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Piel: Is there common ground on abortion?

Recently our neighbor George was part of an interdenominational discussion group on abortion. The topic was “Finding Common Ground on Abortion.” Can there be common ground? Are the extremes between those who are anti-abortion, regardless of how the pregnancy came about, and those who believe that women have “some rights” — maybe “total rights” — to their own bodies, be too great to overcome?

First, it was interesting that no one in his discussion group felt abortion was a good thing. In a sense they were against it, or on the other hand saw it as a necessity that needed to be available to women in some situations. When religious groups weigh in on this important social issue as they should, he added, they both tended to use their biblical interpretation and theological reasons to support their own beliefs.

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Second, he wasn’t surprised that abortion is a very emotional and spiritual issue. For many it is not only about their personal feelings but also their relationship to God. Many admitted turning to God not only for comfort but also to help them better understand the struggles they are going through.

Third, it seemed that religious faith was simply a cover for the discussion when the real issue was political partisanship. He pointed out that in the recent Alabama abortion law all 25 senators who voted for the bill were Republicans and all six who voted against it were Democrats.

Apparently each side drew a line in the sand. As one discussion participant put it, “in extremes there is no common ground.”

A recent survey showed that 58% of Americans believe “Roe” should remain in place continuing a trend that women have “some” autonomy over child bearing. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that women may chose to have an abortion before the fetus is viable outside the womb. They went on to say that states may create regulations after viability but they must not place an “undue burden” on women.

For some, this ruling did not go far enough. Since they feel abortion is murder, all abortions must someday be completely eradicated. Steps must be taken to criminalize abortion including women themselves and their doctor no matter how it takes place.

With a President showing more interest in politics rather than compassion, and a new conservative Supreme Court justice appointed, anti-abortionists say the time might be ripe for an overturn.

States like Georgia, Missouri, and Alabama have taken the lead to ban abortion around six weeks after conception before many women even know they are pregnant with no exceptions for rape or incest.

For a woman who has had a miscarriage or a complicated pregnancy, or a woman who has been raped or has a desire to have ownership of her own reproductive rights, these new proposed state laws (which are unconstitutional) pose a real threat.

A friend said in his faith community the main reason to have sexual relations is to procreate (“be fruitful and multiply” Genesis 1.28) and any artificial contraception was a sin. If one accidentally got pregnant (that is, didn’t want to get pregnant), that was the “will of God” and to abort was a mortal sin.

Another person said that although one reason to have sexual relations could be to produce a child, a greater reason is the enjoyment given by the Creator between a couple. Every time they have relations does not mean they want a child — thus birth control is essential. Why bring an unwanted child into the world, especially if it is not planned or wanted, or if you cannot provide adequate care?

And that raises another concern. Many of the states who are extreme in their abortion views or laws want a woman to bring a child into the world and then quickly forget the child, as if it is no longer their responsibility. State after state who claim to be “pro-life” have cut benefits to social welfare, child medical health and nutrition, custodian care, Head-Start for children (especially for the poor), and the list goes on.

If we truly believe in the sanctity of life, it does not end at childbirth.

It is agreed that abortion should not be used as birth control. At the same time, women should have easy access to effective birth control. It should be readily available and should be part of their health insurance.

It is interesting that several companies have decided not to include birth control in their policies due to what they call the right to religious freedom.

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No matter what Planned Parenthood did to meet the demands of the Missouri health department, with its unnecessary regulations, it would never be enough. It was pre-determined by state leaders that the state would be the first state to totally deny women the right to reproductive rights and would become the most anti-abortion state in the nation.

Their hope, like that of Georgia, Alabama, and others, was that their proposed state law would be so extreme the Supreme Court would have to deal with it.

If it is true that on this issue there is no middle or common ground where do we go from here? How can we hold different beliefs and still have respect for each other? Is it possible for deeply religious people to believe in God and still hold different opinions? Will those who hold different beliefs ever be able to talk to and not at one another? Is compromise possible? Is it possible to listen to another person’s pain, tragedy and anguish?

Is it possible to give women full reproduction and health rights while also setting some abortion limitations? Is this strictly a women’s issue or do men who have daughters, spouses and girlfriends need to be heard?

On this issue especially, let the dialogue continue. We only ask that you think on these things.

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