A Guide to Anti-Choice Concern Trolling
If you’re a supporter of reproductive rights in the United States, you’re forced to endure various forms of concern trolling. The centrist form, perfected by Slate’s Will Saletan, exhorts supporters of abortion rights to concede that abortions are icky and that the good faith of people who support criminalizing abortion must be conceded even when their arguments are a moral, political, and legal shambles. While outright opponents of abortion rights are certainly willing to use these techniques, they have innovations of their own. The concern-troll-in-chief for opponents of reproductive rights is Ross Douthat of The New York Times. Last weekend’s manifestation is a particularly good example, both because the arguments are relatively sophisticated and because Douthat is frequently generous enough to provide the material that refutes his own arguments.
So, as a public service, I use Douthat’s latest column to provide a handy guide to the pillars of anti-choice concern trolling, and, more importantly, why they’re wrong.
But Even Europe Has Much More Restrictive Abortion Policy!
Republicans rarely invoke the superiority of European policy, but when it comes to abortion they’re often willing to make a (misleading) exception. In defense of the draconian new abortion regulations passed in Texas, Douthat observes that “France, Germany and Italy all ban abortions after the first trimester, and impose waiting periods as well.” In a past argument he shrewdly omits this time; he’s contrasted allegedly restrictive European policy with “absolutist” protections of abortion rights in the United States, an argument that even before the most recent wave of anti-abortion regulations in the United States had the disadvantage of being transparently wrong.
Even without the gross mischaracterization of American abortion policy, however, the comparison fails because it doesn’t put European abortion restrictions in the appropriate context. You can’t discuss the restrictive aspects of abortion policy in some European countries without acknowledging other policies that make abortion more accessible. Adopting French abortion policy would require not only additional regulations on abortion in some states and fewer in others; we’d need to repeal of the Hyde Amendment and enact provisions to make abortion providers much more accessible in general.
Similarly, one cannot simply compare the language of statutes without considering how they are implemented. A waiting period requirement works very differently in a context in which most women can obtain safe abortions for free at local public hospitals and are protected by labor laws than in a context where many women live hundreds of miles from the nearest abortion provider and can be fired at will for missing a day of work. Counseling requirements work differently in countries where there isn’t a large, politically potent anti-choice lobby dedicated to ensuring that doctors “inform” their patients with scientifically inaccurate anti-choice propaganda. And so on.
While French abortion policy is far from ideal, I would certainly prefer French abortion policy as a whole to the policy in most American states—and despite their use of “eventheliberalEurope” as a rhetorical cudgel, most American anti-choicers would never even consider supporting such a thing.