Protest, post, and focus on Kansas
This is one situation where I think spreading information – just factual information – might also be very helpful. In my experience, many people who have not been a childbearing age woman have never heard of an ectopic pregnancy, don’t know that miscarriage requires surgical removal of the fetus (when I was younger, I thought it just sort of bled out), don’t realize that women’s bodies expel embryos ALL the freaking time, etc. people also don’t understand how many fetal development problems are incompatible with life. I’m not talking about down syndrome, I’m talking about fetuses that don’t have lungs or half their brain. Does anyone remember Andrew Sullivan‘s (yes, I know he’s very controversial these days) series where he collected stories of late term abortions? He went from thinking they were abhorrent to thinking they might be the most justifiable of all abortions.
We don’t really talk about these things. I think now we need to. The trigger law in my state has zero exceptions, but I don’t honestly think even most Republicans would want to force women to continue with an ectopic pregnancy if they understood what it was. Time to make this stuff common knowledge.
In terms of “posting is praxis” tactics, I think we all need to avoid the temptation to critique suboptimal messaging from our pro-choice compatriots. E.g., if someone you follow quote tweets a maximalist pro-choice message with an explanation of how that is alienating to moderates, I think it’s best to ignore that QT; neither like nor reply. (Maybe even use the Twitter option “Not interested in this Tweet” / “This Tweet isn’t relevant” so that Twitter algorithms learn to down-rank similar tweets.) We should avoid intra-coalition infighting as well as minimize the salience of our less effective messaging.
Instead, our ire and frustration should be directed at the extremist on the anti-abortion side. We should raise the salience of their most extreme and counterproductive messaging. We should force the anti-abortion side to fight within their coalition, with their supporters of more moderate restrictions having to defend cases where they believe abortion should be allowed. E.g., in cases where both the mother’s life is at risk and the fetus is non-viable. There are anti-abortion extremists that would fight to criminalize that life-saving medical procedure and we should encourage that online fight within our opponent’s coalition.
Let me also combine points one and two for you- protest signs are praxis. I can’t fathom who was ever convinced to change their minds on this topic by seeing a bunch of posters that literally say “Fuck You.”
I've spent the last few days sending text messages inviting women to attend pro-choice rallies in various states. I'm convinced this is worthwhile but I've noticed something that confirms Matt's doubts about the strategy progressive philanthropists are following.
The intro that the volunteers read before we start texting has a line explaining that "various groups" are participating in this project, which is under the umbrella of a general-purpose progressive textbanking org. I didn't think much of that until I noticed that the individual groups are all getting bylines, so to speak, in the initial messages we send. So depending on the luck of the draw, if you're an adult American woman there's a chance I may send you a text that starts off: "This is Jeff from Latinx Action Missouri" or "This is Jeff from Kansans for Transgender Justice". (I made these up but the real names are similar. They label the messages as coming from identity group lobbies, and *not* because the recipient is believed to be a member of the group in question.)
I messaged one of the moderators and suggested that we shouldn't be phrasing the appeal to sound as if it's aimed at any particular group (apart from women, obviously). But I assume there's nothing that can be done about this, because each of these organizations has pitched in money for the campaign and insists on having its "brand" put in front of voters, even when that's likely to be counterproductive.
Seriously: what can be done to convince donors that this is unhelpful?
I think your advice is correct if it channels the current energy into something that isn't detrimental to the cause. But I don't believe holding lots of "My Body, My Choice" protests will move the needle much. "Legal Sometimes, But Not Always" is an accurate reflection of public opinion but would be a terrible rally poster.
Legislation, ultimately, will need to be implemented in the states. We've already seen trigger laws that make abortion easier and less restrictive than Roe adopted in Democratic states, and we've seen similar laws in Republican states that criminalize the procedure entirely. I predict politics (the slow boring of hard boards) will take decades for states to find a position that truly reflects their citizen's views.
The right has been at the anti-Roe game for 50+ years. They hold one big rally per year in DC but that isn't why they won. They won because of their work developing legal arguments, filling the judge pipeline with lawyers who agree, doing state-level politics and enacting small laws on difficult-to-fight issues (parental notification, late-term bans, waiting periods, etc).
I think the better advice is to channel the energy around the overturning of Roe into similar and countervailing work at the state and local level. Not as much fun as a protest, but ultimately more effective I predict.
Thanks for the tip about Kansas! Made a small donation.
One that that’s going to happen in the near-medium term is that states are going to have to enforce the laws, including the more extreme versions that criminalize and/or encourage vigilantism toward those providing support for abortion. This is going to lead to situations where state laws conflict. If I live in Illinois, go pick someone up in Missouri, and bring them to Illinois to have an abortion, then I’m breaking Missouri law and can be punished (or in the TX law, concerned Texans can sue me). But it’s not against the law in Illinois and I’m crossing state lines. That makes this an issue that gets settled in federal courts. Possibly taken all the way to the Supreme Court. How will these same justices adjudicate the constitutionality of contradictory laws between the many states?
So if you’re posting, ask those questions! What if I donate money to a pro-abortion org but live in a state where providing material support is punishable? I thought money was free speech? What if I am detained for travel out of state under suspicion I might receive an abortion? I thought the constitution guaranteed free travel between the states?
Asking these questions brings up basic civil liberties, *individual* liberties, that most Americans would not like to see curtailed and they are not specifically about whether or not there is a right to an abortion. This fits well with the more popular government overreach narrative. It also helps to amplify the dumbest Republican responses to these questions, as well as their public desire to go further and put the government’s hands down your pants for things like contraception and sodomy.
First trimester abortions are quite popular. Elective, second trimester abortions are very unpopular. The most persuasive pro choice argument is that women should not have their lives and bodies hijacked by a multiplying ball of cells which nature aborts half the time anyway. The most persuasive pro life argument is that later term fetuses look a lot like babies and aborting them with human hands feels adjacent to murder. Elective, second trimester abortions are an unlovely hill to die on. The money needed to get abortion pills to every recently pregnant woman who wants to end a pregnancy is not huge. Protecting early abortions, philanthropic provision of abortion pills and protections for medically necessary later term
abortions might actually increase reproductive freedom over the Roe baseline, where many women had abortions later than they wanted because of financial constraints. This would be functionally similar to much of Europe, where elective second trimester abortions are banned, but the state pays for early abortions. France is not a misogynist dystopia!
(I am not saying reproductive freedom is about to increase, only that it could increase if elective second trimester abortions were banned but early abortions were easier to get).
One of the things that I think is kind of fascinating is how much the extremes are really interested in this fight as part of a larger fight about sex stigmatization and how much the middle kind of tunes that out and sees it as ala carte abortion.
Like I find the stigmatization in and rare hard to swallow because I’m probably in the most progressive 1% on all sexual issues. And when I see rw tweets retweeted they use words like slut and whore a lot more than anyone I’ve ever met irl.
I think most people see abortion as a kind of narrow issue, though I don’t have any data to show this for sure.
The entertainment industry point is spot on. For years I’ve noticed and was troubled by how we only ever see women considering abortion and opting against it, or having one and strongly coming to regret it. It’s fine to have both these situations portrayed , but having *only* those, and not the many many cases were abortion can be a life saver (sometimes literally) even if no one wants to get tot the situation in the first place, certainly has a distorting affect .
Protest is good if it draws new people into a social movement and transforms them from bystanders into activists. Protest is irrelevant if it draws the same old, same old activists who protest everything. When I was in college, back in the 1980s, the latter was more common than the former.
Protest also helps frame issues and introduces new ways of looking at the world. Occupy Wall Street didn't actually produce any concrete achievements but it did get us talking about the 99%, etc..
I would argue that the most successful protest campaigns focus on securing some concrete achievements while at the same time serving as a vehicle of mobilization and framing. For example, MLK's Birmingham campaign hoped to desegregate businesses in the city while at the same time illustrating the inhumanity of the segregated South. It actually succeeded on both fronts. While the economic benefits were somewhat limited, the images of cops attacking young people with fire hoses and dogs captured the inhumanity very well. In either case, King could claim both tangible and intangible success in such an instance.
Please, please don't encourage Hollywood to weave abortion rights into movies and shows. We need SOME areas of life without politics, lecturing and divisiveness.
Can you please provide more information about the formulation of the questions asked in the Data for Progress poll you discuss? In particular, why were respondents not offered some version of "I think abortion should be legal in some cases"? It is impossible not to wonder if the poll's architects were determined to reach the result of "a clear majority support abortion in most cases" by omitting a potentially more appealing choice.
Now that the demise of Roe means Republicans have to put their money where their mouth is on abortion laws, how many more states are there where Republicans will effectively be shut out of statewide office unless they moderate their position and back abortion rights? It seems that over the medium to long run, splitting the Republican Party monolithic position and making it once again acceptable to support abortion rights and be a Republican in good standing will be essential to nationwide protection of abortion rights. This is what's happened in states like Massachusetts, Maryland, etc, where Republican governors are pro-choice. In what other states is this now likely? Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin?
I think that people need to know that some people do not share the notion that life begins at conception. Talking about Peter Singer's ideas might be a mistake, but for instance in the Jewish tradition life doesn't begin at conception and if you are in that tradition you should talk about it. Christianity is the default in a lot of communities, people need to here about other ideas.
You might check in with Dana Fisher at UMD for protest efficacy findings. Also, Adam Grant had some useful thoughts on storytelling and conversation strategy.. https://adamgrant.bulletin.com/how-to-argue-about-abortion/?source=copy_cta