Centrists Know Most Important Thing Is How We *Talk* About Losing Reproductive Rights

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Centrists Know Most Important Thing Is How We *Talk* About Losing Reproductive Rights

Almost like clockwork, following the revelation last week that millions of people across this country will likely be losing their reproductive rights as soon as next month, America's Most Reasonable Centrists let out their Most Reasonable Exasperated Sighs and proceeded to lecture the left on how their responses to this new information were wrong and bad. Because truly, the most important thing here is rhetoric.

Opinion writer John McWhorter rather unhelpfully, penned a whole article in The New York Times about how he, someone who has never needed and will never need an abortion, does not think people who oppose abortion are "bad people." He wrote several paragraphs about how he has been lucky enough to spend lots of time with Reagan-era conservatives and has thus been able to discern that people who want to take our reproductive rights away are not evil or stupid, just people who see the world differently.

However, I am also aware that opposition to abortion is often founded on a basic idea that it constitutes the taking of a human life, with many seeing a fetus at even its earliest stages as a person-to-be that morality forbids us to kill. I know people of this view of all races, classes and levels of education. For them, all the negative effects of doing away with Roe may fade in importance. To them, those things are a lesser priority than preserving life.

I find the scientific aspect of this position a bit unreflective. I also sense, in many who take this view, less interest in how humans fare in their lives as children and adults than in the fate of humans as fetuses. I have to work to imagine prioritizing a fetus as a person in the way that they do.

But I think I manage it, and with a deep breath, even though it’s not where I stand, I cannot view the equation of abortion and the taking of a life — or even, as some suggest, a murder — as an immoral position. For many, including me, the priority is what a woman does with her own body. As such, many suppose that to be against abortion is to be anti-feminist. But for pro-lifers, a woman’s right even to controlling her own body stops at what they see as killing an unborn child. To many of them, being anti-abortion is quite compatible with feminism.

Oh is it? How lovely for them. I don't care.


There is no such thing as a person who is essentially good or essentially bad; there are good and bad actions and what you do determines who you are. It is entirely possible to be a very pleasant person while also thinking people should be forced to give birth against their will, just as it is possible to be a popular children's birthday clown or suicide hotline volunteer while also murdering a bunch of people. If someone were to stab you in the face while complimenting your outfit, would you care about the latter? Probably not! And I do not give a flying fuck what anyone who thinks I should be forced to give birth against my will and pay for the privilege thinks about feminism. That doesn't help me.

It also seems to me that a kind person would not think this was the particular moment for that particular essay.

Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle has also been a real leader in this area, going so far as to pen a whole column and Twitter thread not about whether losing Roe would be good or bad, but on how using trans-inclusive language with regard to reproductive rights could very well doom the pro-choice movement.

If you were raised on 1970s feminism, as I was, the linguistic shift toward phrases such as “birthing people” and “uterus havers” has been a bit jarring. We grew up on “women’s liberation,” “women’s issues” and “women’s rights”; now, suddenly, those issues and rights seem to belong to select bits of our anatomy.

The incongruity between old language and new became particularly noticeable this week, after Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Sadly, it seems McArdle's entire feminist education was just those three terms and did not go much beyond that. Which is probably why she thinks "1970s feminism" is a school of thought in and of itself.

There is something nefarious about trying to use this as a cudgel against trans men and non-binary folks, particularly in today's political climate, particularly when one is suggesting facts not in evidence. It is possible to acknowledge that all people who can get pregnant are at risk here, while also acknowledging that opposition to abortion has much less to do with any great love of fetuses than with wanting to limit women's opportunities, forcing them out of the job market and into survival marriages with men they don't actually like all that much. And it's not hard!

McArdle's big argument here is that piles of money go to breast cancer charities, more than other charities, because people identify breasts with women, even though other cancers kill more people each year. That would be a great argument if there were not also many other forms of cancer exclusive or almost exclusive to women and those assigned female at birth, and if breast cancer were not also the most common form of cancer in the United States.

It is worth noting here that McArdle, who describes herself as "uneasily pro-choice," is the author of artricles titled "Let Roe Go" and "The Supreme Court should have never intervened on abortion." It's particularly ghoulish for someone who does not even think Roe should exist using it as a cudgel to attack trans people, who are particularly vulnerable right now given everything else the Right is throwing at them.

As Wonkette noted last week, this isn't the only way we've all misbehaved in McArdle's estimation. The other way was by bringing up other things that could happen due to Roe being overturned. Like outlawing miscarriages, because of course no prosecutor would send a woman to prison for having a miscarriage.

Except, you know, for the hundreds of prosecutors who have done just that even with Roe on the books. Since 2006, 1,200 women have been prosecuted for their actions during their pregnancies, 500 of them in Alabama alone.

Many have been noted that getting rid of Roe will not only impact those who need abortions, but a host of others, because Roe has been precedent for a long time now and a whole lot of cases impacting civil rights rest on it, like Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell. If they can take Roe away, what can't they take away?

Josh Barro finds it "odd" that anyone would bring this up if Roe is so important, citing comments from Ramesh Ponnuru about how of course Republicans won't do a federal abortion ban or go after birth control, interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, etc.

The unfortunate fact is that many people don't actually care about it as much as they should. What allows people to talk about Roe being overturned like they're discussing a football game is not feeling like they have any real skin in the game. If you'll notice, most people who position themselves as Very Reasonable Centrists are those for whom the political will never be all that personal, outside of how much they pay in taxes.

There is a difference between the slippery slope arguments conservatives use and those used by the left. Whereas conservatives base their slippery slope arguments on shit they make up, we base our arguments on things conservatives have done and actually said they want to do. Conservatives have said they want to ban abortion at a federal level, and many are now talking about how excited they are to overturn Griswold, Obergefell, Lawrence, and yes, Loving has even been mentioned.

Indiana GOP Senator Mike Braun was talking about how he thinks legalized interracial marriage should be left to the states a few months ago. (He tried to walk it back.)

Back in February, during the Republican primary for Michigan attorney general, all the candidates agreed that states should be allowed to put people in prison for using birth control (which, by the way, has always been the end game here). Oh, and while conservatives cooled their jets for a while on attacking LGBTQ people in certain ways during the Trump administration, they have turned their culture war nonsense up to 11 in recent months, even going back to their old tactic of accusing all queer people of being child molesters.

The fact is, there is no reason to trust that there is any such thing as "too far" for conservatives, and there is no reason to not believe the Supreme Court will give them whatever horrible things they want. So yes, the slippery slope matters here, not because losing Roe isn't horrible enough on its own, but because it is important to know exactly who and what we are facing and what it is they actually want to do.

Everyone gets having a schtick, but there is a time and a place for everything, and right now is just really not the time to be lecturing anyone on how lovely and charming forced birthers can be, talking about how we don't need to include everyone this ruling will affect, or telling any of us we are overreacting, particularly when we have been told for years that we were "overreacting" by worrying the Supreme Court would overrule Roe. I don't know when that time will be, and I am sure I will never be personally receptive to any of it, but it sure as hell is not right now.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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