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Kleppner: Abortion

10/21/10 5:55PM By Bram Kleppner
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(HOST)  According to commentator Bram Kleppner people on opposite sides of the abortion debate have more in common than they might think.

(KLEPPNER) Abortion. I just say the word, and you're ready for a fight. You expect that within a few words, you'll know whether I'm pro-life or pro-choice. If I'm not on your side, you'll meet everything I say with anger, derision and sadness. If I am on your side, you'll relax and cheer.  Either way, you don't expect to hear anything you haven't heard a thousand times before.

But I'm going to say something new. In this country, we are all pro-life. I myself am firmly pro-choice. I've volunteered at Planned Parenthood, I sit on the boards of two non-profits that work for women's rights, and I believe in the right to a safe and legal abortion.  With all that, I'm pro-life, and so is everyone else.

No one likes abortion. Not the women who get abortions, not the doctors who perform abortions, not the individuals, non-profits, and insurance companies who pay for abortions. We are all pro-life.

Right now, those opposed to abortion are holding a series of rallies outside Planned Parenthood in Burlington and around the country. But the whole rancorous, sometimes violent, always bitter 40-year argument we've been having with ourselves is misguided, because we are all pro-life.

Less than 6% of abortions in this country are medically necessary or are the result of rape or incest. Let's not argue about 6% when we all agree on the other 90+% of abortions. The vast majority are simply the result of unwanted pregnancies. Let's agree, as uncomfortable as this will make pro-choicers, that our goal as a national community is zero unwanted pregnancies and close to zero abortions.

Pregnancies in women who aren't ready to be mothers account for almost half the non-medical abortions, so we can eliminate most unwanted pregnancies by doing two things: helping young people delay their first sexual experiences, and making sure they are equipped to avoid pregnancy when they do start having sex.

Ironically, those most opposed to abortion, like evangelical Christians, and the organization they often view as the enemy, Planned Parenthood, agree on the value of delaying sexual activity. The evangelicals call it abstinence. Planned Parenthood calls it postponement. They mean the same thing. We all want our children to have healthy, happy sex lives, and we agree this is more likely if they wait until their bodies and minds mature beyond the early teenage years.

But that doesn't happen in a vacuum. The data are clear that providing young people with full information on human sexuality, birth control and the benefits of postponement is more effective than teaching abstinence only.

So here is the grand bargain between pro-lifers and pro-choicers: pro-choicers need to agree that our goal is zero non-medical abortions. Pro-lifers have to agree that we will support sex ed in our schools. There will be many fewer abortions. And all the protesters on both sides can let go of the anger and bitterness of the past 40 years and go home to their families.

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