For a group so certain of public support for their social-issue stances, Democrats sure are resorting to some trickeration to paint the right as extremist.
Yasmin Neal, a freshman state legislator from Jonesboro, got a lot of laughs last week for proposing to limit vasectomies to cases where a man could face death or “impairment of a major bodily function.” Neal’s legislation is a parody of an anti-abortion bill, HB 954, moving through the House. And hers would be laughable indeed, if it didn’t reflect such a serious distortion of what animates abortion opponents.
In a press release, Neal explained herself thus:
Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies. It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.
The first sentence gives away the joke: One assumes Neal does not really believe a gamete in a man’s body is analogous to a second-trimester fetus. (The latter is the focus of HB 954, which would change the point at which abortions are illegal to 20 weeks from 24 weeks, on the premise a fetus can feel pain halfway through a pregnancy.)
But the second sentence suggests Neal fancies her satire instructive, a modern-day modest proposal. It’s instructive, all right — just not as she intends.
Either Neal misunderstands the reason for anti-abortion sentiment — to protect unborn children — or she recognizes there’s no real analogy between a pregnancy and any bodily concern of men.
So she relies on the old line that abortion restrictions are something men impose on women. In fact, the Gallup organization, which tracks public attitudes toward abortion annually, reported last year: “Men and women are nearly identical in their views about the legality and morality of abortion.”
Both sexes were narrowly more “pro-choice” than “pro-life.” But Gallup said last year was the first time since 2008 Americans were more likely to call themselves pro-choice. As recently as 2006, “pro-choice” enjoyed a 51-41 edge; in 1996, the lead was a whopping 56-33.
The change in attitudes may help explain why Democrats nationally are shifting to the issue of contraception rather than abortion, portraying the GOP as eager to ban The Pill.
Certainly, Neal’s analogy would be much more logical if she compared vasectomies to contraception. But even that would require a gross distortion of the right’s position.
Contraception made the headlines last month when the Obama administration decreed religious-sponsored entities, most notably Catholic hospitals and universities, must subsidize birth control as part of the health insurance they provide employees in accordance with Obamacare, even if the entity opposes it doctrinally.
When conservatives said the move infringed on religious freedom, the left accused Republicans of wanting to take birth control away from women. Opposing subsidies for something equals wanting to ban its use? That’s what liberals would have you believe.
The tactic doesn’t appear to be working from a political standpoint: A new poll by the nonpartisan Purple Project finds swing-state voters reject the Obama contraception mandate 49-37; independents in those dozen states are harsher, disapproving 50-34.
Maybe Americans recognize politicians are extreme when they use deceit to argue otherwise, in Washington or here.
– By Kyle Wingfield