Some friendly advice from the other side

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the "pro-life" movement is, no doubt, assessing the successes and failures of their Ahab-like quest to kill the Great White Whale of legalized abortion.

The results, at best, have been mixed.

Though I am a 40-year member of the pro-choice side of this argument, I have some sympathy — and a certain grudging respect — for "pro-lifers." Figuring that, after four decades of banging their heads against the wall of moral righteousness, they might finally be willing to listen, I offer the following friendly advice:

First, lose the label. "Pro-life" is insulting to anyone who doesn't agree with you. Imagine if I referred to my newspaper column as the "pro-truth" movement. This would imply that anyone who didn't agree with me was a liar. Not exactly the best way to win friends and influence people.

It's also inaccurate. If you were truly "pro-life," you'd be picketing in front of NRA headquarters.

That designation undermines your credibility. Until you get out there and start vigorously defending the planet on which all life depends, you're merely "pro-one-small-sliver-of-life."

What you really are is a "Defender of the Unborn." Truth in advertising — and not a bad moniker. Something you can proudly proclaim.

Second, change your objective. For 40 years, the goal, pursued with single-minded, single-issue obsession has been criminalizing abortion. Bad choice. It just isn't realistic. Here's an example: If abortion were a crime, then every miscarriage would necessarily have to be investigated as a possible homicide. How well do you think that would go over? If you thought Prohibition was unpopular, just wait.

You can win the occasional battle, but you simply can't win this war through the legal system. You have to win the hearts and minds of the American people, and that can't be done through legislation. It can only be done in the court of public opinion.

To prevail there, you'll need to turn on the charm. At the risk of being blunt, that isn't exactly your strong suit. Arrogance, born of absolute moral certainty, does not a persuasive argument make. As pollsters like to say, your negatives are high.

Which brings us to your biggest challenge: It's one thing to respect life. It's another to respect your opponent. You have to understand why choice — and reproductive rights — is so important to them. There are reasons — aside from your surliness — that you haven't really made a dent in changing pro-choice minds. Dismissing their arguments as morally inferior to yours will not result in mass conversion. You have to engage in dialogue and recognize there is something here worth listening to.

And finally, you'll have to look in the mirror. This battle isn't really about abortion. Abortion is merely a symptom of something even more disturbing — disrespect for life. But actively resisting abortion does not absolve you of your own participation in a culture that doesn't value life enough. If you supported the war in Iraq and believe we should invade Iran, if you support capital punishment, if you support easy access to guns, if you spend your entertainment dollars on Hollywood shoot-'em-ups and graphic shooting-gallery video games for kids, if your consumer and electoral choices contribute to rain forest destruction, extinction of endangered species, and accelerating climate change, then you, too, are a member in good standing of the "culture of death." Criminalizing abortion won't even begin to change that.

You can't scold people into valuing life. You can't legislate it. You have to lead by example.

If it's any consolation, you're not alone. I for one am not doing nearly enough to help raise respect for life. At least I admit it. And I've never made grandiose claims to being "pro-life."

Forty years is a long time to wage a moral crusade. You must be exhausted. Ten years from now, on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, do you really want to feel the way you do now — or worse?

Both sides have more in common than you think. Many of us are pro-choice and anti-abortion, as hard as that might be to wrap your head around. And every one of us, I suspect, looks around and concludes that our culture does not value life enough.

It's a starting point. The first step is out of the courtroom — and into the court of public opinion. Or I can pull out this column in 10 years and run it again. Maybe you'll be ready to listen by then.

The choice is yours.


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joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 25th, 2013 6:43 PM

confabulating about the NRA and abortion. I think Ken's off his meds again.

#MarchforLife from Oak Park  

Posted: January 25th, 2013 10:39 AM

To ProChoice from OP: Thank you for stating your 'witness'. I'm heartbroken for your loss and the lack of support given at the time to you and your generation. Please check out: or there is a brand new on-line show called "Surrender the Secret" which posted its first episode (Jan 22) on line. It deals with the post-tramatic stress of abortion.

prochoice from Oak Park  

Posted: January 25th, 2013 6:10 AM

Roe v.Wade changed the lives of many w. in my generation. Where are the voices of women who, like me found themselves in the painful place to make the deicison to have one?We remember the pain and the loss after making this decision; some afraid to face their catholic fathers and mothers who would have turned them out if we came home with child out of wedlock. Others feeling left alone to face this challenge. Thank you, Ken for saying what so many of us often don't have the courage to say.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 6:11 PM

All lot more than "knowing all the facts & options" is being posted on this forum. It is clear that there has been an ongoing attempt to distort the truth about President Obama, Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. Difficult to understand what motivates an individual who engages in such activities but has sadly become the norm for many desperate right wing extremists.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:50 PM

rj - I think I understand what you are thinking. I believe that the earliest survival of a live birth is in the 5 month range and then only with exceptional medical care. A fetus born at less than 5 months has no viability, even if they live an hour or a day. You don't seem to realize that the decision to abort a fetus is difficult and heartrending.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:36 PM

Concerned -Thanks for watching. End of life due to old age or illness hard to be compared with a newborn who's non existence has been pre determined shortly after conception because of inconvenience. Some of these were viiable beyond what was expected surviving for 8hrs & could have survived as many premature babies do, but not given a chance. All I'm saying is know all the facts & options before agreeing to abortion. I may not agree but you have the law on your side.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:22 PM

The independent sentinel is a blog produced by right wing extremists. Definitely not a credible source. Figure it's content to be on par with the disgraced World Net Daily or the infamous Drudge Report.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:07 PM

rj - Yeah, I looked at it. You miss the point, these are non-viable, meaning they are not capable of surviving. They are given comfort care only. You realize this is the same care given to an adult who has come to the end of their life. Treatment is stopped and comfort care is given. Stop twisting things around.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 3:58 PM

If you go to you'll hear a nurse from Christ Hospital, Oak Lawn describing the 12-28 live birth abortions/yr there & how they're left in a linen closet or trash to die even if they could be saved. Sorry, but you can't call this civilized.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 3:43 PM

rj - Come on. Partial birth abortion on a pre-viable fetus means that the fetus cannot survive under any circumstance. Boy, you sure are twisting the facts. I'm done here. Have no interest in changing your mind.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 3:38 PM

Obama voted 'no' to protect a child born alive. There would be no legal conflict of interest as there would be a live second patient & a second opinion would be called in to determine viability. He voted 'no' because he felt the intent of the procedure was an abortion & the 'mistake' of live birth due to a failed abortion should remain unprotected as a fetus. has corroborated that he misrepresented his vote. www.independentsentinel.com2012/08/obamas-extremism-on-abortion

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 2:22 PM

More misinformation being presented as fact. President Obama's vote while a member of the Illinois senate reflected his postion that the change in law, which was opposed by every state medical group, would have resulted in criminal charges and civil suits being brought against doctors and lead to a total ban on abortions, even in cases involving the mother's health, incest and rape. Obama did state there was need to protect infants and that the proposed legislation did not take into account how a pre-viable fetus was treated and posed a threat to the relationship between a woman and her doctor. Extremists willingly ignore the facts and truth in a misguided effort to generate support for their postions. Beware.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:53 PM

Ken, Trainer you sound like a right wing conservative. There may be hope yet for the middle.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 11:17 AM

Concerned - I also read and was aware that Alveda King had abortions. Depending on your life experiences your views can change either way. With so many abortions performed I think people don't take their actions as serious as they should when they're misled by 'fetus' instead of baby. And don't forget Prez O approves of partial birth abortion and has refused to support legislation protecting born alive failed abortions. No excuse for that ruthlessness.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:43 AM

rj - You may not be aware but Alveda King admits to having 2 abortions herself before becoming a pro-lifer. I guess its one of those do as I say not what I do things. But, I respect that she has changed her mind.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:24 AM

rj - I have checked where you are coming from, ie: black eugenics. I know that it probably will make no difference to you that ML King was for planned parenthood. I accept that you are pro-life. I believe you have the right to decide for yourself, but not for anyone else.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 5:17 AM

Margaret Sanger and Alveda King are both activists. King an acknowledged catholic would no doubt be against any abortion issue. She particularly believes that Sanger was out to create black infanticide. Sanger is heralded as a nurse in saving many women's lives by reducing unwanted pregnancy. She gave women a choice to decide what was best for themselves and their families.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 2:03 AM

I'm not misrepresenting her any more than you might be. What makes you think your sources are so much more reliable than someone else's. One needs a sense of humor even when on opposite sides of an issue - at 2am.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:50 AM

Interesting example of hypocrisy involving a malpractice case in Colorado. A man is claiming negligence in the deaths of his wife and her twins who died in the womb. The defendant in the case, Catholic Health Initiatives, argues that no liability exists concerning the unborn fetuses on the grounds that fetuses are not persons with legal rights.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:49 AM

Alveda King is a great lady and I'm not aware of that particular comment. Another topic, another day.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:44 AM

Not possible to agree to or approve of resorting to a misrepresentation of the facts in an effort to support a fraudulent position.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:35 AM

I do recall a quote offered up earlier that I gather does not fall into that 'supposed" quote category. How does one come to that objective conclusion all the while discounting all but one that reveals the 'true' character of Margaret Sanger? Let's not get too testy now. There is such a thing as agreeing to disagree.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:29 AM

Careful referencing Alveda King. She recently described gay marriage as "genocide".


Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:26 AM

Planned Parenthood can continue doing what they're claiming to do or not do. We all have a 'choice' in using their services or not. Many states are trying to defund them as they claim they have a "constitutional right" to public funds. This is wrong - PP can exist without one/third of their funding coming from taxpayer money.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:23 AM

"Supposed quotes" indeed. No excuse for offering misinformation and cherrypicking sources and facts about Margaret Sanger.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:02 AM

That's why there are always two sides to a story. Sanger could have been all that's been said of her today. There are many supposed quotes from her that confirm her racism. If we can only believe what appears to be pleasant and not accept the possibility of a person's darker side than we'll never really know anything. I'm also reading about MLK's niece, Alveda King, who talks about the real Sanger. That's how I've come to my conclusion about her. We'll never know first hand.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 1:01 AM

"all things should be taken into consideration" regarding Planned Parenthood. The organization provides services to 5 million Americans annually. 75% of their clients live at or below the federal poverty level. The services include distribution of contraceptives, screening for breast,cervical and testicular cancers, pregnancy testing, vasectomies and abortion. Planned Parenthood strongly supports sex education and promotes abstinence and birth control. Federal funds were provided as a result of a 1970 law signed by President Nixon. Republicans supported the act as a way to keep people off welfare. Democrats championed the measure for providing reproductive rights to women. Private donations to Planned Parenthood come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Turner Foundation, Buffet Foundation and The Ford Foundation.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 12:43 AM

Concerned - I'm not speaking for everyone. Just bringing up issues that are conveniently overlooked at times when all things should be taken into consideration. And God help my daughter you say - and He has - she & her husband have 3 great kids. Don't envy them these issues that will always be difficult.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 12:34 AM

As a nurse, Margaret Sanger witnessed women in the 1920s suffering due to frequent childbirth and self-induced abortions. She argued that birth control was a woman's issue and right. Sanger was found guilty and sentenced to prison for distributing contraceptives. Her views regarding promiscuity were based on her belief that women should avoid sex outside of marriage and excercise confidence and respect. Misinformation about Margaret Sanger has been posted on this forum but her mission was dedicated to saving lives. Repeated efforts to portray her as a "racist" (she prohibited discrimination within her organization) and "evil" are misguided and based upon inaccurate information.


Posted: January 24th, 2013 12:16 AM

Komen is funding a handful of rural facilities where mammograms are performed. They were not in most of the facilities which is why they opted out in some. Taxpayer dollars are not supposed to be used for abortions so of course they'll claim the numbers are low so the funding continues. The monies are fungible & are not separated out from abortions. Other services have dropped dramatically & abortions are the main event despite what they conveniently claim.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 11:56 PM

To Modern Dad - Your daughter is blessed to have you. To rj - You and people like you are the reason why only women should make the decision for themselves. God help your daughter.


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 11:29 PM

Everything one does has a moral aspect to it especially when you're dealing with another life, inside or outside the womb. If we want the government out of our bedroom the government has no business mandating others to pay for what you may need in that bedroom or the results thereafter. In 2011 $542M in taxpayer funds to PP, 333,964 abortions. Pro choice - maybe the suggestion of adoption? Only 2,300 adoption referrals in all of 2011.

Fact checker  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 11:13 PM

Not only is Komen funding back for Planned Parenthood, rj, but your stat has been completely debunked. 3% of its services are abortions. 1 out of every 10 clients. The rest are birth control, screenings, testing...heck, here in Chicago you can even get a vasectomy at the one on LaSalle. Here's a helpful graph if you need pretty pictures.


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:58 PM

Sanger abhorred traditional marriage, women forced to stay at home with children & promoted promiscuity at all cost. She disdained low class people, mostly of color & wanted society to control the population of same. At times she had to camouflage her underlying motives & appeared to be looking out for all, which she was not. 98% of Planned Parenthood services are abortions. Susan G. Komen withdrew funding because PP gives referrals to other health providers for everything but abortions.

Modern Dad  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:57 PM

I have a daughter. And I'm definitely not against pre-marital sex--I'd tell my daughter she's making a horribly ill-informed decision if she doesn't. lol I also think it's my responsibility as a father to teach her about birth control, the morning after pill, how to decide if she can be a responsible mother, can share firsthand the loss of an unborn baby, & ultimately would put that decision in her hands. It's not about morals, it's about education. Her body, she can do with it what she wants.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:40 PM

To OP Res - I believe raging hormones are a result of being human. Obviously, its better to wait but can you imagine being a pregnant teen who is terrified of telling her parents and has no where to go. Parents need to teach their kids morals but be accepting if a pregnancy occurs. I cannot imagine what these kids are going through, and if their parents, peers, church are not supportive of their position the results can be worse than having an abortion.

OP Resident 864 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:17 PM

@Concerned - "we can educate against pre-marital sex?" Please, tell me how morality lectures and fear tactics will overcome raging hormones and decades of statistics. I'm all ears.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 10:05 PM

Margaret Sanger's comment has been taken out of context. She spoke those words intending to be ironic while reflecting upon the nightmarish infant mortality rate experienced by large families in the 1920s. Then the rate in the United States was more than 100 per thousand births. Sadly, while that number has greatly decreased over the decades, the US currently ranks 34th among 194 countries. Planned Parenthood is vital in addressing health issues and providing prenatal care for women, especially for those living in rural areas.

R Smithson  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 7:33 PM

If men could get pregnant, the right to an abortion would be enshrined in the Constitution.


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 6:53 PM

Sanger's goal was always race control through birth control, sterilization & abortion. She also said, " the most merciful thing a large family can do to one of it's infant members is to kill it." She urged mandatory sterilization of the poor as a prerequisite to receiving any public aid.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:53 PM

Dear Dan, There's a man's answer for you. Shoot the woman but not the man who got them there.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:50 PM

We can educate against pre-marital sex. We can make birth control more available. But, we are also fighting the beliefs of the Catholic church which is against any effective birth control as well as abortion. We have had presidential candidates purporting their views against abortion. Bah! All men, deciding what is best for a woman. It is a hard road for women to navigate.

Dan in Oak PArk  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 5:43 PM

There is a simple way to link the abortion issue and the NRA. Require that all abortions be performed using a gun.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 4:37 PM

In her own words, "no one can doubt there are a times when an abortion is justifiable but they will become unnecessary when care is taken to prevent conception". - Margaret Sanger


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 3:36 PM

Margaret Sanger, racist & idol of the feminists of our day, founded Planned Parenthood in the 1930's. A proponent of forced eugenics, segregation & abortion. Regarding blacks, immigrants & indigents she said, "human weeds, reckless breeders, spawning human beings who never should have been born." Some of you still support the mission statement of this vile organization who are responsible for the murders of the 55 million plus children in the last forty years. Convenience over conscience.


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 2:39 PM

In multiple societies throughout history, infanticide has been entirely legal. If back then, someone had been opposed to infanticide, would they have been directly responsible for taking care of all the newborns?


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 1:58 PM

Ray--this is not the forum to put your inadequacies on display. You whine like a child at any opinion not you own. Hateful dishonesty? Please, your positions are full of hatred, for dead kids, women and our community, and as dishonest as they come. Again, put on your big boy pants crybaby or get off the blog.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 12:23 PM

Ken will never miss a chance to blame the troubles of the world on the NRA. He speaks without any factual foundation, but spews hateful dishonesty. We all know where he is coming from and roll our eyes every time he hauls out his favorite soapbox. It is a shame that Bughouse Square isn't around any more. Ken could have a permanent corner.

Erik from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 11:17 AM

Ken (and others) might be interested in this piece that also calls for re-evaluating labels and terms and focusing on the substance of the ideas:

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 11:08 AM

5Th line: "If you are truly pro life,you'd picketing in front of NRA headquarters"Firearms have saved innocent lives. Abortions murder at least one person every procedure.Further by extending Kens thought, since he supports reproductive rights and not the rights of the innocent unborn, then Ken supports indirectly in favor of capital punishment,Iraq,Iran etc. because death by abortion and and other means is still death. It is Ken who supports murder.

Not about abortion  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 9:52 AM

Babies are great, but they turn into a children who need to be fed, clothed, educated, housed, and be taken care of while parents work. The abortion culture cannot be ended until we take better care of families and provide free contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancy to begin.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 9:10 AM

Way too many people speak for the baby. Everyone loves to say what someone else should do and then they walk away. Ask yourself this if you are male, how many of you had unprotected sex in your lifetime. Are you sure you don't have children out there that you don't acknowledge. Women never had the same freedom. Women deserve the right to decide for themselves to choose motherhood or not. It is life altering for them.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 7:22 AM

Concerned - who speaks for the baby?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 7:13 AM

Yesterday I saw a PSA by the pro-choice forces, a male, black actor was toasting the 40th anniversary with a rose and a stiff cocktail. The ad was in such poor taste that even proponents of late term abortions should have been outraged. I kept thinking that if it had been this nit-wits mother, perhaps we would not be exposed to this travesty and he would have been spared the embarrassment of facing his fellow human beings. High class - low class - or no class at all - I vote for the latter.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2013 12:42 AM

Dear JKDIV, for you there is no moral reason to kill a human member of society. Therefore, it would be morally reprehensible to take your values on abortion away from you. I believe strongly in women having the choice to decide for THEMSELVES.


Posted: January 23rd, 2013 12:06 AM

Is it ever morally permissible to kill an innocent member of the human species? Apparently, Ken says yes.

Concerned from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2013 11:33 PM

I feel the need to present my personal bias to a public forum. I strongly believe that men do not have a right in the decision making for or against abortion law. For too long men have made the decision for women without bearing the responsibility for their decisions.

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