A few days ago, a front page writer here wrote an article regarding the “abortion truce trap.” It was an excellent, well-reasoned article with equally thoughtful responses that seem to indicate that this issue remains controversial. Using some citations from recent Republicans regarding that alleged truce, perhaps the one that I take exception with is that of former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. As was cited in the original posting, Daniels was then simply suggesting that because of the controversial nature of the subject, Republicans should, as a campaign tactic, de-emphasize the social issues. The American electorate by and large was and continues to be more engaged in the fiscal issues confronting this country. Republicans, despite claims to the contrary by the Democratic Party, do have solutions to these problems and these solutions make intuitive, common sense and have broad appeal to the public- if articulated correctly. The solutions to our collective fiscal woes are attainable and popular while the social woes in this country are less amenable to solution.
Taking the issue of abortion specifically, there are numerous polls out there to suggest that a majority of Americans oppose abortion on demand. Polls are all well and good and I suppose that if public opinion polling existed in the 1850s, we may have found, depending on the wording of the question, that a certain percentage- perhaps even a majority- would support slavery under certain conditions. But, results of public opinion polls do not resolve the problems. If they did, then we may as well just scrap our form of government and have national referendums on certain issues. The results of public opinion polling- whether they reflect a pro-life or a pro-choice tendency in the public- are clearly over-cited to allegedly prove a case. As an example, both Gallup and Pew track the issue of abortion in their polling and they track it over time. At one time, the pro-choice view held the majority which later changed more recently to the pro-life view. These fluctuations in results are evidence that the results of polls are useless. Either abortion is right or it is not; that is the fundamental underlying philosophy. If you change the question to: “except in the case of…” you again change the results.
As one of the comments basically stated, “what is the difference if the resulting life is the result of rape or incest?” This is the equivalent of the “a human fetus is a human fetus is a human fetus” no matter how conceived. True enough, but was that fetus the product of a loving relationship (no matter how you want to define it), or was it the result of force? The end result is clearly a human fetus, but how we got to that point is vitally important. The subjects of rape and incest are correctly defined as “victims” for a reason; these are acts that were forced upon the victim, often with violent force. Without carving out these exceptions and failing to see the qualitative differences is akin to making the victim of any violent crime pay the perpetrator of that crime. It sounds great to say they can always put that eventual baby up for adoption, but one seriously doubts that anyone would want that lone option thrust upon them if they were the victim of rape or incest.
Regardless, the rape/incest exception addresses a very small percentage of the number of abortions performed in this country; most women do not enter abortion clinics seeking an abortion because they were victims of rape or incest. Most abortions are performed for purely personal and often selfish reasons: the baby will interfere with their life choices involving a job, a relationship, schooling, their career path, etc. In these cases, the human life developing in them are relegated to the status of “an inconvenience.” To me, that is the horror of Roe v. Wade: it wrapped what amounts to an inconvenience in supposedly constitutional language and codified it.
As someone stated in their comments as as suggested in the very moniker advocates of abortion on demand have adopted- pro-choice,- this is a choice that women make. If it is their “choice,” then it should be their responsibility also. Hence, it makes no sense for the government to pay for that choice. While it may be true that the federal government is statutorily prohibited from funding abortions, their financial support of women’s health providers like Planned Parenthood free up their other funds to provide abortions. In essence, the government funding of these groups is de facto funding of abortion, a round about and backdoor way to fund abortions. One can argue that the government should fund programs which benefit the health of women- programs like cervical cancer screenings and mammograms. But, there are numerous clinics and other entities out there that perform these functions that also do not perform abortions. Why must the government fund Planned Parenthood- the nation’s largest abortion provider? This, to me, sounds like a reasonable compromise in this area. Instead of the pro-choice lobby putting their donated dollars towards thwarting legislation to maintain the status quo, put those dollars towards opening clinics in areas low in income if that is the problem, but get the government out of the multibillion dollar abortion industry. Yet, the pro-choice people will argue that this is unfair to the low income women most in need of health services. At the same time, they fail to put their money where their mouths are. Thus, the best strategy may be the economic attack on abortion.
There were suggestions along the way for a constitutional amendment or some quid pro quo with liberals. As for the amendment idea, it is bad on three counts. First, it is difficult to get the amendment passed by the requisite number of states. Second, despite the national trend away from acceptance of abortion, a majority of Americans also do not want Roe to be overturned. Third, even assuming the pro-life community can get 2/3 of the states to approve an amendment, there would most likely be a provision in there regarding certain exceptions. In essence, one would codifying Roe and its progeny of cases. Does the pro-life movement really want this?
As for the quid pro quo where conservatives “give up” the gay marriage or other issues if liberals accept a pro-life stance, this idea is silly from the start. First, you simply cannot trust a liberal. Second, bartering dead babies is just ghoulish and their protection in utero is certainly more important than horse-trading other socially conservative ideals.
Ironically, what conservatives need to do and where they can establish some inroads is a twist on the Clinton mantra: safe, but rare abortions. By safe, this would include many of the laws being passed at the state level to ensure safe and sanitary conditions for a surgical procedure. Additionally, since most abortions today are “medical,” meaning induced by pharmaceuticals, the safety of the drug protocol needs to be examined and restricted. Also, most people receive more information from a surgeon to have a carbuncle removed than they do from an abortionist regarding the procedure and the “mass of tissue” being removed. In practically every other surgical procedure, it is good practice to get a second opinion. In fact, insurance companies and the medical establishment often demands it. But when it comes to abortion, a three-day waiting period is considered an “undue burden” by the pro-choice crowd. Pointing out their hypocrisy is a winning strategy.
But in the same vein, conservatives need to recognize the reality of contraception. Of course, no religious organization that objects to contraception should be forced to cover it in health plans. But, by the same token, the government should not interfere with programs that seek to provide birth control, especially in low income areas. Whether this includes organizations like Planned Parenthood stepping in to provide that help, or better and realistic sex education in school (which may very well include free condoms), preventing births- not some Utopian idea of abstinence- should be the ideal, Abortion should not be, as one person said, retroactive birth control. Conservatives could and should continue to stress the only known 100% perfect birth control method- abstinence- but to believe that this view will rule the day is clearly unrealistic. Personally, I would prefer the pregnancy to be prevented in the first place rather than to abort the product.
Furthermore, when and if a woman becomes pregnant, options like adoption need to be stressed and our adoption laws reformed. There are way too many willing and loving couples who wish to adopt, but are often thwarted by laws in this country. A friend of mine has adopted three children- two from China and one from Colombia. When asked why the foreign adoptions, he told me the process takes too long here in the United States. What may take up to 18 months here can be done in 5 months in these other countries.
Regarding the financial issues involved, one needs to answer the question: where the hell are the fathers of these babies? If one believes they are mature enough to conceive a child, then they should be mature enough to financially support that child if the female becomes pregnant. Laws need to be strengthened in this area. I fully understand that human biological urges often trumps economic considerations; “accidents” do happen. Even still, today’s culture rooted in convenience and speed of resolving “problems” often dictates the easy route towards that resolution. That path unfortunately leads to a medical waste canister. Thus stressing the economics of bad decisions early and often and having the legal means to reinforce those economics is a policy most conservatives can agree upon.
Before summing up, there is another important aspect to this debate- intent. What do we do in the case of a couple involved in a loving relationship who use every means at their disposal to prevent a pregnancy for whatever reason, yet by circumstance the woman finds herself pregnant? After all, not every form of birth control (except abstinence) is 100% fool-proof. Should clearly demonstrated “intent” allow that woman a “free pass?” Personally, this is the question where I sort of get stuck for an answer.
The reason abortion remains a controversial issue is because the Supreme Court unnecessarily waded into an area and thus created the controversy. They have been dealing with it since. Politically, it has been used as a tool to divide this country. As Justice Ginsburg- certainly no conservative- has observed, criminal abortion laws were dying a natural death around the country when Roe was decided. Had the legislative process played out, we likely would not be calling for a truce or even discussing the issue that much today. But, we have to live with the reality that is, not the speculated “reality.” Today’s “undue burden” test is clearly a means by which the pro-life movement can obtain some victories in this area. We can call it “informed consent,” or “health and sanitary conditions” laws, or whatever. It does not matter provided the law is not an “undue burden.” How can elevating a developing human life to the level of a carbuncle be considered an “undue burden?” How can making sure a clinic is not like a Gosnell abortion mill be considered an “undue burden?” How can banning abortions after five months (20 weeks) be considered an “undue burden” when someone had five months to make a decision? This is not a Republican war on women; it is a liberal war on commonsense.