The Closing Gender Gap

Ross Douthat has a great article up on the gender gap. After discussing Obama’s bizarre and paternalistic appeals to women (the Life of Julia bullshit, the first time video I posted below) and his attempt to make abortion the key issue of the election (e.g., the “War on Women”), Douthat notes:

The gap between men and women on issues like abortion is overstated, and the female preference for Democrats predates Roe v. Wade. In a recent blog post, Christina Wolbrecht of the University of Notre Dame calls the gender gap “a recurrent, if not consistent, feature of presidential elections throughout the postwar era,” which probably dates to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.

Not coincidentally, that was a year when Republican economic rhetoric took on a particularly individualistic cast. If there’s a deep driver of the gender gap, it’s usually views about spending and the role of government. Men are more likely to be libertarian, women are more likely to be communitarian, and this creates what Wolbrecht calls a natural “divergence in preferences for social welfare policies.”

This helps explain why, among recent elections, the gender gap yawned widest in 1996 — not an election with many culture-war flash points, but a year when Bill Clinton relentlessly tied Bob Dole to the Congressional Republicans’ attempted cuts to domestic spending and entitlements.

It also helps explain why Romney made ground with women after his performance in the first presidential debate — when he mostly pivoted toward the center on economic issues, and emphasized solidarity and community rather than “you built that!” individualism.

I think this analysis is dead on. I know few people — pro-life or pro-choice — for whom abortion is the make-or-break issue. And those few are party line loyalists anyway (there was a huge amount of dissension within NOW, for example, when the New Jersey chapter endorsed pro-choice Republican Christine Whitmann for governor). Douthat’s specifics are a little off: the history of the Gender Gap is pretty consistent apart from 1992, which is affected by the Perot factor.

But the underlying cause — a difference of opinion on the size of government — is probably accurate. It can be seen in the direction our politics has moved since the 19th Amendment was passed. Indeed, one of the arguments of the suffragettes was that certain views were not being represented in politics. But the key words in that are that women are “more likely to be communitarian”. We’re talking probability, not destiny. We’re talking about a difference, not a yawning chasm. A majority of women voted for Reagan. Twice. Women are not socialists; nor are they infants. They Democrats have done a very good job, for the last twenty years, of playing the “elect Republicans and you’re going to be poor” card, not just to women, but to everyone. I have to think, at some point, the endless condescension and paternalism of the Democratic Party is going to catch up with them and the gender gap will shrink.

Comments are closed.

  1. CM

    I think this analysis is dead on. I know few people — pro-life or pro-choice — for whom abortion is the make-or-break issue.

    Maybe you’re asking the wrong people….

    Women in swing states now say abortion is the most important issue in the 2012 election, ranking it ahead of jobs, health care, the economy and foreign policy.

    Gallup polled registered female voters in twelve states where the presidential race is predicted to be close, asking them what they consider the top issue in the presidential campaign. The question was open-ended, meaning the women had to supply their own answers rather than choose between options provided by pollsters.

    Thirty-nine percent identified abortion as their top issue – far higher than the next most popular issue, jobs, which only 18% of women said was most important.

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/swing-state-women-rank-abortion-as-top-issue-in-2012-race-gallup-poll

    I have to think, at some point, the endless condescension and paternalism of the Democratic Party is going to catch up with them and the gender gap will shrink.

    I don’t see why this would happen when Republican after Republican talks about rape and abortion so clumsily. I think the gender gap is explained by what both parties are doing. Both parties seem to constantly go out of their way to try and keep the gender gap as wide as possible.

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  2. Thrill

    Women aren’t that monolithic though. There’s a huge political difference between married and single women, in particular. Douhat nails it here:

    None of this means that the Obama White House’s social issues appeals don’t resonate with many female voters. But they’re most successful as a form of narrowcasting — a pitch to a particular group of women, often younger and left-leaning and unmarried, rather than to the female population as a whole.

    The attitude from the Obama campaign just seems to be that women care most about fucking and need the government to enable it as much as possible. That is not the political issue that matters to most women, of course, and why Obama is losing ground on the gender gap.

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  3. CM

    Women aren’t that monolithic though.

    For sure. Which is why I think it’s silly to try and claim women who vote for the Democrats are voting against their own interests. As if the interests of all women are the same. As if they are unable to work out who they should vote for.

    The attitude from the Obama campaign just seems to be that women care most about fucking and need the government to enable it as much as possible. That is not the political issue that matters to most women, of course, and why Obama is losing ground on the gender gap.

    As above, in the swing states it seems abortion is by far and away the most important issue for women.
    Your belief is that the gender gap has closed because the Dems have concentrated too much on the issue of contraception? Sounds a little too simplistic. The gender gap has closed predominantly because Romney appeals far more to men. Romney has ‘gained’ men at a much greater rate than Obama has ‘lost’ women.

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    I think you nailed it Thrill: for a certain segment of women, abortion is a key issue. But I have to think that those women would be voting Democrat anyway.

    CM, the rape comments … which are mind-shakingly dumb … have hurt individual candidates. But, on a national level, Romney has managed to escape collateral damage from them. I think Reagan was probably the best (with Bush Sr. a close second) at being pro-life while minimizing the impact on women voters.

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  5. ilovecress

    Maybe off topic – but how exactly would rape and incest exceptions actually work? Would you have to prove a rape before an abortion was allowed? Or would it be retrocative? Would there need to be some sort of appeals process, where a jury decides whether or not the abortion is/was legal?

    ps – just realised I’ve described a death panel…. :-)

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  6. Thrill

    As above, in the swing states it seems abortion is by far and away the most important issue for women.

    You misinterpreted the poll. Gallup found that 39% of women in swing states felt that abortion was the most important issue for women specifically, not in general. If you bring up women’s issues, of course abortion is going to be a major one.

    However, women are basing their vote on unemployment and international affairs (just like men). Birth control issues are the fifth one down.

    See for yourself.

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  7. CM

    You misinterpreted the poll. Gallup found that 39% of women in swing states felt that abortion was the most important issue for women specifically, not in general. If you bring up women’s issues, of course abortion is going to be a major one.

    You’re totally right. I was misled by the reporting of the poll. Bad CM for not checking the poll itself. Apologies.

    However, women are basing their vote on unemployment and international affairs (just like men). Birth control issues are the fifth one down.

    Fifth one down?

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  8. Mississippi Yankee

    ps – just realised I’ve described a death panel…. :-)

    Was that a pro-life statement in support of unborn babies or were you just “showing your ass” again? Brit humor sometimes escapes me.

    Hal, I’m or was, a big fan of Ross Douthat from my National Review subscription days. He’s also a fantastic film critic.

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  9. ilovecress

    Was that a pro-life statement in support of unborn babies or were you just “showing your ass” again?

    Neither – (I actually have no idea what ‘showing your ass’ means in this context) I’m genuinely interested if anyone has actually asked how this weirdly contentious issue would actually work if it came into law. Logistically I mean.

    Say a pregnant woman turns up at the doctors asking for an abortion because she was raped. Does she just get an abortion, no questions asked? Or is there some sort of investigation? And who investigates? Who has the final decision on whether or not to terminate the unborn baby? What if the man disagrees that it was rape?

    And that’s before you bring the moral stuff into it

    I’m sure there must be other countries that have similar laws, but a quick google isn’t helping me out – I just can’t imagine how the system would work without it

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  10. Mississippi Yankee

    Women United Inc. feel pretty strongly about the Obama-vs-Romney issue.

    CM, show me a state with a rape and/or incest clause on the books. Then you and cress can see how it is addressed legally.

    Frankly the fact that YOU didn’t notice how cress framed his straw man question is hardly surprising.

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  11. Thrill

    Say a pregnant woman turns up at the doctors asking for an abortion because she was raped. Does she just get an abortion, no questions asked? Or is there some sort of investigation? And who investigates? Who has the final decision on whether or not to terminate the unborn baby? What if the man disagrees that it was rape?

    Those are very good questions. This is why people like Akin use the qualifier “legitimate” rape. I’ll take a stab at answering them:

    1. No
    2. Yes
    3. The Police
    4. The doctor
    5. Doesn’t matter.

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  12. ilovecress

    Steady on thrill – just seems like a logistical nightmare is all I was saying. And really complicated. Can you imagine the lawyers fees for appeals? And asking a devout pro life juror to disregard the fact that they were granting permission to kill a baby when deciding the guilt of an accused rapist. And if the determining factor is a legal one (rape) why does the doctor have a say. Can you imagine csi episodes?

    I never said it was anyone’s position – I was just I asking how it works. It was more on topic than arguing about who gives more to charity.

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  13. Mississippi Yankee

    Steady on thrill – just seems like a logistical nightmare is all I was saying. And really complicated.

    Which is exactly why you haven’t found a state with a rape and/or incest clause on the books. No US state bans abortions. It’s a federal order, therefore no US state has a rape and/or incest clause. Which is precisely why I called your questions straw-men.

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  14. ilovecress

    mY – I know he law doesn’t exist right now – But isn’t that what’s being proposed by some Republicans? That’s my exact point. If this is something that is beng proposed by some politicians (I do realise its not the official platform) how would their plan work?

    Why are we arguing about something that (to me) seems impossible to implement?

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  15. CM

    That’s my exact point. If this is something that is beng proposed by some politicians (I do realise its not the official platform) how would their plan work?

    “We’re not providing any detail now. We believe in working in a bi-partisan way, so we’ll work it out with the Democrats when we’re in power and everyone therefore lives in happy-land and gets along. it would actually be irresponsible to provide details now. And hurtful. Trust me. Hope and change man, hope and change. Not Democrat hope and change though, this is Republican hope and change. Completely different. In fact, it’s unlikely that anyone will get raped if you elect me. So the whole point is moot. Next?”

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  16. ilovecress

    Have I completely got it wrong here? The Ryan Romney position on abortion is that it should be illegal except in the case of tape or incest? Right?

    Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote on Sunday night

    Mourdock’s comment in a Tuesday night debate came in answer to a question on when abortion should or should not be allowed. Said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul: “We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him.”

    In fact wasn’t there a question about Tim pawlenty’s views on rape exceptions in the debate? The one where Bachman went on about her 23 kids?

    Seriously – do I have this wrong, is this rape/ incest exception thing all lies?

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  17. Mississippi Yankee

    Seriously – do I have this wrong, is this rape/ incest exception thing all lies?

    The rape/incest “thing” that you brought up in this post, and I accused it of being a straw-man is because Hal post is about the supposed gender gap in regard to abortion during THIS election. And until you brought it up as a run of the mill deflection (because you were unable to neither Ross Douthat nor Hal’s arguments.

    There is almost NO politician (or their spokeswomen), while on the stump during an electin’ year, that won’t say they are not for rape and incest exceptions. It’s why it’s called ‘the silly season’. And for the record I did not watch the dick measuring contest that was the republican nomination debates so whatever Tim Pawlenty said was lost on me. But when I saw,early on, what and how they did Herman Cain I was fairly certain who.and that, the GOP had already chosen.

    Now if you’d like to discuss Hal’s original post fine… if you persist on a CM like tangent then my typing skills just aren’t up to it.
    You can declare a faux victory and we will let the class decide…

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  18. Kimpost

    The simple truth is probably that the GOP’s majority sentiment on abortion* is a pain in the ass subject for socially liberal conservatives and independents. Since people think that it would generally hurt Republicans among independents and women, the issue is toned down. That, and since Romney isn’t likely going to push for a constitutional amendment, they think that it shouldn’t be treated as an issue.

    However, that doesn’t explain why we shouldn’t be able to discuss it here? We’re not part of the campaigns. We don’t have to be strategic. And is it really that far fetched to think that Romney might have to face personhood legislation sometime during his presidency? Would he really veto such? I honestly don’t know. As a firm believer in pro-choice (not just in case of rape/incest/life of the mother), I’m not as sure as some people are, that this is a non-issue.

    Roe vs Wade might not last, after all.

    *) Party platform says that it should be banned, period. If there’s to be any kind of exception, it’s for rape/incest/the life of the mother.

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  19. Hal_10000 *

    The simple truth is probably that the GOP’s majority sentiment on abortion* is a pain in the ass subject for socially liberal conservatives and independents.

    The GOP has always had this stance on abortion. Socially moderate conservative stayed with the party because the GOP never really did anything about it. They would stick to things that had a broad consensus, even among pro-choicers: parental notification laws, banning public funding, born-alive act, waiting periods. Lately, however, they’ve been moving the needle in directions that make social moderates a bit uncomfortable, not just with promises but with actual legislation.

    The fact is, abortion has been a winning issue for the GOP for a long time. They could talk about it a lot but not actually do anything because of Roe v. Wade. For the Democrats, it was a loser because everyone knew Roe V. Wade was the law of the land: so they could only display their cred by supporting “abortion on demand” and opposing any restrictions, including partial birth and late-term abortion. But only a fraction of the public (about 20-25%) is in the abortion-on-demand crowd. Even Democractic women supported the BAIPA.

    If Roe v. Wade were overturned, that would change the landscape considerably. Suddenly, Democrats can moderate and say they’re just going to keep it legal. And Republican promises to outlaw it become very real. This, I think, is why many of the strongest pro-choice justices (O’Conner, Souter, etc.) were appointed by Republicans. They don’t want Roe overturned.

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  20. Xetrov

    And is it really that far fetched to think that Romney might have to face personhood legislation sometime during his presidency?

    With a Democrat controlled Senate? Absolutely.

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  21. Thrill

    Steady on thrill – just seems like a logistical nightmare is all I was saying.

    You’re right, it is incredibly complicated and all the issues you’ve raised are valid. But I don’t want it to be a federal issue because it makes it so much more confusing. Let the voters and legislatures of the individual states work it out, I say. Roe has to go.

    And understand that you could have a Personhood Amendment to the Constitution that says nothing more than: “Nothing in this Constitution acknowledges a right to an abortion” (and something like this was proposed at one time). Such an amendment would immediately nullify Roe while sending the subject back to the states to work out.

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  22. ilovecress

    MY – you’ve got really confused here. I said it was off topic – and it is. It isn’t a strawman. Then you thought I claimed that it was state law, then you asked for quotes which I provided, then you went back to saying I was deflecting.

    For the record, I think Hal is pretty much spot on. I’m sure there are some people for which abortion is an issue, but to be honest they are probably so far to the left or right, that their vote is locked in anyway.

    The issue is used as an emotional wedge to energise both bases.

    Which is why I wondered if anyone had actually come up with how rape and incest exceptions would work. Romney says “My position has been clear throughout this campaign,” Romney said. “I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother.” – but is that actually a position that works logistically?

    Thrill – I’m not sure sending it back to the States (while preferable) would solve much about the issue. In fact it might cloud things up more – would the legality of the abortion be about where the procedure is physically performed (in which case you get into all the left wing arguments about ‘the right to choose’ being the privalege of the richer classes, and perpetuating the poverty trap) or about where the new life was conceived (you can imagine the uproar if ‘Ohio babies’ were being taken to SanFransico for termination)

    But then again, as per Hals post – maybe the point is that the issue doesn’t get solved – that deadlock on the issue is the absolute best thing?

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  23. Thrill

    Cress:

    No, I think you’re getting a bit out there now. Yes, some women would likely end up needing to travel to different states, but I’m sure that Planned Parenthood or some other organization would start providing a transportation service for this. It would certainly be a better use of their resources than lying about doing mammograms, I think.

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  24. CM

    It would certainly be a better use of their resources than lying about doing mammograms, I think.

    Not wrong, but certainly disingenuous.

    The organization actually performed more than twice the number of breast exams (747,607) as abortions (329,445) that year.

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  25. ilovecress

    Thrill – ok – but my point being that the ‘exception position’ has a whole lot of logistics to it that no one is talkign about – maybe even to the fact that what evweryone is arguing about is impossible to enforce – and as such a moot point, and as such everyone should really shut up about abortion.

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  26. Thrill

    It’s not a moot point. Millions of people think it’s a barbaric practice that ought to be eliminated. Millions more think it’s an inalienable right. Most would prefer to keep it legal, but they recognize how awful it is and would prefer to limit it reasonably.

    Unfortunately, all we have to work with is what five judges handed down in Roe with no real Constitutional backing. What we’re left with is this coming up as an issue in every election. ANY attempt to restrict even funding abortion with taxpayer dollars is treated as anti-gyno fascism.

    I don’t think everyone needs to “shut up about abortion.” I think this needs to be resolved democratically.

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  27. Dave D

    Thrill:

    All of this is fine and dandy if you ignore the humanity of the ebryo. Democratic processes would NOT be the way to decide abortion rights if ithe unborn were considered a human being with constitutional rights, no?? I am not being intentionally simplistic here. I just am constantly amazed that people forget that MILLIONS of citizens consider the unborn a human with rights. If human, then the consitution protects the life of said human.

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  28. ilovecress

    Thrill – I’m just talking about the rape and Incest exceptions. The conversation isn’t about Roe or not Roe – what the actual media conversation is about is this:

    IF Roe was overturned, and IF abortion was made ilegal, and IF a woman was raped and IF she became pregnant, and IF she wanted to terminate the pregancy – then Romney would implement some sort of legal system where that was possible, although we’re not sure how.

    Which goes back to HALs point I guess – squabbling about the hypotheticals plays well to each parties bases, and the status quo on the issue is maintained. The Dems can cry war on women, and the evangelicals can rail against abortion – and everyone else in the middle can have an opinion, but not one that really influences their decisions.

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  29. Thrill

    If you believe that an embryo in the womb is a human life and cannot be deprived of it without due process, then you must believe that abortion is morally wrong, period. I get that.

    The Supreme Court could one day rule that embryos have full 14th Amendment Protection and instantly outlaw all abortion, you know. Would that be any better, honestly?

    I say we let the people decide what they want to live with. What’s good for Mississippi isn’t necessarily good for New York, right?

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  30. Thrill

    Cress, IF Roe were overturned, it wouldn’t have anything to do with Romney but with the states, except as far as federal funding for abortion goes. It’s closer to the embryonic stem cell research debate at that point. Bush didn’t outlaw it, he just didn’t make the taxpayers support it.

    Some states would be free to outlaw abortion in all circumstances while others would put no restrictions on it.

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  31. Seattle Outcast

    CM, of course, bases all his comments on his detailed knowledge of American society gained by not living here at all and reading blogs written by acknowledged leftist fringe elements…

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  32. hist_ed

    Bush didn’t outlaw it, he just didn’t make the taxpayers support it.

    Thrill thanks for this sentence. You know that in the public mind, he did ban it. I have had this argument with educated people who follow the news and they simply just don’t believe it. Partly, I think that for many (including many in the news media) no federal funding=BAN. If the government does pay for it, it must not happen (seems like some people believe this in the birth control/abortion wars, too). Mostly, though, I think people just swallow any criticism whole that damages politicians they don’t like.

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  33. HARLEY

    What is amazing is how this debate has similarities to the Pro-slavery and anti-slavery argument….
    Abortion should remain legal and rare…rape incest and life of the mother should be a exception…I will even be, sorta ok with abortion in the first trimester… but hell… but i dont like it i find it barbaric… abortion for convenience is a abomination and a clear sign of immaturity, and lack of responsibility.
    In this day and age…with modern birth control methods, no woman should get pregnant unless she wants to…
    not that this will ever come to pass, the Dems want to milk this for all its worth, they will play this game and keep screaming about abortion till well till the religious fundies disappear…

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  34. HARLEY

    Maybe off topic – but how exactly would rape and incest exceptions actually work? Would you have to prove a rape before an abortion was allowed? Or would it be retrocative? Would there need to be some sort of appeals process, where a jury decides whether or not the abortion is/was legal?

    a double or triple shot of morning after pills….. in the rape kit, at the local hospital.

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  35. Thrill

    What is amazing is how this debate has similarities to the Pro-slavery and anti-slavery argument….

    Except for one key difference: Slavery was clearly permitted under the Constitution..

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  36. Mississippi Yankee

    I say we let the people decide what they want to live with. What’s good for Mississippi isn’t necessarily good for New York, right?

    Letting States decide kinda/sorta worked out OK before:

    Let me tell y’all an ancient story from back before Roe-v-Wade (why yes I am that old). The year was 1970 and there was a not quite 18 year old high school senior that “fell pregnant” to use the British term. Her beau was a 21 year old fellow, dumb as a stone while at the same time being quite liberal.

    He was taken aside by her father, a long haired very liberal reformed Jew I might add. And he explained that S____ would be going to Long Island NY to stay with her aunt for a few days. You see abortions weren’t illegal in Massachusetts then. Also it was highly expected for the foolish young man to pay for half of the procedure. This presented a bit of a dilemma, not because of the money but due to his former catholic upbringing combined with an ongoing visitation battle with his ex-wife and his and S___’s desire to have a family.

    In the end sweet S____ went to visit her aunt, her accomplice paid his ‘fair share’ (and wasn’t thrown under the jail) and they have neither seen nor spoken each other in nearly 42 years. Yet I’m sure each still wonders from time to time what if…

    BTW the total financial burden for the statutory rapist… $100.00 US
    And if you’re wondering if I still see that guy…yes, usually in the morning

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  37. Thrill

    I appreciate that anecdote; people forget that abortion WAS legal before Roe. Many states even had the rape/incest/life of the mother exceptions for abortion that we agonize over today.

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