New on-line forum seeks “common ground” on abortion

June 16, 2009

A new on-line forum launched on Tuesday seeks to spark discussion among faith and secular leaders and activists about ways to find some elusive common ground on the divisive issue of abortion.


It’s being rolled out by RH Reality Check, which focuses on reproductive health and rights issues, and can be seen here.

The initial posts include contributions from David Gushee of Mercer University, a leading intellectual figure in the emerging “evangelical center movement,” Katie Paris of Faith in Public Life, and Steven Waldman of Beliefnet.

Paris says in her blog that common ground on abortion can surely be found. After all, people from different faith traditions and sides of the political spectrum have come together on issues like climate change and torture.

Waldman says that his “common ground fantasy” would involve “a pro-life leader standing up and declaring, ‘We will be open to looking at family planning efforts, including contraception, to reduce the number of abortions.’  This would be followed by a pro-choicer saying, ‘we accept that society would be better if there were fewer abortions.'”

There are already land mines there. The Catholic Church for one is unlikely to drop its opposition to birth control. And some abortion rights supporters don’t want to give any ground that they feel could show they have moral qualms with abortion.

A tall order indeed but there are thoughtful people on both sides of this highly charged debate who are starting to move in this direction.

U.S. President Barack Obama has signaled he is looking for common ground on the issue, for example by finding ways and funding programs to reduce the number of abortions. But Waldman points out that many supporters of abortion rights and even some key people in the Obama administration have pointedly stressed the importance of reducing the “need” for abortion instead of the idea of abortion reduction.

Abortion is a huge political issue that usually (though not always) follows starkly partisan lines in America: Republicans oppose abortion rights, the Democratic Party supports them.

The killing of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller in a Kansas church last month has highlighted the more polarized side of the debate in America.

But polls show varying degrees of ambiguity on the issue and those who are weary of America’s culture wars will no doubt welcome this initiative. Some may dismiss it as a gab fest while the real culture warriors dig in and stoke the bases of both parties. But at least some people are talking.

(PHOTO: Anti-abortion activist Craig Kuhns wears mirrored sunglasses and a piece of tape over his mouth as he stands in front of the US Supreme Court building in Washington, June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)

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Thanks so much for the post about our new section on RH Reality Check. Cristina Page, an accomplished author and commentator, is moderating this section of our site. The national dialogue, under President Obama, is now focused on common ground and our publication is devoted to providing a forum for this discussion. We believe it is important to ensure that these conversations take place. We may have no idea of the outcome but hosting a dialogue now, in the wake of Dr. Tiller’s murder, is critical. Thanks for the post and I agree – at least people talking!

Amie Newman
Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

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