When Wendy Davis announced she was running for governor of Texas, the news was heralded as the dawning of a new day for Texas. Davis, whose filibuster temporarily halted the Texas legislature from enacting a ban on abortions after twenty weeks, has been designated as a national standard-bearer for women’s reproductive choice by an adoring media.
Likewise, when the California legislature passed a bill to allow non-physicians to perform abortions, it was lauded as a monumental advance in women’s health. Most commentary and news articles on these two events have parroted the popular yet unsubstantiated narrative that women are largely supportive of the abortion agenda—widespread, open-access abortion policies with little or no restriction. Yet polling data fail to support this narrative.
For example, if you ask women about the law banning abortions after twenty weeks, you find that most are in favor of it. In Texas, 59 percent of women support the twenty-week restriction, while only 30 percent oppose it. While it is tempting to think that Texas, a deep red state with its own unique culture, is somewhat of an outlier, results of nationwide polls show even stronger support for the ban among women.
A Quinnipiac poll found that 60 percent of women supported the twenty-week ban, while an additional 8 percent stated that abortion should never be legal. That represents a full 68 percent of women who would be supportive of the twenty-week ban. Among men, only 50 percent supported the twenty-week ban, and only 6 percent stated that abortion should never be legal. That represents a 12-point gender gap on this issue, with women being much more likely to support abortion restrictions. The poll is hardly an outlier, since a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 71 percent of women favored at least a 20-week ban on abortion, while only 63 percent of men did.
Likewise, polling data on the California bill that allows non-physicians to perform abortions show widespread opposition. While the data are not broken out by gender, Californians oppose the law by a 65-30 percent margin, and by a 65-15 percent margin believe the law will actually be harmful to the health of women.
Ironically, it turns out that women are much more supportive of the fictitious “war on women” than men. This seems counterintuitive, at least to those immersed in radical feminist politics. However, when one considers how abortion on demand alters the fundamental sexual dynamics between men and women, it starts to make sense.
As Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker explain in Premarital Sex in America, the cost of sex in modern America is rather low. For women, in particular, changes in sexual expectations, widespread use of the pill, and abortion on demand all have reduced the cost of sex significantly. There is little social stigma associated with women who are sexually active and/or have multiple sex partners, and the risk of pregnancy and childbirth has been mitigated by both the pill and easy access to abortions. The cost to women now looks very similar to the cost to men, and, as a result, the young women of today are nearly as sexually active as the young men.
While feminists champion this leveling of the sexual playing field, the altered sexual calculus has actually placed women at a significant disadvantage. If women are more willing to engage in sexual activity, men are more than willing to play along—but they are likely to provide very little in return.
As more sexually active women enter the marketplace, it is the young men that seem to be reaping the benefits, not women. For example, Regnerus and Uecker found that on college campuses in which women outnumber men (meaning there are more sexually active women in the marketplace), the women had a more negative view of the men on campus, they went on fewer dates, and received less commitment in return for sexual relations. What was meant to be the triumphant sexual liberation of women has turned college campuses into something that resembles a frat boy’s fantasy world. It is a world that leaves women isolated and lonely.
In work done by sociologist Paula England, more than half of college women surveyed reported feeling less respected by men after casual sex. Meanwhile, college men are less interested than women in a relationship both before and after sex. In addition, more women reported highly unsatisfying sexual encounters, often feeling that they were treated as sexual objects by the men involved.
Yet they continued to have casual sex anyway, because when the cost of sex is low, women feel enormous pressure to give in. Many men even expect this—so much so that survey data indicate 3-5 percent of college women are victims of rape or attempted rape every year.
Yet the victimization doesn’t end there. When contraception fails, whether after consensual casual sex or an alcohol-fueled dorm-rape, men turn to abortion as a way to mitigate their responsibility. In fact, more than 60 percent of women who have an abortion report being under pressure to do so. In the majority of cases, it is the male partner who is applying that pressure. Workers at crisis pregnancy centers see this physical intimidation or emotional manipulation routinely.
In one widely read article, the author touts how he manipulated two of his girlfriends into getting abortions. He callously writes, “I know other guys who simply did not say the right things or trusted her to ‘make the right decision.’ Well, now they are stuck paying child support for children they barely see.”
While the abortion issue is often cloaked in terms of choice, many women feel that their ability to choose actually has been taken away. Not by pro-lifers, but by men who abandoned them in their time of need or who emotionally or physically manipulated them into procuring an abortion. And for the men who choose manipulation, it is only a small step from coercion to outright deception and force. The recent Florida case in which a man deceived his girlfriend into taking a drug that induced a chemical abortion is a case in point. But if a woman can choose to abort her child, why can’t the father? That is exactly where the pro-choice mantra has led us.
Clarke Forsythe writes in his history of Roe v. Wade, “Choice is the public mantra, autonomy is supposedly the principle, but the dark side of autonomy is isolation and loneliness.” Women are beginning to become aware of this deep darkness. The hope is that women—and the men who respect them—will push back against disingenuous pseudo-women’s rights candidates such as Wendy Davis and deceptive pseudo-women’s health laws such as California’s, and bring the light of truth to bear on these issues.
Daniel Kuebler is Professor of Biology and Faculty Associate of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Policy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.