My efforts at bridge-building on the abortion issue [Can Pro-Life and Pro-Choice find common ground?, Jan. 26] went over as expected?#34;a plunk instead of a plank. Three or four letter writers responded, which I appreciate, although they were largely of the condescending “oh you poor misguided man, let me set you straight” variety. A couple gave me credit for trying, but mostly they showed they weren’t really listening.

A couple pulled the age-old “quotes out of context” gambit, tired though that rhetorical device might be. “Is abortion murder?” they echoed. “I don’t know” and left out the long catalogue that followed, in which I challenged those who claim to be pro-life but are, in fact, only narrowly pro-life. I respect their pro-life stance as far as it goes … but it doesn’t go very far.

Let me put it another way: If I’m a murderer for being pro-choice, are you a murderer for being anti-gun control? For supporting the death penalty? For not supporting a new health care system that would extend the life expectancy of the poor? Are you a murderer for supporting the war in Iraq, fought for reasons that turned out to be false?

If I’m a murderer for tolerating the legality of abortion, are you a murderer for tolerating the continued legality of tobacco, which every year kills more people than the entire Vietnam War? Are you a murderer for your part in America’s excessive consumer lifestyle, which results, among other things, in the bulldozing of the world’s rain forests, leading to the extinction of entire species of plants and animals?

If I’m a murderer for being pro-choice, then you’re a murderer for any or all of the above. If you want to get into a discussion about being pro-life, you’d better have the stomach for it because you won’t come out unbloodied. You think you’re self-righteous and judgmental? You haven’t seen self-righteous until you get both barrels from a pissed-off liberal.

You’re frustrated by all the immorality in the world that you think we’re overlooking? Don’t get us started because we also have a list, a very long one, and we lay the brunt of it right on your doorstep.

So in the Great Values Debate we can continue calling each other “murderer.” Or … We can take another approach altogether?#34;one where both sides win.

The fact is we’re all guilty. We live in, and contribute to, a culture of death. I’m glad you’re worried about life in the womb, but we’re well on our way to destroying the entire planet. You want some help on your moral crusade? How about helping us with ours?

Religious conservatives are very good at ‘fessing up to their essential sinfulness. Well, how about admitting that you’re not nearly as “pro-life” as you like to think? Neither am I, but at least I’m willing to concede that using abortion purely as a birth control measure is wrong and reveals a deep disrespect for life. Are you willing to concede that a woman has the right to make critical choices about her own body and reproductive capacity? Or that contraception is a much more responsible form of birth control?

With abortion it’s either win-win or lose-lose. Win-lose just isn’t going to cut it. To get to win-win, you have to admit you don’t have all the answers. You have to be willing to step out of your “truth bunker” and begin a genuine dialogue. Does any anti-abortion pro-lifer out there have the courage to do that publicly?

We’re all responsible for the culture of death. All of us. You aren’t exempt because you oppose abortion. You’re just as compromised. Your hands are just as bloody as ours. If we all surrender our self-righteousness, arrogance and condescension, maybe we can create a culture of life.

But only if we do it together … hand in bloody hand.

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