I come back over and over again to the origins of our current Cold Civil War. Abortion is one of the most polarizing and intractable issues that come between the two sides. But it’s funny because, as I’ve written before, it wasn’t always the case. Abortion didn’t become an issue at all around the Roe decision. Which makes it kind of comical when conservative jurists declare it was an abortion of a decision (pun intended).
Geoffrey Stone was there when the decision came down, serving as a clerk to Justice Brennan. He remembers the atmosphere and remarkable lack of controversy at the time among the Justices or the public.
Many Americans today think of Roe v. Wade as a radical, left-wing decision. That was not the view at the time. By 1973, a substantial majority of Americans supported the right of a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Gallup polls at the time showed that “two out of three Americans think abortion should be a matter for decision solely between a woman and her physician.”
The 44 year erosion of public support for a woman’s right to choose when to have a child is certainly partly because of the diminution of collective memory for when safe, legal abortion procedures were only available to privileged women and desperate others paid in terrible ways. But that’s only a partial explanation. There’s been a very active effort to push anti-choice propaganda as part of the conservative political thought paradigm. The religious right and the GOP pulled off a full intertwining of a religious agenda and a political agenda so that they largely go together as one in today’s conservative Republican ideology. Being against abortion is just another way to piss off liberals now, even for conservatives that aren’t actually religious. The ignorant still say it’s up to women to cross their legs until marriage, ignoring that 60% of abortions are performed on women who have a child already and do not want, or cannot afford, another.
It’s all pretty bizarre considering the country keeps moving away from religiosity, but they made their choice and they are stuck with it now. It’s worked well for them as far as raising money, motivating single issue voters, etc. The politicos love to manipulate the issue. They sure don’t want to see it ever get resolved in their constituents favor resulting in women dying again, because then the cold war would turn hot.