Ross Douthat on Abortion A Case of Op-Ed Malpractice – The Awl

IfeelforTimesop-edcontributorRossDouthat?

—?

attimes。

Hehastoworkextra-hardtocommunicateideasaboutreligiontoatheistsandChristiansalike,andalsotolockdownhiscasesagainsthedonismand“pre-maritalsex”andabortion,consultingashedoesforaliberalpaperinaliberaltown。

Andasareligiousperson,hehastobothobeyandarticulatehisfaith’sprofessedprinciplesofempathy,evenwhilebeingapolemicist。

Thisisastickysituation!

Soit’sreasonablethathesometimessucceedsatonebutfailsatthe?

other。

Thisweekend,however,he’sgonetoofar。

He’smangledandmisrepresentedamajorstudytohisownends,andreliedupontheworkofacademicsthatpublishinfar-rightthinktankjournals,obscuringtheirbiasalongthe?

way。

Douthat’scolumnishislatestefforttomakethecaseagainstabortion。

Hisbriefhereisatleastsurprising:heclaimsthattheidea,putforwardbyfeminists,thattheanti-abortionforcesarealsotraditionalistsiswrong。

“Mostanti-abortionAmericanstodayarealsogenderegalitarians,”hewrites。

Thisisnotevenconceivablytrue,butit’svaguelystated,solet’sletitpass。

Let’sfocusonjusttwo?

things。

Hiswholeargumenthereisbasedupontheworkof“JonShieldsofClaremontMcKennaCollege。

”AprofessoratatinyCalifornialiberalartscollege?

Ohthen,surelythisisgoingsomewhereunusual?

right?

ShieldsgothisPh。

D。

inpoliticsin2006fromUVA。

Hestudiesconservativemovementsandreligion。

Heistheauthorof,amongotherthings,WhatAbortionistKillersBelieve。

Thisisafascinatingandstrangearticle:animportanthistoryofthecreationoftheabortionblockademovement。

It’sagoodreadforliberals,becauseitfeelsfascinatinglyalien。

(Writingaboutabortionclinicbombings:“Theseearlyattacks,however,weresuccessfullytimedtoavoidhumancasualties。

”Howthoughtfulof?

them!

)

Hereisaveryinterestingcombinationofsentences:

Thenin1994,anewfederallawincreasedthepenaltiesforblockingaccesstoclinics。

Nowisolated,theseriouslyviolence-pronewerelefttotheirownworstimpulses。

Violenceescalated。

Forthefirsttime,abortionprovidersweretargetedforexecution。

Isee。

Yes,thelawsthatallowedwomentoactuallyenterclinicstoreceivealegalmedicalprocedure:thosewerewhatdirectlyledtoreligiousterroristskillingdoctors。

Aterrific?

—?

andsubtle!

—?

argument。

Intheend,Shieldscomesoutagainstmurder,abravestance。

“ItsmanyCatholicandProtestantparticipants,moreover,obviouslydonotunderstandtheirfaithtorequirethemtokilldoctorsornurses?

—?

ormothersorfathers?

—?

involvedinthegreatevilofabortion。



TheconclusionofthepaperfromwhichDouthatisquotingisfarmoreinteresting。

Theabortionconflict,Shieldswrites,is“perhapstheonlyconflictinAmericanhistoryinwhichbothsidesregardthemselvesashumanrightsactivistswhoareexpandingthefrontiersofhumanfreedom。

”(Idon’treallyagreewiththis,butShieldsistreatingthewarovergaymarriageandanti-gaydiscriminationasalreadyover?

—?

whichmaybe?

true。

)

Alsolastyear,ShieldspublishedwiththeWitherspoonInstitute,workthatDouthathasclearlyread。

TheWitherspoon’shouseorganiseditedbyafellowoftheHeritageFoundation,apersonwhoalsowroteamicusbriefsindefenseofProp8andindefenseofDOMA。

ItsmanagingeditorchairedaRighttoLifeconference。

TheWitherspoonFoundation’spresidentisLuisTellez,whoisontheboardoftheAmericanPrinciplesProject,whohavehandseverywhere。

Tellezisananti-gaymarriageactivist。

AttheWitherspoon’sright-wingorgan,Shields?

wrote:

Studyafterstudyfindsstrongemotionalreactionstoabortionprovisioneveninclinicsthatcultivatefeministculturesandcommunity。

Studiesofsuchclinicsconsistentlyfindthatthosewhoperformsecond-andthirdtrimesterabortionsfeelpowerfulandunexpectedfeelingsofsympathyforthefetusestheydestroy。

Someareevencompelledtodoubtthejusticeofabortion?

itself。

Thisisaknownquantity。

Thereisareasonthatwomenandabortionprofessionalshavefeelingsaboutabortions(or“fetusestheydestroy,”tousehislanguage)。

Thatisbecausetheyareonthefrontlinesofhardchoices。

FewwomenfindabortionapleasantwaytospendaTuesdayafternoon。

Fewmedicalprofessionalsdonotsympathizewiththeirpatients。

Thisconservativemiscastingoftheempathyofabortionprovidersisparticularlyoffensive。

Similarly,Douthat?

writes:

…publicopinionontheissuedoesn’tbreakdownalongthegenderedlinesthatmanyliberalsexpect?

—?

whymorewomenthanmen,forinstance,toldthelatestPewsurveythatabortionwas“morallywrong”and(insmallernumbers)thatRoeshouldbeoverturned。

HereisthesummaryofthatPewsurvey,bythe?

way。

Right。

SupportforRoev。

Wadehasstrengthenedsince1992。

Nearly2/3rdsofpeoplesurveyedsaidthecaseshouldnotbeoverturned。

Andofcoursethereisconflictaboutabortionamongwomen。

Thatstemsaswellfromaconflictbetweenreligiousteachingandactualpractice:“Thirty-sevenpercentofwomenobtainingabortionsidentifyasProtestantand28%asCatholic。



Butasforthe“morallywrong”question,dividedby?

gender…。

Thisfallsjustinthesafezoneofhisassertion,witha2。

9%sampling-relatederror?

range。

(Anditshouldbenoted:28%ofwomenalsosaidthathavinganabortionwasnotamoralissueatall。

Mostfascinating,therearesomeoutliers:15%ofallpeoplesurveyedwhofavoroverturningRoev。

Wadesaythatitisnotmorallywrongtohaveanabortion。

)

Butmostimportantly。

WhenDouthatsaysthatmorewomenthanmensaythatRoeshouldbeoverturned,thosenumbersare:30%forwomen,29%for?

men。

Pewwentsofarastonote,contraDouthat,that:“ThereisnogendergapinopinionsaboutRoev?

Wade。



ThatDouthatwouldexploitaresultwellwithintherangeofsamplingerror?

—?

directlycontradictingPew’sinstructionsabouthowtoreadthedata?

—?

asabackboneofhiscaseismalpractice。

Andjustforreference:“WhiteevangelicalProtestantsaretheonlymajorreligiousgroupinwhichamajority(54%)favorscompletelyoverturningtheRoev。

Wadedecision。

”Aswell,amajorityofrespondentssaidthatabortionwasnotevenimportanttothemoverall。

“Thepercentageviewingabortionasa‘criticalissuefacingthecountry’fellfrom28%in2006to15%in2009andnowstandsat?

18%。



WritingthissurveybackwardsisoneofthetacticsthatDouthatmustuse。

Itisallhehasleft:Dependentonworkwelcomedbyabalefulconservativepublication,andobviouslymisrepresentingamajorstudy。

Areviewofhisworkwillturnupmoreofhisdancingontheedge,andsurelyover?

it。

WhathasalwaysbeentheworstaboutDouthatisthathisconclusions,supportedbywhateverhecanscrapetogether,haverarelybeentrue。

“Thepro-lifecausehasprovedunexpectedlyresilient,”writesDouthat。

Thatisnotparticularlytrue。

Atall!

PlaguedbytheviolentfringedocumentedbyShields,thepro-lifecausealienateditspotentialmembersandallieswhodidnotbelieveinbombingclinicsandmurderingdoctors。

Andalongtheway,theanti-abortionmovementalienatedthemiddlegroundofAmericanswhofelt?

—?

orstillfeel!

—?

areasonablediscomfortwithabortion。

This,Ibelieve,isthestorybehindthePewdata。

Theextremeright’stacticsfailed。

Thosewhodefendthemandthosewhomisrepresentthem?

—?

DouthatandShieldsboth?

—?

surelyknowit。

Thatmaybewhytheyfightfastandloosewith?