The middle ground on abortion?

Posted on March 22nd, 2009 – 6:00 PM
By Josephine Marcotty

Has the national debate about abortion changed? Is there a middle ground between the two sides that have been polarized for years? Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, will answer questions about that today here on BodyTalk.  She and other groups in South Dakota defeated two proposed laws in South Dakota that would have outlawed abortion in almost all cases. Now, much of what they learned about voters attitudes in South Dakota is reflected in a new, and, some would say, less divisive debate nationally.

In 2006 and 2008 their coalition, The Campaign for Healthy Families, adopted a campaign strategy that appealed to voters who were ambivalent about the decision to end a pregnancy. Most South Dakotans say they are anti-abortion, but the campaign convinced a majority of voters that banning abortion altogether could have unforeseen consequences on families. You can read about it here. .

Do you have ideas on how to resolve the political debate about abortion? Is there room to compromise? What messages do you think the public wants to hear on this? Post your questions here and Sarah Stoesz will answer as many of them as she can on Monday.


Sarah Stoesz, CEO, Planned Parenthood

Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota

56 Responses to "The middle ground on abortion?"

Joe Marincel says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I do not see how you can compromise abortion. In all cases, you are murdering the child in the womb!!!!

R. Nelson says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Why should a woman have the right to kill their child? That is basically what a abortion is.

R. Nelson says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:21 pm

an abortion I mean.

Brady says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:24 pm

I struggle with finding middle ground. What would the level of compromise be? Are we talking about abortion being illegal, unless in the case of rape or incense? Or are we talking about a certain time range like 10 weeks? I don’t agree with any of the above, but what would be a good compromising start?

Emma says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Hey posting guys, read up on the issue and quit being ignorant. A fetus or compilation of a few cells is not a “child.” Either way, it’s not your body and you have no right to tell the woman what to do with it.

N Bruce says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:35 pm

It is a sad state when the CEO photo of a company that commits infantacide is so happy. I am noat a religious zealot but, where is the right of the baby. It seems to boil down to the woman’s right to avoid inconvenience vs a innocent baby’s right to life. Where am I wrong???? inconvenience vs. life hmmmm.

NorthDude says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Maybe the goal isn’t finding a “middle ground” at all. Maybe the goal is to discern the proper role of the states in regulating what is essentially a moral issue. Legislating morality is seldom successful and it tends to tear down the legitimacy of the government. Is the goal to reduce/stop abortion? Face it, legal or not, we have always had abortion and we always will. If good people want to reduce or stop abortion, they need to address the reasons women seek abortion.

Wardnjune says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:40 pm

My niece was pregnant with twins. She was told that neither fetus would survive if she tried to carry them both to term. It was a gut-wrenching decision, but what do you do? Let them both die? Or try to save one? As the article says, it’s not always such a black and white issue.

Jim says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:46 pm

What about the unborn child? Why no concern for them? Who stands up for them?

Tom says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 8:54 pm

The fetus has its own human DNA which makes it a separate person from the mother. To say the unborn fetus is not human is to deny basic biology.

If someone shoots or injures the mother and the fetus dies, the perpetrator is charged with a homicide.

How can there be a middle ground in abortion? It’s a heinous destruction of humankind.

Abortion takes the tragedy of an unwanted pregnancy and turns it into the greater tragedy of destroying a human life.

Jane says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I am as anti-abortion as they come. Therefore, in order to decrease the number of abortions that happen in this country, we need to do everything possible to prevent unplanned/unwanted pregnancies! This is where it actually does make sense to work together with pro-choice groups, if they are working towards the same goal. Why fight each other when the issue is really about making sure every child is a wanted child?

Erickson says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Take a look at Europe. Only Malta completely bans abortion. America and freedom are supposed to be synonymous. Slowly we are losing these freedoms. Freedom of religion? Yeah, right. Freedom to choose? Yeah, right.

Pattijo says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Having had an abortion 20 years ago, I can tell you that the pain of my decision is still with me. It was because I felt I had no options, that I chose the option of abortion. If I had an ultrasound when I went in, they would have found that I was farther along than thought. Had I seen the truth, that there was a living baby inside me and not just a clump of cells, I could not have gone through with it. It was in the midst of the abortion that the doctor told me how many weeks pregnant I was, but then it was too late. And then I was charged an additional $150.00 because the clinic charged by how many weeks pregant you were.
Abortion: One killed – one wounded (and forgiven through Christ Jesus)

Ray Ross says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Abortion (murder of a child) is against the will of our creator. Just because people, even a majority of misled people, think it’s OK, it doesn’t make it right. From a strictly practical standpoint, when these same people start crying because we can’t keep Social Security afloat, they may think about the millions of fellow citizens aborted who would have been in the work force to support their retirement.

Dittohead says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:39 pm

You have got to be kidding. Planned Parenthood and middle ground definitely do not belong in the same sentence. Welcome to BodyTalk, where you can learn about and discuss how to care for the bodies you love. Which bodies, or should I say bodycount, are we referring to?

Charles says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:49 pm

I’d like the USA to put a cap on births by the end of 2009. Any babies conceived after 2009 would be automatically aborted for a period of 5-10 yrs. Forty percent of births are unintended. Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day – that’s roughly 200 billion more than needed – enough to feed 80 million people. Americans throw out 200,000 tons of edible food daily. Source:

Steph says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Carefull not to kill them all or we will not have any people left. If you ever have any that you let live you will always wonder what the dead one would have been like.

Spicebear says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 9:57 pm

I’ll echo NothDude’s point and reference most of the posters here. There is no middle ground possible in law. The argument is moot because it is at root a personal, moral issue. Women will seek abortion for a variety of reasons whether it is legal or not. There is nothing to gain by legislating a moral issue and lots to lose. Lets get this issue out of the political arena. If you are against abortion (as I am) it is time to stop bashing your head against the political wall and start doing something about WHY women seek abortion.

mickey mantle says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 10:17 pm

I wonder if this smiling CEO ever goes into a dark room, turns off the cell phones, satellite dish tv, her computer,unplugs her iPod, turns a chair towards the wall,and just thinks about the number of unborn babies she has helped kill. Seriously, just a half hour of her busy day should be spent thinking about making killing babies legal. If it were baby seals she was aborting, we’d be passing laws protecting them, but we can’t do it for our own kind.

Dar says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I would like to know why Planned Parenthood qualifies as a non-profit. This company has reported profits for the last 34 years. The most recent data I’ve seen is for 2006-2007 where this business reported a 114.8 million dollar profit on revenues of 1.0179 billion dollars including 336.7 million dollars in taxpayer money.

Steve says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Most reasonable people recognize the fundamental issue is one of unwanted pregnancies. The way to address this is through education about birth control. Something the anti-abortion crowd is fundamentally opposed to.

So there can never be a compromise, the best solution is to simply kick the zealots to the curb and ignore them in the public debate. Any attempts to try to reason with them are just met with hate.

Steve says:

March 22nd, 2009 at 10:51 pm

If abortion is murder.

Shouldn’t we be invoking the death penalty for women who have abortions?

Bob says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 12:28 am

maybe there can be some compromise with say late term abortions and Parental notification when minors are involved. I am an abortion supporter and see no reason why these 2 things can’t be compromised with. Would show good will and basically concede little.

sconway55037 says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:30 am

There is not middle ground on abortion, it’s murder. Pure and simple!!

Pro-Choice/Pro-Baby says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 1:55 am

When can people have a rational discussion about abortion? Many of the posts from people like:


are the ramblings of people without any concrete thought. You act as though PP is in business to only perform abortions. Any thoughts about the free or minimal cost reproductive care they provide to millions of people? Any thought to the education or information given to those people who wish to have an abortion? The idea that these health care professionals cannot wait to administer another abortion is insane. Anyone who has been exposed to the PP culture would be aware that they educate, teach and give pregnant women all options available to them. I for one, feel abortions should only be allowed in certain circumstances (risk of mother, rape, etc…). I also feel that minors should have to have the consent of a parent. With that said, I also have to respect that it is the decision of the woman (whether I agree or not). For those of you who wish to place limits on abortion or to outlaw it completely, then bring your “A” game. Quit acting “holier than thou” or speaking of the PP health care professionals as murderers. Bring a conversation to the table and quit pointing fingers. It’s old, tiresome and to be quite honest pathetic.

Bill says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:59 am

Why is it the term fetus is only used when the child is unwanted.I’ve never heard a woman say “My fetus is really kicking today”.I know a liberal woman who ,when she refers to other womens preborn child will call it a fetus,but refereed to her own as a baby

Jim G says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:06 am

My compromise…. have all the abortions you want… but don’t make taxpayers pay for them.

MT says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:08 am

There would be no more voluntary abortions if people saw what a 13 week old baby looks like in the womb. Arms and legs kicking, a little nose, fingers and toes. I was fairly indifferent to the issue until I saw my son’s ultrasound. Now it polarizes me.

Tom Dubbe says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:29 am

One cannot compromise on abortion. It is a life versus death issue. There are no half abortions or partial abortions. An abortion kills a potential life. It is not a guilt-free choice.

mickey mantle says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:32 am

I can see where you don’t want to sit down and actually think about what you’re doing if your making your life work about abortion. I was just asking people to sit quietly and think about what we are doing to the unborn babies. Is that too much to ask?

ES says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:52 am

I don’t know when a fertilized egg becomes a person, and NONE of the rest of you do either. Anyone who claims to know is either lying, or is arrogantly asserting that their opinion on the matter is a fact.

paul haberle says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:22 am

the middle ground would be doing as Solomon suggested and cutting the baby in half. I think that would work for the pro choice community just fine.

NoLongerAmazed says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:42 am

Whatever one thinks about this issue, it is ludicrous to use the CEO of Planned Parenthood as the poster child for an discussion about compromise. Go to the “read about it here” story in the article above. There is NOTHING about compromise, only a celebration of the attitude that people appear to be moving towards one side of the debate. Where’s the movement from Planned Parenthood? Where’s the compromise on late-term abortion (in the spirit of compromise, I won’t use the more incendiary term)? Where’s the repudiation of the tactics of Kansas’ Planned Parenthood’s attempt to flout both the law and public opinion? Ms. Marcotty, you do spend a lot of time being PP’s apologist, don’t you? Many people wouldn’t consider “birth control to stem cells” a particularly broad range of health care topics.

Josephine Marcotty says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:10 am

NoLonger, you’re right. I should change that. JM

DebateWeary says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:18 am

Why don’t we just outlaw sex?

sarah stoesz says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:09 am

Jane’s comments about finding ways to reduce unintended pregnancies, and thereby reduce abortions is spot on. One thing we can all agree on is that one certain means to prevent abortion is to prevent an unintended pregnancy.

sarah stoesz says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:17 am

North Dude is making an important point – do we want governemnt to intrude into personal family decision making? Especially on matters as important as pregnancy and child bearing, it seems to me that we need to trust families to make the right decions, not the governemnt.

sarah stoesz says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:26 am

pro-choice pro-baby raises a great point: Planned Parenthood is a maintream health care provider, the reproductive health care provider of choise for 65,000 patients annually who come to us, not for abortion but for basic health care and education about how their bodies work and how to take care of themselves. Abortion is only about five percent of our total health care services.

Willpo says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 11:14 am

Ms. Stoesz — It seems to me that you did not find any common ground in the abortion debate. Your “solution” was to prey on people’s fear by using an extremely rare pregnancy situation — in which the SD law would not have had any bearing whatsoever — to scare people into voting for abortion on demand. If Planned Parenthood has indeed taken a middle-ground position as you claim, then what abortions does it oppose? Your materials continue to support abortion without boundaries or limits of any kind. What has changed?

Tamara says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 12:50 pm

sarah stoesz says: “PP is a maintream health care provider, the reproductive health care provider of choise for 65,000 patients annually who come to us, not for abortion but for basic health care …”

How does PP support the choices of adoption and parenthood? Compared to how many abortions PP performed last year, how many women received prenatal care or adoption referrals from PP as part of “basic health care?”

PP performed over 3900 abortions in 2007, more than other provider in MN. What did it offer women who made other choices about their pregnancies?

Tamara says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 2:23 pm

“Post your questions here and Sarah Stoesz will answer as many of them as she can on Monday.”

3 comments in 15 minutes this morning from Sarah Stoesz is a disappointing discussion …

Josephine Marcotty says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:53 pm

My understanding is that she will be back later today. JM

DebateWeary says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:02 pm

There are a number of organizations that help women with non-medical aspects of pregnancies. PP is right to focus on what it does well, and that is providing quality services for what its patients want.

Tom says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:39 pm


Being a little bit prochoice or a little bit prolife is a lot like being a little bit pregnant. It’s either humankind in the womb or it’s just non-human tissue.

The only middle ground I can see is that some see the issue differently than others do. If it is humankind being destroyed by an abortion, then the error is far more egregious than if it is not.

I would only hope one would hold the position of prochoice only after careful study of the biology of the issue, and not just to be politically correct or politically successful.

Willpo says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Sarah — Where are you? Didn’t you agree to an online discussion? You have not contributed since 9:26 this morning. That was more than seven hours ago. I was looking forward to your response to my question. So far you have only responded to those who agree with you. This was your chance to “change the conversation” like you claim to have done in S.D. What happened, Sarah?

Scott Fischbach says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Josephine Marcotty was made a fool by Planned Parenthood in printing the article that she did. For the first time in nine years as ED of MCCL I actually called an editor to complain about an untrue story. This entire article has no basis in reality. When Marcotty interviewed me for the story she admitted that Planned Parenthood was pushing her to do the story for them. Marcotty also did not know that South Dakota Right to Life actively opposed the referendum just like Planned Parenthood. When I called Editor Hage his comment was that the article was “a good read” and “newsy” . . but never claimed it was accurate. Long story short, Planned Parenthod took the Strib again. I feel bad for Marcotty, in the past she has been inaccurate from time to time, but never before has she made up an entire article.

Josephine Marcotty says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Scott, you either misunderstood or misinterpreted what I said. In fact, I spent weeks persuading the people at Planned Parenthood to speak with me about the campaigns. My editor Dave Hage specifically asked you to cite anything in the story that was inaccurate, and you were unable to identify anything. The story also quoted you saying that other anti-abortion groups did not support Vote Yes For Life. JM

Scott Fischbach says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:47 pm

We can get into a he said/she said situation but the fact remains that you created this story. When you have the major pro-life groups in a state opposing a referendum and agreeing with Planned Parenthood that is your “common ground.” This story has no basis in reality since the pro-life and pro-abort groups were in agreement on the referendum. And to suggest in the same story that President Obama is maybe/kind of finding a middle of the road approach on killing embryos is laughable. Obama just authorized the spending of my tax dollars to disect human embryos . . is that middle ground? Of course not. You had written your story before you called me — and even after I blew huge holes in all of your propoganda — you and your editor thought it all sounded nice enough to print — not the truth — but a “good read.” Your editor asked me 7 times what I wanted him to do since your story had already been printed . . if he knew it was all 100% accurate — which it was not — why did he make the offer? I think the two of you need to talk. You got took by Planned Parenthod Josephine, admit it and move along to cover other issues so that you will not get made a fool of again.

Willpo says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Sarah … we’re still waiting. The head of Planned Parenthood has been given a perfect public forum in which to promote her new “solution” to the abortion issue, and she is nowhere to be found. Did she expect everyone to agree with her because her own organization has given her an award? Sarah — show us your mainstream approach. Explain to use how aborting 800 babies in S.D. and 3,900 babies in MN every year is Planned Parenthood’s new “common ground” on the issue. Help us understand! Speak to us! Where are you, Sarah?

sarah stoesz says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Hi Willpo, The only point I’m trying to make is that families, not the government, should be in charge of their personal decisions. This is a position that most folks agree with, even when they self-identify as pro-life. I’m not asking you to give up any of your beliefs, and I respect you for having them.

sarah stoesz says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Scott, You are totally accurate when you say that SD is a pro-life state. It certainly is, and it is also a state that respects families over government intrusion into personal areas. I agree with you.

sarah stoesz says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Tamara, Thanks for the question about adoption. We do offer on-site adoption counseling and referrals. At Planned Parenthood, our philosophy is that women are entitled to full, complete and accurate information so that they can make the responsible decsions that are right for them and their families. As a MN health care provider for over 80 years, we’ve work hard to ensure broad access to the comprehensive and essential care that women and men need.

J says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:57 pm

From the comments here, perhaps a middle ground isn’t possible. For those of you anti-abortion folks, I’m glad that you support pregnancy resource centers and charitable organizations dedicated to helping underprivileged women and children. By all means, continue. For those who are pro-choice: I’m with you. I hope I never am faced with the difficult decision of terminating a pregnancy. But I could never vote to take away that option from someone else. Thank you Planned Parenthood for taking care of women who can’t always take full care of themselves.

Tamara says:

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Sarah, Thanks for responding to my comment. However, you did not answer my question:
Compared to how the 3900 abortions PP performed last year, how many women received prenatal care or adoption referrals from PP as part of “basic health care?”

sarah stoesz says:

March 24th, 2009 at 10:54 am

Tamara, Our standard of care requires that 100 percent of our patients receieve a full range of education about all of their options. We believe in educating patients about options and respecting their decisions.

Tamara says:

March 25th, 2009 at 9:52 am

And again, that does not answer the question I asked.

Less than 20 percent of all pregnancies in Minnesota end in abortion. At PP, more than 95 percent of pregnancies end in abortion.

Providing “basic health care” should include prenatal care and support for parenting and adoption. If PP truly supports all the choices available for pregnant women, they should be happy to answer the question and tell us about the thousands of women they have helped with parenting and adoption options.