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Our View: Next steps in a new world

The Union Editorial Board

There isn’t going to be any consensus on abortion rights.

And there won’t be any on what this nation should do in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that late last month swept away Roe v. Wade and a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion.

What issue carries more emotion, causes more arguments and gets more people to the protest line and the polls? Seemingly everyone has a strong opinion on abortion, and plenty of folks have opinions about your opinion, and whether you should even have an opinion.

There’s no end to a debate that centers on the moment life begins, or the convoluted course the American judicial system winds.

Take your pick from the buffet of opinions or create your own: Plessy v. Ferguson, which enshrined “separate but equal,” was bad precedent, so why shouldn’t Roe be tossed? An unelected, nearly untouchable body of justices shouldn’t be toying with a constitutional right half the population has held for almost a half century. The issue returns to the states, where it always belonged. What’s next, banning contraception or destroying same sex marriage?

The next few years will bring more uncertainty, more fear and plenty of lawsuits. America already was a patchwork of people mixed with laws that, supposedly, suited their particular corner of the country. Now we’re dealing with upheaval in the most intense issue of many generations.

This means that, now more than ever, cooler heads must prevail. For too many, violence is the first resort. No one is immune from strong emotion, regardless of where you fall on the legal and moral spectrum, but that gives no one the right to hurt people or damage property.

A false sense of righteousness, coupled with hypocrisy, can lead people to condemn violent acts when their opponents perform them and explain away or even praise them when done by their own side.

Peaceful protest is valued, protected and, above all, American. But it’s difficult to call a protest peaceful when screaming at a woman who’s running a gantlet into an abortion clinic. Or when a protest gathers outside a Supreme Court justice’s home, seeking to intimidate them and their families.

Too often, partisans claim this issue or that issue eclipses all others, and extreme measures are warranted.

Problem is, issues like that are growing far too frequent, and Americans too uncompromising.

And, yes, this issue is different from all the others. It is a flashpoint in time that will take up significant space in the history books. But that gives no one carte blanche to violate societal norms and cause violence.

So, what is there to do?

Perhaps enough Americans could convince Congress pass a bill protecting a woman’s right to choose, and have a president sign it into law. As long as this country relies on case law to settle contentious issues, we’ll always be at the whim of the Supreme Court. But if we codify it and make it the law of the land, it’s much more difficult to cast aside.

That’s easier said than done, of course, and would require a persistent effort through public engagement, lobbying and political activism not so unlike the Pro-Life movement these past 50 years.

Protest is a large part of this. Protest is fine if it remains nonviolent. It shows the government and opponents where we stand, invigorates ourselves and enables new contacts and friendships.

Sitting down and having frank conversations with those who disagree with you is a good option, too.

We’re not saying you should befriend people who strongly oppose your views, or cater to those folks you can’t stand. This isn’t a “go along to get along” argument.

What we are saying is that there are people who hold beliefs different from your own who are worth talking and listening to. Our country would be a better place if we held this view and acted on it in our daily lives. That’s a core civic value of our democratic republic.

Our federal government certainly would benefit from this.

No one has to back down from their sincerely held beliefs. Instead, we should find the spaces where we can find some form of agreement. From there, we can build relationships that yield real compromise.

And from there, real change.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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