Ross Douthat, the New York Times‘ conservative columnist, this morning brings us this startling revelation: In states where there are few restrictions on abortion, more abortions take place. Herewith:
[A]bortion rates are frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. “Safe, legal and rare” is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don’t always seem to deliver the “rare” part.
To be fair to Douthat, the point he’s trying to make is that in states where contraception is easily available to women, abortion rates remain high. But the fact that women have to jump through fewer hoops in order to get abortions in liberal-leaning states likely also has something to do with the higher rates in those states.
What’s really at issue in Douthat’s column is the perils of accepting the right-wing frame when constructing liberal positions. By unilaterally presenting abortion as a very bad thing in the 1990s, the message mavens of the Clinton administration, with their construction of “safe, legal and rare,” gave abortion opponents a rhetorical rationale for piling on restrictions that, in many states, make abortion inaccessible to increasing numbers of women — despite the fact that the Supreme Court decided decades ago that their right to the procedure is protected by the Constitution.
A similar “moral hazard,” if you will, exists in the arguments of some LGBT rights advocates, who assert our rights via the idea that LGBT people are “born this way,” and should therefore not be penalized for sexual behavior, conducted in private between consenting adults, that falls outside the realm of heterosexuality. In rooting one’s rights in the “born this way” claim, one basically makes the case that if one weren’t “born this way,” the behavior would be wrong. How ’bout the simple constitutional claim that, hey, it’s none of your business?
Our rights come from the Constitution, not from some set of “Judeo-Christian values” selectively defined by right-wing politicians. Leave it to the religious institutions to promote their values as they see fit. After all, that’s their constitutional prerogative.
Every time liberals cede the moral frame to the right wing, liberals lose. Or, at the very least, we have to answer to nonsense such as that promulgated by Douthat.