It seems like only yesterday the Left went to war to stop Judge Brett Kavanaugh from ascending to the Supreme Court. Crackpots and charlatans flocked to the call for accusations, no matter how fictional, that might sink his nomination. The Left extracted a compromise from squishy Republicans to give the FBI enough time to frame . . . er, “investigate” Kavanaugh before proceeding to a confirmation vote. The Left is still furious at FBI Director Christopher Wray for failing to gin up a predicate for stopping Kavanaugh’s eventual confirmation.
Even then, it was very clear that the public relations assault had nothing to do with Kavanaugh’s history with the opposite sex. As they tried to weaponize sketchy sexual abuse allegations against Kavanaugh, we learned later that Democrats suppressed allegations of sexual abuse committed by their own leaders and supporters (Andrew Cuomo, Harvey Weinstein, U.S. Represenative John Conyers, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and Bill Clinton to name just a few examples). When these leaders were held accountable, it usually followed a long period of cover-ups and denials by their political allies.
But Democrats didn’t really care about whether Kavanaugh committed sexual assault in the 1980s. It was, everyone knew, all about abortion.
So when the Supreme Court appeared to take a step toward remanding the abortion issue back to state legislatures in its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Reeve, I found myself bracing for the kind of hurricane of public outrage that swept the media during Kavanaugh’s confirmation. It didn’t come. Compared to the drama of the late summer of 2018, you could hear crickets. Why?
Here are five factors I believe have caused the Left to de-prioritize abortion as a political issue:
1) The decline in necessity.
If you talk to women who are pro-abortion, you might notice they often tend to be Baby Boomers. The boomers came of age in an era during which the traditional role of a woman as a child-rearer and wife was compared to slavery. Women who chose these traditional roles were made to feel inadequate when compared to those who delayed or avoided having children. In 1972, when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, women who chose motherhood had their first child at an average age of 21. Motherhood at that age required forfeiting career and education opportunities that, in the minds of feminist thinkers, prevented women from accessing the promise of equality. That explains why abortion was such an emotional issue to women of that generation.
Today, that average has increased to 26. By the age of 26, an enterprising woman can obtain an advanced degree such as a law degree and begin her career. But more importantly, the delay in motherhood has taken place in the context of dramatic declines in abortion. Since 1972, numerous birth control methods have come to market allowing more women to delay motherhood without the drastic step of an abortion. And, it should not be overlooked, young people just have a lot less sex than their grandparents did at the same age.
2) Women increasingly regret missing out on motherhood.
There’s a growing gap between the number of children women want to have and the number they actually have. According to the Institute for Family Studies, women typically report wanting an average of 2.5 children. But, “no matter how creatively [the studies are] sliced and diced, no matter what data source is used, women have fewer kids than they say they want, desire, intend, expect, or consider ideal—for themselves or for society on the whole.”
The empowered women of the 1970s who chose not to have children don’t have daughters and granddaughters to form in their image. And young women today aren’t likely to envy the aging childless feminists spending holidays with their cats or at protest marches. Indeed, many barren feminists now find themselves wondering whether the path of motherhood might have led to greater happiness.
3) The reduced stigma of single parenthood.
In the 1960s and 1970s, popular culture depicted pregnancy as a crisis requiring hard choices among bad options. Should she marry a man she doesn’t love, abort the child, or give it up for adoption?
Today America leads the world in single-parent households with approximately 25 percent of all children growing up in a one-parent family. While this points to a serious social crisis, it also indicates that women increasingly will choose single parenthood over abortion.
4) LGBTQ narratives complicate traditional feminist doctrine.
After the Supreme Court decision declining to overturn the Texas law, traditional abortion rights advocates took to the media to advocate for a massive social reaction. Soon, however, they found themselves scolded and shouted down for describing abortion as a “women’s” issue. As The Atlantic noted,
Only niche groups tend to care about how Americans discuss gender and pregnancy—including whether it’s better to use the term pregnant people instead of pregnant women. But those groups care a lot. Representative Cori Bush of Missouri used the term birthing people in a hearing, causing a mini-uproar on social media. ‘When we talk about ‘birthing people,’ we’re being inclusive. It’s that simple,’ the pro-abortion-rights group NARAL tweeted in her defense.
Ten years ago, the Texas abortion law would have been opposed with arguments that were essentially identical to the ones advanced to the Roe court. Today, the Left finds itself in a quagmire of language debates that confuse and complicate its message on abortion. Traditional feminism cannot easily coexist with modern gender fluidity doctrine.
5) Abortion threatens to alienate replacement Democratic voters.
Democrats have been pretty open about their strategy to replenish their ranks with new immigrants. But many of these immigrants come from Catholic countries and tend to oppose abortion in greater numbers than second and third generation immigrants. When faced with a choice between alienating boomer feminists and new immigrants from Latin America, the Democrats are unlikely to alienate the demographic with greater future potential.
Logically, the most passionate abortion rights advocates are women who have had abortions and thus, fewer children. New adherents to the pro-choice movement must therefore be recruited from families that chose to have children. Unless they can penetrate that powerful familial habit of thinking, old-line feminism is likely to wither. That withering may have already happened. Abortion is no longer on the top-10 lost of key voting issues for Democrats. Particularly in the COVID and social justice eras, the abortion question just doesn’t seem to get as much traction as it once did.
Abortion policy belongs in the state legislatures, not the courts. As then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in a 1983 dissenting opinion in a landmark abortion decision,
The State may no longer rely on a ‘bright line’ that separates permissible from impermissible regulation, and it is no longer free to consider the second trimester as a unit and weigh the risks posed by all abortion procedures throughout that trimester. Rather, the State must continuously and conscientiously study contemporary medical and scientific literature in order to determine whether the effect of a particular regulation is to ‘depart from accepted medical practice’ insofar as particular procedures and particular periods within the trimester are concerned. Assuming that legislative bodies are able to engage in this exacting task, it is difficult to believe that our Constitution requires that they do it as a prelude to protecting the health of their citizens. It is even more difficult to believe that this Court, without the resources available to those bodies entrusted with making legislative choices, believes itself competent to make these inquiries and to revise these standards every time the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) or similar group revises its views about what is and what is not appropriate medical procedure in this area.
Abortion is legalized homicide, particularly in situations where the fetus is destroyed when it could have survived separation from the womb. As I’ve previously written, “a 46-year-old decision by now-dead justices is the wrong way to draw a line that should have evolved with the state of science and public morality.”
Here’s hoping Kavanaugh will prove abortion rights advocates correct and cast the deciding vote to send that debate back to the democratic process to weigh competing moral and medical concerns. In the midst of COVID lockdowns and social justice wars, now may be the ideal time to render a thoughtful decision without fear of organized retribution from the Left.