Finding common ground in the abortion debate
No issue divides Americans as abortion does. Both sides are so passionate that it is the only issue that guides their vote-even though there are other pro-life issues. Other divisive social issues, such as school busing (Brown v. Board of Education) and interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia) were settled by the Supreme Court, which swayed public opinion. But not abortion. The court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision failed to end the controversy; 46 years later, public opinion remains evenly divided. Both extremes, each representing a minority view, lead public debate and refuse to compromise.
I helped to found Michigan Democrats for Life, which favors a moderate solution to abortion. Some say, “How can you be both a Democrat and pro-life?” It’s very simple — I am pro-life because I am a Democrat and a Democrat because of my faith. There is more to pro-life than childbirth. Abortion bans are not truly pro-life because true pro-life protects human life at all stages. How can a “pro-life” Alabama governor sign legislation banning abortions and then authorize executions?
Our motto is pro-life for the whole life, which is in accord with the Consistent Life Ethic coined by the late Joseph Bernardin, Roman Catholic cardinal of Chicago. These pro-life policies include: bringing people out of poverty, making healthcare a right, admitting there is climate change, making income equality a reality, fighting for humane immigration reform.
The heartbeat abortion bans being passed in Republican-controlled states are not going to save human life because overturning Roe will only inflame the abortion war, as the nation will become a patchwork of 50 differing laws. We know from past experience that outlawing abortion does not stop it but moves it underground, across state borders — not to mention easy internet access to the abortion pill.
Democratic policies save more babies than bans by empowering pregnant women to go to full term with these policies: natal healthcare, pre-K childcare, paid-family leave, increased minimum wage, expanded adoption, and workplace protection for pregnant women.
We need a national consensus on abortion. The European model offers a sensible compromise by allowing abortion in the early stage, mostly with non-surgical medication (the abortion pill) and banning abortion thereafter. Most Americans support this compromise because it recognizes both the rights of women to choose in the early stage and the right to life in the later stage. (Gallup poll done May 1-10, 2018).
A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy has a tremendous, far-reaching decision to make — a choice that goes far beyond her own body. She deserves access to a local clinic that provides unbiased information of all options and government supports for the decision she makes.
This is the author’s personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of Michigan Democrats for Life. The author is an attorney and is active in his local Catholic Church.