Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Why Roe Will Fall And Obergefell Won’t

By Andrew Sullivan

The case for returning the abortion question to politics.

There is no question, it seems to me, that abortion is an issue where the burden on women vastly outweighs the burden on men. Up to nine months of carrying and then caring for an infant has no male equivalent. The intervention inside a person’s body is also entirely one-sided. Women alone face this restriction on their control of their own physical personhood. If they do not have control over that, with respect to both men and government, what does having (habeas) a body (corpus) ultimately mean?

The question I’ve often pondered, however, is whether that makes abortion a “women’s issue,” as it has been framed by the pro-choice movement for decades.

If you believe that a fetus is the moral equivalent of a human person, and that a fetus can be male or female, then abortion obviously affects everyone who was once a fetus. That makes it more than a “women’s issue” for many people. Equally, if you believe that biological sex doesn’t exist, and that the fetus cannot therefore be either male or female (the current woke position), then the question also affects everyone.

It’s messier still because no abortion can take place without a male somehow being responsible at some point (I still hold the now-cancellable idea that you need sperm to make babies). And we obviously don’t restrict the franchise to women when it comes to this or any question. In a democracy, majorities of both sexes rule. And it is hard to argue that women are a minority, with full minority rights, when by definition, they’re actually a tiny majority (50.8 percent).

But the most salient evidence that abortion cannot be simply defined as a “women’s” issue is that there is absolutely no consensus among American women about it. Check out the long-term Gallup analysis of views on this question. It shows that a remarkably steady one-fifth of American women want all abortion banned by law. And that proportion has barely budged in 50 years. The other trend-lines in opinion are not quite as stable, but still relatively consistent. Over nearly half a century, the proportion of women who want some legal restrictions on abortion has gyrated between 45 and 63 percent. And the proportion favoring the full-on pro-choice position has wavered between 22 and 36 percent.


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