Letter to the editor: Responsibility and the common good


Americans are clearly divided in their response to the Dobbs decision of the Supreme Court regarding a constitutional right to an abortion. Some rejoice in a step toward the end of taking innocent life. Others experience anger over a loss of autonomy and fear of what may come next. When I read the proposed city council resolution on this issue, in My Edmonds News, a couple of observations came to mind. One, was how some in our ostensibly non-partisan council, are attempting to force other councilmembers into a public articulation of their position on abortion. As the preamble to the resolution states: “It is important that you know where your elected representatives stand on issues …” as though a councilmember’s position on abortion affects his or her ability to wisely engage in public works, engineering, parks and planning, sewers and safety, and yes, codes!

In looking over the proposed resolution I counted the word “right(s)” 13 times, but I didn’t find the word “responsibilities” once. In Sunday’s New York Times, I read an Opinion piece by Tish Harrison Warren. She offered an important insight for all of us:

“I recently came across a blog post by the literature scholar Alan Jacobs, describing Simone Weil’s insistence that “if we need a collective declaration of human rights, we also, and perhaps more desperately, need a declaration of human obligations.” I find this beautiful. Speaking as a woman, with a woman’s body, I want safety and freedom for all women. I want women to be full participants and empowered leaders in public life. I believe we, as human beings and image bearers of God, have a right to bodily integrity, protection and liberty.

But these rights also carry obligations to others, perhaps especially to those vulnerable bodies that depend on us. This is the heart of the question about abortion: What are our obligations to one another? We have an obligation to unborn children. We have an obligation to seek women’s safety and flourishing. For too long these obligations have been pitted against each other, but they need not be and, to move forward, we must create a world where they never are.”

It was “Tip” O’Neill who popularized the statement, “All politics is local.” Could a change in the national temperature begin here in Edmonds? My hope for our city is that rather than fan the flames of division, we work together for the common good. Can we manage both a responsibility to unborn children and seek women’s safety and flourishing? How can we make abortion increasingly unnecessary in our community? What services can we provide to assure every child is wanted and loved?

I have been encouraged with the work of the Foundation for Edmonds School District. The board is made up of folks across the political spectrum who have laid aside their partisan interests in order to come alongside families in our community with food through the Nourishing Network, scholarships for students in need, classroom grants to enrich their educational experience and, overall, to improve equity of opportunity for all students. A new organization in Edmonds is likewise made up of people with various political views, but who are working together for better governance. The Edmonds Civic Roundtable presents issues of importance to the people of Edmonds in a non-partisan environment where various solutions can be discussed in an atmosphere of good will as all look for the best answers to our needs. Many other individuals, churches, organizations, and groups of people are serving together to make our community a better place to live and work. What other challenges can new groups of citizens gather around?

Folks, can we set aside partisan ideology and mutual attacks that leave all of us wounded and turn our attention to the common good? Speaking of our common humanity and journey in life, G. K. Chesterton said it well: “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

Barry Crane

  1. Barry, thank you for your well thought out Letter. I had thought of commenting yesterday, but I wouldn’t have presented my thoughts about the proposed City Council Resolution as well as you have.

    1. Absolutely spot on Mr. Crane! How refreshing! Compromise, seek to understand other’s opinions, find common ground without anger and feeling threatened. Too often in this culture of ours, those who disagree with us are not just of a different opinion, but they are considered an adversary and a threat. They are evil and must be destroyed.
      Barry Crane, your wisdom here should be adopted by all citizens and that includes politicians. We need to counter the radical attitudes on both sides with a message of respect for other’s opinions even though we disagree with them.
      The proposed city council resolution is a perfect example of this wrong-headed destructive kind of attitude. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, you have a right to your opinion. You are not evil. And somewhere in the middle compromise can be arrived at. As that sage philosopher Mick Jagger once said, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you can get what you need”.

      1. Agree this is a decision for women and it should be respected. Whether you would or would not have an abortion is your right. So don’t want one don’t get one.

  2. Thank you Barry Crane for your heartfelt and beautifully articulated letter. On point at every level.

    And thank you Mark Volpe. I could easily add my name to your reply.

  3. Ah, another voice for “can’t we all just get along.” There are some things that are so fundamental that getting along in order to compromise is not in the public or private interest. The right of every woman to decide what happens to her body is one of those elemental issues. We can’t work toward the utopian goal of love for all children if children are required to carry their rapist’s fetus to term. We can’t get along if one segment (or more than one segment for that matter) is now considered second class citizens The Supreme Court in its “wisdom” has determined that the issue of women’s rights fall now into the hands and actions of LOCAL governments. I for one do not want anyone in my town government who believes that I should be forced to accept decisions made by politicians and not between me and my doctor. And don’t be fooled by assertions that we have laws in Washington state and the right to choose will never be at risk. At best it is incredibly naive and at worst it’s a lie.

    1. It’s not so much about it “getting along”. As it’s not about having the arrogance of thinking you have monopoly of virtue. Partisan vilifying anyone that doesn’t agree with you as some kind of deplorable it’s not wisdom. There are some cynically using this Court decision to divide the community which will have no effect in this State on the quality of women’s healthcare other than a narcissist signaling of overtly broadcasting their moral values and highlighting those ‘out there’ who are morally deficient.

    2. Peggy Sanders, I agree with you in not wanting my local government to have any influence or say in health decisions that should be between my doctor and myself. I am not sure why this is even a topic at such a granular level.

      But I am alarmed and disgusted that power is stripped from women by the decision of SCOTUS and the various states legislating harsh, punishing laws against women.

    3. Peggy Sanders, obviously you misunderstood the Court’s opinion. The underlying, but crucial basis of the opinion is the fundamental fact that the federal government’s powers are enumerated: print currency/coins, raise an army ( armed forces), regulate trade, declare war, make treaties w/other countries, pay debts and raise money, taxes, post offices, protect patents and copyrights, establish courts. And that is it. The constitution then says that ALL OTHER rights go to the states. ALL OTHER rights… In Roe, the then-court, invented privacy as a constitutional “something”, and made it law. Even RBG said that it was bad law. NY ( and I think CA) has abortion up to the due date, depending on the mother’s position at that time, while other states have it up to the first heartbeat. It’s up to the residents of the states to vote on this, and decide what they can live with. That does not let them off the hook on what is moral and ethical, but it seems that abortion advocates have long left the “rare but safe” position, to wanting to be able to kill the baby even after birth, and leaving an “aborted” baby who survives the abortion/birth ( depending on the mother’s point of view at the time) , to die by neglect in the hospital ( it would lie there until it dies, no care, no coverings, no food) the my body my choice does not seem to apply to the born baby: the mother can still have it killed. Note also, that Roe’s abortion rights are more extreme than most of our peers’ laws, and in line with the abortion laws of China and N. Korea. What does that say about us?

      1. Tricia Evulet, Two comments. What is moral and ethical for one person is not necessarily true for all. Not everyone prays to the same god or even any god and so making sweeping statements of that nature is inappropriate.
        With regard to “ our peers,” to whom do you refer.? I disagree with your comparison.
        With regard to China and N Korea, documentation for N. Korea’s position is vague and unclear, so I don’t see fair comparison. With regard to China, you may want to check your sources as China changed their laws in 2015. Abortion in China is legal and generally accessible but regulations vary depending on the rules of the province, with some provinces prohibiting abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy in non-medically necessary cases. In Jiangxi, pregnant women older than 14 weeks are required to obtain approval from three medical professionals stating that the procedure is medically necessary.[4][5][6] In 2021, China’s State Council as well as the non-governmental organization responsible for family planning announced policy guidelines with the goal of reducing non-medically necessary abortions by increasing women’s access to pre-pregnancy healthcare services.[7][8][9][10] Sex-selective abortions are illegal nationwide as it leads to a imbalanced sex-ratio.

        In the past, virtually universal access to contraception and abortion for its citizens by a national government service was a common way for China to contain its population in accordance with its now-defunct one-child policy.[11] It was scaled back when the policy was removed in 2015 in favor of a two-child policy and in turn was replaced by a three-child policy in 2021.[12]

  4. I think if anything is clear from the general tenure, tone, and content of the comments in the last two years on a range of issues in our city, Edmonds is so terribly, unsurprisingly, and willingly just like everywhere else in this country… deeply divided to the point of no return. Part of why we are where we are on this specific issue is because of the nonsense from both sides of always trying to get the last word and upper hand with an even bigger anti-MAGA or anit-woke counter argument to the other side of the isle. It is sickening. Anyone who thinks Edmonds is somehow better-than, smarter-than, friendlier-than, etc., is either ignorant, not paying attention, part of the problem, or all three. Appreciate the sentiments Barry, and without divulging my own personal opinions on the ruling or the intended actions of our council members, the answer is pretty simple, “nope – we can’t!” I suggest we just all get used to not getting along with one another.

  5. I understand women being upset and angry. I don’t blame them and support their view. I do not understand intelligent people claiming the National Supreme Court referred this matter to “Local” governments to resolve. That is simply untrue. SCOTUS referred this to the States to resolve and States are not local governments. Local governments are Counties and Cities. Our city is barely functional now, and we toss this in the mess. I can only hope Barry’s view prevails in the end.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Barry.

    I am extremely hopeful now that Roe is history, we can have actual conversations about abortion, who it hurts, its impact on our society and how we can do better. To reiterate the quote from Simone Weil regarding women and unborn children:

    “For too long these obligations have been pitted against each other, but they need not be and, to move forward, we must create a world where they never are.”

  7. Perhaps now is the time to abandon the “non-partisan” labels for our City electeds. They have been very partisan, accept money from the major parties, and have never been required to campaign as such and answer to voters as the partisans they clearly are. As L. Johnson and Susan Paine have declared we need to know where our local electeds stand and they insist on venturing into areas about which the City has no authority, seek to speak for residents on issues they did not run on in their election campaigns yet they enjoy no accountability as partisans, it is time. Dedicating City resources to partisan “resolutions” is a waste of non partisan taxpayer money. Time to stop pretending.

  8. astute observations, one should consider what the author david horowitz said, “inside every liberal the is a tyrant screaming to get out.” the framework of partisanship is obsolete, the framework is good vs. evil.

  9. Roe vs. Wade was passed by judges doing a legislator’s job. Yes, it will be messy. Our forefathers built in checks and balances. Hopefully that means that there will be compromises. I have faith in the legislative process. We all need to have patience.

  10. Googling Municipal use of Resolutions and here us a summary of the definition and use of a resolution. Council can create a resolution about its “wishes” if it wants. Simple majority vote.

    A resolution is a record of decisions or wishes of council, and includes routine administrative and
    management matters such as appointing an auditor.
    • Resolutions often express the municipality’s position on various issues or concerns about existing
    government policy, regulations or funding.1 For example, a municipal council could resolve to
    authorize additional funding to support recreation services provided during the summer for
    vulnerable populations.
    • The formalities for adopting a resolution are not as strict as those for passing an ordinance, resolutions
    are normally submitted as a motion and then adopted by a majority council vote.”

  11. I remember what Bill Clinton said 30 years ago– “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”

  12. Our fair and unbiased SCOTUS should also vote to send the burning question of vasectomies being legal back to the States; since they aren’t mentioned in the Constitution either. If we are going to take the women out of the decision equation, it’s only fair to drum the men out of that equation too. That great legal genius Clarence Thomas even says, next we should look at contraception and marriage (except so called inter-racial marriage of course). Nope, nothing political about our legal system. Boy, that decision to get rid of monarchy 300+ years ago certainly opened up a can of worms.

  13. Mr. Wright – before getting into ad hominin attacks on the members of the Supreme Court and Thomas specifically, please listen to the dialog with Prof. Akhil Akhil Reed Amar (Obama advisor, pro-abortion, anti-Roe) referred to above. Roe was always vulnerable to criticism and to being overturned due to Blackmun’s lack of textual foundation. Ginsburg knew this and stated as much while supporting the outcome. Now it is up to the States to legislate the matter; this State has already (preemptively) taken steps to assure women access to abortions. Other States will or won’t within the bounds that their respective electorates will bear. If the People want a constitutional right, then they can create one through the process available.

    1. FYI. I did listen to the professor you quoted and I generally agree with all you and he are saying. I tried to use a little humor to point out how politicized the SCOTUS now is. Yes I think Thomas is an incompetent, biased, women denigrating hypocrite, legal incompetent that should never have been confirmed. I believe Anita Hill. He supports rulings that support his lifestyle and openly advocates looking again at rulings that don’t. He refuses to recuse himself when ruling on cases his wife has an interest in. Right there alone he should be impeached. Also by the current court’s reasoning you can’t create a Constitutional right because the word abortion isn’t in the Constitution. I guess you are suggesting the Amendment process, which isn’t very popular with supposed originalists such as Thomas. Bottom line though is abortion will exist whether legal or not, so much of this is just much adu. This ruling marginalizes women by mostly men in my view (one highly politicized and religious influenced female justice not withstanding)
      whether it was right or wrong in the first place..

      1. Clint Wright, I agree with your assessment of our politicized and in my opinion imbalanced and biased SCOTUS. And your opinion of Clarence Thomas echos my own. He clearly seems bent on exercising his own personal agenda and should never have been confirmed. My feelings are the same about Justice Kavanaugh. Allegations of rape were raised during his confirmation and in my opinion should have disqualified him.
        The implications of this ruling are so far reaching it is frightening. As you say, it will not end abortion, it will in many cases cause more devastation and deaths for both those who choose to endure an unwanted pregnancy and those that seek out the back alley illegal variety.
        A sad day in America for women and children in particular and the people in general.

  14. Great Comments Barry!

    As Edmonds pauses a bit to sort out the resolution the council should consider adding some things to the resolution to gain more of the public “wishes” into a resolution that would be supported by a vast majority of our citizens. Some interesting ideas have already been advanced but here are a couple more.

    The whole idea of Sancturary city should be discussed and if pursued a few more specifics could be considered.

    Edmonds taxpayers are a major funding source for Verdant Health. Their role in public health has added funding to things other than a hospital and they are in the “grants” business. Council can add the “wish” list ideas for grants that support some of those “wishes”. That may allow some of the “wishes” would be translated to action.

    Another notion that may be considered is based on the final council “wishes” should Edmonds review any policies of medical facilities operating in Edmonds to see how those facilities line up with the “wishes” of our citizens. We probably have some facilities who are pro-choice and some that are not. Does that mean we should in some way translate our “wishes” to legislative action? Council has the responsibility to translate it’s collective wishes to action whenever possible.

    Thanks, Barry, for your thoughtful comments.

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