I believe in making common cause with people of all persuasions, but here’s what I learned about the quest for common ground on issues where people have diametrically opposing worldviews. Originally published at On The Issues Magazine.

©Elaine Soto

©Elaine SotoThe day before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was expected to rule, rumors circulated that the agency would approve Plan B One Step emergency contraception as a non-prescription item and allow it to be sold without age restrictions. Freelance writer Robin Marty predicted via e-mail, “Conservative reaction will be a total shitstorm.”

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Yes, of course. Adoption reform is an issue on which those who oppose abortion and those who support a woman’s right to choose abortion should be able to work together to forge common ground for policies that make adoption a genuine choice. See there, Steve Waldman and I have found common ground already. So now…

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Just because every generation has to speak in its own tongues doesn’t mean any generation will find that elusive common ground between pro-and anti-choice points of view when they frame the questions poorly.

One of those conversations is going on now over at RHRealityCheck, a website I respect and love, but that I think has allowed itself to be led down the primrose path to nowhere on this issue. For example, check out this utterly ridiculous bloviation about the merits of paying women to carry pregnancies to term by–as they adorably acknowldege–“two men, no uteruses”: Will Saletan, who never misses a chance to pontificate about how pro-choice he is while capitulating to anti-choice arguments and Beliefnet’s Steven Waldman.

Remind me, how do you spell “c-o-e-r-c-i-o-n”? How much money would it take to make you carry a pregnancy to term against your will?

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Early this morning my daughter called to ask me what I thought about President Barack Obama’s comments about abortion yesterday in his commencement address at Notre Dame. She worried he’d been too soft and that by not stating his moral support for reproductive rights had instead signaled that he would not stand firm on policy related to abortion. Take a look at what he said and tell me what you think:

I replied to her that it was as good as we’d get from Obama, who clearly wants everyone to get along and doesn’t like confrontation. I wish he’d wax as eloquently about sexism and women’s human rights as he did about racism during his campaign. The controversy about race ignited by statements Obama’s minister made had threatened to be as divisive as the one he confronted at the Catholic university, and he used the first occasion to teach about race as well as to “tamp down the anger” as he has said he wants to do with regard to abortion. The disappointment for me was that he failed to elevate women’s reproductive self-determination to a similar moral high ground.

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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.

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Heartland and host of NPR station KALW talk show “Your Call”, to a diverse (except for shared relief that George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency is almost over) panel of guests, with global to local expertise ranging from bugs to books, health to wealth, the arts to politics, war, peace, and everything in between. I was privileged to be among the large lineup that included Marian Wright Edelman, Founder & President of the Children’s Defense Fund, Antonia Juhasz, Author of “The Tyranny of Oil” & “The Bush Agenda”, David Kipen, Director, National Reading Initiatives, National Endowment of the Art, and David Cay Johnston, former NY Times tax reporter and author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill).

You can listen to the program in full.

Then tell how you’d answer the question, “What Are You Looking Forward to in 2009?” by posting your comments here.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to

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