Friday, June 18, 2010


Failure to seek (and see) common ground

The people who oppose abortion and those who support the right to decide what to allow to grow in one’s body have few, if any, places to compromise. If I want to allow a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and you consider that to be the killing of a baby, we can’t meet in the middle. There’s no common ground there.

There is, though, common ground elsewhere, if we look for it. Essentially, no one favors abortion, in that no one thinks it’s a beautiful thing that people should do regularly. Both sides of the abortion issue want to reduce the number of abortions. One side wants to reduce the number to zero, but the other side also wants it reduced, not by legislating it away, but by reducing the need for it.

That’s where we should all be putting our efforts: on something on which we can agree, and on which we can work together.

If we work on ways to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, we’ll reduce the number of abortions. We’ll still have a fight about the ones that are left, but we’ll have accomplished something good, and everyone will be happier.

That’s the point at which my mind starts to boggle: I see the anti-abortion side not only failing to take action to help in that reduction, but actively impeding efforts toward it. Many want abstinence-only education, and refuse to teach young, sexually-active potential mothers and fathers how to prevent pregnancy. Many refuse to use contraception, and won’t allow its use in their families. Many work to block the availability of contraception to others.

Such is the case for a new morning after pill, ulipristal acetate, which can prevent pregnancies up to five days after intercourse, compared with three days for levonorgestrel (marketed as Plan B), and which is more effective than the alternative drug. The right-wing anti-sensibility groups are, predictably, rallying against approval of the new drug, called ella:

With ulipristal, women will be enticed to buy a poorly tested abortion drug, unaware of its medical risks, under the guise that it’s a morning-after pill, said Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, which led the battle against Plan B.

Plan B prevents a pregnancy by administering high doses of a hormone that mimics progesterone. It works primarily by inhibiting the ovaries from producing eggs. Critics argue it can also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb, which some consider equivalent to an abortion.

Women who were truly concerned for America would see the need to prevent unwanted pregnancies in their daughters, and would understand that abstinence-only education doesn’t do that. Instead, though, these people hold onto the ludicrous concept that two cells that happen to have united are now, though still microscopically small, a person, and must be given every protection available. They maintain that anything that interferes with the process of forming a viable human, once a penis has touched a vagina, is wrong.

And, of course, holders of those sorts of moral views don’t find it sufficient to hold the views themselves; they must impose them on everyone.

In doing so, they are actually increasing the number of abortions that will be performed. Yet they know they’re right, and they’ll fight to the ends of the Earth to force the rest of us to comply.

Their intransigence amazes me, but what also amazes me is how easily the rest of us can let them beat us down. If they want to work with us on common ground, that’s great, and I’ll welcome it. Otherwise, we need to be as vocal as they are; we need to stop allowing fanatics to tell us what to do.

1 comment:

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

It all makes much more sense on the rare occasions when one of these fanatics is caught talking candidly about sex. They are, for the most part, against it, only accepting it -- often grudgingly -- for procreation within marriage. (St. Paul defined their position: "it is better to marry than to burn.")

These modern zealots are, however, smart enough to realize that an explicitly anti-sexuality message will go over in modern America about as well as a paean to Osama bin Laden. (OK, probably not even that well.) So they've gotten very good at casting their arguments in other terms. But their opposition to sex education, birth control for teenagers, etc. signals their real agenda.

I've often thought that the right way to fight them might be with an explicitly pro-sex agenda. Tell teenagers that sex is great, and that they should have it as often as they like as long as it's consensual and safe. Schools would hand out not just free condoms, but also vibrators, the Kama Sutra, that sort of thing. The zealots would go nuts, revealing their true colors in the process. And maybe being a teenager would become a little less awful.