Thursday, January 26, 2006

Was New York Really Denied a Legislative Process?: On Abortion

I read Eyal Press' heartfelt meditation on his father, the abortion doctor. I was going to refrain from commenting on it, because, I find many of the points he raised to be above reproach: (a) the abortion war has detracted energy away from real issues of poverty and joblessness (b) that abortion doctors live under constant death threats (c) that less physicians are willing to become abortion doctors because of the violence. If you haven't read his piece, click here to read "My Father's Abortion War."

Over at Lawyers, Guns and Money, Scott discusses how Press makes use of the "countermobilization myth," something that didn't sit well with me either. First you should read how Scott characterizes this myth here (he wrote this post to take on David Brooks, of course). Mahablog has a thoughtful analysis of Press' article here.

The moment that Press falls into the countermobilization myth is here (where he is describing the slow building of the pro-life movement in Buffalo, NY):

The relative calm can be traced partly to the fact that the revolt against Roe v. Wade took time to build. Few people in Buffalo appreciated at the time that by removing the issue from the legislative process, the Supreme Court would leave millions of Americans feeling that they were denied a say over what they viewed as a life-and-death matter. By short-circuiting a debate that was only beginning (not unlike the issue of gay marriage today), Roe would escalate the very conflict it was designed to quell.

While I think the Lemieux is the expert on these things and has a more nuanced analysis of what is wrong with this paragraph, I was a bit confused when I originally read it. My confusion stemmed from the fact that in my understanding of the history of the repeal movement, New York state was a state where the pro-lifers and pro-choicers did in fact battle out the issue in the legislature. New Yorkers were not short changed by Roe. Perhaps other States were, if you want to buy into the countermobilization myth. But, New York Catholics were quite mobilized and organized during the legislative repeal process. The punished Democrats and Republicans alike for voting for repeal.

Get a copy of Lawrence Lader's Abortion II: The Making of the Revolution. Lader was a founding member of NARAL and details the different state fights: Hawaii, California, and New York. His chapter on New York was quite informative, since he demonstrates how Nixon's "Southern Strategy" was finessed during the repeal movement in New York. Nixon tried to win over the Catholics who were registering as Republicans before entering Mass as a protest against the repeal movement. The Catholic church, with all its wealth, was mobilizing a really loud and aggressive anti-choice campaign, making them the more powerful tax free lobbying group around.

I may have some of these details a bit off, since I loaned my copy of the book to a friend. Perhaps someone out there can weigh in here. Did New York really get deprived of a legislative process over the legalization of Abortion?