the common ground on polarised abortion viewpoints

There has to be some sort of common ground or rational dialog is impossible.
(Silence of Mind)

In a discussion about the polarised corners of thinking on the issue of abortion, blogger Silence of Mind made the characteristically insightful comment above. I believe there is common ground between so-called pro-lifers and pro-choice campaigners, and this is it:

Both sides are concerned about their fellow human beings, and want to see the best outcomes for all involved. Both sides want to see a reduction in the number of women experiencing unwanted pregnancies.

These are startling facts to recognise, as all too often we resort to calling each other misogynists or murderers, and each side has a tendency to characterise the other as being full of evil intent. The truth is, both sides want the same thing – a better world for everyone. So where does the huge divergence occur?

1. Personhood and human rights

Many anti-abortion or pro-life campaigners believe that from the moment of fertilisation, the growing organism in a woman’s body should have full human rights, like any fully developed, unattached human. Many pro-choice campaigners believe that a growing organism in a woman’s body should have no rights, given that it is entirely dependent on its mother’s life-force in order to develop into a human being.

I think the truth is somewhat more complicated. I think we have to recognise that miscarriage before three months (when most abortions take place) is as common as abortion, it’s a natural feature of pregnancy. I think we have to recognise that the baby or fetus has zero capacity for thoughts or feelings when the vast majority of abortions occur. I think we have to recognise that the needs of the fully formed human being (with responsibilities, emotional connections and individual frailties) logically take precedence over any potential human being.

2. Abortion as contraception

Many anti-abortion or pro-life campaigners believe that people are using abortion on a whim. Many pro-choice campaigners believe it’s up to individuals how and when they access abortion.

I think there is truth in both these views. I think we have to work together to promote respect and responsibility when it comes to the consequences of sex. This, in particular, is an area where all sides can work together. We need to look to countries and areas where a difference has been made, learn lessons and make changes.

3. The reality of outlawing abortion

Many anti-abortion or pro-life campaigners believe that outlawing abortion will result in more human beings on the planet. Many pro-choice campaigners believe outlawing abortion will create the unsafe and illegal provision of abortion services.

I think there is truth in both these views. There would be more human beings on the planet: more human beings born into unstable and violent relationships, more human beings born coping with the effects of alcohol and drug addiction from the womb, and more human beings living in poverty. That doesn’t mean these people will be less valuable, but they are likely to require more support. However, conversely there would also be the absence of certain human beings: fewer children born into stable families who have been able to plan to provide the best care possible for their children; and there would be fewer women alive, as the lack of options would result deadly attempts to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies.


I would love to see a world where everyone who fell pregnant was desperately excited to meet their new little human being and could provide the kind of loving environment that every child deserves. In this respect, I share the hopes and dreams almost every pro-life campaigner. I think from this equal starting point, there is hope for reasonable discussion about we can all improve the lives of our fellow human beings.