Last year, a personal situation unraveled badly, and a friend told me that while it was understandable that I was upset, what I was mourning was my delusion about what I thought I had. Just like when someone breaks up with you and you didn’t see it coming, if you thought the relationship was in good shape … delusion.
So it is with feminists and the left, and what looks to be a SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade and Casey. I’m sure others are preparing state by state maps about where it will still be possible to get an abortion and how much it will cost a woman in rural Texas, say, to get to the nearest clinic. I mainly want to assist with removing a few delusions some feminists may still harbor about how we got here.
The situation is complex, and I don’t think it can be fixed either by any small group of people, or by people who don’t understand how very badly wrong everything has been going for a long time now.
Just like with the Obergefell decision, while there’s a party that will be happy over the loss of Roe, and a party that will be sad, that this happened through the Supreme Court takes pressure off the parties to have to claim responsibility for it. In this case, what the Supreme Court gave, they are now likely to take away.
“Why have women’s rights hung for so long on a poorly handled court decision, rather than a proper law?”
You could argue that it’s Republican-appointed justices who did it, or that Obama’s failure to press the Merrick Garland nomination was a major contributor, but conservatives who worry about backlash can point to the courts as being at cause, as can liberals who don’t want Biden or Obama to have to answer for it.
And really, why have women’s rights hung for so long on a poorly handled court decision, rather than a proper law? Recall that although Democrats have gone out of their way to plaster rainbow everything all over themselves in the years since the Obergefell ruling in 2015, the party didn’t start coming out in support of full marriage equality until Obama’s hand was forced in 2012.
That is, Democrats have taken a lot of credit for same-sex marriage, but the Court did it. It’s important to remember that real power often lies with those who take action, no matter how much theoretical power is in the hands of foot-draggers who are immobilized by the fear of being disliked. Elected officials don’t actually like being ahead of public opinion, which often means being out of step with an effective voter coalition that will keep returning them to office.
Abortion rights in the Obama Era: Lip-service, at best
In 2008, I remember arguing with Obama supporters that his anti-choice record as a legislator was a bad sign for women. This was roundly dismissed as paranoia.
Barack Obama proved to be a vindictive president, and he got donors to defund at least one critical organization that I know of before he even got into office because they’d taken him at his word and made noise about holding him to his campaign promises. Dissent wasn’t allowed. From the outset, it was made very clear to all the organizations that he was going to run a tight ship, and you could be on board, or your donors would get a call. This included tight control over major pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).
In office, in order to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) multiple senior people with NARAL told me at the time that Obama kept the heads of NARAL and Planned Parenthood from saying anything about the upcoming plan to give up abortion coverage under the ACA in order to win support from conservative Democrats. The women were invited regularly to the White House and rewarded with copious attention. When the leash was finally let slip and they were allowed to mobilize their followers to oppose the Stupak amendment (which would prevent federal funds from being used for abortion), the vote was imminent and there was no time to really influence it.
The deal was done. The big abortion rights groups got to pretend like they’d really tried their best, and abortion opponents got to lament the intransigence of a left that supposedly refused to compromise. What’s true about what happened? When so many people are involved in a decision, there’s always a version of the story available to suit any audience. In retrospect, it’s possible we’d have a better result today if everyone had dropped the dishonest posturing and sat down to really talk, given that the Democrats weren’t who they needed to pretend to be in order to fire up the women’s vote, and never did step up on the rural organizing that everyone knew was necessary to build a national consensus that could withstand the test of time.
“The big abortion rights groups got to pretend like they’d really tried their best.”
When Obama released his budgets, although this is to some extent ceremonial, he included the Hyde restrictions on abortion funding that Republicans in Congress always added in themselves later in the process, and his administration elsewhere referred to them as “settled law,” indicating there would be no fight.
Later, the Obama administration argued in court that voter ID laws disadvantaged young voters, voters of color, and the poor. The administration also argued against making the morning-after pill an over the counter medication, and the court ruled against them, pointing out their own reasoning on other issues, that making Plan B available only with a valid ID disadvantaged younger and minority women, and the poor.
When it came time to decide eligibility for ACA coverage, the Obama administration set out qualifying conditions that would open up a new window of eligibility outside the usual enrollment window. Pregnancy wasn’t one of these conditions. Obama’s White House ignored efforts I was part of to get them to make pregnancy a qualifying event for enrollment in an ACA plan at any time of year.
This was important because health insurance companies often have pregnancy exclusions, especially lower cost plans that are available for individual purchase rather than through an employer. The math is simple. Pregnancy is often one of the most expensive medical events of a woman’s life. Men, and women who are never pregnant, will often live their whole lives out without such a costly hospitalization as a pregnancy can be. The Obama administration was content to ignore that. I’d guess that it probably shaved a few million off the estimated Congressional Budget Office projections of the overall cost of the policy.
“Trans Tipping Point”: Democrats focus on gender identity to the detriment of abortion rights
When it came to gender identity, the Obama administration snuck it in under the radar for a while. I knew that people at the women’s organizations kept quiet about it but were at least sometimes privately dismissive up until 2014, the infamous year of the “Transgender Tipping Point.” Those groups all ended up signing on to joint letters saying that gender identity inclusion policies didn’t affect women’s safety.
In April of 2015, a poll on Americans’ attitudes towards abortion came out. As reported on Vox, using language that explicitly mentioned women produced a 9-point swing in favor of abortion access. I have a hard time imagining that such poll questions could even be asked by Democratic pollsters now, as the party activist base immediately followed this revelation about the effectiveness of woman-centered messaging by monstering its use.
“Using language that explicitly mentioned women produced a 9-point swing in favor of abortion access.”
Now, it’s practically mandatory in the party to use repulsive terms like “birthing people,” “birthing parent,” or “person giving birth,” to refer to pregnant women. I expect that the message-comparison polling on that, if anyone’s bothered to produce it, is dismal. But men’s identities must come first, so, “birthing bodies,” and similarly freakish language, it is.
When I broke with gender ideology and liberal sex industry apologism in the summer of 2015, I was immediately smeared by DC activists as dangerous. People who knew me, five foot six me who doesn’t really even work out: I was dangerous now to men who identified as women. I was called a dinosaur by a man who worked for a Democratic Party committee, and badmouthed to my boss, who told me that the organization’s ability to continue was at risk if I was still employed there. It took me three years to get that story out anywhere, after feminist journalists rejected doing the work it would have taken to report it.
2016: Fears of abortion loss dismissed as paranoia in Sanders/Clinton rivalry
Between 2011 and 2016, 140 abortion clinics closed nationwide. The Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, provided an excellent mechanism for the crackdown in the states. Obama eventually took action against this in a December 2016 measure, scheduled to go into effect two days before Trump took office in 2017.
Thanks for the extra two days of consideration, I guess.
In 2016, I was still a Clinton supporter in the primary. As is customary in Democratic primaries (maybe Republican ones, but I wouldn’t know) many friendships were lost with people who hated me for not supporting their candidate. It seemed a lot more vicious than previous cycles. Younger activists, and a lot of feminists even, were very incensed that in the eighties and nineties, the wife of the governor of Arkansas had not been a twenty-teens wokester.
A feature story came out about how Clinton supporters were afraid to campaign for her, they were getting so much abuse from Sanders supporters in their immediate circles. There was a neighborhood in NYC where there were Bernie signs everywhere in 2016, but when the vote came in, Clinton won in a landslide. This was definitely unlike previous cycles, as the secret Pantsuit Nation fan group for Clinton became a top story in campaign retrospectives.
“They dismissed concerns about the potential loss of abortion access as paranoia, and irrelevant.”
Always remember that yard signs don’t vote, as any good field organizer will tell you. It’s also of note that whether you liked Clinton or didn’t, the outpouring of hatred for her by Sanders supporters, and towards her female supporters, was beyond anything I’d seen in primary infighting in 2004 or 2008. And 2008 was the year when I saw a “bros before hos” shirt on a young man at an Obama rally in Philadelphia, with Obama’s and Clinton’s pictures on it.
After the primary, Sanders supporters didn’t stop with the unhinged sexist attacks. They dismissed concerns about the potential loss of abortion access if conservatives got a chance to appoint a SCOTUS justice. This was dismissed as paranoia, and irrelevant. In memes and stories that swept through far left social media, Clinton was personally accused of having been instrumental in the assassination of Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceras while at the State Department, personally blamed for a crime bill in 1994 that was written by Joe Biden and that she wasn’t in Congress to vote on, and painted by leftists as someone who would obviously get us into war and get young men killed, so shut up about your stupid women’s rights.
Of course, after Trump won, most of the leftists who’d been screaming about how there wasn’t any difference between Trump and Clinton started panicking about an incipient, Trump-mediated fascism that has yet to materialize. As Douglas Murray has said, America has a very large demand for fascism, but only a very small supply.
The Resistance: Erasure of sex leads Democratic priorities while women suffer
When Clinton lost, I was at that time still friends with more mainstream progressives, and I was invited into an early Resistance group. The founding document of the group included the prioritization of the putative needs of trans women for female hormones above women’s needs, in the event of any crackdowns.
The Women’s March in response to Trump’s election was taken over by Sanders people who were leading what was effectively the mass upset of left-leaning women over what was seen as Clinton’s unfair loss, but organizers used her words without attribution in their materials and made clear that she wasn’t welcome. They were also devotees of Louis Farrakhan, and apparently backstabbing, anti-Semitic grifters.
The Twitter commentary about the later revelations of this righteous, ‘pro woman’ organization being Nation of Islam supporters was a fascinating window into male political opinion regarding the women’s movement. The conservative men, who tend to think that feminists run the Democratic Party, were on fire over the influence that a disturbing figure like Farrakhan had on Democrats. Progressive and liberal men were like deer in the headlights, saying things like, ‘Why is everyone talking about Farrakhan all of a sudden? He’s not taken seriously by anyone important.’
When Democrats won the White House back, Joe Biden erased women in the law with a stroke of his pen on the first day of his time in office. He did this by applying the Bostock ruling to Title IX civil rights law. Crank lawyers in the gender critical movement had spent over a year by then insisting that Bostock didn’t mean anything negative for women’s rights, so that caught the women who’d been listening to them by surprise.
“Joe Biden erased women in the law with a stroke of his pen on the first day of his time in office.”
All the Resistance and Indivisible grassroots groups had by then poured gender identity into the minds and hearts of progressive activists all over the country, right alongside their terror of and hatred for Trump, and with the velvet-gloved threat of excommunication from their networks if you didn’t play along with their sex-change faith. Along with the BLM movement, whose founders supported gender identity from before they were famous and influential, it was the death of your career and probably all your friendships with activists to oppose gender identity.
When the grassroots #MeToo uprising reached critical mass, Democratic Party-allied groups stepped in to fund it, and take official messaging over as another vehicle for supporting the erasure of sex in the law.
When Ashley Judd led a coalition against sex trafficking following on #MeToo activism, it was panned from the left, which by then was even more publicly on the way to becoming supportive of the sex trade.
In the run up to the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, sitting Senators, were made to recant their previous opposition to male access to state-funded transition and women’s prisons on the campaign trail in order to keep their presidential campaigns on life support for a little while longer. Senators can’t disagree about gender identity within the party.
Gender identity advocates in the Democratic Party, having failed to destroy recognition of sex in the law through support for the Equality Act turned to pushing ever harder to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed, supporting a “strict scrutiny” view of any rational discrimination required to allow consideration of sex differences in civil rights questions.
The “woke” Democratic Party is not a friend to women
So, here’s the thing about fighting for women’s rights with the Democratic Party as your allies: they and their allied supporters have backhanded feminism, women’s rights, and abortion, except as a bargaining chip to give away, at the highest levels of the party and throughout the civil society organizations and staff ranks, for many years.
Democrats may weep many crocodile tears over this SCOTUS ruling, and will raise a lot of money off of it, but what they’re going to ask women to support is the Women’s Health Protection Act, which further enshrines gender identity into law, and probably isn’t going to pass in the foreseeable future.
The Democratic Party has so overplayed the woke hand, with using the unpopular term Latinx, with telling little children that they and their families are all racist, with threatening to defund police, with sterilizing children and letting boys in the girls’ bathrooms, that it’s probable they’ll get crushed in the midterms even with the surge of support they’re likely to get because of this likely Supreme Court decision.
“The party is a rotting husk that’s been pithed by grifters and it gives zero damns about women.”
The Democrats appear to have taken no particular action indicating a practical understanding of the fact that Trump’s support among minority voters increased from 2016 to 2020. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, I will gently suggest that you’re living in an information bubble from within which you’re systematically depriving yourself of the ability to understand mainstream political discourse and any possibility of effective future action.
What feminists need to understand about the Democratic Party, and all of its major institutions, is that they’ve now spent years systematically lobotomizing their networks of any critical thinking, any dissent, and anyone who can reasonably foresee that there might be consequences to having a prominent front of your activism be drag queens twerking for toddlers at library story hours.
Democratic Party-aligned groups and elected officials have in practice become wholly incompetent in protecting anything for women where they’re allowed autonomy to make decisions, and everyone who isn’t an incompetent has been forced to implicate themselves in a series of escalating travesties against decency and common sense.
Expurgate the gender identity from the Democratic Party, and they’re still woman-hating jerks who were so eager to chase the youth vote that they let Tumblrites take over civil rights policy. Not only have they been overtaken by an organizationally destructive call-out culture, in which an entire generation of activists has now been trained, they’re controlled by the whims of people who have no real cultural memory of a political defeat so comprehensive that no one from your party gets to be president for 12 whole years.
The party is a rotting husk that’s been pithed by grifters and it gives zero damns about women, even as it heavily relies on our votes. And they feel free to act this way because every time women have shown the slightest bit of independence for the last 40 or so years, they’ve dangled abortion in front of us and said what a shame it would be if something happened to it.
Now it looks like something is going to happen to it.
Wherever women take things from here, I’d caution against knee-jerk support for the people who used the fig-leaf of an old Supreme Court decision to pretend that they were really working hard for us all the time since.
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