If you’ve been following the Senate confirmation hearings on John Roberts, you’re probably aware that one of the big issues surrounds Roberts’ views on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized abortion.

The topic of abortion seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues, from many women’s organizations who are vocally demanding his rejection, to some conservative groups who hope he will upset precedent and overturn Roe v. Wade if chosen to lead the Supreme Court. While discussing this topic with friends recently, the question was posed as to why so much time is spent talking about abortion.

Clearly, abortion is a contentious issue, with large-scale, powerful interest groups on both sides mobilizing to change laws and regulations. The media portrays it as a divisive issue – one that supposedly pits conservatives against liberals and Republicans against Democrats. And in this ideologically polarized time of our country’s history, it’s easy to frame abortion as a pro or con issue.

But what good has come from creating this dichotomy? Since Roe v. Wade, and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey case that again upheld women’s right to choose, nothing related to abortion remains settled law.

Restrictions ranging from parental notification and consent laws, mandatory waiting periods and clinic restrictions on doctors who perform the procedure, all confirm that the abortion debate shows no sign of subsiding. This is perhaps where the frustration lies on the part of many Americans.

Why does an issue that, for the most part, will not directly impact the average person, consume so much of the political discourse in this country? For the sake of argument, I will ignore the myriad of ways that abortion indirectly affects all individuals.

I could respond by pointing out that the right to choose is central to women’s self-determination, or how the legality illustrates our country’s commitment to a right to privacy, or a host of other reasons I hold to be true.

Instead, however, I am inclined to ask the same question that my moderate Republican, Catholic, pro-life female friend posed to me. Instead of talking so much about abortion, why don’t we talk more about preventing pregnancies in the first place?

If Congress can devote committee sessions to debating the wording of partial-birth abortion laws, why can’t it also create a committee about improving access and funding for contraceptives? If those who are opposed to abortion feel so strongly, why aren’t they demanding that emergency contraception be available over the counter? And, are we really promoting a “culture of life” by not providing comprehensive sex education in schools?

By writing this column, I want to make it clear that abortion should always be legally available to all women.

However, I also want to illustrate how those on both sides of the debate could benefit by stepping back from the politicized, media circus that has been created and realize that tougher issues need to be addressed. Perhaps these are some questions to ask not only John Roberts, but also one another.

Stoltman can be reached at jstoltman@campustimes.org.



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