Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which surrounds a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions at 15 weeks. Dobbs is the first case in decades that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Despite the liberal outcry over the possible overturning of Roe, one columnist noted that a reversal of the landmark ruling may not receive the kind of backlash the pro-abortion lobby thinks it would.
On Friday, The Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle published an op-ed titled “Overruling ‘Roe’ likely wouldn’t generate the female backlash that feminists expect.” In her piece, McArdle explained how the “old feminist” argument “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be sacrament” is an unreasonable assumption, and that “fierce electoral backlash” from women “belatedly awakened to the dangers of GOP rule,” could also be unlikely if Roe is overturned.
“In fact, there’s no real data to back up those assumptions,” McArdle wrote. “It’s true that women are more likely than men to identify as pro-choice and to say that abortion is an important factor in their voting decisions. But while the gender gap on abortion is real, it’s remarkably small — and arguably non-existent — when you drill down to the specifics beneath the ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ labels.”
McArdle noted how around the time the “abortion would be a sacrament” line became popular in the pro-abortion movement, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center started their General Social Survey project. Every two years, pollsters ask Americans about themselves, their views, and ask about when they think abortion should be legal.
“The answers to those questions have proven remarkably stable over time and remarkably free of gender bias,” McArdle wrote.
“In 1972, overwhelming majorities of men and women supported abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormalities or danger to the mother, with basically no daylight showing between men’s and women’s answers. By 2012, the percentages were virtually unchanged, as was the gender distribution,” she continued.
“To be fair, a small gender gap did emerge in the most recent survey. The men surveyed in 2018 were somewhat more likely than women to support abortion in such cases. But given the stability of answers over the years, this may just mean that 2018 respondents were less representative than usual on abortion rights,” she added. “The only answers that noticeably changed over time were about whether abortion should be legal for ‘any reason.’ Some 36.5 percent of men and 35 percent of women selected that answer in 1972, while 40 percent of men and 43.2 percent of women chose it in 2012. In the possibly unrepresentative 2018 sample, ‘any reason’ secured close to a majority among both sexes.”
Furthermore, McArdle said that the stability over time and the gender gap in the surveys are an “artifact of Roe.”
“But it’s also possible that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, and throws the issue back to the states, the subsequent legislative wrangling will reveal that the answers to those questions rest less on gender than values — or lifestyle. Are you a college-educated professional who must time pregnancies exquisitely to optimize a career, or are you a low-wage hourly worker for whom other considerations matter more? Are you religious or secular? Conservative or progressive? And when confronted with the fundamental unfairness of mammalian reproduction, do you worry more about a woman’s bodily autonomy, or the potential life that is ended when an abortion is performed?” McArdle wrote.
On Twitter, McArdle doubled-down on her stance, responding to critics saying that “almost all my readers" are "very unlike the average voter,” and “you should not assume that most women think about abortion the way you do, much less that they will vote accordingly.”