Thursday, January 05, 2006

What's the Point of the Abortion War?

Prolifers and prochoicers tend to see one another as monsters. To the pro choice, prolifers are slavering maniacs who want to shoot doctors and who don't care if women suffer and/or die. To the pro life, prochoicers are slavering maniacs who want to puree fetuses and who don't care if women suffer and/or die.

Okay, so there seems to be an agreement that prolifers have no love lost for abortionists, and prochoicers don't lose any sleep over a dead fetus (unless it's their own wanted fetus, but that's a further entanglement). Overall, prolifers don't have the well being of abortionists at the head of their list of concerns, and prochoicers don't have the well being of fetuses at the head of their list of concerns. That's agreed. So let's set that aside for a moment.

We still have each side of the abortion battle equally convinced that the other side considers women to be expendable cannon fodder in the Culture War. How have we developed a social battle in which each side is convinced that they alone stand for the rights, safety, lives, and well being of the very same group of people?

Prochoicers have a legitimate concern. It's not easy to confront the bodies of women who died from criminal abortions or self-induced abortions and not want to do something to prevent further carnage. But likewise, prolifers have a legitimate concern. They, too, see the bodies of women dead from botched abortions and want to prevent further carnage.

So here are two groups of people. Each wants to prevent the same tragedy: the woman lying in a pool of blood, abandoned to die of a botched abortion. So why are they at each others' throats?

My son says it's because "the world is full of stupid people." Well, each side sees it that way. The prochoicers believe that if those pig headed prolifers would just leave abortion legal and allow the pro choice movement to police its own, there would be no problem. The prolifers wonder why the pig headed prochoicers are so upset over Geraldine Santoro, who's been dead over 30 years, and so indifferent to women who are dying now.

When you get concerned individual pro life and pro choice people together, and get them to drop their preconceptions and rhetoric, there is a lot of agreement. Abortion should be subject to at the very least the same supervision as, say, any other gynecological surgery. Quacks should not be permitted to practice abortion. Special vulnerabilities of women contemplating abortion should be taken into account when abortion practice is being supervised.

If we agree on so much, why are we fighting so much?

I have seen no evidence of a huge contingent of people who look at the practices of the likes of Bruce Steir (rhymes with "fear") with great contentment and satisfaction. Most people I've communicated with, when presented with Steir's history, roundly condemn him. And there is no big pro life/pro choice split on the matter. There are a few pro choice people (very loud and conspicuous ones) who seem to worship the ground Steir walks upon, and who seem to consider him a hero on a par with Albert Schweitzer. There are a few pro life people (very loud and conspicuous ones) who seem to think the only legitimate use for Steir is for target practice. The vast majority of people, however, seem to have no use for the likes of Steir and believe that he should be given a nice little locked room in which to contemplate his crimes.

So who is the enemy here? Why can't we join forces and lock up the Steirs? Why aren't we working together on the vast areas of agreement? Why aren't pro life and pro choice people working together to eliminate unwanted abortion? To lock up dangerous quack abortionists? To try to make sure that the women who are, indeed, dead set on abortion actually survive (be it to celebrate their freedom or to repent their sins)?

I could say, "If I had the answer to that, I'd be rich." The truth is, if I had the answer to that, I'd have a lot of free time. And God knows I have plenty of other things I'd love to be doing with my time besides wrestling with people I agree with.

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