What Does “Common Ground” Really Mean?

In his speech at Notre Dame Sunday, President Obama called for an effort to reach “common ground” on the abortion issue, and said, “let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions.” President Obama assumes here that he is offering a goal we can all agree to strive for. But can we? Of course, every abortion that is averted is a victory for life. Even in the face of more than 3,400 abortions per day, we rejoice at the news of even one “save” by pro-life counselors. (Even as I write this, I receive word of a young woman who walked out of the Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois after considering the words of compassion and hope offered by one of our sidewalk counselors, Marie Sulita.) But in fact, “reducing” abortion is not our goal — any more than it was the goal of abolitionists to “reduce” slavery. Of course, every measure that might reduce the number of blacks held as chattel was fought for — abolishing the slave trade, weakening fugitive slave laws, limiting the expansion of slavery into the territories, even rescuing slaves through the underground railroad. But the ultimate goal of the abolitionists was always toend slavery. Though every slave liberated was a victory for freedom, there was never some acceptable number of slaves that the abolitionists would have agreed to tolerate. The enslavement of even one man was an abomination crying out for justice. No more is there an acceptable number of abortions that the pro-life movement would be willing to tolerate. The killing of a single child in the womb is an assault on justice and on the common humanity that forms the basis for any effort to reach common ground on any issue of public debate. Clearly there is no possibility of reaching “common ground” on the central questions of either slavery or abortion — not because those on either side of either issue fail to live up to Obama’s ideal of open-mindedness, but because there is no logical middle ground on the central questions of whether blacks or unborn babies are beings with inalienable rights. There is no “middle road” between enslaving a man and making him free. Either he is a human being endowed with an inalienable right to liberty — in which case he cannot be justly enslaved — or he has no such right, and may be enslaved. Likewise, there is no “compromise position” between aborting and unborn child and allowing her to be born. If the unborn child has a right to life, she cannot be justly killed in the womb, ever. Unfortunately, Barack Obama and his followers do not want to face this reality; they do not want to address the core question at the heart of the abortion issue: Does the unborn child have an inalienable right to life, or not? It’s understandable why they don’t want to ask that question. Even to ask the question is to propose that it has an answer, and if you reach the same answer that the pro-life movement has — which reason and evidence make it hard to avoid — then you have to take action to stop the injustice of abortion. And that’s why, in the end, the pro-life movement isn’t aiming to “reduce” abortion — even though on a daily basis we’re working to stop individual abortions from taking place. Our goal is to end abortion. That is not Barack Obama’s goal. In fact, if you look closely at what he said at N.D., he doesn’t even want to reduce abortion. Rather, he wants to “reduce the number of women seeking abortions”, a curious word choice. Why didn’t he simply say we should work to “reduce abortion”? Because that might encompass measures like the partial birth abortion ban, parental notification, informed consent, waiting periods. In Obama’s careful choice of words he is making it clear that any and all restrictions on abortion are off the table. Consistent with his record throughout his political career, abortion may not be restricted in any way, at any stage, for any reason. On this, President Obama is totally unwilling to compromise. So let’s be honest in this search for “common ground.” It’s not just the pro-life side that is unwilling to compromise.

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