It will surprise no one to hear that Ross Douthat makes me mad. He makes me mad because his views are stupid, and because he doesn’t seem to believe in things like “data” or “facts,” and he also makes me real mad at the NYT Op-Ed page for hiring him in the first place. As Amanda Marcotte aptly points out in her takedown of Douthat’s column yesterday, his writing typically concludes with a take-home message “so factually incorrect that the newspaper ought to run the correction alongside it.” Marcotte and Rachael Larimore are currently hashing out the how-much-of-a-rightwing-nut-is-he-really question (Larimore, DoubleX’s resident conservative, naturally finds him to be moderate and reasonable, which is exactly what he’s going for).
So I won’t get into the particulars of why yesterday’s column made me want to punch Douthat’s smug face. Instead, I’ll ask a question that I’m genuinely curious about: Why is Ross Douthat so obsessed with abortion? (also, why does he find The Pill to be a giant turn-off?)
One could ask me the same question (the abortion one, not the pill one), and I would say there are 2 main reasons. One is that I care about women’s health and well-being, especially the health and well-being of women who aren’t as fortunate as me and might not have the kind of social support and monetary resources to, say, obtain an accurate birth control method or carry an unintended pregnancy to term. My pro-choice values having nothing to do with my own personal reproductive decisions, because I will always have choices. That’s the thing about abortion rights. It’s an economic issue, and women like me will always have access. It’s the women who can least afford a (or often, another) child whose rights are most threatened. Which brings me to the second reason: reproductive rights are being steadily eroded in many parts of the country and that terrifies me.
But seriously, what’s in it for Ross? Abortion seems to be his signature issue, even though he clearly has no actual insight on the topic. And forget empathy—in Ross’s world, women facing unintended pregnancies are hussies who ought to be shamed into virtue. So my answer to my own question is that Douthat is just a run of the mill misogynist going undercover as a moderate. It’s the illusion of moderation that pisses me off. Literal quote:
My idea of a plausible middle ground on the issue requires the overturning of Roe v. Wade, followed by a move toward a system in which abortion is legal but discouraged in, say, the first ten weeks of pregnancy, and basically illegal thereafter.
Yeah, ok, only Ross? Overturning a decades-old Supreme Court precedent protecting women’s right to privacy? Not so much a middle ground position. And note his diction– “Legal but discouraged.” What? How? What does that mean in terms of the law? Do we discourage women with our scornfully raised eyebrows? Or with statutes making it increasingly difficult for women to actually access said legal procedure? And “basically illegal.” I assume what he means is “totally illegal.” The veneer is one of considered compromise, but underneath, it’s the same anti-choice bullshit.
I have a particular beef with Ross because I’ve met him a few times in social situations. He is exactly as unpleasant in person as on paper. Arrogant and unattractive, in essence the kind of guy who believes himself to be entirely more clever than he actually is. I was prepared to be impressed with his intellect (guy writes for NYT, after all), but came away totally nonplussed. Also, he was rude to me, in ways he probably thought were scathing but were really merely rude. So now I have a personal grudge, which I’m excited to be able to share with all of you.