On Common Ground

By Tracy Russo

This crossed my radar late last week and it’s been irritating me ever since.

“Abortion reduction should be a central Democratic Party plank in this election,” Wallis told ABC News. “I’ll just say that flat out.”

That’d be Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourner’s organization.

Now before the anti-choicers jump all over me for taking issue with this, let me be clear about what I’m taking issue with.

Abortion reduction is not a Democratic Party issue. It’s not a Republican Party issue. It’s a universal issue. Regardless of where you stand on the choice spectrum, I feel very confident saying every one of us would like to see the number of abortions reduced. I certainly would.

Those of us who are pro-choice don’t wake up and think to ourselves, “Gee, I wonder if I’ll get to have an abortion today!?!”

Comments like this, however, make it seem like we do. It makes it seem like the pro-choice Democratic Party is just silly with abortions. In fact, here is what the 2004 party platform reads:

We will defend the dignity of all Americans against those who would undermine it. Because we
believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose,
consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

That reads to me like it already has an “abortion reduction” by way of the “strongly support family planning and adoption incentives” sentence.

Then their is Senator Obama’s stance:

“Sen. Obama has said repeatedly he wants to reduce unintended pregnancies, and has sponsored legislation to do just that.  We welcome and listen to all voices in our platform process.”

Obama backs two bills pertaining to preventing unintended pregnancies, according to Burton.

The Prevention First Act would increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe-sex methods. The Act would also expand insurance coverage of contraception, improve awareness about emergency contraception, and provide assistance to rape victims.

To combat unintended pregnancies in communities of color, Obama supports the Communities of Color Teach Prevention Act of 2007. The bill would provide grants to promote community-based services regarding teen pregnancy. It also would support research on teen pregnancy in communities of color.

Let’s use the law of transitive properties for this one. Reducing the number of abortions starts by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies. Reducing the number of unintended pregnancies starts by educating young women about how they can protect themselves from becoming pregnant. That’s where the euphemism “family planning” comes into play in the platform.

Sounds simple enough. But it’s not that simple at all.

Efforts to undermine reproductive heath and freedom have been under seige by the extreme conservative right. It isn’t just the right to make a medical decision with your doctor that they are encroaching upon – but the availablity of information.

A perfect example? The continued insistence upon teaching abstinence-only education, despite study after study that show it does nothing to reduce the number of teens having sex, it reduces the number of teens having safe sex.

That means more teens are having unprotected sex, which would mean a higher chance of becoming pregnant, which would mean a possibility of an unintended pregnancy and a potential abortion.

But all of that could be nipped in the bud with a little book learning and the proliferation of some common sense information.

So while I don’t disagree with Mr. Wallis at all – I too would love to see more emphasis on education and access to medically accurate information in order to reduce the number of abortions in America – I have to take issue with the way in which this was presented.

Demonizing the pro-choice left is so easy to do, but that won’t solve the problem. This type of rhetoric is plain unnecessary.

Some honesty about the way the extreme right is putting our young women at risk with their wishful thinking (purity balls, promise rings and abstinence pledges), and a real focus on education with access to medically accurate information, on the other hand, just might get us on the road to a solution.

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9 Responses to “On Common Ground”

  1. On that topic, its interesting that some of the most “liberal” states in the country have the lowest abortion rates.  I believe MA has the lowest but someone can correct me if I am wrong.

  2. Actually just googled that and get a lot of conflicting numbers based on the organization reporting.. plus its hard to make a comparison while some states have certain restrictions that have their residents going outside their state..

  3. Having read some other stuff that Jim Wallis writes, I think he would agree with you on most of what you said, particularly about having a more useful dialogue on the subject and moving the debate to the idea of abortion reduction versus the terribly polarized pro-choice/pro-life argument.

  4. The real problem with the abortion debate in this country is that it is tangled and twisted up in the sex debate.  The 1960’s brought both changed social mores and reliable contraception.  The world hasn’t really figured out what this means.
    I vote pro-choice, but if the abortion debate were only about abortion, I’d probably be anti-abortion.  But today, there is no true and practical way to be anti-abortion without also being anti-contraception, anti-homosexuality, anti-sex ed, anti-woman and pro-ignorance.  We need abortion to be legal, not only to keep the coathangers and butchers away (illegal abortions would probably mostly consist of black market RU-486 anyway) but because if it weren’t legal, all that energy would be focused on contraception, without which there is no modern womanhood as we know it.

  5. Absolutely brilliant.

  6. […] bookmarks tagged wishful On Common Ground saved by 1 others     kevjumba15 bookmarked on 07/01/08 | […]

  7. I used to think that abortion should be rare.  Then I adopted a daughter with mental health issues.  Now I don’t care how rare or frequent abortion is, so long as people with serious untreated mental illness don’t bring babies into the world.   

    And I think that doctors who recommend birth control pills to people like my daughter should get to raise the resulting baby.  The order of recommendation should start with an IUD, then an implant, then a depo shot, but never pills.  And any company who can come up with better forms of long term birth control should get a Nobel prize.

  8. when i see some support for fertility awareness and natural birth control, then i’ll believe the pro-choice angle is to reduce abortions.  as it stands, non-chemical, abortion-reducing, free/cheap birth control methods struggle for secular political support in america.

  9. I for one don’t care if the number of abortions go down and I strenuously disagree that “abortion reduction is a universal issue.”  Why?  I don’t see abortion as intrinsically wrong, nor do I understand why we should all act like we agree that it is.
    Reducing unwanted pregnancy is a universal issue, but that is decidedly different.

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