What pro-lifers can learn from the Princeton abortion conference.

Science, technology, and life.
Nov. 16 2010 7:59 AM

Abortion Common Ground: A Pro-Life Agenda

What pro-lifers can learn from the Princeton abortion conference.

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5. Choose your friends by your mission, not your mission by your friends. Camosy and Jennifer Miller, the pro-lifers who co-organized the conference, have been derided and accused of treachery by colleagues who regard any cooperation with pro-choicers as stupid or evil. Gushee has endured similar treatment. After the conference, Austin Ruse, the President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which opposes contraception as well as abortion, mocked Camosy and Miller for being young and poorly funded and for "validating" their pro-choice collaborators.

I hope Camosy and Miller don't lose heart. The reason why young, poorly funded people represented the pro-life movement at this conference is that the old, well-funded people who think they own the movement failed to show up. That's the role young people ought to play in history: thinking in new ways and taking on new challenges when the older generation has lost its compass or its courage. If the pro-life movement is going to be a movement and not just a self-congratulatory fundraising machine, it will need people like Gushee and Camosy to lead the way. These forward thinkers may have to choose between preventing abortions and pleasing the pro-life establishment. It's up to them to choose well.

(For what pro-choicers can learn from Princeton, see Wednesday's article.)

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Clarification, Nov. 17, 2010: In her answer to Cristina Page, Helen Alvare said: "I have never seen evidence with regard to the relationship between allowing abortion legally and leading to earlier abortions. I would have to really see that. Obviously the position would be that we would like to save women's health when we can, and later abortions are more risky. But I really don't know that there's a relationship between the two. And denying the fundamental principle of not killing is still problematic." The video can be viewed here. Page's question begins in the 81st minute (1:20). Alvare's answer begins in the 85th minute (1:24).

I initially paraphrased this answer as a concession that later abortions were "worse" than earlier ones. I should have specified that Alvare's answer was specific to maternal risk, whereas Page was thinking of later abortions as worse in both senses. In an email to me, Alvare explains her answer and her position as follows: "I stood by my fundamental principle that the unborn child has a right not to be killed no matter whether the abortion is early or late, while acknowledging the medical fact that later abortions are likely more medically threatening to the mother's health." (Return to the revised sentence.)

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