"We are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your friends, and abortion is a choice we have made."
If that new slogan of a newly aggressive pro-abortion movement sounds more like an appeal to emotions than a reasoned argument, it is precisely what the movement has in mind.
A coalition of pro-choice groups, coordinated by the National Abortion Rights Action League, has decided to play down such medical and philosophical arguments as "viability" and the question of when "human life" begins and put its emphasis on the emotional aspects of abortion. No more debate over whether nameless, faceless fetuses are "human." The emphasis is on the women: "your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your friends," who found themselves with unwanted pregnancies and opted for abortion.
Their hope, apparently, is that while the focus on the plight of the women may not change anybody's mind about the fundamental morality of abortion, it may persuade all but the militant pro-lifers that abortion, though perhaps distasteful, is a choice deserving of continued legal protection.
Their goal seems to be less an outright victory than a political standoff, which, in practical terms, amounts to the same thing.
The new campaign features the public sharing of letters from women whose abortions saved them from wrecking their lives -- for example the "33-year-old Christian housewife living in a St. Paul suburb" who writes: "I am for abortion. I am glad I had one under the circumstances (a pregnancy by a former boyfriend with whom she had broken up but whom she still saw occasionally) and I ask for your support in giving women this right."
It represents a tactical flipflop with the anti-abortionists. In recent years, the pro- life movement has virtually abandoned its use of emotion-arousing tactics (except for the controversial -- and "doctored" -- TV film, "The Silent Scream") and has pushed the scientific and intellectual side of its argument. Now the pro-choice advocates have pushed their lawyers and intellectuals into the background and taken an emotional tack. Their new watchword is "Abortion Rights: Silent No More."
It may not make much difference. The trouble with the abortion issue is that it does not admit of compromise. Abortion either involves the taking of human life, or it doesn't -- and the argument that it doesn't is getting harder and harder to sustain.
Opinion on the question tends to move from left to right as through a check-valve. Many former pro-choice advocates have rethought their positions and moved in the direction of pro-life, but seldom is the flow reversed.
But if the intellectual flow favors the right-to-life point of view, the pragmatic side of the question may remain largely unchanged. The parents of a pregnant teen- ager who has a bright career ahead of her, the wife pregnant by someone other than her husband, the man who will not or cannot marry his pregnant girlfriend, the couple for whom giving birth would constitute an economic catastrophe, or whose unborn child is known to be grotesquely deformed -- these unfortunates, whatever their philosophical position, are likely to opt for abortion.
It changes nothing to tell them that abortion is wrong. Even if they agree, they are still likely to see abortion as the least-awful of the bad choices available to them.
These are the people the pro-choice coalition is trying to reach: "Your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your friends."