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Many of my friends and housemates are going to the Nov. 12 March on Washington for Women's Rights. Some asked me to come; when I told them that I would not march, they were eager to find out why. I would like to present a viewpoint that gets somewhat lost in the crossfire these days.

By some people's definitions, many of my beliefs are pro-choice. I support the general women's rights movement, and I believe that morality in a case such as abortion cannot -- and should not -- be legislated. However, like many of the actively pro-choice people I know, I am personally anti-abortion, in that I would never recommend it to any woman except as the last possible resort. I pray for a society in which abortion is never necessary or desirable.

But I have become rather cynical about the whole debate. It seems to me that some delicate, important, and very basic issues are being overlooked in the pro-choicers' zeal to march and in the pro-lifers' eagerness to disagree with the other side.

First: let's bring some basic fair play back into the game. This can be as simple as being careful of what you call people on the other side of the issue. Since I said that I would not march, I have been called "anti-choice" several times! For reasons, explained below, I certainly do not consider myself anti-choice. Likewise, I know that some people who are pro-choice have been called "anti-life" -- a name that will understandably infuriate any pro-choice activist.

Such name-calling is nothing but destructive, even when it is done without the intention of angering the other party. Please, let us try to understand the other side's arguments, and not bring unnecessary anger and bitterness into an already-emotional debate.

Second: know your facts and sources before you begin arguing either side. I don't think most people have a problem with that, actually, and I'm sure that most people on both sides do base arguments on facts of which they are relatively confident. But in some situations, I have heard two wildly different "facts" from the two sides of the issue. For instance, one side says that thousands of women per year died of complications from illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade; the other says that the yearly death rate was in the range of 30-50. (I saw this last one in a government report; I do not know the real source of the "thousands" claim.) Distorting facts -- even unknowingly -- is a truly dangerous thing in this debate. There's too much at stake.

Third: let us please keep in mind why all these abortions are taking place to begin with. I believe that the real problem is that some women see no realistic alternatives to abortion, legal or illegal. They may not be able to afford birth control, or may not have the education for it, or cannot afford another child, or perhaps simply don't know of any other options.

We could perhaps come closer to the "ideal society -- in which abortion is never the desirable thing to do -- if we work here, at the root of the problem. It would be nice if some of the thousands of hours and dollars poured monthly into the Great American Abortion Debate were put instead into solving these other problems. We could be providing child care to overburdened working-class women; or working in women's shelters; or lobbying for government-sponsored education about birth control; or helping adoption agencies get in touch with women carrying unwanted babies. The list goes on and on.

As an MIT student, I wish I had time for such work. I do what I can but I cannot justify spending a weekend in Washington when I could be doing one of these other things instead. I do think that showing support for women's rights in events such as this is important -- and I respect the choices of those who are going -- but it is not the only act that makes a difference.

I hope that we can somehow work together to provide women with realistic choices besides abortion.

Jenifer Tidwell '91->