The New York Times‘daily newsletter The morning has a report 17 million subscribers. Its writer, David Leonhardt, is a renowned business journalist and columnist who won a Pulitzer in 2011 for his business columns and was one of the founding editors of Upshot, the Times‘section devoted to an “analytical approach to current affairs”.
As one of those 17 million newsletter subscribers, I know Leonhardt loves charts and numbers and cuts the noise on various topics. But on access to abortion, he is inclined to flatten both the context and the issues of the ongoing legal battles. Unsurprisingly, anti-abortion activists are eating it, as Leonhardt’s arguments are now used in Supreme Court amicus briefs to defend and present the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. as “widely popular”.
For context, in May, SCOTUS announced it would hear a case regarding the Mississippi ban, a case that could reverse Roe vs. Wade—and Léonhardt wrote “A guide to public opinion” on abortion. He cited the Gallup and Pew tracking polls showing that most Americans support Roe deer but also focus on restrictions in the second trimester (weeks 14 to 26 of pregnancy) that the decision does not allow. He wrote:
Roe deer, for example, allows only limited restrictions on abortion in the second trimester, primarily involving the health of the mother. But less than 30 percent of Americans say abortion should “generally be legal” in the second trimester, according to Gallup. Many people also oppose abortion in specific circumstances – because a fetus has Down syndrome, for example – even during the first trimester.
Tresa Undem Gender Equality Pollster underline the faults of the way these questions were asked and noted that other data shows people want access to be protected or extended, don’t want new restrictions, and certainly don’t want lawmakers or the Supreme Court to decide when people can have abortions.
Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List anti-abortion group, was excited about Leonhardt’s poll breakdown, call him “Impressive and honest report [and] analysis.”
Of them anti-abortion law professors quoted LeonhardtThe May-to-May bulletin in a brief to the Supreme Court as evidence that Mississippi’s 15-week ban “appears to be broadly popular.”
The Mississippi Supreme Court case is drawing closer (arguments take place on December 1) and the court is now hearing a separate challenge to the 6-week ban imposed on Texas on November 1. Leonhardt therefore returned to the subject of abortion on Wednesday. bulletin, with the subject line “The Mushy Middle”.
He writing that “most Americans think abortion should generally be legal early in pregnancy and limited later,” citing its previous oversimplification of polls, and argues that if the Supreme Court Roe deer this term, as is generally expected, would further polarize state abortion laws in a way that is out of step with public opinion – bans in red states and few restrictions in blue states. He then suggests that we consider looking to Europe to find a solution to this problem:
Is there a place with a legal framework that more closely matches Americans’ complicated views on abortion? There is: Europe.
“Most of its countries offer wide access to abortions before about 12 weeks, and it becomes more and more difficult to get one after that,” Jon Shields, government professor at Claremont McKenna College, wrote for Times Opinion. These laws, Shields argued, offered a potential model for a US compromise on the issue, balancing a woman’s right to control her body and a fetus’ right to live.
Just let states ban abortion after 12 weeks – isn’t that a tidy little solution for that “annoyingAnd complicated problem? But Leonhardt conveniently overlooks the fact that, among other differences in people’s ability to obtain health care, the majority of European countries have universal health insurance which pay for abortions.
It is a point that the TimesSupreme Court reporter Adam Liptak does in a story earlier this month on the pitfalls of comparing US abortion laws to those of other countries. While 12 weeks is a commonly referred to legal limit in much of the world, Liptak reported on the insurance room and general health exceptions after 12 weeks, which makes the procedure much more accessible than in the United States. In a way, I doubt Leonhardt is advocating that the United States adopt Medicare for All with abortion coverage.
As at the right time, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, shared and quoted from yesterday’s newsletter, saying: “We are here to change the hearts and minds of the ‘pasty medium’.”
Leonhardt’s reading of faulty survey has the effect of falsely portraying pro-choice advocates, and Democrats more broadly, as being out of step with most Americans’ views on abortion. In a bulletin read by millions of people, he casts doubt on the idea that maintaining the ban on abortion at 15 or even 12 weeks is just one reasonable compromise, which ignores the lives and families that will be devastated by the inability to legally control their reproduction.