I ran into a nice old guy with hearing aids and a beard in the parking lot of the church where my son goes to his Mother’s Day Out program. His Prius had broken down and he was waiting on a ride. I noticed a bumper sticker on the back of his car and I couldn’t resist taking a picture.
I introduced myself to him and we shook hands and smiled. I told him I hadn’t seen that bumper sticker and I hoped he didn’t mind if I took a picture of it. He replied, “Oh, not at all. It’s my favorite.” I smiled and said, “Well I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” He smiled back and that was that. The entire exchange was completely cordial. I don’t know if he gave it a second thought but I’ve been thinking about it all day.
Now I live in a very blue city that will probably go 90% for Obama in November. In fact he’s probably not left enough for the majority of voters in my town. But the good thing from my vantage point is that my city is not representative of the country as a whole. Still I found the bumper sticker interesting, especially in light of some of the recent information out there that shows that pro-choice Americans are at a record low. Clearly this old man was in the 41% that are still pro-choice.
I also should note that the bumper sticker was in fact two bumper stickers and that the top one did not originate, at least not directly, from the Obama campaign. But were it not for the 41% issue, it probably would have. After all, the pro-choice position, despite its declining popularity, is central to the Obama social platform.
I have always taken issue with the term “pro-choice,” so I find it especially ridiculous when it’s married to “pro-family” and “pro-child.” I understand that “pro-abortion,” or even “pro-abortion rights,” doesn’t have quite the beneficent glow of the other terms. Certainly, “pro-right to destroy my living fetus” or “I’m for de-limbing the fetus,” while perhaps technically accurate, is completely impolite, way over the line, and frankly, gross.
By the way, I understand that the “pro-choice” folks disdain those who are opposed to inalienable abortion rights for calling their position “pro-life,” as if pro-choicers aren’t very fond of life themselves. However, I do find it less Orwellian, especially in light of all the advances in medicine and our understanding of the early stages of human life that have occurred since 1973.
This issue of abortion rights is an emotional one. It’s emotional for me as well. Rationally speaking, I was converted once and for all on the issue after speaking with a woman in college who had run a bunch of abortion clinics in a major metropolitan area in the 1980s. Her experience was horrifying and she struggled with massive guilt at what she saw, what she allowed to go on, and what she even encouraged young women to do.
My rational view on the matter was solidified emotionally after having spent more time in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) than anyone should have to with two of my kids. I witnessed children being brought into this world at around 20 weeks–and surviving to live young healthy lives–something that was unthinkable in 1973. It became so clear to me personally that trying to identify a point in time when life became a life worth protecting was absolutely arbitrary. How can one say that a 20-week-old fetus was not a life in 1973 but is a life now in 2012? Because medicine says so?
How can a mother have the right to abort her fetus, while at the same point in that fetus’ life, a person can be charged with manslaughter if the fetus dies in the course of an accident for which that person is responsible? The fetus dying is a crime or not based solely on whether the mother wants the fetus to live?
The issue of abortion is probably the pre-eminent moral issue of our day and I do not presume to have answers to the myriad questions that arise from a federal directive that would undo Roe v Wade. Living in a time where Roe v Wade isn’t law is almost unfathomable it’s been with us for so long.
But what I do know is that a facile “I’m pro-choice” doesn’t cut it anymore. It might have in 1973. It might have in 1993. But in 2012 any thinking American knows that the knowledge we’ve picked up over the last 40 some odd years is a weight as well. There is no room for knee jerk slogans on this issue anymore.