Cook: To the left of abortion

Cook: To the left of abortion

September 26th, 2014 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

As someone whose heart leans to the Left, I claim to be against sexism, mass incarceration and drone strikes that kill children in faraway places. I try to advocate for gay rights, racial justice and nonviolence, for the poor and marginalized, for the least of these.

Why?

Because my ethic (and yes, most days it's just a lot of talk) says this: Life matters.

All of it, from east to west, of unspeakable value.

Yet for years, I have been silent - inconsistently and hypocritically - to defend the one important group who, by definition, are perhaps the most vulnerable of all.

The unborn.

Next week, Hamilton County commissioners will vote on whether to express their public support for Amendment No. 1, which appears on the November ballot and deals with one of the most divisive issues of our time.

Abortion.

And whether our state government can regulate it.

"The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion," the proposed amendment reads.

When I'm honest with myself, I find the pro-life movement appealing: its largesse belief in the mystery of life, its big-hearted articulation of a vision that values and locates the presence and promise of life in the smallest of places, willing to speak on behalf of an organism tinier than the period at the end of this sentence.

It's beautiful, actually, a political position that is also transcendental, portraying an embryo as "the journey-work of the stars," to borrow Whitman's lovely phrase.

But so much of this is lost in our debate, as the Left lines up in opposition to the Right, and like crows to trees, all our stereotypes hover: the pro-life crowd defined as heavy-handed men who don't give two whits about women, and godless feminists there in opposition.

Let's rethink this.

Or rather, I'm rethinking this.

If we could swab the decks of our stereotypes, and the Left was able to align itself more with the pro-life movement, a larger space could be cleared for a greater vision of what being pro-life actually means.

We could reclaim and renew the word: pro-life, for all of life.

"The protection of life is a seamless garment," the Catholic pacifist Eileen Egan once said.

A seamless pro-life ethic would argue both for the unborn and for the victims of war. It would seek to end the death penalty and criminal violence. No more rape, no more poverty. It would be boundary-less: a political platform that would include life everywhere, not just the womb.

"You can't protect some life and not others," Egan said.

If the County Commission is to talk about abortion, it must also talk equally about the landscape that encourages it. Our poverty has become feminized: Two-thirds of our poor households are headed by women, and the infant mortality rate in some neighborhoods rivals that of Third World countries.

Yes, this all may be messy and difficult, but there must be a political maturity and moral high road able to both love and support women and their rights of reproduction while also loving and supporting the dignity of the unborn.

Otherwise, we're lost in a land of double standards: a state Legislature that wants to regulate abortion but won't expand Medicaid, or activists (and columnists) that march against the death penalty but not abortion.

"Nature in everything deserves respect," the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft wrote.

Will I vote for the amendment come November?

I can't yet say, but I do believe this:

I hope to be more pro-life than ever before.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.


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