One hates to dump on people of good will, but it’s time to recognize that talking about common ground on abortion is creating more ill will than just going ahead and staking out some territory. A few days ago, progressive Catholics Simone Campbell and John Gehring contributed an op-ed piece to the Cleveland Plain Dealer chastising both secular left and religious right for refusing to heed the calls for truce in their pro-choice v. pro-life culture war. This has elicited a tough rejoinder from the redoubtable Fred Clarkson over at Talk To Action, wherein (among other things) he makes the point that in addition to the secular rights community, the pro-choice side also includes actual religious folks who believe that abortion can be a moral choice. Those in the pro-life community interested in making alliances with pro-choicers need to learn to acknowledge that.
But mainly, they ought to stop talking about the need for common ground and tell us what they consider the common ground to be. When the prominent conservative Catholic law professor Doug Kmiec signed on with the Obama campaign last year, he made the case for an approach to “abortion reduction” based on social policies intended to make it easier for abortion-tempted women to carry their pregnancies to term. Not surprisingly, some of his erstwhile allies in the pro-life camp considered this a betrayal, but he had a real case to make. Do Campbell and Gehring agree with it? If not, what about it is insufficient, from their point of view? Let them make their own case, and let’s see who they can persuade to embrace it.
It’s possible, of course, that the commongroundniks would just like to take the abortion issue off the table, so they can enlist pro-life Catholics and evangelicals to support a progressive social agenda that includes, say, universal health care and a war on poverty. But such pretextual politics is unworthy of people of good will, so I will decline to entertain that possibility.