Shared Dreams


I am no stranger to the process of prochoice/prolife dialogue.  For over twenty years, I have purposefully sought it out, both informally and formally, as the surest way of achieving practical results in the struggle to alleviate the root causes of abortion and to secure and affirm women’s nonabortion reproductive rights. I cannot cast anyone out as “the enemy,” disregarding their wisdom, gifts, and human dignity–even over matters of deep disagreement.   This would contradict the very ethics and politics of nonviolence from which my prolife stance arises.

When Cristina Page invited me to be a regular columnist for On Common Ground, I was glad and grateful for this opportunity to foster reciprocal understanding and cooperative dialogue.  I was at the same time apprehensive about the stereotypes of prolifers I was bound to get hit with, especially on a prochoice website.  This has certainly happened, but it is not all that has happened.

I really cannot say what I have personally accomplished here so far. It is up to the readers here whether or not my columns have helped you to understand “the other side” better (whatever side that may be).  Or whether they have moved you to take any action, or further action, to reduce abortion.  I can only hope that my columns have had some effect in this direction.

Hopefully I have communicated that prolifers, like prochoicers, can, and need to:

  • Engage in respectful, civil dialogue–towards the identification and achievement of practical, agreed-upon results.
  • Oppose the lethal hypocrisy of violence against abortion providers in the name of saving life.
  • Be about the rights and wellbeing of the already born.
  • Support such abortion-reducing measures as comprehensive sex education, access to all voluntary family planning methods, LGBT rights, and a broad spectrum of indispensible maternal child health and welfare programs.
  • Rejoice, for example, in our President’s commitment to fund UNFPA and USAID reproductive health programs—which by law are not about promoting abortion.
  • Reflect upon the rich history of abortion as a feminist concern, not as a way of bowing to our foremothers’ “authority,” but so we can discern how to achieve their still-unmet aspirations, and ours.

I apologize to anyone whose reaction here is “Hey, don’t be so obvious”  and “I am already doing these things.”  But sometimes the obvious needs to be articulated, and anyway one person’s “self-evident truth” is bound to be someone else’s “hmmm, never thought of that before.”

My hope for the future is to brainstorm further with both prolifers and prochoicers about concrete strategies for achieving our shared dreams, not only within the United States, but globally.  I hope this as a woman with personal experience of crisis pregnancy, one who has borne witness to and helped as much as I could with the crisis pregnancies of many other women, both at the individual and collective levels. 

For me, common ground is in the end about what happens in the real world with and to our bodies and lives, and those of our own children.  There are about 50 million abortions every year worldwide. There don’t have to be. What can we all do to take responsibility for all the human beings affected—and bring that number as close to zero as we humanly and possibly can?

Loretta Ross, leader of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, speaks often of reproductive justice as the achievement of “perfect choice”:  “access not only to abortion services but also to prenatal care, quality sex education, contraceptives, maternal infant and child health services, housing, and reform of the health care delivery system.” While I do not agree with her about abortion itself, I cannot do anything but heartily endorse the rest of her vision–that is, most of it.

What a wide and far-reaching agenda, then, we already have to work on together.  Imagine the power of a shared movement to make it a reality.

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  • grayduck

    "Engage in respectful, civil dialogue–towards the identification and achievement of practical, agreed-upon results."

     

    I see very little dialogue occurring- even within the two "sides." Writing an article is not equivalent to engaging in dialogue. I started http://www.abortiondiscussion.com for such discussions, but it has received very little activity.

     

    "[P]rolifers…can, and need to…[S]upport such abortion-reducing measures as comprehensive sex education, access to all voluntary family planning methods, LGBT rights, and a broad spectrum of indispensible maternal child health and welfare programs."

     

    Where is the empirical evidence that comprehensive sex education reduces the number of unintended pregnancies? Where is the evidence that such programs give accurate information about the consequences of sexual activity, the laws regarding such activity, or the failure rates of contraceptives?

     

    Where is the empirical evidence that access to contraception reduces the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions? If increased access to contraception suppresses the need for abortion, then why did the abortion-legalization movement begin soon after the development of oral contraception?

     

    What do LGBT rights have to do with common ground on abortion and why alienate people from the discussion by introducing a completely separate social controversy?

     

    Where is the empirical evidence that maternal child health and welfare programs reduce the demand for abortions? And do not such programs subsidize the very absent fatherhood that precipitates the vast majority of abortions?

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • crowepps

    I see very little dialogue occurring- even within the two "sides." Writing an article is not equivalent to engaging in dialogue.

    Writing an article stating your position AND discussing that position with people who comment on the article is pretty much the definition of dialogue.

    Where is the empirical evidence that comprehensive sex education reduces the number of unintended pregnancies?

    http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=419&Itemid=336 

    Where is the evidence that such programs give accurate information about the consequences of sexual activity, the laws regarding such activity, or the failure rates of contraceptives?

    In the curriculum, most of which can be tracked down on the net.

    Where is the empirical evidence that access to contraception reduces the numbers of unintended pregnancies and abortions?

    http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2009/10/13/index.html

    If increased access to contraception suppresses the need for abortion, then why did the abortion-legalization movement begin soon after the development of oral contraception?

    Correlation is not causation.  You might as well ask why did the abortion-legalization movement begin soon after Rock and Roll became popular.

    What do LGBT rights have to do with common ground on abortion and why alienate people from the discussion by introducing a completely separate social controversy?

    Because LGBT rights are about an individual’s right to choose their sexual expression and contraception/abortion is about an individual’s rights to choose their sexual expression and the resistance to both is apparently rooted in sex-phobia.

    Where is the empirical evidence that maternal child health and welfare programs reduce the demand for abortions?

    I know that when Denali KidCare was created in Alaska to provide prenatal care to women, the abortion rate here immediately went down by one-third.

    And do not such programs subsidize the very absent fatherhood that precipitates the vast majority of abortions?

    Where’s your empirical evidence of that claim? 

  • marysia

    thanks for all the evidence, crowepps.

    more on lgbt rights: this is vital for the reasons crowepps mentions. and it relates quite directly to the issue of abortion and crisis pregnancy in ways that many prolifers are not aware of, or don’t want to deal with, but really need to.

    especially considering that the virulent lgbt phobia expressed by some antiabortionists actually fuels this prolem.

    lgbt teens are *two to seven times* more likely than their heterosexual peers to become unexpectedly pregnant or be partner to such a pregnancy. often this happens b/c they have internalized lgbt phobia and are desperately trying to prove to themselves and others that they are in fact straight, when they are not.

    at the same time, sex ed and family planning programs often do no deal adequately with the needs of lgbt youth. and prolife-run cpcs don’t either.

    the problem of crisis pregnancy among lgbt youth has been documented by researchers:

    http://www.curvemag.com/Curve-Magazine/April-2008/Elizabeth-Saewyc-Researches-Teen-Health/

    and by plenty of anecdotal evidence, including the powerful life story that cecilia brown, president of the prolife alliance of gays and lesbians, narrates in a book i helped to edit, prolife feminism yesterday and today, second edition.

    as for maternal child health and welfare programs enabling absentee fathers–i have long witnessed the difficulties that economically disempowered men have in regard to family responsiblity. Men can have impeccable characters and yet be frustrated, undermined, and thwarted by economic realities beyond their individual control.

    it is not just a matter of men taking individual responsibility for their female partners and children–it is a matter of our whole society taking responsiblity for everyone’s health care so that, among other good outcomes, fathers are freer to be fathers, and partners freer to be partnbers.


    On Common Ground Columnist & Editor, Nonviolent Choice Directory

  • grayduck

    "it is not just a matter of men taking individual responsibility for their female partners and children–it is a matter of our whole society taking responsiblity for everyone’s health care so that, among other good outcomes, fathers are freer to be fathers…"

     

    How can imposing massive tax liabilities on one group of men and insurmountable debt on their children free irresponsible men to be fathers? You seem to think that nobody needs to pay for government programs.

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • marysia

    We all pay for government programs–and we *should.* Each according to our ability–the more money you have, the more financial responsiblity you have to ensure that everyone’s basic rights and needs are secured.

    Men who are hungry, homeless, jobless, beset by racism, sick or dying from lack of access to free/affordable health care–they like women have a lot of trouble taking care of the children they conceive if we do not all pitch in and help.

    it is immensely self-defeating for anyone who identifies as prolife to resent paying taxes to support the common good. Because if prolife means anything, it means not only before but ever after birth. No one can make it alone, no matter how a strong a character they have.


    On Common Ground Columnist & Editor, Nonviolent Choice Directory

  • grayduck

    Marysia on February 16, 2010 – 12:49pm: "Men who are hungry, homeless, jobless, beset by racism, sick or dying from lack of access to free/affordable health care–they like women have a lot of trouble taking care of the children they conceive if we do not all pitch in and help."

     

    That does not describe the typical man who impregnates a woman who goes on to get an abortion. Eighty-five percent of the women are not even married- and that does not even count the Tiger Woods, John Edwards, and Mark Sanford type of situations in which the man tries to pressure a woman he impregnated through adultery into aborting. In all but rare circumstances, these are scumbags who are fully capable of raising their children but choose to try to dump the responsibility on to the rest of us.

     

    The problem is not that we are not "pitching in and helping," the problem that they are not pitching in and helping. They are going around trying to impregnate women and then trying to get other people to raise the children so they can buy drugs instead.

     

    http://www.abortiondiscussion.com

  • prochoiceferret

    In all but rare circumstances, these are scumbags who are fully capable of raising their children but choose to try to dump the responsibility on to the rest of us.

    Please provide evidence for this assertion.