Guestview: U.S. “pro-life” and “pro-choice” extremists, you don’t speak for me

February 13, 2012
(Abortion rights protestors arrive to prepare for a counter protest against March for Life anti-abortion demonstrators on the 39th anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, January 23, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst )

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a freelance writer and columnist in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

“Pro-life” and “pro-choice” extremists, you don’t speak for me

And, by the way, you don’t happen to speak for the majority of the American people either.

Over the past few weeks, the hot button issue of abortion rights in the United States has once again drawn national and sustained media attention in two events that almost seemed scripted to galvanize the certain on both sides.

First the Susan G. Komen Foundation, known for raising funds to combat breast cancer, decided to change its funding rules, with the consequence that Planned Parenthood became ineligible for grants.  Within days, as the Twittersphere and other social media outlets lit up with glee and rage, Komen reversed its decision.

At roughly the same time, simmering outrage over the Obama administration’s plan to require that all hospitals, including those with a faith affiliation, provide free contraception (including the morning-after pill, considered by many to be an abortifacient) boiled over. The administration had to come out with a compromise that faces an uncertain future.

My Facebook page (I have friends of many political and religious persuasions) has become something between an echo chamber and a virtual battleground. The culture wars were revived – with a vengeance.

As so often happens in online media, no one was talking to ideological opponents. Instead, they were whipping up their respectvive posses.

In such an environment, biases are reinforced, not challenged.

(Anti-abortion demonstrators take part in the "March for Life" in Washington January 23, 2012. Nearly 100,000 protesters marched to the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the 39th anniversary of the Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque )

As I watched the troops muster, arm and shoot their way across my Facebook ticker, I sat at my desk, grappling with my own ambivalence.

If pushed to describe my own position, I would describe myself as embracing the Catholic “web of life ethic.”

Viewed from that point of view, all human life is sacred, from cradle to grave.  If  it is taken, it should be consciously, and only in the most serious of circumstances.

From that vantage point, viewing a fetal ultrasound before choosing an abortion isn’t a bad idea.

But  I realize that, as uneasy and frankly sad I am about the millions of abortions performed every year, I can’t legislate the choices made by my fellow citizens.  Going back to a pre Roe v. Wade world is mostly likely impossible and perhaps even undesirable.

.And I know that I wasn’t alone.  Most of my Facebook friends were silent about the Komen drama.   If polls on the abortion question (s) are accurate, among them are many who, like me, find themselves conflicted, some personally, some on whether it is possible to legislate morality.

In a CBS-New York Times poll done last month, thirty seven percent of participants told pollsters that they favor stricter limits on abortion.  Another thirty-seven percent want abortion to be “generally available” and twenty-three percent would like it not to be permitted under any circumstances.  In another poll by those organizations done in September 2011, the number of respondents who advocated stricter limits was forty-two percent.

Yet while there is some polling evidence that the number of those who describe themselves as “pro-life” has increased, a November Pew Research Center poll indicates that majorities in all generational groups surveyed want abortion to remain legal.

In the executive summary of  the results of a survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute last fall that focused on the ”millennial” generation, the authors  argued that Americans have “complex and sometimes contradictory” view on the abortion question..

“Majorities of American simultaneously say an abortion Is morally wrong (52%) and that it should be legal in all or most cases (56%),” they said.

(U.S. President Barack Obama, flanked by Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius, announced a turn-around in his policy on contraceptive care funding in the press room of the White House in Washington, February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Those who mostly strongly support abortion rights don’t generally seem to be gung-ho on abortion itself.  They are, however, passionate about choice.

Even the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” reveal our failure as a country to frame the issue in a constructive way.

If you are “pro-life,” does that mean that your opponents are political Voldemorts who oppose life in all of its forms?

Do “pro-choicers” truly believe that their adversaries in the culture wars are committed to disenfranchising women from making any and all decisions?

Wait, wait, don’t tell me…

Once upon a time (in the Clinton era) there was a discussion about how to foster an environment in which abortion rights proponents and their opponents would come together to find answers to the social issues behind many abortions.   Possibilities include providing better access to prenatal care, support for single mothers and fathers, making adoption easier (and less expensive), mental health and other family support services.

Of course, these don’t come cheap, the way that black-and-white rhetoric does.

It almost appears, a friend said to me recently, as though partisans in the abortion wars enjoy yelling at one another rather than working together to find a solution.

Meanwhile, many of us who openly wrestle with the complexities of public policy and private behavior find that in the current environment, those who grapple with doubts and shades of grey have few effective media voices.

And so we remain silent.  Silent, in part, because we aren’t convinced, like the partisans, that we have righteousness on our side.

Like the Germans and the British in World War I, the culture warriors lob grenades from their bunkers at the other side.  The moment we start to make progress on ending abortions is when they get tired of the battle and seek a truce.

That moment of reconciliation, sadly, seems far off.

Both sides are, at the moment, too invested in winning.

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What I and others that I know find chilling, is the idea that the religious right is seeking to impose their version of morality (abortion should be illegal) onto everyone in our society. While no one advocates wholesale abortions, I can not pretend to have the right to make the decision for someone else as to whether or not she is prepared to carry a child to term, risk death in childbirth, and put in a minimum of 18 years (more realistically, a lifetime) to raise and support that child. Our society needs committed parents – not indifferent or resentful or forced ones – to raise the next generation of productive members of society.

Sadly, the same people who are so adamantly opposed to legal abortion usually want to prevent effective sex education and contraceptive availability in schools. Why not try to prevent the unwanted pregnancy in the first place? When was the last time you saw a condom ad during dinner or even during any prime time network show? They sure show lots of ED treatment commercials to facilitate having sex, but no condom ads are ever seen to promote responsible protected sex.

Many of the same voices that seek to overturn Roe v Wade seem to also rant against spending public money for affordable day care or affordable health insurance for all – ensuring that pre-natal care and well baby care is available. If you want to encourage bringing these babies into the world, you need to also be willing to support programs that give them a reasonable chance to be healthy, educated, and successful.

Personally I believe that if you are against abortion, do not have one. Otherwise, let each woman faced with this most difficult of decisions do what she believes is best for her and her unique situation. I would never presume to tell someone how to vote or what church (if any) to attend or what job they must take; how could I possibly have the right to tell someone else that they must have a baby – something infinitely more personal?

Posted by MidwestVoice | Report as abusive

written like a hand-wringing coward

“i was only following orders, errr, no, the electorate”

(quote) uneasy and frankly sad I am about the millions of abortions performed every year, I can’t legislate the choices made by my fellow citizens.

a child is a child
in utero included

you have the choice to be a good mother or complain
but not murder

Posted by scythe | Report as abusive

I googled “Prolife extremism” and I found this article. I have described myself as “Prolife” for years…have been very active and involved, but things that other “Prolifers” do and say are driving me away. Im still against murder in all forms (death penalty, euthanasia & abortion) but Ive been thrown under a bus enough times to now be very wary.

I work in healthcare and Im sick of prolife writers expounding about healthcare workers as if each of us are bloodthirsty killers searching for a reason to kill your grandma or baby. Im tired of prolifers leaping at every rumor without checking it out …for the love of all that is decent, RESEARCH a little before you put crap in the church bulletin.

I have created education about end of life care that is ABSOLUTELY ethically appropriate and had it misunderstood by the poorly informed and then been accused of killing. Yea, THAT is nice…dont just ask questions, leap right to calling me a killer. I am weary and you guys embarrass me.

So this is my plan…I will be the best nurse I can be ad take great care of people and in that I serve the best I can and probably discourage some needless abortions in the lean time. I will feed the hungry and clothe the naked and bury the dead but Im NOT going to stand on the street with a gory picture of mutilated babies and I wish you wouldnt either

Posted by nursetammy | Report as abusive