Virginia Seuffert is right [Why conservatives mourn each January, Viewpoints, Jan. 7]. Not on everything, but on some things. I know it’s hard for the pro-choice side to admit, but those who oppose abortion are right about a few important matters, and they deserve credit for challenging our national conscience.

They’re right that abortion is disrespectful of life. Pro-choice advocates should admit that. It’s good for us. Shows we’re not extremists. Abortion is fundamentally disrespectful. As is capital punishment, especially when our justice system is deeply flawed and subject to human error. As is pre-emptive war under any circumstances but especially when the danger you’re pre-empting turns out to be false. As is torture, even in response to terrorism (for the same reasons as capital punishment listed above). As are poverty and a health care system that actually lead to lower life expectancy for millions of Americans. As is climate change because it leads to endangered and extinguished species and now threatens the entire planetary eco-system. If you support abortion, capital punishment, pre-emptive war, torture, the current health care mess, and limiting environmental protections, you are most definitely not pro-life. If you oppose one of the above but not the rest, you are not pro-life. Even if you oppose all but one of the above, you’re still not pro-life.

The bar for pro-life is set very high-as it should be. Very few human beings, I’ve found, are genuinely “pro-life.”

Both sides in the Roe v. Wade debate, officially 36 years old tomorrow, can agree there isn’t nearly enough respect for life in this society-then or now. Increasing respect for life is a worthy goal. That’s our common ground.

The debate is about how to reach that goal. Reducing the demand for legal abortions is a worthy goal. Eliminating legal abortion altogether is not. You can’t improve respect for life by criminalizing abortion. As Bill Clinton famously said, abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

To criminalize abortion, you have to decide when life begins. To do that, you have to play God, and pro-lifers like to tell the rest of us we shouldn’t be playing God. If you define life as beginning at conception, then you open up every miscarriage to investigation for manslaughter or murder (just how accidental was that miscarriage really?). If you don’t think that would happen, you don’t know much about human nature-or our flawed justice system.

I believe abortion should not be used casually as a birth control measure, but I also believe women must have the final say on what they do with their own bodies, whether I happen to agree with that decision or not.

I believe women have a right to control their reproductive function as much as humanly possible and that preventive birth control is always preferable to reactive birth control. If you want to reduce demand for abortion, start by increasing the availability of contraception and promoting responsible birth control.

Ah, but that would promote sexual activity, abortion opponents always say.

I don’t believe that’s true, but even if it were, which is the greater evil, sexual activity or aborting a fetus? Preventing conception or aborting a fetus? Are you holding out, hoping to prevent both? How’s it been working for you these last 36 years? How many abortions took place during that time because you can’t abide the notion of responsible birth control?

And then you have the nerve to call yourself “pro-life”?

Those who oppose responsible birth control, are, in effect, enabling abortion. Those who will settle for nothing less than criminalizing abortion are, in effect, enabling abortion. If the long-range goal of eliminating abortion altogether is more important to you than the short-range goal of progressively reducing the demand for abortion, you are, in effect, enabling abortion. You may not want to admit that. You may hate the thought, but the blood is on your hands too.

We all need to stop being abortion promoters. Instead, we should become champions of respecting life in all its forms-by preventing poverty and unwanted conception, by advocating for health care reform and opposing torture and pre-emptive war, by living a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

There’s a lot we can do together. Divided, we can’t do a thing. It’s not Roe v. Wade you should be worrying about. It’s American v. American.

Both sides are right and both sides are wrong when it comes to abortion. As soon as we all start admitting that, we’ll begin carving out some common ground and become one another’s allies.

Or we can go on having this ridiculous argument for another 36 years. It’s your choice.

The goal is greater respect for life-all life-not criminalizing abortion. For God’s sake, keep your eyes on the real prize.

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