Op-Ed

Our society’s middle ground on abortion is personal choice

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If nothing else, Roe v Wade has, for opinion pages, been the gift that keeps on giving.

Columnist Teri Carter and pro-life advocate Hilda Pullen weighed in, but Brian Shoemaker of Right To Life gave me the opening I needed. I’ll explain that shortly.

First, the abortion debate reminds me of Joan Rivers. Years ago, I heard the comedienne’s story of getting flak for having plastic surgery.

“You should be satisfied with the body God gave you,” said her critics.

Joan’s retort? “God gave us plastic surgeons, too!”

That might well serve as a riposte to anti-choicers fond of saying abortion is “morally unacceptable” and against natural order. The religious argument is a powerful one for those so inclined, but is not for everyone.

Consider that about 60 million abortions have been performed in the 45 years since Roe. That’s a lot of women who found the option acceptable. It doesn’t mean they made the decision lightly, as Shoemaker’s use of loaded terms like “quick-fix antidote” and “abortion on demand” imply. May God grant that their decisions were wise.

In fact, almost 60 percent of abortions, according to recent statistics, are obtained by women who have already given birth. Might not some of those, if not most, thank God they had a choice?

Shoemaker also mentions “the DNA of merging cells” giving rise to “awe-inspiring processes of human life.” I’m not a physician or a theologian, but the idea that every fertilized egg is sacred is not supported by (to borrow Jefferson’s phrase) “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

If “all life matters” to the degree of becoming sacrosanct, then how to explain stillbirths, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and the resorption of twins? Why are from 30 to 50 percent of all fertilized eggs washed out of the body in the normal course of menstruation?

One could answer that these occurrences are God’s will, but then we’re back to Joan Rivers and theology — not practical, public policy and individual liberty.

I recently heard a commentator talk about searching for a “middle ground” on the abortion issue. Consider this: What are the extremes? One is a government ban on abortion, as Pullen and Shoemaker desire. The other is government-enforced abortion, as in China.

Since 1973, women have made their own decisions. Individual liberty and choice is the middle ground, the path we’ve chosen as a society. We Americans are a practical people. More than one person has told me of patients or family members who said they were anti-abortion, but, when a school-aged daughter got pregnant or an amniocentesis came back positive for defects, abortion was chosen.

Finally, the best answer (with which Carter and millions of women almost certainly agree) to Shoemaker’s argument is something that happened a quarter-century ago.

I was driving, with daughter No. 1 in the passenger seat, listening to a broadcast of a National Press Club luncheon; the speaker was president of a pro-choice group. I had no clue that my daughter was even paying attention, until she spoke up.

“Daddy,” she asked, “Why do people want to keep women from making their own choices?”

(Later, I confirmed with my then-wife that she had not discussed the issue with our daughter.)

“I don’t know,” I answered, thinking of the Catholic Church and Operation Rescue. “But what’s funny is that most of the groups opposed to abortion are run by men.”

Without a second’s hesitation, my 11-year-old girl snapped into adult mode. “Men!” she barked in shocked indignation. “What the hell do they know!?”

Jim Hanna of Lexington is an English teacher and father of four.

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