I think the most interesting question you can ask someone who identifies as pro-choice is whether they think abortion should have any restrictions at all. The phrase “pro-choice” means something different to almost everyone, and nothing reveals that quite as quickly as asking about when it’s okay to restrict abortion. For example, I was surprised to find out that two students from a college Planned Parenthood club were uncomfortable with third trimester abortions. Clearly, they weren’t just following the party line!
Maybe one of the most common responses when asked about restrictions is that “people should be able to have abortions, but they shouldn’t be allowed to use it as birth control.” There’s a certain image they seem to have in mind when they talk about abortion as birth control: an imaginary woman who doesn’t use contraception and keeps coming back for more abortions every time she gets pregnant.
Leaving aside how problematic their mental image might be, this restriction seems like a common ground point; after all, we don’t want women to use abortion as birth control, and they say they agree. But the agreement is only at the surface level. We’re using the same words to mean completely different things. As my contract law professor said, there’s no genuine “meeting of the minds,” so there isn’t any actual agreement.
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The abortion-choice lobby has moved on from just dehumanizing unborn persons. They’ve now shifted their primary focus to dehumanizing pro-life people.
It sounds ridiculous for me to say that pro-choice leaders are less concerned about arguing that the unborn aren’t valuable persons. Here’s the thing: unborn humans aren’t visible, and planting doubt or apathy is quite often enough to get pro-choice people to empathize with the visible woman rather than the invisible child. If someone doesn’t seem to be present, if they can’t or don’t speak up for themselves, it is no major challenge to ignore them.
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Why We Must Be Openly Pro-Life
Pro-life people have a pesky tendency to be visible and audible. The most effective way to counter this “problem” is to render pro-life people as something other than persons. If pro-choice leaders are successfully able to “other” pro-life people, then the public can ignore us because we are made into something noxious, detestable, beneath consideration. In short, pro-choice leaders are attacking the character and credibility of the pro-life movement in order to force pro-life people into hiding.
This is why pro-life people are so frequently painted as religious crazies or terrorists. Take the recent AKA Jane Roe documentary: a clinic worker refers to pro-life people as “terrorists” because they yell at people and block clinic entrances (things which…aren’t terroristic), but this claim is made out to be respectable because the director displays a clip of actual anti-abortion violence—a person bombing an abortion facility. People don’t listen to what a terrorist has to say because a terrorist’s message is automatically considered violent and evil. If to be pro-life is to be an “anti-choice terrorist”, to use the term my colleague Rachel heard used during women’s studies classes, then it doesn’t matter if we say that pro-choice people are supporting a massive human-rights violation, because good people should avoid being contaminated even by hearing us.
If this strategy succeeds, the pro-life position will be a thought crime. Pro-life people will become political untouchables. We can’t convince people who won’t listen to us; even though we have better arguments, pro-choice leaders won’t have to give an answer if they can silence those who question their position.
Several months ago, we asked people who follow us and a number of other pro-life groups to take a survey about dialogue habits. We wanted to analyze the ways people approached conversations about abortions on different platforms and see if there were measurable relationships between medium, conversation length, and effectiveness.
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In total, we received 134 responses from people with all sorts of different backgrounds in dialogue. If you responded, thank you! Because this was a voluntary, non-representative survey sample, the results don’t have ironclad scientific value, but they should still contain valid information about general trends.
The two main relationships we looked at were: 1) conversation medium (social media, private messenger, in person, etc.) and conversation length (number of messages/minutes); and 2) conversation length and how often the other person’s mind changed. We broke the last category up into four parts, based on the intensity of change (no change, minor change, moderate change, and major change).
The next couple of sections are going to be heavy with statistics, so you can skim it if you’re not curious about the data itself and just want to see what it means in the analysis section. If you want to see me show my work or you just enjoy stats, read on.
As somewhat of a follow-up post to my analysis of the deciding vote in Russo v. June Medical Services, I want to caution optimists and pragmatists on the pro-life side. There has long been an implicit deal whereby we are granted court appointees who will (theoretically) protect life and religious liberty as long as we go along with the general Republican platform. The problem, as Sen. Josh Hawley recently pointed out, is that the bargain hasn’t worked, and we don’t have a great reason to think it will suddenly start working in the future.
There has been much clamor about the “conservative” Roberts Court overturning Roe v. Wade. I’ll admit, I indulged some optimism at first, though it quickly became apparent that getting a majority to overturn long-standing precedent required at least one more conservative justice. But recent cases have illustrated how fickle the Republican-appointed justices are, as contrasted with the utter steadfastness of most Democratic appointees.
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First, the Chief
Let’s take a look, first, at the man in the center: Chief Justice John Roberts, who is quite happy to be a centrist even though he’s supposed to be a conservative. He seems to be concerned primarily with protecting the legitimacy of the Court (and implicitly the legal system), so that when they make a controversial decision the outcome of the case is still respected. Without respect for the integrity of the Supreme Court, the thinking goes, there is no real arbiter about law and the Constitution in America.
I’ve already demonstrated the problematic nature of Roberts’ insistence on institutional values, as he refused to overturn a precedent he voted against and maintains was incorrect. But, perhaps more tellingly, the appeal to the legitimacy of the Court was one of the premises of the Court’s decision to uphold Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I’m not saying Roberts is dog-whistling that he won’t overturn Roe…but we shouldn’t count on him as the deciding vote.
The decision of the Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Russo, a case which was previously covered in this blog, was a blow to pro-lifers trying to use the legislative process to chip away at abortion-on-demand. Chief Justice John Roberts, once again, joined with the liberal bloc to deliver a bad judgment. What went wrong?
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One of the challenges of analyzing any jurisprudence by Roberts is that he seems to be inconsistent. Someone will guess his decision based on politics (he’s conservative…right?), and then he’ll flip. People talk about his commitment to the “legitimacy of the court,” and then he upholds a decision which he explicitly believes is wrong.
Roberts could have a grand, overarching plan for guiding jurisprudence over the course of decades, chipping away at old foundations to lay the groundwork for good decisions. But it more frequently feels like his pragmatism causes him to hurt conservative causes at critical junctures.
First, I’ll look at his explicit justification for the decision in Russo as he states it. I’m of the opinion that his surface-level obedience to stare decisis is not the only thing going on in his thinking. Roberts is playing something of a game with the rules of the Supreme Court, and I’ll explain what I think is going on later in this article.