This week abortion proponent William Saletan at Slate reviewed a conference held at Princeton in October that sought to find areas of common ground on abortion. From it Saletan gleaned 6 suggestions for pro-choicers, in synopsis:

1. Admit the value of the fetus. “At the conference, several pro-choice speakers conceded truths that have been hard for their allies to admit… inching closer to admitting the significance of the fetus. Peter Singer… called the fetus a ‘human being’ and ‘unborn child,’ and he agreed with pro-lifers that abortion is killing.”

2. Embrace abortion reduction. Pro-choice leaders often point out that they’re pro-choice, not pro-abortion. Prove it. Show that our high rate of abortion can be sharply reduced within a framework of free choice… Dawn Johnsen… called for policies that ‘reduce abortion through means that help women and their families avoid unintended pregnancy and choose healthy childbearing.'”

3. Treat contraception as a moral practice. Pro-choicers hate to moralize about sexual behavior… talk[ing] about contraception purely in terms of access: steep co-pays, lack of health insurance, inadequate Medicaid reimbursement. But pro-lifers didn’t let them off with these excuses… point[ing] to studies indicating that promotion and availability of contraception haven’t reduced the rate of unplanned pregnancies… [and] not[ing] that half of unintended pregnancies involve couples who claim to have used contraception. These challenges forced some pro-choice panelists to admit that contraceptives fail because people don’t consistently use them…. If contraception is going to work, this is the way its proponents must think and talk about it: not just as an option, but as a responsibility.”

4. Reclaim stigma. “Several times at Princeton, pro-choicers fretted that an abortion-reduction campaign might ‘stigmatize’ abortion…. Come on…. We judge people and their conduct all the time. Why should sex be exempt? Rape is bad. Infidelity is bad. And, yes, having sex without contraception when you know you can’t handle a pregnancy is bad…. Frances Kissling [said]… ‘We could start by not apologizing for or excusing women and girls who are sexually active and do not use contraception.'”

5. Target repeaters. “[Sarah] Brown delivered this brutal observation: ‘About half of all abortions are to women who have had at least one previous abortion. Half. That suggests not only the family planning systems, but also the people who provide terminations, are not doing enough to prevent additional unintended pregnancies….’ That’s a scandal. One unintended pregnancy should be enough to warn you – and the doctor who vacuums out your uterus – not to risk another.”

6. Reconsider the legality of second-trimester abortions. This is the part I don’t like. I hate the crudity of bringing criminal law into such personal matters. But people with stronger pro-choice credentials than mine have been thinking about it for some time. Imagine a deal… in which pro-choicers accept restrictions on 2nd-trimester abortions in exchange for pro-life support of contraception. Both concessions would hurt, but that’s what makes the deal fair. Many stalwarts on both sides would reject the trade – most notably, the Catholic Church – but their cooperation might prove unnecessary. Abortion would remain safe and legal, but it would be rarer.”


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