But there is more common ground among opposing sides than is realized. And there would be even more yet if the issue were discussed and portrayed in a rational way that sought mutually agreeable solutions rather than unconditional victories, particularly solutions that are consistent with those principles in many other areas of life that involve relevantly similar moral features (good samaritanism, normal privacy freedoms and limitations, definitions and consequences of negligence, responsibility limitations in non-negligent accident, etc.) areas where we already have accepted law and public consensus, or at least less divisive debate about which laws ought to be changed and what the content of the new laws ought to be (such as conditions allowing the withdrawal of life-support).
Many pro-life and pro-choice advocates cannot even accurately state the other sides' position; and many people cannot even state their own position in a way they would be comfortable with after even just a few questions that get them to reflect on it. Almost no pro-choice advocate believes, for example, that giving a woman choice over whether to have an abortion or not means that she cannot make a wrong choice or choice that she would regret -- a choice made, and honored, say, in a moment of panic or fear, or a choice made on wrong information about the health of the fetus, the likely future quality of life of her child, or insufficient information about the resources available to help her have, care for, and successfully rear a healthy child. Almost no pro-choice advocate believes that abortion should be a person's chosen first-line method of birth control or method of gender determination. Almost no pro-choice advocate believes that promiscuity or sexual irresponsibility (male or female) is a good thing or that either ought to be encouraged. Almost no pro-choice advocate thinks that teen-age sex or teen-age pregnancy is a good thing. Almost no pro-choice advocate believes that abortion is or ought to be considered a casual event or that it should be undertaken without reverence and respect for the life or potential life that is being ended. Almost none but the most zealous pro-life advocates think babies should be made to be born if that means they only suffer painfully and prolongedly until they die with nothing to somehow make up for that suffering. Almost no pro-life advocate can consistently maintain for any length of time their initial view that quantity of life is more important than quality, or, put in another way, that life under all circumstances is better than, and preferable to death under any circumstance. (They would have to disavow Patrick Henry's revered statement "Give me liberty or give me death", for example.) Almost no pro-choice advocate thinks abortion is a good thing; but many simply think it is sometimes the best of a bunch of bad options; and that it would be better if women's other options were better so that abortion would not have to be chosen. Pro-choice advocates would prefer to see fewer abortions chosen voluntarily -- not by making abortion even less desirable due to more punishment, but by making the other alternative (in regard to having and rearing one's children reasonably) proportionally more desirable than it currently is. Almost no pro-life advocate argues that it is better to force women to have babies they do not want than to help them want the babies they might have.
This booklet tries, first, to show what the worst and least relevant, least valid, of the abortion arguments from both sides are; second, to show what the real issues are, and how many of them relate to areas of settled law and accepted, or acceptably changing, public moral opinion; and third, it tries to offer some solutions that might be acceptable to, a much greater majority of Americans -- particularly with modifications that others might suggest -- than current law or any of the proposed laws I have seen yet. Even if some of my particular ideas are wrong, I believe my approach points the way to a far better way to focus the debate and deal with the issue of abortion, which the Congress or state governments may eventually have to.
The point of this is to try to make the debate more rational, more productive, and less divisive by (1) searching for the most common ground possible, (2) pointing out morally relevant similarities to other areas of life that are not controversial, (3) eliminating the common illogical and confusing arguments, (4) discussing the real needs of pregnant women and mothers, and seeking to find out what acceptable laws and social changes might be necessary and sufficient to bring about more uncoerced and truly voluntary choices for birth rather than abortion, and (5) fostering awareness of more reasonably effective ways of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Then, after that we can perhaps leave to pure politics and power struggles the far fewer kinds of cases that might not be mutually resolved.
Appendix I is a curtailed version of some of the ideas expressed in the main body of this booklet. It was written at a different time primarily for those interested in introducing programs that help solve the abortion problem and that help resolve the controversy. I believe it depicts at least the minimal understanding legislators ought to have before enacting laws related to abortion.
The Use of Hypothetical Situations
A Note About Terminology
Similarly, when I talk about "fetal life" or "death", I do not mean to imply "life" or "death" as in following birth. Nor do I now mean to imply that they are necessarily different. The use of the terms by themselves is not meant to imply something not stated. I generally use the words "terminating the fetus" instead of "killing" the fetus because I do think "killing" has particular, strong connotations, but I realize "terminating" may be too cold and dispassionate for many. Again, nothing is meant to be hidden by my choice of words; I am only trying to stay as neutral in use of language as possible. My specific, individual arguments are not neutral and their meanings are not hidden.
The Abortion Debate
Purposes of this Paper
Abortion is often debated as a women's rights issue or as a rights issue
for the unborn. It is neither. It would be wrong to protect women's rights
by simply ignoring the case for the unborn; and it would be wrong to protect
the unborns' rights by simply ignoring the case for women. The issue is.......