The Republican Party's attack on abortion rights is an assault on freedom

Overturning of Roe v. Wade must be framed on moral level

The Republican Party's attack on abortion rights is an assault on freedom
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
Framing the truth at the deepest moral level matters. What have been called ‘women's issues’ are freedom issues, and these have not been adequately framed as such. (from “The ALL NEW Don’t Think of An Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.”)

A woman’s right to control her own reproductive health is fundamentally a matter of freedom. Women should have the right to control their own bodies and make their own healthcare and family decisions, including the decision over whether to have an abortion. When women are stripped of this right, they are stripped of equality, liberty and freedom.

News that conservative judges on the United States Supreme Court plan to overturn these freedoms came as a shock but not a surprise. The Republican Party has long sought to overturn current law and restrict the freedom of women to choose what’s right for them. It took decades, but Republicans finally stacked the court with enough ultra-conservative justices to overturn laws that the most recent additions to the panel had claimed were settled by precedent.

They lied in order to get their way and impose their moral worldview on everyone else (also not a surprise). For conservatives, the ends justify the means as long as they accomplish their aim — imposing their form of morality on everyone else.

This is a dark moment in American history. It’s easy to feel hopeless and powerless, and such feelings are natural in a moment like this. Though the draft opinion is not yet final, it’s important for Americans to prepare for the worst and expect a long struggle ahead.

A struggle for freedom

This is a struggle for freedom. It’s also a struggle between two opposing versions of freedom. Freedom is the most important concept in American politics — our defining national concept — yet two very different versions of freedom exist here.

For example, conservatives have opposed public health protections like vaccine mandates and mask rules on the grounds that government should not interfere with a person’s individual freedom to decide what is best for their body. Yet many conservatives support restricting the freedom of women to choose what is best for their own body when it comes to reproductive health.

Republicans frame their opposition to abortion as an effort to save lives. But many of these same conservatives opposed vaccines, masks and other commonsense scientific protections designed to save lives from COVID, which has killed over 1 million Americans.

Pro-death conservatism

That’s a pro-death, not pro-life, stance. On many issues, the conservative version of freedom is better described as pro-death.

Just look at the debate over guns. Conservatives frame guns as freedom no matter how many people — including children in schools — lose their lives. They also frame the burning of fossil fuels as an issue of freedom and “independence” even though global warming threatens every life on the planet.

Such hypocrisies are easy to point out, but keep in mind that hypocrisy is a feature, not a bug, of conservative thought. They don’t care about the hypocrisy as long as the outcomes reflect their moral belief system. Exhibit A: Donald Trump.

Conservatives, like most people, do not view the issues through the lens of logic and reason. They view them through the lens of their moral values. Those moral views are captured in the list below:

All conservative policy can be explained by the “moral hierarchy” represented in this list.

Banning abortion makes sense from the conservative point of view because, according to the conservative moral hierarchy, men should have control over women (men over women).

Evangelical Christians and other religious conservatives also oppose abortion rights on religious grounds, and thus believe (according to the conservative moral hierarchy) that their Christian beliefs should dictate what women can do with their bodies (God over man, Christianity over other religions).

Evangelicals are a key part of the Republican base, which helps explain why abortion rights have been a conservative target for decades. Even conservatives like Donald Trump — who once supported abortion rights — must work to overturn abortion rights in order to maintain any power base in the Republican Party.

On The Bible

Such conservatives don’t really believe a fetus is a baby and do not adhere to religious beliefs in any other part of the lives. For example, The Bible prohibits lying, yet every other word out of Trump’s mouth is a lie. The Bible also condemns usury and collecting interest on many forms of loans, yet conservatives would never support a law to ban the collecting of interest on loans.

You get the idea. The logic of conservative moral logic is totally inconsistent when it comes to supporting “life” or following The Bible. But it is always consistent when it comes to enforcing the conservative moral hierarchy. This is important because the conservative hierarchy is key to understanding the conservative view of freedom.

To conservatives, an issue can only be viewed as a freedom issue if it adheres to the conservative moral view of what people should be able to do. The conservative definition of freedom only includes things which conservatives consider morally right. This conservative definition of freedom represents a radical departure from the traditional definition of freedom and represents a great threat to American freedom.

The idea of freedom has different interpretations, depending on your moral and political worldview. (“Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think,” 1996)

Most progressive thought is also based on the idea of freedom, but Democrats and progressives rarely base their arguments on freedom. Instead, they have largely ceded the freedom frame to Republicans, who frame everything from guns to environmental destruction as matters of freedom.

But could any freedom be more fundamental or visceral than a woman’s right to control her body when it comes to reproduction? “Choice” — a consumer term — signifies a function of freedom, not the essential freedom itself.

With the vast majority of American supporting a women’s freedom over their bodies, it’s important to call the abortion issue what it is: A fundamental issue of freedom and liberty. Framing matters — and so does freedom. Progressives and Democrats must stop ceding the freedom frame to conservatives whose policies threaten both freedom and democracy.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to FrameLab.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.