Long after the time had passed for male GOP officials to stop, to just stop, pretending they know or understand anything about female anatomy, reproductive organs, medical emergencies and basic preventative health care, they have continued to talk. They have continued to talk and talk and talk even when the massive blowback after the Dobbs decision proved it was an error; Kansas proved it was an error; and after the surprise election of Pat Ryan in a New York special election proved it was an error. Every time a Republican man opens his mouth to talk about women’s bodies, ten new female voters get their wings. Yet somehow, they cannot seem to stop themselves!
It is surely the very textbook definition of “privilege” to find yourself unbothered by protests, polling numbers, and voter registration data. Justice Samuel Alito actually laughed in the face of outraged females who called out the bad history, bad economics, and bad medicine in his leaked draft opinion—their complaints were numerous and well-founded, yet he didn’t change a thing. Instead, he smugly told women that if they didn’t like the outcome in Dobbs, they could just “seek to affect the legislative process by influencing public opinion, lobbying legislators, voting, and running for office” and that “women are not without electoral or political power.” The court’s newest approval ratings suggest the same, though I don’t think Justice Alito likes that kind of political power very much at all.
Because, Happy Women’s Equality Day, women are taking him up on the offer. One analysis of the Kansas’ voter registration list showed that in the week after Dobbs, more than 70 percent of newly registered voters in that state were women. Those numbers, according to an Upshot analysis of 10 states with available voter registration data, show consistently higher registration for women after the Dobbs leak in May. As Jennifer Rubin recently noted, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, “62 percent of women registering since Dobbs registered as Democrats, 15 percent as Republicans and that 54 percent were younger than 25.” And a Pew Research Center poll indicates that “a majority of registered voters (56 percent) say the issue of abortion will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43 percent in March.” Tom Bonier, CEO Of TargetSmart recently posted on Twitter: “We are seeing early signs of what could lead to a huge increase in women voting in November. …This surge is young and female.” Both Mitch McConnell and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel are panicking about the GOP’s odds in Congress, directly connected to fundraising around abortion.
I have a lot of theories about why nobody should be surprised that women are friggin’ furious right now, which include, as Mark Joseph Stern has been arguing all summer, the increasingly horrifying tales of women, disproportionately on teenagers and victims of violence, left to suffer from sepsis, refused prescriptions and denied treatment for ectopic pregnancies, and ever more horrors. And yet, the forced birth Republicans continue to insist that none of this is happening, or that journalists and physicians are making it all up.
If you’ve ever suffered a miscarriage, sought emergency contraception, needed cancer drugs that were available to you in May and unavailable today, or lost a much-wanted pregnancy and then had to litigate the repercussions with hospital attorneys and wild-eyed state prosecutors, you are afraid and anxious right now. That is happening. There are a lot of us. And as President Biden warned this week, Democrats losing Congress will mean that abortion is in peril everywhere.
Yet the men, they just keep on talking. Some examples:
· In June Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio told CNN’s Pamela Brown, in response to a question about his state law that contains no rape exceptions: “You don’t know you were raped for two months? … It’s hard to conceive of somebody who doesn’t know they were raped for two months.”
· In July Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., asked a gathering of like-minded misogynists “Have you watched these pro-abortion, pro-murder rallies?… The people are just disgusting. But why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions? Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.”
· Last month during debate over a near-total abortion ban in West Virginia, Republican Del. Chris Pritt said on the floor of the legislature that that child support requirements bad because if a man gets a woman pregnant, he would force her to have an abortion to avoid paying child support. And abortion is bad.
· When Indiana lawmakers approved a near-total ban on abortion earlier this month, Rep. John Jacob (R) announced that he voted in support because “the body inside of the mom’s body is not her body. Let me repeat that: The body inside of the mom’s body is not her body. Not her body, not her choice.”
It actually never ends. And the harder these guys try to seem sensitive and caring, the worse it goes for them.
Case in point: Viral video last week showed South Carolina state Rep. Neal Collins (R) describing the excruciating hurdles faced by a 19-year-old thanks to anti-abortion legislation he himself had supported. But Collins, fighting back tears while telling that story, didn’t actually change his vote: He just abstained, while his colleagues advanced one of the most restrictive bans in the nation. (His statement also bizarrely focused on his own sleepless suffering rather than that of the victim). These guys sure do like to keep on talking.
I don’t understand what some of these legislators are thinking. Do they forget that women have the vote? (Happy Women’s Equality Day.) Do they think women don’t have ears? Or cannot read words? Or that women are just kidding when they take to the streets, register to vote, and flip elections?
Even the politicians who are changing their tune are doing so in a matter that is frankly confusing: Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters quietly scrubbed his website’s abortion policy restrictions this week, rewriting or erasing five of his six previous hardline positions, including earlier support for a “a federal personhood law.” He then released a gaslight-hued new ad posted to Twitter recasting his abortion views as “commonsense.” And then there are those who have simply stopped talking altogether. Pennsylvania’s Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, for example, has gone from a position in which he had championed a six-week ban, opposed exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother, and favored criminal penalties for doctors and nurses who perform abortions to essentially being a mime. OK, this one I actually do get: It’s cowardice, but at least it’s strategic.
The notion that your words have no impact, change nothing, and reveal no truth has been so baked into public political life these past years that it’s no wonder a good many elected officials seem to really believe it. But it a non-trivial number of voters do listen carefully to their elected officials and candidates for high office when they speak. They do absorb the gist of the sentiments offered and the cruelty that underlies it. And they also vote. It says so much about where we are just now that this simple connection must be explained as if it were string theory.
It’s not mere coincidence that new polling shows that “threats to democracy” is suddenly ranked as the number one issue for registered voters. It rolled in at 21 percent, this week, overtaking the economy, crime, and abortion. When you are repeatedly being told by those in power that your preferences don’t matter and when those in power believe that saying the quiet parts out loud is electorally costless, they aren’t just saying that women don’t matter. They’re saying democracy doesn’t matter either. But it turns out they don’t get to decide that. You do.