A family gathers around a table for Thanksgiving dinner in an SNL sketch

Actually, Go Ahead and Bring Up Abortion Over Turkey and Stuffing This Year

We’ve been inundated with horrifying stories since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, clearing the way for elderly male legislators to interject themselves into extremely personal medical decisions. But one story I read last week sent a particular chill up my spine and has haunted me ever since.

Recommended Videos

The New York Times took a brief break from visiting rural diners to talk to people who say they would vote for Kamala Harris but not for Joe Biden for president in 2024. Their reasons ranged from Biden being “too old” to “a bit of a doofus” (OK, fair if the stakes weren’t so high), but one woman’s answer stood out. She told the reporter that she strongly supports abortion rights and that that issue would decide her vote. Because abortion bans went into effect during Biden’s presidency, she blamed him. She had no idea that Biden shares her support for reproductive freedom.

For days my social media feeds were full of journalists and other chronically online types sharing this quote in horror, wondering where they had gone wrong. For people so immersed in the news, it’s mind-boggling to see such a failure to grasp even the basic “who” and “what” of one of the biggest stories of the past few years. How could someone be so confused that they plan to vote for Donald J. Trump, or any Republican, in the hopes of restoring abortion rights?

screengrab, Bluesky

Now, it is easy to make fun of this woman (who by the end of the interview seemed ready to vote for Biden), but the disturbing thing is there are probably a lot of people out there like her. They’re the famed “independent” or “swing” voters who political campaigns obsess about winning over, and chances are they are not purposefully evil or fascist or even immersed in the Fox News alternate universe. They just haven’t been paying attention.

Hey, people are busy! Maybe they’re working three jobs in a gig economy, or maybe they just have better things to do with their free time than endlessly doomscrolling. Can’t relate, but I’m not judging. They have lives, and that sounds nice for them. But they are out there, and they are terrifying because they have the power to decide elections.

Chances are you will be sitting across from some of these terrifyingly powerful people at the dinner table this holiday season, and that might be an opportunity. The conventional wisdom is to avoid hot-button topics in polite conversation, but what if we screw the conventional wisdom? If a segment of the population isn’t reading or is actively avoiding the news, this is what it takes to reach them. The people in their lives need to talk to them directly.

Now I’m not suggesting that you confront your racist uncle or argue with your evangelical cousin about when life begins. What would be the point of that? You don’t even have to try to persuade anyone because abortion rights are already hugely popular. We just need people who care about it to vote and to vote for the right people.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found support for abortion rights is at near-record levels. Roughly 55% of Americans support a person’s unrestricted right to choose, any time, for any reason—including about a third of Republicans and more than half of independents. For years, Democrats avoided talking about reproductive rights because they feared turning off voters, but now that the damage has been done, recent election victories have proven that this is a hugely winning issue for them. It’s far from the only important issue these days, but it’s one that drives a lot of voters to the polls.

So far that hasn’t really translated into support for Biden. There are various reasons for that, but it’s not helping that people still weirdly talk about Trump like he’s a moderate on abortion in spite of the fact that he proudly takes credit for enabling bans by appointing three conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

“I was able to do something that nobody thought was possible, end Roe v. Wade,” Trump bragged on Truth Social. “For 52 years, people talked, spent vast amounts of money, but couldn’t get the job done. I got the job done!” Maybe we don’t focus on this as much because of all the criminal indictments and fascist threats, but he’s been very clear about where he stands!

Now doesn’t that sound like some excellent material for catching up with relatives you haven’t seen in months?

Okay, maybe not at the dinner table, but it might be worth considering over the next year until the election taking some of those opportunities as they come, to interact with people outside our usual orbits. You don’t have to start an argument or a confrontation, just talk about what’s going on in the world and try to raise some awareness among people who might not be as glued to the news cycle about abortion or whatever issue suits you and the situation. Maybe ask a question and have an inquisitive conversation that leads someone to their own realization, like the New York Times reporter did.

I know, I know, talking to people. I hate the idea too.

Screencap from Parks and Rec of April telling saying, "I hate talking to people about things. What a nightmare."

But what’s the worst that could happen? Well, for starters, there’s the possibility of another Trump presidency, a national abortion ban, and the end of democracy as we know it, so there’s all that. In that context, the prospect of having some uncomfortable conversations maybe doesn’t seem so bad, even to this socially awkward introvert.

(featured image: NBC)

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Erika Wittekind
Erika Wittekind
Erika Wittekind (she/her) is a contributing writer covering politics and news and has two decades of experience in local news reporting, freelance writing, and nonfiction editing. Her hobbies and special interests include hiking, dancing in the kitchen, trying to raise empathetic teen boys, and keeping plants alive. Find her on Mastodon at @erikalyn.newsie.social.