America Supports Abortion
It’s time to act like it
Abortion rights had a resounding win last night in Kansas, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have removed abortion protections from the state constitution. In addition to being an incalculable victory for the people of Kansas, the referendum results make plain what feminists have been screaming for decades: Abortion is a winning issue.
It’s time to start treating it like one.
From ‘safe, legal and rare’ to framing abortion as a tragic choice rather than an essential freedom—Democrats have tiptoed around abortion rights for far too long. (Even last night, in the wake of a massive triumph, President Joe Biden’s tweet in response to the vote didn’t include the word ‘abortion’.)
There is no benefit in being tentative. Apologetic messaging certainly didn’t protect Roe, and it ceded the most important advantage we have: The moral high ground. After all, we aren’t the people who want to force 10 year-olds to give birth, we aren’t making devastated women carry dead and dying fetuses, and we aren’t the ones mandating rape victims sign affidavits or ‘prove’ their attack before being allowed basic care.
Forcing someone to be pregnant when they don’t want to be is cruel, and voters know it: Six-in-ten Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and a whopping 85% of Americans want abortion legal at least in some circumstances. The extreme abortion bans going into effect across the country don’t reflect what voters actually want.
There’s a reason Kansas anti-abortion groups made the referendum language as confusing as possible, and why they tried to trick voters with misleading text messages, telling people to “Vote YES to protect women’s health.” (A ‘yes’ vote would remove abortion protections.)
Conservatives know that banning abortion is a losing issue.
That’s why Republicans in tight races are downplaying their opposition to abortion. Take Pennsylvania: When incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick saw he might be ousted over his anti-abortion position, he released a wishy-washy statement claiming he’d “always seek to achieve bipartisan consensus that both respects a woman's privacy and autonomy, and also respects the sanctity of human life.” And Republican nominee for governor State Sen. Doug Mastriano, who once called banning abortion his “number one issue,” now says dictating abortion policy wouldn’t be under his purview: “[T]hat’s in the hands of the people.”
I can’t help but think about all the times feminists were chastised by (mostly male) liberal pundits for focusing on what they saw as a ‘culture war’ issue, or the politicians who argued for a ‘big tent’ approach on abortion. They ignored activists’ warnings and allowed the anti-abortion movement to flourish.
Even the mainstream media—obsessed with ‘both sides’ coverage that gives a platform to little-supported extremists—gave Americans the impression that abortion deeply divides the country.
Enough is enough. Every segment on abortion needs to address voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, and how the majority of Americans support legal abortion. Conservatives didn’t overturn Roe by appealing to public opinion—they got it by lying and cheating. Pro-choice politicians need to stop behaving as if supporting abortion is something to be timid about. Why treat a winning issue with anything other than full-throated, unapologetic passion?
Abortion is a medical decision, a human right and a moral good. And in a post-Roe world, the horrors of banning abortion is on full display. Kansas saw it, and voted accordingly.
So while the fight ahead may be complicated, the truth is very simple: America supports abortion. Please, let’s act like it.