Hot Buttons and Lethal Outcomes

From a larger painting, Commiseration by Gilbert Schramm

Over the last forty years or so, Republicans have built their election strategy around two hot button issues, banning abortions, and promoting gun rights. As a quick review will show, they don’t have viable policy on either issue. They simply use them to inflame emotions and divide the American people.

I don’t believe anyone, no matter how liberal or how conservative, really likes abortion: it is a last-ditch solution to a very real, life-changing dilemma. We should certainly do our best to avoid unwanted pregnancies. But the data and simple reasoning show that simply criminalizing the people who get abortions or the people who provide them does nothing to solve the problem. The old GOP tactic of preaching abstinence from sex simply doesn’t work. We know that, and we know what does work– a combination of sex education, counseling, and easy access to contraception. These could easily be provided by a national healthcare system (which Republicans also oppose).

Having gained the upper hand by packing the courts, Republicans are showing their true colors. They don’t really want any reasonable compromise that actually works; around the country they have a horde of new laws that would outlaw basic forms of contraception, open young prospective mothers to charges of murder, etc. Many of these laws go back to the conservative notion that human life begins at the moment of conception. Scientifically, that is an absurdity. No one will ever convince me that a one or two celled organism has a soul. If it does, we better rethink our whole approach to the environment.

Republicans claim they hold the higher moral ground on abortion and guns. That is simply not credible. People with money and means who suffer an unwanted pregnancy will simply fly to Europe or Asia and get a safe, professional abortion. People without means will have unwanted children or get dangerous backstreet abortions. Not only can they not afford air-fair to Sweden, they may not even be able to afford travel to a neighboring state. Does any of this make us more “moral?” Hardly, it just means the underprivileged will suffer more. A total ban on abortions will just make a difficult situation more unfair. To put it bluntly, women will die from these polices.

The issue of guns is rather similar.

Every time there is a mass shooting, Republicans pull out a parade of worn-out arguments: it is violence on TV, video games, and mental illness that are the causes. Every country in the world has these same issues, but they rarely have mass shootings. What sets the US apart is the easy availability of military style weapons with high-capacity magazines. All the data shows this. The GOP says that the answer is to get more guns out there. People are dying from that policy. The fact is that armed civilians have rarely intervened effectively in most mass shootings. The GOP says we should “harden” schools, but the situation in Uvalde resembles other mass shootings. The fence, the school security guard, the local SWAT team, and the local police were not effective. The main reason seems to be that they were surprised and simply outgunned. Even a quick effective response would leave a killer with three or four minutes in which (with an AR-15) they could fire hundreds of rounds. The Uvalde shooter apparently had some 30 magazines with him before entering the school. The local police took well over an hour to act.

What the gun issue and the abortion issue have in common is that the policies promoted by the GOP on both issues simply don’t work. In both cases, one key to a solution is affordable universal healthcare. That would provide sex education, contraception, pre-natal counseling, and ongoing healthcare for both women who did (or did not) want to carry a pregnancy to term. It would also provide the mental healthcare support that most mass shooters seemed to have needed. It is puzzling that the GOP has constantly opposed affordable healthcare…

There are a few simple takeaways from these issues: 1. Banning abortions does not reduce unwanted pregnancies or make us more moral. 2. Common sense reform of gun laws to reduce the availability of highly lethal weapons would make us all safer, while promoting gun ownership and concealed carrying does not. As voters go to the polls for midterm elections, they should remember that the solutions offered by Democrats actually work. Those generally offered by the GOP do not. The issues the GOP has turned into “hot buttons” have lethal results.

Other recent issues turned into lethal political “hot buttons” by the GOP should make this clear. Over a million Americans have died from Covid-19 so far. I’m not aware of any significant number killed by wearing masks or getting vaccinated. Finally, please don’t respond by telling me I am “politicizing” these tragedies—the GOP did that long ago.  

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