Updated: Jun 30
I believe we can separate Americans into roughly three groups when it comes to attitudes on abortion. There is a small group, let’s say maybe 10-15%, who believe a human fetus is just another piece of tissue, and have no more qualms over removing it than a tumor. On the other end, for arguments sake assume maybe another 10-15%, there are those who believe the moment of fertilization creates another human being whose creation is God’s will even in circumstances of rape and incest, and believe its destruction is murder, holding the same rights as the mother, no exceptions allowed. I claim no polling in support of the above numbers, but I think everyone can agree they are a rational guess.
That leaves 70-80% of the rest of us, who believe there is something special about an unborn child, even at the early stages of development, but also believe there are exceptions where abortion is justified. So, if most of us are in basic agreement, why does this issue continue to divide the country like no other?
I am an optimist (my wife believes to a fault), and I believe that if that 70% of us would actually talk to each other, we could come to an agreeable solution on this issue. Think I’m crazy? Read on.
Although I believe that 70-80% are in general agreement, I also think many have not taken the trouble to think through how a fair anti-abortion law would work. For the last fourteen years, I have been asking the following question: Let’s say we outlawed abortion except for rape, incest or if the life or health of the mother is in danger. Next morning, two 15-year old girls present themselves claiming they’ve been raped. One is telling the truth, the other is lying. How do you tell the difference?
Some have said “Do a police investigation”. Do you know how long police investigations take? In the case of abortion, it’s in everyone’s interest to do the procedure at the earliest stage possible. How do you protect the rights of the real victim? What if the girl names her attacker, and the boy claims it was consensual? In a ‘he said/she said’ situation, who gets the benefit of the doubt? And who gets to decide?
What if you’re a young couple who gets the heartbreaking news that your unborn child cannot survive outside of the womb, and that continuing to carry the child might make it impossible to have another baby. (This is not hypothetical, a good friend of ours faced this exact situation.) After you consult with your religious leader and receive confirmation through many agonizing tears and prayers, you decide on an abortion. Would you want some government bureaucrat to have veto power over your decision?
I have been accused of using these questions as rhetorical devices to justify unlimited abortions. I assure you that is not true. As a father of four and grandfather of eleven, I am as passionate about the sacredness of unborn life as anyone – and to those who would argue otherwise, I would refer you to the first few versus of Matthew 7. These are difficult questions – but my life’s work has been about solving difficult problems. It’s important to recognize a solution that satisfies the two extremes is not possible, sort of by definition, but I am confident we could bring the rest of us together, find a reasonable compromise solution, and stop demonizing each other over abortion and get to work on other pressing problems.
Part of a good problem-solving team is to keep an open mind and not prejudge the solution. Having said that, surely part of any solution to the abortion question would involve addressing the root cause and preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place? President Jimmy Carter once said, “Every baby conceived deserves to be a wanted child”. It’s hard to believe anyone would disagree with that. I also believe an effective solution should include more carrots and fewer sticks in helping women with unwanted pregnancies to carry the baby to term, so deserving couples who cannot have children have opportunities for adoption. More support for poor single moms would be another suggestion; surveys confirm many women have abortions for the simple reason that they cannot afford to support a child. Hence the reason abortion rates are so low in nations with strong social safety nets.
After I’m elected, I invite anyone of good will in the Legislature to join me in this conversation. Although I am an optimist (see above), I do worry few from the pro-life side will accept my invitation. Why? Because it would risk taking away a tool many of them love to use to demonize their political opponents. I wouldn’t be surprised during the current campaign if some person or group took something in this blog post out of context and went public with the old accusation of “baby killer”.
Time will tell, but the invitation is there, and it’s sincere.