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Changing abortion at the human level

Lance Gallop | Tuesday, September 28, 2004

If there is an overarching flaw in the American Catholic Church (though, by no means a unique flaw), it is the deeply held, unspoken conviction that leadership is the source of all change and that the most effective solution to a problem is the “top-down” approach of an enlightened management effecting sweeping changes.

You can see this clearly in the machinations and strategies of the pro-life movement; its focus is the election of pro-life politicians with an eye to eventual Supreme Court reform. For their part, the politicians love this, because it allows them to reduce issues to a struggle between good and evil, and the ensuing political hand-to-hand tends to mask more trivial factors, like how qualified the candidates are, and whether or not they can make good decisions.

And although it admittedly began as a touch of political cynicism, I have become convinced that not only is pro-life politics as it is now written a grievous waste of time, it so effectively masks the real problems and their solutions and is so incredibly self-defeating that I have no reluctance in saying that unless pro-life politics as we understand it is eliminated, abortion will always be prevalent and legal in this nation.

The crime of politics is that it absolutely simplifies issues until they lose all connections to their origins, and in doing so it transforms politicians into antibiotic heroes with a one-dose cure-all to heal the nation. Once they become political litmus tests, people tend to stop thinking about issues, their devotion to a side clouds their judgment, and they become fixed at their end of the spectrum. Moderates are scared off by what they perceive as extremism and discussion of the topic effectively becomes taboo. In short, everything stands still until one side can get its particular political bandage applied, then they congratulate themselves on a job well done.

But this is a terribly misleading situation, and worse, completely ineffective. Abortion is not new, nor is it political in origin. There have been abortions in all ages, and all countries, though admittedly not so many as today. It did not emerge from a vacuum; it emerged from a perceived need. It can only fully be addressed by addressing that need; no political bandage will suffice.

Being that I am male, I can only speculate to one degree or another, but I do not see that a woman can decide to obtain an abortion without reasons.

By all accounts the choice is so difficult that these women must possess what, in their own minds, is a very good justification indeed. The candidate I suspect most of all is fear: fear of being young and pregnant, fear of commitment, fear of consequences, fear of violence. Anger as well, and tiredness, and pain and self-delusion play into the mix. Only rarely do you see the apathetic and dispassionate “abortion shopper” that those who favor a legislative bandage solutions seem to implicitly believe in. In short, many people who seek abortions have, underneath everything else, a layer of desperation that drives them to that end. Today abortion is so prominent, and so well understood, and so accepted by those who seek it, that, were it taken away, they would still look for it in other nations, international waters and underground clinics. Desperate people do not listen to legislation; they do not have that luxury.

And if the choice for an abortion is taken from them, desperate people will fight to gain it back. In our political climate in which abortion is so polarized that most people refuse to discuss the issue, and where neither Democrat nor Republican can offer any explanation for their views beyond the abstract policy tool that abortion has become, the argument of a desperate person is much more significant that the outrage of an ideology. Abortion would return.

To address the problem of abortion, what is needed is not a political solution. Politics only gets in the way, prevents people from being open to discussion, and drives them into polarity or blind avoidance. Abortion must change at the grassroots level, and to do so it cannot be a political issue, but must be a human one. Individuals must be approached with the tact, empathy and understanding politics can never have and care given to solving the root issues causing abortion that politics always overlooks.

People’s hearts must change so that they do not want abortion, and more over so they do not need abortion. This cannot happen within a ridged political framework, or even as a religious ideology, the solution must speak to hearts of a human level, and no bandage solution will ever succeed in changing hearts. In short, let the pro-life movement die and a holistic pro-life culture be built from its ashes. Only then will we ever see the end to abortion.

Lance Gallop is a fifth-year senior majoring in computer science, philosophy and theology. He can be contacted at lgallop@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.