Catholic Pro-Abortion Leader: Abortion Advocates Should Rethink Strategy

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 6, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Pro-Abortion Leader: Abortion Advocates Should Rethink Strategy Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 6, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Frances Kissling, the president of Catholics for a Free Choice, an organization of pro-abortion "Catholics," is causing a furor within the abortion advocacy ranks with an essay calling for them to compromise their hardcore message.

Kissling’s wide-ranging essay tops 7,000 words and admonishes abortion advocates to reevaluate they way they present their views.

She calls on abortion proponents to rethink "the value of the fetus" to reach middle of the road voters more likely to support a pro-life candidate than someone like John Kerry who takes an extreme position in favor of abortion.

Going against the grain of virtually all groups that favor abortion, Kissling admits the legitimacy of parental involvement laws, saying, "Surely we agree that young women aged 13, 14, 15 (and even older) need their parents at this time."

Kissling also chides abortion advocates for opposing measure banning partial-birth abortions: "The movement, some felt, has gone too far when it defends such gruesome procedures."

"I am convinced that the negative reaction, for example, of some Catholic leaders to Senator Kerry’s candidacy to the presidency was based on his opposition to banning this procedure," she wrote.

The former abortion business director isn’t changing her opinion, but she thinks her colleagues must acknowledge that most Americans don’t support abortion.

"We failed miserably to touch on the broader unrest about abortion itself that the procedure raised in the minds of many," she wrote.

"I am deeply struck by the number of thoughtful, progressive people who have been turned off to the pro-choice movement by the lack of adequate and clear expressions of respect for fetal life," Kissling adds.

The unwillingness of the pro-abortion movement to compromise from its position in favor of legalized abortion for any reason at any stage of pregnancy has made it so some grassroots abortion advocates "have felt forced to defend what appears to be an absolute right to abortion that brooks no consideration of other values — legal or moral.

"This often means a reluctance to even consider whether or not fetal life has value," Kissling says.

However, leading abortion advocates don’t share Kissling’s sentiments.

"I don’t buy it," Ellie Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, told the Village Voice in response.

Smeal accuses Kissling of letting pro-life advocates frame the debate by focusing on the validity of late-term abortions.

"While we’re talking about all this, we could be putting the right wing on the defensive," says Smeal.

Instead, Smeal told Village Voice, abortion advocates should continue discussing its claim that some women don’t have complete access to abortion.

Smeal told the magazine that she sees no value in discussing the morality of the unborn child because she believes abortion is a moral good in an of itself.

"I think if an 11-year-old is pregnant, it’s a great relief for her to have an abortion," Smeal said. I happen to think it’s a moral good to allow people to decide when they give birth."

But one abortion proponent who agrees that a debate over strategy is needed is Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a New York-based pro-abortion group.

"We desperately need a paradigm shift in the reproductive rights movement," says Paltrow. "We’ve done a terrible job of articulating our beliefs in terms of values.

Kissling also discusses pro-life legislation in her essay.

She calls abortion advocates "heartless" for opposing Laci and Conner’s law, a bill that requires criminals to be charged with two crimes when they assault a pregnant woman and kill or injure her baby.

Pro-abortion groups opposed the bill because they claimed it would be used to make abortion illegal.

She also says there may be some merit in legislation that would require abortion practitioners to ask women considering abortions if they want to offer their baby anesthesia for the tremendous pain they endure during a late-term abortion.

Kissing says her article conveys feelings abortion advocates have felt in private for many years.

"Whether I’m going to be considered less pro-choice by my colleagues because I said this, we’ll see," she said.