South Dakota’s new law banning abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother appeals to my theology and my philosophy even if my instinct for realpolitik questions the strategy. Governor Mike Rounds signed the bill earlier this week, setting up a showdown with Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations that may take the pitched battle all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
According to a FOX news poll this week, 83% of Americans defend abortion rights if a pregnancy places the mother’s life at risk. Some 62% still think abortion should be a legal choice if the mother’s mental health is at risk (How does one define mental health?). The poll revealed that about 49% of Americans say they are pro-choice and 41% say they are pro-life.
So, given the tenuousness of American outlook on the subject, while my pro-life perspective applauds South Dakota’s new law, I wonder whether this all or nothing approach is the best way to chip away at abortion “rights.” Going for the political juggler may appeal to the idealists and ideologues among us, but it may not get us the result we ultimately want. I especially don’t want a re-energized pro-choice movement.
Recently I’ve been a little encouraged, primarily because the pro-choice movement is discouraged. In an article entitled “Reality Check for ‘Roe,’” in its March 6, 2006 issue, Newsweek reported that about two out of three Americans favor some kind of restrictions on abortion. And the same article written by Martha Brant and Evan Thomas actually stated that, lo and behold, “anecdotal evidence is growing that women have moral qualms about any abortion, even if they feel compelled to have one.”
In a nod to the morally clueless, Brant and Thomas quote abortion clinic operator Peg Johnston for noting that her patients were using words like “killing” and “babies.” Johnston said, “I started really tuning in to my patients and I realized, ‘She really feels that way.” Did you get that? Johnston is actually perplexed maybe amazed that a mother believes she is carrying a baby and that abortion is killing. Johnston needs to catch up with the times. Even Hillary Clinton is now calling abortion a “tragic choice,” so the pro-abortion movement is on a bit of a defensive.
Abortion is a tragic choice. It’s tragic because it does not have to happen and because a human life is snuffed out. It’s a choice because individuals are making a conscious decision to do something their moral center tells them is wrong.
Our culture has tried euphemisms—it’s a fetus. We’ve tried straw woman arguments—it must be legalized so we can stop back alley coat hanger abortions. We’ve argued abortion is about privacy and a woman’s right to choose—it’s about men and women not owning their moral responsibilities to abstain from sex that leads to pregnancy, or to take appropriate birth control steps to prevent pregnancy, or to assume parental obligations their actions have produced—or should I say reproduced?
So, yes, my pro-life wishes are encouraged, and I salute the South Dakota pols who had the political will to do what they did. I hope it works.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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