With more than 20 years of writing opinion columns, I've covered a lot of topics, from local political issues to national ones.
The one I've tried to mostly stay away from is abortion. It's important, but people are so entrenched in their positions, there's not a lot I can say either way to make any difference. It makes for great "hot button" material, if one's goal is simply to stir the pot and generate letters to the editor. I once had a columnist content to do just that, often.
The Supreme Court last week made the subject pretty hard to ignore. Well, somebody made it hard to ignore by prematurely releasing a draft opinion that appears to show the court has preliminarily voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1972 court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. It's something conservative, anti-abortion forces have dreamed of for 50 years now and they may be getting their wish.
Anyway, I'll share a few thoughts on this big news development, less driven by ideology than by curiosity for how this ultimately plays out.
• If same-sex marriage ought not be decided on a state-by-state basis, as the court has ruled, does it make sense that access to a medical procedure -- as controversial as it is -- is determined by where one happens to live?
• There is truth to the assertion that making abortion illegal will not render it unavailable. Look at the success of laws against drugs and the American experience of prohibition on alcohol. That some people will break the law isn't a valid reason to legalize any behavior, but it's a sober reality that must be dealt with in an America that bans the procedure in a large-scale way, particularly in areas of high poverty.
• Kudos to foes of abortion who embrace a responsibility to act in a world in which babies are born to people who do not want them or who will not or cannot take care of them. A child born into dark circumstances nonetheless deserves to breathe and live as anyone born to the richest or most compassionate people on earth. The world is full of people who overcame poverty or abuse or neglect and achieved a victory over their oppressive environment. That a child might face such circumstances is undesirable, but is no excuse for legitimizing the end of his or her opportunity for life before that life has a chance to flourish.
• It is a shame and it defies logic that people who have fought so hard to overturn Roe vs. Wade are sometimes also the people who oppose age-appropriate sex education -- the kind that simply and directly promotes knowledge of intercourse between men and women and its capacity to produce unwanted pregnancies. Yes, this ought to include explanations of the ways one avoids pregnancy, the most successful of which is abstinence. To end such instruction there, however, is a disservice and ignores human sexual impulses. The only way sex education can be considered complete is to include knowledge of contraception as a method to reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancies.
• Affirmations of the many ways people express themselves sexually -- inside or outside marriage, through same-gender sex, through solo sexual gratification and the like -- need not be part of sex education, at least within public schools, to achieve the desirable goal of helping young people know how to avoid unintended pregnancies.
To fight against abortion and against sex education is like handing adolescents a loaded gun to play with and no training for safety. Naturally, the safest decision is to leave the gun in its holster.
If these thoughts make anyone mad, let me just say this: Somebody prematurely leaked my opinion, and it may or may not end up the way I really view things.