Abortion: Is the Texas GOP the Dog that Caught the Car?
Republicans are proud of how they're intimidating women in Texas. But could this abortion ban & its vigilantism be the tipping point that activates women & allies to take down the GOP?
Texas Republicans and five hardcore rightwing Republican appointees on the Supreme Court are quite proud of themselves right now.
“The court’s order is stunning,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor last night in dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
But this is a political as much as a legal and social issue, bringing to mind old clichés about counting chicks and things coming home to roost.
Ever since the Reagan election of 1980 the GOP has been the party of billionaires and big business. The problem they’ve always faced, though, is that there aren’t enough morbidly rich voters to win elections and big companies can’t vote at all.
To get around that, they’ve brought together a coalition of fervent true believers, sometimes called “single issue voters,” representing a variety of “special interests.” These include:
Working-class white racists (who Nixon first reached out to with his “Southern Strategy” in 1968)
Sexually insecure male gun and military-garb fetishists
Upper-middle-class and rural “anti-welfare” anti-tax white people
“Christian” religious freaks who want their sect running the government
Anti-abortion “pro-life” activists
Without all of these five groups, Republicans don’t have enough voters to take on the Democratic Party’s coalition of educated urban whites, racial minorities, gender minorities and women, Social Security/Medicare-age voters and young people.
Which raises a vital question about the Republican Party, both in Texas and across the country: will a final successful abortion ban take enough steam out of their most fervent followers that they’ll begin to lose elections in a bigger way than they are now?
Could it even turn some Republican voters — who always just gave lip-service to pro-life causes but never really thought such a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia could ever happen — against the Party?
Four of the five groups that make up the Republican voting coalition have passionate causes that will never be resolved, thus keeping them tight with the GOP:
The white racists are always going to be dissatisfied with anything short of a reversal of Brown v Board (1954) and a return to the “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v Ferguson (1896)…and that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
The sexually insecure men and incels will always be vulnerable to NRA propaganda that Democrats are going to take their guns away; even 8 years of Obama expanding “gun rights” didn’t reduce their temperature.
Upper-middle-class white people who revel in the privilege of their income and skin color are always going to object to their tax dollars “being taken at the point of a gun” and given to the less fortunate, particularly less-fortunate minorities.
And the “Christian” religious freaks who want US law replaced by their Christian-Sharia interpretation of the Bible have been with western civilization since long before this continent was thoroughly colonized by Europeans (think: Crusades or Cromwell), and won’t go anywhere else any day soon.
The single-issue anti-abortion voters, however, have just gotten what they want, at least in Texas and at least for the moment. Other GOP-controlled states are looking at the Texas law and because the Supreme Court has basically set aside Roe v Wade to support this vigilante-style approach to social norm enforcement there will almost certainly be clones popping up soon.
Which may well bring us back to the slow-boil societal crisis women suffered before 1973, the year abortion was legalized and back-alley practitioners largely vanished along with foundling homes.
I’m reminded of a mystery novel I read in the 1980s or thereabouts.
In it, women are being raped all across New York City, usually multiple times, and the detectives digging into the case are mystified until they discover that each of the women was an outspoken anti-abortion crusader and the rapist had succeeded in impregnating all of them, one-after-the-other. (I just spent a half hour with duckduckgo trying to find the name of the novel — I think it was by Ed McBain or Lawrence Block — but couldn’t locate it. If you know, reply in comments below.)
In that novel, as I recall, almost all of those fictitious women not only got abortions but also dropped out of the anti-abortion movement, which was the goal of the demented rapist. The plot premise was intentionally ugly and evil, but raises the question: what happens when this abortion ban gets real for Republican voters?
How will it change the political equation when, as routinely happens, daughters of the well-off and politically active end up with an unwanted pregnancy?
What happens when one of their kids dies from a coat-hanger abortion (as happened to a girl I knew in high school in 1966)?
Or they simply know a friend or neighbor to whom that happened and, through that sudden reality-check, come to realize the brutality of such total state (and, with the Texas regime, vigilante) control over women’s bodies?
Let’s be honest here: the “right to life” movement was never about children or life.
These are the same people and politicians who want to cut food stamps, refuse to expand Medicaid, and will fight to their political death to prevent low-income women with children from getting free housing or medical care.
Hell, they’re just fine with kids dying from Covid exposure at school. They’re enthusiastic about it, in fact, and are this week passing more laws to prevent school mask and vaccine mandates in an effort to prove they can be as callous and brutal as the Sociopath of Mar-a-Lago.
Children are literally dying from Covid every single day across the USA, and these “pro-life” Republicans are pushing for more children to show up in crowded schools without masks or vaccines.
Their passion for “life” ends when a woman gives birth, and that’s the movement’s Achilles’ heel. Along with the fact that 77 percent of Americans want Roe to stay in effect.
Actually banning abortion — as opposed to just talking about it every election year — could deflate a significant slice of the Republican voter base without adding to it at all. The anti-abortion crowd got what they wanted: now it’s time to put away the bullhorns and signs and go home.
Republicans have the anti-abortion crowd firmly in their camp right now, but with the issue no longer a political one will those single-issue voters just melt away over the next year or two? Or start looking at other issues, where they may disagree with the GOP?
On the other side, will it super-energize women across the nation — both in Red states and those afraid of a GOP takeover in their Blue or Purple state — to actively engage in politics in ways like we’ve seen anti-abortion folks do for the past 5 decades?
Instead of an annual “Right to Life” march on Washington, DC will there be an annual “Right to Choose” march? Will the Equal Rights Amendment finally get passed after 50+ years of GOP opposition? Will thousands more women jump into politics from school boards to statewide offices to the US Senate?
Have Republicans now begun losing one of the most fervent parts of their voter base?
While the GOP is basking in the warm glow of victory at this moment, I’m wondering if they’re like the dog that finally caught the car and is now haplessly running down the road, unable to unlock his jaws from the bumper?
"Pro life" is a misnomber for a far right wing religious minority that exercise a great deal of political power in the United States as they serve indirectly the objectives of the right wing elites who are threatened by democracy and equal rights for the people, when that means everyone else. Nothing new as similar laws have been enacted against minorities in this country. Hardly surprising that it is happening in Texas, a state created specifically to enable slavery for the land owners who wished to settle in this part of Mexico. The slave owner mentality and need for white men to arm themselves to keep people of color in line, is pervasive in Texas. Anyone who has lived in Texas is aware of how regressive most of its white people are and how lacking in any sense of Christianity, though they pretend otherwise.
I GET THIS AS A LETTER AND CANNOT SUPPLY A LINK:
The CDC has an abortion surveillance program so we can easily understand the rate of abortions in the United States. Unfortunately this data isn’t perfect due to the voluntary reporting structure (i.e. all data is underreported), but it’s the best we have in real-ish time. The latest data published was from a 2018 study in the MMWR journal:
In 2018, 611,376 people got an abortion. This equals 11.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years. This also equals 189 abortions per 1,000 live births. This is an underestimate; the true number of abortions in the United States is closer to 1.2 million a year.
The abortion rate has decreased overtime. From 2009 to 2018, the total number of reported abortions decreased 22% (thank you Obamacare and access to birth control)
In 2018, New York had the highest number of abortions (77,250) followed by Florida (70,082) and Texas (55,140).
Number of abortions, rate (Number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (Number of abortions per 1,000 live births) of abortions performed, by year — selected reporting areas, United States, 2009–2018
Who typically gets abortions and when?
Women in their 20s accounted for more than half of abortions (57.7%)
3 out of 4 abortions were performed at ≤9 weeks’ gestation. Nearly all (92.2%) were performed in the first trimester
Case Fatality Rate of legal abortions is rare: 0.44 deaths per 100,000 legal abortions. So, on average, 0.44 women die out of 100,000 abortions.
Why do women get an abortion?
The reasons are complex, as more than 60% of women report multiple reasons. More than 900 women in a U.S. study were asked why they got an abortion. The scientists categorized what they heard into 11 broad themes. They were:
Financial reasons (40%): “[It was] all financial, me not having a job, living off death benefits, dealing with my 14 year old son. I didn't have money to buy a baby spoon.”
Timing (36%): Like a 21 year old pointed out, “Mainly I didn't feel like I was ready yet - didn't feel financially, emotionally ready. Due date was at the same time as my externship at school. Entering the workforce with a newborn would be difficult - I just wasn't ready yet.”
Partner related reasons (31%): Like “being with the wrong guy” or “partner issues”
Need to focus on other children (29%): “I already had 2 kids and it would be really overwhelming. It's kind of hard to raise 2 kids by yourself,”
Interfere with future opportunities (20%):“I didn't think I'd be able to support a baby and go to college and have a job.”
Not emotionally or mentally prepared (19%)
Health-related reasons (12%)
Want a better life for the baby than she could provide (7%)
Lack of maturity or independence (7%)
Influences from friends and/or family (5%)
Don’t want a baby or place baby for adoption (4%)
What’s the problem if women are denied an abortion?
Safety and Death
Illegal abortions, for now, are incredibly rare in the United States. You can’t even see the rate of illegal abortions on histogram when compared to other regions of the world.
Unsafe abortion rate per 1000 women aged 15–44 years by region.
But if we do change the laws, it will not result in lower abortion rates. The abortion rate is 37 per 1000 in countries that prohibit abortion and the abortion rate is 34 per 1000 in countries that allow abortion. What does shift is the number of illegal abortions. Our histogram will go up. Before Roe vs. Wade (1950’s and 1960’s), the number of illegal abortions in the United States ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year.
And illegal abortions are incredibly dangerous for women. Women with illegal abortions are at higher risk for serious medical problems including:
Heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging)
Uterine perforation (or the uterus pieced by a sharp object)
Damage to the genital tract and internal organs (due to inserting dangerous objects like sticks, knitting needles, broken glass)
Each year, 7 million women worldwide are admitted to hospitals for unsafe abortions. 4.7-13% of those women typically die.
Mental Health Issues
Women who are denied an abortion also have more mental illness problems. A major JAMA study followed 956 women who had abortions or women who tried to get abortions but were turned away from the offices where they first sought care. The scientists surveyed these women two times a year for 5 years. Scientists were particularly interested in the mental health differences immediately seeking care and mental health thereafter. What did they find?
Women denied an abortion reported more anxiety, lower self-esteem, and lower life satisfaction. Depression among the two groups were the same.
Women who were denied an abortion, in particular those who later miscarried or had an abortion elsewhere, had the most elevated levels of anxiety and lowest self-esteem and life satisfaction
The mental health between groups by 1 year were about the same
This rejects the common misconception that abortion increases women’s risk of mental illness. In fact the inability to get an abortion does this.
The most vulnerable of populations will suffer
In an older study on pregnant rape victims, 1 in 3 of these victims did not discover they were pregnant until they had already entered the second trimester (long after 6 week mark from the Texas law). Of pregnant rape victims, 50% underwent abortion. Victims of rape or domestic abuse are not an exception to the new Texas law. Victimization, alone, causes long-term mental and physical health problems. Adding the inability to get an abortion only exacerbates health problems for years and years to come.
Women in Texas will also now have to travel to other states to get an abortion. Or, if they don’t have the means, they may have to preform an unsafe abortion in their home state. Poor and minority women experience both greater need for and reduced access to abortion services.
Women with incomes less than 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) have an abortion rate of 52 abortions per 1000 women, compared to 9 per 1000 among women with incomes greater than 200% FPL
The abortion rate for non-Hispanic White women was 12 abortions per 1000 reproductive-age women, compared with 29 per 1000 for Hispanic women, and 40 per 1000 for non-Hispanic Black women.
Health inequity in the United States will only be exacerbated with these laws.
A Better Picture
As a mixed methods scientist, I’ve found that numbers are important but when numbers are married with stories we get a more comprehensive picture of the public health problem. I’m not nearly strong enough to talk about my story, but many, many women are. I suggest you read this one. Here is an excerpt:
Most people talk about abortion as if something is ending. Even the language that pro-choicers use—saying that we ‘ended’ a pregnancy or using the word ‘termination’—reflects that mindset. It’s not that those words aren’t accurate, exactly—but they’re also not complete. Because for me, and for so many others, abortion was the start of something.
The truth is that all abortions create something. Paths forward, lives lived, connections made. Some are hard, some are beautiful—but all are chosen.
Bottom Line: Access to safe and legal abortion is vital to the physical and mental health of women in the United States. The science says this. The women on the ground say this. If only policy-makers would come to the same conclusion.
There’s a lot you can do. For immediate help, please consider donating to the Lilith Fund so Texans can be financially supported to leave the state for abortions needed now. Donate to the ACLU who is representing the plaintiffs in the case to fight for abortion access in Texas. For more options, here is an amazing list. You can find abortion funds to help and people to follow on this thread too.