So Glad “Social Issues” Are Dead

Gee, aren’t you glad we’ve all decided that “social issues” are dead in today’s politics, what with the Christian Right having been replaced by the Tea Party and then subsequently the Tea Party by Great Big Adults interested only in “entitlement reform?” Here’s another scene from this more rational environment, as reported by theGrio‘s Alexis Garrett Stodghill :

A group of black female lawmakers walked out of a fiery debate in the Florida House on Thursday over the state’s latest bill focusing on abortion. House Bill 845, which passed the Florida House of Representatives by a margin of 71-44 that day, stipulates that a doctor performing an abortion must sign an affidavit confirming it was not performed based on the race or gender of the fetus.

The third abortion-related bill to pass in the Florida House within days, HB 845 would make it a third-degree felony to perform race- or gender-based abortions, and make not reporting such abortions punishable by a $10,000 fine.

You know this stunt by now: antichoicers identify some terrible-sounding motive for having an abortion that hardly anyone actually has, and then legislate against it, hoping to undermine the general principle of letting women decide whether to terminate a pregnancy, while treating them as helpless wards of the state who need protection against the predators of Planned Parenthood. But these dudes in Florida took it a step too far:

Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Keystone Heights), the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a speech on Thursday that African-Americans are targeted by pro-abortion organizations with harmful intent.

“In America alone, without the Nazi holocaust, without the Ku Klux clan, Planned Parenthood and other abortionists have reduced our black population by more than 25 percent since 1973. This is called discriminatory targeting,” Van Zant said, according to a report by the Tampa Bay Times.

Van Zant also claimed that “race and sex selection abortion is prevalent throughout America, including Florida,” without specifying his sources.

He also charged that, “80 percent of abortion clinics nationwide are located in minority neighborhoods where 43 percent of all black babies are aborted.”

As many as five black female representatives among a group of African-American lawmakers walked out in response to Van Zant’s statements.

Rebecca Wind, senior communications associate of the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group, refuted his statistics on the locations of clinics where abortions are performed.

“In fact, fewer than one in 10 abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods,” Wind wrote in an email to theGrio, referencing a 2011 study by her organization. “More than six out of ten are in majority-white neighborhoods.”

Ah, but you see, the numbers don’t really matter: this is all about engaging people in an argument in which every abortion must be justified in public to conservative white men who pose as defenders of “babies” against the poor, stupid and/or morally impaired women carrying them. Particularly when the argument involves minority women, the stench of paternalism and hypocrisy is just overpowering. But this sort of battle is going on in state legislatures all over the country, every day.

Occasionally you will hear pro-choice folk (notably George Washington University’s Jeffrey Rosen, someone I actually debated on this subject a while back) claim that the reversal of Roe v. Wade might in the long run be good for the cause of abortion rights, which would be forced to become a popular cause fighting for power in the political marketplace. In fact, the last two years, after the 2010 elections put movement-conservative Republicans in charge of an unusually large number of state legislatures, provide a pretty good glimpse into the actual post-Roe reality: abortion would dominate politics at every level virtually 24-7. And yes, it’s entirely probable that the GOP’s “outreach” to African-Americans would become heavily centered on the kind of “defense of black babies from abortion” rhetoric we are hearing in Florida and many other states.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.