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Why anti-choicers own the Republican Party

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, September 1, 2008 16:16 EDT
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Ezra’s eyes were opened to how much Republicans are controlled by anti-choice fanatics. He lists a number of very conservative, more experienced potential Republican V.P. picks that McCain could have gone with, and then says:

And so instead we got Sarah Palin. Sometimes I don’t think it’s fully appreciated how constrained the GOP is by its pro-life orthodoxy.

It is confusing. And it’s more confusing the more you fall for the lie that the anti-choice movement is about “life”, because the discussion of “when life begins”, while fun for some people to debate about on blogs is largely irrelevant to most voters, who are rightfully concerned about their actual lives more than about theoretical lives. But I think it’s less confusing if you really, fundamentally believe that “abortion” is a stand-in issue for feminism itself, a way to turn feminism—which was both a political movement and a social movement that’s somewhat out of the reach of policy-makers—into a voting issue. Pro-choicers aren’t really single issue voters in the way that the anti-choice voting bloc is. And that’s true even when you’re talking the biggest feminists out there. We understand that feminism is a multi-faceted thing, and while it would be painful to do so, most of us would hold our nose and vote for an anti-choice Democrat over a nominally pro-choice Republican, especially if we can believe the former is more supportive of contraception access, equal pay, enforcing the VAWA, and of course the set of issues that most feminists care about that aren’t explicitly feminist, like creating and maintaining peace, and running a just, productive economy.

But for the small cadre of hardcore anti-feminists, you have to understand that they’re deeply invested in a fantasy and in the fantasy that they can vote that fantasy into existence. That fantasy is, as cliched as it is to say, a fantasy version of the 1950s, where women knew their place and everyone was happy all the time. Where houses were spotless, dinner was homecooked and served on time, and each house had 4 kids* that had oodles of friends and didn’t have teenage angst. And for the crazy Catholic priests to whom reproductive rights is the only issue ever, it’s about a world where Catholics were obedient people who attended mass every weekend with a stream of children behind them, instead of the emptying pews that make priesthood increasingly pointless. That this fantasy never really existed is irrelevant—they believe in it as strongly, perhaps more strongly, than they do in god—and they’re looking to the government to provide the fantasy. And they’re hung up on the idea that the main obstacle between them and the fantasy is feminism.

And dismantling reproductive rights is the key to this fantasy. Topple that, topple feminism. There’s a weird logic to it—women generally maintain careers because they can limit their fertility and aren’t always taking time off to manage a brood of 5-10 kids. Once the cost of day care outstrips any salary you can command, you have to quit your job. PTAs and church bake sales depend on housewives to exist. Feminists were right to think that the right to contraception and abortion are fundamental to women’s liberation, and anti-choicers agree, so they want to take that away. The voting referendum on abortion is also about women working and food on the table every night. It’s about issues that hit close to home. For a lot of men, the loss of male control over female sexuality even hits so close to home that it can be blamed for their romantic problems—women’s ability to control our fertility means that we have the right to change our minds about someone we get involved with romantically. Or that we can leverage that right within relationships to get more power (and more housework done). The idealized housewife with 4 kids may not like deferring to her husband on every issue, but he’ll never know, because she has to smile and agree because fighting with him, much less leaving him, is out of the question because she needs him to take care of her brood. The very idea that this is a minor, unimportant issue is laughable—even the most economically obsessed of us spend a great deal of our time fretting over family and romantic relationships. If you convince yourself that there’s a magic bullet government policy mend for all your problems in a certain arena, you’re going to become a fanatic about it. If you think I’m kidding about all this, just google “men hurt by abortion” and sicken yourself with one man after another bewailing the woman who got the abortion and then out of his life.

The number of people obsessed with banning abortion and birth control are small in this country, but they’re incredibly powerful and have a lot of influence over other voters who may not be single issue voters, which is why the Republican party owes anti-choicers their shirts. Bitch PhD wasn’t kidding when she said that much of the Catholic church has been completely taken over by anti-choice hysteria—even Catholic weddings I go to have to take time aside to scold people for “abortion”, i.e. premarital sex and contraception as well as abortion. They’re so single-minded that the president of Priests for Life is declaring Sarah Palin more Catholic than Joe Biden, even though the former isn’t even a Catholic. Because he doesn’t worship god or Jesus; it’s all fetus all the time. My theory is that it’s a vicious cycle. The more the church obsesses over abortion, the less people want to go to church. And the empty pews make (some) priests even more obsessed, blaming abortion and women’s just general sinfulness on the lack of butts in seats. So the ante gets raised until you get comments like the Palin/Biden comparison. It would all be very comical if there weren’t a lot of anti-choice nuts in positions of authority that influenced other voters to vote Republican, even if those other voters don’t share the same obsessions or even the same opinions.

*Critical to the fantasy is the belief that no one white and middle class had to suffer too much from infertility, because there was a steady supply of white babies born to errant teenage girls to supply the adoption market.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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