BETWEEN THE LINES - Abortion: a third 'choice'

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The other day, a woman called in to cancel her subscription to the Pilot-Tribune. She said she thought our politics were too pro-abortion.

Pro-abortion? I've been called a lot of things in the time I've been writing here on this editorial page, but that's a new one.

Take your check. If that's what a person thinks, I wouldn't sell them a newspaper.

Maybe I haven't written an editorial making a concrete statement on abortion, so perhaps criticism and assumptions are due.

Maybe I've felt that it isn't a small-town newspaper editor's job to write about something so deeply personal. Or that it isn't a small-town newspaper's job to presume to say what women should be able to do with their bodies.

Then again, I never thought that anyone was taking silence for a pro-abortion stance, either.

I wish this woman would have asked before she made that assumption. I wouldn't have tried to speak for the newspaper or its owners, but I would have told her what I feel.

It goes something like this:

As newspaper editors go, I suck at politics. Just ask the politicians.

I never thought anything really important got decided in the salons of Des Moines, or Washington, D.C.

Decisions that matter happen around the family's kitchen table, and how people feel about other people is shaped in the neighborhoods and the small-town schools and on those little playgrounds.

Nothing that happens in the statehouse or the White House matters when it comes to family, fighting prejudice, falling in love, having a child, or anything else that defines who we are.

I might not know much about politics, but I do know a little about people. For all the years I've supposed to have been in the office acting like an editor and a grown-up, I've most often been out in those neighborhoods and the parks and the beaches playing hooky.


The best thing about my job is the children I've met in places like those.

Little ones digging in the sand with their pails, big ones in football uniforms. Kids singing way off key in those wonderful school concerts, running across the grass in saggy diapers and with who-knows what running down their little faces.

Kids crying and screaming and laughing uproariously at bodily-function jokes.

Brown ones and black ones and pink ones and ones in wheelchairs and everything in between, who grab at our hearts and tell us why our similarities matter so much more than our petty differences.

I've taken their pictures by the thousands. Through Mr. Goodfellow, we've put coats on the backs of hundreds of them. Through Adopt-A-Family, we've raised thousands to help feed them when a hand is needed. Through Partners in Excellence, we've had the chance to go to school with them. I've had a chance to play and read and talk with them, go to the zoo and Santa's Castle with them, and to stay young in the process.


Lady, I'd be so sad if any one of those thousands of children didn't exist to sing or laugh or run.

Every one of them is different, and precious. They are our future, they are the color and imagination and the light in our lives.


Lady, I've had to sit and watch a trial for a wonderful

little girl named Shelby Duis who had the life beaten out of her figuratively and then literally, and then report that no justice was done at all. All I could think is what might we have lost in this bright and happy toddler? An artist? A doctor? A teacher? We will never know.

I had to do the story about Baby Doe, left to die in a cold abandoned trailer home. Why didn't someone want her? What might that baby have become?

Haven't ever done a story about those abortion statistics in Iowa without thinking that those columns of statistics - how impersonal they seem as tiny black and white numbers in neat columns of simple surgical procedures - in the same terms. What have we given away? What could have been?


Lady, I've called those desperate people who have from time to time advertised in our newspaper looking to find a woman who would let them adopt a newborn baby.

A woman named Beth told me how she had been on the adoption list for a couple of years in a major city. She couldn't have a baby of her own, and couldn't be complete without a child in her life.

She said she was letting her business-cut hair grow long, because she thought a baby deserved to cuddle into a mother's warm, soft halo of hair.

I don't intend to tell any woman that she doesn't have the right to do what she wants with her body. That isn't my place.

I will say that the pro-life vs. abortion-rights debate often forgets to include all the people who long to adopt, those who stand ready to serve as foster parents and volunteers with children in need.

Lady, there's a third "choice" that never seems to get mentioned. Adoption.

Before any unborn child is thrown away, I wish there was consideration of all those who would gladly love them. If there weren't people like that, I might not be here, and a lot of others could say the same.


No lady, I don't think so. Think what you want; your check is in the mail. No political argument from here.

And tonight, I'll go home and hug my two children that much tighter.