It used to be that references to the culture wars brought to mind the various efforts to marginalize the LGBT community. Over the last several years, as attitudes about homosexuality and gender identity have changed dramatically, fundamentalist culture warriors have increasingly reverted to an older battle: restricting women’s right to control their own reproduction.
State after Red state has passed measures restricting access to abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, even criminalizing “suspicious” miscarriages. Many of the more draconian measures have been struck down, but many others have not.
Activists holding passionate attitudes about the issue are unlikely to change their positions. The policy question is: where should this battle take place? In the court of public opinion, or in legislative chambers?
Political philosophy holds that legislation is unworkable and seen as illegitimate when there are deep divisions within a polity. (Even when there is wide acceptance of a rule, experience tells us that changing public attitudes can be more effective than legal mandates–just compare the dramatic change in public behavior effected by MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to the effectiveness of DUI laws.)
So the AP’s recent report that abortions have declined nationwide raises an interesting question.
Abortions have declined in states where new laws make it harder to have them — but they’ve also waned in states where abortion rights are protected, an Associated Press survey finds. Nearly everywhere, in red states and blue, abortions are down since 2010.
Most observers credit the drop to a sharp reduction in teen pregnancies and the availability of affordable, effective contraception. Interestingly,
The only states with significant increases in abortions since 2010 are Republican-led Louisiana and Michigan, which have passed laws intended to restrict abortion. Louisiana — where abortions increased 12 percent between 2010 and 2014 — was recently honored by Americans United for Life as the No. 1 state in taking steps to reduce access to abortion.
The question is: do the (mostly male) legislators sponsoring these laws really want to reduce the incidence of abortion? Or–as many feminists suspect–are they equally opposed to effective birth control?
To put it another way, is their objection to abortion, or to women’s autonomy? I’ll consider that question tomorrow.