January 23, 2006
How To Form An Argument Without Alienating People
I thought this op-ed in yesterday's NY Times was right on the money:
Every year, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers add up the fetuses killed since Roe and pray for the outlawing of abortion. And every year, pro-choicers fret that we're one Supreme Court justice away from losing "the right to choose." One side is so afraid of freedom it won't trust women to do the right thing. The other side is so afraid of morality it won't name the procedure we're talking about.
It's time to shake up this debate. It's time for the abortion-rights movement to declare war on abortion...
Once you agree that the goal is fewer abortions, the only thing left to debate is how to get there. As a politician might put it: "My opponent and I are both pro-life. We want to avoid as many abortions as we can. The difference is, I trust women to work with me toward that objective, and he doesn't."
Isn't that better than anything you heard from John Kerry?
The problem with using restrictions to reduce the number of abortions isn't that the restrictions are judgmental. It's that they're crude. They leap too easily from judgment to legislation and criminalization. They drag police officers, prosecutors and politicians into personal tragedies. Most people don't want such intrusion. But you lose them up front by refusing to concede that there's anything wrong with abortion. You have to offer them anti-abortion results (fewer abortions) without anti-abortion laws.
The pro-choice path to those results is simple. Help every woman when she doesn't want an abortion: before she's pregnant. That means abstinence for those who can practice it, and contraception for everybody else. Nearly half of the unintended pregnancies in this country result in abortions, and at least half of our unintended pregnancies are attributable to women who didn't use contraception. The pregnancy rate among these women astronomically exceeds the pregnancy rate among women who use contraception. The No. 1 threat to the unborn isn't the unchurched. It's the unprotected.
Solutions are already on the table. Give more money to Title X, the federal program that finances family-planning. Expand health insurance and access to morning-after pills. Educate teenagers about sex, birth control and abstinence. Many of these ideas are in the Prevention First Act, which Democrats ritually file and Republicans ritually ignore. Some pro-choice activists would go further, by pushing for more contraceptive diligence in the abortion counseling process, especially on the part of those women who come back for a second abortion. What's missing is a clear anti-abortion message to unite these proposals.