Joseph Cotto, 6/2/2015 [Archive]

Seeking a New Normal on Abortion

By Joseph Cotto

The year was 2012, and spring was morphing into summer. Only a few months remained before November's Obama-Romney showdown.

Their contest stood on the verge of being ramped up by Julia, Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin and a certain speech about "makers and takers". For most people, this was a time of action. After all, our country was deciding whether or not the President's visions would be approved for another four years.

Those who agreed with him wished to maintain the status quo and build on it for a stronger progressive movement. This front wouldn't simply be part of the establishment, but a dominating force capable of creating a socially libertine welfare state unlike anything seen before in American history. The goal was equality of condition rather than opportunity.

People that disagreed with Obama, and often barely supported Romney, generally wanted a 1950s-style social scene, complete with reproductive rights being vanquished and lessened importance on the separation between church and state. On the other hand, they yearned for 1980s-caliber tax cuts and defense spending.

Of course, untold millions were caught between the two extremes, feeling that neither candidate or his core constituencies represented mainstream values. In short, everybody had something on the table. A new chapter was set to be written.

Well, not quite.

For the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, this marked the end of an era. The nation's oldest pro-choice advocacy organization was losing its longtime president, Nancy Keenan, who was once ranked by Washingtonian Magazine as among the most powerful women in D.C.

While discussing her impending retirement, Keenan told The Washington Post about an "intensity gap" between young supporters of women's choice and their counterparts in the antiabortion movement. By opening the door for someone younger to succeed her, Keenan hoped that the abortion rights message would resonate with a greater share of today's youth.

The Post mentioned data collected by NARAL that indicate millennial voters who oppose abortion rights consider their views quite important come election day. Pro-choice millennials, meanwhile, generally lack this zeal.

I believe that there most definitely is an intensity gap, though for a reason that usually goes unmentioned. Since the Supreme Court handed Roe v. Wade down over 42 years ago, those strongly opposed to abortion procedures have had a remarkable amount of children.

Their children, in turn, were raised to be reflexively anti-abortion and by now probably have, or are preparing to have, offspring of their own.

Such a cycle results in anti-abortion memes being passed in a generational fashion. Of course, not all of the kids in question will adopt these beliefs. As they go through life, many stand a chance of moderating their respective opinions. The real world has a habit of not operating within the confines of black and white.

This being said, it is undeniable that there are many morally sound reasons for rejecting abortion on a personal basis. However, in a free society such as the United States, respect for the viewpoints of others is mandatory — so long as these do not entail breaking the law, of course.

Perhaps if the hardline partisans on either side of the abortion rights debate could recognize a simple fact like this, there would be no need for a pro- or anti-choice movement of any kind. Rather, people would mind their own business and not attempt to manipulate the political process for their own ends.

While this might be a tad too idealistic for modern American society, coming to terms with a Supreme Court decision nearly 50 years old would be a good start.

The upcoming presidential election would be a fantastic place to begin this new normal. If only any of the leading candidates would try to be the better man — or woman.


Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at

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