Even among those who are not political junkies, discussing a woman's right to have an abortion elicits a strong response.
I recently penned an article discussing the Republican hypocrisy regarding keeping government out of people's private lives. In the article I talked about the threats from the Tennessee's Republican-led legislature toward Volkswagen employees considering unionizing, the Republican push to use the power of government to ban same sex couples from the benefits of marriage, as well as the insistence by many Republicans to include creationism in public school science classes even though there is no science in this belief.
There was certainly more than enough red meat for conservatives to chew on, but the line that received the biggest response -- by far -- was the line where I suggested that women, not Republican lawmakers, should be allowed to decide what collection of cells to remove from their body. My colleague, blogging pioneer and fellow patriot Jason Vines said this "was perhaps the vilest thing that has ever appeared on this site."
Luckily, unlike Jason's thoughts on the topic, a women's right to an abortion is not subjective -- it is constitutionally protected.
Hyperbole aside, the dividing line when it comes to abortion is your view of the zygote, embryo, and fetus. We all start as a collection of cells which divide repeatedly to form skin, limbs, organs and a brain.
The question then becomes, when does this collection of cells obtain rights?
The pro-life camp tends to believe life begins at conception. So every abortion is murder.
The pro-choice camp tends to think personhood isn't achieved till much later so an abortion is a medical procedure to remove unwanted cells. Neither side is willing to back down from their stance, but the highest court in the land has thus far sided with those in the pro-choice camp.
There are, of course, many people who fall somewhere in between. Some are against abortion but OK in the case or rape or incest. Some feel an abortion is justified if the life of the mother is in danger. Others believe an abortion is justified if the fetus has defects that would affect its quality of life.
Then there are also those that feel that the legality of an abortion corresponds to a certain time frame -- once there's a heartbeat, once there are brain waves, or no later than 20 weeks. If you take all of these variations into account, only 20 percent of the population believes an abortion is murder starting at conception. It should also be noted that if 20 weeks is an acceptable cut off only 1 percent of all abortions occur after 20 weeks.
Liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, no one wants more abortions to occur each year. President Bill Clinton set the standard of "safe, legal, and rare." That's reasonable.
Unfortunately, the methods each side supports for how to achieve that goal are dramatically different. Pro-life organizations have worked diligently to make getting an abortion more and more difficult, hoping to eventually make all abortions illegal. Given the results of government crackdowns in other areas, such as Prohibition and the War on Drugs, it seems unlikely that making abortion illegal will actually reduce the number of abortions per year. Instead, it will just make abortions more dangerous and turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.
Pro-choice groups would prefer to use the power of information to reduce the number of abortions. Instead of attempting and failing to rewire the brains of teenagers with abstinence-only education, pro-choice groups would prefer to explain what happens during sex, how to prevent pregnancy, and give people all the information necessary to help them make better choices.
To many people, the effectiveness of the methods isn't important. If having sex results in a pregnancy, then you must see that pregnancy through. Purposely removing those cells is murder even though the law says otherwise.
Of course, if all human life was as sacrosanct to conservatives as a zygote, an embryo, and a fetus, you might expect them to act differently in other situations.
For instance Republicans are twice as likely as a Democrat to support the death penalty. About as far from "pro life" as it gets.
Over 30,000 Americans die every year from guns, yet Republicans overwhelmingly opposerestricting or reducing gun rights. Not very compassionate.
Republicans support drone strikes at significantly greater levels than Democrats, even though these drone kill hundreds of civilians each year. The taking of innocent lives is a feature, and not a bug, of drone attacks.
Republican legislators oppose many of the efforts of the EPA aimed at reducing air pollution even though some 200,000 Americans die every year from poor air quality. Including a lot of babies.
Heart disease kills some 600,000 Americans per year, yet attempts to curb the availability of foods that lead to heart disease are often rebuffed as government overreach.
Just like abortion statistics, these numbers don't prove one side right or the other side wrong.
What they do show is that one person's "murder" is another person's "choice." So the opinion of my colleague Jason Vines on the matter is irrelevant. In the end, these decisions rest solely with nine black-robed judges in Washington, D.C.
But don't let that reality get in the way of a good takedown piece.