By Alan Bean
The abortion debate has polarized America. We are in the midst of a seismic shift on the gay rights front, but the battle lines on Roe v. Wade have hardly shifted. Most Americans are uncomfortable with the moral implications of abortion; most Americans feel that abortion should remain legal, and politicians on both sides of the ideological chasm have learned to exploit the issue for political gain. On the Red Letter Christians website, Kristin Day paints this unhappy picture:
With Roe, abortion became the ultimate wedge issue—where spin control, sound bites, and fear tactics trump good public policy and common sense. Want to disrupt the kind of bipartisan conversation we Americans need to have? Wave a coat hanger or a picture of an aborted fetus or claim there is an attack on women’s health. For groups on both sides of the abortion issue, abortion politics has become big business; the current destructive stalemate between the sides becomes their meal ticket. In this polarized environment, we have lost sight of the women in the cross-fire who are facing crisis pregnancies or wondering whether to bring a special-needs child into the world. Compassion has given way to one-upmanship. As a result, the women and their children whom both sides claim as their motivation are neglected by both sides.
Kristin Day is a pro-life Democrat.
On the other side of the debate, Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check sheds some light on the vexed issue of late-term abortions. It isn’t unusual for public figures to burnish their conservative credentials by demonizing doctors who perform this procedure. But as Jacobson points out:
Late-term abortions are very rare.About one percent of all abortions performed in the United States occur after 21 weeks. There are different definitions of what constitutes a “late term abortion,” but most definitions refer to abortions at or after 24 weeks or in the third trimester.
Moreover, she writes, most women who seek late-term abortions become aware that the fetus they are carrying has virtually now chance of surviving outside the womb. George Tiller, the Wichita KS doctor murdered by a deranged pro-life zealot, performed late-term abortions as an act of compassion.
If you listen to the voices of women served, you understand far more than what the media has told us about who chooses late-term abortion and why. For these women and their partners, Tiller was not “an abortionist” but a life-saver. He was a man who put himself in jeopardy to ensure that a woman would not have to lose her life to infection or complications in an already-doomed pregnancy. He was a doctor who ensured that women carrying a fetus with fatal or catastrophic abnormalities could make the decision–if they so chose–to spare themselves and their families the agony of watching a newborn that could not live endure countless operations and medical procedures in futile attempts to keep it “alive.”
The cost of politicizing the abortion debate has been a loss of clarity and proportion. A careful reading of these two views might help.
4 thoughts on “Two fresh takes on the abortion debate”
Around the nation, local affiliates of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice are offering faith-grounded all-options counseling. This respects women’s differences, helps them find choices that are entirely correct for them, and respects their moral agency on abortion as well as anything else. Loving kindness and support through faith is the only thing offered – no coercion, lies, distortions. RCRC seeks to help the woman who cannot have an abortion as well as those who do. Were this universally available to women, it would save those women years of grief and guilt that are often imposed from without. We do not get through life without regret, but it’s HOW we regret that helps us grow or makes us narrow and angry. RCRC helps women understand that if life is not perfect, if they are not perfect, they are always people deserving of grace and love without reservation. If God knows all, who would understand their grief and hardships better? Even if they are not believers, they are equal in our human eyes deserving of our care. Religion that promotes and relishes guilt is not what Christ wanted. Perfect love is incompatible with that. We must offer women no less than total acceptance and all the help we can give them.
Sorry but the anti-choice side pretty much nuked any “both sides equally guilty” argument — which was already pretty much obviously false — when it launched its attack on contraception last year. Anyone genuinely concerned with the welfare of the “unborn” would have been foursquare behind the most effective way of preventing abortions: preventing unplanned pregnancies.
Of COURSE, Kristin Day calls herself a “pro-life Democrat.” Only such a virtually nonexistent person could be peddling the idea that “both sides” are polarizing the issue, that “both sides” are using abortion as a moneymaker, that “both sides” lack compassion for women and children — unless of course you subscribe to that fashionable anti-choice tactic of claiming they’re only trying to protect fluff-brained women from making a choice they think they’ll regret, which leads me to ask how they think a creature so lacking in agency is fit to raise a child. This seems to be what Day is hinting at — and it’s hardly a “fresh take.” The anti-choice zealots have been shopping it around for several years to depict themselves as really, truly concerned about women.
Also, I would love to know what the “one-upmanship” on the pro-choice side is. Threatening to kill doctors who DELIVER babies? Attempting to defund maternity wards? All I see is people fighting to give women access to a range of choices — including contraception, maternity care, and information about raising a healthy child.
I am pro-life, but not anti-choice. I want abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. And I claim no originality in that statement. I do not believe a fertilized human egg is a person, anymore than I believe I am eating chicken if I eat a fertilized hen egg. I agree with Anastasia that the rabid right–the kooky senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana whose names are justly forgotten, but also including Ryan and Santorum and numerous other–they have been more polarizing than most on the other side.
But there can be such a thing as a pro-life Democrat. To say there can’t contributes to the polarization.
RCRC-thanks for your contribution and your ministry.
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