Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Time to end the abortion wars

Any honest assessment of the political polarization in this country during the past 33 years has to account for the role of abortion politics. With the election of several pro-life democrats in this year's midterm elections, the emergence of late-term abortion adjudication, and the defeat of a sweeping proposal to ban all abortions in South Dakota, I suggest that the time for a compromise on abortion is upon us.

Public opinion on abortion is far less volatile and demonstrates much more overlap that politicians eager to exploit a hot-button issue for political gain will often admit. The vast majority of people share widespread potential to agree on the following broad principles:

1. Abortion should not be outlawed completely. Life and health of the woman (to varying degrees) as well as conditions that absolve the woman from moral responsibility for pregnancy are widely recognized as justifications for abortions. If they are to be allowed in any cases, they should be safe, legal, and equitably available.

2. Abortion is less effective than other forms of available birth control technology. Widespread support for sex education, birth control information, and birth control technology should be able to reduce unwanted pregnancies considerably, reducing the significance of abortion except in the seriously justifiable cases listed above.

3. Unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy that can be reduced if we put aside our ideological and senseless fight over abortion. Jobs, health care, education, job training, housing, income support, education loans, adoption, and a host of other sensible and useful approaches (public and private) are KNOWN to reduce unwanted pregnancies by reducing the desperation that can sometimes confront a woman considering abortion.

Ultimately, the decision is not one that men can or should make for women, but there is merit and good public policy in striving to make abortion safe and legal while genuinely rare. However, this sensible approach requires compromise. Each side has a good opportunity right now to let the abortion issue go as a political football and fashion a meaningful compromise in which neither side realizes its absolute and uncompromising vision, but both sides are able to agree on their common goals and improve the lives of millions in the process.

Did we elect political leaders on Tuesday with the courage and the vision to make this dream come true? If you agree with me, help me put pressure on politicians from both sides of the Aisle to make this or a similarly reasonable compromise a reality. With the abortion issue off the table, there is almost no limit to the progress we can make as Americans.

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