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.