Category Archives: Personal Autonomy

Dense Pence Could Save The Democrats

Talk about life in a bubble…Mike Pence has been hawking his book (“So Help Me God”) and in a recent interview with Chuck Todd, displayed the perceptive characteristics that prompted what I’ve been told was his law school nickname: dense Pence.

Pence’s smarmy opinions will come as no surprise to Hoosiers who watched Mr. Piety with growing alarm during his gubernatorial term. In the interview, Pence doubled down on his support for anti-choice laws. When Todd asked him to reconcile that support with his purported belief in limited government–to explain how his declared opposition to “invasive government” co-existed with his insistence that  government force women to give birth– he simply repeated his clearly theocratic position.

Evidently, using the power of the state to impose the beliefs of fundamentalist Christians on everyone else isn’t “invasive government.” Who knew?

Pence also took the position that a fetus should be afforded constitutional rights–an opinion that places him at the very far reaches of the reactionary right.

As a snarky post on Daily Kos reported, however, he did exempt one medical procedure from the iron arm of the state: IVF–or fertility treatments. And why would this self-appointed “soldier of God” allow science to shape his approach to this method of assistingreproduction, when he pointedly ignores what medical science tells us about pregnancy and abortion generally?

Stay calm, America. While you’re taking some time to regain your breath after facing the raw, masculine courage it must have taken for a Republican to say out loud that maybe American citizens shouldn’t be thrown in prison for using a widely available infertility treatment that a creepy undercult of American society believes they and only they should be in charge of, you don’t need to be too surprised here. Yeah, it turns out a Republican thinks a particular medical procedure should not be criminalized only because it’s one that personally benefited his own family.

As that snarky post pointed out, this willingness to exempt a procedure because his family personally benefitted from it is patently inconsistent with the “theology” of “pro life” Christianists.  (But then, giving the state authority over reproduction is also inconsistent with the libertarian conservatism that opposed requiring masks and/or vaccinations during a pandemic…Pence evidently read Emerson to say that consistency–rather than foolish consistency– is the hobgoblin of little minds…) (Silly me–I doubt Mike ever read Emerson, or for that matter, anything but his bible…)

The problem with IVF, then, is that if you believe that the primary role of God is to police everybody’s sex lives and make sure nobody is either making babies or not making babies without the express written consent of Himself, Major League Baseball, and/or whatever local pastor has a bug up his rectory about it, then the IVF process of fertilizing multiple eggs and implanting each of them into the uterus in the hopes that at least one of them will successfully attach and grow means all the fertilized eggs that don’t get used or which don’tsuccessfully attach themselves are all full-fledged human beings and well, now you, your partner, and the doctors are all serial killers for not being able to bring all those fertilized eggs to term as well. Many far-right religious conservatives want would-be parents to go to jail for that, too.

If Mike Pence thinks his incoherent theocracy will sell to the American public, he really does occupy a very small bubble.

Research tells us that 24% of American women will have at least one abortion by age 45. Fifty-nine percent of those women are mothers. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans identifying as “pro-choice” rose to its highest level in June of this year.

Pro-choice sentiment is now the highest Gallup has measured since 1995 when it was 56% — the only other time it has been at the current level or higher — while the 39% identifying as “pro-life” is the lowest since 1996.

Even among those self-identifying as “pro-life,” there is diminished support for the sort of complete ban favored by Pence and his theocratic cohort.

The latest data show Americans are less likely than a year ago to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, falling six points to 13%, the lowest Gallup has recorded for this position since 1995. At the same time, the 35% wanting it legal under any circumstances is the highest in Gallup’s trend by one point, after increasing slightly each of the past three years.

Pence’s obvious belief that his intransigence on this issue will help him electorally reminded me of something my kids would say to me after I uttered an observation that was wildly at odds with the national mood: “You don’t get out much, do you?”

Dense Pence doesn’t get out much.

 

 

 

Religion And Patriarchy

The current assault on women’s autonomy, led primarily by people espousing fundamentalist versions of Evangelical Christianity, has awakened many Americans to the considerable influence of religion on American law and culture. That influence is not new, although the extent of it has largely gone unrecognized. Indeed, through most of American history, people have vastly underestimated the profound and continuing influence of culturally-embedded attitudes that originated with religious ways of interpreting reality. Most of us today recognize the impact of purportedly religious beliefs on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and support for the death penalty, but what is far less obvious is the degree to which religiously-rooted worldviews continue to influence seemingly secular policy debates, including economic policies.

Many of the cultural perspectives that shape our policy preferences were originally religious, and those religious roots have influenced our adult worldviews—including the worldviews of people who reject theological doctrines and do not believe themselves to be religious. The much-ballyhooed “values” debate isn’t a conflict between people who are religious and people who are not, nor is it a struggle between people holding different religious beliefs. It’s a debate between people operating out of different and largely inconsistent worldviews, and whether they recognize it or not, many of those worldviews originally grew out of different and frequently inconsistent religious explanations of the world we inhabit. Those inconsistencies don’t just reflect differences between major religions—different theological approaches taken by Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.—but also between denominations within those religions, especially the numerous denominations within Christianity. Calvinist beliefs, for example, continue to exert a major influence on American economic policy.

As women have slowly moved into the mainstream of American life, the doctrinal and
structural differences of the major Abrahamic religions have shaped both their official
responses and the culture. That has especially been true of religions like Catholicism that
prohibit women from the priesthood and consider both abortion and artificial birth control
sinful.  It wasn’t until 2020 that Pope Francis changed church law to allow a somewhat expanded role for women within the Catholic Church. The decree allows women to serve as readers, altar servers, and assistants to priests during service or in administering Holy Communion; however, the priesthood remains exclusively male.

As Frank Bruni has written  “For all the remarkable service that the Catholic Church performs, it is one of the world’s dominant and most unshakable patriarchies, with tenets that don’t abet equality.”

For women to get a fair shake in the work force, they need at least some measure of reproductive freedom. But Catholic bishops in the United States lobbied strenuously against the Obamacare requirement that employers such as religiously affiliated schools and hospitals include contraception in workers’ health insurance.

The autocratic structure of Catholicism, which discourages dissent from approved messaging, and requires the exclusion of women from the pulpit, operates to reinforce the subordinate status of women. Recent revelations about an internal “faith group” within Catholicism underscore that message.  People of Praise (which counts current Supreme Court Justice Amy Comey Barrett among its members) calls for complete obedience of women to their husbands, “emphasizes the importance of childbirth, pregnancy and the abandonment of autonomy and privacy it supposedly entails, as a core part of what it means to be a woman.” The Catholic Church remains adamantly anti-abortion, recognizing an exception only when it is clearly required in order to save the life of the mother.

The response of liberal Protestantism to cultural change has been very different. The largest Mainline  Protestant denominations include the United Methodist Church (UMC), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Church (ABC- USA, not to be confused with the Southern Baptists, considered below) the United Church of Christ (UCC), and Christian Church Disciples of Christ (DOC). Sometimes referred to as the “Seven Sisters,’ these denominations have seen significant growth in the ordination of women; as of 2010, approximately 10% of Protestant pastors were female.  A survey conducted in 1987 suggested that women entering pastoral positions brought liberal commitments in religion, theological discussions, and cultural values to their congregations. Those commitments translate into their current supportive positions on abortion and birth control; a recent study by Pew categorizes them as supportive of abortion rights, albeit with some restrictions.

When it comes to religion and women’s rights, historians note that Quakers and Jews have been longstanding and prominent proponents of female equality. Quakers are among the least “top down” of Christian sects, and as far back as the early 1800s, Quaker women who were recognized as being “called” were allowed to travel to share their gifts of ministry, usually with a chaperone. The most famous was probably Lucretia Mott (1793-1880). The Quaker acceptance of women’s education and ministry set Quakers apart from the rest of organized Christianity, and may explain the disproportionate presence of Quaker women in the abolition movement. That activity led to gatherings of women who were also concerned about the need for greater rights for women. Of the four women who led the planning for the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848, three were Quakers.

Like Quakerism, Judaism has no single authority able to prescribe what is “kosher” in Jewish law and observance. Throughout the ages, Rabbis have argued about the proper meaning of biblical and Talmudic passages, and individual Jews have followed those that they found persuasive. Women’s status has varied, but the prevailing attitudes have usually been more progressive than those of surrounding cultures. In Judaism, descent is matrilinear—a Jew is someone born of a Jewish mother. Jewish law requires women to obey the same negative commandments that men must follow (the “thou shalt nots”), but excuses females from ritual duties that are time-bound, presumably in recognition of women’s maternal obligations. As far back as Talmudic times, evidence suggests that at least some women were educated in the Bible and Jewish law. During and after the Middle Ages, because many Jewish women were the family breadwinners in order to allow the man of the house to study, the culture has been very accepting of women entering the workforce and later, the professions.  With respect to worship, progress has been more recent: Reform Judaism ordained its first female rabbi in 1972, and Reconstructionist Judaism followed suit 1974. Today, there are more than a thousand women in the rabbinate, as well as a growing number of LGBTQ Rabbis, and congregants are accustomed to seeing women as Rabbis and Cantors within Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist synagogues.

The Orthodox movement within Judaism has been considerably slower to accept women’s full participation; in Orthodox synagogues, men and women still sit apart, and until very recently there have been no female Rabbis. Feminists within Orthodoxy have been actively advocating for reforms, and in 2013, a first group of female rabbinical students graduated from a New York seminary, but there is still considerable resistance within Orthodoxy to giving them pulpits, and similar resistance to many of the changes that Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements have made.

With respect to abortion, Jewish law affirms that protecting existing life is
paramount at all stages of pregnancy; however, Judaism does not consider a fetus a person until the head emerges from the womb. In Jewish law, the interests of the pregnant individual always come before that of the fetus. Jewish sources explicitly state that abortion is not onl permitted but is required should the pregnancy endanger the life or health of the pregnant individual, and “health” includes psychological as well as physical health.

American Muslims have only recently been numerous enough to affect social attitudes about women. Worldwide, Islamic practices vary widely. The Koran does require the education of women, and gives women certain rights if divorced by their husbands. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, in the United States, Muslims are more likely than white Evangelicals and Protestants to have favorable views of feminists. The Institute has found that “American Muslim women denounce gender discrimination inside and outside of their community.”

Evangelicals and the Status of Women

Evangelicals, like the rest of America’s religious landscape, are diverse; however, the more fundamentalist White Evangelical Christian denominations are currently united in their opposition to women’s reproductive autonomy. That contemporary reality has tended to obscure the history of American Evangelicalism, which was far from monolithic in its approach to gender, and considerably less political than today. In some Evangelical denominations, women were allowed to be ordained and otherwise vested with spiritual authority; in many others, women were—and still are—forbidden from holding leadership roles.

A major tenet of Evangelical Christianity is the doctrine of complementarianism—the belief that while men and women are equal in creation, they are distinct in function. “Biblical womanhood” reflects this belief in “separate spheres.” Men are to be the leaders of the church and the home, and women are meant to support and submit to them. This doctrine has a long history in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one of the largest and most influential of the Evangelical churches. As one religious historian wrote,

Southern Baptist leader John Broadus answered the question “should women speak in mixed public assemblies?” with a definitive “no” in 1889. The year before, when Southern Baptist women formed the Woman’s Missionary Union, they assured male leaders that they only desired to be supportive, not independent as women in some other denominations were.

As the writer noted, that thinking—advanced by the world’s largest organization for Protestant women– “shaped the views of generations of Southern Baptist women and in turn, those of their Evangelical neighbors and friends.” This approach to the roles of men and women persisted; in 1974, the wife of one influential Southern Baptist pastor wrote to a widely-approving audience that the man should lead and the woman should be submissive.

As the broader American culture changed, some Southern Baptist women pushed the denomination to rethink that submission. The SBC held a consultation on women’s roles in 1978, and a later organization, Baptist Women in Ministry, argued for an expanded role for women within the denomination. Within the broader Evangelical movement, there were also challenges to complementarianism and the traditional understanding of women’s roles. In 1988, Christians for Biblical Equality sought to empower women in Evangelical churches. About the same time, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was formed to revisit the accepted definition of biblically-appropriate gender roles.

These efforts largely failed. In 2000, despite the emergence of Evangelical women arguing for more equal status within the faith, the SBC reaffirmed its adherence to complementarianism, publishing a proclamation that wives should submit to their husbands and pastors should be male.

Evangelical theology doesn’t simply elevate men over women; it considers homosexuality and gender-fluid identities to be sinful and unnatural, and rejects efforts to secure equal legal rights for LGBTQ Americans. As Evangelicals have become more and more political, and as the Republican Party has become more and more dependent upon the Evangelical vote, those beliefs have powered what has come to be called the Culture War, and the transformation of Evangelical theology into a political movement. As a result, any effort to examine Evangelical theology today must contend with the fact that, in today’s America, Evangelical is no longer a religious descriptor. It has become a political label.

Numerous studies have confirmed that a significant percentage of contemporary Americans who claim an Evangelical identity rarely attend religious services. In 2008, 16% of all self-identified Evangelicals reported “never or seldom’ when asked about their church attendance. By 2020, that number was 27%. In 2008, a third of self-identified Evangelicals who never attended church claimed to be politically conservative. By 2019, that number approached 50 percent. In addition, growing numbers of Catholics and Muslims now call themselves Evangelical. Apparently, many Americans think that being very religiously engaged and very politically conservative makes one an Evangelical.

Even more troubling, a growing body of research confirms that American Evangelicalism hasn’t simply become a political rather than religious identity; to a very significant extent, the American Evangelicals who dominate today’s Republican Party are more properly identified as White Christian Nationalists, and they are focused not upon faith but upon the defense of White male Christian privilege.

When it comes to women’s rights and the current effort to ban abortions, it is manifestly dishonest to argue that opposition to reproductive choice is grounded in Christian theology. Pastors to whom we have spoken—both those who describe themselves as “pro-life” and those who are “pro-choice”—agree that the bible is silent on the issue. Religious historians have documented that the roots of the anti-abortion movement lie elsewhere.  It wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after the Court decided Roe v, Wade—that Evangelical leaders, goaded by Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion as “a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term.” As noted religion scholar Randall Balmer has written, these political figures felt that objecting to abortion would be seen as “more palatable” than what was actually motivating them, which was protection of the segregated schools they had established following the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

According to Balmer,

Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

It was rightwing anger about civil rights laws that originally motivated the “Right to life” movement. Political actors were savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots Evangelicals to defend racial discrimination wouldn’t cut it—that they would need a different issue if they wanted to mobilize Evangelical voters on a large scale. Distasteful as that reality is, evidence clearly shows that the Christian Right’s political activism, including but not limited to its opposition to abortion, was largely motivated by a defense of racial segregation, not by religious doctrine.

A lengthy 2022 article from the Guardian reported on the extensive relationships between White supremacist and anti-choice organizations.

Explicit white nationalism, and an emphasis on conscripting white women into reproduction, is not a fringe element of the anti-choice movement. Associations between white supremacist groups and anti-abortion forces are robust and longstanding. In addition to Patriot Front, groups like the white nationalist Aryan Nations and the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker party have also lent support to the anti-abortion movement. These groups see stopping abortion as part of a broader project to ensure white hegemony in addition to women’s subordination. Tim Bishop, of the Aryan Nations, noted that “Lots of our people join [anti-choice organizations] … It’s part of our Holy War for the pure Aryan race.” That the growing white nationalist movement would be focused on attacking women’s rights is maybe to be expected: research has long established that recruitment to the alt-right happens largely among men with grievances against feminism, and that misogyny is usually the first form of rightwing radicalization.

In his decision in Boggs v. Jackson, Justice Alito claimed that reversal of Roe “restores the US to an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment [that] persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.” This assertion is deeply dishonest and easily disproven. As historians have exhaustively documented, early American common law (as in Britain) generally permitted abortions until “quickening”, or perceptible fetal movement, usually between 16 to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Connecticut was the first state to ban abortion after quickening, in 1821, which is roughly two centuries after the earliest days of American common law. It wasn’t until the 1880s that every US state had some laws restricting abortion, and not until the 1910s that it was criminalized in every state. In the wake of Dobbs, social media was awash with examples from 18th- and 19th-century newspapers that clearly refuted Alito’s false assertion, sharing examples of midwives and doctors legally advertising abortifacients, Benjamin Franklin’s at-home abortion remedies, and accounts of 19th-century doctors performing “therapeutic” (medically necessary) abortions.

As the Guardian reported, anti-abortion fervor has not been motivated by the moral or religious beliefs generally cited by anti-choice activists. In fact, the first wave of anti-abortion laws was entangled in arguments about nativism, eugenics and white supremacism, as they dovetailed with a cultural panic that swept the US in the late 19th and early 20th century as a result of the vast changes in American society wrought by the conflict. This panic was referred to at the time in shorthand as “race suicide.”

The increasing traction today of the far-right “great replacement theory”, which contends that there is a global conspiracy to replace white people with people of color, and has explicitly motivated white supremacist massacres in the US, is often said to have originated with a French novel called The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail. Published in 1973, the same year that Roe v Wade enshrined American women’s rights to reproductive autonomy, it is a dystopian account of “swarthy hordes” of immigrants sweeping in and destroying western civilization. But there were many earlier panics over “white extinction”, and in the US, debates around abortion have been entangled with race panic from the start.

A post on the website of FiveThirtyEight.com put it succinctly,” the anti-abortion movement, at its core, has always been about upholding white supremacy.” Women’s rights were collateral damage.

Of course, religious beliefs– whether seen or unseen, “up front” or latent, rooted in religious belief or racism– are not the only powerful influences shaping American worldviews. American culture also reflects popular understandings of the country’s constituent documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights—documents that are widely venerated (although apparently much less widely read and/or understood). Religion scholars credit the First Amendment’s religion clauses, which mandate the separation of church and state, for America’s religiosity—a religiosity that flourished here at the same time that Europe was becoming far more secular. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government from privileging the beliefs and practices of certain religions, while the Free Exercise Clause protects individual beliefs. As a result of the operation of those two clauses (for which the phrase “separation of church and state” is shorthand) the United States has nurtured a wide diversity of religions, including numerous denominations within the country’s dominant Christianity. As the foregoing description illustrates, there is no uniformity among them on the status of women, or the extent of female agency, or on the permissibility of birth control or abortion.  What we do know about religion’s influence on the status of women (globally as well as within the United States) is simple: the lower the level of religious affiliation and fervor, the higher the level of gender equality.

Tomorrow: The Legal Context

About That War On Women….

I’m a woman of a “certain age”–in other words, old–and I’ve lived through some fairly significant social changes, especially changes in the status of women. And I’ve seen enough to recognize a backlash when I’m experiencing it.

I’ve written before about how important reproductive autonomy is to women’s emancipation–not to mention their health. Without the ability to control their own childbearing decisions, women are hobbled in innumerable ways–returned to a time when they were economically dependent on their husbands/partners, and a time when they were far less employable.

There are plenty of other reasons to be outraged by the decision in Dobbs– not least because it elevates dogma held by one religious sect over equally sincere and longstanding beliefs held by others–but it is the decision’s attack on women’s equality that is most egregious.

Dobbs is just the most visible part of a wider war on that equality.

I recently became aware that among the books being attacked by self-described “conservatives” is a popular middle-grade book series “Girls Who Code.” The books are about–duh— girls who code, focusing on the adventures of a group of young girls who are part of a coding club at school.

According to a report in Daily Kos, the series was added to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, a nationwide list of restricted literature.

After hearing about the book ban, Reshma Saujani, founder of the Girls Who Code nonprofit organization, shared her thoughts with Business Insider.

“I was just shocked,” Saujani told Insider. “This is about controlling women and it starts with controlling our girls and what info they have access to.”

She added: ”In some ways we know that book banning has been an extreme political tool by the right—banning books to protect our kids from things that are ‘obscene’ or ‘provocative’—but there is nothing obscene or provocative about these books.”

According to the website associated with the Girls Who Code organization, the goal is to “change the face of tech” by closing the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs.

“Moms for Liberty”–the group that has been actively trying to ban books that focus on topics like critical race theory, sex education, and inclusive gender language–is said to be responsible for adding the series to the banned books index.

The Girls Who Code books are used to reach children and encourage them to code, but because of how “liberal” they seem due to the diverse characters and the message that girls can do anything, conservatives are looking to ban them.

Saujani noted that removing the books not only hinders visibility for women in technology fields but also diversity in the industry, as most of the characters in the series are people of color.

“You cannot be what you cannot see,” she said. “They don’t want girls to learn how to code because that’s a way to be economically secure.”

Apparently, showing girls of various races engaged in coding is “woke”–and as we all know, being “woke” horrifies the White Christian Nationalists who want to take America back to the “good old days.”

According to PEN America, books were banned in 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students in 32 states between July 2021 and July 2022. About 41% of banned books on the list had LGBTQ+ themes or characters who are LGBTQ+. The other majority of banned books featured characters of color or addressed issues of race.

The Republican determination to return America to those (mis-remembered) “good old days” explains a lot of other things, including Congressional votes against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and against the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act among others. The Party even opposes the League of Women Voters, insisting that the League’s stands on behalf of women and against gerrymandering have remade the organization into a “collection of angry leftists rather than friendly do-gooders.”

Today’s GOP labels anyone–male or female– who supports gender (or racial or religious) equality–as “angry leftists.”

Forty-two years ago, my husband and I met as part of a Republican city administration. When we married, a reporter told me we were considered “nice, but a bit right of center.” Our political philosophies haven’t changed–but the GOP has. Dramatically. Today’s Republicans now consider us part of that “angry leftist” mob–along with most of the then-Republicans with whom we worked.

Make no mistake: today’s GOP is a radical, dangerous cult that bears virtually no relationship to the political party that was once home to people like Richard Lugar and William Hudnut–or even Ronald Reagan. Its war on “woke-ness” and women is part of its hysterical effort to return America to a time when White Protestant males ruled the roost.

November 8th is about whether we are going back.

 

Lindsey Graham Tells The Truth…

Ok, so it was inadvertent.

Graham–as most readers of this blog undoubtedly know–has blown the cover off the “states’ rights” arguments in Dobbs–and even the state’s rights “musing” in Clarence Thomases horrific concurrence. The Court’s argument is that certain fundamental rights previously protected nationally really aren’t so fundamental, and ought to be decided by state legislatures that are “closer to the people.”

That argument was never particularly persuasive, since it has a lot in common with the argument that human freedom from bondage isn’t a fundamental right, so whether or not slavery should be allowed would be best decided at the state level. (It also overlooks the widespread gerrymandering that has resulted in multiple state legislatures that don’t remotely reflect the wishes of their constituents.)

As multiple news organizations have reported

 With abortion access already expected to be a major issue in November’s midterm elections, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham supercharged the debate over reproductive rights by introducing a bill that would ban most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

“I have chosen to craft legislation that I think is eminently reasonable in the eyes of the world,” the South Carolina senator said. “If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote,” he vowed, speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference where he was flanked by some of the nation’s most prominent anti-abortion activists, including Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Many of those activists would like an outright ban on all abortions.

“This bill, frankly, doesn’t go far enough for many people,” said Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America. “But it is a consensus piece of legislation.”

Well, so much for the rights of states that want to protect a woman’s right to choose.

I don’t know what Graham thought he was doing with this legislative turd–perhaps he thought a national law that waited to criminalize abortion until 15 weeks would  be so generous that it would appeal to people who are conflicted about outright bans. Perhaps, as some commentators have suggested, he thought the promise of a nation-wide ban would motivate the GOP’s reliable anti-choice base.

Whatever.

What Graham has really done is strip away the rhetorical excuses in order to display another sort of “choice”– the stark choice voters will face on this issue in a few short weeks. If the GOP takes Congress, a national ban on abortion becomes very possible–no matter what Mitch McConnell says about Senators’ “preference to leave this matter to the states.” Urged on by its rabid base, the Republican Party will be free to ignore the rights of Blue and Purple states and the women who live in them. (Former vice president Mike Pence emphasized that point in an interview with Real Clear Politics, saying a national abortion ban and individual state restrictions “is profoundly more important than any short-term politics.”)

Senator Schumer’s response was a statement of the obvious.

“For the hard hard right this has never been about states’ rights. This has never been about letting Texas choose its own path while California takes another. No, for MAGA Republicans, this has always been about making abortion illegal everywhere,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

For the naive pundits who predicted that over-ruling Roe would calm the political waters, Graham’s response to critics should provide a wake-up call:

Graham dismissed political concerns. “There’s a narrative forming in America that the Republican Party and the pro-life movement is on the run,” he said on Tuesday. “No, no, no, no. We’re going nowhere.”

Whatever the legal criticisms of the reasoning in Roe v. Wade, the decision established a bright line between decisions government can legitimately make, and those that must be left to individuals in a truly free society. That principle is what is currently under attack–and as I have repeatedly insisted, the consequences of getting it wrong will extend far beyond abortion.

In the GOP’s zeal to prevent women from exercising the same degree of individual autonomy they gladly grant to White Christian males, they have presented us with an unambiguous choice. Graham’s bill has the virtue of making that choice crystal clear.

A vote for any Republican congressional or Senate candidate in November is a vote for federal government control over our most intimate, personal decisions, including whether and when to procreate, who we can be “intimate” with, and who we can marry…

Whether you agree or disagree with the decisions government imposes is ultimately irrelevant. The issue is–and. must be–who gets to decide? 

 

 

 

 

Maybe The Dog DID Catch The Car…

A guest essay in last Sunday’s New York Times echoed that Facebook meme going around–the one that shows women glaring and promising a “Roevember election.”  The essay was written by someone named Tom Bonier, who was identified as a a Democratic political strategist and the C.E.O. of TargetSmart, a data and polling firm.

Bonier began by acknowledging that, over the last few years, Americans have–as he put it– “acclimated to some very grim realities.” He listed school massacres, dehumanization of immigrants and autocratic regimes treated as allies, and noted that no matter how grim those and other realities have gotten, Americans have seemed unwilling to exact political consequences.

When the Dobbs decision leaked, and the reaction was relatively muted, he assumed that pattern would hold.

But once the actual Dobbs decision came down, everything changed. For many Americans, confronting the loss of abortion rights was different from anticipating it. In my 28 years analyzing elections, I’ve never seen anything like what’s happened in the past two months in American politics: Women are registering to vote in numbers I’ve never witnessed. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe how different this moment is, especially in light of the cycles of tragedy and eventual resignation of recent years. This is a moment to throw old political assumptions out the window and to consider that Democrats could buck historic trends this cycle.

Bonier is a numbers guy, so he’s been looking at the numbers. In the wake of the enormous victory for reproductive rights in Kansas, he looked at new voter registrants in the state since the Dobbs decision came down in late June.

As shocking as the election result was to me, what I found was more striking than any single election statistic I can recall discovering throughout my career. Sixty-nine percent of those new registrants were women. In the six months before Dobbs, women outnumbered men by a three-point margin among new voter registrations. After Dobbs, that gender gap skyrocketed to 40 points. Women were engaged politically in a way that lacked any known precedent.

Repeating the Kansas analysis across several other states, a clear pattern emerged. Nowhere were the results as stark as they were there, but no other state was facing the issue with the immediacy of an August vote on a constitutional amendment. What my team and I did find was large surges in women registering to vote relative to men, when comparing the period before June 24 and after.

Bonier concedes that, with over two months until Election Day, nothing is certain. As he notes, all election predictions rely heavily on past experience, and there really is “no precedent for an election centered around the removal of a constitutional right affirmed a half-century before.”

In other words, every poll that will be taken between now and Election Day will rely on a likely voter model for which there exists no benchmark.

Already, several Republicans seem to be sensing that they’re in trouble. In Arizona, the Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, an ardent abortion opponent, recently wiped language advocating extreme abortion restrictions from his website.

Whether the coming elections will be viewed as a red wave, a Roe wave or something in between will be decided by the actions of millions of Americans — especially, it seems, American women. As Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority decision in Dobbs: “Women are not without electoral or political power.” He was right about that. Republicans might soon find out just how much political power they have.

When the Supreme Court accepted Dobbs, a Mississippi case, I posted “Be Careful What You Wish For,” and quoted longtime Court watcher Linda Greenhouse. Greenhouse recalled a 2011 Mississippi referendum that would have granted personhood status to a fertilized egg. Mississippi is arguably Redder than Kansas, but it was  handily defeated, 58% to 41%.

That’s when the anti-abortion forces decided that friendly legislatures were a better bet than the will of the people.

Greenhouse noted that four nationwide polls had found more than 60 percent of registered or likely voters opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade.  And she shared a statistic we’ve seen more frequently since Dobbs was issued:

Nearly one American woman in four will have an abortion. (Catholic women get about one-quarter of all abortions, roughly in proportion to the Catholic share of the American population.) Decades of effort to drive abortion to the margins of medical practice have failed to dislodge it from the mainstream of women’s lives.

As I wrote then, for a long time, the GOP has depended upon the relative lack of political activism by pro-choice voters who assumed that the courts would protect them. If Bonier’s numbers mean anything, they mean that dynamic has changed. Dramatically.

Karma’s a bitch. And bitches are female.