On Abortion: Pull to the Center

The issue of whether or not abortion should be legal in the United States has become once again a very contentious issue in the United State with the United States Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that made a woman’s right to chose to have an abortion a Constitutionally guaranteed right. Some people will argue that abortion never was not a very contentious issue but I think for many Americans the issue had subsided overtime as a driving political force. Many if not most Americans, whether they felt legal abortion was right or wrong, should be legal or illegal, had become accustomed to the status quo. Whether or not becoming accustomed to the status quo is a good thing or not I think depends a great deal on your opinion on abortion.

One of the problems, as I see it, in coming to a consensus, or at least a viable legal framework to deal with the issue of abortion, is that the national debate about the issue is dominated by either the extreme pro-choice adherents or the extreme anti-abortion adherents. I use the term pro-choice and anti-abortion because I think those are the most accurate terms. I don’t think its fair to characterize those who want abortion to be legal to say they are pro-abortion or anti-life, although such people do exist, any more than its fair to characterize those who think abortion should be illegal to characterize them as anti-choice or anti-woman, although again such people do exist.

 An extreme position on any issue is not necessarily wrong but it is a position that makes it difficult to arrive at a consensus in a democratic country. What I would consider an extreme position on the pro-choice side is that no restrictions upon a woman’s right to an abortion should be allowed. I’ve heard some express that abortion even up to just prior to giving birth should be allowed without any restrictions. I don’t agree with this position and I don’t really think many who consider themselves generally to be pro-choice do either. On the anti-abortion side, I consider the position that even an abortion to save the mother’s life should be illegal to be an extreme position. I don’t agree with this position and I don’t think many who consider themselves generally to be anti-abortion do either.

One of the problems with the debate in the United States is that both sides seek to further their own positions, and fund raise, by characterizing those on the other side based on the other side’s most extreme adherents. Anti-abortion activists too often characterize those with pro-choice views as heartless hedonists and baby killers seeking to destroy all things sacred, even if not using such words. Pro-choice activists too often characterize those with anti-abortion views as religious zealots and male chauvinists seeking to confine women back into the kitchen with the children, even if not using such words. Such rhetoric doesn’t help our country reach a consensus, if a workable consensus is what we want as a nation to reach.

Our political system, which favors those on the extremes in the primaries and then those more toward the middle in general elections, also does not help us reach a workable consensus. Often the issue in the general election is won by the candidate who is not forced into the most extreme position in the primary. Our media, which too often panders either to the left or the right, also does nothing to help us reach a consensus but is instead more interested in inflaming temperaments.

I write this short missive not because I think I have all the answers or that my own personal position on the issue is necessarily the correct one, but I write because I believe that for the sake of the nation more people who are not on either of the two extremes need to engage with the issue. Both extremes rely to a certain extent on amplifying the voices on the other extreme to demonstrate the danger of the “other side” while ignoring the vast majority who reside somewhere between the extremes. As a nation we need to pull the conversation and debate to the center to reach a workable consensus.