Pulling The Ribbon

Politics in our society is a matter of compromise among different forces pulling in each direction, reaching an agreement that everyone can live with (or at least tries to, until the next election cycle).

I view politics as a tug of war. A series of tugs-of-war, really – one for each issue that’s out there, at any level, from National Security to Welfare to Cheese Price Supports. At the center of each debate is a mud pit; a ribbon in the exact center of each rope shows how well each team is doing.

My role in that tug of war is to affect that compromise by pulling to the right like there’s no tomorrow. So I pull like mad, and the ribbon over the mud thus inches a little closer to the right. Others, of course, pull against me, trying to edge the ribbon to the left. I know there’ll be a compromise; I know that the harder I pull to the right, the more people will (if I’m doing my job) be convinced to pull with me, and the farther to the right that ribbon – the “final” results of the compromise – will be.

Abortion is one of those tugs of war. When I was a kid, in 1973, the ribbon got a huge pull to the left with Roe Vs. Wade. In the past 35 years, many – from conservative evangelicals to liberal Catholics – have grabbed onto the rope from the right and pulled with all their might. And for some of us, the hope for a compromise – knowing that a complete ban was not going to happen in our lifetimes – was the hope that just one more tug would pull the ribbon just far enough so that people – maybe a majority – would see that while abortion was legal, that aborting a fetus was an act imbued with much more moral gravity than excising a wart or clipping a toenail.

In other words, the first step to an acceptable a less vile compromise would be for abortion’s supporters to realize that there is a moral dimension to abortion. It’s a realization that abortion’s most sacramentalist zealots resist, because it’d be the first step in gutting the notion that a fetus is nothing but a mass of tissue until you get a diaper on it.

Steve Chapman notes in Sunday’s Strib that there are signs the ribbon, measured by popular culture, may have moved that far (I’ve added some emphases):

Laws often alter attitudes, inducing people to accept things — such as racial integration — they once rejected. But sometimes, attitudes move in the opposite direction, as people see the consequences of the change. That’s the case with abortion.The news that the abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years elicits various explanations, from increased use of contraceptives to lack of access to abortion clinics. But maybe the chief reason is that the great majority of Americans, even many who see themselves as prochoice, are deeply uncomfortable with it.In 1992, a Gallup/Newsweek poll found 34 percent of Americans thought abortion “should be legal under any circumstances,” with 13 percent saying it should always be illegal. Last year, only 26 percent said it should always be allowed, with 18 percent saying it should never be permitted.

Further signs?
Sentiments are even more negative among the group that might place the highest value on being able to escape an unwanted pregnancy: young people. In 2003, Gallup found, one of every three kids from age 13 to 17 said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. More revealing yet is that 72 percent said abortion is “morally wrong.”
It helps that pro-life groups have adopted the tactics of the tug of war, if not the metaphor:
By now, prolife groups know that outlawing most abortions is not a plausible aspiration. So they have adopted a two-pronged strategy. The first is to regulate it more closely — with parental-notification laws, informed consent requirements and a ban on partial-birth abortion. The second is to educate Americans with an eye toward changing “hearts and minds.” In both, they have had considerable success.
And the biggest victory might be the change among the biggest set of hearts and “minds” involved:
Even those who insist Americans are solidly in favor of legal abortion implicitly acknowledge the widespread distaste. That’s why the Democratic Party’s 2004 platform omitted any mention of the issue, and why politicians who support abortion rights cloak them in euphemisms like “the right to choose.”
Let’s jump to a different mud-pit for a moment, on an issue that can still be just as fractious as abortion.The high-water mark of gun control was between 20 and 30 years ago. Gun control laws reached their high-water mark – the ribbon was as far to the left as it was going to go – in the early eighties, when the detritus of the first wave of gun laws hadn’t yet crumbled away; in 1983, only eight states had “shall-issue” permit laws, and many cities were flirting with Morton-Grove-like gun bans. 25 years later, gun control is electoral poison for Tics nationwide (and outside the metro in Minnesota).
That the Tics are soft-pedalling the issue at the platform level might just be a sign that even they see the ribbon has pulled far enough to the right that they need to change their approach.Like all political geologic shifts, it’s been a slow one. I remember this moment…:

But some abortion-rights supporters admit reservations. It was a landmark moment in 1995 when the prochoice author Naomi Wolf, writing in the New Republic magazine, declared that “the death of a fetus is a real death.” She went on: “By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity.”
I remember thinking then – almost 13 years ago – that this could be the first gap in the dam. And it may be another 13, or 26, or 39 years before we reallysee the fruits of this change in attitude.But that’s how national attitudes change.As in so many societal changes, technology helps:

This growing aversion to abortion may be traced to better information. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, most people had little understanding of fetal development. But the proliferation of ultrasound images from the womb, combined with the dissemination of facts by prolife groups, has lifted the veil.
But if even that most reactionarily-left-of-center barometer of this nation, Hollywood, takes note, then maybe we’re on to something:
In the comedy movie “Juno,” a pregnant 16-year-old heads for an abortion clinic, only to change her mind after a teenage protester tells her, “Your baby probably has a beating heart, you know. It can feel pain. And it has fingernails.”
“Juno” has been faulted as a “fairy tale” that sugarcoats the realities of teen pregnancy.
That ain’t the half of it. Twin Cities’ area critics – perhaps eating their own (Juno writer Diablo Cody is the only one of their clique to make good in recent years – have called it “conservative”!

But if it’s a fairy tale, that tells something about how abortion violates our most heartfelt ideals — and those of our adolescent children. Try to imagine a fairy tale in which the heroine has an abortion and lives happily ever after.

But whatever the larger barometers – pop culture, politics, wherever – the ultimate arbiter is found in the American heart aned mind. And Chapman sees reason for hope in a small turn of emotional phrase:

The prevailing view used to be: Abortion may be evil, but it’s necessary. Increasingly, the sentiment is: Abortion may be necessary, but it’s evil.
And so, one tug at a time, the ribbon moves toward the right bank of the mud pit.

28 thoughts on “Pulling The Ribbon

  1. I can’t disagree with a word, for the most part. We only need to be careful and realize that the abortion issues is an issue of faith. And if we feel it is acceptable to impose our faith on others, think carefully on how you would feel if someone with a competing faith, whom doesn’t view life as we do, attempted to impose their faith on you.

    Just something to think about.


  2. abortion issues is an issue of faith.

    So if my faith says that honor killing my misbehaving daughter is OK, then you wouldn’t object?

    I’m not a deeply religious person, but I can clearly see that killing an unborn child is wrong.

  3. MoN, even when I agree with you guys you find a way to twist my words into a negative.

    No, I am saying that if you start opening ourselves up to legislating faith then we open up a ‘be careful what you wish for’ can of worms.

    “then you wouldn’t object?”
    In case you missed it, I stated to Mitch “I can’t disagree with a word, for the most part.” so no where did I say I objected. I just offered up a caveat.


  4. flash,

    I can not separate my religious beliefs from my moral beliefs. I do not know where one ends and the other begins. So, in my case, abortion is not a religious issue. It is an issue of basic human morality. It’s not legislating faith, but legislating justice.

  5. No Flash, the problem that MoN illustrates is that when you “agree” with “us” you always do so in a way that leaves room for you to jump back into the kool-aid tub.

    Every sociopath out there that is depending on religious faith to refrain from murder belongs in long term, secure, treatment.

    Your sadly twisted moral anchor is indicative of the sort of thinking that allowed leftists to declare “victory” because our Democrat Secretary of State wasn’t indicted for corrupting his office.

    This because Tic’s believe that if a prohibition of a thing is not written down somewhere, or they are not explicitly being repeatedly told that a behavior is just wrong, and especially if they think that no one is watching, it’s OK.

    Honestly, observing Tic’s is like watching a room full of three year olds in action.

  6. Hopefully no ones thinks MLK was wrong to impose his faith/religion on the segregated South of 50 years ago?

    But the technology thing is big. When the mother sees her child via ultra-sound, things change. Knowledge is good. As far as the partial-birth abortion thing goes, have all you read in detail what happens with the procedure?

  7. I have my opinions on abortion, but in today’s society it’s legal. The thing that is important that women or girls that are considering an abortion understand what they are doing. They shouldn’t be fuzzied out by phrases like “non-viable tissue mass”

  8. Flash, I appreciate your comments in this forum and always read them to get your perspective, though I might not agree with it. As you say, “just something to think about.”

    In this case, since you acknowledge Mitch’s point, I merely want to address your view that the abortion issue is an issue of faith. It is a matter of faith, but not necessarily “faith” as in being Catholic, Evangelical or Humanist, but in terms of “belief.” The underlying point I took from Mitch’s post is that what people “believe” about human life appears to be changing, and ultimately what a society believes is reflected in its laws (for good or ill). Inevitably some beliefs are going to be in the minority. Thank goodness the vast majority today believes it’s wrong to hang people from trees, though a few still say it’s okay to threaten to do so, while even fewer would be willing to do it. (At what point prosecution should enter into that example is a topic for another day).

    It’s not a process of legislating faith (or belief), but of faith/belief affecting legislation. The fact that some will disagree or be offended by the result is not reason in and of itself to not act on the greater will. Thus the ribbon, as Mitch says, is moved. That does not mean, however, that the minority doesn’t have the right to protest, or to work continually to change the beliefs of the majority, even to the point of risk and sacrifice (since risk and sacrifice are what differentiates belief from emotion). Though I may be in a minority on a number of issues (or because I’m in the minority on a number of issues), I thank God (not goodness) that we live in a society where these beliefs can still be contested.

  9. This discussion makes a good point, something as a conservative I feel strongly about. You can’t just legislate behavior, but have to convinence people to agree with your views.

    Read an interesting quote yesterday, dealing iwth the racial aspects of abortion. Planned Parenthood kills more African-Americans every three days then the KKK has during their entire existance.

  10. You can’t just legislate behavior, but have to convinence people to agree with your views.


    Are you paying attention, Bob Moffett and Jeanne Weigum?

  11. “”You can’t just legislate behavior, but have to convinence people to agree with your views.


    That is the part I agreed with

    “Are you paying attention, Bob Moffett and Jeanne Weigum?”

    And MoN and Swiftee . . . .

    NW: Thanks for the thoughts. I acknowledge there is a difference between ‘imposing faith’ and legislating ‘faith. I need to be more careful so as not to imply they are interchangeable.


  12. There also gets to be confusion on your role as a legislature vs judicial position. Certain religions would say that if you want to be in good standing in the church, you should support pro-life legislation. But the same church would say that if the current law is abortion on demand, that as a judge, you uphold the law.

  13. ““”You can’t just legislate behavior, but have to convinence people to agree with your views.”

    Well according to Mitch’s post, 72% of people believe that abortion is morally wrong, but it took only seven people to overrule the will of the people.

    I’d prefer that laws be legislated rather than dictated. I’d prefer that this country didn’t have a death penalty, but I’m perfectly willing to allow the view of the majority to decide this.

    The left continually tries to legislate its view of morality, don’t object to my desire to do the same thing just because you think my view comes from my faith.

  14. Wow-what an absolutely refreshing bunch of posts! Not one snarky, smart-ass remark-just good, solid point and counterpoint. Well done everyone!

  15. If any of you are still reading this post, do any of you think that those who consider themselves anti-abortion should also be anti-war?
    i realized i am completely against abortion, but *generalization alert* am not opposed to war. Where is the line? If i think it is a moral thing to not kill the unborn, because i consider them people, too, why is it right that i should not be opposed to war, which kills people, too?
    i should just write a post about this. Sorry Mitch:)

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