Ed Cone writes regarding the abortion debate:
Considering that the topic has been at the center of American politics for more than 30 years, it's remarkable how little people talk to each other about abortion. We talk at each other, and we preach to the choir, but actual dialogue across the ideological fault line is much less common.
Truer words could not have been written. In 2000, current Fox News reported Major Garret (he worked for Newsweek at the time) and former Congressman Timothy Penny published a book called The 15 Biggest Lies in Politics. The first Lie (and first chapter) is The Abortion Debate Matters.
Truthfully, the abortion debate has not signficantly changed in 30 years, yet it so dominates the poltical diablogue in this country you would think Roe v. Wade was on the Supreme Court docket every year. The proponents of both sides are so shrill, so vocal and so unforgiving that even a discussion is likely to devolve into, as Cone puts it, an argument in which
people don't even like to speak the whole truth of their own positions. They just dig in and mouth the party line. The result is that opponents and proponents of legal abortion have become caricatures in each others' eyes, instead of people with serious and heartfelt concerns about a complicated issue.
As Garrett and Penny point out, the rate of abortions performed in this country fluctuates with the percentage of women of child-bearing age. There has been no significant change in the number of abortions per woman of child-bearing years.
Of course, what gets lost in the shouting match, is the middle ground. Those people, of both parties, who take positions opposite the party line. Democratic Gov.-Elect Tim Kaine in Virginia and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger both hold positions on abortion significantly different than their party. There are those people who may find the practice morally objectionable, but also find it morally objectionable for the government to be involved in this decision, beyond simple safety regulations.
It is strikingly odd to me that if you took a group of both proponents and opponents of abortion, put them in a room and ask them questions on issues other than abortion, you are not likely to see the same fiercely held and fragmenting stances on other issues. Plus, on these other issues, these reasonably intelligent people can look at teh other side and at least acknowledge the soundness of the opposing postion. But when it comes to abortion, even the most intelligent of debaters becomes a rabid fountain of propaganda and spin.
Oddly enough, abortion issues need to be looking forward to other issues of more minute detail, such as abortion for sex selection, or abortion to avoid birth defects, no matter how minor. These issues, a result of growing medical technology and skill, need to weigh more in the public sphere, but until we can soothe the hackles of both camps, we are looking at more entrenchment of ideology--for no reason.