Alexander Sanger to be biologically pro-life, one must be politically pro-choice
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    With reproductive freedom in jeopardy, Alexander Sanger, grandson of renowned family planning advocate Margaret Sanger and a longtime leader in the reproductive rights movement, has taken an urgent, fresh look at the pro-choice position—and even the pro-life position—and finds them necessary, but insufficient. In Beyond Choice he offers the first major re-thinking of these positions in thirty years.

    Book Club Guide


    Alexander Sanger’s Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century is the first book aimed at breaking the seeming deadlock between the so-called pro-choice and pro-life forces over the legality of abortion. It is a book designed to get behind the cultural, social and religious arguments for and against abortion to see what might lie behind them that could provide a basis for resolving this contentious issue. The title says that the pro-choice forces must go beyond “choice” if they want to win this battle. The traditional arguments in favor of abortion rights-—women’s equality, bodily and personal privacy, public health-—have not swayed the American public opinion one iota in the last 30 years. Nor have the pro-life arguments. Public opinion is frozen, but legislation restricting access to abortion is enacted with continuing frequency. The Supreme Court, with the change of two justices, could, if it wished, overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion, and Congress and the states would be free to re-criminalize abortion.

    Discussion Questions

    1. Each member of the group should explain as succinctly as possible their views of abortion-—political, legal and personal. They should try to differentiate the circumstances where they might have an abortion, or not, and the circumstances where abortion should be legal for others to have. In particular explain your views on the “hot-button” issues such as “late” abortions, parental consent, public funding and so on. What are your arguments for having abortion in some or all circumstances legal?

    2. Have you even had a discussion on abortion with someone who does not fully agree with you? What arguments did you use? What did you hear back? Was there a discussion, an argument, a change of subject, a frozen silence, a hurled epithet? Why do you think your arguments worked or didn’t?

    3. What do feminism, privacy and bodily autonomy mean to you? Are there limits to these concepts? Are they useful in framing the abortion debate? What do you think of the Supreme Court’s 1965 Griswold decision and Justice Douglas’ opinion? Should birth control and abortion be left to the states?

    4. How do you define morality? For you is there any difference between your moral code and the code of your religious faith, if any? Need a moral code be religiously derived or can it be the product of human experience? Must abortion rights be framed as a moral issue in order to win the battle in America? How about the rest of the world, if any member of the book group has lived abroad? Is this battle, and the way we wage it, unique to America and our heritage? Do you agree with Sanger’s statement, page 59 in the hardback, “What the pro-choice movement needs to do is provide a compelling argument not for legal abortion but for abortion”?

    5. Sanger argues that we are the product of the reproductive success of our ancestors and that humanity evolved to succeed reproductively. Do you believe in evolution? Human evolution? What does evolution contribute to the debate over abortion? Members can share if they wish difficulties members of their families have had in reproducing-—in getting pregnant, in childbirth, in birth spacing and in nurturing their children. Members may also wish to share their own mating and reproductive strategies if they can identify them.

    6. Why do we have sex? Why do we reproduce with sex? Why don’t we clone our offspring? Why is there a battle of the sexes? Sanger argues that the battle of the sexes is for the control of reproduction. Do you agree? Why do men and women have seemingly different reproductive behaviors and strategies? Or don’t they?

    7. Why don’t men and women use birth control every time they have sex? Are unintended pregnancies really “unintended”? What is the reproductive strategy here? Can all unintended pregnancies be prevented?

    8. Sanger argues that in some circumstances teen pregnancy can be a reproductive strategy. What are the circumstances when this might make reproductive sense? What are the risks to the teen and her offspring? Given the risk/benefits here should we try to “prevent” teen pregnancy at all or in different ways?

    9. What do men want, reproductively speaking? How are their reproductive strategies and behaviors similar to and different from women’s?

    10. Sanger argues that a main driver of male reproductive strategies and behaviors is paternity uncertainty. Do you agree? How can we alleviate this uncertainty?

    11. How does the legality of abortion fit in, or not, with male reproductive strategies? Does it depend on the reproductive/social status of the male? How can we get more men to support reproductive freedom?

    12. How can hormonal contraception hurt reproductive success? Sanger argues that hormonal contraception can unconsciously alter our mate selection as well as inadvertently reduce condom use, thereby increasing sexually transmitted diseases and infertility? Do you see a connection between pill/Depo use and decreased condom use over the past 40 years? Is there a way to increase condom use given that the HIV scare has not fully worked?

    13. What is the reproductive purpose of sex selection abortion? Should sex selection abortion be permitted in the United States? In China or India? What is the difference, if any?

    14. What is the reproductive purpose of genetic engineering and cloning? Should one or the other be permitted? How do we judge these technologies? Is evolution something to be continued or avoided when possible?

    15. Sanger argues that societies were created long ago to enable successful reproduction. In your view why in general were governments and laws created? Why do governments get into regulating reproduction and sex? Can governments and laws ever effect change in reproductive and sexual habits, practices and results? Can governments increase or decrease childbearing? Should they?

    16. Should the government enforce a moral code? Is this legitimate? How is the moral code to be defined? By the Bible? By majority rule?

    17. Go back to Question 3 above. What do you think of Griswold now? Should birth control and abortion be left to the states? What is the meaning of “liberty” in our constitution? Does it have a reproductive purpose? How would you have rewritten Douglas’ opinion?

    18. Go back to Question 1 above. What do you think now of parental involvement laws? Public funding for abortion? Have your arguments changed?

    19. Is abortion something to be ashamed of? Are you ashamed of abortion?


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