Compromise or Collaboration? The Way of the Common Ground Movement


Editor’s Note: Please welcome RH Reality Check’s newest blogger, Micah Steffes! Micah will be joined by three other young bloggers who will offer their perspectives in our Real Time Blog each week. 

Salon’s Broadsheet has a piece up that starts off with one of the most intriguingly bold statements I’ve come across in a long while.

"In theory, 100 percent of us, regardless of our position on who gets to decide what and when, fully agree that we’d much prefer no woman would have to get an abortion in the first place."

I don’t know about the 100 percent, but I’ve gotta say, the woman has ovaries.  Because once you’ve said that, then you can ask, "Well why aren’t 100 percent of us working together to reduce abortion?"

And that’s where the common ground movement comes in. I’ve really latched onto the hope that this movement will gain some real momentum, namely because the way the battle of pro-choice vs. anti-life has been waged has become really unappealing to me. It’s really easy to feel there isn’t any room for a more nuanced understanding of what’s at stake. Maybe it’s just me, but I think declaring that I feel complicated about it would be the equivalent of marching out into no-mans land.
So I’m optimistic about the possibilities that this movement presents. I believe I’m a rarity.

And I think I know why.

"When I hear of conservative groups supporting legislation to help out pregnant women and their children, it actually makes me think that some compromise may be possible."

What is all of this about compromise? The mentality that supporting a common ground movement will be a concession is really upsetting because when it comes down to it, what would pro-choicers be giving up? We support these things: we believe in helping out women and their children, in access to affordable child-care, family planning, mandated health coverage for pregnant women and newborns. So tell me, where is the compromise?

If we ditched our pessimism, I think what would emerge would be far from compromise. If "100 percent of us, regardless of our position on who gets to decide what and when" agree that abortion isn’t the most desirable experience a woman can have, then our ends are the same. That, my friends, would be collaboration.

Not compromise.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

"Still, it’s tantalizing to imagine what genuine "third way" legislation would look like. I’m absolutely not suggesting that those of us who wholeheartedly support abortion rights become apologists for our positions or accept compromises we don’t agree with. But if we likewise were willing to draft and support a bill that leaves out the parts that would be objectionable to those who oppose abortion (leaving that fight for other bills, not abandoning it altogether), it seems absolutely possible that we could do a better job of preventing unintended pregnancy and making things easier for pregnant women and their children."

Amen, sister.

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  • invalid-0

    I’m sorry pro-choice vs. anti-life Is that a typo? Who’s anti life? thanks

  • invalid-0

    Fascinating post Micah. I think that one of the reasons this is inevitably framed as a compromise is that the stakes feel so high for people on both sides. For us pro-choicers, it is a question of women’s autonomy, bodily integrity, and power. For the anti-abortioners, it is a question of life and death. On second thought, sometimes it’s also a question of life and death for pro-choicers too. In any case, when we’re negotiating tax policy or even pay equity, it feels like there’s more room to give some things up to get some things. But this issue brings out the extremist in all of us. Great, thought-provoking challenge to all that.