What seems to me like a hundred years ago -- back in the late 1970s or early 1980s -- I wrote a column for The Kansas City Star describing my anguish about the failure of people who disagree on abortion to have civil discussions.
This grew out of a conference on abortion I attended. There I found rigidly convinced people -- on both ends of the abortion-position spectrum -- arguing past one another. Nobody was listening.
I can't tell that much has changed in 30 years.
But I am encouraged that some people continue to try to find some common ground on this matter. The latest effort I've learned about is a new Web site called "On Common Ground" found on the RH (for reproductive health) RealityCheck.org site.
Here you will find news and views that amount to a forum for discussing abortion without resorting to murder, such as happened to Dr. George Tiller of Wichita recently.
It would be wildly out of bounds to include in such discussion people such as Tiller's accused killer. But it would not be out of bounds to include people with strongly anti-abortion positions. I haven't read through all the offerings on the new "On Commond Ground" site, but my first impression is that such people aren't well represented.
Still, I would hope that people from all abortion perspectives -- save the ones who advocate turning to violence against those with whom they disagree -- would be welcome to add their voices to the discussions on this new site.
One of the problems with the abortion issue (I believe now in hindsight) is that the U.S. Supreme Court acted in 1973 before anything like a social consensus on the subject had developed. That polarized society and we've been dealing with the painful aftermath of that ever since. What I don't know is whether any social consensus ever would have developed without a court decision. Without such a judicial remedy, of course, it's possible that the old and destructive system of illegal abortions would have continued.
My position is that abortion should be seen as the least evil of a series of evil choices -- and thus must remain legal. But the decision should be left up to the pregnant woman (one would hope in consultation with the father of the baby in question) and that woman's physician. As others have said, that would make abortion legal, safe and rare. I respect people who in good faith hold other positions, as long as they don't want to impose their views on society through violence.
At any rate, surf around on this new site and tell us what you think.
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THE ROLE OF FAITH AMONG IRAN'S PROTESTERS
Steve Waldman of Beliefnet.com asks readers there a pertinent question: Is Islam inspiring the freedom fighters in Iran, and, if so, what about the people who insist (wrongly) that Islam is inherently violent and anti-democratic? I agree with Waldman's implication that Islam (and other faiths) can be used to inspire both freedom and tyranny, depending on who is using the religion for what ends. Will this weekend be remembered as Iran's Tiananmen Square?
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P.S.: In honor of Father's Day this weekend, here's a release from the White House about a national conversation on fatherhood. (AND: For a good Associated Press story about Obama and fatherhood, click here.) So are there examples of fathers in sacred writ that we can hold up as models? Like Adam, one of whose sons killed his brother? Like David, who impregnated the wife of one of his soldiers? Well, OK, not them, maybe. But who? For Some answers from my book-writing colleague, Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, and other religious leaders in the Kansas City area, read Helen Gray's piece in Saturday's Faith section of The Kansas City Star. AND: For an interesting piece about the importance of fatherhood from an Australian perspective, click here.