Abortion is one of those issues that is ultimately a lose-lose proposition morally and politically. The culture wars divide between pro-life and pro-choice leaves most Americans somewhere in a murky middle. The problem with the debate as it now stands is that too often forgets the people involved. Abortion is a response to a difficult situation. No one sets out in life to have an abortion, abortions happen because life has taken a difficult turn.
I've known teen age girls who have carried a child to term and offered it up for adoption. But doing this interrupts life and makes the future difficult. I've known teen age girls who have gotten pregnant and married as a teen. It's difficult, but with a lot parental/community support it can succeed -- but more often than not doesn't. I know of a case of a young woman who got pregnant while a student at a Christian college. I learned years later that before she ever started showing her parents arranged for her to have an abortion. Sometimes it's a matter of a mother's life or the life of a fetus. Nothing about this issue is clear cut, but there are ways we can reduce the numbers, if only we're willing to make prenatal and postnatal care and support available, along with providing the necessary education about the birds and the bees so young people can have enough information to keep themselves safe and not pregnant.
E.J. Dionne has written an intriguing column today in the Washington Post. He speaks of initiatives on the part of Democratic legislators that seek to bring together pro-life and pro-choice advocates to find a way of actually reducing the overall number of abortions by reducing the need for them. Instead of working to make them illegal, they seek to find a solution to the root causes. These initiatives focus on the broad range of abortions, most of which happen early in pregnancy. What Dionne does is show us that the key to an effective response is to recognize that the majority of abortions happen to poor women. Thus health/financial support can help reduce abortions. He also points out that the big bugaboo of partial birth abortions represents just .o8% of all abortions, with the vast majority occurring in the first trimester. Thus focusing on this portion of abortions will do little to reduce the number of abortions.
I think I'm part of that vast gray area of Americans that wishes for a reduction in the number of abortions, but wish to keep it legal and at the discretion of doctors and patients. At the same time, let's do all we can to educate ourselves on the best methods of prevention. Of course, this brings up the sore subject of President's appointment of an anti-contraceptives person to the Health/Human Services position that overseas family planning.
As usual the truth is likely to be found in the middle -- so let's see if we can't find the third way.