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Melinda Henneberger: To my pro-life friends: This brutal Missouri abortion ban is where we part ways

Melinda Henneberger, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Op Eds

This is where I get off, pro-life friends. And not as in hey, thanks so much for the ride, but more like how did I miss that enormous cudgel in your pocket?

The only two labels we use to describe a whole spectrum of views on abortion rights have always meant very different things to different people.

But before I moved back to red-state America two years ago from Washington, D.C., I had lost sight of how irrelevant my view of what being pro-life means really was.

It isn't a particularly rarefied view; on the contrary, polling that's held steady over the last 40 years shows that the majority of the public holds an in-the-middle, neither "never" nor "always" view on abortion rights that's very much in keeping with my own.

"Though abortion is a divisive issue," notes a Pew Research Center report, "more than half of U.S. adults take a non-absolutist position, saying that in most -- but not all -- cases, abortion should be legal (34%) or illegal (22%). Fewer take the position that in all cases abortion should be either legal (25%) or illegal (15%)."

That's also reflected in law in most of the rest of the world, where early abortion is readily available, late-term is not -- and that isn't seen as a problem.

But politically, as lawmakers in Missouri and other conservative states that are pursuing near-total abortion bans have made it impossible to ignore, there is no gray area. And there is no leaning pro-life without falling face-forward, because opposing abortion can mean only one thing: It means that an 11-year-old raped by her father is not a person, but before a woman even knows she's pregnant, the child she's carrying is.

Somehow, separating immigrant families without bothering to keep track of who they are, where they're going and how to ever put them back together again is now A+ pro-life behavior, as is fawning over dictators and feigning ignorance over the assassination of critics. Starting a war for no good reason would be OK, too.

But for women in crisis, there are no excuses, and there is no way out.

"Lock her up" no longer just applies to Hillary Clinton. Because if a doctor can be jailed for 15 years for performing an abortion after eight weeks, then let's not pretend that we'd never criminalize a woman's decision to end her pregnancy, no matter how harrowing her circumstances.

These GOP lawmakers are as divorced from reality as I was in thinking that being pro-life could mean supporting all of the policies and programs that would actually reduce the number of abortions. Expanding Medicaid, for instance, and making birth control accessible. I thought it implied so much more than that, too, vis-a-vis the disabled and the elderly, the immigrant and the environment, the military and the death row inmate. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

My views on all of this are the same as when I drove a friend to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion decades ago. Because she asked me to, that's why. And as when I loaned -- OK, that was 1983, so at this point I'm going to say gave -- another friend the money for one.

 

They're the same as when I was expecting our twins and because I had pregnancy-related tachycardia, every doctor I went to recommended that I get an abortion -- not because any of the three of us was in any real danger, but because they didn't want the medical liability. Since then, the whole hushed sanctity of "the decision between a woman and her doctor" has underwhelmed me.

They're the same as when I started thinking we should call things by their name instead of behaving as though it's only a baby when we say it's a baby; what kind of science is that? And as when I really couldn't see shouting your abortion or turning the World Trade Center pink or seeing an abortion as, as a colleague once put it, a less than ideal couple of hours.

My own goal wasn't to overturn Roe v. Wade, but to encourage tolerance for different views and out of that, appreciation that what most of us want is to make abortion not illegal, but unnecessary.

Because nuance and abortion don't go together, I paid a price for being the odd one out -- neither a Republican nor an orthodox Democrat -- and really, I was OK with that.

But what Republican state legislators in Missouri and around the country are doing now I am not OK with, and I can no longer describe myself the same way these so-what-if-girls-suffer jihadists do.

I can't wear the same name tag as those who do not even know who they're leaving out of the equation when they say things like state Sen. Bob Onder did in explaining why the Missouri law has no rape or incest exception: "We believe the second violent act does not fix a violent act. We don't believe in the death penalty for the crime of the father of the baby."

The man you call a father, Senator, I call a rapist.

It should not have taken me this long to see that neither the pro-life nor the pro-choice label fits me. But I won't ever again try to make myself fit either one.

(c)2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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