Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Wonkblog's Sarah Kliff asks:
States are cracking down on abortion—and legalizing gay marriage. What gives?

Tuesday marked for a watershed day for gay rights activists as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case with the potential to legalize same-sex marriage across the country.

Across the country and 1,500 miles west of Washington, an equally notable event took place: North Dakota enacted the country's most restrictive abortion law, barring all procedures after six weeks.

For decades, support (or opposition) for gay marriage and abortion went hand in hand. They were the line-in-the-sand "values" issues that sharply divided the political parties.

Not anymore....
Kliff says it's because young people are much more supportive of gay marriage than older people, while there's been no similar generational shift on abortion. But why is that?

One reason, I think, is that LGBT people have fought relentlessly for respect and rights, especially since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. They've shouted and implored and appealed to the rest of the public's better nature. And they've maintained a sense of group identity -- they're very politically active on multiple fronts as an interest group. This really isn't happening anymore regarding abortion rights -- in large part because many people don't see any threat to legal abortion (often because, where they live, there is no real threat), there isn't an impassioned, organized societal bloc fighting to keep reproductive rights alive.

Elsewhere at The Washington Post, Matt Miller makes a similar point about gay rights:
Did you hear that Dick Cheney came out for universal health-care coverage after his uninsured daughter went bankrupt because she fell expensively ill?

Or that Sen. Rob Portman just proposed a big new program to guarantee great teachers for every child after finding out that his son had awful, untrained professors at Yale?

...Why is this issue different from all other progressive issues? Why has this one moved so quickly?

There are surely plenty of reasons, but the one that gets little attention is class.

It’s obvious but still bears underlining: When every economic and social class shares in the experience of injustice or intolerable wrongs, things change faster. If only poor people were gay, does anyone think our political leaders would have "evolved" at this pace? Likewise, if we had a draft, does anyone think our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would have proceeded as they did?

... I never thought most Americans would support gay marriage before they supported, say, basic health insurance for every citizen. Or excellent teachers for every child. Or some minimally decent reward for full-time work....

Boy, was I wrong....
But gun violence has claimed upscale, prominent victims as well as poor and middle-class victims, and somehow there isn't unstoppable momentum toward gun control. On the other hand, Hispanics in America are, on average, less well off than whites, yet politicians are expressing great concern about issues deemed to matter to Hispanics.

Again, I think that when people regard themselves as an interest group, and make it known in the political arena that you ignore their group concerns at your peril, things change. On guns, gun-control proponents don't fight relentlessly as a bloc -- whereas pro-gunners absolutely do, which is why they win nearly all the time. Poor and working-class people don't vote and agitate as a bloc -- certainly not across racial lines. And so they're ignored.

I think members of a group need to be politicized, and not easily mollified. If politicians feared that women (or fertile womwen, or fertile heterosexuals of both genders) were highly attuned across the country to the reproductive-rights threat, they might fear punishment at the polls if they pushed for draconian abortion laws. If poor and middle-class voters routinely voted their class interests, politicians would fear crossing them.

Gay people (and their families and friends) have made it clear that they're politically engaged on gay issues. And that makes a big difference.


Victor said...

As I see it, the difference between the way a woman's right to choose, and gay rights, have been handled, is that, with more and more gay people publically coming out of the closet in the past 30-20-10 years, more and more felt comfortable about coming out even more PUBLICALLY, and we now have what I'll call "2 Degree's of Senator Portman Seperation" start to happen - while he wasn't gay himself, his son was, and he has some incentive in seeing him have the same rights that the rest of us enjoy.
So, now he's the ONLY Republican Senator who say he approves of gay rights.

So, more and more coming out, publically, meant more and more exposure of people who were gay to the homophobes - who saw that some of their friends and family members were gay, or co-workers, even some church members, and, outside of sexual orientation, weren't some sort of child-molesting deviants, but were people just like them, with the same hopes, dreams, and fears.

Gay people came out publically.

Abortions are decided, for the most part, PRIVATELY, between a woman and her doctor - and, the significant other - but not always.

And the Reich-wing has been successful in changing that 'scarlet letter,' "A," from 'Adultery,' to 'Abortion.'
And they kept the same religious stigma attached.
They had to drop the stigma on 'Adultery' because it's something that Conservative politicians, from Gingrich to Vitter to Sanford, have been routinely guilty of it.
So, end of major stigma - FOR THE MEN.

Women don't typically "come out" about having abortions, like gays did - opening up the way for more of them to say it was ok.
That's the stigma, still at work.

Besides, abortions are seen, not only as punishing "wanton sluts," but more specifically, non-white "wanton sluts."
The "wanton sluts" involved with, or related to, WHITE rich and powerful men, will always have access to abortions - just like they always have.
All it'll take is some money, and a discreet doctor, here, or overseas.

So, while the aim of denying abortions-on-demand for women wasn't just to keep women under mens thumbs, but more specifically, to punish minority women especially.
Kicking people when they're already down is a Conservative trait.

Until enough grandmothers, mothers, aunts, wives, girl-friends, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters of wealthy WHITE men come out and explain how the right to have abortions-on-demand not only saved their lives, but were critical to their families and their futures, abortion will remain, where available, something that's decided in PRIVATE between the woman, her doctor - and her significant other - but not always.

Gay people were eventually allowed to celebrate "Gay Pride."
Until women can celebrate "Abortion Pride," we'll be stuck with this wedge issue for a long, long time to come.

Stigma's remain, as long as people don't think they hurt folks like them.

Them's my $0.02.
'Nuff said...

merlallen said...

When everyone is forced to gay marry we won't need abortions anymore.

merlallen said...


aimai said...

Abortion is still a secret. Women don't talk about their abortions and certainly don't incorporate them into their lives and the story of their lives. So plenty of people can live in ignorance. After Harvey Milk insisted on it the gay community made a practice of coming out to friends and relatives. They knew that if they put a human face on the conccept of "the gay" that slowly the tide would turn. Homophobia itself helped their cause, in a sense, because the more intransigent the right wing was about accepting gay family and friends the starker the choice was when people came out.

Abortion isn't like that and its not going to be like that. And as for contraception--its not like that either. Abortion remains secretive because its scary, dirty, and socially dissaproved and where its considered "therapeutic" (clean, nice, happening to a good woman who wanted the baby but somethign was wrong) people simply rationalize it away--they dont fit it into the category of abortion at all.

As for contraception: its as though the more people use it the less they understand how it was fought for or how much the right wing wants to repeal it. They know, but they don't know.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Gay rights propaganda can easily display the animus against them and laws to their disfavor as transparently cruel.

As for the abortion struggle, the shoe is on the other foot and there has been a relentless and powerful propaganda depicting abortion as cruel butchery of the unborn.

Better and more aggressive organization of the liberal/feminist interest on this matter cannot overcome that disadvantage.

redscott said...

This is a good point. The folks at Americablog have made it over and over, but it's still true and bears repeating: if you don't just accept politicians' inaction on something, don't play nice but get in their faces repeatedly on something, threatening them by withholding votes and money, you're much more likely to get what you want. I only wish the lesson was more widely accepted and applied to other issues

Yastreblyansky said...

I used to think abortion laws in the US didn't matter to the upper classes as long as it was legal in Switzerland. Perhaps nowadays thanks to contraceptives rich women never get pregnant unless they want to, so that most senators and congresspersons are really not familiar with abortion at all.