Friday, July 3, 2009

Searching for Common Ground

Sometimes you read something that just makes you want to bang your head against your computer screen. I just read an article by Steve Waldman, editor of Beliefnet which consisted of an email transcript between Steve and pro-life blogger Jill Stanek.

Steve Waldman is one of many evangelical leaders who are advocating common ground amongst pro-life and pro-choice groups to reduce abortion. His "common ground fantasy" consists of pro-life leaders standing up and declaring, “We will be open to looking at family planning efforts, including contraception, to reduce the number of abortions.” This would be followed by a pro-choicer saying, “We accept that society would be better if there were fewer abortions.” Seems like a reasonable step in the right direction to me.

Jill Stanek, however, is not interested in any common ground and opposes any and all forms of abortion. She also supports making any and all forms of abortion illegal, an important distinction between those who may be personally pro-life but don't think that government should interfere in that decision, or possibly that government should interfere, but only after a certain point or in a certain case (i.e. if the woman is a minor, if the baby is viable, if there are health concerns for the mother and/or baby, etc.)

Tellingly, she is also opposed to any and all forms of contraception, the heart of the discussion in this particular exchange with Waldman. Waldman asks:

Jill, I'm curious about something.... IF family planning could be disentangled from Planned Parenthood funding, would you support it? (By the way, by family planning I mean education and health care that includes abstinence education and birth control education)

Jill responds, No, I would only support abstinence training with perhaps an explanation of the harm of contraceptives - the failure rate, that the pill is composed of artificial female steroids, etc.(Hormonal contraceptives are bad for women.

The failure rate is actually very low, and increases when not used correctly. (an argument for providing information on correct usage) You can also see my post here as to why hormonal contraceptives are not bad for most women. Continuing her response:

We don't have training on how to drink alcohol, which we oppose, but here's how to drink if you must. We don't have training on how to take drugs, which we oppose, but here's how to shoot up if you must.

Steve, comprehensive sex ed has ruled the roost for over 40 years and is an astounding miserable failure. It has only increased the volume of kids having sex, getting abortions, and catching STDs (which are now out of control)

Actually in regards to alcohol, we kind of do. For example, my parents explained to me the dangers of alcohol, but insisted that if I was going to drink I should never under any circumstances get behind the wheel. They didn't leave me ignorant about the dangers of drinking and driving because they didn't want me to drink. In the same way, I don't think we should leave young adults ignorant about the dangers of having unprotected sex because we don't want them to have sex.

In regards to "shooting up drugs" that is illegal and dangerous for people of all ages. Sex, on the other hand, is natural and biological, so I don't think it's a great comparison.

The last point is probably the craziest one. First of all, federal funding has actually been given to abstinence only education over the last 8 years and it is only recently with the new administration that this is beginning to change. Unfortunately, federal funding for abstinence did not reduce the number of teens having sex, and actually increased the teen pregnancy rate after it had previously been on the decline for 14 years.

This does not mean that we need a "contraceptive only" message, but rather that a combined approach would be more effective

In the exchange between Waldman and Stanek, Ms. Stanek states:

The thing for the other side to acknowledge is that all statistics show comprehensive sex ed and "family planning" (widespread contraceptive distribution) have only served to increase illicit sexual activity and its consequences.

Not only is this untrue, but also reinforces the idea of a baby as "punishment" for sexual activity that many conservatives lambasted.

But it gets crazier.

One potential action of hormonal contraceptives is to abort a 5-9 day old preborn baby. And that's all IUDs do - abort.

~ Birth control works in 3 ways:

1. Prevents ovulation (the release of an egg during the monthly cycle) no egg = no baby.
2. Thickens the mucus around the cervix, which makes it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and reach any eggs that may have been released
3. Affects the lining of the uterus in a way that prevents fertilized eggs from implanting into the wall of the uterus

In most cases, hormonal birth control simply prevents ovulation. And IUD does not prevent ovulation but prevents fertilization of the egg, and also affects the uterine lining.

The definition of pregnancy accepted by the American Medical Association the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is that pregnancy begins at implantation. Although there has been some debate in some medical journals in regards to that definition, hormonal birth control and IUDs are generally not classified as abortifacients except by few extreme pro-life groups who not only want to eliminate abortion but also contraception, as is made quite clear by Jill's statement next statement here:

Contraceptives are the root of abortion. "Contraceptive" means anti-conception. Contraceptives establish a mindset of hostility toward the blessing of children.

I just don't even know where to start here. Of course children are a blessing, but most women simply don't follow the "Quiverfull" method which forgoes all methods of birth control, including natural family planning, and have as many children as God and her body will allow. (an example would be Michelle Duggar...the 18 and counting Michelle Duggar). It's just not practical. And if we start going the route of classifying birth control as abortion, it's going to have dangerous consequences. People like Jill Stanek want abortion to be illegal. They also think birth control is a form of abortion. Therefore, logic would follow that they want birth control to be illegal.

It just seems like the pro-life movement is stabbing itself in the foot when it has leaders like Jill Stanek who refuse to budge. As I've said before, only those losing appeal for compromise. Winners don't have to and shouldn't. At any rate, pro-lifers never will.

I think they need to realize that even people who are pro-choice want to eliminate the need for abortion. If women and families only got pregnant when they wanted to be, I think everyone on both sides of the debate would rejoice. I certainly would. Unfortunately, this isn't happening as nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.

It seems like the best way to reduce abortion is to reduce unintended pregnancies in the first place. Going on a crusade about birth control is going to alienate most moderates, as most people don't have a problem with birth control and think it is a good way to prevent unintended pregnancy.

I wish that this wasn't even a political issue at all, and that people would simply come together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies through access and education about contraceptives, by making adoption more available, and by providing resources for women who do carry their child to term. (oh yeah and also making it easier to work outside the home and care for a child at the same time - but that's another post). That's my "common ground fantasy."

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