In last evening's presidential debate, the first steps were taken toward a new national conversation about abortion. For too many years, the old one hadn't changed very much. It came up every four years during elections and seldom in between. The Republicans repeated that they think abortion should just be completely illegal; and the Democrats repeated their only mantra of a "woman's right to choose." And the number of abortions remained mostly unchanged.
"Pro-life" battled "pro-choice" when neither party was really either one. Those positions were more like postures, and they didn't lead to solutions. What if "pro-life" really meant policies that would protect the precious gift of life wherever it is threatened and aim at dramatically reducing the number of abortions in America? And what if "pro-choice" meant extending the range of real choices available to women -- not only to terminate a pregnancy, but also to make the decision to have a child with the necessary economic support, health care, and adoption services?
Last evening, both Barack Obama and John McCain took steps toward finding some possible common ground.
Both said that they would not use Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for appointing Supreme Court Justices in the future.
And both suggested some cultural commitments and policy directions that could be most effective in dramatically reducing abortion. Last night's debate  got that conversation started.
Barack Obama said:
I think that abortion is a very difficult issue, and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on