In the debate between Ross Douthat and Will Saletan about reducing the number of abortions, Tim correctly points out that Saletan isn't proposing a new way of talking to the public about contraception. He's asking people who oppose abortion rights to get on board with spreading a pro-contraception message. It's frustrating to watch Saletan repeatedly misunderstand his target audience (as Tim puts it, "those who already believe that abortion should be illegal but go about counter-productively advocating abstinence-only sex education and anti-contraception policies") -- which includes Douthat. Most folks who self-identify as "pro-life" don't actually see it as counterproductive to oppose contraception and informative sex ed. They hold deeply entrenched beliefs about those so-called secondary issues -- namely, that they're not secondary at all. For them, comprehensive sex education IS extramarital sex IS contraception IS abortion. It's all the same issue. That's why Bush's "culture of life" talking point had such resonance with his base.

Saletan's narrow view -- that people who identify as pro-choice only care about abortion rights, and that people who identify as pro-life only care about ending abortion -- is fundamentally misguided. Both sides in this debate see it as way broader than just abortion (though, granted, that is the most obvious flash point). My only question is why Saletan remains so confused about getting nowhere with his proposed compromises on this single piece of the multifaceted issue of reproductive choice. To me, it's pretty obvious that this why he can't "make this sale."

--Ann Friedman

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