A recent op-ed in the New York Times offered a stereotype-crushing discovery: in the case of “women’s reproductive rights,” the battle lines are drawn not between men and women, but among women themselves.
The enduring belief that women are pro-choice and men are pro-life is completely false, insists Razib Khan. The striking truth of the matter is that women are the most vehemently pro-choice but also the most pro-life, leaving men somewhere in the middle.
Khan backs up his assertion with polling statistics that confound popular misconceptions. For example, in general terms women oppose abortion slightly more than men. More men than women believe that a woman should be allowed to get an abortion if she “wants it for any reason,” according to the General Social Survey.
Data shows that religious attendance and biblical beliefs are much better indicators of where one stands on life issues than are sex and age. One’s political leaning is another factor that matters more than sex. Khan suggests that women’s statistical tendency to be slightly more pro-life than men may well be due to the tendency for women to be more religious than men.
But now comes the really interesting part. When we separate men and women by political ideological camps, we find that liberal women are consistently more favorable to abortion on demand than are self-identified liberal men. Among conservatives, however, women are more opposed to abortion on demand than their male counterparts.
In other words, the most zealous pro-choicers are women, but so are the most ardent pro-lifers. When it comes to antagonistic extremes, the real abortion battle comes down to women versus women.
This simple fact becomes especially important when considering the so-called “war on women,” which centers on the question of women’s reproductive rights. The slogan, propounded by prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, is all about how unscrupulous men try to strip defenseless women of their God-given reproductive rights.
The paleo-feminist axiom that “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” is still held by those who would like to believe that the abortion battle lines are drawn along a male-female divide.
The data suggest, rather, than misogyny has little or nothing to do with pro-life activism, unless one were to accept the unlikely hypothesis that the most ardent abortion opponents are secretly motivated by self-hatred.
Since the “war on women” is such a convenient label to throw in the face of opponents, it is unlikely that it will be dropped anytime soon. Still, for those interested in the facts, if there is a “war on women,” the men seem to be sitting it out.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome