[Trigger warning for violence.]
In Part I, I argued that the national abortion debate in the US did not get more civil as much as go away. And it's certainly not because the two sides have declared a detente: Roe is constantly in danger of being rendered an empty statute as anti-choicers strike at its heart in steady degrees on the state level.
As I've written before, anti-choice activists, in conjunction with the GOP, have successfully chipped away at abortion rights on the federal and state levels for two decades, hollowing the right guaranteed by Roe via "partial-birth abortion bans" and "parental consent laws" and state legislatures that refuse to fund clinics offering abortions and local municipalities creating barriers with zoning laws.
A lot of progressives treat legal abortion like an on-off switch and Roe as a magical abortion access password, but it's not remotely that simple. Legal abortion is only worth as much as the number of women who have reasonable and affordable and unencumbered access to it. That number is dwindling: By 2000, less than a third of the incorporated counties in the US had abortion clinics.
That's not just inconvenience—between travel expenses and time off work along, the cost of securing an abortion can become an undue burden.
And instead of the national conversation about abortion access getting louder in the wake of this assault on women's rights, it has gone virtually silent.
Because violent rhetoric is a successful silencing technique.
Especially when it's clearly associated with actual violence and destruction. That makes decent people more reluctant to vehemently defend their position, creates a nagging thought in the back of their minds that they're accountable just for speaking up if they know that speaking up will elicit violent rhetoric in response.
If we're all very quiet, maybe no more doctors will get killed.
The people who use violent rhetoric, and violence, bank on that response. They provoke until Something Bad Happens, and they count on their opponents' decency, which they exploit for maximum gain.
In the void of noise where our volatile national abortion debate used to be, there is the slow but certain erosion of women's bodily autonomy.
And we're admonished to be quiet about that. Just to make sure no one else gets hurt.
Meanwhile, we've got a Democratic president whose greatest legislative accomplishment is also "the most expansive restriction on access to abortion Congress has passed," who considers acceptable company a man who equates abortion with the Holocaust and admonishes anyone who objects that "we can disagree with about being disagreeable," who wants pro-choice women to "find common ground" with people who deny their basic autonomy, and who invents straw-women to play concern troll on abortion.
That's what violent rhetoric seeks to accomplish: Surrender on a national scale, because decent people don't want to inflame irresponsible jackasses who will stop at nothing to win.
The only thing to do is be honest about this reality as loudly as possible.
Not more silence. Less.