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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Civil Discourse

Civil Discourse

It’s not often that I praise an article in The Washington Post, unless it’s a column by Charles Krauthammer in the Outlook section.  The odds become even less when it’s an article co-authored by Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman.  Ms. Kissling is the former president of Catholics for Choice and Ms. Michelman is the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.  But that’s exactly what I am going to do.  No, I do not agree with the abortion stance of either Ms. Kissling or Ms. Michelman.  I am as strongly pro-life as these two ladies are abortion supporters.

But one thing has distressed me increasingly over the nation.  It seems to me the great decline in public civility reached a zenith in the Clinton years when those who opposed the policies put forward by the Clintons were targeted as enemies, rather than opponents.  Politics became more like war, than a sporting contest.  The politics of personal destruction became accepted practice.  No longer did politicians try to persuade, they endeavored to win at any cost, even if that cost meant the destruction of an opponent.  The Clintons were especially good at tarring any opponent with the worst possible descriptions, even when they knew there was no truth to such accusations.

That’s why I found the article by Kissling and Michelman titled, “How to be Pro-Choice on Super Bowl Sunday,” a breath of fresh air.  Essentially, they argue for toning down the abortion debate and moving toward an effort to try and persuade the public rather then demonizing those who disagree with them.

The article was prompted by the $2.5 million 30 second ad that was run during the Super Bowl featuring recently graduated University of Florida quarterback, Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam Tebow.  The article describes Tim Tebow as a “humble young man who takes his faith seriously,” and describes the ad as “…the story of her [Pam Tebow] decision 23 years ago to ignore medical advice and continue a risky pregnancy.”

Here’s the advice that Kissling and Michelman give to their side of the argument:  “For abortion rights supporters, picking on Tim Tebow and his mom is not the right way to go.  Instead of trying to block or criticize the Focus on the Family ad, the pro-choice movement needs its own Super Bowl strategy.  People want to be inspired, and abortion is as tough and courageous a decision as is the decision to continue a pregnancy.”  

While I don’t agree with their sentiments, I did appreciate that they were suggesting that the argument over abortion be taken to a higher ground.

Kissling and Michelman give this advice to those who favor unrestricted abortion, “Women’s and choice groups responding to the Tebow ad should take a page from the Focus on the Family playbook.  Erin Matson, the National Organization for Women’s new vice president, called the Tebow spot “hate masquerading as love.”  That kind of comment may play well in the choice choir, but to others, it makes no sense, at best; at worst, it’s seen as the kind of stridency that reinforces the view that pro-choice simply means pro-abortion.”

This is the kind of advice that both sides of all public issue debates should be giving to their followers.  Why?  Because it raises the debate to a plane where both sides make their case based on facts and use their best efforts to persuade the American people they offer the right answer to the issue at hand.

As long as one or both sides remain mired in the muck of personal attacks, it will be difficult for the American people to make a rational choice.  When one side of the argument breaks down and people are called “baby killers” or “racists” or “haters” or “cowards” or “bigots” or “war mongers,” it will be difficult for those who are undecided on the issues to make a decision.

I’m personally confident that freedom and morality are the best choices for America.  I’m confident that the American people want to take care of themselves and that they want less, not more, government in their lives.  I don’t have to and should not attack a liberal as a bad person, but simply as someone who is wrong.  Similarly, just because I believe in smaller government and favor freedom-oriented solutions like school vouchers to strengthen the quality of American education, it should not cause me to be attacked as a racist or someone who has no compassion for the poor.

I salute Frances Kissling, Kate Michelman and the leaders of Focus on the Family for their efforts to lift the debate over abortion to a higher plane.

To read the entire article, “How to be Pro-Choice on Super Bowl Sunday,” click this link:

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