Thoughts on Dobbs


I'm sure all of you have overdosed on commentary on the post-Roe world of the new Dobbs decision by the US Supreme Court. I know I have. But there's something left to say.

And what is left to say is something quite simple--neither extreme side in this debate reflects the will of the American people. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the American public does not see its judgment on abortion reflected in red state or blue state law. What we have here is a failure of democracy.

Let's look at this wonderfully detailed Pew survey, conducted in May 2022. This is such a great report, because they have sliced and diced the data in every conceivable way.

The first thing to observe is that the overwhelming percentage of Americans believe there are at least some circumstances in which a woman should be able to obtain an abortion. A full 90% of Americans fall into that category! So the idea there should be no abortion at all is completely rejected by 9 out of 10 Americans.

Furthermore, a full 81% of Americans do not believe that abortion should be legal in all circumstances. Over 8 out of 10 Americans believes there should be some limits on abortion.

I can't think of any other issue on which there is such a huge consensus in American politics! Americans reject rigid extreme views on both sides of the abortion debate.

And yet that is what our new Dobbs world has given us. Red states and blue states are now so polarized that these states are giving us laws that the vast majority of Americans reject. This is the failure of democracy I'm talking about.

Now, some say that if women got to decide the issue, this would look like the bue state laws. That's patently false, according to this Pew survey. Male views on abortion and female views on abortion are pretty much the same. So even if we excluded EVERY male from decisionmaking on abortion law, female viewpoints would be just as heterogeneous. But the female consensus would still be that abortion should be available, but only under certain circumstances.

Here is a graphic from the report on gender differences:






















Stare at that chart awhile. This isn't a male versus female debate. Most all Americans, male and female, are on the same page about abortion. But the laws of our states do not reflect that consensus.

That's tragic.

Consider for example that several states do not have exceptions for rape, whereas 56% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats believe it should be legal in these cases, for an average of 69% overall. Again, that is a failure of democracy.

I find myself fuming that we are so ill served by our posturing politicians, who surely know there is a broad consensus on abortion among Americans and yet who refuse to represent that consensus when making law.

Rant over for the evening!