Opinion: Abortion policy in today’s political climate

  • Abortion rights and anti-abortion advocates demonstrate outside the Supreme Court after a draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post

Published: 5/25/2022 6:02:12 AM
Modified: 5/25/2022 6:00:14 AM

Rep. Brodie Deshaies of Wolfboro is a NH state representative.

With the leak of Justice Alito’s draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade, public policy on abortion has become front and center. Americans are now faced with a new dilemma: What will each state do with this newly returned authority?

The American public is not consistent with the types of policies they expect going forward. We are pretty split down party lines regarding whether or not we define ourselves as pro-life or pro-choice, two oversimplifying terms that do no justice to the policies surrounding abortion or contraceptives.

These terms do not reflect the public’s complex opinions. Most Americans and Granite Staters exist on a spectrum, not on either absolutist end of the policy debate.

In New Hampshire, public polling has consistently shown that most voters are against late-term abortions (24 weeks or later). However, a poll conducted last summer shows that a slight majority of voters opposed New Hampshire’s recent restrictions on late-term abortions. Again, polling nationally indicates that most Americans oppose late-term abortions.

However, the same polls also show most Americans support the Roe v. Wade legal precedent. As we know, Roe v. Wade intended to prevent any state restrictions on abortion, including limitations on late-term abortions. So what gives? Why are Americans and Granite Staters so inconsistent on abortion policy?

It’s complicated. It’s hard to cut through the noise, misrepresentations, and outright lies promulgated by the media, special interest groups, and political parties. The American public never really gets the opportunity to establish a well-informed opinion. The information we receive is never the entire truth or distorts reality. Much of our public debate and views on this complex issue, and so many other topics, originate from an ingenuine place.

When we recognize the issue with current policy debates, it is no wonder the public seems to harbor conflicting opinions on the same problems. We are no longer debating the merits of policies. Politicians and special interest groups are instead trying to outmaneuver each other in framing the issue. It makes developing sound public policy very difficult. When we cannot agree on basic facts, it is impossible to start negotiating or establish any rational policy.

Rather than speak with Americans and Granite Staters about the complexities of specific policies, politicians and special interests are talking at them, using vague buzzwords and politically-tested catchphrases. The goal is to appeal to voters’ emotions instead of their reasoning. This strategy prevents any substantive or fruitful debate. It also doesn’t feel like governing. It feels like constant campaigning and manipulation.

When we no longer debate the merits of policies, how do we start making most of our decisions? With our emotions. The loudest and angriest activists and politicians take the reins and start making the decisions for us. A loud and persistent minority is always more effective at achieving its goals than a silent, complicit majority. Those with a high emotional stake in an issue will push their desired agenda.

An example of this is the activists protesting at the homes of Supreme Court justices. The progressive group “Ruth Sent Us” has organized these protests and admits it won’t change the outcome of the court case. Some legal experts have argued their protesting violates federal law. Nonetheless, this group asserts itself in the public debate and gets rewarded with free press for doing so.

Their policy ambitions of unrestricted abortions up until birth are out of line with most Americans’ opinions. Equally notable are the counter-protests to these progressive groups. These counter-protesters have goals equally out of line with most voters’ views, such as limiting access to contraceptives and being against early-term abortions for rape victims. Both groups of protesters use their persistence and loud protesting to fill a void where honest policy debate should be happening. Voters ultimately become confused and turned off by the extremes.

These groups are usually not debating the rationality of their policy positions. Their arguments are imbued with emotionally charged rhetoric. Politicians adopt this rhetoric because it is effective and politically expedient. Why develop a sound policy stance when you can feed into the desires of the loudest crowd? Why govern when you can easily campaign on manipulated emotions?

Politicians cannot hide behind the Roe decision anymore. Tough choices will be made, primarily in our state capitals across America. Vague buzzwords and politically-tested catchphrases should not be guiding public policy.

If we learn anything from the leaked draft opinion overturning Roe, it is essential to be an engaged and informed voter. The burden is on every voter to vet candidates and ensure their policy aims align with our desires. We must cut through the noise and prevent manipulation.

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