A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted Obama’s plan to depolarize the issue of abortion. To make new, sustainable legislation and policy on the legal issues surrounding abortion, he has brought together leaders in both the pro-choice and anti-choice movements to work together to find common ground between the divided groups.
This move goes without saying that Obama is following through on his promise to “reach across the aisle,” especially when it comes to issues that divide most Democrats and Republicans. However, this is no small feat. For decades, these two groups have found very little in common with, perhaps, the exception that both groups want to see a decline in the rate of abortion.
To find this common ground, I believe certain components must be included:
(1) Abstinence-only education must be off the table. Continuing to promote a failed curriculum that purposefully eliminates factual information about birth control is dangerous and does an extreme disservice to our youth. Studies funded by the federal government and independent agencies have also shown that these programs simply don’t work. If anti-choicers want to decrease abortion rates, teaching abstinence through fear and misinformation is not the solution. Abstinence should absolutely be taught, but as part of a multi-dimensional comprehensive sexual health education.
(2) Abortion must remain legal. Criminalizing abortion does not decrease rates, but does increase botched abortions, maternal mortality and morbidity. Just look at the trends in Mexico. Making abortion illegal in the U.S. will most definitely not eliminate or decrease the rates of abortion.
(3) And here is the hardest one: Anti-choicers must attempt to understand why women seek abortions in the first place. The quote below is telling of how far we have to go before we can meet in the middle:
Participants said that abortion opponents tended to focus on efforts to help pregnant women keep their babies, while the abortion-rights camp focused on preventing unwanted pregnancy.
The truth is not all women want to “keep their babies.” Increasing services to help women continue an unwanted pregnancy will not solve our unintended pregnancy rates. Funding crisis pregnancy centers, like the Bush administration did, is continuing a cycle of misinformation and false promises.
I am obviously biased on the topic, but I feel the pro-choice movement is willing to meet in the middle, and on some level, is already there. If any move needs to be made, it’s with the anti-choice groups. Pushing abstinence only and criminalizing abortion is an antiquated method and has been proven over and over again not to be effective. In essence, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be against abortion and be against contraception as well.
Anti-choicers, modernize your movement and we will see you in the middle. Pro-choicers, realize that there are anti-choicers out there that want change and are willing to work with you for it. Keep an open mind and engage in respectful discussions. David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta and an anti-choicer, described the meetings as valuable, stating "when people get into a room working on a common problem it’s harder to demonize them when they leave the room."
This is absolutely a step in the right direction. We can work together to decrease the abortion rates. Remember, pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion, we all want to decrease the rates of abortion in this country. Now is the time to work together because continuing to work against each other is not conducive to change and progress.