What really motivates people with extremely strong opinions on abortion

I’m sure some are pro or anti abortion because of the issue itself, but the issue seems like a proxy to me.

For one thing (as a liberal obviously I’m biased) many of the groups and individuals who are most anti-abortion don’t seem very compassionate or empathetic. Many seem unforgiving, militant and supporters of rigid social atmospheres. The idea that they are motivated by a deep seated empathy for fetuses and zygotes is hard to believe in light of other attitudes. And I’m guessing a lot of the pro-choice momentum is a desire to not have women be subjected to the decisions of groups like that. Either way, I don’t think either prolife or prochoice groups are motivated by abortion itself. I could be wrong though.

I’m guessing the abortion issue is (obviously) a proxy for a war over women’s rights and women being trusted with responsibility and power. But if that is the case why would abortion be chosen as a proxy battleground for women’s rights, power and liberation? Why not women in the military, or women in the workplace or women in politics?

If some on the right are motivated by a oppose women’s liberation and use abortion as a proxy, why are people like Palin and Bachmann leaders of the Tea Party wing (ie why give women power in a movement that wants to deny women power)? That doesn’t make sense, militants on the right seem open to having women in positions of power and responsibility in politics. That seems like a contradiction. Not to mention all the pro-life women out there. If the most extreme pro-lifers are motivated by a desire to control women why are they so willing to give political power to women like Palin and Bachmann, and why do so many women join the movement?

Is there another motive other than it being a proxy for women’s lib? The contradiction is confusing to me.

Not to say there aren’t people motivated by the issue of abortion itself. But by and large it seems like a proxy issue.

No its not a proxy issue. Pro-lifers actually do think fetuses are life and thus shouldn’t be murdered.

I’m not sure that I agree entirely with your theory that abortion is a proxy for women’s liberation, but I can tell you the difference between the abortion issues and other feminist issues such as women in the military or women having political power: Abortion is directly connected to sexual activity.

For some, it’s not just a desire to dominate and control women, but to dominate and control their sexual activity. There is a mentality that says that it’s fine for a woman to be a soldier or President, but she should still remain chaste until marriage, and should be subservient to men in her sex life. From this, you get the idea that a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy has engaged in immoral behavior that must be punished. Allowing women to choose to terminate a pregnancy means allowing them to have sex without consequences. This is a belief that can be held equally by men and women, without regard to whether they support women’s equality in general.

That’s just psychological bullshit. Has anyone not thought of the idea that the simplest explanation is the correct one?

Spot on.

Victorian era social dysfunction still permeates the US culture as far as women’s sexuality, and due to the continuous assault from religious and conservative groups, the attitudes regarding abortion are constantly in a schizophrenic state.

An easy way to verify this, is to examine the position of the anti-choice camp: They want to ban others from doing something. The pro-choice camp wants a choice to be available. They’re not mandating abortion on anyone.

Yes. SpoilerVirgin, this is actually the first time I’ve heard anyone else posit what I’ve instinctively felt for years. The church, that is to say organized religion has always feared and hated sex, and has always tried to regulate, downplay and even outlaw it (except for the unfortunate realization that some sex is necessary to continue the species and make more bodies for the church. The reason for this fear & loathing is simple…the powerful primordial sex instinct is one of the very few things that can compete with the church for the hearts minds and souls of men and women.

Basic misogyny (and religiously based sexual shaming of women) is the simplest explanation. I’ve seen these people in action (one one occasion calling a rape victim I was escorting to a clinic a “slut”), and they didn’t appear coming from a place of compassion but pure anger and hatred. It also seems to me that the most militant anti-abortion people, generally speaking, are also vehemently opposed to giving any kind of assistance to these babies after they’re born, and unwed mothers seeking help are villified without mercy as “welfare queens.” If they really care about babies, they don’t do a very good job of showing it. All we see is hostility and occasional violence.

I can’t really buy this.

I am sure that is what they would answer but I do not see them really buying it.

Imagine there were hundreds of places around the country where people brought infants and those infants then had someone stick an ice pick in their head and killed them. To the tune of 1.35 million per year in the US. Such a thing would make the Holocaust pale in comparison.

The response and horror and loathing would be off the charts. Violent attacks against such places would be constant. People would fall over themselves trying to stop it at any cost.

Sure, there are some very few out there who will go to that extreme but the vast majority do not. As such I am not seeing their rhetoric match their actions.

This opinion (and the similar ones in followup about controlling sexual activity etc. are in my view exaggerated, polarizing and useless (if not actively harmful to the pro-abortion rights cause).

As someone strongly supportive of abortion rights, I take the opposition at their word, not seeking comfort in the illusion that abortion is a “proxy” issue for them. It’s overwhelmingly a case of deep-seated religious attitudes/fervor and in some cases the non-religious conviction that ethical behavior demands the treatment of embryos and fetuses as full-fledged human beings.

While such attitudes are in my view dead wrong and destructive to human rights and society, they are in very large part what they claim to be.

I have an extremely strong opinion about abortion mostly because I don’t want to be a prisoner of my body.

If I may comment on the overly dramatic use of “prisoner”…

Our bodies do many things we’re not aware of, but getting pregnant is definitely not one of them. A prisoner has no choice to prevent their incarceration.

If you take a way the right to end an unwanted pregnancy, then you are effectively locking the “prison door.”

And not everybody who gets pregnant has a choice about it.

Not to be glib, but, noticing your screenname, I’m going to guess there’s more to your reason for having an extremely strong opinion about abortion.

The issue of abortion is clumsy, and, were there to be a meaningful debate between folks approaching it rationally, it would prove to be a nuanced, difficult issue. I remain convinced that the argument for allowing it would win out, but it’s hardly obvious or cut-and-dry. It is an issue that can not and should not be reduced merely to “God hates it!” vs. “It’s my body!”

That is, sadly, not the debate going on, for the most part.

You ask what motivates people with extremely strong opinions on abortion? In the majority of cases I’ve seen, the answer is pretty clear: their preacher.


I would have said that for the most part the times at which you notice someone either speaking about in engaging in some behaviour supporting pro-life or pro-choice positions is when they’re doing it, which doesn’t really seem that odd. I mean, the vast majority of times I have seen people mentioning their opinion is either in a discussion or the subject or in an article about the subject or in a demonstration about the subject. In which case, i’m not really sure i’d expect obvious compassion or empathy, because, by and large, those are times in which the point being made is done so with an attempt at objectivity.

I mean, for an example, the OP doesn’t strike me as having a particularly compassionate or empathetic first post. That doesn’t mean I should consider him uncompassionate or unempathetic, it’s just that the circumstances of GD in this case lend themselves towards an attempt at reasoning versus appeals to emotion, at least in theory.

In general, I try not to assume other people’s thinking, because by and large little seems to actually come of it except pissing off the person in question. It’s even more difficult to do when you’re talking about a group of people, and yet more so when you’re talking about groups of people that overlap only in some places. I think the more important question, practically speaking, is not why people think something, but if they do, what might be done to convince otherwise.

Some years ago a coworker and I collaborated on a story about people in Operation Rescue. We talked to them as reporters, which essentially meant we asked a certain list of questions and just accepted their answers. One of the questions was how they got started on it.

Six of the 8 women I interviewed got into it because they had abortions and realized it was a bad, bad thing. In other words (which I did not put into their mouths), they made a choice, regretted that choice, and decided it would be a terrible idea for anyone else to have a chance to make that same choice ever again.

So there’s compassion in there, yeah, but it’s a weird way to live your life IMO.

My coworker interviewed more men than women, but in the case of the women, the proportion who’d had an abortion themselves was about the same.

I’ve always felt the opposite. What seems contradictory to me are pro-lifers who don’t hold extreme views on abortion. Me, personally, I realize a fetus is not the same thing as a baby. But for people who can’t distinguish the two, an extreme opposition to abortion at least seems logically consistent. The only people I can’t understand are the ones who say, “Well I DO think abortion is tantamount to murdering a live infant, but it’s only one of several important issues I consider when voting, and I’m too busy to do anything about it every other day of the year”.

How many people would be content to post on a message board debating the topic if actual infants were being euthanized by the million? I certainly wouldn’t. Actually, now that I type it all out maybe my logic does support the idea that most pro-lifers realize a fetus isn’t a life and it is just a proxy for them.

Why the assumption that all people who are opposed to abortion have the same motivations? There are doubtless at least some people who really do get their kicks from oppressing women for its own sake, but there are likewise doubtless at least some who are sincere about considering fetuses people subject to all the same rights as the born. Denying the existence of either group is absurd hyperbole. Now, one can certainly debate the relative proportions of those or other motivations, but what is accomplished by insisting that everyone on one side of an issue is 100% homogeneous?

Like others, I do believe a lot of it comes down to a visceral reaction against women being “free” to have sex without getting saddled with unwanted consequences. It’s not fair, you see, that a slut can be a slut and not be burdened with the bastards her wanton conduct would naturally produce. With abortion in place, the sluts can blend in with non-sluts, without anyone being the wiser. This disrupts society because it makes it harder to put women in their little boxes. The chaste women don’t know who to look down upon to make themselves feel superior and the men can only speculate as to who is sufficiently pure.

But I don’t think most people who are anti-abortion are conscious of feeling this way. They probably do think their stance is about protecting children. And I’m sure back in the day, contraception was perceived in the same way that abortion is now. The concern, at the root of it is, is not about children, but about consequence-free sex. Nevermind that abortion is not consequence-free (and neither is birth control).

I also noticed a long time ago that conservatives seem to think anything that keeps people from incurring negative consequences is automatically deemed bad if the action associated with the consequence is deemed bad. For instance, I’m currently reading Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Hears. In one chapter, he discusses a radical intervention for chronic homelessness that is being implemented in Denver, CO. The intervention? Provide housing, rehab, and counseling to these people. Get them off the street so they don’t rack up huge hospital bills when they get sick and drunk in the alleys, thereby creating a drain on society. Now although this method is backed by a pretty compelling analysis of costs-benefits that shows that society is probably better off with this system in place, many conservative detractors can’t stomach the idea that no-account bums get this kind of helping hand. Because it goes against their “everyone must face the consequences” philosophy. It doesn’t matter to them whether housing the chronic homeless serves the greater good. They are more concerned that some drug-addicted slacker somewhere could be getting away with free rent and groceries, and they’re not, and it is just not right!

Opposition to abortion is not that much different. Women having pre-marital sex* is deemed bad. And because it prevents women from dealing with the consequences of their bad behavior, abortion must also be bad. Now we could throw out figures all day which show how society is better off with legalized, accessible abortion, but people who put stock in the “all natural consequences are just” belief system care not one whit about any of that.

*Cuz we all know that only single women get abortions, duh!

If pro-lifers were just misogynists who got boners from oppressing women why not try to pass laws that allow man to have power in having women get abortions. A lot of the time after all fornicating or adulterous men want their mistresses pregnancies erased for convenience?