Has choice lost support?

By Alicia Montgomery

Published January 30, 2001 9:00AM (EST)

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On the issues of parental notification, partial-birth abortion and waiting periods, Planned Parenthood's Heidi Melz claims that people "have to understand that those things are a strategy by anti-choice people to overturn Roe vs. Wade." It is precisely that type of condescending, misleading statement that alienates supporters of the pro-choice movement.

The pro-choice movement and the pro-life movement offer very little choice at all -- it's either all abortion, all the time, or no abortion, none of the time. Abortion access restrictions are attempts to address the moral complexities of abortion. It is the pro-choice movement's refusal to acknowledge those complexities that will ensure the continued erosion of support for Roe vs. Wade.

-- Lisa M. Kazes

As a man who is pro-choice as a matter of the most fundamental civil liberty, one line from your article leaped off the page at me: "While NOW has no division devoted to youth outreach, it does occasionally sponsor conferences for young feminists."

There is a series of ads in my area that demonstrates an anti-choice message clearly, a pure marketing tool aimed at all young women with no attempt to characterize the viewer as "feminist" or otherwise.

The pro-choice movement has to make its message reverberate among women who would not consider themselves feminists; they could be strippers or prostitutes, sorority girls or big-haired Baptist housewives.

Pro-choice is a civil liberty of unequaled value to a free and just society. If its main proponents aim their message at just feminists, there's a problem. Stop trying to preach to the converted.

-- Aristo Callum

Having taught college courses in medical ethics for the past decade, I'd like to throw in my two cents on this topic.

The simple pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy describes fewer and fewer young people. One force that the pro-choice side has failed to appreciate is that of ultrasound machines. Images are powerful things, and the present generation has grown up with a real-time window into the last stages of pregnancy. The idea of terminating a fetus past the middle of the pregnancy is wholly repellent to the current generation of college students because of that.

On the other hand, the availability of early-pregnancy terminations has become something that can be taken for granted, and most of my students are uncomfortable with the idea of placing restrictions on those abortions, even if they object to them.

Organizations like NOW find themselves in a very difficult position. When they defend last-term abortions, they come off as monsters. When they defend early-term abortions, they come off as out of touch with present political reality. They are left resorting to slippery slope arguments, and those seem fishy to most students, even those who've never taken a course in logic.

-- Michael Booker, Jefferson College

Once again, Salon fails to see the obvious. Perhaps the decline in support for abortion is due less to "boomers' unwillingness to share power," and more to the persuasive force of pro-life arguments -- a concept you studiously ignore.

The media controls the terms of the abortion debate, as it does nearly every public debate. And the media is pro-abortion. It is all but impossible to air the film "Silent Scream" or any similar film; infanticide is mislabeled "partial-birth abortion"; pro-life people are regularly denigrated as "extremists." Yet, over time, perhaps the truth about abortion will make its way into the public conscience, and NARAL and its allies will wake up to find that the American people are not as barbaric as they would have it.

-- Michael Faraone

There was an important omission from the article about the younger generation being more welcoming of the "pro-life" view: the fact that none of them are old enough to remember when abortion was against the law.

If they did remember, or if they were faced with an unwanted pregnancy and told they had zero options, my suspicion is that their thinking would change.

-- Stephen Sacco

Your article notes the decline in polled support for abortion, then leaps to explain it with a generation gap?

Has it occurred to your correspondent that the carnage resulting from abortion on demand is turning Americans' stomachs? Or that it might be morally wrong to murder children, and voters are responding to this? Or does Salon continue to insist that values have no place in politics unless they can be used against the right?

-- Stephen Sandifer

How can Alicia Montgomery allow the outrageous claims of Elizabeth Daub to go unchallenged? Daub argues that young people are "totally taken advantage of" by the "abortion industry."

How ridiculous to assert that abortion services are profitable -- many if not most operate at a loss. And to call it an industry that is trying to take advantage of people is just more typical inflammatory right-wing rhetoric, not to mention that it's false.

Nor have I have ever seen or heard anything that supports Daub's claim that Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations support or encourage a "steady message of sexual permissiveness and perversion." That's utterly ridiculous! In fact, I've heard and read about many pro-choice people, some officially connected to Planned Parenthood, who advocate for abstinence components in sex education and who decry the oversexualization of young people -- especially girls -- on MTV and the like.

I know that the point of the article was that anti-choice support has grown a little, but that doesn't excuse the mostly one-sided point of view that taints the article. This includes not having an "answer" to the young woman who claimed that she was dismissed by older women in pro-choice organizations. Was she just kidding when she said she was told to get coffee? That kind of statement should not be used without a chance for someone to refute it, or without a note saying the speaker was joking.

Also, Montgomery seems to assume that this growth in anti-choice support is going to continue. And there was no mention of what questions, exactly, were asked by pollsters to arrive at the statistics she quoted. I expect more from you at Salon.

-- Jerie Heille

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