Where Common Ground Gets Shaky

First, please read for yourself Rachel Laser’s “Conceiving Common Ground” over at the website RHRealityCheck (btw, if you don’t already have RHRC on your bookmarked blog list, do it now; they provide exellent information and provocative articles like this one every day. Dozens of times through the 30 years I worked for Planned Parenthood and in the several years since, there have been efforts to find the so-called “third way” or “common ground.” I’ve had the privilege to be involved in some profound conversations with people who come from a wide range of pro- and anti-choice perspectives. I learned a great deal from them and they helped me shape or sometimes deepen my own convictions by questioning them.

Somehow, though, these efforts fail on three points, and the quest for the third way becomes a fool’s errand.

  • Blogger Amanda Marcotte

    First, they overlook the fact that the movement for reproductive rights, health, and justice has always started with initiatives to get universal access to birth control and related preventive health services. So, as Amanda Marcotte pointed out in her post to Rachel’s article and some of the comments it engendered, the “third way” is “standard issue pro-choice”.

  • Second, they fundamentally break off at the point where those who oppose abortion must make the leap to respect the moral view of those of us who are pro-choice just as they demand we respect theirs. Yes, we have a moral view, and for many of us it comes straight from our religious views too. Respecting other people’s moral views is also standard issue pro-choice.
  • And finally, speaking of respect, (why do I want to don Aretha’s hat here?), the common ground they find inevitably seems to require that women are in some way shamed or demeaned, and that abortion be deemed ipso facto a bad thing. Which begs the question of why so many women say it saved their lives, and indeed begs the question of whether women’s lives have value in the first place.

I responded to Amanda’s post and Rachel’s article as follows, and I’d be pleased to know whether you agree–have at it:

Indeed, Amanda. Thank you for saying what needs to be said with clarity and conviction.

Who the heck do they think invented the idea of prevention anyway? It sure wasn’t the people who lambaste abortion and/or self-righteously suggest women should be shamed for choosing abortion.

The rhetoric used against abortion today is the same as was used against birth control in the early days of the movement before abortion was legal. In fact, the rhetoric is quite similar to that used to oppose women’s suffrage and women’s equality in general if you probe history a bit. That’s why we need to make women’s human rights central to the conversation and quit all this dancing on the head of a pin.

I appreciate RHRealityCheck giving a platform to a wide range of people expressing various prochoice positions, but I must say I find Rachel’s article enormously disrespectful of women and (her own included) moral agency as well as far out of touch with the realities of women’s lives and the decisions they make in all good conscience for themselves and their families. I’m speaking from the frontline, having heard thousands of women’s stories. They made me humble enough not to judge

GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The LeadPeople has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”

As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.