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protesting wholesomeness

December 3, 2005

As I walked past American Girl Place today, I noticed the contingent of protesters standing outside. They were armed with large placards reading “Moms for Life” and “Dads for Life.” They were handing out flyers about abortion. And they were doing this in front of swarms of little girls and their families. (In case you don’t know, American Girl has joined with Girls, Inc., an advocacy group. Girls, Inc., supports the right of women to have abortions and opposes abstinence education, and some conservative groups don’t like that the money they spend on “wholesome” American Girl products goes to support these programs.)

As I walked past this demonstration of free speech, I thought what I usually think when I see people protesting abortion. Is abortion really the most important social issue in our country today? I wondered what those men and women thought of the dozens of homeless people who shuffled past them during the day–people with nowhere to shelter when the weather drops well below freezing. Did they spare a thought for the children who won’t get Christmas presents from American Girl Place because their families are poor? And just to take this train of thought to its logical conclusion, do they think of the young women who would want to provide nice toys to their little girls but can’t because they were unable to finish school and get good jobs because of unexpected teenage pregnancies–pregnancies that resulted because they had no information about contraception?

There are so many injustices in this city, in our country, and in the world. (And yes, some of those injustices are the direct result of unwanted pregnancies or overpopulation.) Wouldn’t it be better to work toward easing some of THOSE social problems, the ones that have a deeper and more scarring effect on crime and on the economy?

I’ve heard the argument that, because abortion is a moral ill that subverts our ethics as a country, it should be a high-priority concern. I’m not going to discuss the validity of that argument on its face (although I’ll say that I have a hard time buying it). What I will say is that other moral issues should take more precedence under that argument. Don’t we have a moral imperative to provide for the less fortunate? To remove disparities in education and housing that are undeniably connected to racial and ethnic discrimination? How about we find good ways to prevent THOSE problems, then start looking at issues like abortion?

I hate to get involved in the abortion argument because it’s one of those debates that ends up being pointless because people on both sides approach the subject with different primary assumptions. So this post should not read as disapproving of a particular side. Rather, it should read as disapproving of the entire discussion. In other words, we should be focusing on other issues first. And leave the little girls, who are visiting a wholesome toy store with their families, alone.

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