From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 49 - 8/3/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Middle Ground in the Abortion Debate

At this week's National Republican Convention in Philadelphia, the Grand Old Party, and its Presidential Candidate, George Bush, decided to avoid controversy at all cost and not debate the party's position on abortion. Instead, Mr. Bush threw a bone to the party's religious conservative base and left in a word-by-word reaffirmation of the abortion plank in the party platform, calling for a ban on abortions with no exceptions. This,even though Mr. Bush says he personally would allow abortions in the case of rape, incest and to save the life of the woman.

I can't blame Mr. Bush for wanting to avoid the abortion issue. This is smart politics, because no issue in American politics today is as divisive as abortion. However, I think he gave up too easily. I feel there is plenty of middle ground to sow concerning abortion and by avoiding talking about it, Mr. Bush and the Republicans missed a fantastic opportunity to reach out to abortion supporters and moderates, and even more important, prevent many abortions in the future from ever occurring.

Before I start, let me again outline my position on abortion. As I have written in this space before, I think abortion is wrong. When abortion supporters champion the woman's right to choose I ask about the lack of choice for the baby. While those like Mr. Bush would allow abortions in the cases of rape and incest, I like to point out that it's not the baby's fault his or her father was a criminal - so why should the innocent child be punished with a death sentence? I do agree, with Mr. Bush, however, that abortion is certainly appropriate and legitimate when the life of the mother is at stake.

OK, now you know my position, and the abortion supporters reading this column probably think I'm a right-to-life fanatic. Not so fast. Please hear me out. I'm convinced there is some middle ground, and ample room for consensus on many facets of the abortion issue. Here are my ideas...

Do More to Prevent Unwanted Pregnancies

When I hear advocates on either side of the abortion issue discuss preventing unwanted pregnancies, they always focus on "education." HEY FOLKS, THIS ISN'T WORKING. I say we stop emphasizing "education" and use science to develop much cheaper and much improved oral contraceptives for both men and women.

First, the "Pill" is much too expensive and complicated. Currently, birth control pills, which have to be the most common form of contraception used in America, require a doctor's prescription and in Sublette County, cost upwards of $30/month, or up to $360/year. This is real money.

Further, the current "pill" is too complicated. It has to be taken too often (every day.) Can't we develop a oral contraceptive for women that lasts longer than one day, and is much more simple to take?

I'm convinced that if women could buy a cheap, simple, long-lasting oral contraceptive off the shelf at the drug store, many unwanted pregnancies would be prevented. I'm confident the technology is there to make this possible.

And what about a simple oral contraceptive for men? Right now, contraceptives for men are limited to condoms and vasectomies. Men need another choice! Make it cheap, easy, safe and long lasting, and we'd buy and use it. Surely, if given the right financial incentives, the pharmaceutical companies in America can tackle this issue and develop a male contraceptive.

I'm convinced either or both of these much improved contraceptives would prevent thousands of unwanted pregnancies each year, and along the way, prevent thousands of abortions.

Politically speaking, who'd oppose either of these steps? Abortion supporters and feminists should be excited because women would have even more freedom. (I'm frankly surprised women haven't already demanded an easier to use and cheaper "pill.") Abortion opponents should be able to see the bottom line - fewer abortions.

Approve the "Morning After Pill," and Make It Affordable

How about those cases where for whatever reason, a woman has sex where a contraceptive isn't used, and there's a chance she was impregnated? My answer is the "morning after pill". This is an oral pill that could be taken by the woman a day, or two, or three after intercourse which would prevent any pregnancy from occurring.

I understand that many abortion opponents oppose the "morning after pill." They argue that not much separates it from a regular abortion. They're wrong. In the case of an abortion, we know that the woman is pregnant, and that the fetus will be killed. In the case of the morning after pill, we don't know this. From the strictly moral perspective, this gives us abortion opponents moral "wiggle room" - otherwise known as middle ground.

Again, the "morning after pill" has to be cheap, and easily available. It can't require a doctor's prescription.

I see the "morning after pill" as a way to eliminate a lot of the debate over abortions in the case of rape and incest. However, it can only achieve this if women who are raped or suffer incest can attain the pill cheaply and with the minimum amount of scrutiny. I've heard statistics that as many as 30-50% of rapes go unreported, and I assume many cases of incest also go unreported. Unfortunately, many women who experience rape or incest are ashamed or simply too scared to report the crimes against them. For this reason, I believe many would be hesitant to schedule a doctor's appointment to request a prescription for the morning after pill. Not only is this expensive, and a hassle, but inevitably someone, the doctor or nurse, would ask questions - which would make the woman uncomfortable. However, if the morning after pill could be purchased relatively cheaply at the drug store, more women would use it, and more unwanted pregnancies would be prevented - and thus, fewer abortions.

Pay for Pregnancies and Streamline/Subsidize Adoptions

Abortion opponents spend millions to defeat candidates who are pro-choice, or champion candidates who are anti-abortion, but I've yet to hear of a right-to-life organization that was willing to pay for the pregnancy of a woman who didn't want her child. Let's face it, compared to the cost of giving birth (approx. $5,000), abortion is cheap (approx $500). For a woman who is struggling financially, this simple financial reality may be enough to push her into choosing an abortion. I believe abortion opponents ought to put their money where their mouths are and support the women who are willing to have their children by paying the medical bills associated with pregnancy and giving birth. Further, abortion opponents should push hard to streamline and subsidize the adoption process for parents who want to adopt an unwanted baby. In general, abortion opponents who genuinely want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, should make the woman's pregnancy as financially painless as possible to her, and make the adoption of her child as quick and as easy as possible for the new parents.

I believe the financial support for the mother should extend beyond medical costs, and include a stipend to support her when she can't work because of the pregnancy. I know this may be open to abuse, and could potentially create a situation where women are paid to have babies, but I'm willing to risk it in the hope that the offer will prevent some abortions. Concerning adoption, the media reports I've seen or read describe the adoption process as very expensive and full of red tape and long waiting periods. This needs to be streamlined and made cheaper. If sets of adoptive parents could be efficiently aligned with women who are pregnant with unwanted babies, those babies would cease to be "unwanted" and there would be fewer abortions.

These are my ideas and I'd support a heavy investment of federal tax dollars to fund medical research for better contraceptive pills, a morning after pill and to pay the stipend and medical expenses for pregnant mothers who don't want their children . I'd also support using federal tax dollars to subsidize and streamline the adoption process for parents.

Further, I think many abortion opponents have become so focused on winning the moral argument over this issue, they have lost sight of what's really important - reducing the number of abortions. That's my goal, and according to President Clinton, who's said he wants to make abortion "legal, safe and rare," it is the goal of many abortion supporters also. Come on, let's work together to find that middle ground, and make abortions "rare."

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