Revisiting the abortion debate – The Washington Post


In his Jan. 19 op-ed, “Abortion is no civil right,” Michael Gerson failed to recognize the unseemly religious aspect to the abortion debate. The movement to legalize abortion gained steam in the 1960s when the medical profession joined with the American Law Institute to protect doctors from being criminally charged if they acted in the best interests of their patients and performed abortions. Consequently, between 1967 and 1970, 19 states legalized abortion where rape, incest, fetal abnormality or a woman’s health were at issue. At the same time, however, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took direction from the Vatican to oppose legalized abortion in the United States even though a majority of Americans (and Catholics) believed that abortion was a medical decision to be made between a woman and her doctor. As a result, the civil right of a woman seeking an abortion was pitted against the religious dictates of a church in a controversy that remains today in opposition to the Constitution’s separation of religious dogma from state law.

Dale Caryn Pappas, Bethesda

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “voter guidance” is taken by many Catholics as an instruction to vote for the person who will appoint Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe v. Wade is a political “wedge issue” the Democratic and Republican parties use to help elect their candidates. Overturning Roe v. Wade would not reduce the abortion rate in the United States, as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” advocates agree, and as Michael Gerson pointed out.

Bishops should abandon their emphasis on overturning Roe v. Wade; instead, their guidance should include candidates who will advance pro-life objectives: the right of every human person to life, liberty and personal security.

L. Joseph Marhoefer, Reston

Michael Gerson was spot on when he pointed out that pro-choice advocates are arguing more for autonomy than inclusion. The problem is that our Constitution, drafted by and for men, fails to address the fact that every human life enters this world through a woman’s body. Civil rights rhetoric, which pits the rights of women against the rights of the unborn, also fails in this respect.

I would love to see pro-life women and pro-choice women working together to find a compromise — perhaps a grand bargain that ensures the right to birth control and affordable child care in exchange for some restrictions on abortion.

Deborah Forbes, Clifton, Va.

As with most men trying to “mansplain” women’s issues, Michael Gerson missed the point entirely. He used polling data regarding “moral” Americans’ view of abortion but failed to address the hypocrisy of those same “moral” Americans allowing children to go hungry and without medical care. Concluding that this is an issue that can only be “managed,” he forgot that abortion is not his or the government’s business.

Les Halpern, Herndon

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