The Necessary Prioritizing of Abortion Rights
Posted on May 4, 2016
Kansas is in the bottom three or four states with respect to abortion rights, depending on who does the ranking. Ten years ago we were near the middle of the pack. However, losing successive elections to radical religious right ideologues has consequences.
I generally hate litmus test issues, because progressivism needs to be a big tent coalition. However I think that progressives should support primary election opponents against any statehouse candidate who fails to affirm an absolute right to unfettered first trimester abortions.
That would leave a lot of latitude for nuanced positions on abortion, but also absolutely reject any and all antiabortion ideologues.
However, there is an important point to carefully consider in the general election. Supporting any candidate, no matter how good they may be individually on abortion, has the collective effect of supporting that party’s statehouse leaders and committee chairs. If that party has been captured by antiabortion ideologues, supporting that party in the general election is contrary to the interests of a majority of Kansas women. Sad to say, in recent years Republican leaders and relevant committee chairs in the Kansas Legislature have, without exception, been committed antiabortion ideologues.
Abortion should not be the most important woman’s issue, but nevertheless it is. In terms of human happiness and day-to-day life, better wages for working class women (for example) would have more impact than improvements in abortion rights. However the trend in women’s wages is positive; in abortion rights, it’s negative. Much of the Republican Party has made criminalization of abortion its religious-right litmus test issue, and this has led to some success in rolling back abortion rights in nearly every red state. Progressives have no alternative other than to fight back.
That means taking the battle to the enemy. Contrary to the usual timid approach favored by Kansas moderates and progressives, there is a crying need for a robust, concerted, across the board campaign pointing out simple facts: the only scientifically proven way to reduce abortion is to provide the means for preventing unwanted pregnancies. Progressive Kansas politicians have traditionally supported realistic sex education, and they have supported open availability of all forms of contraception. Progressive politicians should start supporting making contraceptives free for women who need help.
This not an unpopular position. Based on spotty polling data, more Kansans identify as pro-choice than as pro-life. More importantly, substantial majorities of Kansans support access to contraceptives and honest sex education in the schools (with an opt-out for religious conservatives). I am guessing that a majority would go along with free contraceptives for the needy, because it has been shown to be an outrageously effective anti-abortion tactic.
Repeat after me: Progressives support effective abortion reduction. Antiabortionist ideologues oppose common sense steps that can really work to reduce abortion. Therefore antiabortion ideologues are not really pro-life.
Moreover, criminalization of abortion is an implicitly violent approach, because it depends on throwing doctors and women in jail, at gun point if necessary. Therefore so-called pro-life so-called antiabortionists support a pro-violent means of abortion reduction that does not work. Progressives, and only progressives, support a nonviolent means of abortion reduction does work.
Just to be clear, I like most progressives do support violent policing in extreme cases, mainly to control thugs and sociopaths who violate laws we all agree on. What we oppose is violent policing against ordinary citizens in support of unpopular laws.
FYI, Nicholas Kristof recently listed some women’s health issues that, in a rational world, would take on far more importance than abortion.