06/10/2005: "NARAL: "Get government out of the family" to "safe, legal, and rare" to "be responsible"?"
I haven't been writing many letters to the editor lately, mostly because I've been too busy to read the various newspapers and magazines. At the same time, it seems like there hasn't been a lot worth writing in response to. It was either the same old story or not meaningful enough to get worked up about.
That changed today with this article in Slate by William Saletan. Read the article first, then read my letter to him:
Dear Mr. Saletan,
I would hope that you're familiar with the saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". Or maybe it would be wiser for me to hope you'd remember "A wolf in sheep's clothing". The reason I have this hope is that you seem completely unaware of these concepts in your article titled "Bearing Right, Again" regarding NARAL's new strategy for winning the abortion conflict.
I'll be quite clear that I am Pro-Life and that of course colors my opinion of NARAL, but that said I think there are some objective truths we can all agree on:
-Pro-life activists believe that an embryo is a human being and as such has the rights of all human beings and this includes not getting murdered.
-Conversely, Pro-Choice activists do not believe that an embryo is a human being, at least yet, and as such do not see anything immoral about aborting it during pregnancy, the process by which they eventually becomes a human being.
I hope that we can agree on these two opposed perspectives being accurate. I made sure that I wrote them using language that the proponent of the perspective could agree to. In any case, these two statements are obviously diametrically opposed. More to the point, the reason the abortion issue has continued to capture the attention of the American public is because of these two perspectives are diametrically opposed. There is no middle ground in them.
It seemed that from the first portion of your article, that you appreciated this point. Your review of the history of NARAL's PR campaigns and the reasons they failed was very insightful. Your review showed that no matter how they tried to couch the situation, those that they had falsely convinced into thinking that NARAL actually reflected their views were bound to eventually realize that NARAL was not what they had thought.
This new campaign is no different and it is very easy to show why by asking a question: What actual policy changes does NARAL plan to push forward because of this campaign?
None is the obvious answer. NARAL has always been a fan of easy access to family planning services. NARAL has always been a fan of easy and free access to all forms of birth control. NARAL has always been a fan of early and frequent sex education. This new strategy changes nothing. In fact, the president of NARAL told you as much when you asked her "What's the difference between making an abortion decision responsibly and making it irresponsibly?" What was her answer? Instead of addressing the question you asked, she told you "Women make all of their decisions responsibly." Is there any more clear way she could tell you that NARAL has no plans to make any actual policy changes? I don't think so. She believes that the problem is already solved, that women already make their abortion decisions responsibly and consequently, there is nothing that needs to change.
That's the final truth that can not be sidestepped. Any PR campaign that does not reflect an underlying truth, particularly in politics, is guaranteed to fail eventually. You can pull the wool over the country's eyes for 10 or even 20 years, but at some point down the road, when things aren't turning out as promised, the people will eventually abandon those organizations that failed to deliver on their promises.
You seem to hope for real change in NARAL. You, at least from your article, seem to be interested in keeping abortion legal not so much because you think it is always a moral choice but because of a libertarian mind set regarding government. NARAL will disappoint you. They have no interest in your mind set. They firmly believe that there is nothing immoral about an abortion in any instance. They have no concerns about the number of people choosing to abort today (after all, they're already making their decisions responsibly.) The only reason they think abortion should be avoided is because it is more invasive and risky to stop a pregnancy that has already started than to prevent it from forming in the first place. This minor concession does not change the fact that they have no moral objections to abortion. This has been their belief and policy from the beginning and it is quite clear, even in their unveiling of this new campaign, that they have no intention of changing their mind set.
I guarantee you that this campaign will have the same result as their "Get government out of the family" campaign of 1989. You will be disappointed by them just like everyone else that is convinced by them that they actually intend to change, because they have no such intention. While it may tip the scales for some short period of time, the end result will bring us right back to where we are. As such, there is nothing in this campaign that anyone, not even Pro-Choice activists, should be excited about.