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Today's column by E.J. Dionne looks at a place that many consider mythology: the middle ground on abortion. The effect of Roe v Wade has created such polarization that absolutists have held rhetorical attention for years. Only recently have people on both sides attempted to reach out for a pragmatic solution that allows everyone to maintain their political positions while cooperating on reducing abortions, a development that Dionne challenges both sides to support:
[T]here is a new argument on abortion that may establish a more authentic middle ground. It would use government not to outlaw abortion altogether but to reduce its likelihood. And at least one politician, Thomas R. Suozzi, the county executive of New York's Nassau County, has shown that the position involves more than soothing rhetoric.
Last May Suozzi, a Democrat, gave an important speech calling on both sides to create "a better world where there are fewer unplanned pregnancies, and where women who face unplanned pregnancies receive greater support and where men take more responsibility for their actions."
Last week Suozzi put money behind his words. He announced nearly $1 million in county government grants to groups ranging from Planned Parenthood to Catholic Charities for an array of programs -- adoption and housing, sex education, and abstinence promotion -- to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to help pregnant women who want to bring their children into the world. Suozzi calls his initiative "Common Sense for the Common Good" and, as Newsday reported, he was joined at his news conference by people at both ends of the abortion debate.
This new strategy allows the political debate to continue on abortion while government and private resources get used to save the lives of babies in the meantime. It's not the perfect solution, or more accurately, not the perfect resolution both sides want in the long term. In the short term, however, it helps reduce the heat and makes the choice for abortion less common.
Dionne acknowledges that this will not satisfy partisans on either side. As a near-absolutist on pro-life side (I can see exceptions for rape and incest), it doesn't go far enough for me, either. However, it does show progress, and if it saves the lives of babies while the grown-ups sit around and debate the issue, that sounds like a worthwhile effort to me.
As Dionne points out, the end of Roe will not mean an end to abortion. Practically speaking, all it will mean is that abortions will be legal in all states until their legislatures debate and issue new legislation. Most states will probably keep abortion legal, if restricted by age and the stage of pregnancy. Congress could even take up the issue on a federal level. For many, the greater issue for Roe is the corrosive effect of an overly-activist Supreme Court and not the specific issue of abortion, and leaving the latter to the legislatures suits us fine.
If we really want to end abortion, we need to provide support and incentives for pregnant women to keep their children. Surely reasonable people from both sides of the debate can come together to acknowledge that much and gear existing programs and funds towards that goal. Perhaps we can one day make the abortion debate strictly academic.Sphere It View blog reactions
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