Did Virginia Pro-Choicers Blunder?

I definitely agree with the central point of Sarah Kliff's post—namely, that the ultrasound law that ultimately passed in Virginia is almost as bad as the bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds that was initially proposed.  

Like Dahlia Lithwick, though, I don't really agree with the Kliff's framing argument that the passage of a slightly-less-bad set of abortion regulations resulted from a pro-choice "blunder."   It's not as if there's some magic technique that can enable pro-choice groups to stop Republican governments from passing bad abortion regulations that they want to pass. Pro-choice groups were able to stop the most extreme form of the bill because the effective requirement of a transvaginal ultrasound turned out to be highly unpopular. Less invasive ultrasound requirements, conversely, like a lot of abortion regulations are bad public policy but are not necessarily not unpopular despite the best efforts of pro-choice groups. In these circumstances, supporters of reproductive freedom just don't have much leverage. It's a considerable accomplishment to have gotten even the original bill stopped. If opponents of the ultrasound regulation had not emphasized the particularly appalling instrusiveness of the transvaginal ultrasound requirement, the result would not have been no ultrasound bill. The bill would have quietly passed in its original form. 

Particularly in the short-term, it's very difficult for groups to change public opinion (as opposed to mobilizing existing public opinion). And this is particularly true on a high-profile issue like abortion, where the general shape of public opinion has been stable since the late 60s. The fact that Supreme Court justices are willing—even in the face "no available data"—to assume that pointless and burdensome abortion regulations are necessary to save women from themselves should demonsrate the limitations of what good arguments can accomplish. The passage of a bad abortion bill in Virginia is an unfortunate defeat for women in the state, but I don't see any reason to believe it was the result of strategic errors of pro-choicers who fought valiantly and successfully against a hostile legislature and governor to stop an even worse bill.

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