Madden: ‘Anti-choice’ label ‘incredibly misleading’

BELLOWS FALLS — Politicians often like to pretend that there is only good and evil. This helps them give false choices to the public. This is happening today in Vermont's Congressional election.

Candidate Becca Balint wanted money recently, and she thought it a good fundraising tactic to ask for donations while claiming her opponent is “anti-choice.”

I am the person she is trying to stick that label on. She is being incredibly misleading.

Here's why:

To be clear, I am for protecting more than 99 percent of choices about abortion, i.e., for all abortion choices prior to the independent viability of the child.

And like most people, even those of us who consider themselves very pro-choice, I believe there are some - rare - reasonable exceptions that should be handled by regulations at a state level.

While the extremes of both sides - say, x percent of people are pro-life or pro-choice - they're both leaving out of the conversation the vast majority of us who have thoughtful considerations that enable us to see the need for some nuance and openness in the discussion.

Even concerned pro-lifers will grant exceptions for rape, incest, and if the mother's health is in jeopardy. And even a strongly-rooted pro-choicer - like me - believe there are valid considerations to be made for children who can survive outside the mother's womb. In fact, 86 percent of Americans believe that a child becomes a person when they can live outside of the mother independently, according to a YouGov poll this year.

I think Balint doesn't understand that 86 percent of people is an enormous middle ground - many of whom feel dismayed by the polarized, black-and-white fundamentalism on the extremes which wants us to fit into an oversimplified binary logic of “fully against” or “fully in favor” of one side or the other.

My wife gave birth to our second son this May. It is still incredibly fresh in my heart that pregnancy - and birth - and raising young children is an enormous responsibility, one that falls especially on women.

Seeing this, living it at this moment, I would not wish parenthood to be a choice forced on anyone who isn't ready or able to take care of their babies. It is also fresh in my mind how elated we were in the last trimester, when the time came when we knew our baby could survive outside of the womb. Meaning, I can acknowledge that choice over our bodies and protecting children able to live outside the womb are both sacred responsibilities.

At first, I realized that Balint was creating a self-serving and false narrative on this issue. Then I realized that she doesn't think she is lying. She is just not accustomed to seeing the nuance and complexity here, so therefore, to her, someone like me can only fit in one of two boxes: either fully with her or fully against. It's the same style of thinking that says, “You're either with us, or with the terrorists.”

Sometimes politicians aren't just pretending there is only good and evil on a subject; sometimes (even more in our dysfunctional and polarizing two-party system) they actually believe it. That's even worse!

When I saw this dynamic, I realized my anger was misplaced. I realized how happy I am to be giving the middle 80 percent of Vermonters a voice. Those of us who can honor both choice and life are now being honored and given a choice.

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