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18 February 2011 @ 05:02 pm
Congress, abortion, and wtf?  

The latest news is the attack on federal dollars to Planned Parenthood (not a cut on dollars to fund abortions, which PP already funds independently of the government, but a cut on all moneys to PP, period).

And I'm sure I'm not the only one with this reaction:  not necessarily outrage, but bafflement.  Why is this happening?  We legalized abortion in 1973.  We stopped Federal funding of abortion in 1976 with the Hyde Amendment (which has been challenged many times but never defeated), so that's not a new issue, either.

A lot of this is fallout from the Health Care bill.  House Republicans are trying to cement the aspects of the Hyde Amendment that might be challenged by new regs and funding.  The ironic thing is that (I strongly suspect) most of them aren't operating from a standpoint of seizing this opportunity to attack women's rights, but rather using laws already in place in order to defeat the health care overhaul... laws that just so happen to align with GOP ideals.  Sort of.  (More on that below.)

But the majority of the new Republican electees did not run on an abortion platform; they emphasized unemployment, and as such, it's a tactical blowup.  Slate discusses some of the dynamics of what's going on here:

The rest of the plan, as Israel explains, is making life difficult for some of the pro-life Republicans who were swept into Congress last year. The theory is that voters sort of elected them by accident. And they are numerous. At this year's March for Life, an annual rally against legal abortion, 17 newly elected members of Congress spoke, stretching the speechifying part of the event about an hour longer than scheduled.

The new members include lots of people who took over suburban districts that had been trending more liberal. The Republicans who won, in most cases, didn't run on abortion.

Even in intensely conservative circles, I never heard any anti-the-current-regime talk that centered around abortion.  Plenty of criticism for "Obamacare", derisive accusations of socialism and the like, but who talks about abortion anymore?

At least, that seems to be what most voters were thinking when they pulled in the present majority.

The Slate article takes a somewhat cynical tone about the current divisions and the rhetoric floating around Congress, as though to assume that the GOP has repeatedly put its foot into its mouth, and that will lead to its ruin.  And it's easy to think that, from the media coverage and general internet chatter.

What's less acknowledged is the fact that public support for abortion has been decidedly tepid for years.

The NYTimes breakdown of this:

FoxNews breakdown:

Unsurprisingly, the phrasing of the questions in both polls show some difference.  I think the NYTimes demonstrates the public trend more succinctly:  public support for abortions with restrictions/provisos is the position held by a slight majority of U.S. citizens.  Just barely lagging behind are the pro-choice Americans.  Both of these percentages shift within a few points over the past couple of decades.

But the percentage of pro-lifers has risen, slowly but steadily, not by huge amounts, but by a surprising amount considering the assumed trend of majority ideology to align itself with long-held legal decisions.

And you might expect the percentage of pro-life pollsters to rise had abortion rates risen, but it's an undisputed fact that abortion rates have steadily fallen over the decades.  Although this decrease has not been seen equally across all female demographics, as discussed here:

That same article notes the fact that early-term abortions -- those held in most favor by polled citizens -- have taken over a far higher margin of total abortions in recent years.  This despite an increased lack of access to abortion providers, also mentioned by the article but not enumerated specifically.

Both of these things would seem to indicate an ideological cultural sway, but that's not definitive.  More to the point, both of these things might lead one to assume that the level of outrage about abortion would be tempered over time; it is apparent that increased freedom does not necessarily mean more abortions, and Representative Speier's point that it's not a decision taken lightly by women would seem valid.

And still, we as a nation are queasy about it.

I'd pick a less emotionally loaded word if unemotional words were appropriate for this issue.  They really aren't.

So Congress isn't tearing itself to bits over a settled issue, but it does seem to be focusing on an issue that hardly represents the top priority of the people of this country.  Support for abortion may waver, but the acknowledgment of it as a button issue is uniformly DOWN.

Which actually puts the availability of abortions at further risk, because the silent, moderate majority is looking at all of this sturm and drang and going, "What?  I don't care about this; this wasn't what I elected you for.  Get past it and tell me what's next."

Here is what is happening:  the United States majority has accepted abortion with some reluctance, and then considered the issue settled.  While the pro-life movement has never for an instant lost its passion.  The pro-choice movement is depicted as having "won"; and as such, its more vocal members are seen as caricatures.

I thought this editorial had an interesting take on possible changes needed to combat this image of the pro-choice movement:

But I also think Kissling is being a little overly-optimistic about how much her options would help.  The fact is, the position she advocates is a moderate one... and given the recent attacks on the availability of abortion, very, very few pro-choice advocates are seeing much room permitted them to be moderate.

One quote stands out, to me:
The moral high ground on abortion is not to be found in asserting an absolute right to choose. Instead, it is to be found in the movement's historic understanding that when abortion is illegal, it is poor women who suffer.

Remember that note on female demographics above?

The recent measures in Congress all say effectively the same thing:  "We may not be able to outlaw it, but we don't have to make everybody pay for it."  Well, then, the demographic least able to pay for it will be handed the bill.

Which means we'll all pay for it anyway.

Including the insane number of representative man hours we're currently paying out to those in Washington.

Congress, would it be reasonable to ask that you enforce the Hyde Amendment by waiving your pay for the duration of this season of haggling over whether we're accidentally funding abortions?  Because, whether you say so or not, you're spending my tax money on... abortion.

Especially if you make zero headway on killing Planned Parenthood or any of these other initiatives, I would kind of like that money back.

I could donate it to Planned Parenthood.
Saraphina, born to speak all mirth and no matter: Ophelia- Waterhousesaraphina_marie on February 18th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
Very well said.
I also have a huge WTF for them. I was PP patient for years and years and never once had an abortion. Where else is a recently out of college, off her parents' insurance, under-employed gal gonna go for her pap smear and annual breast exam- you know those things that prevent the bad stuff from happening and costing the taxpayer lots of money??
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