America’s views on abortion still don’t match Amanda Marcotte’s caricatures, and she can’t stand it


Slate writer Amanda Marcotte

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling forcing every state to recognize same-sex marriage has inspired a New York Times post by David Leonhardt and Alicia Parlapiano, exploring why increasing public acceptance of homosexuality hasn’t been accompanied by increasing acceptance of abortion.

This is a question we’ve explored here before too, and they come to basically the same conclusion: while the case against same-sex marriage is somewhat abstract and gay causes tend to have an edge with Americans’ live-and-let-live sensibilities, the fact that abortion has a specific victim means an “unavoidable tension between a mother’s rights and a fetus’s” can never be so easily reconciled.

To the sane, this clearly shows that the country isn’t deciding how the preborn should be treated based on their notions of traditional sexual morality, that they rightly understand they are two distinct questions. But Amanda Marcotte, never one to abandon a sinking narrative she’s invested so much ink in, still stubbornly insists abortion is all about sex, and nothing more:

[T]he two data sets they’re comparing don’t really compare. The growth in support for gay marriage is all measured in the years prior to the Supreme Court awarding that right, and the data showing steady support for abortion rights starts in 1975, after Roe v. Wade. We don’t yet know if support for gay marriage will keep growing.

This makes sense only if you think the country’s too stupid to decide what they think a right is without the judiciary telling them. While Obergefell v. Hodges will surely have some impact on public opinion, supporters of same-sex marriage largely had their minds made up that it was a right before the ruling, and most would have remained certain even if the justices ruled the other way (most people who didn’t think it was a right aren’t likely to change their minds either). Nor did Roe solidify abortion’s status as a “right”—according to Gallup a majority has disagreed for two decades now, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself said that if anything, Roe “stopped the momentum that was on the side of” legitimizing abortion.

Leonhardt and Parlapiano’s main evidence that support for minority groups expands over time is polling data showing people are more willing to vote for a black person, woman, or member of a religious minority as president than they used to be. That’s not really the best measure. Sure, it demonstrates how willing people are to be overtly racist or sexist—which is not nothing, to be fair—but, as we have all experienced, your average bigot rarely admits to holding bigoted beliefs. A better measure of racism in this country is support for voting restrictions or support for police brutality against people of color than a hypothetical question of whether they’d vote for a black president.

Here, Marcotte inadvertently admits that her evidentiary standards consist of lying about people whose policies she disagrees with. There is no racism involved in preventing people from voting multiple times or impersonating registered voters, and when was the last time you’ve seen anyone endorse “police brutality against people of color”? Keep these in mind (along with her claim that nearly everyone who criticizes Barack Obama is a racist) whenever you ponder the ethics Marcotte brings to the table whenever she psychoanalyzes her political opponents.

Although abortion is frequently treated in the media as a struggle between bodily autonomy and fetal life, the reality is that debate has little to no real impact on how people feel about the issue. Your opinion on legal abortion is far more likely to be shaped by your attitudes about gender equality and sexual freedom than about how you feel toward embryonic cells.

Translation: Nothing you do will ever convince me to stop slandering your motives, pro-lifers.

Marcotte tries to hide her rank bigotry behind a few patently lame rationalizations. First, the fact that abortion support or opposition tends to fall along party lines. “If abortion really were a debate over life versus bodily autonomy, you’d see people all over the political map struggle with this,” she claims, but in reality it’s just “an easy way for Republicans to ensure the loyalty of a religious-right base that sees anti-abortion activism as the linchpin of a larger movement to impose their beliefs about gender and family on the rest of the country.”

Couple things, Amanda: considering that only 17% think elective abortion is acceptable past the firs trimester, with 69% of self-identified pro-choicers agreeing that three months should be the limit, there’s a lot more “struggle” across the aisle than you’re letting on. You also may have noticed that pro-lifers are getting increasingly fed up with the GOP’s foot-dragging on the issue.

Besides, support and opposition on most issues tends to coalesce and settle around one party or the other; so what? Why isn’t, to use your own phrasing, being pro-abortion an easy way for Democrats to ensure the loyalty of a secular-left base that sees pro-abortion activism as the linchpin of a larger movement to impose their belief that a child’s welfare should never interfere with a woman’s desires on the rest of the country?

Second, she notes that “the people who are angriest about this gay marriage decision also tend to be the people who are most stalwart in the war against reproductive rights,” which allegedly proves both are secretly driven by “a rigid belief in traditional gender roles, namely that the husband is the head of household and the wife should have children and serve her family.”

Yes, most conservatives oppose both. Yes, there’s a lot of overlap. But the fact remains that the country as a whole is judging the issues differently before Marcotte’s very eyes, and whatever the activist class thinks in no way justifies her pretending otherwise. Nor does she have any basis for the imaginary beliefs she attributes to social conservative activists. Y’know, Amanda, between books, articles, blogs, debates, think tanks, etc., there are only about a million places where we’ve laid out exactly what we think and why, so you could maybe…oh, I don’t know…look it up?

Next she claims that Americans who fall somewhere in the middle on abortion do so because they’re “ambivalent about women’s equality” and judge abortion’s acceptability on “whether the woman is adhering to gender norms. Getting an abortion to complete high school, for instance, gets a lot more support than getting an abortion because you don’t want to get married. “

Using Occam’s Razor and just a smidgen more empathy for differing views than Marcotte can muster, even an intolerant sort like me, who thinks neither choice justifies abortion, can see the real reasons why respondents would be more receptive to one than the other. They quite rationally deduce that unwanted pregnancy would be more stressful to a teenager than to an adult, and think potentially having to drop out of high-school is a substantially bigger deal than an adult whose life is otherwise stable having to deal with the perceived indignity of single motherhood. They’re sadly not carrying the baby’s equal rights to their logical conclusion, but they recognize that there are two competing interests at stake, and are trying to weigh them—which is precisely Leonhardt and Parlapiano’s thesis.

As one final irony, after she spent an entire blog post denying that voters find same-sex marriage simpler than their complex feelings and opinions on abortion, and tries to reduce the entire range of pro-life opinions to her pet narrative, she… admits marriage is “a simpler issue than abortion, which produces a lot of complex feelings and opinions.”

And nope, nobody at Slate noticed that she just torpedoed her own premise. But then again, nobody who publishes Marcotte bats an eye when she doesn’t understand how fertilization works, is utterly unfazed whenever pro-lifers take a stand in controversies totally unrelated to sex or gender roles, is so paranoid about purity police that she sees them even dominating Hollywood, openly endorses lying on behalf of abortion, freaks out that anyone would call the police in response to finding a dead infant in a public place, or viciously berates fathers for grieving over the abortions of their own sons or daughters. So it’s pretty clear that “sane” isn’t what they’re interested in selling.

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