Our 2020 book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses how polarization has affected American life. Abortion is a central issue in our national divide.
While the overturning of Roe has elicited strong feelings, it's not an issue most Americans say has made them any more or less likely to vote in the midterms this year. But for those who report a change in motivation right now, Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say the Supreme Court's decision will make them more likely to vote.
And more Democrats are motivated now by the issue than they were before the decision. Fifty percent of Democrats report this decision will make them more likely to vote, up from 40% last month, when overturning Roe was a possibility, but not yet a reality.
In deep-red America, a wave of performative and punitive legislation is sweeping the land. In the abortion context, bounty-hunting laws in Texas, Idaho, and Oklahoma turn citizens against each other, incentivizing lawsuits even by people who haven’t been harmed by abortion. The pro-life movement, once solidly against prosecuting women who obtain abortions, is now split by an “abolitionist” wing that would not only impose criminal penalties on mothers, it even calls into questions legal protections for the life of the mother when a pregnancy is physically perilous.
The culture of political engagement centers around animosity. Church and family life is being transformed, congregation by congregation, household by household, by argument and division. The Dobbs ruling has landed in the midst of a sick culture, and the pro-life right is helping make it sick.
Writing in the New York Times, Ross Douthat rightly cautioned that “the vicissitudes of politics and its own compromises have linked the anti-abortion cause to various toxic forces on the right — some libertine and hyperindividualist, others simply hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics.”
That’s true, but it doesn’t go far enough. The vicissitudes of politics haven’t just linked the anti-abortion cause to various toxic forces on the right, they’ve transformed parts of the anti-abortion movement, making many of its members as toxic as their “libertine and hyperindividualist” allies.