Dear Dr. Bob,
I continue to get conflicting advice on this: Is it possible to be “pro-life” and “pro-choice” at the same time? My campaign people tell me that I’ll be beaten up badly if I make my position known. They say I better pick one or the other. What do you think?
Caught in the middle
The short answer is “yes” – and I wish more candidates like you would speak up.
It is entirely possible to hold a personal view that does not support abortion while maintaining the belief that it is not the role of government to tell women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. In other words, it is inappropriate for the government to make the choice for a woman.
That is essentially the position that Bill Clinton took during his first presidential campaign. To paraphrase the president, he said that he believes that ‘abortions should be safe, legal and rare.’
And that is still the belief of most Americans, despite the Republican Party’s recent dive off the deep edge into positions such as “personhood” laws intended to grant the rights of actual people to human fertilized eggs. That, the supporters belief, would end abortion once and for all. This is the proposal that was so whacked out that even Mississippi voted it down. But it is also a proposal that has been introduced in the United States Congress and taken seriously by many, if not a majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill.
But during the silly season of elections, most Republicans are just not talking about that. They correctly assessed the situation and have concluded that they’d be run out of town if their actual beliefs and positions were widely known. Afterall, even fervent “pro-lifers” who don’t hold political office will acknowledge the need to maintain exceptions for situations that involve, rape, incest or the life of the woman.
But toss “personhood” into the mix and all hell breaks loose. And that, I suspect, is what we’re going to see over the next few weeks. The “abortion” issue is about to explode, I believe, into a debate between people such as you and those, like Rep. Akin (the guy running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri) the newly minted GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and Arizona’s Rep. Trent Franks who are just plain nuts but can often fake looking and sounding normal.
By the way, you should bone up on the notion of “false equivalency” because you are likely to see it breaking out like a pimples on teenagers.