First off, I don't think I've ever mentioned it explicitly, but it helps to know that I work in the health care industry.
Today I helped out a colleague with a question that originated at one of our customers. Long story short, I had to look up the hospital's Web site to verify their address (which I use to keep track of what software I installed, etc.). Here's the image prominently displayed on their Web site:
I have to admit that I was stunned: I wasn't expecting a hospital to direct you to the National Right to Life Foundation so that you can more easily contact your congressperson to demand an end to health care reform.
One thing to keep in mind during all of this debate and anger is that quite a bit of the anger may have to do with abortion. I hadn't realized this until I saw their Web site, but it's true. This is a Catholic hospital run by a religious order, and it's clear that they are absolutely scared out of their wits that any expansion in the availability of health care at all may result in more abortions being performed.
Thinking about it a bit more, I wondered why Americans seem to be so obsessed with abortion. I've lived in other, much more Catholic places in my life: Swabia comes to mind, where "may God greet you" is a not uncommon greeting and there are more crucifixes on the walls than I care to remember. And how many times did I hear abortion discussed during the year I lived there? Not once. Never.
I think I've decided that Americans worry about abortion because so many of us are deeply unhappy. When you grow up in a society that doesn't give two shits about you, not bothering to educate you, feed you, or pay any attention to your basic medical needs, when you've spent your entire life just barely getting by, doing your best to deal with usurious interest rates, avoid heavy rates of incarcerations, onerous restrictions on your personal freedoms (such as prohibition of soft drugs), you name it, then you absolutely need to imagine a world in which you are cared for, where you're wanted, where you're loved.
Religion is a start, yes, but it's hard to instantiate it, to make it real, tangible. The reason Americans care so deeply about abortion is because the fetus is a displacement for ourselves. In a world that seems to threaten to abort us at any time, we can only conquer that when we prevent an actual abortion. When a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy, we re-map her decision onto the decisions made by our society as a whole: instead of seeing an intensely personal, difficult, painful decision made out of a fierce desire to do what is right for the child - that is, not bring it into a world in which it cannot be provided for, nurtured, or loved - we imagine that if only the child were to be born, it would be born into a loving, providing, nurturing environment which we ourselves never experienced.
In short, because we do not view ourselves as living in a world worth living in, we must imagine that the only world worth living in is the one into which children will be born. That world does not exist, but it is not because of abortion; preventing abortions will not bring that world to pass.
We are in this undesirable world entirely because of the collective decisions we have made. Until we decide to take care of our sick, to educate our children, to reward labor fairly, we will not be able to enter that other world. Preventing all abortion is a wish fulfillment fantasy that distracts us from the real problems we all face.