Americans Are in the Center on Abortion

We wish the politicians would catch up: Congratulations to Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton for taking centrist positions on abortion. Of course, they have caught hell for being muddled or dishonest from pundits and advocates.Nevertheless, Rudy and Hillary are in the mainstream with their professed dislike of abortion and their defense of pro-choice law. The coyotes like the position. Far from being immoral, as the purists contend, the two presidential candidates have staked out the moral and rational high ground. Moral because they point to their willingness to reduce abortions (and in Giuliani's case, his track record). Rational because they implicitly recognize the rightness of both sides. On one hand, one cannot deny that an embryo/fetus is inside a woman's body. This is more accurate than saying the embryo/fetus is part of a woman's body (like a limb), but it gives the woman a stronger claim on controlling the disposition of the embryo/fetus than the plantation owner has on the disposition of the human "slave" he claims as "property." (The moral comparison of abortion to slavery or genocide therefore doesn't work.) On the other hand, one cannot deny that the embryo/fetus is a potential human being and that disposing of it is of some considerable moral consequence. This is more accurate than saying the embryo/fetus is a human being, which is not a fact but a position, an opinion, or a dogma. This is why it is possible for people like Sen. Clinton and Mayor Giuliani to say that they are (mostly) opposed to abortion (for reasons of faith) but that they bow to pro-choice law because they recognize the stronger claim of pro-choice forces based on undeniable fact. Their solution of focusing on making abortions "safe, legal, and rare" is a rational way of dealing with the conflict between two "rights," one that ought to be applauded.--Wile E.

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