And by “reframing” I actually mean “making the same argument as my opponent”

feminist
Thanks, Democratic feminist allies!

Matt Stoller, Mike Lux and Chris Bowers have started Open Left, “a news, analysis and action website dedicated toward building a progressive governing majority in America.” It’s worth checking out. I was going to write a nice laudatory post about the site, and I still think it’s a great project, but then I read this post and my good will pretty much flew out the window.

To be fair, the post is by a diarist writing under the humble moniker of “BeyondRational.” It’s not written or vetted by Matt, Mike or Chris, and so I don’t hold them responsible for it. And I still think that Matt, Mike and Chris are interesting political strategists, and that they’re putting out some very exciting ideas. But, damn — if these are the kinds of views that are going to be promoted by the new old left, I’m not sure I want to be a part of it.

First, the post is titled “It Takes a Village to Abort a Child: How Democrats Should Reframe the Abortion Debate.”

…right.

I’ll first point out that the author presents absolutely nothing new in his post. Not one single new idea. Not anything that’s even particularly interesting. But he does argue that it’s a winning strategy for Democrats to adopt the language and perspective of anti-choice conservatives. Certainly a brilliant plan, right?

This is why I’ve become pretty disengaged with electoral politics: Even the good progressive dudes are willing to sell my ass down the river if they think it’ll score them some votes (or if they think it’ll make a controversial blog post).

Abortion will be one of the most decisive domestic policy issues during the impending 2008 elections. But progressive propaganda on this issue – the fundamental `right to privacy’ couched in the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade – has grown stale. How then, in an era were precedent is just a nine letter word, should the pro-choice position be framed? The answer is to distinguish between the right to choose from the choice and, rather than vehemently defending the former, offer cogent policy that affects the latter.

The right to privacy is “progressive propaganda”? Well there’s a vision for a bright progressive future.

Distinguishing the right from the choice is a failing strategy. It’s not a great idea to argue that abortion is really really bad and horrible and sad and murderous, but we think it should be legal anyway. It’s adopting the language and the views of anti-choicers, and arguing within their framework — and that’s a losing game. How about making them explain why they’re justified in their contention that women should be legally forced to carry pregnancies to term, and, if we accept that a fetus is a life, why women should have to use their bodies to sustain that life when such action is required nowhere else in the law?

Roe v. Wade ensured women the right to choose. Thus, continuing to frame the abortion debate as a Constitutional right is ineffective and only makes Roe v. Wade more vulnerable. Instead, the abortion debate should focus on the factors that drive some to choose abortion, including the personal and economic hardships families currently endure.

That makes absolutely no sense. If Roe v. Wade ensured women the right to choose, then framinig the abortion debate as a Constitutional right is a no-brainer — it is a right. Imagine if we were talking about anything other than abortion. “A series of cases ensured all of us the right to free speech. Thus, continuing to frame free speech as a Constitutional right is ineffective and only makes the free speech cases more vulnerable.” Totally logical, right?

To motivate this much needed paradigm shift to the abortion debate, it is important to understand the state of parenthood in the US. In a recent report by the Urban Institute titled, “Framework for a New Safety Net for Low-Income Families”, nearly one-third of non-elderly families with children are low-income (defined as family income less than $40,000/year in 2006 dollars). Their low-income status, however, does not stem from low labor force attachment: 71% of adults in these non-elderly, low-income families exhibit moderate to high levels of labor force attachment (defined as working 1,000 hours/year or more).

Despite the high level of labor force attachment, these families face high levels of job insecurity and are more likely to be affected by economic downturns. Furthermore, with about one quarter of US jobs paying $9 an hour or less, low-income parents are finding it difficult to provide basic family needs: 27% of high level working families worry about or have had trouble affording food when needed, 27% have had trouble paying their rent or mortgage, and 36% lack health insurance coverage.

The Urban Institute report concludes, “Because low-income families are less likely than better-off families to have flexibility at work, are more likely to be raising children with physical or emotional health problems, and are more dependent on each week’s paycheck without significant private resources, they face even more wrenching conflicts between family and work than other Americans.”

A more “wrenching conflict” between family and work faced by current parents, however, is the decision to abort or deliver a child confronted by prospective parents. Given the sad state of low-income families in the US, pregnant (often single) women must choose whether to abort a child all too often.

Only poor women have abortions. Oh, and apparently you “abort a child” now.

Thus, the high rate of abortions in the US is, and should be framed as, a systemic lack of sympathy for the dispossessed rather than a lack of morality among them. And abortion itself should be viewed as a sign of desperation rather than a lack of family values. In this regard, the major shortcoming with the right to choose argument is that it focuses on the individual, making women appear as the transgressors rather than the victims.

Hey, here’s a new strategy: Condescend to women and talk about how abortion really hurts them!

Now, BeyondRational hints at an idea that pro-choicers have been putting out there forever — that no woman wants to be in a position where she has to make the choice to have an abortion, and so we should give her the tools to prevent the situation if possible (and it’s not always possible). If a woman is considering terminating a pregnancy, chances are something has gone wrong. Birth control failed. She didn’t want to get pregnant. Something went wrong with a wanted pregnancy. Circumstances in her life shifted, changing a wanted (or managable) pregnancy into an unwanted one. None of these are good things — and the circumstances leading up to medical interventions rarely are. But that doesn’t make women victims. It makes us human.

Shitty things happen. We deal with those things as best we can. Abortion is one way of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a choice, and it’s just as valid as giving birth and raising the child, or giving birth and putting the child up for adoption. If women are “victims,” then they’re victims of unwanted pregnancy, not abortion — just as one may be a “victim” of heart disease, but not a victim of open-heart surgery.

Senator Obama alluded to this point during the South Carolina Democratic debate. In response to whether he would use Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for high court nominees, Obama argued that we should make it “less likely for women to find themselves in circumstances where they’ve got to anguish over these decisions.” Potential policies to improve the outlook for current and potential families include ensuring appropriate wages for workers, providing adequate care and income support for disabled parents and children, and increasing support for childcare for both working and nonworking parents.

All good strategies. But Obama’s point is not the same as BeyondRational’s. Obama is making a standard pro-choice argument: That ideally, we work to prevent unintended pregnancy, and we give women the widest variety of options possible. It is true that many women terminate pregnancies because they can’t live on our ridiculously low minimum wage, or because like so many Americans they are un- or under-insured, or because they need to take care of the kids they already have, or because we offer almost in terms of childcare assistance. A truly pro-choice policy is holistic — it makes it childrearing more tenable, adoption more feasible, pregnancy prevention methods more available, and abortion more accessible. It does not shame or guilt women. It does not position any one choice as more tragic than any others. It recognizes that women are the best people to make their own reproductive decisions.

Obama continued, “…can we move past some of the debates around which we disagree and can we start talking about the things we do agree on?” What we should agree on is that one abortion is one too many, leveling all moral high grounds that the conservative right now enjoy. What we disagree on, however, is how best to decrease the incidence of abortion in the US.

Well, no, we should not agree that one abortion is one too many. Reproductive justice is crucial. Promoting control over women’s bodies is not the moral high ground, and ceding the terms of the debate is not the way to win.

He is right that we disagree on how best to decrease the incidence of abortion in the U.S. Here’s a hint: Give women options. Do what’s worked in the countries with the lowest abortion rates in the world: Make abortion and birth control legal and accessible, offer universal health care, give families childcare options, create a solid social safety net, teach comprehensive sexual health education in schools, frame sex as something natural and healthy that we all take responsibility for, and on and on. It’s “pro-lifers” who want to outlaw abortion, limit or outlaw birth control access, offer no help to families and pregnant women, cut health care, refuse to give young people accurate information about sex, frame sex as something dirty that should be ridden with guilt and shame, and on and on. In other words, they’re the ones who are promoting policies that cause more abortions. And they’re the ones whose framework you’re saying we should adopt.

We did not win abortion rights by positioning abortion as an awful choice. We won by demanding abortion rights, without apology. We won by pointing out how horrible it is when we don’t have those rights. We won by promoting a movement to grant women greater equality in general. We won by arguing that women are people who should not have their bodies used against their wills.

There are income and poverty issues that need to be addressed within the reproductive justice debate. But this isn’t the way to do it. And using the exact same frames that anti-choicers have been using forever isn’t “reframing.” It’s losing.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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41 Responses to And by “reframing” I actually mean “making the same argument as my opponent”

  1. mythago says:

    the fundamental `right to privacy’ couched in the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade

    Meaning dumbass hasn’t read Roe and isn’t aware that privacy was not found in Roe but in the previous SCOTUS rulings in Griswold and Eisenstadt.

    Just one more right-wing loser couching his ignorant, misogynistic twittering in concern for The Poor Ignorant Women.

  2. Flowers says:

    I hate the left’s take on abortion. “It’s controversial, so let’s run away!” Fuckers. This is why I vote for pro-choice Republicans. They put up with so much shit for being pro-choice already that I know they will continue on without being intimidated. It’s pretty bad when the sexism of the left made me seriously turn to the Republicans.

  3. Tom says:

    I think one abortion is one too many and I’d like to see my tax dollars go to GPS collars so we can track all you irresponsible wenches when you go to your abortion parties. We need a massive, bureaucracy devoted to identifying those citizens most likely to have abortions and a police division tasked with arresting and rounding up those citizens suspected of drinking while pregnant (DWP).

    Home pregnancy tests need to be taken off the market because the only reason someone would take such a test out of the public eye is because they may be considering an abortion. And you’re looking a little chubby there, missy; just pee in this cup, would you?

    Now that’s re-framing.

  4. evil fizz says:

    Does he realize he’s just a less literate version of Will Saletan’s blithering?

  5. William says:

    I wish I could say that this post surprised me at all, but it really doesn’t. Parts of the progressive left in this country has been moving down this road for a long time, co-opting some of the more disgusting tendencies of the right for their own uses. Just like the Christianists they make moral judgements, they decided what is right and what is good, they decide how people should act, and then they try to build policy to support their decisions. Just like the Christianists you see a tendency to start from an assumption that people cannot make their own decisions, that individuals cannot possibly know whats best for themselves, and that all these grown children need a parent to watch over them. There is no room for choice in that kind of a world view.

    I’ve seen this in the abortion debate for a long time, especially when you’re dealing with national candidates. You hear phrases like “no one wants an abortion” and talk of “regrettable decisions.” You hear people claiming to be on your side calling a fetus a child and treating women who make a different choice than they would have like Larry Flint, like something disgusting that has to be defended because they’re the front line of “good” people’s rights. How is it that politicians -with public opinion, the constitution, and better than 30 years of precedent on their side- still treat abortion like its a hand grenade?

  6. r@d@r says:

    the other thing wrong with this “reframing” line of reasoning is, as i’ve said before, that you will probably never be able to change the mind of a person who believes that abortion is the murder of a child. as long as that is their deeply cherished belief, contrary to the facts, they will vote against anyone who even demonstrates a glimmer of tolerating it. instead, we have to appeal to the people who do NOT believe this, but still don’t think it’s a big deal, for whatever dumbass reason – either because they are men, and don’t realize that women losing this right is the first step down a slippery slope of everybody losing a whole lot of other rights – or because they are women who think it won’t affect them because “they’ll never overturn roe. vs. wade” or some other naive stance. pick your battles. a smart politician will take the strong stance: “most americans want the availability of abortion protected, and they are right to want that, and i will, period.” i guarantee that politician will win more votes – it’s simple math.

  7. The Left says:

    Hey, I was NEVER consulted on any of this stream-of-consciousness political thinking!

  8. Bitter Scribe says:

    r@d@r is correct. This is not an issue that is susceptible of compromise. Those who believe in the right of American women to bodily integrity owe nothing to, and have no obligation to listen or “reach out” to, those who think their views are so important that they warrant forcing strangers to bear children.

  9. Louise says:

    I want so much to like Obama, but taking the “safer” political stance of avoiding the issue (“let’s focus of what we AGREE on”) for the sake of the ’08 nomination is disingenuous.

    Can ONE candidate come out with something approaching a SPINE, when it comes to abortion? Or gay rights? I have been so very disappointed with the latest batch of contenders.

  10. bmc90 says:

    Yeah, the worst thing a politician should say about abortions are those who have them are that the lowest incidence seems to be in countries where they are freely available along with other reproductive choices, so his or her goal is to emulate that model.

  11. Mnemosyne says:

    “What we should agree on is that one abortion is one too many, leveling all moral high grounds that the conservative right now enjoy.”

    So all you bitches whose fetuses have birth defects that are incompatible with life need to just suck it up and carry that doomed fetus to term so we can all agree that one abortion is one too many.

    What an ass.

  12. Isabel says:

    r@d@r is correct. This is not an issue that is susceptible of compromise. Those who believe in the right of American women to bodily integrity owe nothing to, and have no obligation to listen or “reach out” to, those who think their views are so important that they warrant forcing strangers to bear children.

    I used to think so, too, but the South Dakota abortion ban and subsequent repeal made me rethink that. That ban had a lot of people suddenly confronted with the reality of just how hard it is to be pregnant when you don’t want to, and in a lot of articles about it at the time I remember reading story after story about women, and sometimes even men, who thought abortion was morally wrong, who thought the fetus was a baby, but now that the option no longer existed had had to reallly think about the fact that that baby was inside someone, someone who might not want it there, who might be scared or alone or too young or too unstable, and they thought, well, I can hope they’ll choose birth, but if not, I can understand. Kind of like people who hate gay marriage until they meet a gay couple who’ve been together for years and are totally normal people, or until their kid comes out.

    So, there are some people who are responding emotionally without having thought through the true consequences of banning abortion, and I do think some of those people can be reached.

    Also, I’d met a bunch of girls & women who were totally pro-choice but not sure if they could get an abortion themselves (or, in one case, absolutely sure they couldn’t) but this year I met a girl who does think abortion is, as she put it, “not right,” sort of a necessary evil, but with an emphasis on necessary, and if she got pregnant now (she’s 19), would “probably” get an abortion (though she wasn’t sure). I guess she views it as sometimes the best option in a worst-case scenario.

  13. Cola Johnson says:

    Sounds like a concern troll to me.

  14. jeffaclitus says:

    I stopped reading the quotes because they were just so stupid and illogical. What, we should not mention Roe in the hopes that the anti-choicers don’t notice it’s there? Just an idiot. I do think a successful strategy might be to point out the things you did at the end, that the right’s policies are the ones that ensure more abortions, which pretty much puts the lie to their “pro-life” stance.

    And, yes, I am shocked, shocked!, to see the MyDD crowd ignoring the rights and concerns of marginalized groups for political gain. I just can’t believe it, and I’m sure one of this week’s guest bloggers can’t either.

  15. Holly says:

    I blame this kind of shit on a massive misunderstanding of George Lakoff and his ideas about how framing can be used for liberal and progressive causes. There’s been nothing but talk, talk, talk over the last seven years about how the left lost elections because they were “outframed” by the right, and the first half of that picture seems to be easy to grasp: the right-wing think-tanks, demagogues, idea-men have been able to tap into a lot of basic, traditional frames about family and security and morals and whatnot, and that is a good way to explain their success. Lakoff describes the overall framework as being based on an “authoritarian parent” model of family.

    But the second half of the whole idea, and the part Lakoff is slightly more vague about, is about how progressives need to articulate a different frame. Different, different, different! Yeah, this is probably more complicated and would take more work than just trying to adopt a conservative frame and attempting to twist it to your own ends. But that won’t even work, dummies! If you use your opponents’ frame, all you’re doing is playing into their hands! You can’t just “steal the frame” from them, we have to come up with our own, that tap just as deeply and fundamentally into the values that people in this country really do hold dear. And yet I keep seeing big left-wing organizations make the clumsy blunder of trying to work “family values” or something else, like this repudiation of abortion as a bad-bad-thing-we’d-all-rather-avoid, into something that they’re claiming is “reframing” but is really just “oh we can use that frame too!” Which is kind of like swaggering onto the field insisting that you can play whatever game they want to throw at you, without realizing that all the rules are stacked against you. Yeah, it takes more thinking outside the box to you know, make your own rules. But that’s exactly what the left wing has to do in order to get anywhere.

  16. SoE says:

    IMO anti-choice is still a very vague word. “Forced maternity” sounds a lot more appropriate to what this is actually about.

  17. Jill says:

    IMO anti-choice is still a very vague word. “Forced maternity” sounds a lot more appropriate to what this is actually about.

    See, I don’t think “forced maternity” cuts it, because they aren’t just against abortion — they’re against birth control, state-sponsored childcare, universal health care, and all the other things that make it easier for women to have a wide range of reproductive choices. So yes, they’re pro-forced-birth, but they’re also against all the things that would make that birth (and the subsequent child-raising) much easier.

  18. Sheelzebub says:

    See, I think abortion is great. It beats forced pregnancy.

    If I got pregnant, I wouldn’t agonize at all over my decision. I’d get an abortion without hesitation.

    This concern trolling is beyond ridiculous. This kind of crap is exactly why so many people are skeptical of these supposed progressives.

  19. Tom says:

    So yes, they’re pro-forced-birth, but they’re also against all the things that would make that birth (and the subsequent child-raising) much easier.

    The State-sponsored Misery Party?
    The Life-As-Punishment Party?
    The We’re-Gonna-Lock-Your-Genitals-Away-Until-You-Use-Them-As-God-Ordained Party?
    The Pharisees?

  20. Jill says:

    Sadistic asshole party (SAPs)?

  21. Melissa says:

    This is why I’ve become pretty disengaged with electoral politics: Even the good progressive dudes are willing to sell my ass down the river if they think it’ll score them some votes (or if they think it’ll make a controversial blog post).

    The problem is that to many women are disengaged from politics. So many of us are willing to leave politics to the “good progressive dudes”. Then we wonder why women’s issues get tossed aside, and posts like this diary pop up.

  22. Rose says:

    There is a silver-lining to the post – there were 11 comments in response, not one supported his position.

  23. David Fryman says:

    Distinguishing the right from the choice is a failing strategy. It’s not a great idea to argue that abortion is really really bad and horrible and sad and murderous, but we think it should be legal anyway.

    Don’t we make a similar argument about free speech? Remember when the ACLU defended the Nazi Party’s right to march through a community of Holocaust survivors? No, I’m not comparing abortion to white supremacy. The point is that it the content of the speech is (and should be) legally irrelavent.

    Similarly, if you take Griswold seriously, it’s not what you do with your body that matters, but your right to do it. It makes no difference, legally, whether abortion is a horrific offense to God or the great thing since sliced bread.

    Isn’t that why we call ourselves “pro-choice” and not “pro-abortion”?

  24. Cizungu says:

    BeyondRational, who I don’t think is necessarily a malicious person, is probably one of those people who thinks that class issues override feminist issues — a position far too common among white male progressives. That approach leads to emphasizing only the purely economic aspect of abortion rights, and the argument is divested of any specific feminist language; the result is a crippled argument that lacks a solid moral foundation. Consequently, the argument falls prey to the right-wing frame, which doesn’t touch on economic issues, limiting itself to strong moral language (and whining about babies). And, as is the case with many things, the argument based on morality trumps the argument based on economic pragmatism, because the latter is always suspect of cold-hearted cynicism. People may accept pragmatism when it comes to the economy or foreign policy, but when it’s all about the babies, they’re prone to siding with the reactionaries and their “moral high ground.” (It’s easy to be “moral” when it ain’t your tax money in play.)

    Anyway, BeyondRational’s argument is ultimately antifeminist: taken to its logical conclusion, once economic inequalities will have been addressed, and the many measures that limit the number of unwanted pregnancies will have been implemented, there’ll be no more need for lesser-evil-abortion. Any remaining unwanted pregnancies will probably be deemed the result of “slutty behavior,” and we’ll be on our way to outlawing abortion, which will have lost its feminist connotation.

  25. Jill says:

    Don’t we make a similar argument about free speech? Remember when the ACLU defended the Nazi Party’s right to march through a community of Holocaust survivors? No, I’m not comparing abortion to white supremacy. The point is that it the content of the speech is (and should be) legally irrelavent.

    Well, no. An equivalent would be if we said, “The right to free speech is important, but speech is always a horrible tragic and bad event and we have to recognize that.”

  26. Jill says:

    The problem is that to many women are disengaged from politics. So many of us are willing to leave politics to the “good progressive dudes”. Then we wonder why women’s issues get tossed aside, and posts like this diary pop up.

    Well, it’s not that I’m willing to leave politics to the good progressive dudes, it’s that the good progressive dudes already control mainstream electoral politics. I’m behind the women who have the patience and the strength to fight to get into the ring, but I’m not one of them — especially when I have an awfully hard time finding any candidate in the horserace who I think is worth fighting for.

  27. Tom says:

    Don’t we make a similar argument about free speech? Remember when the ACLU defended the Nazi Party’s right to march through a community of Holocaust survivors? No, I’m not comparing abortion to white supremacy. The point is that it the content of the speech is (and should be) legally irrelavent.

    Well, no. An equivalent would be if we said, “The right to free speech is important, but speech is always a horrible tragic and bad event and we have to recognize that.”
    The metaphor works if you apply it to all reproductive rights and not just abortion; abortion is just the extreme the same way white supremacist hate speech is. And there is a similar defensive tendency in free-speech adovcates to clarify that they don’t agree with the speech, but it is free.

    Hell, that’s the basis of Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s quote (usually incorrectly attributed to Voltaire) “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    And yes, I had to just now look up the misattribution.

  28. Hector B. says:

    What a wuss “Beyond Rational” is. If the right to abortion isn’t a constitutional right, then it ain’t shit. I’ve been praying for Justice Stevens to survive the Bush presidency, but if the Dems don’t grow a spine what use will this be?

  29. Tom says:

    Quoting mishap in my above comment.

  30. jeffaclitus says:

    Somehow I’m having a little trouble seeing the analogy between removing an amorphous clump of cells from one’s body and calling for the extermination of whole races of people.

  31. shfree says:

    I think that the focus on abortion should be that it is healthcare, pure and simple, and refuse to engage those that try and frame it as a moral issue. At the very heart of it is that pregnancy impacts a woman’s health, and so she is entitled to make her own health care decisions. And one of those choices is an abortion.

    I do understand that it would be a difficult stance for a candidate to take, given the level of pandering to anti-choice sympathies they think are necessary, but it completely makes the morals behind an abortion beside the point. No one has the right to compel or deny a stranger any other sort of medical procedure, and abortion should not be any different.

    This whole “abortion is a necessary evil” stance that far too many on the left really cheeses me off….grr….

  32. sadie.sabot says:

    so many progressivess eem to think that since the right wing revolution is gaining so much ground (ie, they’re winning), the best way to fight them is to adopt their rhetoric and practice. And since that leads to no alternatives, fewer people even engage inpolitical processes, both electoral and other.

    it’s infuriating.

  33. zuzu says:

    There is a silver-lining to the post – there were 11 comments in response, not one supported his position.

    Well, they certainly don’t make it easy to leave a comment there.

    I think the thing that Democrats need to do is start challenging anti-choicers on what they’re doing to prevent abortions. Why, surely you support medically accurate, comprehensive sex ed? No? Well, what about guaranteeing access to birth control without interference from pharmacists? No? How about emergency contraception, then? Prenatal health care? Antipoverty programs? Support for single mothers? An increase in the social safety net?

    No?

    Hm. Well, gosh, sounds like you’re not at all serious about preventing abortion. Sounds, in fact, like you support policies that actually *increase* abortion.

    And as a matter of fact, it sounds like you’re a pantysniffing scold, since you clearly aren’t willing to support things proven effective at reducing the rate of abortion; indeed, sounds like all you really want is to punish women for having sex.

    I think if we hit the “the Republicans want to take away your birth control” good and hard, it might wake some people the fuck up.

  34. Melissa says:

    I think if we hit the “the Republicans want to take away your birth control” good and hard, it might wake some people the fuck up.

    I’m attempting to do something along these lines. Feel free to leave me any feedback about my questions. This weekend I’ll post the final wording, as well as my plans for getting as many candidates to answer them as we possibly can.

  35. Mnemosyne says:

    so many progressives seem to think that since the right wing revolution is gaining so much ground (ie, they’re winning), the best way to fight them is to adopt their rhetoric and practice. And since that leads to no alternatives, fewer people even engage inpolitical processes, both electoral and other.

    That’s kind of the frustrating part: they’re not “winning” in the sense that a majority of the population is on their side. As Isabel pointed out, the attempt to completely ban abortion in South Dakota failed pretty decisively when it was put to a vote by the citizens.

    What they’re “winning” is being able to take over control of the political discourse to the point where liberal voices are rarely (if ever) heard, and only conservatives get called up as experts on news shows. They’re “winning” by lying about what they really want (“We don’t want to punish women for having sex, we just want to save the babies!”), claiming to do one thing, and then doing the opposite.

    I’m not saying it’s not frustrating that they dominate the discourse. I’m saying that a lot of people overestimate how popular they are because they dominate the discourse.

  36. Nenena says:

    Why are all of the trolls named the name? BeyondRational, Rational, Rational Madman, Madthinker…

    Oh, wait. It’s because they need to remind us that their calm, clear man-logic is far superior to us wimmin’s hormone-and-emotion-driven pointless weeping and flailing. Right?

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  38. David Fryman says:

    An equivalent would be if we said, “The right to free speech is important, but speech is always a horrible tragic and bad event and we have to recognize that.”

    You’re just framing the right more broadly than I did. How about, “Hate speech is fully protected by the First Amendment but it is nonetheless disgusting, immoral, and harmful to others.” I can condemn hate speech in the strongest terms while defending it as protected speech.

    Why isn’t this analogous to the abortion debate? It’s important to stress, not that abortion is always bad, but that even if it were, it is protected by the 14th Amendment. This strikes me a fairly strong argument. The Christian conservatives want to talk about the morality of abortion. This argument, though, makes morality irrelavent and focuses on individual liberty. Liberty resonates strongly in American culture – as you said in your post on Sicko.

  39. Seth Gordon says:

    You want a frame? I’ll give you a frame.

    Underlying the right-wing discourseblather about abortion is the idea that there are Good Girls and Bad Girls. One of the symptoms of Bad Girlhood is wanting to have an abortion; if abortions were illegal, the theory goes, Bad Girls would have a stronger incentive to repent of their Badness and become Good Girls. Every once in a while, a pro-life activist gets an unwanted pregnancy and seeks an abortion herself–but she doesn’t see that as hypocrisy, because she knows that she is not a Bad Girl.

    Of course, as zuzu points out above, the right’s definition of Bad Girlhood is much broader than that. Bad Girls have sex outside of wedlock (that’s, what, 85% of the US female population?); worse, Bad Girls have sex outside of wedlock with contraception. Bad Girls without money accept money from the government so they can support their children (as opposed to…begging from their relatives? giving the kids up for adoption?). Bad Girls with money spend the money on day care so they can continue to work. Etc., etc.

    First, as zuzu says, the right’s broad definition of Bad Girlhood needs to be exposed, to make pro-life organizations and right-wing Republicans less sympathetic.

    Second, pro-choice Democrats need to be saying: (a) There are women all over the country, of every race and class and family circumstance, people who are loved by their families and respected by their friends, who have had abortions, and they’re glad they were able to do it legally. (b) Even if you think that some women are having abortions for the “wrong” reasons, if you/your mother/your sister needed an abortion, do you want her to have to prove to some faceless bureaucrat that she is doing it for a “right” reason?

    The “every abortion is a tragedy” schtick, by contrast, perpetuates the idea that having an abortion is some kind of mark of failure in a woman.

  40. William says:

    Don’t we make a similar argument about free speech? Remember when the ACLU defended the Nazi Party’s right to march through a community of Holocaust survivors? No, I’m not comparing abortion to white supremacy. The point is that it the content of the speech is (and should be) legally irrelavent.

    The problem with that line of thinking is the same problem that a lot of pro-choice politicians have had for a long time. There is no good analogy. With freedom of speech we have the first amendment saying “Congress shall make no law.” With abortion we have “emanations and penumbras,” some fuzzy crap based on a judge who didn’t have the stomach to come right out and say what they meant. The fact of the matter is, sad as it is to say, abortion isn’t an enumerated right but an inferred one. That means you have to fight for it. You can’t say “well, its a damn same we’ve gotten to this but we need to draw the line here.” You have to own it, you have to accept it, you have to be willing to go out there and say that you believe a woman’s quality of life is worth more than some trespassing lump of cells. You need to take the moral high ground and say that the rights of a living individual trumps superstition. You have to talk about individual sovereignty and mean it. You can’t hold abortion at arm’s length like its a necessary evil because you’ll loose by attrition.

    On a fundamental level this isn’t a pleasant disagreement between rational individuals. This is a battle between people who respect individual freedom and people who are willing to murder to enforce their will and their religion. Let that sink in for a second. The other side of the argument is a group of people who are willing to terrorize and kill in order to enforce their interpretation of a book written by men thousands of years dead. Don’t delude yourself. I know it goes against everything we like to stand for, I know that letting yourself go into an “us and them” mentality is scary, but thats what this is. Abortion rights are about fighting for what is a goddamn human right against theocrats who want to control your reproductive system and co-opt your life for their divine plan. You can’t compromise, you can’t call for understanding, you can’t even depend on justice or a peaceful resolution. All you can do is roll up your sleeves, stand your ground, and hope you’re the one still standing when theres blood on the walls.

  41. maatnofret says:

    Here’s a pro-choice argument I don’t hear nearly enough:

    If I die, and I sign an organ donor card, I can save up to six lives. If I do not sign a card, NO ONE gets my organs.

    If those in power cannot touch my organs after I die without my express consent, then no one has the right to force me to use my organs in the service of another while I am still living. Therefore, no one has the right to force me to remain pregnant against my will.

    Here’s a similar analogy: giving blood. Giving blood once a month can save lives. The Red Cross can try to entreat, persuade, or inveigle me to give blood. However, they cannot hold me down and force a needle into my arm. Even if I am a universal donor (at O+, I’m not quite there), it will save a life, it only takes an hour or so, and my body will always make more. They STILL cannot force me. Likewise, if I am pregnant, you may try to persuade or entreat me to carry my pregnancy to term. However, if you do not have the right to force me to give up an hour or two of my time and suffer a little dizziness, then you have no right to force me to put my health at risk for nine whole months.

    In my opinion, it’s all about bodily integrity. I demand the right to control my own body. I do not need excuses or apologies.

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