Abortion and guns: Both parties push silly ‘slippery slope’ fallacies

If I did this right, everyone will hate this column.

Conservatives and liberals, doff your partisan hats, if just for a moment. Instead, don that good-ol’ commonsense cap. It might be under the couch, a bit dusty, but find it and put it on.

In the last month, both abortion and guns have become front-burner issues again — and they will be right up until Election Day in November. 

Abortion smashed back into the headlines when a hitherto unheard of leak from the Supreme Court exposed a draft opinion showing the court was leaning 6-3 to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that deemed abortion to be a constitutionally protected right.

Guns, too, blasted back to the front pages when a clearly deranged 18-year-old took two high-powered, semiautomatic rifles into a school in Texas — he had more than 6,000 rounds of ammo — and murdered 19 schoolchildren and two teachers. 

Of course, both events were highly politicized. But let’s get to the core of these stories because both sides — Democrat and Republican — endlessly pitch fallacious “slippery slope” theories to their supporters, and both are dramatically, even heinously, wrong.

Let’s do the Democrats first. Whenever talk of abortion restrictions comes up, liberals are quick to throw this out: “If you do [that one thing], women will be in back alleys performing their own abortions with coat hangers.”

It is, of course, a stupid argument. Nearly two decades ago, federal lawmakers passed — and then-President George W. Bush signed into law — the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. In case you’ve forgotten, the awful procedure involves a doctor partially delivering a “living fetus,” then snipping its soft skull with scissors open before sucking its brain out through a tube. 

Liberals were quick to pull the coat hanger out of the closet. But here’s the thing: Americans — even liberals — wearing their commonsense hats (I hope you still have yours on!) were very much opposed to the procedure.

“Even most pro-choice Americans oppose late-term abortion,” a 2019 poll found. “A survey conducted by You.gov with the pro-life group Americans United for Life found that 66% of U.S. adults who identify as pro-choice opposed third-trimester abortions, and 68% oppose abortions the day before a baby is born.”

“As expected, the opposition was stronger among all adults surveyed: 79% rejected late-term abortion, and 80% opposed day-before-birth abortion.”

That’s sensible. It is gross. Early-term abortion, Plan B pills, contraceptives, those are issues that maybe — and maybe it’s a big maybe — we can discuss. But late-term, partial-birth abortion; yeah, no.

Here’s the thing, though: Republicans deploy their own “slippery slope” silliness, equally dumb.

Whenever a deranged shooter uses a high-powered semiautomatic weapon (look, don’t send me endless emails about “assault” weapons, I know there’s a difference, but it really doesn’t matter) in a terrible crime against humanity, talk renews about laying down new restrictions. 

Then, conservatives pull out their own old saw: “First they’ll do [that one thing], then they’re coming for your ’coon hunting rifle.”

One of the weapons the Texas shooter used was an AR-15. Totally legal. But in the right hand, the weapon can fire three rounds a second. You do the math to figure out the per-minute fire rate. Not exactly a ’coon hunting rifle.

But it wasn’t an ordinary weapon. It was Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 semiauto rifle, which runs about $2,000. With that, you can get 32-round magazines, you know, in case that pesky raccoon is just running rampant. “Built around a Cold Hammer Forged, 16-inch barrel, the V7 has a DD improved Flash Suppressor to reduce flash signature,” their website says (while proclaiming “made in the USA!”). That’ll help in deer hunting.

Democrats had their own law for a decade, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was in effect from 1994 to 2004. It didn’t really do much, one study found, but when it expired, whoo boy.

In 2019, the polling firm found that 61% supported a “ban on the manufacture, possession and sale of semiautomatic guns known as assault rifles,” according to Gallup.

Look, when you have your partisan hats on, you’ll have all kinds of arguments. But the simple point, commonsense hat wearers, is this: Late-term abortion equals bad; high-powered, large magazine rifles equal bad. 

The supposed “slippery slopes” are fake, silly rhetoric to placate the faithful. 

Use your heads: They’re both stupid arguments.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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