Commentary: Time to reframe the abortion debate

"Nobody wants to talk about abortion."

Mary Kay Culp makes the statement with a tired sense of recognition and a large dose of truth. She says it despite spending the previous three hours discussing abortion.

But her audience was the party faithful. So that doesn't count, at least not as much these days. Not with a pro-choice president. And Kansas with one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers recently acquitted of allegations about his practice, therefore able to still provide several hundred such abortions a year.

Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, attended a screening Tuesday of a documentary (www.Thineeyes.org) about the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., which protests Roe v. Wade. The film recounts what it describes as a historic 2009 turnout, estimated by organizers at 300,000.

Still, abortion as a cause has lost some fervor, although its opponents won't put it that way. More common are "mainstream media ignores us" pouts and efforts to align abortion with civil rights struggles.

Another stand is a righteous boldness that God is on their side. This may be true, but not always effective with the non-converted. However, a sorry debate would attempt to argue that God is OK with abortion.

What Culp senses is a general unwillingness to wade into the issue.

But what she ought to see is that for many minds, the topic is too closely linked with women's reproductive rights. And most people are wisely unwilling to go backward.

Women's inability in the past to have much say about when they had children or the number they would conceive greatly affected their lives, not generally for the better.

But the 1.2 million babies aborted each year in the United States are not to be dismissed as inconsequential. One-third of women have abortions by the age of 45. This is improvement from the peak of 1.6 million abortions in 1990. Not that most people – on either side of the issue – could cite those numbers.

What is needed is a recasting of abortion arguments. Frame them around reducing unwanted pregnancies through improved contraception, healthier relationships and making it easier for people to adopt.

Rules that keep couples over 40 from adopting through some agencies are ridiculous. Ditto for keeping gays from adopting, but that opinion is sure to bother some steadfast anti-abortionists.

If the goal is saving babies, these issues must be broached.

Right now, this conversation too often goes unheard by the many people who are not so much supportive of abortion, as opposed to movements that they fear may undercut people's ability to plan when, how or if they bear or adopt children.