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Why Is the Abortion Debate So Extreme in America?

Doctors perform about 800,000 abortions in the US each year. The number of bombings and arson attempts on abortion facilities, and the numbers of death threats to providers also reach staggering figures. As seen from the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller yesterday, sometimes disagreements about abortion turn deadly.

This aggressive, emotional, and sometimes violent nature of the abortion debate is somewhat exceptional in the US. An article in BBC today explored the reasons why some Americans take such a radical position. Here are some explanations:

  • The US pro-life stance is often presented as defending the defenseless, making it easier to justify violence.
  • In the UK, abortion opponents fight for more restrictions, while most of their US counterparts want an all-out ban. Any compromise would be seen as selling out.
  • Half of the US population goes to church regularly and the abortion debate is dominated by religious groups. Hundreds of religious radio stations across the country help elevate the profile of the abortion debate.
  • The availability of firearms, not the US pro-life movement, is to blame, according to the national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. He says: "Guns are more readily available so by the law of averages people providing abortions are going to be caught up."

Obviously a small number of pro-life individuals turn to violence or threats to further their cause, but America is still far from having a clear-headed national dialogue about abortion.


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