.

People coming out of the closet had way more to gain than people who've had abortions. Not having to hide a significant portion of their life, being able to bring a partner to couples events, etc. An abortion is a medical procedure that someone had once, not an identity marker.
posted by NoraReed at 4:35 PM on April 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


An abortion is not simply a medical procedure. Someday I hope it will be considered as such, but it isn't, and as long as most people can pretend that they couldn't possibly know anyone who had an abortion, that contributes to an atmosphere where they can pretend that the restrictions on it don't affect real people and don't cause real suffering. The story that anitanola told about getting abortions when it was illegal is incredibly important, which it couldn't be if it were only a medical procedure.
posted by rtha at 5:16 PM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've had some conversation today with two women who've had abortions, and we discussed this thread, and my framing that women who had had the procedure should "come out". Their take was that I was too broad in scope but that there's a kernel of something important there. I agree with them.

Both of them said that their experience with talking about abortion is that it is "not discussed". It's "shameful". Not fit for "polite conversation". Yet many "polite" conversations involve medical procedures, but not this one.

We, the royal we, don't have problems with talking about positive medical interventions, like Lasik surgery or knee surgery. We like medical conversations to have positive outcomes. As we should.

But there's no simple way, without direct conversation, that you can frame an abortion as "positive" in many peoples minds. It's not easy to do as a group. But their experiences were that in one-on-one conversations, it CAN be discussed, and people get the context of why an abortion was the preferred choice for that prospective mother, and there was good reason to do it, and people walked away if not happy, then at least with understanding.

For a great many closeted gays, especially in the 20th century, there is an analogy here. Being gay was "not discussed". It was not fit for polite company. It was to be kept well under wraps. Being infected with HIV and/or developing AIDS was also shameful, and not discussed (if it was even tolerated at all by family and "friends").

My experience with coming out as gay was a slow, gradual one. I didn't announce it on social media. I didn't send a group email, or announce it in a paper. I had close, personal conversations with people, and we talked about it. Sometimes conversations were tense, and people walked away with imperfect understanding, and sometimes they were very productive. But in every single situation I feel like those people understood my circumstances, and the context of the conversations, much better than the group email approach would have been. Many people have expressed that since I came out to them, they became more aware that I'm not some stereotype, that other people aren't either, and their understanding of "the gay condition" had improved.

I don't think people that have had an abortion should go shouting it from the rooftops if that's not their way. Just as I don't shout anything from my rooftop because that's not my way. It is, after all, a very personal thing.

I don't know how to make conversations about abortion less "shameful". What I do think is that if people talked about it more, it would become less so. Because it's not shameful, and it should not be embarrassing. It just happens to be a fact and a piece of personal history for a great many people, and I think the more people understand that they know someone that has had the procedure, the more understanding they will have, and that may lead them to be less intolerant. Or maybe it won't.
posted by disclaimer at 5:47 PM on April 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are you saying that "lifestyle modifications that improve pregnancy outcomes" is not code for "stop drinking alcohol and start baking pot brownies or tripping on mushrooms", jaguar?

What?
posted by jaguar at 5:49 PM on April 26, 2015


How many gay people do you know? Chances are that you know at least a few. How many women than have considered abortion or who have had one do you know? Odds for the majority of people is, you don't.

For me it's about equal, in terms of knowing gay persons (male or female, which I know socially, personally, and professionally) and women who have had abortions (that I'm aware of). Those who have had and/or support abortions realize it's a major and difficult decision (which makes the typical right wing wingnut idea that women are just fucking around and having abortions willy nilly oh joy beyond insulting and idiotic). I also agree that it's no one's business. You support reprodutive rights and not have to reveal that you've exercised those rights.

I have no doubt that misogyny is a huge factor among others. I've had x amounts of relationships in my life thus far and a majority of my girlfriends have had to put up with all manner of absolute bullshit, from being put down for even attempting to play sports to outright having been molested by family members and others.

The massive rise of the tea party and extreme right wing conservatism in the States has misogyny baked into it's ideology, along with bigotry, hatred of the poor of any race or gender, massive love of and embracing of ignorance, and a medieval attitude toward science and religion. I confess I really don't understand how these viewpoints get support but I believe that there are more tools available to use to make abortion difficult than there are tools to make gay marriage difficult. You can get married, as far as I know, pretty easily, without the need for a prescription drug, and without the need of the police but you do need access to health care (which as a concept itself, astoundingly, is a difficult thing in the States) for an abortion or the morning after pill and god help you if you need to get the police and the legal system to defend you if there is a rape. This fucking nonsense we've seen with the idea, from wingnuts, of "legitimate" rape and the mystical idea that women can destroy the sperm of a rapist as if all women are Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers is beyond belief and yet it's actually a thing. How this is accepted by so many, I don't know. But the tolerance for outright bullshit has seemingly gone through the roof.

It's astounding that anything positive is being done.
posted by juiceCake at 6:05 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't even talk with 12 year olds, some of whom are physically mature enough to become pregnant, about having depression and anxiety without reprimand in Smalltown, USA, much less abortion. Rights? Bah, not here.
Thus...the Circle of hiding continues. I'm not stepping up to get hurt again, either way. BTW, yes, I used to care.
(Does anyone else think scrotum when they read SCOTUS?)
posted by beckybakeroo at 7:31 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can get married, as far as I know, pretty easily, without the need for a prescription drug, and without the need of the police but you do need access to health care (which as a concept itself, astoundingly, is a difficult thing in the States) for an abortion or the morning after pill...

Just to clarify, the morning-after pill does not cause an abortion; it works in the same way that birth control pills do. It is a contraceptive.

I want to point this out because the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision treated such contraceptives (including IUDs) as abortifacients simply because some religious people without medical training thought that maybe they were, rather than relying on medical definitions for contraceptives vs. abortifacients, and I don't want that confusion or conflation to stand.
posted by jaguar at 9:20 PM on April 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm adamantly in favor of both same-sex marriage and legal abortion.

But it's misguided to say opposition to abortion is based on hatred of women.

Many women are against legal abortion. I don't think they hate themselves.

I think most people who are against legal abortion — men and women — are genuinely driven by concern for the fetus.

That doesn't have much to do with same-sex couples.

The main difference between the two issues is not gender. The main difference is that pro-lifers, while I strongly disagree with them, have a basis in reality for their views. They're right about a bunch of stuff. They're right that fetuses are living human beings. They're right that abortion is the termination of the life of those beings. The pro-lifers just reach different conclusions than I do. They think it's just like murder because it's intentionally taking a life for no good reason. I think it's more like a self-defense situation — yes, it's tragic that a human life is destroyed, but there's a justification for it. I'm not going to recite the whole justification here, since I know most people who read this website already agree with me that abortion should be legal.

That's complicated.

The fact that consenting adults should be able to marry who they want, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or any other irrelevant factors, is not complicated. It's simple. There is no valid basis for opposing same-sex marriage. The only reason for opposing it is bigotry, or unthinking acquiescence to other people's bigotry.

So while I happen to take the liberal, progressive, Metafilter-approved position on both issues, I reject the attempt to tar everyone I disagree with on the abortion issue as woman-haters.
posted by John Cohen at 10:11 PM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, and remember: the abortion issue matters a lot to men too.

I'm a straight man — I don't think I even need to tell you why abortion matters to me. Think about it.

Men aren't much more likely than women to oppose legal abortion. Only slightly more likely. There isn't a huge gender divide on the issue.

When you try to make the issue about men and patriarchy and misogyny, all you do is empower pro-life women — you make it easy for them to disarm people and say: "Hey, look at me, I'm a woman and I'm against legal abortion! Everything the pro-choicers told you about abortion is wrong!!!"
posted by John Cohen at 10:14 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that consenting adults should be able to marry who they want, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or any other irrelevant factors, is not complicated. It's simple. There is no valid basis for opposing same-sex marriage. The only reason for opposing it is bigotry, or unthinking acquiescence to other people's bigotry.

So while I happen to take the liberal, progressive, Metafilter-approved position on both issues, I reject the attempt to tar everyone I disagree with on the abortion issue as woman-haters.


That's crap, though, really. I mean, you can believe what you want to believe, but there's no reason that your description of your beliefs is somehow definitive. Plenty of people, including me, think that the only reason to oppose abortion rights is hating women. Really. In my philosophy, the only reason to oppose abortion is because you don't trust women. And I actually think there are plenty of pro-LGB progressive reasons to oppose same-sex marriage. So I reject your attempt to declare your morality universal.
posted by jaguar at 10:17 PM on April 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Legal approval/toleration of abortion seems to be closely associated to socialised medicine. I suppose this is because healthcare in socialised-medicine countries is typically allocated by doctors and bureaucrats, who really don't want political interference in their finely-balanced processes. I'm surprised medical insurers in the USA don't behave the same way: it must be cheaper to pay for safe abortions than for cleaning up the damage from backyard abortions, or paying for extra births.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:30 PM on April 26, 2015


I think most people who are against legal abortion — men and women — are genuinely driven by concern for the fetus.

My sense has always been that they're trying to protect the fetus from the vagaries of women who cannot be trusted with moral decisions. That may not technically be hatred of women, but it does come from a sense that women are somehow less than men, so I'd call it misogyny or at least a function of patriarchal socialization. I'm under no illusion that women are immune to the mindfuckery of our society where our own ability to make decisions is concerned, either. Patriarchy: we're soaking in it.
posted by immlass at 10:33 PM on April 26, 2015 [14 favorites]




Plus quite a lot of the 'pro-life' women have had abortions themselves, so I can see they care about the fetus but not as much as they care about controlling their own reproduction. The reason they're anti-choice is because they think other women can't be trusted with the same decision they made for themselves. So we circle back around to misogyny.
posted by harriet vane at 11:15 PM on April 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


For anyone who wants to know more about abortion around the world, here is the 2014 UN Abortion Policies Report (pdf). Someone upthread asserted that US restrictions on abortion bring the US closer to the rest of the West other than Canada - this does not, if we are defining "the West" as Europe, appear to hold true, as most of European nations allow abortion on request.
posted by gingerest at 11:17 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"They're right that fetuses are living human beings."

#notallfetuses, surely -- and embryos sure as hell barely rate on the random biomass / human life spectrum. The vicious trick here is conflating fetuses vaguely near viability with clumps of cells.
posted by lumensimus at 11:22 PM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


It doesn't matter, the motivation (to me). What matters: women without access to reproductive health care including abortion are not equal. The life trajectories of women depend upon their ability to make reproductive choices, on their access to reproductive health care. I can accept certain representations about fetuses, etc., at face value for the sake of argument, but the impact on women overwhelms. (I need a stronger word than overwhelm.) And everyone in the debate is aware of the impact.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:00 AM on April 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


I think most people who are against legal abortion — men and women — are genuinely driven by concern for the fetus.

They're certainly not driven by concern for the pregnant woman, or for the baby once it is born.
posted by jeather at 2:14 AM on April 27, 2015 [28 favorites]


Legal approval/toleration of abortion seems to be closely associated to socialised medicine.

Since the Western European counterexamples are all places where religious and national identity have been conflated -- and some of the pro-privatization Eastern European countries treasure both privatization and religiosity as elements of an explicitly anti-Communist national identity. Similarlly, even though Mexico has a mixed public-private system and a federal law permitting abortion until the twelfth week of pregnancy, abortion is heavily restricted in over half of its states and women are often jailed for having abortions.

In Iran, abortion is illegal except in cases where the mother is at risk despite a fairly robust socialized medicine scheme. And because the governing interpretation of the Quran permits abortion only during the first four weeks of pregnancy, even these medical exceptions only apply in that period. Saudi Arabia also has a national health care system, but similarly restricts abortion to cases in which pregnancy endangers the woman's life. In Bahrain, where human rights to political expression are in poor shape but women's rights are otherwise upheld fairly well, allows abortion on demand and has a mixed public-private system.

There are definitely confounding cultural factors, in other words, but even those are not necessarily predictive.
posted by kewb at 3:26 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Texas legislator introduces amendment that would make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks, even if a fetus “has a severe and irreversible abnormality,” effectively forcing families with wanted, but unsustainable pregnancies to carry to term at the behest of the state and against the advice of their doctors or their own wishes, because suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.” Schaefer’s amendment passed, briefly, until another representative filed a legislative point of order that prompted the bill’s sponsor to pull down the entire piece of legislation for review.

This is not about helping children. It's about punishing women.
posted by jaguar at 8:33 AM on April 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


I think most people who are against legal abortion — men and women — are genuinely driven by concern for the fetus.

I've thought about this myself. My two cents - I don't know when life begins, whether it's when sperm and egg meet, when an embryo implants, when a fetus looks like an alien, when a fetus looks less like an alien, I don't know. Sure, the longer that a fetus develops, the more likely I am to think that it's alive but I couldn't tell you when exactly that happens. And I think that most people don't know. I don't think that many people would mourn a miscarriage at two weeks. It's possible one might not even notice a miscarriage at two weeks. So when does the magic happen? I couldn't tell you.

However, I feel confident in saying that the woman in whom the embryo or fetus resides is a living person. And forced to choose between the rights of a living, breathing person and something that will probably turn into a person eventually, I'm inclined to side with the rights of the person. That's a reason why I'm pro-choice. Because I think it's really offensive to say to women, your rights are less important than those of the potential future person inside you, you're just a fetus incubator for now.
posted by kat518 at 10:19 AM on April 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


I'm adamantly in favor of both same-sex marriage and legal abortion.

But it's misguided to say opposition to abortion is based on hatred of women.

Many women are against legal abortion. I don't think they hate themselves.


Some women hate absolutely hate women. Many of the strongest enforcers of the rules of the patriarchy are women. Women call other women sluts all the time. Women police other women's clothes and behavior. Women teach their daughters to do the same to their peers. As far as I can tell, within the right wing conservative Christian world, many women simply do not think other women are smart, strong, moral, or worthy of respect. Here's just one example, from Michelle Bachmann.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:26 AM on April 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


Abortion foes plan to co-opt feminism to make abortion "unthinkable" and illegal.

Maybe they should try co-opting socialism instead, and push for stronger safety nets, universal healthcare, better prenatal care, financial assistance to mothers, etc. so that less women would consider abortion for economic reasons.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think a better analogy for abortion would be euthanasia.

* If done without consent both are indisputably serious crimes.
* The legality of both is based on a person's rights over their own body.
* Even in the best circumstances, both are chosen as the lesser of two bad (often downright tragic) outcomes.

I think the business community isn't lined up behind abortion (or euthanasia) like it is gay marriage primarily because of that last one -- there's generally just nothing to celebrate about abortion. Even in the most uncontroversial cases, like a fetus with severe birth defects who would live a short time in extreme suffering, abortion is simply the premature conclusion of a tragic outcome.

Contrast that with gay marriage, which is taking something almost universally seen as positive and allowing more people to participate. The gay marriage movement is chock full of heartwarming stories and happy people who want to share their joy with the world.

It's easy as a business to support a person's right to be happy. It's so easy that there's a whole branch of advertising which features heartwarming scenes completely unrelated to the product being advertised. When was the last time you saw a similar ad featuring a person facing an unhappy choice?
posted by bjrubble at 1:50 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Going back to the original topic, in an article on "The Science of How Gay Marriage Will Destroy America" (🍔hamburger🍔), "opponents of same-sex marriage are arguing that same-sex marriage will cause an additional 900,000 abortions"
As Schaerr, the chief author of this amicus brief, admits, "abortion and same-sex marriage may seem unrelated." But, he has found a connection. Schaerr, writing on behalf of "100 scholars of marriage," argues that states with same-sex marriage have seen a decline in opposite-sex marriage by "[at] least five percent." Schaerr extrapolates this 5 percent figure, concluding that over the next 30-year "fertility cycle," nearly 1.3 million women will forego marriage. Arguing that unmarried women are more likely to get abortions, Schaerr calculates an additional 900,000 abortions. But, he acknowledged to the Washington Post last week, "it is still too new to do a rigorous causation analysis using statistical methods."
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:21 PM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think most people who are against legal abortion — men and women — are genuinely driven by concern for the fetus.

Possibly this is true, but I have yet to meet anyone who is pro-Life who is driven by any sort of concern for the mother or the baby once it is born. This is why it's easy for me to believe that the anti-abortion movement is driving by misogyny.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:23 PM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


A responsible adult should take Schaerr into the local emergency ward, because he is clearly suffering from severe brain injury.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:16 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some form of concern for the fetus is a driver for the anti-abortion folks, but I cannot believe it is the primary driver, at least for the most vocal ones. As so many have said, the anti-abortion crowd seems to show little or no concern for the mother, and other than "no abortion" no concern for the health or well being of the baby, either in utero or after birth. Patriarchy and repression of women's sexual freedom seem more in line with the actions of the anti-abortion forces than some deep concern for life. Nevertheless, the fetus makes this different than gay marriage. Gay marriage is just about two consenting adults; it plays into the American ideal of "leave me alone." As more people know personally friends and family who are gay, laws against gay marriage start to seem more like government interference in purely personal aspects of people's lives. While some people like to portray abortion as a mere medical procedure, that the fetus is just some extraneous tissue to be removed, that does not resonate deeply with the public. At some point along the continuum that tissue seems more like a baby and less like a clump of cells. When that occurs has no clear answer and is subject to much debate and argument. Most people think it does not occur at conception, nor does it occur at birth, but rather somewhere in between. With this kind of complication it makes it much harder for pro-choice advocates to link into American ideals like freedom in the same way gay marriage has been able to do.
posted by caddis at 7:59 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


And they're criminalizing women who are pregnant and want to stay pregnant if they're not living up to some idealized version of the perfect mother. It's really not about abortion, it's about controlling women.

Wait so uh, i'm not clear with what would happen if a law like this was passed somewhere that abortion was effectively made illegal. Is the baby taken away at birth? Is it supposed to just vanish in a cloud of logic?
posted by emptythought at 12:56 PM on April 28, 2015


Logic Clouds are the new Stork
posted by NoraReed at 1:00 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait so uh, i'm not clear with what would happen if a law like this was passed somewhere that abortion was effectively made illegal. Is the baby taken away at birth? Is it supposed to just vanish in a cloud of logic?

From the arguments I've heard: Yes. Mother jailed, baby taken away. Because that's what's best for children, in their twisted minds.
posted by jaguar at 1:48 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Amanda Marcotte: Colorado’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Works, and That’s Why Conservatives Want to Kill It (emphasis mine)
Three years ago, a private donation was made to the Colorado Family Planning Initiative and earmarked to give IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) to low-income women. The program was a smashing success—not only lowering unintended pregnancy rates, but also saving the state an estimated $5.85 for every dollar spent on the program. Now, the private money for the fund has run out. Democrats, and one Republican named Don Coram, want the state to replenish it.

The arguments for doing so are rock-solid: The program has already saved the state piles of money, unintended pregnancy has all sorts of negative outcomes best avoided, and the demand for the subsidized IUDs is clearly there. But Republicans in the state are most likely going to kill the program anyway.

What becomes clear, especially reading Caplan-Bricker’s piece, is that Republicans are using this battle to beta-test various arguments against any future attempts, on any level, to make it easier for women to get affordable long-term contraception. It’s a classic case of starting with the conclusion—in this case, that low-income women should not get IUDs—and arguing backwards.

This is a delicate operation for anti-choice Republicans, because they have to find a way to argue against contraception without appearing to do so, which could hurt them with voters in a swing state like Colorado. For months, they’ve been tossing out arguments to see which ones stick. The whole “IUD is abortion!” lie was an early contender, but it has a couple of problems with it, starting with the fact that it’s not true.
It’s also hard to imagine the voters of Colorado being unduly impressed by politicians putting the fortunes of hypothetical fertilized eggs ahead of the desires of teen girls to avoid pregnancy.
And here's a choice quote from Caplan-Bricker's article (again, emphasis mine):
As the House debate makes clear, at least some of the lawmakers arguing that funding birth control is redundant have deeper objections. Republican Rep. Kathleen Conti, for instance, leads with the financial argument: "We're not defunding birth control. We're defunding the Cadillac of birth controls. Something that on average is about a $900… " She pauses and grasps at the air with her right hand, searching for the right word. "Equipment… procedure…" But that's not what she's really come to the podium to talk about. "I hear the stories of young girls who are engaged, very prematurely, in sexual activity, and I see firsthand the devastation that happens to them," Conti says, waving her hand with rising urgency. "I'm not accrediting this directly to this program, but I'm saying, while we may be preventing an unwanted pregnancy, at the same time, what are the emotional consequences that could be coming up on the other side?"
Tell us again how this is not about punishing women (especially poor women) for having sex? Or how that's not a classic misogynist stance or a furthering of the patriarchy.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:17 AM on April 30, 2015 [16 favorites]


"I hear the stories of young girls who are engaged, very prematurely, in sexual activity, and I see firsthand the devastation that happens to them,"

You know what's devastating when you're a young girl who's sexually active? An unplanned pregnancy. Basically "don't make it easy for girls to have sex! Let's make it difficult to get contraception or abortions and they'll stay pure like they're supposed to". Nope, nothing misogynistic about that.
posted by billiebee at 11:10 AM on April 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


because suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”

And I bet I know how he thinks that happened.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:45 PM on April 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yet another example of an anti-choice organization totally not being misogynist: Wisconsin high school students say prom poster carries sexist message
The posters at Lincoln High School in Manitowoc show a black-and-white silhouette of a woman in formal attire, with words such as "honest," ''classy" and "tidy" making up her body. Across the top of the posters are the words, "A Night to Protect Her Character."

Senior Kelsey Schindl says the poster is insulting and "sex shames" female students. She said there weren't any posters with male silhouettes.

"The insinuation that if you do have sex then you don't have any character anymore is a horrible message to send," Schindl said.

The posters have the logos of The Crossing of Manitowoc County, a Christian-based pregnancy services organization, and Holy Family Memorial. They were also signed by the principal.
[...]
Schindl said she asked the principal if she could put up posters with an alternate view. But she said she was denied.

"I'm not endorsing teens to have sex, but you're not a bad person if you do and you're not a bad person if you don't," she said.

District officials thought the alternate viewpoint encouraged sex and wasn't appropriate, said Superintendent Marcia Flaherty.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:50 AM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


For anyone not aware, "Christian-based pregnancy services organization" is a euphemism for a crisis pregnancy center, which are notorious for spreading lies and disinformation about contraceptives and abortion.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:53 AM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


"A Night to Protect Her Character"?!? What about his fucking character?

The only thing that makes me feel better about these constant, constant stories about schools teaming up with Christian abstinence organizations is the clear-mindedness and eloquence of the kids who protest.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:55 AM on May 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you want to find an upside, take solace in knowing that stunts like "A Night to Protect Her Character" are doing a fine job of driving youth away from religion.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:19 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's ok to suggest or teach abstinence, however you can't think that everyone is going to practice abstinence. We must teach our young people to be responsible. Abortion shouldn't be a form of birth control. With that said, I believe women should have the right to decide what is best for them. I am a man and I should not have a say in what you do with your body. I also am adopted. I was adopted at 3 days old to wonderful people. My birth mother was 14 years old. I was born in the 60's. She was forced to put me up for adoption. I often have wondered if it happened today maybe I would have been aborted. So I'm on the fence on how I feel about abortion, but I still feel it's a woman's body and I have no right to tell you what to do with your body. What really irks me is that in 2015, it's being discussed again. If abortion is made illegal it doesn't mean it won't happen, but women's lives will be at risk. It will happen in unsanitary conditions and unhealthy conditions. Women who later in life want to have children may not be able because the mistakes made in a place with no regulations. Why are we talking about this in 2015? Some republicans have vowed that this is not over. In 10 years maybe before there will be discussions and bills introduced to once again to define marriage as one man one woman. Of course if you live in Michigan marriage is defined as one man one woman. As we wait to hear from the supreme court, my partner of 15 years wait to see if we are allowed to be married. If we are allowed to get married when we die we want to have our cremated remains interred in at a national cemetery. I worry that should I die first and marriage is redefined, then will we not be able to have our remains resting in the same place. I am entitled as I am a veteran. He is the spouse and at this time it doesn't matter. As far as having the majority voting on the needs of a minority, unless it will benefits the majority, the minority will lose in the vote. We lgbt individuals, people of color and women have to watch our backs and be on our toes as it seems the battle will never end.
posted by shadowgwm at 10:17 PM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Great comment, welcome to Metafilter. :)
posted by Drinky Die at 10:23 PM on May 1, 2015


Looks like the misogynist assholes in Colorado get their wish. Rage-inducing pullquote:
The bipartisan House proposal wanted $5 million in funding to give IUDs to teenage girls. Rep. Lori Saine opposed the House bill, saying the program encouraged more sex.

“So in this scenario, the government is subsidizing sex… because a woman typically doesn’t get birth control to hold hands and watch re-runs of ‘Gilligan’s Island.’”
posted by zombieflanders at 6:48 AM on May 7, 2015


Christ, what an asshole.

My state senator voted for the bill, not that it helped -- but it does mean he won't be getting any angry letters from me. I encourage anyone whose senator is in the asshole camp to write and complain. It's not much of a consequence, but it's something.
posted by asperity at 2:33 PM on May 7, 2015


Steve Benen: At the intersection of reproductive choices and discrimination
Under current law, in every state in the union, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That, however, is the floor – some areas choose to go further.

Irin Carmon recently reported on a new policy in the nation’s capital, where policymakers approved a bold new law – the “D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act” – which adds “reproductive decision-making to anti-discrimination provisions.”

So, for example, an employee in D.C. cannot be fired for being on birth control, using in vitro fertilization, exercising her right to terminate a pregnancy, or getting pregnant outside of marriage. Those are private matters, the D.C. law says, which cannot serve as the basis for a dismissal.

As it turns out, this quickly became the latest twist in the right-to-discriminate debate, and Roll Call reported late last week on congressional Republicans intervening in city law.
[...]
The Senate GOP leadership ignored [Ted] Cruz’s cries, but Roll Call reported this week that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) “appears to support the effort to block the law.”

In other words, two Republican presidential candidates apparently believe employers should be able to fire workers if bosses don’t like employees’ personal reproductive-health decisions. One of the two candidates is ostensibly from the GOP’s libertarian wing.

This strikes me as a great litmus-test issue for the rest of the Republicans’ 2016 field. How about it, candidates? Should Americans lose their jobs if their employers disapprove of their reproductive choices?
Nothing to see here folks, definitely not misogynists punishing women for having sex.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:10 AM on May 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


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