Gay is the new abortion?

22 Apr 2015 06:43 am
Posted by: Donna

This remarkable item has gone viral:

Columnist Dan Savage calls it a “new variation on the “straight people are terrible” argument against marriage equality.”

Religious conservatives have already argued that straight people will stop getting married if gay people can and that marriage must be reserved for straight people because only straights can get pregnant by accident, and without the special inducements of marriage (a big party, a special cake, a honeymoon), straight people won’t take care of all those babies they’re having by accident. Now they’re arguing that straight people will abort their babies if gay people get married.

Man, straight people are terrible—why were they ever allowed to get married in the first place?

The anti-choice movement is an entire parallel bizarro world of crackpot bullshit so it would be easy to dismiss this as yet another weird myth, like the belief that abortions can be reversed, that has taken hold there. But there is an important context for this. The argument is being put forth in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court as it considers the latest challenge to same sex marriage.

A reduction in the opposite-sex marriage rate means an increase in the percentage of women who are unmarried and who, according to all available data, have much higher abortion rates than married women. And based on past experience, institutionalizing same-sex marriage poses an enormous risk of reduced opposite-sex marriage rates. As the amicus brief explains in detail, redefining marriage in genderless terms—which is legally necessary to permit marriage by same-sex couples—undermines the existing social norms of marriage in ways that are likely over time to reduce opposite-sex marriage rates. For example, an “any-two-adults” model of marriage implicitly tells men (and women) that a child doesn’t need a father (or mother), thereby weakening the norm of gender-diverse parenting. Other norms, such as the value of biological bonding, partner exclusivity, and reproductive postponement until marriage, will likewise crumble. It is thus not surprising that, even in the short time that same-sex marriage has been officially recognized in some states at home and abroad, man-woman marriage rates have declined—even as marriage rates in other jurisdictions have remained relatively stable.

If you’ve been following the Supreme Court on both reproductive and LGBT rights the past few years it should be obvious that this brief is a Hail Mary pass aimed squarely at Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy, swing voting attention whore that he is, has been decent on gay rights lately but has a big sad about abortion and has consistently sided with anti-choicers. (When he sided with the majority in the Hobby Lobby decision he cited his concern that abortion might one day have to be covered in employer health plans.) It is unlikely (one hopes!) that this risible attempt by the homobigots to link same sex marriage to abortion will succeed with Justice Kennedy but it’s no surprise that they tried it. It’s all they’ve got.

It also looks to be consistent with a broader strategy by right wingers to reinstate OMG SLUTZ!1! firmly at the forefront of their theocratic crusade under the (sadly, mostly correct) assumption that Americans will put up little to no resistance to things that are seen as punishing “promiscuous” women. The religious fascists have learned the hard way that allowing “religious freedom” to be framed as something used primarily to attack anyone else but sluts dooms it to failure these days. Hobby Lobby? Free ride all the way to the Supreme Court! SB1062 in Arizona and subsequent state bills that were seen as efforts to codify into law discrimination against LGBT and possibly other minority groups? Slow your roll, bigots!

The “100 scholars of religion” who filed the brief with SCOTUS are following the anti-choice playbook of making the following competing claims about women: That we are innately and relentlessly driven toward motherhood and a lifetime of marital servitude to the first man who will have us and that we are terribly fickle creatures who will abandon that project and immediately abort pregnancies (that we would gladly welcome otherwise) at any stage up to “seven pounds” at the slightest provocation. As for you straight men, the anti-choice assumption about you is straightforward and singular: You’re a bunch of selfish, immature louts who must be forced into responsibility by a shotgun wedding. If that is all true then Dan Savage has a point. Straight people are terrible!

This conflating of same sex marriage with abortion lends credence to Amanda Marcotte’s observation that right wingers have taken to describing a lot of things they don’t like as “abortion” in the hopes of tapping into the mainstream public’s (and Anthony Kennedy’s) unease over female autonomy.

It makes sense, from a political standpoint. On its own, health care reform is quite popular with the voting public. People want to curb the abuses of insurance companies, want to do something about the millions of Americans that are uninsured, and want some kind of cost controls on insurance. But if you can call health care reform “abortion,” then you can get people to quit thinking about how they’d like to have health insurance, and start getting them to think about how much they hate it when women can make their own sexual and life choices, as if they were men or something.

This is the result we get from media that are working on too short of a cycle (or are too cowardly) to check the veracity of claims emanating from the right, a world where the right can brazenly use the term “abortion,” and discussion about women’s health care in general, as scare tactics without much fear that they’ll face criticism from supposed fact-checking referees. Pro-choicers shouldn’t stand for it. We can demand a world where there’s no stigma attached to abortion itself, and where the word “abortion” isn’t used inaccurately to dredge up fears and hostility towards issues that don’t have anything at all to do with pregnancy termination.

People who support LGBT equality shouldn’t stand for it either.

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