Forty-three years after the Supreme Court established a woman's constitutional right to abortion, debate over whether the procedure should remain legal still rages on, exploding this week onto … the Facebook page for Lands’ End?
Yes, that Lands’ End, the Wisconsin-based retailer that offers sensibly priced blouses and fleece dog jackets. The company, founded in 1963, has long embraced soft pastels, sea-sprayed golden retrievers and a safe distance from controversy.
Chief executive Federica Marchionni, a former Dolce & Gabbana leader who took over the business last year, wanted to shake up this snoozy aesthetic. So she put in the latest catalog the feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who built her career fighting for equal pay, the end of domestic violence and, among six decades of other things, access to safe abortions.
The backlash was swift and intense:
“You obviously don't know who shops with you, or maybe you do and don't care,” wrote one shopper on Facebook. “In the midst of the celebration of Easter (life), you interview and glorify a woman who fosters a culture of death.”
“Those of us who love family, love children, are completely puzzled why you would promote a very vocal pro-abortion celebrity,” wrote another. “Is this who you are LandsEnd? Are you anti-child?"
“How could you not understand that your family-friendly customer base does not want to see a rabidly pro-abortion woman (Steinem) honored as a hero?”
Lands' End, a company that has likely never practiced crisis management, apologized on Facebook and removed any online trace of Steinem's catalog appearance.
"It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue, so when some of our customers saw the recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense."
That prompted more boycott proclamations -- this time from the pro-choice crowd:
“Last time I checked, ‘feminism’ is much more than abortion. But, hey, why don't we go back to ‘women are property of their husbands?’ And why shouldn't we be happy with being a secretary and getting coffee for the boss whenever he asks?”
“Well, now that you've pulled it, I won't be placing my order. I don't intend to teach my children that anyone should do business with a company that is ashamed to even talk about feminism.”
“You see equal rights as a divisive issue? Thanks for letting me know not to give you my money.”
Stating the obvious: Abortion remains intensely divisive. Nearly half of Americans think it’s “morally wrong” to have an abortion, while 13 percent find the procedure “morally acceptable,” according to a 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center. Twenty-seven percent, meanwhile, doesn’t consider abortion a moral issue.
It’s easy to see why heated arguments persist. One side fights to end what it believes is murder. The other strives to protect a woman’s agency over her body. The political clash is agonizingly intimate.
One reality, however, tends to get buried under all the fiery discourse. There’s no sign of it on the Lands’ End Facebook page -- and it has rarely manifested throughout this election cycle’s presidential debates.
Regardless of how they personally view abortion, most Americans want to keep it legal. The same holds true for more than half of Republicans, too.
More than 6 in 10 respondents in a national survey told the Pew Research Center they don't want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which guards a woman’s right to abortion in the first three months of her pregnancy. These opinions, Pew notes, have changed little over the last 20 years.
Gallup charted a similar evolution of Americans’ views on abortion. A slim minority wants to see the procedure banned:
People, it turns out, don't budge much on their abortion beliefs. Even as more Americans supported gay marriage and equal opportunity for everyone over the last 40 years, stances on this particular issue have largely held steady.
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