For years, Republicans yelled, “If Democrats win, they’re gonna take your guns!” In response, conservative 2ndAmendment ideologues flocked to buy guns before they were banned and we now have far more guns per person floating around our society than any other country in the world. Obviously, Democrats didn’t take their guns despite winning.
On the other side of the aisle, Democrats yelled, “If Republicans win, they’re going to take your reproductive freedom!” Young people shrugged or rolled their eyes because no one, they believed, was going to make abortion illegal. Except they did. And they still are.
In states across the country, Republican legislatures are making abortion all but illegal. Alabama passed a law that essentially bans the procedure and makes performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison. Even some Republicans are surprised at how fast it’s happened. House Minority Leader Republican Kevin McCarthy said he thinks the Alabama law goes too far.
The push for these laws started when Democrats began defending late-term abortions publicly. New York passed a law that would protect a woman’s right to abortions after 24 weeks. In trying to explain the procedure in a radio show, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam inflamed passions and Republicans started accusing Democrats of “infanticide.”
In conservative publications, pundits misconstrued the issue, saying laws like New York’s allowed for abortion on demand up to the time of birth. The law only permits late term abortion in the event the life of the mother is threatened or the fetus is nonviable, allowing a woman to abort a pregnancy that might otherwise make it to term but would result in a horrendously deformed baby that could not survive. It’s this type of pregnancy that Republicans in North Carolina want to force women to endure with their so-called “born alive” abortion bill that Governor Roy Cooper vetoed. Let’s hope Democrats sustain it.
Evangelicals and other religious conservatives are excited about their newfound momentum to ban abortions. They believe the new Supreme Court, packed with conservative justices, will overturn Roe v. Wade and kick abortion legislation back to the states. A lot of other Republicans like McCarthy think they may have overplayed their hand.
Electorally, they’ve further awakened young women to the threat to their reproductive freedom and health. Like the #MeToo movement, women are taking to social media using the hashtag #youknowme to share their abortion experiences. The stories make clear that few women go into an abortion enthusiastically, but few would go back and change their decisions, either. They value their right to make decisions about their bodies and their futures.
Republicans have successfully alienated African-Americans and Hispanics, driving them into the arms of the Democrats. Now, they’re about to further alienate women, especially young ones who took their right to control their bodies for granted. Republicans have been banking on the turnout of their base, older white people, especially men, showing up in much larger numbers than the younger voters who make up a significant part of the modern Democratic coalition. However, the 2018 election showed the younger voters today are much more politicized than the younger voters in the past. Legislation like the laws in Alabama could drive young women to the polls in droves to stop extremist legislation.
Hyperbole has always been part of politics. The cry that Democrats will take your guns had little truth in it, but the GOP base believed it completely. The cry that Republicans will take your right to reproductive choices is proving to be all too true, but the Democratic base didn’t believe it would happen. If they want to protect their rights, they better wake up now and do for Democrats what 2nd amendment zealots did for Republicans.