The American Left has been instrumental in past decades at advancing the cause of equality, but their track record has been mixed. On the one hand, no one questions the morality of the Civil Rights campaign to end segregation and Jim Crow. In the 21st century racial debates tend to be about the nature of equality, but everyone in the mainstream of American life takes for granted that racial equality and integration is a good thing. The very unanimity with which interracial marriage is now accepted (just as one example) demonstrates, to my mind, the rightness of the cause. I would not say that popularity is a perfect metric of morality by any means, but I do think that acceptance of progress over a long time period is relevant to assessing the validity of that progress.
On the other hand, 40+ years after Roe v. Wade the American Left continues to try and frame the issue of abortion in terms of women’s equality and Americans–women included–continue refuse to buy it.
The contrast is, to me, stark and informative. On some social issues there is initial resistance followed by unanimous consent. On others, however, there is no sign of progress whatsoever. In fact, many indications are that the pro-life side is slowly gaining ground.1 Since the policy opinion is not shifting substantially, this reflects a growing awareness on the part of American citizens of just how radical and extreme our laws are. Americans are moderate on abortion, Roe v. Wade isn’t.
So the big question is: which category does gay marriage fall into?
The American Left naturally relates gay marriage to issues like interracial marriage and assumes we’ll see a chart like the one above: in 40 years time the idea of opposing same sex marriage will seem as backwards and forgotten as the idea of opposing interracial marriage. That explains the initial reaction to Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality: he was roundly denounced as a bigot and A&E immediately booted him from his own show (Duck Dynasty, which is the #1 non-scripted cable show of all time). Writing for the Daily Beast, Keli Goff correctly detected that this was an example of dangerous overreach:
Though nearly half of the country opposes same-sex marriage, the media narrative has become dominated by the storyline that only a small segment of backward bigots who hate gay people oppose same-sex marriage. That simply isn’t true.
Goff also points out that Robertson’s actual comments had been mischaracterized:
Despite the fact that in the next quote Robertson also quotes scripture to denounce those who commit adultery, drink too much, and slander others as sinners, he was roundly denounced as a bigot and hate monger, particularly in progressive and liberal leaning news outlets.
Just to add to that, Robertson did not equate homosexuality with bestiality. He listed homosexuality as a form of sexual deviance along with bestiality and adultery. As a confessed adulterer (before he was born again), Robertson was not calling gays sinners in any sense that didn’t include his own life as well. It’s a rare bigot who operates by painting himself and his targets with the same brush.2
Goff even calls out media bias in the language used to cover the controversy:
Reinforcing bias in reporting on this story is the fact that many outlets caved to pressure to use the term “marriage equality” in coverage, when such a term is an activist creation. Interracial marriage is called interracial marriage, not “marriage equality.” If supporters of same-sex marriage view the civil rights fights as comparable, the same language standard should be applied.
It’s obvious that the reaction to Roberton’s comments was overreach, because within days A&E had to repudiate their own position and allow him back on the show. They weren’t the only ones to misjudge public opinion on this one, either. Outlets like restaurant chain Cracker Barrel yanked Duck Dynasty merchandise, and then faced angry customer backlash. They also caved.
Now, maybe the only thing that happened is that A&E, Cracker Barrel, and others misjudged the timing of America’s acceptance of gay marriage. Maybe we’re on that upward slope of acceptance (like for interracial marriage) and in 5 or 10 years comments like Robertson’s wouldn’t generate any widespread support. But I doubt it. I doubt it because what seems to be happening is a growing awareness among many, and not just social conservatives, that there is a real and important difference between bigoted homophobia and opposition to gay marriage. Goff writes:
Among my family members who oppose same-sex marriage, I have been told to congratulate my gay friends whose weddings I have attended. But I have simultaneously been told that such unions don’t fit my relatives’ biblical definition of marriage. I have further been told that in the context of the oft repeated phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin,” they see gay people no differently than they would view a straight person like me who decides to live with someone “in sin” (as the biblical saying goes). It wouldn’t make me a bad person but one who according to biblical text would be “living in sin.” In other words, they wouldn’t throw holy water on me but also wouldn’t throw me a parade. Most of all, they wouldn’t really care how I live my romantic life at all, as long as I was happy.
There’s a big gulf between the relatives I describe and someone who “hates” gay people.
Brandon Ambrosino made pretty much the same point for The Atlantic. Ambrosino, who is gay, criticizes the argument that “if you are against marriage equality you are anti-gay.” He writes:
If it’s “anti-gay” to question the arguments of marriage-equality advocates, and if the word “homophobic” is exhausted on me or on polite dissenters, then what should we call someone who beats up gay people, or prefers not to hire them? Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination. Our language ought to reflect that distinction.
Ambrosino then concludes: “I would argue that an essential feature of the term “homophobia” must include personal animus or malice toward the gay community.” But, as I’ve already said, Robertson seemed to be placing sexual transgressions like homosexuality in the same category as adultery, of which he is guilty and about which he speaks publicly. I do not share Robertson’s born-again take on Christianity, but I understand it enough to grasp his meaning when he talks about sin and sinners and, most importantly, so does his audience. Millions of Americans were unafraid to stand for Robertson (albeit sometimes with rather strange conceptions of the First Amendment) not because they joined with him in anti-gay bigotry, but because they clearly understood that what he had said wasn’t bigoted.
So here’s the actual graph, so far, of the American public’s opinion on gay marriage.
Now, you can’t compare the shape of this graph to the abortion and interracial marriage graphs because the time frames are different. The interracial marriage chart goes back to 1958, the abortion chart goes back to 1975, and the gay marriage chart goes back to 1996. There’s no evidence, just based on the charts, to predict whether the gay marriage issue is going to be locked in a stalemate for decades (like abortion) or whether it will eventually resolve into near unanimity (like interracial marriage).
And, to be perfectly honest, I don’t have a high degree of confidence that I can predict the future on this issue either. Frankly, I suspect that the gay marriage chart will end up looking more like the interracial marriage chart than the abortion chart in decades to come. But it might not.
Goff and Ambrosino, both of whom support gay marriage, have already tacitly accepted that the gay marriage issue is not tied to broader acceptance of homosexuals as equal human beings in the same way that the interracial marriage issue is inextricable from racial inequality. You can’t logically support racial equality without supporting interracial marriage. But you can support equal rights for gays without supporting gay marriage. Race is not the same kind of identity as sexuality. This makes sense, since race is a nebulous biological category at best, but gender is much more clear cut.
The best thing that the gay marriage debate has done is force social conservatives to practice what they preach. In the 1990s and before, much if not most of the opposition to gay rights was really based on bigotry. It was based on “ick.” Conservative defenders of traditional marriage, as they style themselves, were much too slow to distance themselves from hateful rhetoric and genuine bigots. This blunder–both morally and strategically–cost them big. It may have been the deciding factor in the entire issue. Americans do not like haters.
But recently the traditional marriage movement has been sincerely careful in their articulation of a position that is anti gay marriage without being anti gay (to use Amrosino’s distinction). This distinction is obviously accepted by the broad swathe of American social conservatives, and I believe it explains the upwelling of support for Robertson better than the theory that half of Americans are just bigoted, hateful jerks. More importantly, even proponents of gay marriage like Goff and Ambrosino accept this possibility as well. All of this means that support for gay marriage may continue to climb until it reaches near-universal acceptance, or it may stall out well before that level (probably about where it is now) and become an entrenched, ongoing controversy like the abortion debate.
It’s too early to tell.
25 thoughts on “Will Gay Marriage Ever Be Settled? Lessons from Duck Dynasty”
This is absolutely not an innocuous comparison between the supposed deviance of homosexuality and run-of-the-mill heterosexual adultery (something that has existed FOREVER, and would exist even if there wasn’t a single gay person on this earth): “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,”
And this falls squarely in the camp of bigotry:
“Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil. That’s what you have 235 years, roughly, after your forefathers founded the country.”
The blunders continue apace…
I think there’s growing support for the narrative that many opponents of gay marriage are not bigoted, but the history to which you allude understandably leaves a lot of people skeptical. I suspect it would go a very long way toward offsetting that history for those who oppose gay marriage to take some novel pro-gay positions as publicly as possible.
Even if one thinks that marriage ought to remain between a man and a woman, the very value of that institution means that denying it to gays constitutes a real cost to them. If one thinks they deserve to bear that burden because of their inherently flawed nature, that seems like pretty clear bigotry. If, instead, one thinks this sacrifice is unjust but necessary, one would presumably be motivated to reduce the injustice by advancing the interests of gays in another area.
While I am not perfectly well-informed, I’ve heard little of the kind; indeed, opposition to gay marriage tends to be associated with traditional views on bullying, hate crimes, low funding for funding for AIDS research, opposition to free condoms, and irritation at demonstrations of gay pride. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the sorts of policies which display concern for the suffering our society causes its gay members. Enthusiastic support for some of them, or development of a different one, can go a long way.
When this happens, it’s really quite heartening–when looking for evidence of it, I found reference to a Campus Crusade alliance with the LGBT community to do HIV/AIDS outreach. That’s awesome, and I expect it did a lot of good to bring the two communities together respectfully.
I think you’re absolutely right about that, and I actually think that several institutions and organizations have done just that. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for example (of which I’m a member) continues to oppose gay marriage but has weighed in in favor of other gay rights: Mormon Church backs protection of gay rights in Salt Lake City
I also wrote about this topic back in June of last year when Exodus International shut down.
Those are two examples of very, very prominent organizations that oppose gay marriage (or view homosexuality as a sin, etc.) working for gay rights and/or for understanding and respect for gays.
I think your criticism is totally valid. As I said in the post: the social conservatives made a deal with the devil early on and cashed in on anti-gay bigotry for early successes. This was a terrible move, politically and morally. But I do think that many of them have sincerely learned their lesson.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it is not in the best interest of the gay rights movement to publicize these kinds of stories. Characterizing opponents of gay marriage (for example) as hateful bigots is a vital element of the overall campaign. So you’re right that socially conservative organizations should work proactively to demonstrate that they are not bigots, but you might also want to consider that when they do you might not hear about it.
I don’t think you’re taking into account the cultural context in which Robertson’s comments are made. Think about Jonathan Edwards infamous “sinners in the hands of an angry God”. His particular strain of Christianity emphasizes human depravity and sinfulness. The strong language he uses is not reserved exclusively for gays.
That said: I’m not going to defend every single utterance that Robertson makes. He apologized for the GQ comments without taking back his theological stance. So the primary point remains: there is a plausible foundation for viewing homosexuality as a sin without hating/fearing gay people, and for opposing gay marriage without being a bigot. The fact that Robertson has imperfectly represented this foundation doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
To take a step back: I think the best consequence of the gay rights movement so far has been that it has forced social conservatives–collectively and individually–to put their money where their Bibles are. Jesus emphasized loving the sinner without accepting the sin. Christians (and other religious folks) have been very, very bad about implementing that distinction. This debate has forced them to recognize that failing and improve it. That’s a good thing, but it’s also still a work in progress.
Very reasonable. It occurs to me that part of my problem is that I tend to get my conservative views from sources which cater to conservatives. Many of these seem to still strike this awful bargain and so also don’t want to publicize such gay-friendly acts by conservatives because they fear such coverage would alienate some of their audience. So I tend to get a fairly liberal view and a relatively extreme conservative one, but (as so often in recent history) moderate conservatives seem to be getting left out.
Which is another way of saying that your writing seems important to me and for me. Thank you!
“Americans are moderate on abortion, Roe v. Wade isn’t.” FWIW, I don’t think this is true. Roe v. Wade allowed abortion to be banned after fetal viability, or ~24-28 weeks, and recognized that the balance of rights shifts from the mother to the fetus over the course of the pregnancy. This actually strikes me as a pretty reasonable and moderate view, especially given that the substrate of sentience (the thalamo-cortical complex) develops right around the time of viability. I see no reason to allow a mother’s rights to be abridged before the baby can meaningfully be described as a sentient person by scientific standards. Religious proclamations that “life begins at conception” or that every fetus has a soul cannot be enshrined in law without violating the Establishment Clause.
Personally, I think the persistent popularity of the pro-life movement stems basically from framing. In a dilemma between life and choice, most people will pick life every time. But of course, the dilemma isn’t really between life and choice. The dilemma is whether we can force people to protect non-sentient creatures at tremendous expense to themselves. And given that the people who claim to care about these non-sentient lives also tend to be people who happily consume large numbers of cruelly-treated animals, I have a difficult time seeing the hue and cry about Roe v. Wade as anything but the rankest hypocrisy.
No big surprise, but I don’t agree with your argument based on sentience. I’m opposed to any justification that makes the value of human life dependent on the capabilities of a human being.
In this case, however, it’s actually not relevant to your argument because you fundamentally misunderstand the Roe v. Wade ruling. In your defense: it was designed to be misunderstood so I can’t blame you.
You’re right that Roe appears to draw an important line at viability and claims to balance a woman’s right to privacy against the “potentiality of human life,” but even after viability states can only ban abortion with an exception for the health of the mother. This was part of the original Roe v. Wade and was reaffirmed in subsequent rulings like Planned Parenthood v. Casey. So the crucial term is “health”: how is it defined and who determines it?
As it turns out, the SCOTUS provided a new legal definition in a ruling handed down the same day as Roe in the lesser known Doe v. Bolton decision. In it, they answered both questions by saying that a woman’s doctor (without any oversight) could judge if an abortion was necessary for health “in light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” In other words, the state was free to ban abortions after viability unless a doctor was willing to perform them. Obviously, this is effectively not a ban at all. As a result, the US is one of only 4 nations in the world (along with Canada, China, and North Korea) that allows abortion for any reason at any point before birth. Late-term abortions are very rare relative to earlier term abortions, but they are technically legal.
I say “technically” because the issue gets more complex. Several states do have laws on the books banning abortion after viability without a health exception, but they have almost never been applied. Furthermore, these laws have not faced Constitutional scrutiny and would surely be ruled unconstitutional unless the SCOTUS was willing to overturn the incredibly radical joint Roe / Doe decision on this particular point.
We don’t know for sure, however, because pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood have wisely elected not to actually have the most radical portions of Doe / Roe enforced. When they fought Pennsylvania’s 1982 Abortion Control Act, for example, PP didn’t question the post-viability ban. Even though it wasn’t directly at issue, the ruling in that decision in that case doubled down on the Roe / Doe decision (“The plurality recognized viability as the point at which the state interest in the life of the fetus outweighs the rights of the woman and abortion may be banned entirely ‘except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother’.”)
This means the legality of post-viability abortions is, in the strictest interpretation, a legal gray area. Post-viability abortions were illegal in Pennsylvania since the 1980s, for example, but the state government refused to prosecute or even investigate Kermit Gosnell until he had already killed a woman. In all my years of research, I have never before found a single abortionist who was investigated or charged with illegal abortion prior to seriously injuring or killing a woman, despite the fact that many late-term abortionists (a rare breed) openly admit to providing elective late-term abortions.
Recently there has been a case in Maryland (again, following a botched abortion that seriously injured a woman) resulting in charges of illegal, post-viability abortion. So it’s possible that there’s finally (after 4 decades) some change in the legal status of late-term abortions, but make no mistake: it would be a change to have viability limits actually enforced and it would remain a legal gray area until the SCOTUS weighed in and either confirmed or revised Doe’s definition of “health”.
Chris, Nathaniel has ably answered the legal question, but I wanted to jump in and mention that I have a problem with the logic in this comment:
This actually strikes me as a pretty reasonable and moderate view, especially given that the substrate of sentience (the thalamo-cortical complex) develops right around the time of viability. I see no reason to allow a mother’s rights to be abridged before the baby can meaningfully be described as a sentient person by scientific standards.
No matter what anyone has told you, there is no “scientifically meaningful description of sentience.” It’s a fantasy. Modern science is as much at a loss to determine “sentience” today as it ever has been. By many scientific definitions of the term, dolphins, chimpanzees, octopuses and even crows can be considered sentient. Is killing them murder?
And let’s assume for the moment that we could adequately (from a legal and moral standpoint) define the state of “personhood.” Could we also pinpoint the moment when this occurs? On a case-by-case basis?
I guess I just fail to see why it should matter whence his views come from in framing bestiality as a direct offshoot of homosexuality and describing gays and lesbians as “full of murder,” “ruthless”, “heartless,” “senseless”, etc. Even though there may have existed some sort of thin plausible deniability in his remarks to GQ, lo and behold, here is the fire that was reasonably expected by so many to be producing the observable smoke.
By comparison, the Christian Identity movement’s hateful white supremacy is rooted in theology, but surely you’d agree there’s no place for such views in polite society. Certainly they’re free to go on living retrograde lives, but they aren’t entitled to espouse their bigotry on television.
Where in this instance you see the gay rights movement forcing conservatives to account for past bigotry (which has definitely been the case in many, many past cases, and is wonderful to see), I see leading conservative political figures rushing to embrace Robertson as some kind of first amendment martyr. And that’s too bad. It’s an uncomfortable evincing of the “states rights” wink and nod that mainstream politicians used to make in appealing to revanchist segregationists. Which seems like a blunder to me….
It seems as though what’s immoderate about Roe isn’t the decision itself, but the lack of oversight from Doe and the poor enforcement. The decision itself says, exactly as the American public does in the cited survey, that abortion should be legal with some limitations.
Interestingly, the problem seems to come from the exception for the health of the mother. I strongly suspect this provision would have pretty broad support. Assuming it does, what alternative would you suggest to simply leaving it up to the doctor? I can’t think of any practical option, though I’m not pleased with this one.
That’s not the part of the context that matters. There’s a difference between someone saying “gays are abominations, the rest of us are cool” and “gays are an abomination because of homosexuality, the rest of us are abominations for various and sundry other reasons”. It’s worth differentiating between bigotry and misanthropy. I find Robertson’s religious views misanthropic more than I find them bigoted. Are you familiar with concepts like total depravity and the like? That’s the context that matters, and it makes this a starkly different case than the anti-black religious bigotry you refer to because, again, we’re separating between using religion to single out specific groups for hatred and religious views that are just radically pessimistic about human nature in general.
I view Roe/Doe as one decision because they were handed down the same day and therefore obviously crafted simultaneously. This is why I hate them so much: Roe is full of moderate language, but it’s a deception. The rulings, taken jointly (as they were written) are not moderate at all. They are are radical.
Also: I’m not as interested in enforcement. Enforcing any law related to abortion is going to be nigh impossible because of civil liberties, and I accept that. We can’t enforce child abuse laws very well either because cops can’t just put cameras in everyone’s home to monitor for abuse, but having it on the books is still important even if enforcement is hard.
Enforcement for abortion would be even harder. Contrary to pro-choice conspiracy theories, I don’t support any kind of invasive investigation or testing to ensure that no one breaks the law. All I would want is a reasonable, morally-grounded law and enforcement in those instances where it is possible. (Enforcement should be targeted at doctors, not mothers.)
Well, we don’t have to speculate. The number of Americans who support abortion on-demand is a small minority, so the number who would support “health” (as currently defined) would actually be very small. I’m sure most support it based just on the common-sense definition, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
I wish I had the cite, but I remember Ginsberg talking about narrowing the definition to include the concepts of (1) imminence and (2) severity. This would put “health” more in line with the usual definition, and I think most Americans would support it. I (as a staunch pro-lifer) would possibly support it.
My primary concern is opposing abortion as a method of voluntary birth control. I’m not nearly as interested in the complex and sensitive hard cases like rape, fetal abnormality, or life and (real) health of the mother.
I wonder whether I’m misreading your interest the definition of “health”; I had thought from your earlier comments that you objected to the fact that it was entirely down to the judgment of one doctor, which meant any doctor who wanted to could perform an abortion at any stage. Any alternative to this has enforcement problems. For example, make the requirement as severe and imminent as you like (though why imminence is relevant is unclear to me), so long as it’s only the doctor’s judgment which determines those, it will still be true that any doctor who wishes to may abort at any stage.
So, if your problem is actually that doctors aren’t overseen in making their determinations, I don’t think you can be confident there’s a better alternative without some concern for enforcement.
Independently, it is my impression that a wide variety of restrictions on abortion have been found entirely consistent with Roe (waiting periods, parental notification, compulsory education, etc.).
That was one of 2 concerns I have. The other concern, which matters more in principle, is that health is defined very, very broadly. I’m more interested in a narrow definition of health and less interested in oversight for doctors.
The reason for this is just that I realize in practice no amount of oversight will change the abortion rate. It’s much, much easier for doctors to help their patients get illegal abortions (supposing abortion were illegal) in 2014 than in 1972. Thinking about law as a coercive policy is not the best way to think about it.
The problem with Roe isn’t that it made abortion legal so much as that it made abortion acceptable. In this case, because enforcement is so impossible, the symbolism matters more than the hard policy.
So that’s why my emphasis is more on a narrow, sensible definition of health and less on some kind of infrastructure to try and monitor/control abortions.
None of those are really restrictions on abortion. They are speedbumps, at best. Restrictions on abortions would be things like spousal consent (which has never been survived in law) or banning certain forms of abortion. The ban on partial-birth abortion, for example, only barely survived without a health-exception, and that was big news. And even that was only a restriction on the method of abortion, not necessarily whether you can get one or not.
Nathaniel, thanks for your comment. Your explication of the Roe/Doe relationship was informative. I have to object, however, to your comment that you’re “opposed to any justification that makes the value of human life dependent on the capabilities of a human being.” This is a category confusion. Unless we include capabilities in the definition, I could hook a human hand up to a machine designed to keep the tissue alive and call it “human life.” Uncombined human sperm and ova would also qualify. In short, a bundle of living tissue with Homo sapiens DNA does not a human life make. Unless we define it in terms of personhood, the protection of “human life” ends in absurdity.
I’ll save an extended presentation of my argument for another time, but I hope it will be soon and I hope you’ll be around to comment. Your ideas are definitely the kinds of things I took into consideration as I developed my position over the years.
I think the killing of chimpanzees, dolphins, etc. obviously does qualify as murder by any reasonably consistent moral standard. The difference between humans and chimps is a matter of a fairly small degree. However, because chimps have no power to communicate or coordinate for political activism, they don’t have the power to complain or to make people respect them. That’s the only reason most people wouldn’t consider it murder. In effect, Nietzsche was right: morality is largely a function of power, and animals just don’t have the power to demand moral treatment. The difference between animals and infants is that because most of us recognize the possibility that we could someday be reduced to an impotent infantile state, we hedge against that eventuality by insisting that all human life be cared for and treated as sacred. Ultimately it’s a self-interested rather than a moral calculation.
Anyway, to answer your question, I think that although the science of sentience isn’t well-understood, we can at least identify a few minimal pre-requisites in the brain. For instance, a brain-dead person wouldn’t qualify. Neither would a fetus that hasn’t yet developed a thalamo-cortical complex. In other words, we may not be able to identify a moment when personhood begins or ends, but we can identify a minimal set of brain-states that don’t qualify.
I’d like to try out a thought experiment.
Let’s say someone suffers a catastrophic brain injury that renders them incapable of conscious thought. They require intravenous feeding, but otherwise their body is capable of basic biological function, but there’s no higher brain activity.
Let’s additionally say that we happen to know that they will regain their capacity for conscious thought (through neural plasticity) at some point in the future.
How would you feel about euthanizing this person? Does your answer change based on how long it will take them to regain conscious thought? Would you shoot this person in the head if they were going to regain conscious thought in an hour? A day? A year? A decade?
I don’t know that there’s any moral obligation to bring people back from the dead, but I can see why—if such a technology existed—one might want to assert such an obligation. Declaring non-sentient humans to be persons and sacred/protected lives might then increase one’s own chances of future revival. I think, though, that it’s not really necessary to conflate the non-sentience of brain death with the non-sentience of an early-term fetus. Intuitively, I think we’d all recognize that someone who used to be a sentient person has a different claim on life than tissues that are not and have never been a sentient person, even if they have the potential to become one. I don’t think we have to assert an obligation to non-people in order to secure an obligation to former people, even if the latter should be deemed desirable.
I have no problem with the distinction you’re making between restrictions and speedbumps (assuming the speedbumps don’t actually deter anyone from getting abortions, which is at best controversial). However, the point you used the above Gallup poll to support was, “[T]his reflects a growing awareness on the part of American citizens of just how radical and extreme our laws are. Americans are moderate on abortion, Roe v. Wade isn’t.” That very same poll also asked whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned, which Americans reject 53% to 29%.
So there are two hypotheses: one, which you seem to support, is that Americans interpret the response option “only in certain circumstances” as you do “restrictions”, and simply don’t understand that Roe forbids this, which is why they mistakenly oppose overruling it. Another is that they interpret “only in certain circumstances” to mean that they must pass what you’ve described as “speedbumps” and, if past the threshold of viability, the health (broadly conceived) of the mother must be at stake.
Given that both of these hypotheses appear consistent with the evidence, it seems problematic to present an argument which assumes only the first without acknowledging the possibility of the second and while neglecting to mention the result from that same survey about support for overturning Roe.
I see your point. I’ve just read so many polls over the years that I sometimes forget what is or is not common knowledge. Lots of polls make the policy question more concrete, and from those polls you can tell that the former interpretation (that most Americans would like more restrictions than Roe allows, but don’t realize that Roe is the impediment) is the correct one. Wikipedia has a decent collection.
For example, you can see that the “generally available” vs. the “stricter limits than now”+ “not permitted” split (the third poll) is about 40% vs. 60%. Since virtually every law that can be conceived of without challenging Roe has already been passed, that 60% refers to folks who would–in practice–want to see Roe overturned. But (as you point out) there’s nowhere near that support for overturning Roe if you ask about it directly. Folks tend to have the misunderstanding that if Roe is overturned abortion goes back to being illegal everywhere.
The fifth poll is even more clear, however, and is one of my favorites because I think it gets pretty accurately to people’s conception of the policy debate. The question is what circumstances abortion should be legal under, and the answer “under any circumstances” (which is what Roe corresponds to) has only 20-30% over the past several years. The “only a few circumstances” and “no circumstances” (which, in practice, correspond to the broad pro-life movement) has 70 – 80%. So that’s an even higher number of folks who would support the kind of laws that require overturning Roe. The two polls after that get into specifics of the legality based on the reasons for the abortion, and once again elective abortions (e.g. “When the woman does not want the child for any reason” or “When the woman or family cannot afford to raise the child”) have numbers in the 30’s, for the most part.
So, as I said, I’ve been reading polls like these for many, many years and I think it’s really quite clear that if Americans were actually making policy without rhetoric or deception, we’d have a moderately pro-life country where abortion was legal everywhere in case of a threat to the woman’s life (or health, under a sane definition of the term) and probably in cases like rape and, to a lesser degree, fetal abnormality. Some pro-life groups are dedicated to opposing even these exceptions, but the reality is that 95%+ of abortions are for purely elective reasons, and so even if you throw in all the exceptions (life, (real) health, rape, fetal abnormality) you’re getting to the core pro-life position, which is that abortion should not be seen as just a method of birth control.
There’s one more poll that’s really important to understand, and that’s the poll that shows how American’s perceive the rest of the country’s opinion on the issue. This one’s from Gallup.
So, most Americans were pro-life at the time, but most Americans thought that most Americans were pro-choice. It just highlights the extent to which there’s a false sense of consensus on this issue. Journalists are overwhelming pro-choice and the Democratic Party routinely views the pro-life cause as “anti-woman”, and in the face of that kind of rhetoric, Americans tend to view support for Roe as a moderate position.
But when you ask what kinds of policies Americans would like, they overwhelmingly (60-70% is conservative) would pick policies that would require Roe to be repealed.
I’m vaguely familiar with it as a Calvinist tenet and one of the five points of so called “TULIP” congregations such as the Westboro Baptist Church. Still not clear on why the context matters. I’m sure some adherents apply their misanthropy equally to themselves, those like them, and out groups. But more often than not, for psycho-biological rooted in evolution, they’re using their supposed equal opportunity hatred to oppress out groups. It’s sort of like the douchebag who tells a racist joke and then tries to get away with it by claiming he hates all races equally. It elides power differentials and gives comfort to those who fetishize the hatred of one supposed sin over all the others.
@NG “The American Left has been instrumental in past decades at advancing the cause of equality, but their track record has been mixed. On the one hand, no one questions the morality of the Civil Rights campaign to end segregation and Jim Crow. ”
I think this is a profoundly misleading way of framing any discussion of the ‘Civil Rights’ era and legislation which completely pre-judges the evaluation!
My reading of (for example) Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele has convinced me that the Civil Rights legislation has been profoundly misrepresented in numerous ways. I can’t summarize this in a blog comment, but if you are interested enough, these authors books are widely available.
Their conclusion is that the Left was not responsible for much of the social good (quite the opposite – since the Left supported ‘Jim Crow’ for decades); but on the other had is responsible for the large amount of evil (especially dishonesty, hatred, subversion) in relation to race from the mid-1960s onwards.
If this is being presented the prime example of the benignity of the Left – then it needs to be subject to much closer (and more honest) scrutiny than it currently receives from the extreme-Left modern mass media who unscrupulously use Civil Rights as a propaganda weapon.
I believe this is a *vital* matter for Mormons; because the Left (which is, in its origins, anti-Christian) has hollowed-out, inverted or destroyed almost all the mainstream Christian denominations – and will *certainly* do the same to the CJCLDS in the future unless firmly kept at bay.
Who knows what will happen in a mere few decades? But over the long term, my guess is that there will continue to be psychosexual and evolutionary biological reasons why homosexuality will trigger an innate disgust response in a significant percentage of the population, which would likely equate to continued opposition to gay marriage, or the opportunity for opposition to resurge even if the cultural organs of control have suppressed it for awhile.
I think, and hope, that opposition to gay marriage has moved beyond the “eww, gross” phase and into thoughtful rejection of the ideological consequences. That’s one of the advantages of the debate on gay marriage and related issues. It forces conservatives to re-evaluate why we hold the positions that we do and, in the process, gain new insights and appreciation for some of the traditions we hold.
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