Ecumenism/'Identity Politics'/'Single-Issue Movements' (Re: religion)

Katha Pollitt kpollitt at
Wed Jun 3 07:53:12 PDT 1998

Michael E., you suggest that pro-choice leftists reach out to anti-choice christians to dialogue and work on shared social goals. you say that lowering the level of hostility would raise the likelihood that anti-choicers will reexamine their beliefs. This goes on already!! NOW, NARAL got together with the Catholic Church to fight family caps and welfare reform, for example.The anthropologist Faye Ginsburg wrote a book (forget title) about one local effort at dialogue and making common cause between anti and pro choicers in Fargo ND. (Lots of good intentions all around, but it fell apart in the clash over the opening of the town's first abortion clinic, which attracted Operation Rescue and the media.)

Then there is Common Ground, a group in which pro-choicers and anti-choicers sit down together and try to figure out where each other is coming from, and what they can do together to lessen tensions, and how they can work together around sexuality and pregnancy. Naomi Wolf was involved in this group at one point, when she decided that abortion really was killing, women really were vessels, and that she had actually had an abortion, unbeknownst to herself, when she took the morning-after pill in college. I looked into Common Ground for an Op-Ed I wrote for the New York times. I must say the results were not encouraging: it seemed to me the pro-choicers got little out of it: they ended up working on the anti-choice agenda (abstinence-only sex ed, promoting adoption), but the anti-choicers didn't give an inch: they didn't for example, agree to push contraception or have honest sex ed.

Committed anti-choicers tend to be quite inflexible. They really think it's murder, and this belief is connected to others, also deeply held, about women and sex and parental authority. It may make sense to dialogue with them, if only to defuse the potential for the harrassment and violence some of them like to commit--maybe they'll be less likely to burn down the clinic or scream at the clinic doctors' children etc. But we really should do them the honor of allowing that they are just as committed ideologically as we are.

I think it makes more sense to concentrate on mobilizing the vast majority of people who already favor choice at least somewhat but don't do anything about it, not to mention the women whose bodies are the object of all this attention -- NARAL for example is doing great things with highschool students here in NYC. No movement ever wins all hearts -- and I think it is so curious that people on this list are so preoccupied with winning over militiamen, anti-choicers, fundamentalists -- the LEAST Likely candidates for our politics.

best, katha

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