Describing attempts to find a moderating position in the abortion debate, Mohler notes:
With predictable regularity, cultural authorities call for the emergence of a moderating position between the pro-life and pro-abortion positions. But efforts to achieve a stable compromise on the abortion issue are doomed to failure. The two positions hold irreconcilable views of reality. The pro-life movement holds that the central issue is the unborn child’s right to live. Abortion activists have staked their entire case on the claim that the only determinative issue is the woman’s unrestricted right to choose.The viewpoints represented have such differing views of reality, compromise is almost impossible. Will a pro-life person change their minds regarding the value of life? Speaking for myself...no.
But will a pro-choice person waver in their commitment that “the only determinative issue is the woman’s unrestricted right to choose”? I hold out hope that the answer may yet be “yes” for many pro-choice advocates.
On the one hand, the case seems bleak. Consider the assertions made by Merle Hoffman in her recent memoir, Intimate Wars. Mohler writes:
Just recently, Merle Hoffman, a major voice in the abortion rights movement and founder of Choices, a major center for abortions in New York City, has written a memoir, Intimate Wars. In telling her story, Hoffman calls for her colleagues in the abortion industrial complex to defend abortion as a moral choice.Common ground with such extremism seems impossible.
Abortion is the ultimate act of empowering women, she argues. “The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that is why it is so strongly opposed by many in society,” she asserts.
A central portion of her memoir deals with the abortion rights movement’s attempt to defend abortion in the face of pro-life arguments that the fetus has a right to life.
“The pro-choice movement had to find a way to navigate these narratives,” she explains. “The simplest option was to negate the claims of the opposition. And so many pro-choice advocates claimed that the fetus was not alive, and that abortion was not the act of terminating it. They chose to de-personalize the fetus, to see it as amorphous residue, to say that it was only ‘blood and tissue.’”
As she explains, the pro-life movement thought that, if women really knew what abortion was — the killing of an unborn human being — they would decide to keep their babies. She rejects the argument.
Hoffman argues that women do know what an abortion is. Abortion does stop a beating heart and that it is not “just like an appendectomy.” Her conclusion is that women know that abortion is “the termination of potential life.”
She then makes this statement:
“They knew it, but my patients who made the choice to have an abortion also knew they were making the right one, a decision so vital it was worth stopping that heart. Sometimes they felt a great sense of loss of possibility. In the majority of cases, they felt a great sense of relief and the power that comes from taking responsibility for one’s own life.”
Rarely do we see abortion defended in such unvarnished terms — “a decision so vital it was worth stopping that heart.” Merle Hoffman goes on to explain how she can speak of abortion so directly. She has, she tells us, no conception that life is sacred.
But I have hope that the pro-choice movement is not monolithic and some in its ranks may waver in their belief that the right to choose is the ultimate issue at stake in this debate. Evidence of this is seen in the gender-based abortion debate.
On January 20, 2012, Canada’s National Post ran an article entitled, “Sex-based abortion divides pro-choicers on rights.” In the article, Danielle VanDerSchans describes the quandary the radical pro-choice person is in.
Mara Hvistendahl is pro-choice, except when she is not.But why? Why limit on the basis of gender? VanDerSchans continues:
She believes a woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy. Except if she is in China or India and wants to abort a female fetus because she was hoping it was a male. In those countries, the toll of “missing” girls is in the millions, despite existing bans on sex-based abortions.
While she said a ban in the Asian context “makes complete sense,” she is solidly against a U.S. bill that would criminalize the practice in America — the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act introduced by anti-abortion Republican Trent Franks last November. [. . .]
And Ms. Hvistendahl supports reproductive rights for women, but not necessarily when it comes to knowing the sex of the fetus she is carrying. A woman should have the choice of whether or not to abort, but not to know all the details about it.
“There’s no real need to know the [sex], and that could be an effective way to fight sex-selective abortion,” she said. She summed up her stance by saying: “You can believe in a right but still believe it has limits.”
In pro-choice, feminist circles the idea of limiting a woman’s rights has long been condemned. But the idea of aborting female fetuses strictly because they are female, of discriminating against them because of their sex, may have presented feminist pro-choicers with a new and rather difficult challenge — a philosophical issue where a well-founded rejection of patriarchal cultural attitudes conflicts with an instinct to beat back any limits at all on a woman’s right to choose abortion.
The pro-choice movement is anything but unanimously or easily decided on sex-based abortion. It is divided, whether publicly or behind closed doors, between the pro-choice absolutists who fear any concession marks a slippery slope, the feminists who loathe too much the idea of fewer females being born, and all those who carve out what several pro-choice activists called a “nuanced” position somewhere in the middle.
The hypocrisy of taking a "nuanced" position is not lost on many within the pro-choice movement. Many recognize how people like, well, me would react.
Joyce Arthur, executive director of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, said it would, indeed, be hypocritical for a pro-choice group to support restrictions on a woman’s right to choose or even to information about her fetus. She said the coalition does not support a ban on sex-based abortions, nor does it support concealing the fetus’ sex until 30 weeks.
“As soon as you put any kind of restriction on abortion, it really is a slippery slope,” she said, adding that education is the key to reducing sex-based abortions around the world and in Canada, where the medical journal said hundreds of girls are aborted in favour of boys each year, mostly by immigrant women. “If you can restrict sex-based abortions, then why can’t you restrict abortions for genetic abnormalities?”Indeed, why not?
Arthur is exactly right. Those of us who are pro-life do hope that restrictions on gender-based abortion "rights" would prove to be a slippery sloope. We hope that as people recognize the value of life little girls, it would lead to a recognition of the value of all life.