Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Abortion Issue As Proxy

Since the 70s I have found that the public discussion is only occasionally about abortion itself and the issues underlying it. It is a proxy for full cultural attitudes, usually in the form of accusation that the other side does not respect women, or the other other side does not value parenting, or is selfish. People say amazing things about each other. One interesting consistent bit came up at Althouse this morning (she is pro-choice and has taught law courses about the specific cases and the underlying legal [though it doesn't sound like philosophical - I could be wrong there] issues). We fought for this right.  We fought to keep it. Such things make people invested in an issue, yes, but it is not of any use in telling us whether they were right or wrong.  People fight for many things.  Yet our heart does follow our treasure, especially if that treasure was time and self-definition. (Matt 6:21) The treasure-heart exchange flows both ways, but we usually only credit that we have given our treasure to something because our heart led us to.  I think the other way is stronger. Her heart will always go to where her treasure has gone before. The sunk-cost fallacy applies also to ideas.

Abortion rights have been regarded as conquered territory by feminists since Roe, and any loss is considered an invasion over the Real Boundary, and a type of theft. The attempt by conservatives, and especially libertarians, to switch the ground of the discussion back to decisions by the individual states has not changed that. I think it is regarded as a ruse. Conservatives otherwise consider Roe to be the farthest expression of justices inserting their personal opinions rather than forcing themselves to stick to the text. Emanuations from the penumbra, indeed! We say Harumph! to that.

There is some pressure on becoming an evangelical to pick up a pro-life belief as something expected to be part of the club.  I think this is less pronounced in those who grew up in the older evangelical denominations, such as the one I am in now. I don't know if it is also true for Catholics, though I suspect there would be at least some pressure, as they are noted for especially holding this position. It may not be mentioned all that often except to announce events one might attend or references to pray for the end of it.

Even though not all my classmates were pro-choice at William and Mary, I think there was a cultural pressure to regard that as modern, the choice of the smarter and career-oriented women - and the men who wanted to have any chance at them. It was part of a package of learning to leave the false and outmoded beliefs of your parents and childhood behind. It was expected in order to be part of the club. Some clubs, anyway, though unofficial. It still has that feeling to many women of my generation, at least.  To be against abortion rights is to be nearly against women voting, or to be tolerating rape, or something.  There is huge emotional attachment.

Related, because it is about the Althouse blog and debate in general, was her offhand statement last week that her comment section became conservative over time and is now mostly so, even though she is left-libertarian.  She did not offer an opinion as to how this occurred, at least not there.  She may have addressed it at another time. Do liberals not endure criticism of their views as well?  Did the conservatives treat opponents more rudely and harshly? A few other possibilities occur to me as well, but I don't know a thing. It is something I have wondered about previously, that so many people who have only partial agreement with her feel so comfortable on her site.  It's a mark in her favor, I think.


Thos. said...

I think it's that she tries to remain fair and principled in her observations - including calling out the left/liberals/democrats when they deserve it.
Therefore, I see two forces working to shift her readership to the right:
1 - if you critique lefties, people who are critical of lefties will be interested.
2- the left has demonstrated an increasing intolerance to critical examination of their ideas, so lefty readers have gone elsewhere.

james said...

Many things must feed into it. You explored the notion of invasion and of sexual privacy (odd, a quick search doesn't turn that one up) as factors in how people feel--that even women who would never have an abortion like the idea of being able to "pack heat" just in case.

It is hard to imagine a more radical severing of ties with your family.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I knew I had written about this before but didn't think it worth looking up. Again, I find what i said almost twenty years ago to have some better thought in it than what I am doing now.

Randomizer said...

You need only to look at the Althouse post about the Supreme Court's opinion draft to see why the comment section is drifting rightward. I'm certain that Althouse has an opinion on legal abortions, but she didn't post about that. She didn't demonize anyone or assume that pro-choice or pro-life are on the right side of history. Instead, she goes into the weeds about 'reliance' and how it figures into the Roe decision sounding like the law professor she is. She isn't as interested in what a person thinks, but how they think. That doesn't appeal to the modern Leftist.

Grim said...

One ought to reflect on what it means to respect anyone, man or woman: both in terms of the general respect that might be due to all, and what it means to repose special respect or honor in an individual. Why might they deserve it, for example; and what it means if they don't.

G. Poulin said...

Somewhat tangential to your topic, but something you wrote caused me to think of it. I've noticed over the years that people tend to use terms like "outmoded" "old fashioned" and "outdated" as pejoratives, rather than as neutral descriptive terms. Lewis would have called this a form of chronological snobbery, and Schlossberg described it as a form of idolatry that he called Historicism. The historicist regards historical processes as Lord and Judge, and so is very concerned about being on history's right side. A Christian, on the other hand, sees history itself as being under God's judgment, and so is not nearly so concerned with being seen as fashionably up-to-date.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I learned that first from Lewis and have kept it. I now think that the Spirit of the Age is the single most likely plade we are going to be fooled, and so am suspicious of it in general.