The Corner

Politics & Policy

Billie Eilish and the ‘Old Men’ Argument for Abortion

American singer Billie Eilish performs during the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England, June 30, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

At a concert in Austin, Texas, earlier this week, the immensely popular singer Billie Eilish voiced her rather inarticulate support for legal abortion and denounced the state’s recently enacted heartbeat bill.

“I am so f***ing sick and tired of old men — men in general, sorry — but old ones especially. Shut the f*** up about our bodies. Shut the f*** up,” she shouted. “And I have to be honest with you that when they made this sh** a law, I almost didn’t want to do this show, because I wanted to punish this f***ing place for allowing that to happen here.”

Instructing the crowd to lift a middle finger — presumably to the old men in question — Eilish shouted, “My body, my f***ing choice,” running back and forth on stage in front of a banner bearing the Planned Parenthood slogan “Bans Off Our Bodies.”

What Eilish may or may not know — and if she doesn’t, her rant is all the more depressing — is that the modern pro-life movement has, throughout its entire history, been led primarily by women, and that remains true today. Countless courageous pro-life men have contributed a great deal, to be sure, but the pro-life movement is, in a very real sense, a women’s movement.

The endless talk of old men who supposedly want to control women’s bodies is not only untrue, it’s entirely beside the point, and abortion supporters obviously know this. Had the Texas bill been passed by a unanimous coalition of female lawmakers, doubtless Eilish would continue to oppose its contents. (In fact, a significant number of female Texas lawmakers voted in favor of the heartbeat bill, a piece of information that seems to have escaped her notice.)

Meanwhile, I have never encountered an abortion supporter calling for Roe v. Wade to be overturned on the grounds that it was decided by seven old men, six of whom were white.

On such matters, gender is mostly beside the point, and supporters of abortion acknowledge this by ignoring gender entirely when doesn’t serve their argument. “Elect women,” Democrats crow, when what they mean is “Elect women who agree with me.” The fact that I’m a woman rarely gets me off the hook with abortion supporters, who quickly pivot from the argument against old men to the argument that I’m a gender traitor.

The “old men” trope crops up so often from defenders of abortion not because it’s true — it’s provably false — but because it’s easy to assert,  easier to comprehend and sympathize with than an actual argument in favor of abortion, and rarely fact-checked.

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