Abortion: Focusing on the real issues, not the distractions

Planned-Parenthood-aAbortion opponents often like to dwell on minutia, such as whether or not Planned Parenthood profits from making embryonic organs available for life-saving research. If not that, then they like to have absolute answers to esoteric questions like what is the meaning of life. What most opponents of abortion do not do very well is to look at abortion as a vexing problems that challenges the mind and heart of any woman facing an unplanned, or even unwanted, pregnancy. Pro-choice supporters seem to have more empathy for the mother. And that is certainly needed, since there are few times in life when any individual faces a more difficult question than whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.

We are becoming more and more aware that one of the defining differences between progressives and conservatives is where they fall on the empathy continuum. There is clearly an empathy gap with progressives not only feeling far more than conservatives, but also looking for societal responses to aid those among us who need help..

Driven in part by a lack of empathy towards a woman facing a reproductive choice, conservatives have succeeded in making it much more difficult for American women, particularly those who are not wealthy, to have access to abortion facilities. First, they barred most hospitals that receive federal money from performing abortions, thus eliminating the most logical and convenient venue for a woman seeking an out-patient procedure where she could discuss and possibly terminate a pregnancy. Next, conservatives made the licensing of abortion facilities much more difficult and expensive than they were immediately following the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. Currently, six states have only one clinic providing safe, legal abortions (Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming). Combined with parental permission regulations, what is a fifteen year old pregnant girl to do if she becomes pregnant (possibly from someone living in her own household) and she lives miles from a clinic?

Most clinics, especially those run by Planned Parenthood, will not provide abortion services without first discussing options with the pregnant woman. The three options are (a) carrying the pregnancy to term, with the biological mother keeping the child, (b) carrying the pregnancy to term and placing the child for adoption, or (c) terminating the pregnancy. These are difficult decisions. Planned Parenthood tries not to overload pregnant women with arguments based on emotion and laced with guilt. Planned Parenthood respects the minds and hearts of the women who seek their services, offering comfort and supportive discussion as a woman moves towards a decision.

Organizations like Medical Students for Choice see abortion as part of mainstream medicine. As such, there should be a sufficient number of OB/GYNs trained to perform abortions. The doctors need support staff to help women with their decisions, and facilities should certainly be as numerous as there are fully-staffed hospitals in the community.

Conservatives drive our attention to superfluous considerations. By distracting us from the real needs of women, they allow the conversation to become vitriolic and accusatory. Empathy is thrown out the window. One could reasonably argue that progressives have more empathy for the fetus than opponents of abortion, because progressives support a lifelong safety-net for the child.

There are many reasons why a woman might seek an abortion. Who are we as society to judge which, if any, reasons are good and which are not? What we as a society can do is to be compassionate and understanding.That includes removing barriers to facilities where a woman can peacefully make her decision.

Those who are pro-choice need to move the conversation away from innocuous secret videos to the real concerns of women facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. As we do so, we must also make a variety of birth control available to women and men. We will show how much we value life by how much we value the quality of life.

Clinics that perform abortions are in the cross-hairs of those who oppose choice. These clinics must quietly go about their business and not engage in rhetoric, even dialogue that can inflame opponents of abortion. That is why those of us who are pro-choice, and who are not associated with a choice clinic, have a special obligation to advance the conversation by focusing on the real issues rather than the distractions.