It is difficult to get a simple issue to fit into a soundbite. Even Jesus’ two greatest commandments required some commentary when another asked "Who’s my neighbor?" So we shouldn’t be surprised that an issue like abortion utterly fails to fit into a brief blurb.
But yet, we’re expected to adhere to these simplified black and white paradigms. People keep getting reduced to being either for or against abortion, in all situations or not. And that is a load of crap.
Extremists on BOTH sides of this issue have demanded that politicians, churchgoers, and regular folks adhere to their oversimplistic views of the world. The slogans and jargon of both camps of extremists leaves out large groups of real people wrestling with the real effects of this issue. For all their posturing, "life chains" and protests, neither group has really done much except piss the other off. And both forget real people and complicated situations along the way – or that the other side has real (and even good) arguments for holding their position.
So, enough with them. I say we find a way to actually do something. The first step is to find some axioms about reality. So I suggest these:
- Making something illegal is not the same as stopping it from happening. I don’t believe I need to explain that difference to you all. I don’t like it, but it’s so.
- We are not all going to agree when life starts during pregnancy. I think my definition is wonderful, logical, and consistent; I have very smart people tell me I’m full of crap and their definition is better, at which point I return the favor.
- Some children are not wanted by their biological parent(s). I am sure that afterschool special moments occur where a parent realizes that they did really want to child after all. But it doesn’t seem to happen often enough to make it a tenent of our proposal here. Some children aren’t wanted by the people who bear them. I don’t like this either, by the by.
- Nobody – outside of these kooks likes abortion. ‘Nuff said.
- I do not have the right to dictate choices for your body. Because barring a solid agreement for #2, this one is completely up for grabs.
Obviously, the biggest sticking point – the one we always get to when actually discussing this – is the second. When does life start? I say, screw it. Let’s make that little philosophical pea under the mattress irrelevant. What we can agree on, then, is to reduce the number of abortions while still preserving the rights and liberties of women. It’s a big task, but here’s some ways we can start – while stil acknowledging the axioms above.
- Maintain a focus on the welfare of already living men, women, and especially children.
- Provide substantial support for adoption instead of fertility treatments. Yes, every pro-lifer should not only be protesting fertility treatment due to the wasting of zygotes, but because each one of those children takes away from the pool of people who could adopt a child.
- Advocate a change in our language and conception of family: Adopted kids are YOUR kids, period. No modifiers, no hedges.
- Promote comprehensive birth control and sex ed to all people. These programs do not change the number of kids having sex – but they do change the number of kids that get pregnant. See axiom #1 as well.
- Progressive, gradiated government assistance to families – especially those who adopt. Too often, those getting government assistance have an "all or nothing" choice. Make a dollar too much, and you lose it all. That’s a good reason to not try. And struggling families do need help – with rising costs of daycare, education (for themselves and their children), and medical attention.
- Probably the most difficult one is this: Available morning after pills and safe abortions – perhaps with some kind of counseling afterward. It’s not because anyone’s condoning or encouraging it – it’s because we already accepted axiom #1 as true. I’d rather that a woman who felt forced to get an abortion be able to do so safely than be in a back alley. That the abortion would happen in such a case is, IMHO, a foregone conclusion. Therefore, the best way to preserve the most life is to make sure the mother is safe.
The counseling bit is a difficult call. It’s too hard to accurately tell why women (in aggregate) feel the need to get an abortion. There’s lots of social pressure to give appropriate answers, and many people have an agenda to push. In my experience, I’ve known women who had abortions because they were essentially forced to by their families and significant others, women who knew their child would die shortly after birth… but I’ve never actually heard of someone using an expensive medical procedure as a replacement for a cheap condom. Maybe there are, and maybe we can find counselors who can be interested in helping women choose better choices – without preaching or condeming. I suspect it would be hard.
These aren’t perfect suggestions, I know. They won’t solve the problem by themselves – and I can already think of ways they could be abused. But they are the beginning of a path away from here, away from a divisiveness that simply doesn’t even address the problem.
Talk about it. Here. Elsewhere. Just don’t keep doing the same old crap.