22.14.58 - Mark
The abortion issue is an ugly one for a lot of reasons, the obvious one is because the core issue is talking about ending the life of a something* that has a potential to be a living, breathing, contributing member of the human race. The topic only gets uglier there when you start looking at the physically disturbing subtopics like how a something* is aborted, the final minutes of a something*'s "life", the psychological trauma of those directly involved, the political maneuvering around the issues, the ethical questions that always get phrased with a steep bias then left unanswered, the history of violence around the subject, and the blatant (often intentional) ignorance of people who talk about this issue.
This last point isn't helped by the fact that both sides use language so carefully selected it puts most marketing departments and spin doctors to shame, which combined with a lack of clear cut definitions of the unloaded language makes it extremely hard to find unbiased information. Add in a heaping pile of religious extremists and you have such an ugly mess that most people won't look at the topic, let alone touch it with a 30 foot pole.
Those who try are usually blasted from the other side, and moderates tend to get yelled at from everyone. This is an old issue (abortion was mentioned in the original Hippocratic oath) but it's become so politically and morally charged the level of discourse has plummeted. Even smart people who love talking about politics and policy want to avoid the topic. It's infuriating before you even attempt to drag politics into the matter.
Just like in "civil" conversation, the abortion issue is a topic politicians don't want to spend time with. Unlike in civil conversation however they have a harder time ignoring it. So rather than holding intelligent debates on the subject they craft utterly useless legislation designed to appease the anti-abortionists (I voted for XYZ bill) without creating a law that dose anything new and only vaguely reinforces things already on the books so they don't piss off the other side. Or, if they're feeling confident (or don't mind being self-serving assholes), craft the language of the bill in a way that everyone who reads the thing knows that it will fail at some other level of government.
There are a lot of people who claim that if we "respect life" the problems of our world will go away. Aside from that fact that this is code for "believe in my god and you'll be saved" many of these people are the same ones who almost instantly called for this country to go to war after 9/11/01, and who don't see a little racism or homophobia as wrong - even when it means some unlucky people get beaten to death by hicks. We don't need to "respect life", we need to be more open minded, push for better communication, less radically religious opinions, and most of all more accepting of others and the decisions they make. Until we all agree to stop using loaded language and stop attempts at legislating according to some moral guidelines written over 2000 years ago, we're not going to find an acceptable solution to a topic that is in despite need of a fair, unbiased position.
* About the "something*": fetus, embryo, baby, and infant are all too often interchangeable terms in the abortion issue, and none of them seem to really do a good job of accurately describing a potential life. I'm tired of the loaded language used by both sides of the argument and in this post I tried to avoid using politically charged terms