Working Together on Abortion

Considering the depths of rancor existing between those advocating pro-life and those advocating pro-choice, we are left to wonder if common ground can ever be found.

Cristina Page, who serves as the program director of the New York affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America, along with Amanda Peterman, who serves as media director for the Right to Life of Michigan, both believe that cooperation is not only possible, but necessary.

Although recognizing that they will never find a solution to the basic fundamental disagreements they hold on abortion, they insist that both sides can move beyond the divisive rhetoric gripping the debate.

By choosing to work together on issues that help both of their causes, they are able to achieve the results of fewer abortions and unwanted pregnancies, a goal both sides favor.

In a joint New York Times op-ed piece which both women co-wrote on Jan. 22, 2003, they stated: "We all believe we should work to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion. We should recognize, too, that our efforts are succeeding.… Whether that has come through better education on contraception or through programs that discourage premarital sex, pro-life and pro-choice advocates should celebrate such an achievement together and acknowledge each other's role in it."

According to a 2000 study by the Guttmacher Institute, several reasons were given for abortion, but 66 percent cited their inability to afford another child.

Inability to afford children is an economic issue, which means that the intersection of economic and abortion results in a moral imperative.

Both pro-life rhetoric concerning the sanctity of life and pro-choice rhetoric about women's rights are hollow if healthcare, health insurance, jobs, childcare and a living wage are not considered.

Sound economic policies can minimize the reasons why women terminate their pregnancy, which translates into a reduction of abortions performed.

This does not solve the abortion issue, but it does provide some sanity to the present debate.

If a major reason women have abortions is their inability to feed another mouth, then a living wage to ensure proper housing and nutrition for children is paramount. But rather than providing women with a fair and equitable salary so they can afford to care for their young, the opposite occurs.

According to the General Accounting Office, the gap in salary between women and men continues to grow. By 2002, women managers were earning 62 cents for every dollar made by their male counterpart.

Besides the basic right to equal pay for equal work, both the advocates of pro-life and pro-choice can agree on a pro-family friendly workplace where guaranteed job security and federally mandated maternity leave exists for pregnant women. If more women can afford to feed, clothe, and provide for their children, they might be less likely to terminate their pregnancy.

Other ways to prevent pregnancy are through sex education and the use of contraception. Suffice to say that the proper usage of contraception means less pregnancies hence less abortions.

Finally, both sides can advocate for the education of women. Studies show that women who continue with their education normally put off having children. Additionally, better-educated women are more competitive in the marketplace, which can lead to higher salaries. Again, both sides of the abortion debate can work toward this goal.

Besides working together to make women more economically viable, both sides can also work together on issues that make the adoption procedure easier and more affordable.

Both sides can also work together to hold men more responsible, specifically financially responsible, in providing for the children they sire by making it easier to garnish the wages or confiscate the assets of "dead-beat dads."

Will such joint-actions end the present abortion controversy? No, of course not. Still, by working together to overcome the reasons why women choose to terminate their pregnancy, both those who are pro-life and pro-choice can reduce the numbers of abortions taking place.

And just as important, maybe both groups can learn how to talk to each other, rather than at each other.

Miguel De La Torre, a Cuban American, is professor of theologies of liberation at Hope College in Holland, Mich. He is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former Baptist pastor in Kentucky. His column also appears in the Holland Sentinel.


Order Miguel De La Torre's book Reading the Bible from the Margins now from



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