Monday, November 08, 2004

Abortion--an explanation

Here's something that I'm not sure enough people on the left get. Maybe we're getting it now, but I'm not convinced. Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas, expressed shock that people are willing to vote against their own economic interest. I'm not surprised, and I'm not surprised this election by these types of stories. Here's why (and I feel like with all the insight that What's the Matter with Kansas offered, it missed this point): for conservatives, abortion=murder. I'll leave it to the George Lakoff's to explain how the language came to be used in such a fashion and to historians and theologians to debate how and why the connection was made. But what I want to remind us is how well it works. For once abortion=murder, then

  • Criminalizing abortion is a logical conclusion;
  • Civil Disobedience is justified;
  • The death penalty for doctors who perform them is appropriate;
  • Comparisons to the Holocaust seem reasonable;
  • Voting for a politically inept individual makes sense;
  • Voting against your economic interests is considered admirable; and
  • Voting against your own personal interests is the norm.

(As an aside, I don't get how gay marriage has been elevated to the same level. No matter how much the religious right spins it, it's still not "murder.") So, as we ponder all of this values stuff, I think we have to back way, way up in our conversations about abortion. As much as we would like to think that using new language, new frames, new energy, we can beat conservatives, this abortion=murder meme is really tough to conquer. As clarification, I want to remind everyone that I'm not saying that abortion is murder and I certainly think that as Obama said on Meet the Press yesterday, we should all be able to agree to working to reduce the number of abortions. But as long as conservatives are convinced that abortion=murder, they will never lose their energy and focus.