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There Is a Common Ground on Abortion, But It’s Not What We Need


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By Tyler Raciti

Thousands march at Respect for Life to protect the rights of the unborn. (Courtesy of Maggie McConologue/The Fordham Ram).

Last week, the New York Times marked the 46th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), which legalized abortion in the United States by a 7-2 vote.

One week earlier in The Times, Charles Camosy, Ph.D., professor of ethics in the Fordham University department of theology, wrote the op-ed, “I Am Pro-Life. Don’t Call Me Anti-Abortion,” furthering his long-held argument that we need to understand and uphold a common ground and moderate stance in the abortion debate.

This common ground is best expressed as the ability for a woman to choose life. There is sense in this convuluted and paradoxical idea. Democratic pro-life supporters like Camosy tend to argue that it is not whether a woman should make the choice but rather who is making that choice. This implies the state must make this vital choice for women.

In his book, “Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation,” Camosy proposes federal legislation, the Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act (MPCPA), to ban abortion due to the “mother and prenatal child’s dual entity… [unless the prenatal child] presents [a] mortal threat… unless the situation is emergent.” While Camosy never directly states that his proposed legislation hands the right to abort to the government, the need to appeal your case suggests otherwise.

I respect Camosy’s attempt to be a conciliatory voice in public policy on abortion. However, walking backwards on women’s rights is not what we need.

The compromise brilliantly deepens the pro-life and pro-choice debate: are we destigmatizing the mother while simultaneously humanizing the “fetus” or “child” by giving the right to abort to the state?

This act allows pro-life supporters to claim to be in pursuit of saving both victimized populations. “Women are already pressured and even coerced to have abortions – often because our culture has not given them the protection and support they are due,” states Camosy.

However, it is a very slippery slope to indirectly hand over women’s rights on abortion to the state to ease the societal blame on women for aborting. Erasing these rights follows the tradition of socially downgrading women’s status.

Camosy makes the case that his proposals for “Paid Family Leave,” “Equal Pay for Equal Work” and “Help with Childcare” will help push women’s rights forward, but these seem more like a careful negotiation of women’s rights than anything meaningful for pro-choice supporters.

Realistically considering our political landscape, any legislation giving the state control over the woman’s right to choose will open the floodgates for further suppression and political manipulation.

The proposed legislation uncovers a different, underlying issue: common ground is simply a well disguised pro-life stance. A common ground does indeed exist but only within a convoluted twist of language, a strategic marketing ploy, for the already established pro-life agenda.

Camosy wrote in The Times article that using the term “fetus” is almost dehumanizing and that it “seeks to hide the fact that by the time most surgical abortions take place, a prenatal child has electrical activity in the brain and a beating heart.”

A heartbeat and brain activity does not indicate life. I say this out of experience.

One month ago, my father went into a respiratory arrest from head and neck cancer. Because of modern technological advancements, he sat on life support, a philosophically gray area between life and death. He had become comparative to Schrödinger’s cat. His brain activity showed little signs of recovery, and he eventually reached brain death. However, my father’s heart was still naturally beating. My father had no viable, natural potential of recovery; no “Trait X” that determined life.

Just as I had the right to choose to disconnect my father from life support, a mother has the right to choose to abort her child. This is not a decision for the state; this is a decision for the mother. In the case of my father, it was a decision for me.

Shifting the language from “fetus” to “prenatal child” does not do justice to women in the moral predicament of abortion. Are we more focused on converting language to fit current ideological beliefs than on solving the predicament of abortion?

Let me also acknowledge the elephant in the room: Camosy and I are cisgender men discussing what a woman should or should not choose to do with her body. Our opinions are in no way representative of the actual experiences of a woman – especially one who is not theoretically, but actually, in the predicament of choosing whether to abort her fetus.

Camosy does note in “Beyond the Abortion Wars” that criminalizing abortion “actually serve[s] the interests of men and ha[s] disastrous consequences for women.”

We live in a time of polarization, and my argument for debate can be misconstrued as furthering the divide in our country. However, that is because a common ground solution simply disguises a divisive argument.

Throughout “Beyond the Abortion Wars,” there has been a grey area between the religious and the secular. This defeats the noble goal because it simply shifts this polarizing conversation elsewhere, from pro-life versus pro-choice to religion versus secularism. In the common ground’s roots, there is an appeal to revealed religion. Laws should not rest on individual metaphysical beliefs.

I must admit that Camosy is onto something very vital to our nation’s discourse and that is to end the polarization and disengagement plaguing our democracy. It is a very noble attempt to end the uncompromising abortion dichotomies. However, pro-choice supporters must see that this common ground solution is an indirect capitulation for them and their beliefs.

 

Tyler Raciti, FCRH ’21, is an international political economy major from Long Island, New York

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There Is a Common Ground on Abortion, But It’s Not What We Need