Unfortunately, much of the debate over abortion tends to quickly lose any sense of reasonable discourse or understanding for a different point of view. Commentary often degenerates into strident emotion, name-calling, acrimonious demands and general hostility. This can be true of people on both sides of the issue.
Sad to say, the full-page advertisement in the March 24 New York Times by the American Civil Liberties Union - blasting Utah's abortion law - falls into this category.The ad was inflammatory and exaggerated. It created a phony threat, namely, of Utah imposing the death penalty on a woman who has an abortion. The ad clearly was aimed at arousing emotion and raising money to challenge the Utah law.
In large letters, covering more than half a newspaper page, the ACLU ad declared: "In Utah, they know how to punish a woman who has an abortion. Shoot her." The text points out that death by firing squad is one option in first degree murder conviction in Utah and that a woman who gets an abortion could be sentenced to death.
While that is technically possible, it is only an oversight that the Legislature will erase while in a special session in April, before the abortion measure even takes effect. State officials repeatedly have discounted the slightest possibility of prosecuting a woman for homicide in an abortion.
Now there is nothing wrong with being opposed in outspoken fashion to Utah's abortion law. That is the constitutional right of people who may not agree. Nor is there anything wrong with a newspaper ad expressing concern and attempting to raise money to finance a lawsuit challenging the new law.
What is disturbing is the tone of the ad, the appeal to raw emotion, the exaggeration and hyperbole. There also appears to be too much "demanding" one thing or another in this whole issue.
For example, the ad urged people to write to Gov. Norm Bangerter and "demand" the immediate repeal of the abortion law. Local ACLU officials also have "demanded" a personal apology from the governor and Legislature for passing a strict anti-abortion bill in the first place.
Utah's new abortion law will be tested in the courts. During that time, it will not be enforced. The case undoubtedly will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and until the final legal decision is made, nothing has changed.
Let's await the ultimate decision - which may be years in being resolved - with some sense of civility, patience, tolerance and the recognition that there are sincere, deeply held feelings on both sides.