Abortion and access to contraception often get lumped with marriage equality as “social issues,” but there are reasons why they’ve played out differently. Take Portman’s own reasoning in his Op-Ed this morning: “We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.” In other words, gay and lesbian people are joining what Portman considers to be, and has historically been, a conservative institution — much like the military, where they’d already been serving in secret.
Although family planning used to be considered a conservative issue, there is still something more radical and terrifying about a woman not wanting to be a mother, or wanting to be a mother on her own terms. There will always be people who consider it the same as murder of a fully developed person in the world. There is still far more empathy for an embryo or fetus than for the living woman.