Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (8), December 10, 1985

Accusatory Preachment Won’t Help

John Rankin’s presences in the Times, on matters related to the abortion issue, lends an impression of preeminence to his views. We should weigh that carefully.

Like so many others before him, John erodes the foundation of his integrity as a spokesperson on the abortion issue, by selectively distorting opposing views. This is particularly disturbing in that John draws his expressed views from a singular mountaintop: his interpretation on biblical word.

Clearly, the contribution of individuals with strong religious views, into matters of social concern, is important. Members of the religious community have been on the cutting edge of needed social change. However, the record is not all of one writing. History bears the stamp of misguided deeds, and corrupted messianic views by some of the same. And like it or not, representatives of particular religious teachings must engage the dialogue around abortion as a social issue, with no more expectation for absolute consideration than anyone else. The infallibility of the interpreted “word” undergoes great change when it encounters other views. John’s contrived process of finding Planned Parenthood “et al,” guilty of promoting sexual promiscuity, especially among teenagers, is a base of syllogistic reasoning. If we are all chaste before marriage, thinks John, what need of contraceptives knowledge do we have? And of course it follows that such knowledge, and the devices themselves, automatically leads to sexual activity; especially amongst teenagers. Since Planned Parenthood, et al, will provide such information, when asked; sentence is passed: guilty. Cause and effect neatly packaged. Ah John, that such reasoning would ever bear the fruit of resolve; what a world we could have. But I gear this self-endowed power you profess, to reconstruct the facets of complicated, and wrenching human problems, is intellectually dishonest. and morally in doubt. John’s didactic approach to the abortion issue; his activities as reported by the Times, and his letters, would appear to me to have driven people apart rather than increase understandings. Recent figures show that the rate of unmarried households is decreasing: a direct contradiction to John’s assertion that marriage is held in contempt. It must be sad that he cannot understand that most people in this country struggle very hard to maintain unity and a loving environment in their homes. As a people, we are driven by economic forces that define not only our material well being, or lack of it, but also insidiously prescribes those things in life we should value. While we may suffer a terrible lack of understanding about the powers that separate us from the best choices, as a culture, as a social family of people, most American parents have not withdrawn from teaching acceptable values to their children. And most do not simply accept that “fooling around” is the name of the game. What may be close to the truth is that many parents find it extraordinarily difficult to separate, for their children, the absurd world of love, sex and good times, as skillfully imaged by the media (in the name of consumerism), and the other world we refer to as, real. A blanket indictment of parenting America, with charges based on the narrow interpretation of but one religious ideology, lacks meaningful credibility.

If John Rankin, and the council he represents, can bring their resources together to help prevent teenage pregnancies, and abortions, without stifling the developmental process of choice, their efforts will be welcomes by most caring individuals. Accusatory preachment, of the kind so far exhibited, will only join the ranks of failed verbiage floating around in space.

Norm Parker, 23 Bittersweet Road