This the 3rd in a 5-part series on abortion.
Sanctity of Life Sunday: A Modest Critique
When Life Began to Begin at Conception
The Impossible Middle Ground
A United Methodist Bishop's Pro-Life Witness
Challenging Liberal Christians on Abortion

On many issues, it is theoretically not very difficult to find middle ground. If one party wants the top marginal tax rate to be 39.6% and the other party wants it to be 30%, Congress may choose to set the rate somewhere in between. Each side gives a little and you compromise between each side's ideal point. It's not easy with abortion, even though polls indicate that the overwhelming majority of Americans have middling, complex, and perhaps even contradictory views on the subject.

While I am increasingly able to see all but the earliest abortions as somehow tragic, I struggle to say I think they should be considered crimes tantamount to murder. Perhaps I am working backwards from all the reasons I have been pro-choice my entire adult life. As a father, I know the feeling of attachment I had to my unborn child. I was thrilled from the moment my bride found out she was pregnant. Sure, it took a while before it truly felt like she had a living being growing inside her. But once my wife's body started visibly changing and we saw the sonogram pictures, it was impossible to deny the beautiful new life coming into being. Of course, not everyone is thrilled to learn they are pregnant. Up to half of pregnancies are unintended. In spite of my own experience, I think terminating an unacceptable pregnancy quickly and safely may be, for some women, a prudent course of action. Even if it is ethically dubious, it should be legally permissible.

To err as often as possible on the side of life, however, I would support doing just about anything to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. And here, ironically, the best bet is to align with pro-choice progressives, as pro-life activists are usually loath to support any policies that would actually reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.

In spite of ample reasons to suspect ulterior motives (i.e., the desire to control other people's sexuality) and in spite of perhaps good reasons not to trust them, I actually do respect my pro-criminalization friends and what I trust to be the good faith and good will behind their views, even when I do not fully share them.

Even so, my pro-criminalization friends increasingly do not respect my moderate position. To them, I am just an accomplice to fetus crushing and a murderous genocide enabler.

I don't feel like an accomplice to mass murder. In fact, I want to reduce the abortion rate. And, unlike most of my pro-life friends, I actually support policies that do. So it's easy for me to dismiss their presumed moral superiority.

But people like me whose "belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion" (the present position of my religious tradition, The United Methodist Church) are left with some difficult ethical arguments. We could argue that life does not begin at conception. We could argue that early-stage abortions aren't bad. We could argue that, regardless of whether abortion is good or bad, it should still be legal within certain limits (or without any limits at all). For better or worse, let the lapsed United Methodist quote once more from the Church's Social Principles: "We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers."

This messy middle may not be firm ground to stand onl. For all it's hand-wringing, it's a de facto pro-choice position. I think it does fit a lot of people, though, myself included. I'm not comfortable with the most extreme positions on either side of the debate.

Neither am I comfortable with the fact that, in my entire life, I have never really lamented or deplored the destruction of life that has occurred pretty much unabated in my country, year after year, on the magnitude of 50 million. Of all the injustices I so frequently lament and deplore, why not this also? Maybe it's because there's an upside: more female autonomy and fewer unwanted children. But I still don't feel great about 1.2 million abortions per year. Neither do I feel great about taking rights away that the courts have upheld for many years.

This isn't my finest or most comprehensive bit of moral reasoning, I know. I'm ambivalent, like most people. I'm pro-life and pro-choice, like a lot of people. But it's a start. People in the great American middle on this issue need to speak out. Neither extreme is advocating for a society most of us want to live in.

This the 3rd in a 5-part series on abortion.
Sanctity of Life Sunday: A Modest Critique
When Life Began to Begin at Conception
The Impossible Middle Ground
A United Methodist Bishop's Pro-Life Witness
Challenging Liberal Christians on Abortion

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