Over the last three decades, the abortion debate has been characterized as the clashing of rights: the human rights of the unborn on the one hand and the reproductive rights of women on the other. This decades-long rhetorical deadlock has left a good number of Americans -- the great majority of whom understand that an individual human life is taken in each abortion -- personally opposed, yet unwilling to "impose their beliefs" on anyone else.
The popularity of this so-called pro-choice position is due, in large measure, to the success abortion advocates have had in convincing Americans that abortion is a necessary precondition to women's well-being and equality. If you want to stand for women's progress, the line goes, then you have to stand for abortion. Indeed, in our current cultural milieu, to oppose abortion is to risk being called anti-woman -- and few, regardless of their sense of the moral wrongness of abortion, can withstand that accusation. "Personally opposed, but can't impose" seems to many the only pro-woman option.