‘Common Ground’ Leads to Confusion

By Jacqueline L. Salmon What if a Web site that supports abortion rights were to launch an online effort to … Continued

By Jacqueline L. Salmon

What if a Web site that supports abortion rights were to launch an online effort to find “common ground” with abortion opponents?

It would get a little awkward.

RH Reality Check supports abortion rights and its Web site features articles blasting abstinence-only programs and crisis pregnancy centers — efforts supported by abortion foes.

But on Tuesday, RH Reality Check launched a section on its Web site called “on common ground” aimed at bringing together abortion rights supporters with abortion foes. Still, it’s easy to get RH Reality Check’s firm abortion rights message confused with the section promoting a more conciliatory approach. .

The juxtaposition is “a bit clumsy, we admit” admits editor Cristina Page, editor of the site, who said she has spoken with the site’s designers, who will work on creating more of a clear distinction between the common ground forum and RH Reality Check’s site.

Once you get to the common ground section through RH Reality Check’s site, you’ll find writers riffing on finding agreement on the sacredness of sex and the need to help pregnant college students.

But Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, which opposes abortion, is no fan. Parts of the section are “incredibly offensive,” said Wright, who participated in a White House meeting on seeking common ground on abortion.

In particular, Wright objects to comments by Scott Swenson, executive director of RH Reality Check, who criticizes abortion foes in a posting on the common ground forum.
“Many people on the right distance themselves from anything having to do with clinic violence, but still have their picture taken with politicians whose rhetoric foments it,” Swenson wrote in the forum.

Wright is not happy with that characterization. “He takes swipes at prolifers without acknowledging deficiencies in their own–that is, the pro abortion groups,” Wright said in an interview. “How do you expect to find common ground when you are basically saying the other side has done all these things wrong and not acknowledging that they [abortion rights supporters] have done anything wrong?”

Page said she has called Wright and hopes to get her involved in the site. “I want her to help shape the dialogue.”

“We’re going to make mistakes,” said Page. “This is new territory for all of us. But it’s still worth pursuing.”

  • DCSven

    Jacqueline, thanks so much for writing about the On Common Ground section of RH Reality Check. A few quick factual corrections: Cristina Page is the moderator of this special section, I am the Co-Publisher. RH Reality Check is an online community supporting progressive policies on sexual and reproductive health, we have never concealed our point of view nor will we. We started the On Common Ground section specifically to engage different voices that can agree on contraception, sex ed, pre and post natal care, and agree to disagree on abortion. It is one small effort to change the discussion surrounding this issue and allow something new to emerge. The funny thing about Wendy Wright’s comments is that the very fact that we are hosting this effort is seen as “swipe” by some of our most loyal supporters on the left, so the fact that an adamantly pro-choice publication is inviting people who disagree to share their ideas with us on our site is the news here. I don’t see too many groups on the right doing that, but maybe this will inspire them and more people will stop taking one sentence out of context and instead seek to listen and learn from people they disagree with.Thanks,

  • washpost18

    Let’s get the labels straight. It’s “pro-choice” and “anti-abortion”. There’s not a single person out there who has ever awoken one rainy, cold morning and exclaimed, “I’m going to be stuck inside all day anyway; maybe I’ll go get me one of these abortions everyone is talking about!”On the other hand, those who demand the right to impose their religious beliefs on the bodies of others are also on the front lines of demanding ever expanded application of the death penalty. That is when they’re not shooting medical professionals.