Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reading into a poll too much: Anti-choice and contraception morality

I stand corrected, partially: According to Gallup, anti-choice people do not think birth control is a sin. Slate writer William Saletan decided to read into this way too much and concluded that anti-choice activists are pro-contraception, pro-women, and all sorts of good stuff.

He might be right, but this poll does not provide evidence for him assertions. Now certainly the math says that if 89 percent of respondents think birth control is morally acceptable then inevitably a huge proportion of respondents who think abortion is morally unacceptable will think birth control is acceptable. And that's all.

In the abstract, birth control is acceptable. What about the specifics? What about when it is used for sex between an unmarried man and woman, which is disapproved of by 38 percent of respondents? Given that there is a 54-42 percent split between considering it morally acceptable and unacceptable to have a child outside of marriage, perhaps we can assume that using birth control to prevent that is morally acceptable. Or maybe only that it is the lesser of two evils.
Pro-lifers don’t oppose birth control. They support it overwhelmingly. Three of every four people who regard abortion as morally wrong believe not just that you have a right to use contraception, but that using it is morally acceptable. That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact.
Wrong. They may find it morally acceptable in the abstract, but that does not mean they find it morally acceptable in all cases, or that they believe people have a right to use it, or the right to easy access.
It’s true that the absolutism of pro-life political leaders has driven them to attack all public funding of family-planning organizations that perform, or even counsel women about, abortions. If you think they’re foolish and wrong to do so, I agree with you. But that’s an argument about policy and consequences. It’s not about motives.
How else can one judge motives except by actions? Words get spun a million different ways and send different messages to different audiences. Actions have consequences. If the actor didn't like those consequences, then presumably they'd stop those actions. That is, unless they either desired those consequences or considered them to be of lesser importance to the overall goal. Voting is an action and voting keeps sending these extremists into office. Showing up is an action and crowds are what give extremists power.

By their actions, rather than just their words in a poll, it is clear that anti-choicers care more about ending abortion than promoting birth control. But I see some hope in this poll. With such an extreme difference in the polling on abortion and birth control, there are a lot of people who may come to see accessible, affordable, and acceptable birth control as a way to end abortion. In time we may see anti-choice activists, driven by their supporters, take more sensible steps that can reduce abortion without unduly harming women's rights.

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