Is the Religious Right Winning the Battle of Abortion?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 09:05:21 PM EST
I did not expect to write about this stuff again anytime soon.

But here we are.

Last week I pointed out (in response to a recent column by Frank Rich) about how progress on one flash-point of the culture war does not necessarily mean much more than that. Which is to say that these increments are not necessarily evidence that the Religious Right or any of its constituent parts are dead or that the culture wars are over. But since neither assertion is even remotely true and there is a massive body of evidence to the contrary, when a gusher of such evidence reaches the surface of public life, it is impossible to ignore.

The New York Times recently published a major story demonstrating how one important dimension of the so-called culture war is infact widening. The Religious Right is escalating its attacks on access to abortion in the states -- and it is winning many recent battles.

Here are a few excerpts from the Times' story:
"Ninety percent of pro-life legislation happens at the states," said Daniel S. McConchie, vice president for government affairs at Americans United for Life, which opposes abortion. "While Congress is the main focus of attention for so many people in the country, state legislatures have greatest impact on daily lives, and life-related legislation is no exception."

Much of this year's legislation arose from a 2007 United States Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on a late-term procedure that critics call partial-birth abortion, which gave lawmakers greater leeway to restrict abortion.

About 370 state bills regulating abortion were introduced in 2010, compared with about 350 in each of the previous five years, and 250 a year in the early 1990s, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights. At least 24 of this year's bills have passed, and the final total may reach the high of 2005, when states passed 34 laws, said Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate at the institute.

More significant than the number of bills introduced are the number and nature of those that passed, partisans on both sides agree.

"What's different is that bills of serious consequence have actually passed," said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who characterized the volume of legislation as "an avalanche." Already the center has brought suits to challenge six laws, more than in any other year since the 1990s.

Tennessee, which had not passed restrictions on abortion since 2003, passed two laws, one banning coverage of abortion in health insurance exchanges.

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi signed a bill barring insurers from covering abortion in the new insurance exchanges called for under the federal health care overhaul...

The main elements of antiabortion strategy in public policy have remained largely unchanged for nearly two decades.  

"We have opportunities before us which if properly exploited," declared militant strategist Mark Crutcher, of Life Dynamics in 1992, "could result in an America where abortion may be perfectly legal, but no one can get one."

"Abortion reduction" tactics aimed primarily at state and local policies have aimed to radically limit accessibility in the face of Americans' continued right to obtain and to provide abortion care. And both sides generally agree its working.

who want to outlaw abortion ALSO want to prevent access to contraception. Which sort of puts women into the position of either being mothers or being celibate - married or not. How can we all just roll over and accept policy made by - basically - the quiverfull movement?

How do you fight it? Especially in a state like I live in, where the Duggars are considered role models! Around half of Arkansas can't even manage to vote out prohibition, let alone deal with reproductive rights in a rational manner.

by phatkhat on Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 05:25:40 PM EST
is to begin.  

You work with the people you can. Choose wisely and don't worry about the people who you can't work with. You develop a knowledge base and some ability to talk about it. And then you start to develop some electoral capacity. If you get involved with people who think that endless educational fora are the only answer, you are working with the wrong people -- or at least they are the ones who need to be educated to the fact that we live in a constitutional democracy where the best available means to power is via elections. It is very often the case that the most difficult changes that need to be made, are the ones we need to make in ourselves in order to learn to be effective.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 09:08:05 PM EST

While education is the key, at the same time, "endless educational fora" are non-productive, and don't get the message out to the people who need to hear it.  If you're an educator and your neighbor believes in creationism and doesn't even know you disagree with what they support- that's a HUGE problem.  This is also a discussion in academic circles- that we need to get out of the peer-reviewed journals and present our message to the public.

However, we do have a problem.  Few issues or problems are black-and-white, and often the discussion is complex.  People have gotten used to sound bites, and they don't want to hear the caveats and limitations.  They want to hear "Were our ancestors monkeys or not???" (Yes or no?- and they take "no" to mean evolution isn't fact.)  They don't like the word "but...".

Academia needs to learn to reach the public again.  Some of us do work at that, but a lot of us are so used to presenting in journals and dealing with people with an understanding of the subject that they forget how to inform uninformed (or misinformed) people.

(And then there is the problem of being dismissed as a "College-educated Liberal" when you do- I've heard that one a few times.)

I would encourage my colleagues to get involved- to write letters to the editor, speak out at church and other gatherings, and even be ready to put up booths and displays at public gatherings (such as fairs and street festivals).

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jun 06, 2010 at 03:07:15 PM EST

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