My father thinks I'm a great son, and he's a great dad, except he seems to believe I like to kill babies.
I'm serious. While normal 'houses divided' are based on college football teams, I'm trying to convince my father that my goal is not to destroy the United States of America. I'm a Pro-Choice, Choose-Life, "Safe, Legal and Rare," Culture of Death Catholic, and he likes to 'criticize' my beliefs by pretending he doesn't know he and I disagree.
Ask Sprout if I'm lyin,' he deals with this, too.
I couldn't even go over to the house today. With the State of South Dakota picking fights over this issue, and Georgia meandering along the path, I could almost see him in his recliner, hiding behind some news magazine, practicing his questions. He'd wait until I was settled in the living room, playing with the dog, and then he'd switch the TV to a news channel and wait - the trap set, him ready, me unsuspecting...
So instead of dealing with that load of nonsense (the 'conversation' never goes in a positive direction, as you might imagine) I decided to get some thoughts together on the topic and see what y'all thought.
I've tried to enunciate my beliefs as well as I can on the issue of Choice vs Life (and how I don't see them as mutually exclusive) but I always come up short. It is very difficult to demonstrate my deep personal respect for life while maintaining my deep belief in legal freedoms and my support for medicine and women's health. It is also very difficult to explain to those on my left that this issue is defined by the way they talk about it, and that they have lost the debate when it comes to the terminology and politics of the situation.
Luckily, William Saletan (author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War) can enunciate these things I believe quite well.
We'll start with a recent article of Saletan's that takes much of this week's events into account. He makes the case that the Roe decision, and the amount of political capital spent to defend it, is actually keeping us in a culture war stalemate, and that we on the forward moving side of the issue need to move past it:
Pro-lifers can't launch the post-Roe era, because they're determined to abolish its guarantee of individual autonomy, and the public won't stand for that. Only pro-choicers can give the public what it wants: abortion reduction within a framework of autonomy...
The road out of Roe won't be easy. Conservatives are already fighting early-abortion pills, morning-after pills, sex education, and birth control. But that's a different fight from the one we've been stuck in since 1973. It's a more winnable fight, and a more righteous one.
(Italics applied by HR.)
In a more striking example of how the center-left and the left-left differ, centrist Saletan got into a running dialouge with leftist Katha Pollit over this very topic. Here are some highlights from February 1 that I think are highly important:
Let's start by explaining to readers why we're having this conversation. Last week in the New York Times, I urged pro-choicers to wage war on the abortion rate through birth control and sex education. This week in The Nation, you replied that "anti-abortion moralism" would hurt women and abortion rights. You argued that pursuing an explicit goal of zero abortions would "do the antichoicers' work for them." I think you've got it exactly backward.
First, let me tackle some of your objections around the periphery of our disagreement. You say the limits of our education and health-care systems make "zero abortions" unreachable. True. Peace is unreachable, too, but we try. That's the nature of goals.
From February 2:
Take another look at that California poll I mentioned. Seventy-one percent of respondents don't want Roe overturned. Seventy-six percent favor "the government providing funding to programs that provide teens with birth control methods or contraceptives." Eighty-nine percent say it's appropriate to tell high-school kids "how to use and where to get contraceptives"; 54 percent say it's appropriate to tell middle-school kids the same thing. Yet 56 percent agree that "it would be a good thing to reduce the number of abortions." And here's the kicker: "Which of the following do you believe would be most effective in reducing the number of abortions?" Option 1: "Enacting more restrictive abortion laws." Option 2: "Providing more access to contraception." Five percent of respondents choose both. Twenty percent choose restrictive abortion laws. Sixty-six percent choose contraception.
Admittedly, it's California. In the case of Roe, national polls average about 10 points to the right of this survey. Let's suppose the same is true of the other questions: Nationwide numbers are about 10 points more conservative than in California. In that case, the majorities for Roe, contraceptive access, and contraceptive education are all somewhere in the 60 percent to 70 percent range—and so is the majority for reducing the number of abortions. There's your pro-Roe, anti-abortion, pro-contraception majority.
And, from February 3 and the really real kicker for the left-left:
Katha, if we agree on virtually all of the policy questions, isn't politics the whole ballgame? Look at our wish list: more birth control, more sex ed, more emergency contraception, more male responsibility, more health insurance. How much of that agenda can we get without government action? And how much action can we get from a government of which we control not a single branch?
That's why I quote polls instead of letters. It's not because I don't care about women. It's because polls tell us what the public thinks, not just what our friends think. Without the public, we have no power. And without power, we're no good to women at all.
Why is that such a kicker? For this we go to Saletan again, two years ago. He was protest march slogans to point out how abrasive leftists only play into the hands of the right:
Marches attract passionate advocates and concentrate them in one place. They foster the illusion that you and your sisters who have filled the National Mall represent a cross-section of America. You don't. Most Americans hate abortion and don't consider themselves feminists. You need the votes of these people. Praise abortion, shout about patriarchy, and you'll alienate them for another decade.
Maybe now, with the Constitutionality of Roe about to be seriously challenged, the left-left will start realizing how badly they need the center with them on this issue. I doubt I'll ever be able to convince good men of principle like my father and DADvocate, who believe so passionately in their respect for life and their definitions of life, to agree with me. But if the left-left would understand that most pro-life opinions aren't founded in a hatred for women, and that the anti-life rhetoric they cling to is only making matters worse, we wouldn't need to convince anyone. America is already there.