Last Wednesday, Jan. 22, marked the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme court case, which ruled abortion legal nationwide 41 years ago.
For those who have been following the abortion debate, it is also the date of the March for Life, an annual protest meant to overturn the Supreme Court’s past decision, and the one-year anniversary of the infamous YAF flag and vandalism debacle that occurred on our very own campus last year.
Obviously, the abortion debate is still one that swallows up a large portion of the public attention span. There are few people who remain completely indifferent to the debate, and partisan politics and voter opinion continue to be driven by abortion. In Virginia, nearly one-third of the $16 million spent by Democrats on television campaigns over the past year dealt with the abortion issue.
“There is some room for national consensus on (abortion) agenda, but people tend to focus on absolute positions,” Dr. Patrick Callahan, a DePaul professor of political science and Catholic studies, said. “Most people have made their minds right now, and there is a hesitation against changing minds.”
Who are the losers in this debate? It could be argued that mothers are.
“I see all these male lawmakers on TV, and it seems like everyone gets asked but us moms,” Tamika Evans, a student at Pivot Point in Evanston and a single mother of three, said.
Many events relating to abortion have occurred at our Catholic school; however, one in particular stands out. Last March, Serrin Foster, president of Feminists for Life, came to speak at our school. Of course, the very concept of a pro-life feminist seems utterly contradictory; naturally, there was a lot of discontent with many of the ideas shared at this event.
However, in one way Foster seemed to hit the nail on the head, questioning where the support for mothers to actually raise a baby is and the amount of awareness for things such as child care for young mothers.
Asking around, it’s clear there is not very much.
“It took me a while – might have been almost a year – to find out about help services and things to help me out,” Evans said.
Awareness over services for unplanned mothers is severely inadequate. Maternity leave is still lacking for many low-wage or service-industry workers; in some states, many small employers offer little more than an unpaid week of maternity for new mothers. Many unexpectedly pregnant women see abortion or a difficult motherhood as the main options available.
Yet much of America continues to focus squarely on the abortion issue, a relatively fruitless debate.
“Right now it is almost the equivalent of settled law; abortion rights are pretty settled,” Callahan said. “The legal changes that are occurring are generally minor tweaks.”
Despite the futility of trying to make major changes to abortion policy, many big players on all sides of the debate continue to throw shots at each other. Statistics compiled by the National Abortion Federation show that there have been 42 bombings committed against abortion providers in the U.S. since 1977. On the other side, as Callahan points out, “There are many concerns by conservatives over Obamacare, that Catholic healthcare providers will potentially be forced to provide abortion or the morning-after pill, (which) can be seen by some as post-conception termination rather than contraception.”
This is not to say that the abortion debate is completely worthless. However, lawmakers and the public need to move beyond simple pro-life/pro-choice tendencies and think more about the overall welfare of the people that these laws most greatly affect: disadvantaged mothers and their children.
When it comes to the issues of life, children, and motherhood, we have to remember that concerns go beyond the scope of the abortion debate.