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People try to put us down: Abortion's generational divide runs deep in GOP

What the Devil won't tell you

People try to put us down: Abortion's generational divide runs deep in GOP

  • Banning abortion isn't just about trolling libs and younger Republican women seem to understand the stakes.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comBanning abortion isn't just about trolling libs and younger Republican women seem to understand the stakes.

My skepticism about women's sudden loss of access to abortion having any effect on the electorate was both confirmed and confounded by a recent survey by an Arizona pollster.

The poll of 927 Arizonans in the wake of of Dobbs v. Jackson found that just 52 percent of Arizona voters oppose the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade. I thought that would have been higher. If confirmed with subsequent polls, those results should give abortion rights activists pause about asking voters for a constitutional amendment with maximalist protections.

The survey, conducted by OH Predictive Insights, found 66 percent of Democrats said the overturning of Roe v. Wade made them more likely to vote. That's twice the percentage of Republicans energized by the ruling.

OK, but Republicans started from a state of readiness and I would think more Democrats would be shocked to action given the audacity of the attack on female autonomy. 

Historically, when Democrats win the White House they are much more interested in using midterms to show their frustration by not voting at all. Overall, Republicans have proven to be the party motivated by social issues. 

This time could be different, but you gotta show me before I buy it. 

Then again, 2022 is the first time in my lifetime that Republicans have been worse than Democrats at messaging. The GOP I grew up with would have lock onto inflation like a peregrine on a pigeon. Instead, they are allowing themselves to be distracted by sexual regulation and cops in bedrooms. Mitch McConnell must be crying in his Kentucky bourbon while shouting at  random passersby "What? The literal? Flunk!?" 

And therein lies the bigger problem with abortion, which was revealed by our Arizona poll. 

Nearly half (49 percent) of Republican women over 55 strongly support the Dobbs decision, while 22 percent of that group oppose the ruling.

But the pollsters broke that down more and found just 31 percent of GOP women younger than 55 strongly support the right-wing take on abortion and 28 percent strongly oppose it.

It's dangerous to read too much into a single poll but a 24-point divide among fellow travelers has to show something. Although, that 49 percent number among GOP women over 55 isn't exactly a massive showing of hands.

It makes sense when we remember what actually drove the abortion debate into overdrive in the first place. It gets to my two gripes about overturning Roe: It's an attack on the sexual revolution through an embrace of thousands of years of misogyny and makes me have to apologize for my gender. 

Older Republican women tend to have bigger problems with sexual freedom. Those who are younger understand they have benefited from it and it's changed the idea of what's possible in their lives.

According to the poll, conducted in the days just before the primary election, 89 percent of Arizonans believe that "abortion should be legal in at least some cases." That's a massive margin, and one that flies in the face of the Republican push to revive a near-total ban on abortions in the state. The poll found that 42% of Arizona voters believe "abortion should be legal in all circumstances."

As pollster Mike Noble said, "Candidates who can sift through the louder sentiments to leverage an actionable abortion messaging strategy will have the advantage going into November."

Just a quick aside: Right up until COVID-19, I cut pro-lifers a bunch of slack. Writers should have empathy. I could see where people who believed that life begins at conception would understand abortion as anti-life. Then I watched the party of life embrace 1 million deaths during the pandemic as proof of freedom. I can still cut slack to anti-choicers who wore a mask, got vaccinated and didn't lie about either. They may actually care about fetuses as "unborn children." 

But for the most part, concern about the fetus is meant to polish the appearance of the few who want to reassert their power over the many. 

Abortion, contraceptive advancement and freedom from sodomy laws allow adults to separate sex from marriage and childbirth.  

Society has decided it likes it that way. Politically, reversing those advancements is a loser because the U.S. is a democracy and – oh, wait ... maybe not so much ...

Warning: this column is going to contain opinions about the politics of sex. Opinions tend to vary. A columnist's job is to stir the pot, so hang onto something. 

Reality One

I'm going to throw two numerical realities at you.

In 1950, the median age of a woman getting married for the first time was 20. Today, it's 28. Remember the median is the middle point; half the sample falls above above and half below. So in 1950, half of women getting married were basically teenagers. Now, half of women wait until they are pushing or over 30 to say "I do."

The average age of men going into a first marriage has increased from 25 to 30.

Women are now entering holy matrimony in a far different position than the teenaged version of themselves. Men don't change as much between 25 to 30.

Back then, a 25-year-old man who married an 18-year-old was expected to be more of a master than a partner. We know this because brides were expected to take a vow of obedience in the traditional wedding ceremony.

Frankly, regardless of time or gender the gender, people fresh out of high school aren't on the same footing as someone in their mid-20s. This columnist doesn't even have a problem with a grad student dating a freshman. Just let the teenager grow up a little bit before putting a ring on it.

On the other hand, a 30-year old man marrying a 28-year-old woman has a partner and one would imagine women prefer the former to the be the latter.

Of course these are generalizations and aren't true in all cases. But do we really want to return to a day when 20-year-old brides were the rule, rather than the exception?

It's one thing for a 19-year-old woman to wait until she's married before engaging in "The Act." Society has a much harder sell telling a 30-year-old to forego a regular adulthood, which includes the right to a healthy sex life.

Society has given its answer because women are waiting now to get married. Having reproductive autonomy has done a lot to give them that choice.

The U.S. Supreme Court and a bunch of legislatures want to take it away.

We are talking about sex, so of course we are talking about a double standard. The sex drive is a biological and evolutionary imperative. It's not Satan working through "she-wolves."

No one expected men to wait until they were 25 back in 1960 and they wouldn't today. There's a term for it: "sowing wild oats." Women who did that were loose and easy because – I guess – good girls got married. 

So, in my humble opinion, the abortion issue takes society straight back to the old B.S. about madonnas and whores and the regulation of women's sexuality as necessary "whore control." It's the misogyny that the patriarchy was built upon.  If we men need women in chains to preserve our morality then men need to be penned up and left outdoors. We're no better than livestock.

In fact, most younger men today have no problem finding their morality all on their own. Oppressing women is not required. Also, sshshshshsh ... there's more to morality than sex.

A 30-year-old Republican woman doesn't need to have done deep dives on women throughout history to understand their freedom is being messed with. That's the sentiment OH Predictive Insight is no doubt finding. 

Women like freedom. Go figure. They think freedom is compatible with righteousness. They might just vote accordingly and then the religious Right would find itself outnumbered as democracy works its will.  Oh, wait ...

Reality Two

In 1960, 69 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 14 were married (yes, 14). That number is down to about half today. That same year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control pills for widespread distribution. 

And to a lot of people that was the beginning of the end. Other people saw it as the beginning of personal empowerment.

I remember being the first kid in my 1st grade class to witness his parents get divorced back in 1974. By 10th grade, it was no big deal. I also remember Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s leading the religious right in disparaging "recreational sex." They blamed it on the breakdown of the family. The problem, see, was the nation's overactive libidos. 

The sexual revolution got tagged for the breakup of the American family and decay of American culture.

Pope John Paul II called this "The Culture of Death." It was all about "false freedom."

I'm just going to put this on the floor and see if the dog licks it up: Maybe – just maybe – the "housewives" of America had a lousy deal. They got to cook, clean and raise the kids. As every woman was expected to do that, there was no scarcity of labor so the job had no market value. Therefor women had no market value. America likes to equate market value to human value. Women could do the math.

The divorce boom of the 1970s probably had more to do with women feeling dissed. Yeah, 10-year-old me heard a lot of those conversations in the other room with women working through their frustration over wine and weed.

The sexual revolution and the revolution in reproductive medical advances have allowed women to redefine the terms of marriage because they are allowed to grow up and advance through life before donning the ring – if they put one on at all.

They've had that power. They are about to lose it. Taking empowerment from the people is a political loser so long as all the people have a say – oh, wait ...

Anyone thinking "wait, this is ancient history" understands the point. The origins of the war on abortion predates them and are probably foreign to them. So, too is their party's obsession with bedroom cops and uterine detectives.

To control completely

Former Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik had a brother who was a priest. He left the clergy when he fell in love with a nun and they got married.

During the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal, I talked to him and he told me something that always stuck with me.

I'm paraphrasing a bit, but he said this: "If you have the power to control someone's sexuality, you control them completely."

That sounds like hyperbole until you think about it. If the state has the power to control the most personal and intimate actions, then controlling people's public lives is easy.

I also had a great political science prof who explained how power works in the simplest of terms: Policy gets made when the winners know they've won and the losers don't know they've lost.

Americans are notorious for their short attention spans. So I'm not sure people will really notice the immediate effects of overturning Roe. Someone who is not pregnant still has to buy butter at $5 per pound.

The fullness of the sexual counter-revolution will be unavoidable.

People are going to notice if they can't buy contraception anymore. People are going to notice the first time they know someone arrested for receiving oral sex. People are going to notice if they are again barred from getting married. People are eventually going to notice they have to go through labor and delivery when they accidentally get pregnant. 

But I'm not sure the winners will know they won. Banning oral sex and mandating childbirth won't fix the fundamentals of a world fundamentally changing with social media, climate change, artificial intelligence or a ruling class of hyper-wealthy families.

Meanwhile, opinions do vary. I've given you mine. You have yours. Great. Awesome. I'm not trying to pass laws enforcing Blakeist doctrine. The religious Right has no business doing it either.

The right keeps going long on things that older voters like and younger voters don't. That's a big demographic problem for the GOP in a functioning democracy.

What's next? Are they going to ban democracy to – oh, wait ...

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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