Third Way: Common Ground on Abortion?

Pro-lifers are winning the battle of reasonableness.  That would be a rather ho-hum observation coming from me, but I didn’t say it.  It’s the surprisingly candid conclusion of a new strategy center for liberals called Third Way, which, having discovered that “the choice frame” no longer resonates with an increasingly pro-life American public, has decided that progressives need a “new common ground frame” with which to discuss abortion.  

Sounds refreshing.  The question is:  Can authentic “common ground” be found in the abortion debate when the Left remains wholly unwilling to temper its support for abortion-on-demand?  Third Way certainly seems to think so.

Last week, Third Way unveiled a poll of Americans’ attitudes on abortion.  Of over 1,000 respondents, 69 percent agreed that, “we can find common ground to reduce the need for abortion while still protecting a woman’s right to have one.”  According to Third Way, these data signal that while a majority of Americans want to reduce the need for abortions, most also want to preserve the right for a woman to have one, a position it claims “achieves common ground and maintains progressive principles.”  

But the question is misleading and intentionally vague.  Support for “protecting a woman’s right to have [an abortion]” is not the same thing as support for all abortions.  In fact, numerous recent polls have shown that a growing majority of Americans supports abortion only in certain cases, usually those where rape, incest or the life of the mother are involved, together less than 2 percent of abortions, according to the Allan Guttmacher Institute.    

Third Way insists its polling underscores the “significant moral complexity of abortion” for the vast majority of Americans.  But while the decision to abort is often psychologically complex and emotionally straining — especially given that many pregnant women find scant support for childbirth among their friends and family and in the culture — the immorality of the act itself is clear.  This distinction is lost on Third Way but not on the 69 percent of poll respondents who believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, and the more than two-thirds who believe it is morally wrong.  
The poll also found that nearly three in four Americans feel the decision to abort should be left up to women, their families and doctors.  But does Third Way support laws that would enhance women’s ability to make well-informed decisions about such a life-changing event?  Its survey found that 69 percent of self-described “pro-choice” respondents were “concerned that too many women have abortions without thinking about the moral consequences.”  Unfortunately, it seems few of Third Way’s members support laws that would help to illuminate in precise detail what is at stake with abortion, like those that would require that women considering abortions be offered the chance to view an ultrasound of their unborn children.
Third Way believes its existence provides a unique opportunity for abortion rights advocates and pro-lifers to unite.  Hogwash. Even Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), whom Third Way likes to promote as one of its “pro-life” members, received a “zero” score from the National Right to Life in its scorecard of the 110th Congress.  Ryan failed to vote “pro-life” on a variety of bills including an anti-cloning amendment and an amendment to protect taxpayer funding from going to groups that sell abortions abroad.  Third Way talks about unification and finding common ground, but its existence is merely an effort by abortion advocates to repackage an extreme and increasingly unpopular product.  A survey of Gallup polls shows that the share of the public that considers itself "pro-life" has grown 12 percentage points over the last 12 years, while the portion calling itself "pro-choice" has decreased 8 points.

Third Way’s true intentions become clear when one reads its press releases and policy statements, which often irresponsibly claim that the number of abortions can be reduced “without throwing women in jail.”  This is a non sequitur based on a false premise so often employed by pro-abortion groups.  In truth, you could not find one credible pro-lifer who supports “throwing women in jail.”  Third Way surely knows this, and it’s disingenuous for a group that claims to want to move beyond the anger of the current abortion debate and to find common ground with pro-lifers to misrepresent pro-lifers as cruel misogynists.

Perusing the list of names on Third Way’s Board of Directors, one name stands out: Thurgood Marshall, Jr.  In 1973, Marshall’s father voted with the Supreme Court’s majority in the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, the source of much of the abortion bitterness that Third Way laments.  Marshall and six of his colleagues discovered hidden somewhere in the Constitution’s due process clause an illusory right for mothers to kill their unborn children.  Thirty-four years and at least 40 million dead children later and one thing has become crystal clear:  Unless the so-called progressive Left moderates its uncompromising support for abortion-on-demand, it may find the “common ground” it seeks just as illusory.