Sunday, August 21, 2005

Choice is the Central Issue in the Abortion Debate

A few months ago I attempted to approach the issue of abortion in a reasonable manner since both sides of the discussion often seem to be incapable of civil discourse. With the recent Supreme Court vacancy, once again the issue of legalized abortion is in the news so I thought it would be appropriate to emphasize a couple of key points.

Even before their horrific showing in the 2004 election there was lots of discussion among Democrats on the issue of “framing.” In short, many political analysts have noted that the Democrats suffer from an inability to portray issues in ways that are conducive to their positions, while the Republicans have been extremely successful in this regard. A classic example is how the GOP turned the issue of the estate tax into the “death tax” or tax cuts in general into “tax relief.”

A number of influential political commentators, including Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine, believe that in order to court “values” voters the Democrats need to moderate their position on abortion. Hillary Clinton seems to have gotten this message as well given some of her recent speeches. While decreasing abortions is a laudable goal (even if the rate of abortion is much more dependent on basic economics prosperity than on specific policies aimed at women– which is why abortions decreased dramatically during the booming 1990s and have risen since Bush took office), I think it is a big mistake for Democrats to de-emphasize their pro-choice position; i.e. this is the correct frame.

The GOP position, despite its pro-life label, is ultimately anti-choice and this is what needs to be driven home. If the GOP had its way it would be illegal for a woman to have an abortion, period. People need to seriously think about that. It means that if a woman got pregnant by accident and did not want to conceive then she would have one of two choices: either have a baby that she does not want or sacrifice her body for nine months so that her baby could be given to someone else. In effect, women would become reproducing agents of the state. The reality is that until we have 100% perfect contraception (which is extremely unlikely) and people who are 100% responsible (an impossibility) we are going to live in a society in which there are unintended pregnancies. In the GOP’s ideal world those women would be forced by the government to have those babies; there’s simply no other way so spin it.

In summary, no one on the Left or Right is pro-abortion, and no one is opposed to giving women additional opportunities and information so that they can make the best choices. But again, the issue is choice, and only one Party believes that women have the right to the choice of an abortion. The pro-life position, despite its many inconsistencies and contradictions, is at its most basic level the anti-choice position and this should not be forgotten.

J.S.

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