Joint Projects for Pro-Life and Pro-Choice People
I strongly suspect this thread is going to get a lot of people going, but on the other hand, that means more blog traffic, so here I go...
One of the most contentious moral-political debates in this country is the issue of abortion. For starters, it's one of the few issues that have provoked outright violence (bombings of abortion clinics and shootings of abortion doctors) and it certainly generates the most bellicose language. Furthermore, I've observed, based on reading the comments pages of both pro-life and pro-choice sites, that people on both sides of the issue simply do not understand why their opposite numbers hold the beliefs they do.
(Belligerent pro-choice people do not appear to believe pro-life people actually have humanitarian motives and instead attribute their beliefs to some sick desire to control women, while belligerent pro-life people accuse the pro-choice people of being callous baby-killers when no less than former President Bill Clinton said abortion should be safe, legal, and rare and, anecdotally, I've heard of women who've had abortions leaving clinics crying.)
One theory I've heard is that Roe vs. Wade united both Catholics and Protestants together in the pro-life movement and the increased contacts between the two groups led to a decline in sectarian prejudice that had previously been much stronger. After all, if you get to know people in a different group, you realize a lot of the negative ideas you've had about them are wrong.
By that logic, getting pro-life and pro-choice people to work on projects of mutual interest might help defuse some of the general nastiness characterizing the debate.
So here are two suggestions:
While doing research on pregnancies resulting from rape for my Wastelands projects (Catalina Merrill was captured by the villain Grendel, made a concubine, and bore a son whose legal name is Havarth Grendelsson but whom she privately calls Hayes Merrill), I found a pro-choice website (I can tell it's that because it calls pro-life people "anti-choice") describing how in 31 states, no law specifically forbids a rapist from attempting to assert parental rights. Given how there may well be thousands of children born every year as a result of rape, that's a big problem. The site posted a link to proposed legislation in South Carolina sponsored by pro-life people that would fix this situation and suggested forming a political alliance with them.
(I can't find the original link because the Akin and Mourdock controversies have filled up Google, but Shauna Prewitt's work on the subject has provided much of the same information. And I'd rather not run lots of Google searches for "rape.")
I suspect the law is based on the assumption no rapist would seek parental rights on the grounds this would open them up to legal consequences. That would apply to hooligans lurking in dark alleys, but most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, in circumstances ambiguous enough that proving a criminal case would be rather difficult and thus the perpetrator would not be deterred from making himself obnoxious.
Oftentimes this leads to rapists trying to get pregnant victims to drop charges in exchange for them renouncing their parental rights, which leaves them free to rape again. Furthermore, the more obsessive varieties of rapist might use the parental-rights excuse to continue to harass the victim for years to come.
(I can hardly imagine some sleazy stereotype of a frat boy who goes around plying women with alcohol and roofies in order to take advantage of them from caring enough to harass one victim for years when he can continue on his merry way preying on naive freshmen, but the article I just cited does reference that occurring.)
This isn't exactly incentive for women in this position to keep their babies, now is it? Furthermore, eliminating the ability of a perpetrator to use the parental-rights issue as a bargaining chip would help deal with the rather low arrest/prosecution/conviction rate of rapists.
Obviously the laws would need to be written in such a way that a man can't be denied access to his child or children on accusation alone, but that can be hammered out once the effort actually starts. The MJ article references one attempt to change the law using the "preponderance of evidence" standard used in civil cases, since child-custody is a civil matter. That seems like a sound standard.
Furthermore, here's an idea I had awhile ago that I've only posted on my alternate-history site, where it received little attention. The suggestion was that pro-life and pro-choice people should invest the efforts spent calling one another names into supporting research into artificial wombs and fetal transplantation, as well as in-utero surgery and genetic engineering.
Implemented together, these would render abortion obsolete. A healthy unwanted zygote/fetus/whatever could be transplanted to an artificial womb or a surrogate and then put up for adoption when born, while an unhealthy zygote/fetus/whatever could be more easily fixed. Genetic engineering to fix anomalies would actually be easier, since we already have had cases of gene therapy for diseases as well as genetic doping for athletes.
Fixing a situation this extreme could prove rather difficult to say the least, but many situations aren't as bad. In Britain, for example, abortions have been undertaken for clubfoot and cleft palate, both of which can be fixed after birth. If those could be fixed before birth, that wouldn't have happened.
I'll end my post with a quote from the late President John F. Kennedy. He said the United States would go to the Moon, not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Both the scientific research I suggested and getting two groups opposed to each other to the degree the pro-life and pro-choice movement are will not be easy, but the dividends in civil peace, increased convictions of perverted criminals, and scientific advancement will be well worth the effort.
What do you think?