In so many ways, the election of President
Obama is viewed through a lens of its healing potential. No, racism
did not end with the election of our first President of Color, but many
people are looking at themselves and their beliefs about race differently.
No, his election did not automatically restore America as a beacon of
hope around the world after years of steady decline, but our global
neighbors are looking at us in a new light.
President Obama is asking Americans to
seek common ground on one of the most controversial issues of our time,
abortion. Knowing we don’t all agree, Obama asks that we agree to
disagree, with civility, recognizing the dangerous place the extremism
surrounding this debate has taken our politics.
For the entire political life of many
people around President Obama’s age, the politics of abortion has
seemed intractable, uncompromising, bitterly divisive. The first political
race I watched closely, at 11, ended with Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas using
pictures of aborted fetuses on door hangers in heavily Catholic precincts
to defeat Dr. Bill Roy, an obstetrician, Congressman and Catholic himself.
Dole won re-election by a handful of votes in 1974 on the politics of
Thirty-five years later, Dr. George Tiller
was assassinated in his Lutheran church because he performed legal abortions,
also in Kansas, the site of many far-right battles in those intervening
years. Tiller is the latest victim of extremism on the far-right
that has its roots in the political rhetoric started in that first post-Roe
Many people on the right distance themselves
from anything having to do with clinic violence, but still
have their picture taken with politicians whose rhetoric foments it.
So why is RH Reality Check, a site founded
and dedicated to promoting progressive ideas about the full spectrum
of sexual and reproductive health, even engaging this discussion about
We believe by bringing voices from the
center and right of center, to mix with the leading voices of the progressive
movement promoting sexual and reproductive health, that our online community can play a small role in allowing a new way to look at these issues to emerge. It won’t
We are not defining, or buying into anyone’s
definition of common ground. We are facilitating a discussion that we
hope will allow all people to think differently about sexual and reproductive
Is it possible that in President Obama’s
election, Americans have a chance to heal the body politic from the
divisiveness the abortion issue has caused for a generation or more?
We don’t know, but one thing is certain: it won’t happen if we don’t
We believe RH Reality Check is well positioned to expand this
dialog to be more inclusive while holding to our progressive roots and
respecting those who believe differently but genuinely seek common ground. In the wake of the Tiller assassination, there
may be no better time to ask people to think anew about how we all communicate
It is, afterall is said and done, simply a choice we have before us, to continue the old paradigm of well worn and bitter divide, or stop and take a deep breath or two, and choose differently.
We are asking people from all political
perspectives to remain open to the possibility that we can let go of
the acrimony that brought us to this moment and envision a time when
these most personal life decisions are no longer used for political
manipulation, or domestic terrorism.
The truth is, most Americans have already
found common ground.
The best and brightest minds working
in philanthropy, non-profits and NGO’s, advocacy, law, health care,
research, politics and media, have invested tens if not hundreds of
millions of dollars in the most sophisticated public opinion research.
Staggering sums that could be used to actually help women and children,
not just hypothesize about how demographic groups respond to framing
or word choice.
Most legitimate surveys, right, left, and non-partisan,
indicate Americans are closer to consensus on many social issues than our politics indicates,
which doesn’t mean that everyone agrees. But it does mean we should move
beyond questions of legality versus prohibition, toward policies that promote safety,
health, responsibility, respect, and rights. Our energy should focus on making sure all Americans have access
to factual information and education, reliable prevention and reproductive health care with the recognition
that sexually healthy societies foster respect for everyone. Choices that are made from a place of respect and facts will naturally be better than those made from fear or misinformation. Biology is easier than wisdom and we should focus on helping people understand how to make better choices, understanding not denying human nature.
In the middle, away from the passions of the right or left, most Americans are already building
common ground around shared understanding, compassion and empathy for
the journey their neighbors are on, hoping that when their family faces difficult
life decisions, others will be similarly supportive. By listening to
voices genuinely seeking common ground, RH Reality Check hopes to provide a platform for civil discussion. We know the
bitterness will continue on some levels, we only seek to expand the potential for something
new to emerge, to remain open to the possibility that we can choose a healing path that could change the way we all dicuss these issues in a healthy, respectful way, thus allowing
us to see sexual and reproductive health in a new light.
We hope you too will choose a path that can lead to real change and give this discussion a chance.
Be the change you seek.