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Michael P. Bacon of Westbrook is a retired scientist and advocate for universal health care.
With the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the abortion war is resuming with even greater intensity, though we are all tired of it.
Will it ever be possible for the combatants to come together, with goodwill and in good faith, and negotiate? There will never be complete triumph by one side or complete destruction of the other. It is time to negotiate peace.
First, let’s stipulate that pro-choicers do not want to kill babies; it is embryos and fetuses we are talking about. And let’s further stipulate that pro-lifers do not want to put women in chains; many ordinary citizens, including some feminists and secularists, have complex ethical concerns over the value of a human fetus. Can we assume the best in each other, not the worst?
Then, can we agree that abortion is not a good method of birth control? In the past, it was the only choice. Today, there are far more convenient options. It is unlikely that women who have chosen abortion look forward to the procedure. It is chosen out of necessity. They would prefer that it had been prevented.
May I suggest that the focus be on reducing the demand for abortion, not banning it? Effective contraception is a surer way than laws to prevent abortion (though not foolproof). And 89 percent of Americans now believe contraception is morally acceptable.
Some striking statistics: There are 3.1 million unplanned pregnancies every year in America, 1.3 million of them resulting in abortions. Ninety-five percent of unplanned pregnancies are due to neglect or misuse of contraception.
Clearly, a majority of abortions could be prevented – perhaps as many as a million per year. This, of course, would require that all women of childbearing age have easy and complete access to contraception, medical counseling to choose the best method for the individual, and instruction in proper use – and that women comply.
The responsibilities of men are usually overlooked. Men have some control here, too, and should not forget how to use a condom. Men with no interest in supporting a child should consider vasectomy, a simple, low-risk procedure that is virtually 100 percent effective.
Other steps that would help reduce the demand for abortion: universal sex education in schools to teach responsibility and prevention of unwanted consequences; mandatory, truthful counseling of women seeking an abortion, including information on the advantages of adoption; assistance to women who want to keep their babies but lack adequate resources.
With enough goodwill, the two sides might discover that they share common interests. Who would deny that the autonomy and well-being of women and the prevention of unnecessary taking of fetal life are good things? They might work together to develop and promote an agenda with those as goals.
In short, I am suggesting adoption of the position Hillary Clinton took in her 2008 presidential campaign (later disavowed, sadly), that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Pro-lifers would have to concede that abortion should be legal but within limits to be negotiated (which could be stricter than they are now in some states), and pro-choicers could easily concede that abortion should be made rare by preventing it whenever possible. They might also consider whether a shorter time window (12-15 weeks?) would be adequate. Abortion is already safe if legal and medically supervised.
I sometimes hesitate to express my views on this subject, but I don’t think it inappropriate for men to have opinions about women’s issues. (Many do, and don’t hesitate.) When there is uncertainty, though, it would be wisest for men, especially male lawmakers, to defer to the judgment of women and the expertise of health-care professionals. Only they have competence in this area. And let’s make a new rule: men may participate in the debate, but when the time comes, only women get to write abortion legislation and vote on it.