It was a relaxed dinner party. Over coffee, the discussion ranged from movies to Boris Yeltsin to election issues. Then we got to the topic that can turn polite dinner parties into shouting matches: abortion.

One person excused himself, then another. Soon it was just another guest and me—and he looked very unhappy.

“Chuck, this will surprise you,” he said, leaning across the table, “but I can’t buy your arguments.”

I certainly was surprised; this man is a generally conservative evangelical.

“I think your position is cold and heartless for the people involved,” he said.

“Not very heartless for the babies,” I replied.

“Don’t get off on that,” he said. “Think about the practical ramifications. Look at our inner cities. Kids having kids. On welfare. Most of the fathers in prison, AIDS babies. Crack babies. My wife works with those kids. It’s horrible to bring them into that kind of world …” He trailed off.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Abortion is legal now. And these babies are still being born.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “Birth control, abstinence—they don’t really work. Abortion is the only way to stop the cycle.”

“Don’t you see?” I continued. “Those women are already having babies. They aren’t having abortions, even though they could. Changing the law won’t affect that. How many welfare women do you see marching at prochoice rallies?”

He paused. “Well, it’s a cultural thing. They need more education.”

“Education?” I said. “This country has one of the most liberal abortion policies in the world, legal abortion available for the last 18 years. And you’re telling me that poor blacks need more education so they’ll know to choose abortion?”

His mouth tightened in a thin line. “It’s the only answer to the crisis of the inner cities.”

“What ...

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