November 23, 2022

Questions Answered

Ask a Conservative:

What is the justification of full abortion bans among some states but not others in light of the 2nd Amendment opinions that have come from the Supreme Court that upheld national baseline rules? Wasn't Roe a very settled precedent “rule” in the same way? - Lauren, TX

It’s important to note the difference between the Constitution itself and Supreme Court precedent. The Constitution is the law of the land, and can only be changed through amendments. Supreme Court precedent is an interpretation of the Constitution that can be changed or reversed at any time by a majority of the Court. While it’s true that the Court tries not to reverse precedent, particularly if it has been around for a significant amount of time (this is a principle called stare decisis), reversals do happen, as was the case with Roe. When the Court ruled that the right to abortion is not protected by the Constitution, that allowed states to pass their own laws regulating the practice. The Constitution does not mention abortion.

With guns, the Court has held that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to possess firearms in self-defense. States can still pass their own gun laws, but only to the extent that they do not infringe upon that right. If this precedent is reversed by a future Court, then states will of course be free to impose different policies.

Why are conservatives unwilling to consider gun safety as a national priority? I consider their refusal to ban assault style weapons as the de facto acceptance of the murder of children as an American cultural norm. - Pam, DE

There is little evidence that bans on assault weapons reduce gun violence. The US had a federal assault weapons ban from 1994 until 2004. While gun violence decreased in the US during this time, it continued to do so after the ban expired. A DOJ-funded study of the ban concluded, “we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.” A recent study determined that assault weapon bans “do not seem to be associated with the incidence of fatal mass shootings.” FBI data indicates that rifles are involved in only 3 percent of gun murders. There are over 20 million AR-15s in circulation in the US, yet last year there were fewer than 500 murders using rifles of any kind. Even if it were possible to confiscate millions of rifles, it would not have a meaningful impact on the number of gun deaths.

Why aren't states than fully ban abortion like my own interested in mitigating suffering or endangerment of women who need an abortion because of an immediately unviable or doomed pregnancy, or a pregnancy that's putting the mother at risk? I'm even hearing about reluctance to abort a deceased fetus in some cases. Why is my state interested in potentially prosecuting people who cross state lines for an abortion? What's the deal with conservatives voting to eliminate coverage and ease of access for contraceptives (are these just “abortion pills” or more typical methods such as the pill and IUDs)? - Lauren, TX

I’ve heard liberals say that with Roe v. Wade being overturned, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies will not be treated in hospitals because the medical process is so similar to an elective abortion. As someone who has experienced miscarriages and medical care for miscarriages, this is really hard for me to understand. Is there any truth in women not receiving medical care for spontaneous abortions? - Josephine

There are no laws that would prosecute women who cross state lines to obtain an abortion. Pro-life groups overwhelmingly oppose any penalties against women who obtain abortions. Bans on abortion instead apply to doctors and others who may assist with the procedure. Similarly, birth control remains legal in all states, both abortion pills and more common methods. Oklahoma, which bans abortion after fertilization, explicitly exempts birth control (including morning-after pills). The Dobbs decision overturning Roe declined to do the same for Griswold v. Connecticut, which established a constitutional right to birth control.

It’s true that there has been some confusion in the wake of the decision as states pass new laws and doctors and hospitals adjust to new policies. That’s the unfortunate but inevitable consequence of the Court removing the issue from the democratic process for an extended period of time. All states with abortion restrictions have exceptions when the mother’s life is in danger. Some states also explicitly exclude treatment for ectopic pregnancies from their bans; in others it is included in exceptions for medical emergencies. Accounts of doctors hesitating to treat women with such conditions appear to be due to excessive caution, not legal requirements. According to one pro-life legislator from South Carolina, “It’s never been a pro-life tenet to constrain the doctors when it comes to medical emergencies.” As states formulate their abortion policies in the wake of Dobbs, we expect that any remaining uncertainties will be clarified.

What is it that conservatives mean when they complain about ‘wokeness’ or ‘political correctness’? I don't think it means the same thing to me that it does to them. - Anonymous

While the exact definitions vary, there are several consistent themes to conservatives’ critiques of “wokeness” and political correctness. First is the idea that the US is fundamentally a bad place; that our country was “founded on white supremacy and oppression, and that these forces are still at the root of our society.” This is exemplified by the 1619 Project, which attempted to reinterpret US history exclusively through the lens of slavey. This framing had a clear political motive, and was criticized by historians for factual inaccuracy.

In this view, “America isn’t a land of opportunity. It’s barely changed since the days of Jim Crow. Whites, universally privileged, maintain an iron grip on American society, while nonwhites are little more than virtuous victims cast adrift on a plank in an ocean of white supremacy.” Some even make the argument that “White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.” Students are being taught that “America is a systemically racist country”; third graders are asked to “deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, then rank themselves according to their “‘power and privilege.’” Conservatives find all this extremely problematic.

While slavery and the long history of racial discrimination in the US were terrible evils, they are not the defining features of our country. “Racial conflicts that have plagued American history are far from unique to the United States; on the contrary, every square inch of the planet, from Rwanda to Nanking, from Poland to Colombia, has known such bigotry. Slavery, too, is ubiquitous in mankind’s past; it may, in fact, be the oldest human institution after the family. What was unique about America was that its founding marked the very first time that a nation was expressly founded on principles incompatible with slavery. Little wonder that the world’s first anti-slavery society was established in Philadelphia in 1775. And little wonder that—for all its awful shortfalls—America has served as a refuge for the oppressed, from the Huguenots to the Hmong.”

Another issue is the idea that subjective identity should take priority over objective reality. Men and women have different sports leagues because male and female bodies are biologically different. Yet now many on the left argue that biological males who identify as women should be allowed to compete in womens’ leagues. Recently, USA Today selected Dr. Rachel Levine, a biological male who identifies as a woman, for their “Woman of the Year” award. Even worse, prisons are now allowing biologically male inmates - with fully intact male anatomy - to be housed in womens’ prisons. Not only does this deny objective reality, it’s extremely harmful to women, who still face significant discrimination in our society.

Finally, there’s the issue that any criticism/dissent is viewed as unacceptable or even harmful. In May 2020 David Shor, a progressive data analyst, was fired for tweeting a study showing that violent protests resulted in fewer votes for Democratic candidates. This was not because the study was flawed, but because any criticism of the ongoing protests was deemed unacceptable. It’s almost as if anti-racism has become a new religion; any criticism, even if true, is morally unacceptable. Similarly, some on the left claim that misgendering is “an act of violence.” This is a fundamental rejection of free speech, which is fundamental to democracy. It has more in common with the Salem witch trials than traditional American liberalism.

One of our contributors adds: I don’t have a problem with any behavior that only affects the consenting adults involved. Love who you want how you want, identify however you want, etc. That being said, I think wokeness and political correctness is out of hand. The left (or at least the vocal, visible far left) allows no room for discussion, debate, or nuance. It’s the “with us or against us” attitude. I might agree with 95% of the liberal platform on, say, transgender rights, but if I have questions about trans people in sports, I am labeled a transphobic bigot and lumped in with hardcore social conservatives. If I oppose gun bans, I am accused of permitting mass murder. The rigidity of leftist ideology is the problem. It comes down to self-righteousness, virtue signaling, and tribalism.

Ask a Liberal:

How can you support abortion? - Judy, NC

Should we extend abortion laws to allow abortion up to two years old? - Anonymous

Even if one accepts the premise that life begins at the first sign of cardiac activity (or even fertilization), any rights a fetus possesses must be balanced against those of the woman whose body it inhabits. Pregnancy and childbirth have serious physiological consequences. These include eclampsia, cardiomyopathy, sepsis, embolism, transfusions, heart attack, respiratory distress, shock, and even death. Thus any restrictions on abortion necessarily force women to face serious potential health risks.

Our society generally places a high value on bodily autonomy. We don’t force people to donate organs (or even to be organ donors after death). Donating a kidney for example is generally quite safe, but we as a society have no expectation that anyone will do so and instead allow 8,000 people to die every year because transplants are not available. Many conservatives even oppose requiring vaccination, which has saved countless lives. A fetus is not viable outside the womb until approximately the 23rd week of pregnancy; requiring a woman to carry it to term is a major violation of her bodily autonomy. If we’re not willing to seize organs from dead bodies in order to save lives, we shouldn’t be willing to commandeer the bodies of living women.

On a more basic level, if the pro-life movement truly cares about all lives, it should also champion policies aimed at saving the lives of people already born. These include universal healthcare, renewing the child tax credit, and expanding resources to improve worker safety. More than one million Americans have to ration their insulin, and more than 250,000 seek help for medical expenses on GoFundMe each year. The CDC estimates that up to 40 percent of premature deaths from heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries could be prevented. If marginally lower profits for pharmaceutical companies are too high a price to pay to save a life, then so is sacrificing the bodily autonomy of women.

How do you justify using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion treatments when a significant portion of the country has religious opposition to such procedures? - Will

First, it’s worth noting that the Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds for abortion “outside of the exceptions for rape, incest, or if the pregnancy is determined to endanger the woman’s life.” That said, tax dollars are routinely used for policies that many voters disagree with. Pacifists still pay taxes that go towards the defense budget. That’s just how our system works; everyone gets to vote and help determine policies, and everyone also has to pay for those policies when they are enacted.

Why do Democrats support womens’ rights but want to allow transgender women [individuals born male who identify as women] in women’s locker rooms and high school/college sports leagues, allowing them to take away opportunities from women? - Michael, NV

Rights are not a zero sum game. Since the dawn of time, different marginalized groups have been pitted against each other. For example, wealthy landowners in the colonial era stoked racism to “thwart the efforts of enslaved Africans and European indentured servants to join forces in a common struggle for economic justice.”

Transgender individuals face significant discrimination and even violence for simply wanting to live as their authentic selves. Rather than separate people according to their DNA or outward appearance, we should treat people as individuals and respect their chosen identities.

Regarding women’s sports, school athletics have never been just about winning. “Sports in schools are supposed to be primarily about inclusivity, setting individual goals, collective goals and well-being.” Furthermore, this is hardly a pressing societal issue; there are not many elite transgender athletes in women’s sports. Given the high number of transgender children and teenagers at risk of depression and self-harm, having prominent transgender athletes they can look up to is a net positive for society.

Do you think we have an immigration issue on our borders? Should immigrants be given free healthcare and education? -  Anonymous

The situation at the border is a serious problem, not least because of the human costs to the migrants themselves. We are legally and morally obligated to provide asylum to those fleeing political persecution and violence; simply turning them away is not an option. Yet the current system is not working. First, we need to dramatically increase the number of immigration judges so that cases can be processed. Right now, asylum cases take an average of over four years to resolve. We should also dramatically increase the number of refugees we accept each year. Every person who seeks to make a life in America should have the opportunity to present their case and have a decision made in a timely manner.

In terms of healthcare and education, it’s important to note that immigrants - even ones not here legally - still pay taxes. Yet they are not eligible for federal benefits, including healthcare. States are required to provide public education to everyone regardless of immigration status; children shouldn’t be punished simply because their parents don’t have documentation. Some states do also provide health benefits to undocumented children. Extending benefits is unlikely to increase migration: “They are driven primarily by work opportunities and, more recently, dire climate, economic and security conditions. Health coverage is unlikely to change the equation given these much bigger migration push and pull factors.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that in many cases undocumented immigrants are a vital part of our economy. They are a substantial part of the workforce in sectors including agriculture, construction, and tourism/hospitality. If we’re going to punish anyone, we should start with the corporations that hire and often exploit these workers. If we’re not willing to do that, then we should provide benefits for those here.

We hope you enjoyed this week’s Q&A, and wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving! We’ll be back in full swing Monday morning. In the meantime, here are some resources to improve contentious holiday conversations while enjoying turkey:

And for those of you looking to avoid politics, here are some suggestions:

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