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October 10, 2005

New Position in Abortion Debate

Ex 2-2: Editorial

New Position in Abortion Debate

Out of the deadlock of the abortion debate has risen a new, less narrow, and less popular view. It’s called “pro-both” and it is the idea of being against abortion, but also against criminalizing it.

It’s about working to eliminate abortion through social changes like better sex education with a combination of both abstinence education and contraceptives education. Also on the agenda is better housing for women at risk of domestic violence, better provision of childcare centers and adoption agencies, better access to healthcare to encourage women to continue with pregnancies, as opposed to legislative rulings against abortion.

Jan Wolter of Pro-Both.org recently developed a position paper on the subject and started it’s website in April. The pro-both position has been slowly growing on forums and blogs on both ends of the spectrum.

“Pro-both suggests an active, coordinated program aimed at reducing abortions. To undertake that is to send a very clear message that our society expects us to act like responsible, reasoning adults, even in the emotionally charged domain of sex,” said Wolter. “It asks people to use their brains, to have foresight, and expresses faith that a society of free people can solve hard problems if they do that, without resorting to the tactics of oppression.”

To believers of either side, such a position is almost more offensive than the polar opposite. There is a deep distrust between pro-life and pro-choice supporters. If you are in complete agreement with one argument, the very idea of yielding to another can seem unacceptable.

“The problem with this "pro-both" concept is that what they describe as "pro-both" is actually the pro-choice stance. The choice movement is about all kinds of education and access issues, family, and self-esteem,” said Sander Bellman on Blog for Democracy.org.

“I think one of the good things about it is that it challenges pro-choice people as well as pro-life people. It suggests a change in emphasis for progressives that are quite profound,” said Wolter. “I strongly suspect that any new frame that doesn't upset the way that we think about the world is too tame to upset the way your opponents look at the world. If it doesn't shake us up, then it is just a new word for an old idea, and isn't likely to displace an established word for the same idea.”

“What is suggested is an ideal world with responsible individual and community behavior on all levels, which would all but eliminate the need for abortions and would be much more effectively focused on social justice and compassion issues, to celebrate and protect life after birth,” said Scott Logan, moderator at the Rockridge Institute forum. “It is an idealism that speaks to a process, a commitment to establishing a comprehensive change in behavior.”

There has been a series of legislative plans known as the “Prevention First Act of 2005,” which are similar to the pro-both agenda. They would provide funding for family planning services, funds for teenage pregnancy prevention programs, require that hospitals provide information about emergency contraceptives to rape victims, and allow states to expand Medicaid coverage of family planning services to people with incomes up to double the poverty level.

Pro-both has no campaign, no advertisements, and no organizations to donate money to. It challenges both parties in the abortion debate, and offers hope to break from the deadlock and move forward. To support pro-both, write to your senators and congressmen in support of these bills.

Posted by Kayla Sawyer at October 10, 2005 11:43 PM


What a great topic Kayla. Where on earth did you find out about this? I know this is going to cause a lot of controversy, but I am going to say it anyway.
I have really always felt this way, sort of in between pro-life and pro-choice. I tend to be more conservative, and I definitely believe abortion is wrong. I would do everything in my power to try to convince someone who was pregnant to have the baby.
But, at the same time I don't think it is right for the government to tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Plus, I also believe that if abortion was made illegal, that wouldn't really end it. People would still have abortions. They would just do it illegally in unsafe ways, and sick, twisted people (who might claim to be real doctors) would then be making big bucks off of people in desperate situations. And this actually means that we would be putting even more lives at risk. (If you've seen Dirty Dancing, you know what I mean.)
So I have to say that I agree with Pro-both supporters that education and pregnancy prevention is really the way to go. And I feel good about the fact that there is a group out there (however small) that sees this issue the same way I do. Most people just think I am dumb for not being able to make up my mind one way or the other.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at October 12, 2005 08:07 PM

Don't think of it as not being able to make up your mind, think of it as having a moderate view. Pro-both is not a compromise. It doesn't ask pro-life people to back off from their insistence that abortion is a sin. It offers for the first time in a long time, a practical way of actually reducing the abortion rate. It also doesn't require pro-choice people to compromise their control over their bodies. It offers ways to expand and strengthen that control.

There is just so much whining on both sides. I get tired of it. For every pro-life protester that pesters me, I want to donate money to an abortion clinic. For every pro-choice protester that annoys me, I want to donate money to a pro-life group. I don't care what you are: just leave me alone unless you're going to buy me a pretzel.

I heard about pro-both through an Australian friend of mine on livejournal. I chose it because it's not well-known, and because it's alternative.

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at October 12, 2005 08:30 PM

Tell your Australian friend that they deserve a pretzel! (and so do you!) I know what you mean about depending on who is bugging you, you just want to support the other side. I get tired of it too. And the thing is, I see the pro-both perspective as an active way to actually help REDUCE the problem. The other sides just seem to want to put the other side down and be outraged by their point of view.

I know you don't agree, but I do see Pro-both as a compromise, and one that makes sense. It acknowledges both views and provides a sensible solution. The trouble is, Americans don't like to admit that compromise is a big part of how we got where we are today. The tend to see compromise as a bad thing, as one side giving up what they stand for. American history is full of compromise. If no one ever compromised, we would never get anywhere. And they would end up just like this abortion issue, in a sort of stalemate with each side totally convinced the other is completely wrong.

Posted by: Lorin Schumacher at October 13, 2005 11:21 AM

Thanks for writing this, and directing me to it. I've added a link here to the proboth.org site. I very much appreciate people picking up and spreading the idea.

I am, in some ways, not a very effective advocate of "pro-both". I spent months developing the argument on the web site (after years of thinking about the subject), and I'm pretty happy with the result, but I don't really have any strategy for putting in the public eye. I've mostly just been sitting back and hoping people will find it and spread the word. It's always good to see that happening.

The radical thing about pro-both is that it recognizes core truths in both the pro-life and pro-choice arguments and finds them not to be in contradiction. It seeks to set aside the warfare, and take the values that nearly everyone on both sides agrees with and move forward with them. That makes it a compromise in the sense that it seeks to bring together two warring camps. But it is not a compromise in the sense that a compromise offers each camp only half of what they want. I think pro-both offers virtually everyone virtually all that they want. The only thing it really demands that they give up is their fury at the opposition.

Normally radical ideas are the ones that are most readily spread. Maybe the political landscape is sufficiently polarized now that moderation looks radical, and ideas like this will succeed in gaining some attention. Discussions like this one can only help. Thanks.

Posted by: Jan Wolter at October 25, 2005 12:11 AM

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