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