Shared Dreams

Mary Krane Derr

As a regular columnist for On Common Ground, I'm glad and grateful for the opportunity to foster reciprocal understanding and cooperative dialogue. But have we?

I am no stranger to the process of prochoice/prolife dialogue.  For over twenty years, I have purposefully sought it out, both informally and formally, as the surest way of achieving practical results in the struggle to alleviate the root causes of abortion and to secure and affirm women’s nonabortion reproductive rights. I cannot cast anyone out as “the enemy,” disregarding their wisdom, gifts, and human dignity–even over matters of deep disagreement.   This would contradict the very ethics and politics of nonviolence from which my prolife stance arises.

When Cristina Page invited me to be a regular columnist for On Common Ground, I was glad and grateful for this opportunity to foster reciprocal understanding and cooperative dialogue.  I was at the same time apprehensive about the stereotypes of prolifers I was bound to get hit with, especially on a prochoice website.  This has certainly happened, but it is not all that has happened.

I really cannot say what I have personally accomplished here so far. It is up to the readers here whether or not my columns have helped you to understand “the other side” better (whatever side that may be).  Or whether they have moved you to take any action, or further action, to reduce abortion.  I can only hope that my columns have had some effect in this direction.

Hopefully I have communicated that prolifers, like prochoicers, can, and need to:

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  • Engage in respectful, civil dialogue–towards the identification and achievement of practical, agreed-upon results.
  • Oppose the lethal hypocrisy of violence against abortion providers in the name of saving life.
  • Be about the rights and wellbeing of the already born.
  • Support such abortion-reducing measures as comprehensive sex education, access to all voluntary family planning methods, LGBT rights, and a broad spectrum of indispensible maternal child health and welfare programs.
  • Rejoice, for example, in our President’s commitment to fund UNFPA and USAID reproductive health programs—which by law are not about promoting abortion.
  • Reflect upon the rich history of abortion as a feminist concern, not as a way of bowing to our foremothers’ “authority,” but so we can discern how to achieve their still-unmet aspirations, and ours.

I apologize to anyone whose reaction here is “Hey, don’t be so obvious”  and “I am already doing these things.”  But sometimes the obvious needs to be articulated, and anyway one person’s “self-evident truth” is bound to be someone else’s “hmmm, never thought of that before.”

My hope for the future is to brainstorm further with both prolifers and prochoicers about concrete strategies for achieving our shared dreams, not only within the United States, but globally.  I hope this as a woman with personal experience of crisis pregnancy, one who has borne witness to and helped as much as I could with the crisis pregnancies of many other women, both at the individual and collective levels. 

For me, common ground is in the end about what happens in the real world with and to our bodies and lives, and those of our own children.  There are about 50 million abortions every year worldwide. There don’t have to be. What can we all do to take responsibility for all the human beings affected—and bring that number as close to zero as we humanly and possibly can?

Loretta Ross, leader of SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, speaks often of reproductive justice as the achievement of “perfect choice”:  “access not only to abortion services but also to prenatal care, quality sex education, contraceptives, maternal infant and child health services, housing, and reform of the health care delivery system.” While I do not agree with her about abortion itself, I cannot do anything but heartily endorse the rest of her vision–that is, most of it.

What a wide and far-reaching agenda, then, we already have to work on together.  Imagine the power of a shared movement to make it a reality.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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