Higher Ground

The murder, just two weeks ago, of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller has deeply wounded and enraged the pro-choice community while also, some would argue, providing it with further reason to mistrust pro-life activists. Perhaps a different kind of wound has been inflicted on the pro-life side, and in particular on those moderates who dislike abortion, but don’t tolerate violence, which includes most of the pro-life movement and public. Now they are sometimes treated as if they, too, are extremists.     

And so, in the aftermath of this senseless attack we risk losing something else dear, the momentum of the growing common ground movement; the search for a different, more constructive way forward in the abortion debate. Shortly before Dr. Tiller’s murder, President Obama had just begun to usher this movement through the White House doors. His appointees had started calling together leaders from both sides to sit at the same table. His argument has been that the two sides can disagree sharply on a fundamental issue and yet still find areas of agreement on which they can work together.

The brutal murder of Dr. Tiller threatens to poison the nascent dialogue Obama initiated. More pervasively, it threatens to make cynicism about another’s motives acceptable even rational. After such a heinous act it is easy to grow remote, to give up on efforts of understanding, to believe the worst of one another.  The violence perpetrated against Dr. Tiller is an attack on common ground, too, whether intended or not.

But, especially in the aftermath of the murder, a common ground movement must persist, and grow stronger. If not, we surrender reasoned and civil debate at gunpoint. If we retreat to our respective corners, we cede control of the dialogue to extremists, and with it any hope for a better and a different, more constructive way of reconciling, and living with differences.

Obama is the first President to actually take steps to bring some diplomacy to this national conflict and invite us, together, to dream up a better process. We must take up the invitation. We need common ground more than ever. Improving the national dialogue is one way to prevent future acts of violence.

There are many people on both ends of this issue who are justifiably critical and suspicious of common ground; they suspect these are code words for concession and compromise on deeply held and long-fought-for convictions.

So let’s be clear. Common ground isn’t a panacea, and isn’t supposed to be. Signing on to this experiment, and it is an experiment, doesn’t mean we will stop working to protect legal abortion or overturn it, depending on where we stand.  And yet, even if we will not resolve our fundamental disagreement, we should agree on ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and help reduce the need for women and girls to have to make the, often difficult, decisions that accompany it.

In doing so, we are not searching for compromise. It’s not an attempt to find the lowest common denominator. But as the organization The Search for Common Ground writes, an effort to locate a " ‘highest common denominator.’ Not having two sides meet in the middle, but having them identify something together that they can aspire to and are willing to work towards."

This will seem a too-lofty aspiration to some.  And I’ve been told that. But I think of the last time I saw Dr. Tiller, a month ago at the National Abortion Federation conference. He and about 120 providers and clinic staff came to a panel I helped organize on making adoption a more accessible choice for women confronting unintended pregnancy. Our session was wrapping up when Dr. Tiller rose and addressed the audience of abortion providers, saying "If you have not helped a woman place a baby for adoption, I encourage you to. It’s the most powerful thing. It’s just the most powerful thing. It’s the most powerful thing." He went on to explain that several times he had patients who were too far along in their pregnancy to terminate but were unable to parent. He and his family took them in, provided them a home until the time of delivery. He said that helping these women come to terms with placing a child for adoption, then delivering their babies and helping them through to placement were some of the most emotional and, clearly, among the satisfying, experiences he had as a provider. He will always be identified with the abortion services he provided. To me, it seemed that Dr. Tiller was urging people to expand their own experiences and their own perspectives of the pro-choice movement. After hearing his impassioned speech about adoption, I wondered if reasonable pro-lifers and Dr. Tiller would have discovered some rich areas of common ground.

The best answer to this hateful murder is to build a national conversation focused on progress, a national dialogue on common ground.

We are eager to get the discussion started. We want to hear your ideas and invite you to submit your common ground proposals, perspectives and solutions for publication on the site. We hope that you will see in your participation the chance to move forward the common ground conversation. To the extent we can, we expect that discussions will be entered into respectfully and even optimistically. We understand that we will be making it up as we go along and ask the indulgence of participants as we inevitably commit blunders. These are new attempts and we expect there to be some false starts and missteps. We believe though that it is worth persisting. 

This is an experiment that we know may not work. But, as President Obama advised, the only way it can is if we come to the conversation with "open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words." If reasonable people from each side bring even a sliver of the passion to the search for common ground that they have dedicated for their cause, we can be hopeful about the possibilities.

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  • aspen-baker

    Thank you for this thoughtful and heartfelt post, Cristina. 


    I love this:


    "a common ground movement must persist, and grow stronger. If not, we
    surrender reasoned and civil debate at gunpoint. If we retreat to our
    respective corners, we cede control of the dialogue to extremists, and
    with it any hope for a better and a different, more constructive way of
    reconciling, and living with differences."


    and this:


    "The best answer to this hateful murder is to build a national
    conversation focused on progress, a national dialogue on common ground."


    Thank you!

  • invalid-0

    I am excited to spend some time readings these commentaries, but I have to say: every single person who is part of this common ground forum is a white anglo as far as I can tell. There is no way that these issues can be adequately addressed without bringing the perspectives DIRECTLY of women of color, young women, and low-income women, especially where those categories meet. A history of racism is a huge part of why abortion, welfare, adoption and other reproductive justice issues are so poorly addressed and so punitive.

  • cristina-page

    Thank you Aspen. Can’t wait to get your ideas and insights into the OnCommonGround forum very soon.

  • cristina-page

    Thanks for this. The lack of diversity of contributors was not lost on us. It’s especially notable given that those leading the common ground effort where it matters most, the White House, are primarily people of color: Melody Barnes, Rev Joshua DuBois and Tina Chen, not to mention President Obama himself. We recognize this absence and are committed to fixing it both here and on RH RealityCheck in general. In fact, this forum is not just lacking in voices from people of color but of pro-choice religious leaders, young people, conservative pro-lifers and liberal pro-choicers, etc. The common ground movement is small but burgeoning. Having a diversity of perspectives in this forum is essential for its success.  Thanks for the gentle reminder.

    • invalid-0

      where are the hispanics?

      • invalid-0

        If you look at the list of contributors there are PLENTY of men

  • invalid-0

    Christina, when you say the “common ground movement” is “small, but burgeoning” you’ve demonstrated exactly why there is an absence of women of color in the forming of this project. Women of color academics and activists have long been leading “common ground” conversations around abortion (see Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body; Jael Miriam Silliman et. al, authors of “Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, among many, many others).

    The real question is, have the white “experts” in this common ground forum taken the time to learn from the organizing and multi-issue expertise of women of color reproductive justice activists? And what have they learned?

    • cristina-page

      Why not write a post about this? Let me know if you want to chat and bounce around the idea.

  • invalid-0

    For years, I engaged in dialogues with several pro-life leaders in an effort to sensitize them to the reasons why women seek abortions. One of them even visited one of our abortion facilities. I felt I was making a difference, while never thinking I would convert this person or the others. Then, Doctor Tiller was killed and this one pro-life leader’s response was extremely insensitive and almost downright nasty. I emailed him to express my horror and he has never responded. Not sure what to make of that. Still, this is a commendable effort, Cristina but it wont go very far with “the other side” until the pro-choice movement starts talking more candidly about the abortion procedure. Everyone knows that “choice” can result in abortion, so we need to acknowledge the realities of what abortion is. And we should not be afraid because every woman who enters a clinic knows exactly what abortion is…to think otherwise is insulting to women

  • invalid-0

    The idea that common ground is the final solution to solve all abortion issue woes is idealistic; but it is definitely a starting point. Looking beyond the politics of the debate, it is undeniable that both the pro-choice and anti-choice movements wish to lower the number of abortions obtained each year. Republican Majority for Choice advocates for comprehensive sex-education and prevention as the best weapon in the fight to lower the abortion rate in the U.S. Despite our differences, the pro-choice and anti-choice movements need to look beyond the titles and politics, and realize that we are both working towards the same goal and can achieve so much more if we band together. Violence and hatred are not lowering the abortion rate, but if we work across dividing lines, I am positive that our goals will seem attainable and no longer lofty.

  • invalid-0

    What is common ground?

    what has the common ground movement accomplished?

    Didn’t your book Cristina show that the other side didn’t want to reach common ground? that your counterpart got slammed by her side after working with you?

    ProChoice people want people to choose adoption. ProChoice people want to prevent abortions by providing birth control and comprehensive sex ed.

    It’s the anti-choice people that are not stepping up to the plate and working for those goals (prevention of the need for abortion).

    Rather than pushing the “common ground” pipe dream of adoption (I think people are either “abortion people” or “keep it” people. If you are going to carry something to term, to give it up, is really really hard), let’s spend our time and effort on where there is maximal bang for buck – contraception and sex ed.

    I don’t think that common ground can be reached by the blog. It needs to be done in focus groups with a facilitator

  • invalid-0

    With all due respect, Cristina, I am inclined to agree with the commenter above who is skeptical that we can really reach common ground, in part because there doesn’t seem to be any consensus about what constitutes common ground (amply outlined in your book, as the previous commenter noted.)

    Furthermore, while I do think it’s productive to have these discussions, if only between people who at least agree that in order to reduce the number of abortions, we must reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy, quite frankly I don’t see pro-life (and yes, I’m willing to use the term if it helps respectful dialogue) groups clamoring to join the discussion. Sure, we see the Republican Majority for Choice–an organization I would love to see grow in the coming years–weigh in, but where are the pro-life voices on common ground? If we can’t agree that contraception and evidence-based sexual education are strategies worth pursuing, what can we agree on?

    On the other hand, Ron Fitzsimmons implies that the pro-choice community does not acknowledge the “realities of abortion”. I dispute that and admit that I’m somewhat taken aback at the charge that there is some deception or subterfuge at work in the pro-choice movement. But I’d be willing to address what seem to be sincere concerns, as I’m sure many others more persuasive or eloquent than I would–is this what is meant by common ground?

  • invalid-0

    If we can’t agree that contraception and evidence-based sexual education are strategies worth pursuing, what can we agree on?

    I would say, that those who pooh-pooh these approaches aren’t truly serious about reducing the number of abortions. There’s clearly some objective they hold to be more important than that.

    On the other hand, Ron Fitzsimmons implies that the pro-choice community does not acknowledge the “realities of abortion”. I dispute that and admit that I’m somewhat taken aback at the charge that there is some deception or subterfuge at work in the pro-choice movement.

    Agreed. This point usually amounts to reviewing graphic descriptions of the abortion procedure, as if a meaningful argument can be made by appealing to squeamishness. (If this were a valid form of discourse, autopsies and skin grafts would be capital crimes!)

  • invalid-0

    1. Make birth control accessable to all who want it. Just say no in this matter is as effective as just say no to drugs – it is not working.

    2. We must provide health care, decent housing, child care and living wages to all so they will not feel they can not afford to have a child and care for him/her adequately.

  • invalid-0

    Pro-Lifers should look at abortion the way Catholics look at symptoms of sexual abuse. Symptoms are not the problem, but a sign of deeper issue. Symptoms of priest sexual abuse include: suicide, alcohol, drug abuse, etc. Abused women, exhibit similar behaviors and often turn to abortion.

    Pro-Lifers ignore abuse of women the way Catholics ignored abuse of children. Pro-Lifers need to admit something is wrong in society the way Catholics admitted something was wrong in their church.

    Catholics blamed children for symptoms of abuse. It was double abuse. Pro-Lifers do the same.

    Christians turned their back on abuse and created an environment in which healthy children turned to suicide. Pro-Lifers turn their back on abuse toward women and healthy women turn to abortion.

    Making abortion illegal won’t solve the problem. Women will only turn to back-street abortion providers the same way abused Christian children found ways to commit suicide.

    • http://mukla-barbie.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      In 20 years these women choose inconstancy, travel on a life, often change residences, an occupation and sexual partners. The woman who has preferred this model of behaviour, want in general how not to be defined in a life: there are no constant earnings, often wander, possess the unripe person, do not appreciate itself in general, do not think of tomorrow.

      The crisis maintenance: by 30 years the woman is bothered with a free, carefree life, it faces a self-determination problem then in the future. As a matter of fact, she should solve problems, both youthful, and thirty-year age. In other cases development can be postponed to such degree, that the person cannot enter into the following period. He sees, how it was knocked down by new problems while he struggles with the old. The majority of women of a category of “unstable” are subject to risk: to enter any sect, to be ill with venereal disease, abusing alcohol and drugs. At negative results of crisis, a problem are aggravated, women remain for long time in the youthful period.

  • invalid-0

    Men need to be included in this Common Ground Conversation. Men need to be educated about their part in the abortion issue. Since ALL pregnancies are caused by men, men need to seriously consider their own sexual practices and responsibilities. Until men are a central part of this conversation, it will continue to be a “women’s issue”, and one ultimately of control. My question to all men out there is this, “What can and will you personally do to prevent an unwanted pregnancy?”

  • invalid-0

    I am Catholic but it seems to me that all people could look at abortion from a realistic view. If a woman is raped or otherwise forced to have sex, she knows immediately that this is the case and can certainly move to have the collection of cells aborted. There is no God- given rule that says this is wrong or sinful. If, on the other hand, the child can be seen by tests to be growing inside the woman; she is talking to it…as most mothers do..; then to abort is clearly murder. No one can say “it’s just a fetus” when common sense (seeing and communicating) tells us otherwise.

  • invalid-0

    Why isn’t supporting the renewal of the 2007 Family Adoption Tax Credit part of your COMMON GROUND Agenda? It is up for renewal in 2010, but in 2007 Barack Obama and the majority of Democrats in Congress OPPOSED giving adoptive parents a deducatin of some of the costs they entail in the adoption process.

    If Obama/Democrats?Pro-Choicers want to make abortion “safe, legal, and RARE”, why didn’t they support lower and middle income families who want to adopt and could use some help with the tens of thousands of dollars in fees–many at the Federal and State level–for adoption-related processes?

    Where’s the common ground in Obama and vast majority of Democrats making it more difficult to adopt children and give them LIFE instead of DEATH?

    Let’s make “Common Ground” more than a euphemism for “DIMINISHING THE RIGHTS OF THE UNBORN” and protecting the pro-choice status quo in which unborn children are given no rights and women are not encouraged to give their children a chance at life through adoption.

  • invalid-0

    No respect for any form of life is disrespect
    for all forms of life. Witness recent voodoo burning of a child. Children thrown out windows, children found in with rubbish. Witness the prelates of the church of my belief
    Regarding the killing of doctor Tiller That their are “rotten apples in every (eery) barrel” is not my original. We should not stereotype those type people to any group in this subject manner. I donot see any possibly econciliation in those that are DEVOTED to their cause. The common ground — tolerate

    • http://www.derma-rollers.net invalid-0

      I agree, no life should be taken in whichever way. Also, people have to exercise tolerance to what other people believe. Moreover, the law is there if we feel someone is not acting right

      Get dermarollers today

  • pegjohnston

    Just today I was talking about common ground, and declaring in no uncertain terms, that before I would sit down with anyone prolife I would need to hear them publicly go on the record as not only being against the killing of providers but also eschew the hate rhetoric and violent language, and take some responsibility for the climate they have created outside clinics. If you want to see what that climate is like you can go to the Facebook Cause . I was impressed with Frank Schaeffer who apologized for his hate speech when he appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show. But without that precondition for discussion, what does common ground mean? That I am sitting down with someone who thinks that I kill. That seems to be asking a lot.

    Peg Johnston is the President of the Abortion Care Network, an abortion provider in upstate NY, and creator of the Pregnancy Options Workbook series.

  • invalid-0


  • http://www.kellygorski.com invalid-0

    “Common ground,” in this context, though, means compromise. So what if people want to end unintended pregnancies? Don’t we all? That’s not the issue here. The issue is whether a woman has a RIGHT to carry to term or terminate a pregnancy.

    “Common ground,” as it’s used here, is a way to flat out deny that there is a conflict and, rather than solve the conflict, look to areas of agreement, like reducing unintended pregnancies and propagating education. What good does that do regarding the actual debate? It helps the anti-choice people acknowledge the fact that pro-choice people aren’t the devil incarnate? The anti-choice ilk have their own othering and stereotypes and emotion-driven bullshit to deal with (and, yes, I expect them to deal with it). If we waste our time trying to show them we’re human beings and that the use of rational thought leads us to ONE logical conclusion (the decriminalized state of abortion), that takes away from rational discourse regarding the actual conflict! There’s only so much we can rationally give up before we rip our hair out and hurt our own cause.

  • bill-bekkenhuis

    I am a 55 year old white male who has not, and is unlikely ever to, impregnate a woman. I have also, throughout the course of my life, been very suspicious (shall we say) of abortion. Not enough to make a "cause" of it, but enough to think it should almost never happen.

    So I scarcely speak as an expert on this issue :-)

    But, a few years ago, a friend told me what was going on at the local women’s center (regarding protesters) and I flat out did not believe him. Still, I signed up as a volunteer escort because if there’s one thing I hate worse than abortion, it’s bullying. (Murder is worse than bullying, but I’ve never ‘signed on’ to the idea that every abortion is a murder. Something can be a regrettable or even an immoral thing and not rise to the level of murder.)

    The last two years of this experience have been surreal, culminating in the last two weeks in death threats against those associated with the clinic and conversations with the FBI and US Marshals.

    It’s jaw-dropping. It still is, after 2-plus years.

    The crazies at the door will not accept early term abortions, they will not accept abortions to save the life of the mother, they will not condone birth control. And they spew hate speech that is just license for the nearest violent nut case to kill someone.

    I still have no strong political feelings about abortion. But our American political process (which is, after all, based on a level playing field for competing interests) cannot work in such a poisoned atmosphere. Pro-Life and Pro-Choice will have to battle things out in discussion and through wielding political power at the ballot box.

    But the crazies (especially some of the professional demagogues in the media) need to be de-legitimized as contributers to the discussion. To paraphrase my friend, they have a constitutional right to speak, but they must EARN the right to be listened to.

    Bill Bekkenhuis

    Bethlehem, PA

  • invalid-0

    I think this is an important effort.

    As I’ve been thinking about it, the common ground movement has a lot of potential to not just reduce the number of abortions in this country, but to also provide a significant political base for policies that help to protect and expand women’s choices.

    Reducing the number of abortions. We don’t have to talk about legal restrictions to accomplish significant reductions in the abortion rate. We already know that countries where abortion is legal report some of the lowest abortion rates in the world. So, let’s agree to disagree on that issue and see where we can work together in other areas.

    And, it’s not just about contraception. Here in the U.S., among women over the age of 18, the abortion rate has been declining significantly without a corresponding increase in contraceptive use (according to Guttmacher), suggesting that other factors (and other policies) may be more important in determining whether women choose to carry their unplanned pregnancies to term.

    Making real gains for women, children and families. If we can admit that, at least in part, abortion is a symptom of the hardships faced by women, children and families in our country, then we can begin to work to resolve those problems and thereby minimize the demand for abortion. Maybe abortion is about more than that, maybe not. Let’s stick to a minimum basis that we can constructively agree on.

    In addition to family planning and comprehensive sex education–and many of the common ground proposals listed on this website–other liberal social and economic policies regarding welfare, employment, healthcare, childcare, and a living wage, among others, are necessary to help reduce the demand for abortion. Those linkages need to be made clearer as part of this process.

    Creating a new political coalition. When we make more explicit the linkages between a reduction in the abortion rate and a range of policies that are pro-woman, pro-child and pro-family, we can create a new liberal coalition, which will ultimately expand the voter base of liberal political candidates. This process won’t bring the pro-life extremists on-board, but it will appeal to a large number of the pragmatic middle of the pro-life movement.

    What if the recent survey results that found people more likely to associate themselves with the term “pro-life” were actually a result of the Obama Administration’s efforts to broaden the meaning of “pro-life” to include abortion reduction strategies? To the extent that progressive Catholics and evangelicals were willing to vote for Obama in part because of this emphasis, that strategy has already been somewhat successful. The common ground idea can build on that effort.

    Protecting the right to choose. With a new coalition that supports a set of liberal policies that limit the demand for abortion, liberal candidates will be in place to protect the right to choose. This is precisely why extreme pro-life groups dismiss the common ground movement out of hand.

    Pie-in-the-sky? Maybe. But, the margin in politics these days is razor thin. This new coalition doesn’t have to be massive to be effective.

  • http://www.allentownwomenscenter.com invalid-0

    I am not against common ground. But common ground cannot be reached with extremists. In order to even think about moving forward on this issue, the pro-life movement as a whole needs to publicly and completely detach itself from it’s lunatic fringe – in all ways (not just with an announcement deploring the murder of Dr. Tiller). These groups must also publicly and continuously deplore and denounce the hateful rhetoric that contributed to Dr. Tiller’s murder. They need to make it socially unacceptable.

    I see the “pro-life (except for abortion providers)” extremists moving more towards the middle of this debate and that has to be reversed. Never before have I heard so many people in my own community talk about how Tiller “got what he deserved.” This is outrageous and unacceptable.

    The other issue I have is with the statement made by AnonymousAnonymous: “reducing the number of abortions”. This needs to be modified to “reducing the NEED for abortions”. There is a big difference and the former statement contributes to the stigma, implying that abortion is a bad or shameful thing, whereas the latter does not.

    In fact, if abortion services are included in health care reform I would not be surprised if the number of abortions would increase initially as more women would be able to financially access the service. So we cannot say that we want to reduce the number of abortions – we want to reduce the NEED.

    If women/families are educated, have better access to family planning services and affordable contraception, adequate living conditions, etc., the need for abortions will likely drop.

    So you see there is a need for this to be approached from a Reproductive Justice perspective to adequately address the needs of women of color, women and families in the poorest communities, etc. Without meeting the needs of EVERY woman, how can a woman possibly make a true choice? She needs health care that covers all of her options, quality health care providers in her community, financial assistance if she needs it, support within her own community, etc. etc. There are many women who choose abortion because they don’t feel they have adequate resources to support a child; and there are women who choose to continue their pregnancies because they don’t have access to safe and affordable abortion care. Neither is acceptable.

    Adoption is important to include in this conversation, but it is by no means the answer. Could increased focus on education about the adoption option reduce the need for abortions? My opinion is perhaps slightly, but not significantly. When women do not have the basic resources in their own environments needed in order to physically continue a pregnancy, adoption is not really an option for them either.

    For common ground to work, it needs to focus on what can be agreed upon, instead of focusing on what each side is refusing to give up.

    I am skeptical that much common ground can be achieved until the culture of terror in which abortion providers work is eliminated and the pro-life movement holds their own extremists accountable for their actions. But I am not opposed to finding out what can be agreed upon.

  • invalid-0

    I think I understand the point about reducing the need for abortion, versus directly reducing the number of procedures. I certainly didn’t mean to imply any stigma. If this website allowed editing, I’d happily change the language.

    In addition, I definitely believe the issues where common ground is possible are on the demand side of the equation, which to me is about expanding women’s choices and not about limiting access.

    We talk about extremes, but there’s really a continuum of opinion on the subject of abortion. Again, I think the target are folks who are moderately pro-life. By dividing the issue into more discrete, manageable pieces (let’s talk about demand issues separately from access issues), there are a lot of overlapping interests that ultimately would produce policies that are pro-woman.

    Regarding the “lunatic fringe” of the pro-life movement, I wonder if more moderate groups actually identify with those extremists, or whether we tend to make that association ourselves. I do think the preconditions you set are deal-breakers, however. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I can’t imagine anyone actually doing what you’d require.

    The impetus behind what I wrote was the realization that this effort could have real benefits to the overall cause of women’s rights. Whether or not this effort is successful depends on how much people on both sides simply want to be proven “right” (which will undermine the process) versus how much they want to be effective and reap the benefits this process has to offer.

    So, stay strong when it comes to discussions about Roe and other issues related to legal access. But, if we can create a context regarding the demand side that is palpable to moderate pro-lifers, like the social justice Catholics and evangelicals who voted for Obama, then let’s do that too and not throw away the benefits that process has to offer.

  • bill-bekkenhuis

    At the risk of being very offensive, I’d like to suggest the following.

    No one with any hope of having their argument heard by reasonable people would refer to black people as "niggers".

    We need to de-legitimze the radical fringe that attracts and incites the unbalanced and the violent by making it clear that they have no hope of their argument being heard by reasonable people if they refer to staff, escorts and patients as "baby killers" or health care centers as "concentration camps".

    Say it’s immoral if you must. Say the law should be changed if you must.

    But you will not use language that rationalizes vigilante "justice" against people trying to help women in difficult and sometimes desperate situations.

    That speech needs to be as unacceptable in polite society as referring to blacks using the "N" word – and if you insist on using it you forfit your right, not to speak, but to be heard.


    To be part of this discussion you must speak like a responsible person. Period.

    I will no longer tolerate that speech and I don’t care if it’s family or friends I’ve had for decades.

    I can’t stop what they think, but I can let them know that if they want my companionship (for what it’s worth :-) they need to not use that language in my hearing.

    The same goes for media outlets.

    Bill Bekkenhuis
    Bethlehem, PA

  • invalid-0



    I just don’t think we’re talking about those groups to begin with here. No one engaged the Klan in a dialogue to bring about or expand civil rights.

    But we do have to show discipline and restrain some of our personal feelings to create conditions that will bring the more moderate groups to the discussion.

    Again, I think there are huge benefits to be derived in terms of reducing the need for abortion, securing policies that are more pro-women and creating a new coalition that will ultimately protect the right to choose.

    • jodi-jacobson

      Can you clarify what you mean?

      You’ve said:

      I just don’t think we’re talking about those groups to begin with here.

      Haven’t members of the insitituational Catholic Church referred to abortion as a holocaust and as abortion providers as murderers?   Don’t they talk about "life ending."  don’t they raise –without shame–questions about whether Cecily Kellog should have died to deliver a fetus dead or alive?  Didn’t they question the right of a 9-year old victim of incest in Brazil pregnant with twins  to get an abortion without which she would have died?

      And don’t they have a seat at the table?  Are they not blocking the most basic, fundamental effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion by blocking access to contraception as one aspect of public health?  Don’t many of the most conservative Evangelical groups do the same?  Didnt’ they block access for HIV positive pregnant women last year to contraception under PEPFAR?  Please…let’s put the real cards on the table here.

      Didn’t the institutional Church recently say that there is no evidence that contraception reduces unintended pregnancies?

      The Church itself has said there is never any need for abortion.  Steve Waldman, after hearing story after story from women who sought late-term abortions for reasons of imminent loss of life or health several times in his columns on BeliefNet went out of his way—misreading evidence–to discredit those women, and even suggested that there might be "more to the story" about Tiller "despite the fact he was exonerated of any wrong-doing three times."

      We can agree that all women who wish to put a child up for adoption under whatever circumstances has that option.  But since it won’t change the abortion rate and there is only one thing that will, what good does having "common ground" on that do if the central question at hand is abortion itself?  And what of the very evidence that abortions are declining except among those populations of women with the least access to contraception.

      I remain confused as to what "common ground" means here when one side is governed by "faith and ideology," and the other by evidence and public health.  We seem to want to deny at all costs that there is no common goal so there is no common ground.

      Two sides can share the goal of improving the environment in specific ways and at the same time ensuring that businesses can thrive and may find ways to do that.  But when it comes down to whether we can burn fossil fuels at the rate we currently do and still forestall global warming, there is a fundamental difference between those who keep talking about finding ways to find more oil and coal and those who see the need to shift quickly to renewable sources of energy.  There really is no common ground there.  There is profound disconnect between economic ideology, environmental science, and policy outcomes.  In that case, it becomes an issue of political will and political power.  The problem here is that the Dems, even when in power, have failed to fully do the right thing, and now here we are years down the road having succumbed endlessly to ab-only programs and limits on contraceptive access and completely neglected reproductive justice and millions of people worked to change the political power equation so we could address these things from the vantage point of evidence, not ideology.


      I think there is so much desire to have a political win called "common ground," that very few people here are facing the reality.  it is more comfortable to avoid it and make nice with everyone.  but if you are really interested in unintended pregnancy and rates of abortion…it boils down to one thing: reproductive justice and the access of all women to basic sexual and reproductive health services and supplies.  Contraception.  Prevention, Education.  Destigmatization.


      We want to achieve real goals with unreal policies.  it won’t work.


      Jodi Jacobson


  • invalid-0

    Does not sound like it to me…
    more like, you have to come to our ground so it will be common

  • colleen

    Now they are sometimes treated as if they, too, are extremists.

    The criteria for pro-life extremist isn’t, to my mind, limited to a tendency to condone violence. For instance the notion that zygotes and blastocysts are tiny little people who need to be protected by denying women contraceptives and EC strikes many people as an extreme position. And yet, despite the fact that over 90% of the American public believes that birth control is a good thing it is counted as some sort of victory when someone on the religious right reluctantly agrees to support contraceptive use and one always has to slog through the muck of disproving the efficacy of variations on the rhythm method. Why is access to contraceptives and EC even being debated?
    I think that anyone who refers to abortion or ordinary contraception as ‘violent’ or ‘murder’ is extreme. After all, if one believes that abortion is the murder of children and wants others to believe that too than it’s predictable and inevitable that some members of the resulting cult will be unbalanced enough to plant a few bombs or wait outside a church or residence with a sniper rifle or otherwise break the law in the many ways the anti-abortion movement has employed over the years. It’s not a surprise to anyone that Roemer’s dashboard held the name and number of a woman who had already spent 2 years in prison for conspiring to blow up a clinic.
    I must say that, with the exception of Frank Schaeffer, I have been appalled by the rationalizations and refusal to admit any sense of complicity from those ‘pro-life’ folks claiming to seek ‘common ground’, whatever their station in life or educational attainment.
    Finally, did anyone read Frederick Carlson’s piece in Daily Kos on the present ‘common ground’ impulse here? I thought he made some excellent points.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • invalid-0

    Frederick Clarkson piece in Daily Kos was excellent. Thanks for posting the link here colleen.

  • invalid-0

    Personally,I am thankful for this initiative. The
    effort to reduce the need for abortion is positive.
    The issue is not black or white. Let me present another
    view. On prior post reasons for seeking abortions have
    been addressed. Fear of family,partner and societal reaction to the pregnancy should be included. Have you
    ever listened to how many members of society address
    women who have a unplanned pregnancy. Just listen.
    Believe it or not,from a women who has been their
    both sides contribute. For to many years
    the message has been loud and clear. At age
    19 I sacrificed my own internal message ,due to fear of
    being less than perfect. There was a lack of family support
    and rejection by the father. The medical facility provided
    little if any consuling. What I do remember is being in a
    room with 10 other women,it was dead silent. 30 yrs. later
    I could no longer bury the loss. Stop and think about the
    messages sent to women. Many more abortions occur than
    need be ,but there are those times they might be
    necessary. One of the greatest secrets women keep is
    their forbidden grief. I am not speaking for all women
    who have had a abortion, but for a good share. In all
    animals there is a instinctual desire for females to
    protect their young ,why do we think women would make
    a choice like this so easily? Help is needed from both
    sides. Pro-choice needs to stop assuming they know
    that abortion does not have an affect on women. Pro-life
    we need to see your loving, supportive side,not anger.
    The women and children have remained pawns between both
    sides. How about educating parents on techniques of
    how to react in a more adult manner in a criss situation.
    Host womens healthfairs , provide relationship and
    sex education. I fully expect to be slammed.My healing
    has finally become complete,my obligation is to help

  • http://www.consistent-life.org/ invalid-0

    If we are going to have common ground dialogue, wouldn’t it be best to have it in a fairly neutral environment? A problem with this forum is it is hosted by a group at one extreme end of the spectrum, and if you read the rest of the site, it at least borders on being a hate group with its fulminations against pro-lifers.

    Cristina, would you and others be willing to join in a common effort with pro-life groups that would be either on a Web site set up for the purpose with a board not controlled by one side, or on the Web site of some group without a position on abortion with a mission related to dialogue? That would make it a common ground for a common ground dialogue, which a forum located here can never really be.

    As President of a group that might be willing to join an effort at a neutral site but will be reluctant to do it a site which spreads lies and hate about people like us, I hope you will consider this.

  • invalid-0

    Samuel a valuable lesson has been learned. It sounds
    like you feel judged and misrepesented. Consider this might be what women feel when an unexpected pregnancy
    occurs or after an abortion. It would be refreshing to
    have 2 groups on both sides willing to dialogue in a
    respectful manner. We all have to ask ourselves is it
    about defending our agenda or truly helping women and
    children and respecting life. Personally would love
    to be apart of honest dialogue. Listening to each other
    is most important. Two hikers climbing the same mountain
    but opposite faces achieve the same goal , but experience
    a different view. Have tried in local area to engage
    health care providers and prolife.
    My experience tells me something very different than what
    either side would like us to believe.

  • invalid-0

    Acknowledging the immense pleasure that having power over others holds for some, any reasonable person should still be able to find common ground in these truths:

    The condition of being a female human being is not a matter of choice.

    Only female human beings are capable of giving birth to human babies.

    Every baby born deserves to be wanted, cherished and protected.

    As a citizen protected by the Constitution, a woman has the right to privacy, equal protection, religious freedom, due process and freedom from discrimination, just as a man has.

    The role of government is to protect its citizens, not punish them for being born a female, just as African-Americans are not to be punished or discriminated against because of their race.

    The U.S. Constitution recognizes as citizens only those who are “born”: “All persons born…in the United States…are citizens of the United States….” Therefore, women, men and children are citizens, but not the unborn.

    If fertilized eggs were given the legal status of human beings as promoted by some, among those who would profit most would be attorneys suing on behalf of zygotes, fetuses and pregnant women in accident cases and defending doctors providing health services to women and the criminals resulting from more unwanted children. Liability insurance premiums would soar and even more money for prisons and support systems would be required.

    The cost to enforce a law that prohibits abortion and grants personhood to a fertilized egg would be astronomical and virtually impossible to enforce, involving the reporting of all women determined by health care providers to be pregnant, if and when consulted, and the common miscarriage would be a matter for criminal investigation. Tourists would be able to claim American citizenship for a fertilized egg if a woman were impregnated while visiting from another country, significantly impacting immigration laws and population statistics and enriching lawyers hired to prove their client wasn’t already pregnant before coming to America. Pregnant women enter America now, even illegally, for their babies to be born here so they will be American citizens.

    Conservative, Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2008, “And indeed, there are anti-abortion people who think that the constitution requires a state to prohibit abortion. They say that the Equal Protection Clause requires that you treat a helpless human being that’s still in the womb the way you treat other human beings. I think that’s wrong. I think when the Constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, I think it clearly means walking-around persons.”

    Contraception prevents abortions but there is no 100 percent foolproof contraceptive method other than castration.

    Abstinence-only programs did not delay teen sexual activity or reduce the current rate of 600,000 unintended teen pregnancies each year. Since 1982, the U.S. government has allocated a reported $3.6 billion to abstinence only-until-marriage programs, but the U.S. has the highest teen birth rate of all industrialized nations.

    If abortion were made illegal, wealthy women would still be able to obtain them, so such a law would discriminate against lower-income women.

    Guttmacher research has found that each $20 million increment in new funding under the Title X family planning services program alone would help women avoid another 17,200 unintended pregnancies, including 7,000 that would end in abortion. Expanding eligibility for Medicaid-covered family planning services nationwide to the same income eligibility levels used for pregnant women would yield even greater results, further reducing unintended pregnancy and abortion by 15%, while achieving an additional $1.5 billion in net savings annually.

    Reports by the Guttmacher Institute, also, indicate 46 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to provide abortion services and 43 of those states allow health care institutions to refuse to provide abortion services. Thirteen states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception. Seventeen states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide sterilization services, such as vasectomies.

    Poor women are the main victims of restrictions and the costs for abortion and contraceptives, but everyone is a victim since taxes pay for the welfare, health care, prisons, etc., required to fund the consequences of unwanted children, while those profiting from paying lower wages or are engaged in human trafficking in slave labor and prostitution, pedophilia, etc., benefit from over-population.

    The United States has the highest prison population in the world. A 2006 Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons report shows that 2.2 million people are incarcerated, with the annual cost more than 60 billion dollars. The Justice Department reported a record 7 million people were behind bars, on probation or on parole. Most prisoners were victims of child abuse. A 2007 Economic Impact Study by Prevent Child Abuse America reveals that “The costs of responding to the impact of child abuse and neglect are borne by the victims and their families but also by society….Based on data drawn from a variety of sources, the estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect is $103.8 billion in 2007 value.” It can safely be concluded that the cost in human misery and tax dollars related to unwanted children is incalculable.

    Any government that passes a law abolishing abortion places it in the position of imposing a death sentence on any woman whose continued pregnancy would kill her, without the benefit of a trial and the many appeals a man on death row is provided. It would be state-sanctioned execution of an innocent human being, whose only “crime” was to become impregnated by a man, who will suffer no consequences for his part in the “crime.”

    In 2005, 623 women died from childbirth in the United States. A fetus is capable of killing or permanently damaging the health of a woman, but the woman is subject to restrictions on the medically-safe removal of a fetus that will or is harming her. As a result of laws made by men, pregnant women are especially discriminated against.

    Forcing a woman to give birth qualifies as an infringement on her human rights and as cruel and unusual punishment, with no punishment for the impregnator who may even have raped her.

    The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

    Adversity.net concluded: “Giving special treatment or preference to any individual or group because of their demographics (race, gender, ethnicity) automatically results in illegal and unconstitutional discrimination against the individual or group who is excluded from such special treatment.” Men are not restricted from having vasectomies or any other medical procedures they choose to have.

    It’s clear the Constitution is not being upheld for women, which stipulates: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The definition of “liberty” is: “the condition of being free from restriction or control.” Unlike men, a pregnant woman may be faced with obstacles to making rational decisions about one part of her body and her life. No law requires women or men to wait 24 hours or comply with any governmental restrictions before having a life-threatening tumor or a ruptured appendix removed.

    According to an April 2009 National Abortion Federation report, incidents of violence and disruption against abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada since 1977 include: 8 murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 100 butyric acid attacks, 659 anthrax threats, 175 arsons, 96 attempted bombings/arsons, 390 invasions; 1,400 vandalism, 1,993 trespassing, 179 assault and battery incidents, 406 death threats, 4 kidnappings, 151 burglaries, 525 stalkings, 13,995 hate mail/harassing calls, 339 email/internet harassments, 148 hoax device/suspicious packages, 642 bomb threats, 141,837 incidents of picketing, 763 clinic blockades and 33,834 arrests, with many assaults on escorts and patients never reported.

    The National Guard protected African-American children when schools were being integrated, with white people screaming at them as they walked by. Similar protection isn’t provided now to women going to family planning clinics and their threatened doctors have to wear bullet-proof vests.

    The male who has impregnated a woman seeking to obtain an abortion is not harassed, screamed at or intimidated by those opposed to abortions and his health care providers are not harassed, threatened or killed for that reason.
    Dr. George Tiller, a U.S. citizen who saved women’s lives, committed no crime, but the crime of murder was committed by the person who killed him.
    Because abortion is a medical procedure that only women need, access to legal and safe abortion services is essential to the protection of a woman’s right to non-discrimination and equality. An Opinion Research Corporation poll commissioned in 2001 by the ERA Campaign Network of Princeton, NJ shows that nearly all U.S. adults–96%–believe that male and female citizens should have equal rights.

    Excerpt from an American Civil Liberties Union notice for female prisoners:

    “FACT: If you are pregnant, being in prison or jail does not mean you lose your right to decide whether to continue your pregnancy or have an abortion. Your constitutional rights are being violated if:

    “1. You are told that you must have an abortion that you do not want.
    2. You are told that you are not allowed to have an abortion that you do want.
    3. You cannot get prenatal or other medical care for your pregnancy.
    4. You are forced to pay before you can get the medical care you need.”

    Therefore, a low-income, pregnant woman is safer and better off in jail than going to a family planning clinic for prenatal care or for an abortion. Also, as a law-abiding citizen not in jail, she may not be eligible for any kind of health care services.

    When a pregnancy is unwanted or harmful to a woman, a legal requirement to continue the pregnancy constitutes governmental intrusion on a woman’s right to jurisdiction over her own body and failure to protect women from being dehumanized to the status of an incubator.

    According to Medical Students for Choice, in 2000, 87% of the counties in the United States had no abortion provider. The older age of current providers, the violence that targets physicians, and restrictive legislation threaten to drive those numbers even lower. “In addition, medical schools are simply not addressing the topic; most physicians are graduating with little more than circumstantial knowledge of abortion.” Therefore, equal treatment under the law would mandate that most physicians, also, graduate “with little more than circumstantial knowledge” of how to provide vasectomies or prostate cancer treatments.

    Their mission: “Medical Students for Choice® (MSFC) is dedicated to ensuring that women receive the full range of reproductive healthcare choices. MSFC recognizes that one of the greatest obstacles to safe and legal abortion is the absence of trained providers. As medical students and residents, we work to make reproductive health care, including abortion, a part of standard medical education and residency training.”

    Considering the significant impact of pregnancy on a woman’s body, her decision to commence, prevent, continue or terminate a pregnancy is an unequivocal right, just as a man has the right to make decisions about his own body, including a vasectomy, which the state could, also, claim an interest in and require vasectomies to limit population growth.

    According to The Liz Library, “The impact on a female’s health and even risk to her life include:

    “Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy: exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks), altered appetite and senses of taste and smell, nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester), heartburn and indigestion, constipation, dizziness and light-headedness, bloating, swelling, fluid retention, hemorrhoids, abdominal cramps, yeast infections, congested, bloody nose, acne and mild skin disorders, skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen), mild to severe backache and strain, increased headaches, difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping, increased urination and incontinence, bleeding gums, pica, breast pain and discharge, swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain, difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy, inability to take regular medications, shortness of breath, higher blood pressure, hair loss, tendency to anemia, curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities, infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease, (pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with non-pregnant women, and are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases), extreme pain on delivery, hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression, continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section — major surgery — is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover).

    “Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy: stretch marks (worse in younger women), loose skin, permanent weight gain or redistribution, abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness, pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life), changes to breasts, varicose veins, scarring from episiotomy or c-section, other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed by women, because the culture values youth and beauty), increased proclivity for hemorrhoids, loss of dental and bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis).

    “Occasional complications and side effects: spousal/partner abuse (In the US, the leading cause of death for pregnant women is homicide.), hyperemesis gravidarum, temporary and permanent injury to back, severe scarring requiring later surgery (especially after additional pregnancies), dropped (prolapsed) uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other pelvic floor weaknesses — 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele, and enterocele), pre-eclampsia (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated with eclampsia, and affecting 7 – 10% of pregnancies), eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death), gestational diabetes, placenta previa, anemia (which can be life-threatening), thrombocytopenic purpura, severe cramping, embolism (blood clots), medical disability requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother or baby), diastasis recti, also torn abdominal muscles, mitral valve stenosis (most common cardiac complication), serious infection and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis), hormonal imbalance, ectopic pregnancy (risk of death), broken bones (ribcage, “tail bone”), hemorrhage and numerous other complications of delivery, refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease, aggravation of pre-pregnancy diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5% of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures), severe post-partum depression and psychosis, research now indicates a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments, including “egg harvesting” from infertile women and donors, research also now indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy, research also indicates a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease.

    “Less common (but serious) complications: peripartum cardiomyopathy, cardiopulmonary arrest, magnesium toxicity, severe hypoxemia/acidosis, massive embolism, increased intracranial pressure, brainstem infarction, molar pregnancy, gestational trophoblastic disease (like a pregnancy-induced cancer), malignant arrhythmia, circulatory collapse, placental abruption, obstetric fistula (An obstetric fistula develops when blood supply to the tissues of the vagina and the bladder (and/or rectum) is cut off during prolonged obstructed labor. The tissues die and a hole forms through which urine and/or feces pass uncontrollably.)

    “More permanent side effects: future infertility, permanent disability, death.”

    The male majority that has made all the laws restricting women from making the decisions about their own bodies will never suffer from any of the side effects of pregnancy, including death.

    No matter how low the percentage of women who will suffer from the dangerous side effects of pregnancy, for the women affected it’s 100 per cent.

    According to SafeMotherhood.org, “Every minute of every day, somewhere in the world a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. That is 515,000 women, at a minimum, dying every year. For every woman who dies, 30 to 50 women suffer injury, infection, or disease.

    “When a mother dies, children lose their primary caregiver, communities are denied her paid and unpaid labor, and countries forego her contributions to economic and social development. A woman’s death is more than a personal tragedy–it represents an enormous cost to her nation, her community, and her family. Any social and economic investment that has been made in her life is lost. Her family loses her love, her nurturing, and her productivity inside and outside the home.

    “Each year, approximately 4 million newborn infants die during the first month of life, and an additional 4 million are stillborn. Most of these deaths are due to infection, asphyxia and birth injuries, and complications of premature birth.”

    In 2004, the maternal death rate in the United States jumped to 13 deaths per 100,000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

    Among developed countries, the World Health Organization reports, 29 have better infant mortality rates than the United States, including Slovenia and Cuba, and 41 have better maternal mortality rates.

    It is far more dangerous to the health of a woman to carry a baby to term than to have an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute:

    • The risk of abortion complications is minimal: Fewer than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.[12]
    • Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.[13]
    • Exhaustive reviews by panels convened by the U.S. and British governments have concluded that there is no association between abortion and breast cancer. There is also no indication that abortion is a risk factor for other cancers.[13]

    • In repeated studies since the early 1980s, leading experts have concluded that abortion does not pose a hazard to women’s mental health.[14]
    • The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks to one per 29,000 at 16–20 weeks—and one per 11,000 at 21 or more weeks.[15]
    • Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier. Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money.[16]
    • Teens are more likely than older women to delay having an abortion until after 15 weeks of pregnancy, when the medical risks associated with abortion are significantly higher.[17 ]

    One purpose of the U.S. Constitution was to limit governmental powers.

    History reveals that as of 1800, not one law had been passed against abortion. No laws prohibited abortion until later in the 19th century–and the Church did not lead in that repression. Instead, antiabortion legislation was part of an anti-feminist backlash against the growing 19th century movement to allow women to vote, voluntary motherhood, and other women’s rights.

    With the declining birth rate of whites in the late 1800s, the U.S. government and the eugenics movement warned against the danger of “race suicide” and urged white, native-born women to reproduce. The growing industrial capitalism relied on women to be low-paid menial workers and reproducers of the next generation of workers.

    Just as women were beginning to understand conception well enough to attempt to avoid it, in 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt attacked birth control and condemned the tendency towards smaller families as a sign of moral disease.

    Finally, in the 1960s, the American Medical Association and a coalition of individuals and organizations fought to overturn antiabortion laws and reinstate previous values, which were later imbedded in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

    On April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court banned certain abortions which do not allow an exception when a woman’s life is in danger after more than thirty years of Supreme Court rulings that required such an exception. That Supreme Court decision undermines the right of every American to make personal decisions about their own health care, such as whether or not to have an operation or to reject a standard cancer treatment for an alternative one.

    In the 19th century, without modern-day contraceptives or medical facilities, unwanted babies were killed or died of neglect. Now, in the 21st century, with modern-day contraceptives and medical facilities, political decisions made regarding abortion and contraception result in unwanted children being killed, abused, abandoned and neglected. At least 2,000 children in the U.S. die of child abuse and neglect each year, and National statistics show that children under six years of age account for 86% of all maltreatment deaths.

    In 2005, about 800,000 children were placed in foster homes because of abuse or neglect, with only about 52,000 adopted. Each year, some 19,000 of these children “age out” of the system without ever being placed in permanent homes. In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported suicides among children and young adults in the U.S. rose 8 percent. Suicide accounted for 4,599 deaths, making it the third-leading killer among Americans ages 10 to 24, after vehicle accidents and homicides.

    USLegal.com explains that some states have medical emancipation statutes which allow minors to consent to medical treatment without parental knowledge, approval, or consent and that medical emancipation statutes may be separated into two categories. First, they may authorize minors to consent to their own health care treatment because of their emancipated status. Second, they may authorize minors to consent to what are considered to be particularly sensitive medical services. A minor may consent to care related to the prevention or treatment of pregnancy, to treatment of an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease or to care related to the diagnosis or treatment of rape and to HIV testing. Further, the records of these medical services are kept confidential from the minor’s parent or guardian, unless the minor consents to such disclosure.

    Michelle Goldberg observed in “How abortion changed the world” that “Given the persistence of sexual oppression and even terror in much of the world, the half million women who die due to pregnancy complications each year, the millions more who have their genitals cut in the name of purity, and the plague of illegal abortions that fill hospital wards…the global commitment to reproductive rights represents an important attempt to unite humankind against an ageless scourge: the wholesale devaluation of women.”

    In “An international abortion underground,” Lynn Harris wrote that “The law on abortion in Ireland is based on a piece of Victorian legislation called the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. This act criminalizes abortion and lays down life imprisonment as punishment.

    “However, in Northern Ireland the act was updated somewhat in 1937 allowing for legal abortion if continuing pregnancy would leave the woman “a mental or physical wreck.” As a result, a small number of abortion requests have been considered and granted by the Northern Ireland High Court. It is acknowledged that between 70 and 100 abortions are legally carried out each year in Northern Irish hospitals.

    “According to official statistics, about 1,500 Northern Irish women cross “the water” each year for abortions in English clinics, with overall costs being up to £1,500. A combination of fundamentalist Protestantism and conservative Catholicism has fought to stave off the British 1967 Abortion Act being extended to Northern Ireland.

    “The 1861 Act was never modified in the Republic of Ireland due to the dominance of Catholicism in the independent state. In fact, in 1983 the law became even more restrictive when the Republic’s constitution was amended to make the right to life of “the unborn” equal to that of the mother. A pregnancy may be terminated legally only in order to save the life of the pregnant woman. There is no right to abortion in any other circumstances, even when the woman has been raped.”

    Crime, pollution, poverty, homelessness, starvation, illegal immigration, slave labor, etc., are a direct result of over-population.

    Lester R. Brown, founder and president of Earth Policy Institute, reported that soap operas on radio and television can quickly “change people’s attitudes about reproductive health, gender equity, family size, and environmental protection.” Also, “The costs of providing reproductive health and family planning services are small compared with their benefits….When countries move quickly to smaller families, growth in the number of young dependents—those who need nurturing and educating—declines relative to the number of working adults….productivity surges, savings and investment climb, and economic growth accelerates.

    “In just one decade Iran dropped its near-record population growth rate to one of the lowest in the developing world….Religious leaders were directly involved in what amounted to a crusade for smaller families. Iran introduced a full panoply of contraceptive measures, including the option of male sterilization—a first among Muslim countries. All forms of birth control, including contraceptives such as the pill and sterilization, were free of charge. In fact, Iran became a pioneer—the only country to require couples to take a class on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license.”

    From the Population Connection Fact Sheet: “Although population may seem difficult to address, ultimately the best way to confront it is simple: trust women. Women who have access to family planning and who are able to work and be mothers generally have the number of children they desire. This number tends to hover around replacement level. Pronatalist policies that ignore women’s right to make their own reproductive choices are dehumanizing and counterproductive.”

    Social historian and essayist Garry Wills wrote in “Abortion isn’t a religious issue”:

    “Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments–or anywhere in Jewish Scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount–or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils.

    “Much of the debate over abortion is based on a misconception–that it is a religious issue, that the pro-life advocates are acting out of religious conviction. It is not a theological matter at all. There is no theological basis for defending or condemning abortion. Even popes have said that the question of abortion is a matter of natural law to be decided by natural reason.”

    Religious freedom is an inalienable right guaranteed by the United States Constitution, preventing anyone from forcing their religious beliefs on others. President John F. Kennedy clarified his Catholicism to the nation:

    “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

    From the Mission statement of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice: “Our rational, healing perspective looks beyond the bitter abortion debate to seek solutions to pressing problems such as unintended pregnancy, the spread of HIV/AIDS, inadequate health care and health insurance, and the severe reduction in reproductive health care services. We support access to sex education, family planning and contraception, affordable child care and health care, and adoption services as well as safe, legal, abortion services, regardless of income. We work for public policies that ensure the medical, economic, and educational resources necessary for healthy families and communities that are equipped to nurture children in peace and love.”

    In America, we are free to believe whatever we want about religion, and the government cannot punish us for our beliefs. Nevertheless, women are now being punished not for their own religious beliefs but because of the religious beliefs of others.

    Just because someone sincerely believes something to be true doesn’t mean that it is, and in the United States religious freedom is still a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. That is just one common ground that unites all of us in America.