Friday, May 18, 2012

"Gay marriage, abortion back in campaign spotlight"

"There's no equivalent embrace of abortion rights in Hollywood's products; films depicting unintended pregnancies generally opt for a birth."
As we head into the fray of election season, the San Francisco Chronicle contrasts the gay rights movement and the abortion rights movement. The article notes several differences between the two issues:

  1. Public opinion regarding same-sex marriage has shifted drastically in the last 10 years, with more people accepting the idea; public opinion on abortion has not had such drastic changes (although slightly more Americans now call themselves "pro-life").
  2. Americans who are ambivalent about gay marriage can opt for a live-and-let-live mentality; the moral questions involved with abortion tend to allow less flexibility.
  3. Homosexuality has been largely accepted in popular culture (e.g. Glee, Modern Family); there's no equivalent acceptance of abortion in Hollywood (e.g. Knocked Up, Juno).
  4. Young people are considerably more likely to accept same-sex marriage than older people; there's no equivalent age gap on abortion views.
  5. The gay rights movement is attempting to change the status quo; the abortion rights movement is defending the status quo.
We want your take on this, dear Reader.  Why is the abortion debate so intractable compared to other social issues?  How can we overcome some of that intractability and expand the pro-life movement?


Jameson Graber said...

I'm a little surprised at your question. Given the evidence you just listed, the pro-life movement is doing just about as well as it can. Patience and perseverance goes a long way.

One thing we have to wrestle with is the narrative of progress. You hear this question a lot when it comes to gay marriage: "Do you really want to be on the wrong side of history?" Personally, I think people are naive to buy into such linear views of progress, but that doesn't matter. If you want to change popular opinion, you need to figure out who is the protagonist in the popular narrative of progress, and you need to somehow attach yourself to that mythical being.

SecularProLife certainly helps, since it gives the pro-life movement a direction away from what people think of as "traditional."

But I think we pro-lifers need to dream big. It would be nice if "pro-life" also meant anti-war, anti-violence, and anti-exploitation. Take the narrative in a bigger direction. Make it about the dignity of each and every human being. We still have a long way to go as a species before our political systems respect the equal worth of all individuals.

I'm sure we'll have a problem getting all the pro-life movement on board with that, but my sense is many of the important young activists agree with me. Life Matters journal is a step in the right direction.

Jen R said...

I'm a little confused by Jameson Graber's first sentence, which seems to indicate that if gay rights are progressing, that means an uphill battle for pro-life. Am I reading that wrong?

Anyway, I think that the abortion issue is so intractable because it involves an intersection of two very legitimate and important interests. The life of the child and the bodily integrity and right to self-determination of the mother are both real, concrete interests, and since the abortion debate is generally framed in such a way as to suggest that one will have to be sacrificed to the other, it is no surprise that defenders of those legitimate interests will fight with everything they have not to sacrifice their interests (or the interests of the person they most sympathize with).

Same-sex marriage isn't the same kind of issue. Though opponents claim that it harms the institution of marriage, that's a matter of interpretation. There isn't a person you can point to and say, "This person will be harmed in this way if Laura and Alexis get married" the way you can point to an unborn child and say "this person will die if her mother has an abortion" or to a woman and say "this person will have to bear an unwanted child if abortion is outlawed."

The Tardis said...

The sort of person that would want to force motherhood upon a woman is the same kind of person that would force heteronormativity on gay man. That's why so many pro-lifers are anti-gay.

Still waiting for someone to make "Secular Marriage Protection" dot com.

Wat said...

Taw said...

oh goodness this makes up for every homophobic pro-lifer out there. Wait nope, the Right to Life council still wants to do nothing but defeat president obama.

sorry libs.

Anonymous said...

The Roe effect and the Waals effect.

Roe effect: legalization of abortion shifts the public political bases towards its overturning. Empty pro-choice cradles don't vote. Filled pro-life cradles do vote in the future.

Waals effect: gay marriage means that there will be more opportunities for people like Zach Waals to be raised by same sex couples, and show themselves as a normal person to their peers. Thus increasing the general public's acceptance of same sex couples and parents.

George Carlin said...

Who has fewer abortions than homosexuals? Here is an entire group of people guaranteed never to have an abortion. You'd think they'd make natural allies.