It’s funny yet illuminating watching him marvel at basic facts about abortion that pro-lifers have known for years. Did you know, Maher asks his guests, that European abortion laws are far more restrictive than ours?
Or that most pro-lifers are women?
Or that most abortions are now carried out via medication, not surgery?
Wait until he finds out that abortion in America has been declining for decades.
I don’t mean to mock him. What makes his admissions interesting is that Maher follows American politics more closely than the average joe because of his line of work yet even he didn’t realize how radical America’s abortion-on-demand regime is relative to the rest of the planet or how the practice has changed during the Roe era. Which makes me wonder how much we can truly trust the polls showing that a heavy majority of the public opposes overturning Roe.
No doubt those polls are accurate. The question is, what happens to public opinion if Roe disappears and Americans come to realize a la Maher that banning the practice after 15 weeks is in line with what the cosmopolitan, post-Christian French do. Or that most women will still be able to procure abortions early in their pregnancy without having to leave their homes. How much will opinion change once Americans’ understanding of abortion has changed following a crash course on the subject from Roe-related media coverage?
Maybe not much. It’s worth noting that Maher himself goes on to say here that he doesn’t consider life to be especially precious(!) and that he doesn’t consider a baby to be truly alive until it’s born(!!). Learning that there’s waaaaay more support for regulating abortion here and abroad than he previously believed hasn’t done anything to soften his support for the practice, it seems. And even if some American pro-choicers do soften up as they discover that restricting abortion isn’t considered radical or dystopian anywhere else in the world, the GOP could overreach with new regulations that harden their position again. For instance, strict no-exception bans will make it hard for women to find a doctor willing to help if they experience medical problems during their pregnancy:
Up to one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to some estimates, a loss that can be traumatic and dangerous for women. The risk is even higher after age 40. But the medical care a woman needs when she’s had a miscarriage can mirror how an abortion is performed, experts say.
“Medically, miscarriage and abortions are treated in very similar way,” said Dr. Stephanie Mischell, a family medicine physician in Texas and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health…
“There is this false assumption that abortions can be regulated and restricted and criminalized without impacting women’s health care more broadly,” said Yvonne Lindgren, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, who specializes in reproductive rights.
One older woman told NBC about suffering a miscarriage 30 years ago and being rushed to a Catholic hospital to have the tissue from her uterus removed, only to find the staff reluctant because the procedure was functionally identical to abortion. She suffered at home for days, she says, before the hospital eventually agreed to perform the surgery subject to an ultrasound confirming that there was no fetal heartbeat. Pro-choicers are worried that if red states follow through with strict bans like the one Louisiana is considering, women in the throes of a miscarriage could arrive at the ER of any hospital in the state and find doctors there wary of treating them for fear of being charged with homicide if they do.
That problem could be addressed by adding exceptions for “medical emergencies” to any new bans, but Texas has already run into problems on that point. Allegedly one woman suffering from an ectopic pregnancy — which is life-threatening — was turned away last fall by her local doctor and her local hospital because they feared being sued under the state’s new abortion law. She ended up driving to New Mexico to have her abortion there. More stories like that will turn undecideds against abortion restrictions.
But Democrats are guilty of overreach too, and have been for a long time. This week Damon Linker begged them to drop their pro-choice fanaticism and meet American voters where they actually live:
Now it’s certainly possible that Republican state restrictions on abortion after Roe is overturned will end up being so outrageously harsh that public opinion in many places will recoil in the other direction, giving Democrats the momentum on the issue they’re hoping for. But that will only happen if the Dems don’t stake out a position equally far outside of the mainstream in the opposite direction. And on that, we have reason to worry.
Public opinion among self-identifying Democrats has been moving further left on numerous issues over the past decade, very much including abortion. The days when a Democratic politician with aspirations for higher office would use Bill Clinton’s formulation about keeping the procedure “safe, legal, and rare” are now long gone…
It doesn’t need to be this way. A Democratic Party that placed itself near the center of public opinion by promising to codify abortion rights in federal law up through the early weeks of the second trimester would win a lot of support, even if it left the most maximalist members of the party clamoring for more. Going further might placate the maximalists, but it would likely win the party fewer votes overall, thereby decreasing the chances of the Dems accomplishing much of anything to protect reproductive rights at the national level.
At one point in the clip below, Michele Tafoya talks about a compromise position in which abortion remains legal early in a pregnancy but is banned as the fetus develops. To which Paul Begala cheerily replies: That’s what Roe allows! Right, but hardly any public figure in the modern Democratic Party takes that position. They cherish Roe not because it stakes out a compromise on abortion but because it prevents total bans in red states and facilitates extreme abortion laws in blue ones.
Watch 10 minutes of the conversation from last night’s show. Begala eventually starts hand-wringing about interracial marriage being banned but neither Maher nor Tafoya are buying it, rightly. Begala is correct that the Dobbs ruling rejects the idea that a general right of privacy exists under the Constitution but it doesn’t follow from that that all of the rights that have been linked to that overarching privacy right — like marriage, say — are necessarily unprotected as well. Marriage is “deeply rooted” in the country’s history so it stands on its own as a fundamental right even if abortion doesn’t.