The Freedom Loving Tea Party’s Struggle Against Women’s Reproductive Freedom

Amanda Marcotte on the wave of anti-abortion legislation sweeping the country and the myth of the libertarian tea party:

On the state level, an unprecedented number of anti-choice bills are being introduced in response to the perceived anti-choice bent of the Supreme Court. Florida alone has introduced 18 separate anti-choice bills. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has declared mandatory ultrasounds for abortion patients an emergency priority, and fast-tracked it through the Legislature. Three separate states have introduced bills that could legalize domestic terrorism against abortion providers, though a bill in South Dakota was withdrawn under pressure. Instead, that state’s Legislature moved on to pass the most draconian abortion law in the country, one that would require a woman to wait 72 hours for an abortion and listen to a lecture from an anti-choice activist before having an abortion. These examples represent just a tiny fraction of the anti-choice bills percolating through state legislatures.

Maybe this is all surprising. After all, haven’t we heard for the last two years that the Tea Party is more libertarian and less socially conservative? If you bought that line, congratulations — you’re ensconced in Beltway wisdom. The truth is that a new name for the same old conservative base hasn’t changed the nature of that base. Just as before, the “small government” conservatives and the religious right have a great deal of overlap. With gay rights waning as a powerful wedge issue, keeping the religious right motivated and ready to vote is harder than ever. Reproductive rights creates new incentives for church-organized activists to keep praying, marching, donating and, most important, voting for the GOP.

I would just add my pet point that there’s really nothing surprising about this. Not only in the present-day USA, but in global and historical terms freedom-talk is primarily associated with authoritarian populist nationalist movement. The freedom of the Tea Party or Jorg Haider or Geert Wilders or the fictional Jake Featherstone is a communitarian freedom, the freedom of the dominant sociocultural group to gets its way relative to cultural outsiders and reformers. It’s not the freedom to build a mosque or to engage in medium-density construction in the suburbs or to have an abortion or to marry who you want. It’s a freedom that demands reduced health care subsidies for poor people while insisting that health care subsidies for old people are sacrosanct.