The Position of Compromise

Last week, Senator Rand Paul was interviewed by David Axelrod, and spoke about the polarization in America over abortion. He talked about how he believes the country is “somewhere in the middle” on abortion and needs to be persuaded before abortion can be made illegal. His stance is surprisingly gentle considering his March 2013 introduction of the Life at Conception Act, which never made it to the floor of either the House or Senate.

The trouble I find with this whole “polarization” discussion is that there’s really just one group that doesn’t wish to compromise at all. They’re the ones who claim we want “abortion on demand” and try to ban emergency contraception. They’re the ones that hold up signs at clinics with pictures of dead fetuses, as if that represents what most abortions look like. They’re the ones that don’t rush to condemn domestic terrorism against abortion providers, even when that violence murders doctors.

But when you look at the public opinion polls and talk to people, reasonably, you’ll find that most people, even those opposed to abortion, aren’t actually like the people I just described above. Out of civility, I’ll refer to that whole group by the name they call themselves: pro-life.

For this discussion, I’ll ignore the fact that there are Republican candidates who’ve called pregnancy from rape a “gift from God”, and that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy as “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

In the interest of non-hysteria, let’s note that most pro-life individuals often support the option to abort in the instances of incest, rape or risk to life of the mother. And let’s also acknowledge that even pro-choice individuals speak out against things like “partial birth abortion“, which has been banned federally since 2003 (it was already illegal almost everywhere, but the “party of small government” apparently loves redundant laws), and nearly all pro-choice individuals defer to medical standards of viability when discussing acceptable restrictions.

Rand Paul is right about one thing here: America is “in the middle” on the abortion issue. Which is reflected in current laws.

What people on the Right, including Rand Paul don’t seem to understand is that the pro-choice side has been compromising on abortion all along. It’s not all or nothing, we’re not trying to “kill all the babies”. Legislation, education and public opinion have done quite a lot to reduce both the incidence and the legality of abortion over 40 years.

Three things to note:

  • Abortion rates have been steadily decreasing for 30 years.
  • 9 out of 10 abortions happen in the first 12 weeks.
  • Only 1% of all abortions in the US happen after 21 weeks.

Abortions past 24 weeks are nearly impossible to get in most states in the US. Even where it’s legal, abortion providers who will do abortions after 20 weeks are very hard to come by. For the record, there are 839 clinics in the US which provide abortion services (reminder: these clinics also provide STI testing & treatment and other reproductive care to women). Only 11% of those providers will do an abortion after 24 weeks. An excellent article written by Jessica Valenti discusses the complications of late-term abortion restrictions and “health of mother” loopholes, I recommend you read it.


Roe v. Wade is a compromise of a woman’s right to control her own body. It’s a compromise that acknowledges that viability produces state’s interest in protecting viable life, over the privacy of the mother.

(a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.

(b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.

(c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.

Pro-life advocates often pretend they’ve been the ones compromising all along because the pro-choice side won – we currently have the right to choose and they have tolerated it while attempting on state levels (and sometimes federal levels) to increase state regulation on procedures and clinics themselves.

I’m really over that assertion. I’m really over our opponents acting like pro-choice individuals are a rabid mob of non-compromising baby-killers. We compromise constantly. Roe v. Wade was a compromise, and every piece of legislation afterwards has been shrinking women’s rights of autonomy, yet compromise continues, and constant vigilance is required. Pro-choice IS the reasonable position, the compromised position, the middle position, the representative-of-the-majority position. We’re already here in the middle, Rand Paul, maybe you should join us. 

The country is “in the middle” on abortion. Most people think it’s a worst-case scenario, most would prefer to not see it happen later in pregnancy (and as stated above, 90% of abortions happen in the first 12 weeks), and most people would like to see less unwanted pregnancies. Most people realize that the decision to have an abortion is tremendously personal and shouldn’t be made any harder than it already is. 

I’m so over this idea that Americans need to be “persuaded” to be pro-life. I am completely done listening to the assertion that making all abortion illegal is a reasonable stance. It is not, and if that’s a problem to pro-life advocates, I really don’t give a fuck, because I’m done accepting compromise and still being implicated as the unreasonable, non-budging party in this fight.

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