The abortion debate has come to Macon.
Suddenly, we here in Middle Georgia are on the verge of becoming a flashpoint on the issue that has divided this nation for decades. As reported in the Telegraph and other local news sources last week, a proposed women’s health clinic that would be located on Walnut Street would provide abortion services, and local pro-life activists are not about to let that happen without a fight.
Soon after the proposal for the clinic was delivered to the local Planning and Zoning Commission, more than 100 sign-waving protesters lined Walnut to voice their displeasure at the prospect of abortions being performed in their community. And then last Sunday, a full-page ad appeared in this publication, urging citizens to contact their local government officials to let them know they don’t want this clinic to be permitted to open.
If you do call up your local public servants to ask them to fight the opening of this clinic, you might also want to mention that they’d best tighten up their spending habits as well, because there’s a good chance that the already cash-strapped Macon-Bibb government would have to defend its actions in court. No doubt we will be hearing a lot more about this as local politicians consult their moral compasses and public opinion polls to decide how to respond to the issue.
Frankly, I was surprised when I learned that there are currently no providers of abortion services in our area. Apparently a woman would have to travel to Atlanta or Columbus to have an abortion right now.
I realize that a lot of people are vehemently opposed to the practice, especially here in the buckle of the Bible Belt. But the fact is, it is legal in this country and I’m sure the demand for it exists here. I expect that the anticipated negative reaction from fierce abortion opponents is what has kept such a clinic from opening here already.
Abortion is one of those signature left-versus-right issues that people like to frame in simplistic terms when they “discuss” (i.e. scream at each other over) it. The extreme pro-life argument is that abortion is premeditated murder, in all cases and under all circumstances, and should be treated as such by the law. The radical pro-choice view is that abortion is a medical procedure that should be solely the business of the woman making the decision to have one, and society should stay out of that decision.
The reality is more complicated. Abortion is indeed a medical procedure, a very personal and invasive one. It is also a procedure that ends a developing human life, a life that has no voice in the matter unless society intervenes to consider the rights of that person-to-be.
If we were a more rational species, maybe we could face the reality that women are sometimes going to choose to end their pregnancies regardless of abortion’s legal status. But that theoretical rational species also would conclude that they’d want to do everything possible to make abortion a last resort and they would look for constructive actions they could take to make that happen.
For example, communities that have provided free, long-term birth control to any woman who wants it have experienced well-documented reductions in the number of abortions being performed. As a bonus, they also have seen a decrease in the amount of money spent on public assistance programs for children living in poverty. That would be a really welcome bonus for a city such as Macon that has serious budget issues.
Of course, some people won’t approve of spending their tax money on making birth control more accessible to poor women because they’ll see it as just “encouraging people to sin.” And if that’s your point-of-view, nothing I or anyone else might say is going to change your mind.
So get your sign ready and put your local representatives on speed dial, because it’s time to go to war.