This was Ron’s idea, but the topic committee expanded it beyond his original “when does life begin” suggestion. Why? We worried that focusing on just one aspect of this issue would bias the discussion. For example, if abortion is only about when life begins, then maybe our answers can only be about that, to the exclusion of other considerations like women’s rights. Similarly, if the only topic is choice and privacy, then we’ve defined fetal life as secondary and thus expendable. Abortion is a great topic to get into the potency of language in politics.
Anyway, I thought I’d open with 10 minutes of basic information:
- How many abortions are there (lots), who has them (some surprises), trends?
- What legal and practical restrictions are there on abortion? (Short answer: A lot) and what further restrictions are coming? (many, especially in some states)?
Then, I’ll try to manage our discussion around these three big questions:
- Why are there so many abortions? Don’t we need to know the causes of abortion before anything else?
- Why is abortion objectionable? Because to many life begins at conception is clearly the big reason. But, are there other reasons to be for or against abortion choice? Are both sides’ motives entirely what they say they are?
- Is there room for further compromise? Or will the battle never end because the two sides are irreconcilable?
- Basic info on abortion in the United States, from the Guttmacher Institute
- Public opinion on abortion. It has not changed much in 35 years: about 20% oppose abortion under any circumstances, about 20% support unlimited access, and 50%-60% support it with some restrictions.
- The 2009 health care reform law will restrict abortion in a major way, but may expand access to it in other ways.
- More restrictions are expected from the GOP-controlled Congress and from state governments.
Abortion is not an issue from another time, a relic. It is still very, very potent to many people.
UPDATES: More links
- A “Middle Ground?” Better contraceptive availability reduces abortions.
- Excellent explanation of “partial birth” abortion.
- Global abortion rates.