Finding common ground needed in abortion debate
There is no issue that divides Americans like abortion. Both sides are passionate-so passionate that for many on both extremes it is the only issue that guides their vote. Other divisive social issues in our nation’s history, such as school busing (Brown v. Board of Education), interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia), and gay marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges) were settled by the Supreme Court and these landmark decisions swayed public opinion in favor after they were issued.
But not abortion. The court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in favor of abortion rights failed to end the controversy; and 46 years later public opinion remains evenly divided. Both extremes, each representing a minority view, lead public debate, demonize the other side and refuse to compromise.
Gallup reports that 18% of Americans support the strict bans on abortion that have been enacted in Alabama, Georgia and other states, 29% support unlimited abortion on demand and a 50% majority support abortion in the early stage of pregnancy and restrictions in the later stage. (Gallup, May 1-10, 2018).
I am proud I helped found Michigan Democrats for Life which favors a moderate solution to abortion. Some say, “How can you be both a Democrat and pro-life? It’s very simple. I am pro-life because I am a Democrat. There is more to pro-life policy than childbirth, however beautiful and necessary childbirth is.
Abortion bans are merely pro-birth; they are not pro-life because true pro-life policies protect and honor human life at all stages. How can the so-called pro-life Alabama governor sign a near-total abortion ban, even before a woman knows she is pregnant, and then authorize executions?
Our motto is pro-life for the whole life, which is in accord with the Consistent Life Ethic coined by the late Joseph Bernardin, Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago. These are the pro-life policies we support after a child is born: bring people out of poverty; make quality, affordable health care a right; admit there is climate change and do something about it; make income equality a reality; fight for humane immigration reform; end the endless wars; and ban capital punishment, to name a few.
How distressing it is to witness the eruption of the abortion wars in America. In Michigan, a ballot initiative banning any abortion after a heartbeat is detected will be circulated for signatures by well-meaning people. However, these kinds of abortion bans are not going to save human life because overturning Roe will only exacerbate the abortion wars.
The nation will become a patchwork of 50 differing abortion laws-some allowing abortion and others banning it. As we know from past experience before Roe, outlawing abortion does not stop abortion but rather moves it underground and across state borders to the states permitting it. Also, the ease of online access to the first trimester abortion pill will give women in banned states access to abortion.
The better way to reduce abortions is to encourage and empower women facing an unplanned pregnancy to carry their babies to term. The policies of the Democratic candidates effectively do this: prenatal and postpartum healthcare, quality pre-K childcare, paid-family leave, increases in minimum wage, work-place protection for pregnant women, and others.
We also need national consensus on when abortions should be allowed. We can learn a lot from the European model on how to end abortion wars and achieved compromise. Sensible laws in Europe allow abortion in the early stage of gestation, mostly with non-surgical medication (the abortion pill), and then bans abortion thereafter. Most EU countries have also expanded access to safe birth control in neighborhood clinics which prevents abortion in the first place. Most Americans support compromise on the European model that recognizes both the rights of women to choose in the early stage of pregnancy and the right to life in the later stage. (Gallup, May 1-10, 2018).
A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy has a tremendous, far-reaching decision to make-a choice that goes far beyond her own body. She deserves access to a local clinic that provides unbiased information of all options, including adoption, and government supports for the decision she makes.
This is the author’s personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of Michigan Democrats for Life. The author is an attorney and is active in his local Catholic Church.
Editor’s note: Robert Anderson, is a certified elder law attorney and master of law in taxation who practices in Marquette.