Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Compromise, Not Likely

Back in early June, the well-meaning William Saletan wrote for an article entitled "Let's Make an Abortion Deal," subtitled "Four recommendations for Obama's common-ground talks." He urged both sides of the debate to "watch the president's Cairo speech. He's making serious concessions and taking real risks," while (digression alert) failing to notice the brunt of blame placed by Obama on the Europeans and the Israelis.

Saletan encouraged pro-life activists and pro-choice activists to be more respectful and accomodating of the other and makes to each two suggestions for overcoming distrust. To the latter group he recommends: don't blame the entire pro-life movement for the murder by one individual of Dr. Tiller, performer of late-term abortions; and support not only the need to reduce abortions, but the number of abortions itself. To the pro-life group he recommends: don't reflexively oppose contraception; and in trying to reduce the number of abortions, consider supporting the funding of "the family planning organizations you keep trying to defund."

Mr. Saletan, and Representative Tim Ryan (D.- Ohio) have received one answer to their effort to achieve common ground. From The Vindicator of Eastern Ohio:

Upset by what is sees as U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan abandoning his pro-life position, Democrats For Life of America removed the congressman from its national advisory board.

“DFLA gave Congressman Ryan ample opportunities to prove he’s committed to protecting life, but he has turned his back on the community at every turn,” said Kristen Day, the Washington, D.C.-based pro-life organization’s executive director.

Ryan of Niles, D-17th, insists he’s still a strong pro-life advocate, but grew frustrated with Democrats For Life of America and other pro-life groups that refuse to accept contraceptives as an option to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

“We’re working in Congress with groups that agree with preventative options while [the DFLA] is getting left behind,” Ryan said. “I can’t figure out for the life of me how to stop pregnancies without contraception. Don’t be mad at me for wanting to solve the problem.”

This is not surprising, given that the anti-abortion rights movement truly is pro-life; or, rather, pro-conception. Take a trip back to early autumn of last year. The GOP, the party heavy on personal morality such as abstinence among the unmarried and teenagers, reacts to the pregnancy of Bristol Palin. Would Republicans lament the breakdown of sexual morality among the young? Most of us thought so, but were wrong:

The early response among Republicans to the announcement that Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old daughter of GOP VP hopeful Sarah Palin, is pregnant, has been calm and collected....

Republicans have either taken the line that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a personal matter for Palin and her family, or they are suggesting that it is a situation that lots of normal Americans can relate to, either from their own family history or that or friends and classmates.

"I don't think this is going to be a big deal down the stretch" of the 2008 election, said a top House Republican aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"It's nobody's business but the Palins," added another Senate GOP leadership staffer

Was this the America's conservative party, characterized by steadfast resistance to changing mores? Or was this the GOP hypocritically refusing to condemn (the daughter of) one of its own? Neither. It was pro-life and pro-conception, consistent with God's admonition to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 8:17b)- to Noah over 4,000 years ago.

Certainly many, perhaps a majority, of people opposed to a right to an abortion support contraception. Still, the opposition of many of the extremists to prevention of pregnancy may be in part a throwback to the Old Testament- and prevents an obstacle to the common ground William Saletan and some others think they can help bring about.

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