The Pro-Voice Solution

Editor’s Note: After reading Muammar Qaddafi’s editorial, "The One-State Solution," on the Israel/Palestine conflict in the New York Times last week, Aspen Baker rewrote the editorial to address the abortion war.

In one day and with only a web page, President Obama reversed eight
years of the White House’s pro-life agenda and replaced it with a new
pro-choice one. The cycle of war – victory and retribution, triumph and
payback – continues, reminding us why a final resolution to the
so-called abortion war is so important. It is vital not just to break
this cycle, but also to deny the leaders who feed on the conflict an
excuse to grow their fight and further the divisions.

But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the advocacy, there
is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between pro-choice and
pro-life people is possible, but it lies in the history of those who
have fought over this conflicted issue, and not in the tired rhetoric
of "common ground."

Although it’s hard to realize, the cycle of war between the pro-life
and pro-choice people has not always existed. In fact, many of the
divisions between pro-life and pro-choice are recent ones. People on
both sides of the abortion issue worked alongside each other for years
delivering babies, helping families in need and opening up the adoption
process to make it more supportive and respectful of women, adopted
children and their families.

Pro-choice and pro-life people can be members in the same family.
Throughout the decades both faced hostility and judgment from others
for their views and they often found solace in each other when they
talked, and learned about their different perspectives. Pro-life people
can support the legal right to have an abortion and pro-choice people
can hope for a world free of the need for abortion.

The history of abortion is not remarkable by human standards – over
the course of history, people have found – and continue to find – ways
to manipulate and control nature to make our lives easier, healthier,
and longer. But it is our cultures – our values, beliefs, morals and
norms – that help us make sense of our power and give us codes and
direction for how to relate with nature. Yet, across the world and
throughout history, there is great diversity in how cultures value
women, the unborn, children and abortion. That is why it gets
complicated when members of either side proclaim the moral high ground.

The basis for the legal right to abortion is the historic inequality
of women, which is undeniable. Women used to be the property of their
husbands, unable to own their own land, not to mention left legally
unprotected when raped or abused. Women want and deserve their equal
rights, especially to their own body.

But the value and treatment of human life is of great importance to
cultures throughout the human race and the growing life inside a woman
is viewed by many as sacred, including by the woman herself.

Thus pro-life people believe that protecting the growing life within
a woman is paramount, even if the woman herself does not want to carry
the child. And pro-choice people believe that her right to do as she
chooses with her own body is more important than the value of what’s
growing inside of her. Now, as a pro-choice agenda has been
re-established in the White House, calls for "common
ground" persist. But neither will work.

A "common ground" solution will create unacceptable conditions for
pro-life and pro-choice people. A country where abortion is legal, but
abused teens have to get permission from their violent parents and
dying women late in pregnancy are refused abortions no matter their
circumstance, is a country that has written off entire segments of
women as undeserving of equal rights and protection, an unacceptable
concession for pro-choice people.

For the same reasons, a country that only seeks to reduce abortions,
rather than eliminate them, with free contraception and comprehensive
sex education does not take the strong, moral stand against the
practice of abortion and only slows the loss of life, a weak-kneed
attempt at appeasement that pro-life people will reject in the face of
their higher calling.

In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual
conflict or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is "a life
choice" for all, a pro-voice agenda that would allow the people on each
side to feel that their values are respected throughout the country and
they are not deprived of practicing any part of their beliefs.

A key prerequisite for peace is safety for every woman who has had
an abortion and the right to speak the full truth of her experience –
the good, the bad, and the ugly – and be heard from all sides. It is an
injustice that these women who have not done anything illegal have been
marginalized, stigmatized and silenced from all sides despite their
experiences being at the center of this conflict.

It is a fact that when abortion is made illegal, abortions don’t
end, instead numbers of abortions go up as do deaths of women. It is
important to note that pro-life people do not hate women, nor are they
advocating for women to die. Yet, they must understand that this is a
consequence of their political actions and the onus is on them to
figure out how to uphold and promote their value of life for both women
and unborn children. Only a pro-voice solution can accommodate all the
voices on this issue and bring about the justice that is key to peace.

Integration of pro-choice and pro-life values is already a fact of
life in the United States. Most Americans want fewer abortions, are
against making it always illegal, and value the human life that grows
within a pregnant women. This successful integration can be a model for
"a life choice."

If the present interdependence and the historical fact of
Pro-choice/Pro-life coexistence guide their leaders, and if they can
see beyond the horizon of their own recent wins or losses and thirst
for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will
come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under
pro-voice is the only option for a lasting peace.

This piece is also posted on Aspen Baker’s personal blog.

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  • invalid-0

    I think this is the first common sense, decent article I have read since coming to this website. Finally, someone who at least is willing to meet half way and try to find some kind of common ground solution rather then regurgitating the same old anti-prolife, man-hating babble.

    Thank you.

  • emily-douglas

    Aspen, I love this article and I’m with you on many counts. You are staking out a thoughtful common ground that is not a halfway point between the two sides’ demands but rather a genuine understanding of the deeper aims of both sides and a willingness to respect both. What’s more difficult to accept is that there is unequivocally and always a moral cost or wrong to abortion that we should acknowledge in order to reconcile with those who oppose legal abortion. Not only do I just not believe that, I also think it inevitably sets up a situation in which women are forced to defend or justify their decision to have an abortion, and are divided into categories of forgivable and unforgivable. Can you respond to that?

  • marysia

    Aspen, I am deeply grateful for your aspirations towards peace, and your courage in speaking publicly about your own experience of abortion. I hope more people, prolife as well as prochoice, will listen to your wisdom.


    As a prolifer who really does care about women and already-born children (I edit a global directory of abortion-reducing resources), I have often felt thwarted on areas where cooperation is  possible and necessary. 


    Because in the abortion "war," people demonize and stereotype the "enemy," whoever the enemy may be.  I’m sure prochoicers have and can tell their own stories about being subjected to this. 


    Those stories are probably not too different in at least one primary way from the story I and many other likeminded prolifers have: of being told we can’t possibly be who we say we are, we can’t possibly have the motives we say we do, we are just absolutely hateful beings and therefore disposable.


    When prolifers and prochoicers treat one another like this, it rends the fabric of human interconnection that could instead serve as a safety net for pregnant women.  Many of whom would likely prefer other alternatives than abortion if only we as a society would trouble ourselves to go there, differences and all.

  • amanda-marcotte

    The compromise is "a life
    choice" for all, a pro-voice agenda that would allow the people on each
    side to feel that their values are respected throughout the country and
    they are not deprived of practicing any part of their beliefs.


    I can’t help but point out that "pro-life" people are already not deprived of their right to live their beliefs.  They are permitted to avoid sex, avoid birth control, and have no abortions and have as many children as they want.  Well, at least white people are—we still have a sordid problem of forced sterilizations of women of color.  I’m just not seeing how it could be that someone is "pro-life", able to mind their own business, and still feel like they’re being oppressed because their neighbors make different life choices.  That I’m not pushing a stroller down the street doesn’t hurt a soul, except those who think that the very existence of different choices hurts them because it makes them feel judged.  


    And yet you see this problem crop up over and over.  I liken it to the issues I have with some car drivers when I ride my bike.  No matter how much you stay out of their way and don’t slow them down at all, some people in cars will honk at you or yell at you for daring to ride a bike at all.  They must feel judged by the mere existence of bicyclists, and they lash out with actual judgment and abuse in order to shut down different choices.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Cristina Page’s book.  She has a really instructive story about a pro-life friend of hers who worked for Michigan Right To Life.  She and her friend co-wrote an editorial for the New York Times calling for exactly the sort of common sense compromise you’re talking about—where we come together to provide more contraception and education to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place.


    Right To Life’s reaction?  Not applauding Page’s friend for thinking of innovative ways to reduce the abortion rate.  Oh no.  They fired her.  Because they oppose contraception just as much as abortion.  


    This recent dust-up over Medicaid funding in the economic stimulus package should be eye-opening about your "pro-life" allies.  One thing that is absolutely certain is that Medicaid-financed birth control pills prevent abortion.  So why on earth do so-called pro-lifers want to take it away?  Because, I would argue, they’re not motivated by "life" so much as disrespect for women.

  • marysia

    For one, Amanda, I *have* read Cristina Page’s book, not too long after it came out, either.  She thankfully articulated the very problems that I and many other prolifers have long identified in the antiabortion movement as such.

    So you assume that I and other likeminded prolifers are just too dumb or at best too naive and clueless and rendered eyeless by our presumed patriarchal worldviews to notice these problems?  Nope. 

    We are against abortion, so we must be dumb or at best naive and politically out of the progressive loop–is that what you presume?


    So you think we just uncritically ally with people who lust to ban contraception, for example?  Nope.


    So you think that I and other like minded prolifers disagree with Mediciad funding of contraception?  Nope.


    I am well aware of the ostracism and dismissiveness that awaits prolifers like me, and like Cristina Page’s friend, who do support contraception, comprehensive sex education, and/or LGBT rights, not to mention a comprehensive, public-sector social welfare safety net for women and children before, during, and ever after pregnancy. 

    I have personally encountered it many, many times over the decades. 

     And that ostracism and dismissiveness doesn’t just come from ultraconservative antiabortionists. 

    It also comes from some prochoicers  (not to mention any names) who seem to close themselves off utterly from even the possibility that someone could genuinely oppose abortion for reasons of respecting life–and not in some starry eyed, divorced-from-reality romantic way, either.  For reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with punishing women who enjoy sex, either.



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • colleen

    "it is
    important to note that pro-life people do not hate women, nor are they
    advocating for women to die."


    This is overly simplistic.  I don’t believe they’re advocating for women to die, not all of them anyway. I mean who would supply the cheap and free labor or be willing to function as  gestation devices? I think that the deaths of women, like the opinions of women, are a matter of indifference to them.

    We’re talking about people who supported offering federally funded healthcare to the fetuses of pregnant  low income women but not to the women in whose body said fetus resided. We’re talking about men who, post welfare deformation, cut funding for contraceptives and child support enforcement . Under the Bush administration, the most unabashedly anti-choice fundamentalist infected administration in the history of the country, our world ranking for maternal mortality went from 19 to 41. (Which is to say that now 40 other countries have less women die as a result of pregnancy) and they (successfully) argued for a decade that the minimum wage didn’t need to be raised and that "only" 20% of those earning the minuimum wage were single mothers.

    I don’t know what’s in the heart of every so-called ‘pro-life’ conservative in the country and neither do you. I look at what they do and say and on every level from public policy to their  posts here what they do looks and feels a lot like hatred. I’m quite certain that’s not accidental

  • aspen-baker

    I believe that it is possible to create peace around the
    issue of abortion in the United States and I don’t believe that it will happen when one side reigns supreme or when both sides meet in the middle. It will happen because we created new ways to think and talk and act on abortion – a dialogue that invites new voices to participate and conversations that reflect the diversity and needs of real
    people’s lives – a grown-up, respectful discussion that evolves with our changing times and experiences. As a student of peace theory and believer in nonviolence, I am seeking to offer new viewpoints and perspectives for how to look at this issue, with the above goals in mind. I saw the editorial by Qadaffi in the NY Times as an opportunity to demonstrate HOW peace theory COULD be applied to the abortion war – not necessarily how it SHOULD be. Many of the words in my re-write are Qaddafi’s own words, I just sought to change the content from Israel/Palestine to
    pro-choice/pro-life. The editorial could be re-written in a number of ways, and I’d be really interested to see other takes on it. I am also well aware that my attempts at
    peace are not the first and that many people over many years have tried to bring resolution to the conflict. Those stories and examples are great lessons from which we can learn, but in no way do I see them as excuses for not trying

  • amanda-marcotte

    I’m sorry if it came across that way.  I do think that many average pro-lifers aren’t vicious misogynists bent on squelching women’s right to use contraception.  And yes, I do think that most of them are only pro-life because they’re ignorant of the anti-contraception agenda of the anti-choice movement.  Most people are ignorant of this.  I was ignorant of it until I read the book.  There’s no shame in it, as long as you’re willing to become un-ignorant, as you have explained that you have. 


    But I honestly have to ask—knowing, as you do, that the majority of anti-choice sentiment is rooted not in a concern for life but in misogyny, doesn’t that give you serious pause about your opinions, where they come from, and what they result in?

  • invalid-0

    …..This kind of rhetoric from an anti-choice man only makes pro-choice women feel as though you think they are wrong for not sharing your views, anti-all-men, and stupid.

  • marysia

    Well, if you already know there are a substantial number of prolifers who aren’t anti contraception, why do you keep speaking as if we do not and possibly could not exist?  That if we do exist, we’re not to be taken seriously?

    Some people have unsavory motives, like not wanting to spend their tax dollars on programs for babies of color like my grandson, for professing abortion rights.  Does that invalidate woman-centered humane prochocie stances?  No.

    I have been involved with these issues for a very long time, and I am thinking, learning, reevaluating all the time.  I know very well where my opinions come from and what they result in, thank you very much.

    And now that we have ruled out horror of contraception and ignorance of Evil Antichoicer’s True Motives as my reasons for opposing abortion–I’m just cruious to know what motive you think I possibly could have left



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    “why do you keep speaking as if we do not and possibly could not exist? ”

    Because you don’t. Because John Boehner is speaking for you…and there is no outcry, no public opposition…from YOU. Because John Boehner has just succeeded in blocking access to contraception to the women in our country most in need of it.

    Frankly…start making some noise, and then we might believe you exist.

  • invalid-0

    Get off your high horse. I was complimenting this author. And stop saying you’re pro-choice. You’re not. It’s Pro-ABORTION. You favor the killing of an innocent human being. And that’s the fact. There is no way around it.

    I won’t be back to this thread, because I know how nasty you fake feminists get when we pro-lifers give it to you straight up.

    Cut it out with the choice. It’s pro-abortion. It’s killing. You may call this rhetoric, but it’s only the facts. Get used to it.

    You want to comment back, you have my email. I usually post and run on these sites because debating people like you is like talking to a wall. Not to mention, you tend to get nasty.

    (True feminists do not get nasty. They are lady-like, not foul mouthed and rugged).

    Billy Kess

  • invalid-0

    I still don’t understand why this is not a fundamental constitutional issue – no one has the right to use the law to force others to ascribe to their religious beliefs about when personhood begins.

  • invalid-0

    I did not know there was such a thing. So I guess we pretend to dislike ONLY MEN who have hurt us, raped us. beat us, and told us we are not worthy because of moses and the Bible. Some people may not believe in God. You are closed minded on this obviously, or maybe you are a decent man good for you.
    By the way this article was very well written although it still is very difficult to live in this divided country.

  • marysia

    You are making some big assumptions here….

    First of all, I do exist.  (If someone is talking with you, is that not a pretty good sign they exist?) And I have existed for the past forty-six years,  Not to mention that I have a lot more company than you might suspect.

    John Boehner is not speaking for me, or other prolifers who support contraception.  Now how can you possibly know whether or not we have or haven’t contacted our politicians about efforts to deny contraception? Can you read our minds?

    I am making noise, and have been for a very long time.  And have been encouraging others who want to make similar noise. 

    But making noise is no guarantee that anyone will listen, let alone agree that what you’re saying is something they should act upon. And the facts that others don’t listen may very well not have anything to do with the justice of your position.


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    For many people, abortion is a religious issue, some religions being more accepting of abortion than others, and is also defined by philosophical/medical issues relating to when the fetus becomes viable or attains “personhood”. In a country where our laws do not prefer or respect one religion over another, freedom of religion allows women to follow the dictates of their personal faith. Whether or not a woman’s faith forbids abortion, she is permitted by our laws to seek an abortion. Someone else’s religious beliefs should not be a factor. In regard to viability, (or attainment of “personhood”) medical advances have not been able to improve infant viability when gestation is less than about 25 weeks. Many religions define life, viability, as beginning at “quickening”, the first fetal movements felt by the mother.

    Having counseled women seeking abortions, my experience is
    that the vast majority do not undergo abortion lightly or frivolously.It’s a serious undertaking often resulting in great guilt and sadness, even when a pregnancy might be life-threatening to the woman, or when the fetus is known to be severely malformed or abnormal in other ways.

    Those whose faith or other personal beliefs forbid them to undertake abortion should not be in a position to prohibit abortion to those whose beliefs permit it. We are permitted, under our nation’s laws to practice our religion, or lack thereof, as we see fit.

  • invalid-0

    …..My previous comment was not meant to provoke. Telling someone with whom you disagree that referring to her/his comments as “anti-prolife,man-hating babble” is not helpful and why it is not helpful.
    …..I didn’t read the response very thoroughly because the screaming nature of the tone obviously tells me that you are an angry person.
    …..Please feel free to vent here using any terms you like. I wouldn’t want you to take it out on someone else.
    …..I’ll be sending you good and soothing thoughts.

  • invalid-0

    I got interrupted by a phone call, so let me finish my thought here: “Tellling someone with whom you disagree that referring to her/his comments as “anti-prolife, man-hating” is not helful and why it is not helpful” is an attempt to open dialogue in a respectful way.

  • invalid-0

    No, we’re pro-choice. You’re anti-choice and anti-woman. And it’s pretty damned privileged and misogynist to start whining that teh wimminz aren’t nicer and more “ladylike” to your spayshul be-penised self.

  • z3ncat

    I’m still enjoying (read: angered but amused) by the comment and the very idea that "real" feminists don’t "get nasty" and are "lady-like" instead of "foul-mouthed" and "rugged" (whatever that last one’s supposed to mean).


    If "real" feminists were "lady-like" (translation: deferring to men) and never "get nasty" (translation: disagree with anything) then we’d still be back in the 19th century now, wouldn’t we?

  • invalid-0

    Pro choicers by the argument that women have a right to choose to bring a pregnancy to term should also support men who decide to desert their families. After all why force men to choose to support their families when women have a right to choose to allow their babies to live or die.

  • invalid-0

    As long as men have the right to choose to whether or not to have their bodily integrity violated to maintain their childs life allowing them to live or die, then women should not ever be held liable to for abandoning children.

  • invalid-0

    Pcwhite posted a math model, that no ones tried to respond to, which shows the difference between abortion and child support on RHRealityCheck at “On Abortion, Pro-Choice Is the Compromise Position” , comment name “the problem with legal deadbeat dads” .

    Additional comments there about the womans legal right to give a child up for adoption thereby giving up financial responsibility (or a mans right) haven’t been addressed either.

  • invalid-0
  • invalid-0

    I am most certainly curious to find out about what the affects in the future will be with all of the decisions obama has made. He certainly knows a thing or 2 about the internet and email marketing for that matter.