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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Whither the Hard-Core Anti-Abortion Movement

I’ve been thinking off and on today about James Vega’s warning last night about the dangerously alienated and paranoid folk who bought into the more extreme right-wing rhetoric about Barack Obama.
He’s right, but at least the people he is talking about will probably calm down once it’s apparent that an Obama administration isn’t coming to take away their liberties or even their guns, or institute compulsory Muslim prayers.
I’m personally a bit more concerned about a different group of conservatives who will never be reconciled to an Obama administration, and are probably very freaked out right now: the hard-core anti-abortion movement.
These are people who hoped in this election that they were finally in sight of the promised land: an overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, and a return to guerilla warfare at the state level over abortion policy.
Yes, most of them understood how hard it would be for a President McCain to get that crucial fifth vote for a serious restriction or abolition of the right to choose through a Democratic Senate. But there was also hope for a “stealth” Justice that Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t block, or big Republican gains in 2010. And with Sarah Palin riding shotgun, a McCain White House would have to do everything within its power to redeem its promises to “the base” on abortion.
All those hopes are dashed now, for at least four years: four years in which three of the five pro-choice Justices could well be replaced by younger counterparts who will block the overturning of Roe for a long, long time. The window of opportunity for eliminating constitutional abortion rights may have closed during the Bush administration, or in retrospect, during the Reagan and G.H.W. Bush administrations, when three critical Court appointments went to Justices who turned out to be unreliable on this subject from a conservative point of view.
I know some religious progressives, with encouragement from Barack Obama, are working hard to find common ground with anti-choicers on efforts to reduce the demand for abortion. But so long as such efforts rely, as they always will, on aggressive promotion of birth control, you have to recognize that many if not most self-conscious right-to-life activists regard the most popular and effective forms of birth control as abortifacients, not contraceptives.
Progressives need to understand that we are talking about people who sincerely think that every abortion is an act of homicide, representing an ongoing Holocaust of about one million victims a year. They use the Holocaust analogy very deliberately, because they believe they are living in a latter-day Nazi Germany, wherein the rest of us are as complicit in evil as the “good Germans” of the Third Reich. And they are not going away. There’s good reason to believe that homophobia will fade due to generational changes and the steady exposure of more and more Americans to gays and lesbians. But if anything, young conservatives (who often call themselves “abortion survivors” and spend time thinking about their “murdered” co-generationists) are more adamant in their anti-abortion views than their parents and grandparents.
I honestly don’t know where this movement is going next. Most right-to-lifers are peaceable enough, and the official movement has tried hard to eschew violent tactics (though non-violent efforts to harrass and intimidate abortion providers and the women who seek their services remain strong as ever). But progressives need to have a clear-eyed understanding of hard-core anti-abortionists and their worldview, and become less naive about prospects for compromise, or for changing the debate to other issues. There’s really not much you can debate with people who look at the friendly neighborhood OB/GYN or pharmacist and see death camp administrators. We’ll have to live in uneasy coexistence, and one side or the other will have to decisively win the less committed elements of the population.

One comment on “Whither the Hard-Core Anti-Abortion Movement

  1. ThinkingGuy on

    that gives these mouth breathers too much credit in one sense.
    so what fi they think it is like the Holocaust? It’s a horrible, disgusting analogy to draw against a democrat, or any American.
    These people commit their own acts of homicide and have no problem doing it when they think it will preventa single abortion. They are low life two faced cults that really, just by being mention in this piece in any fashion other than total and eternal contempt, are being given too much credit.
    let them suffer and weep and gnash their teeth. it’sabout time they were afraid for a change.


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