After all the political battles are over, pro-lifers and pro-choicers in Missouri are going to have to live together, as neighbors, co-workers, congregants, teammates and friends. It would be nice if we could skip the battles part and go straight to the living together part.
For now, abortion opponents have won a near ban on abortion through the Legislature, even denying rape victims the ability to abort a pregnancy to which they did not consent. Few believe it will last.
In reaction, one group of abortion advocates are proposing a constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion as an unlimited right. Few believe that will pass.
So, what if we looked for a compromise that would take both sides’ most strongly held and popular views into account? What would that look like? As a pro-lifer I want my side to win, but that’s not realistic in any divided state.
Missouri is lucky in that it has two initiative proposals that are trying to find the middle ground.
Two legislative perspectives
One from the pro-choice side suggests restrictions can begin at 24 weeks taking horrific abortions like the late-term partial-birth abortion off the table in recognition of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose it.
One from the pro-life side suggests that abortion be relatively unrestricted up until 12 weeks – allowing the majority of today’s abortions to go forward and allowing exceptions on the limits for cases of rape and incest, something the vast majority of Americans support.
I’d suggest that the more moderate abortion opponents and advocates for limited choice after viability get together on a proposal that requires sacrifices from both sides, maybe allowing a ban after 15 or 18 weeks. Medical advances are pushing viability in that direction anyway.
Abortion is deeply personal to me. My mother was adopted, so I am one D & C abortion away from having never existed at all. My mother has made unique and irreplaceable contributions as an advocate for pregnant teens, a school nurse at an alternative school and a friend to refugees from Africa and the Middle East. I am proud of what she has done and I am glad she was around to bring me here. At least a few other people are, too.
But I also see abortion through the eyes of science and a larger view of what I want our society to be about.
A better society
From the moment of conception, there is a human being with its own genetic code. My youngest daughter’s sex and eye color were set in stone from the start. Her curly hair and infectious laugh probably were, too. Once something so precious and full of such potential has come into being we should be loathe to kill her or any of her human brothers and sisters. Black or brown, boy or girl, they are all the same in their human value and uniqueness.
I want to live in a society where we keep that value at the forefront of our minds throughout their lives.
From a social perspective, I have seen what comes of taking the value of life lightly. We can see it in our own country in mass shootings and Kansas City’s murder rate. Next door in Canada we can see other humans deemed too much trouble as the government makes it easy for the disabled and the depressed to commit suicide. I can see a time when the pressures of poverty and homelessness lead society to deem the inconvenient among us as disposable, too. Look to Israel and the Gaza strip to see what it is like when people have lost reverence for the enormous value of a single human life.
I don’t want to go there.
But I understand some people disagree about abortion. There are women in tough situations whose children would be born into poverty, abuse and a culture where too many lose interest in them once they are born. There are shades of gray in the choices women make to do what is best for children who are already here.
That’s why I am willing to compromise and I hope that strong believers on both sides of this issue will think about making Missouri a beacon of what America can be when we accept the validity of our differing views and seek to find a way to live together in understanding, instead of always seeking that elusive final victory at the ballot box.
David Mastio, a former editor and columnist for USA Today, is a regional editor for The Center Square and a regular Star Opinion correspondent.