There’s a general consensus, among rational people paying attention, that 2011 featured the most concerted assaults on women’s reproductive rights, since the Roe v. Wade decision established them, in theory at least, almost 40 years ago. Mostly, this was due to right-wingers taking over state legislative and executive branches.
I’ll provide a lot more on that, below. A key issue, though, is why haven’t Democratic politicians, especially at the federal level, tried to do more about this? Should they? Are they justified in avoiding the issue, for fear of electoral backlash, which would just put reproductive choice at even greater risk? Or, is their perceived softness on this issue, the real problem?
First, the data.
- This Guttmacher Institute paper is the most comprehensive thing that I’ve seen.
By almost any measure, issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level received unprecedented attention in 2011. In the 50 states combined, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.
Fully 68% of these new provisions-92 in 24 states–restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.
- Here’s one person’s list (it’s pretty comprehensive) of the ten most extreme attacks on reproductive rights.
- And another’s projections of what forced-birth zealots will try next.
- Abstinence-only “education” will likely make a comeback.
- And don’t forget about prioritizing civil rights for insensate lumps of protoplasm, which are of course far more important than those of any actual sentient human being that doesn’t happen to be white, male, 100% hetero, and certain to vote Republican.
A lot of pro-choice people that pay attention to politics think that Democrats in office and/or running for office, all the way up to the very top if you know what I’m saying, should be emphasizing the importance of maintaining access to safe, legal abortion, way more than they are. The perception, which I share, is that way too many Democrats see the issue as a political loser, and would rather that it just never came up. (In fact, I’ve been given to understand that pains are sometimes taken, at candidate debates and the like, to try to make sure that it doesn’t.) The thinking seems to be, it’s legal now, right, so why risk bringing up such a divisive issue that could cost us majorities?
First of all, it is legal now, but in a great many places, only barely – and only for those that are willing to, among plenty of other obstacles, risk being subjected to intrusive harassment that at times at least borders on psychological abuse. That’s not what “pro-women’s rights” is supposed to mean.
That being said, I’m not trying to automatically discount the realities of the numbers problem, within the Democratic party. A lot of urban/left Democrats may not be entirely cognizant of just how many of their party’s representatives in swing, or even red, districts are, or at least consistently vote, anti-choice. Which is presumably part of why they’re startled and offended at how the party avoids such a key, fundamental issue.
So what it comes down to, then, is whether pro-choicers could acquire and hold those seats. I happen to think that, for the most part, they could; the small percentage of voters that still have a hard-line litmus test are voting Republican, anyway. But, I certainly acknowledge that the often unpleasant reality is that it’s a lot harder to gain a seat than it is to hold one, especially if that latter is occupied by a candidate that’s been there for a while.
Believe me, if I had a good idea, for a way to resolve/transcend these issues to everybody’s satisfaction, and move triumphantly onward from there to universal pro-choice righteousness, it would be at the top of this post, in bold capital letters. An easy cop-out, would be to suggest that after another 10-20 years of demographic leftward drift in national political opinion, this can all be fixed, so for now it’s just a matter of being patient and weathering the storm. Well, try telling that s**t to, for example, a woman faced with the likes of the latest vile, atrocious insult to her rights and privacy in Texas.