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Common Ground

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To the editors:

Apparently Jean Peterman [Letters, October 20] misunderstood my October 6 letter. I did not say or imply that prochoice supporters fail to advocate a whole range of reproductive options. On the contrary, I recognize and respect the efforts of prochoicers who strive to create better choices for women and children even as they defend the legal availability of abortion. How can I not? Along with many other members of Feminists for Life, I was once in their shoes.

The point of my previous letter was not to malign prochoicers but to counter the stereotype of prolifers as indifferent to the real-life circumstances in which women conceive, bear, and rear children. As someone who herself experienced many injustices while going through an unplanned pregnancy, how could I not care about women's reproductive dilemmas? I wanted to show that many abortion opponents do have common ground with the prochoice movement.

Almost all reproductive decisions are properly left up to individual judgment. But abortion is fundamentally different: it takes a life. And because a pregnant woman's body and self is so interconnected with her unborn child's, violence against fetal life has destructive repercussions for female life. The early feminists, even as they sympathized with aborting women and defended them against male judgmentality, firmly opposed abortion for this reason. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for example, remarked that women must not respond to their status as the property of men by turning around and treating their unborn children as property. Instead we must find nonviolent solutions for difficult pregnancies, ones which challenge and not compound our oppression.

Prolife feminists differ from prochoice ones in that the former see abortion as an impediment to women's equality. Otherwise their agendas are remarkably similar. The abortion issue must be considered on its own merits, not decided on the basis of the unfair ad hominem arguments which so frequently characterize the debate. Most prolifers are no more hysterical right-wing misogynists than prochoicers are narcissistic babykillers. Can we agree to recognize that compassion motivates people on both sides?

Mary Krane Derr

Coordinator, Chicago Chapter

Feminists for Life of America

E. Hyde Park

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