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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Westneat: Loneliness of the woman voter

By Danny Westneat
Published: July 10, 2024, 6:01am

In the fire hose of news last week, the airlifts are an image that needs more attention.

“We are now living in two very different United States,” was how one Seattle-area health care provider summed up the dystopian situation.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Idaho hospitals could resume providing emergency abortion care to ill pregnant women, but only temporarily, the story also emerged about how strained that care had become.

Since January, emergency services have been airlifting women, often hemorrhaging or in sepsis, out of Idaho rather than treating them there. It’s due to our new “states’ rights” health care system, where abortion is a felony there, and legal over here.

“I am seeing patients from Idaho, but also from Texas, Arizona, Alabama and other states,” said Dr. Elizabeth Harrington, a University of Washington OB-GYN.

These patients weren’t seeking abortions, but rather had complications while pregnant, such as their membranes rupturing prematurely or a placenta separating from the uterus. Serious complications all, which can sometimes lead doctors to recommend ending the pregnancy.

But you can’t do that in Idaho anymore, not unless the mother’s death is imminent.

I bring all this up not to harp again on the cultural break between Washington and our neighbor Idaho, but because of new polling that suggests an even larger rift is forming between men and women.

Women are becoming dramatically more pro-choice, while men are slightly pro-life. The change means there is by far the biggest gap between the sexes in the 30 years that Gallup has been polling the question.

Women are now 30-plus points pro-choice, 63 percent to 33 percent. Six years ago, women were about evenly split.

Men, meanwhile, are pro-life by 4-plus points, 49 percent to 45 percent. They have become more pro-life than they were in the 1990s.

I would guess that things like airlifts have something to do with this chasm.

Views on abortion are nuanced and personal — certainly not all women support it. But the scattershot way the new rules are being imposed is alienating. Airlifts only for women from certain states is like a new Jim Crow. It’s Jane Crow.

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That the Supreme Court took a momentary step back from this isn’t going to lower the temperature much. Because the court didn’t decide the underlying question of whether any of this is right, or complies with federal law.

The other thing I bet has added to this growing gender divide was the tired male-dominated politics on display in that travesty of a presidential debate. The debate was the con man versus the old man.

The con man shouldn’t have even been there, having tried to overturn a previous election based solely on lies. On Roe v. Wade, he did some happy-talk about how everyone loves the states’ rights health care morass he helped create. Airlifts don’t appear to have troubled his narcissistic thoughts.

The old man tried to object but was too feeble. He struggled to communicate basic ideas or arguments.

I’ve mentioned the con part and the old part, but the man part matters, too.

I’m a man so I can’t understand how America’s testosterone-driven politics makes any woman feel. But I can sense from many women in my own life that they’re feeling increasingly agitated and powerless.

In another Gallup poll, 44 percent of women, a record low percentage, say they’re satisfied with how women are treated by society. It was 25 points higher two decades ago. So women feel the backsliding.

And why wouldn’t they? It’s not hypothetical or debatable — they really have been airlifting women out of Idaho. Not men, just women. Similar gender disparities are happening in dozens of other states, unaddressed by the Supreme Court ruling.

That this isn’t getting through, to men especially, is bound to be dispiriting. That is furthering a divide, into two very separate United States.

It shouldn’t be that hard to see why one of them may be feeling cut loose and alone about now.