It's The Economy, But We're Still Discussing Abortion

It's The Economy, But We're Still Discussing Abortion

It's The Economy, But We're Still Discussing Abortion

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Nov. 2 2010 2:09 PM

It's The Economy, But We're Still Discussing Abortion

When will abortion recede as a reliable election-time bludgeon for both parties? Barbara Boxer has made as much hay as she can out of Carly Fiorina’s anti-choice stance , given that the California Senate race, like just about every other election being decided today, is about jobs. Ditto for Susan B. Anthony List, the anti-choice group backing Fiorina. But of course, as Gloria Steinem reiterates in one of a series of video interviews up at BigThink.com, the two issues – abortion and economic status – are deeply intertwined. Democratic politicians just haven’t figured out how to talk about abortion in the right context, she says.

"They confine it to being a 'social issue’ and this is an 'economic year,’ " Steinem says. But "it’s the biggest economic influence in a woman’s life whether she can decide when and whether to have children or not. … We’ve been trying to say this for 40 years." (Steinem also has some fascinating things to say about the mating and reproductive habits of real mama grizzlies, the ones that exist in the wild.)

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In all likelihood, the Democrats will continue to practice how they craft their argument on this issue in coming elections, as will the Republicans. Christianity Today has a story suggesting that there are likely to be far fewer pro-life Democrats in the House after this election – so that the issue of abortion will be rendered more polarizing, more reliably situated along party lines. Will we be seeing a reinvigoration of '80s-style culture wars in coming years?  Two or four or 10 years from now, if and when the economy gets better, will abortion become a dominant topic?

As for this election, conservative Alfonso Aguilar suggests in Politico that Latinos are turning away from the Democratic Party, in part because of the community’s "conservative values" on social issues like abortion. He cites data to show that Boxer’s support among Latinos has eroded in recent months, though he doesn’t explicitly explore why. Could it be the Spanish-language ads hitting Boxer on abortion? Of course, high profile gaffes during these midterms from the likes of Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle, as well as ads painting Hispanic immigrants as menacing , or urging them not to vote , have probably done more to continue to alienate this voting base from the Republican Party.

Libby Copeland is a writer in New York and a Slate contributor. She was previously a Washington Post reporter and editor for 11 years.