A few days ago at dotCommonweal, Cathleen Caveny upfronted a good comment from Chris Currie and gave it it’s own thread. I had composed a reply there the other night, but lost it. So I figured I could say half as much with five times as many words here.
Chris’s own efforts in the pro-life sphere are eminently laudable. His insights are an important part of the discussion, whether that leads to practical cooperation or not.
As he concedes, there’s a wide range of pro-lifers out there who are not extremists, who do not live, breathe, and eat the movement 24/7. I don’t know it’s accurate to describe them as “moderates.” I wonder how he would peg me, for example. I’ve been very critical in the blogosphere of the faults of the political arm of the pro-life movement. Am I a moderate for wading into hostile territory and making suggestions people don’t want to hear? Sounds a lot like people hanging on PP sidewalks to me.
My own pro-life convictions were strengthened by my exposure to and attempt to adopt pacifism as a personal philosophy in the 80’s. I tend to be a very harsh judge on my own violence and see my position against abortion standing alongside some positions that mainstream society (and much of the Church) would consider extreme. I’m not sure I’m a moderate there.
One problem I see in the pro-life/moderate discussions is that too many people, it seems, are accustomed to thinking one-dimensionally. There’s a rope. On one end of the rope are pro-lifers. On the other end are abortion advocates. People line up on the rope closer to one end or the other. If you’re not at or near our end of the rope, you’re not helping, and we have theology on our side to marginalize you. End of story.
It’s a very simple story, but a totally false approach–despite the (mis)use of theology. Who hardcore pro-lifers seem to tolerate are those whose positions are congruent to their own. They are more uniformists–and sometimes the peripherals seem more important than the children they try to save. When that happens the crazy-thinking of addiction is the best way I can characterize what I hear.
Let’s face it: the abortion system and its detractors are behaving an awful lot like alcoholics and co-dependents. Logic, reason, and truth have largely gone out the window on points of contact. One side laments women dying from hidden abortions when the truth is that death rates from abortion fell to almost nil by the early seventies. Another side pumps up FOCA as an imminent threat–a bill that will never see the light of day, most likely. Neither side is open to constructive feedback from within, let alone from the other side. Each extreme is convinced it alone holds the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. Politicians are content to marginalize the extremes because they are unmoving, and therefore irrelevant to the candidate. So other issues take center stage and get action.
So by writing this, am I a realist or a moderate?
There are two reasons why a renewal of a grassroots effort is essential. First, it gets real people who are non-uniform in their approach to abortion working together for a common good. And second, it is true ministry to serve people in anguish over an unplanned pregnancy.
Lobbying is not ministry. Neither are the compositions of press releases from chanceries. Nor are pronouncements of excommunication. Some of these efforts are necessary. Some may even help an occasional person. They serve more as pep rallies, outlets for personal anger, and a tendency to over-think a problem.
Why isn’t there more dialogue on abortion? For the same reason why the families of addicts don’t talk. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who seems to be screaming all the time.