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The Danger of the Abortion Issue to a Moderate Candidate, and a Mitigation Strategy

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  • When I talk to my friends and family about Unity08, I'm surprised (actually frightened) by how quickly the topic turns to abortion (both pro-choice and pro-life). Yet, abortion is #19 in the current list of Top Issues!

    The fact is that the abortion issue is a major risk to any moderate candidate. Any strong pro-choice or pro-life stance will immediately alienate them from a large portion of the population.

    We need a positive message that resonates with a large audience so that we can get over the abortion hurdle and focus on the top issues that we care about.

    Imagine a candidate whose response to any abortion question is a redirection to the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies through research and education. Will the pro-life camp like it? No, but they won't disagree with the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies. Similarly with the pro-choice camp won't like it, but won't disagree. Sure, we can quibble with what "education" is appropriate, but I'd even redirect that question by saying we need the Department of Ed and NIH to step up and conduct research to find effective approaches.

    The moderate candidate would be labeled "non-responsible" or even "hollow" when it comes to abortion, but at least he or she would remain electable. Think about the questions that will come up:

    "What are your views on abortion?"
    Abortion is an important issue that unfortunately has polarized this country. People who would otherwise want progressive social programs are forced to vote Republican to get a pro-life candidate. People who would otherwise want a fiscally conservative government are forced to vote Democrat to get a pro-choice candidate. Yet abortion is a symptom of the underlying cause: unwanted adolescent pregnancy. Instead of focusing on the argument of the hypothetical conflict of rights between a mother and their unborn child, we need to address the reality that our children are having babies of their own. We are an innovative country, and it is time to direct our scientists and educators to conduct research and find real solutions. We need to stop bickering among ourselves and finally move forward with the issue of abortion at its source. It's time to stop unwanted pregnancies."

    "Are you pro-choice?"
    Short answer: I would like to solve the abortion issue by finding ways to stop unwanted adolescent pregnancies.
    Long answer: Do I think that a woman has rights to her own body, yes. But I don't even pretend to know when a baby's rights override the mother's rights. Therefore I want to solve the abortion issue by finding ways to stop unwanted adolescent pregnancies.

    "Do you believe that life begins at conception?"
    By the time a baby is born, he or she is a fully formed human being. I am smart enough to know that I have no clue when that occurs in the line of development. That's why I want to solve the abortion issue by finding ways to stop unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

    "Why can't we, as the richest country in the world, protect the lives of our unborn babies"
    But I ask: Why can't we, through research and education stop unwanted pregnancies?

    "Should Roe v. Wade be overturned?"
    I want Roe v. Wade to be irrelevant. If we stop unwanted pregnancies, we can stop abortions. I don't think anyone knows when a baby's rights have overriding imperative over a mother's rights, but stopping unwanted pregnancies is a worthy objective to which everyone can agree.

    I believe that in order to make a moderate candidate viable, we need to find a positive yet redirecting message for every high-risk issue that isn't in our top issue list.

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