In "Abortion's Battle of Messages" this week in the LA Times, pro-choice advocates Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman virtually applaud pro-life advocates for their intellectual arguments and PR savvy, and then soberly confront their own pro-choice movement.
In fact, they make the pro-life case better than many pro-life advocates. They tout the effectiveness of our appeals to "inclusion into 'the human community'" and admit that our use of images (both beautiful and ugly) has helped convince people that "abortion is serious business and that some societal involvement is appropriate."
They do include some unfair criticisms of pro-life advocates (they intimate that the anti-abortion cause is really just veiled "disapproval of women's sexuality" and a failure to "trust women"), but their main point is simple: in order to win people's hearts and minds and maintain legal status for abortion, pro-choice advocates will have to engage the issues pro-life advocates have been raising.
Evidently, Kissling and Michelman are also abandoning some common pro-choice strategies, including the idea that any specific abortion is good on its face and ignoring the pro-life movement as hopelessly out of touch and irrelevant.
I applaud the honest assessment Kissling and Michelman have made of the best of the pro-life movement. Instead of filling their article with name-calling, ad hominem attacks, and the usual unfair focus on "pro-life" fringe activists who support violence, they have worked hard to understand pro-life arguments instead of subjecting them to spin and distortion. Instead of dismissing the valid points of the pro-lifers, they are taking them seriously.
That's the attitude I encourage both sides to adopt in my book, Common Ground Without Compromise (click the link to read excerpts). In fact, I return the favor in Chapter 11 of the book, in which I offer sixteen questions (in addition to the twenty-five that make up most of the book) that help pro-life advocates take seriously the legitimate concerns pro-choice advocates typically emphasize. These include honestly confronting the very difficult circumstances many women face and being realistic about solutions to the problems of unwanted pregnancy.
It appears from their article that Kissling and Michelman are calling for an internal discussion of the effective pro-life challenges they've highlighted, but I would encourage them to go further. Talk to pro-life advocates about them. We're ready to listen, understand, and build common ground first in order to really hear your concerns and perspective.