I had stopped after class to tell my honors sociology professor that not all those who oppose abortion resemble the caricature he’d presented in class. He had a look of genuine mystification as he said, “You seem so thoughtful, intelligent, and pro-woman . . . I can’t understand why you’re not pro-choice.”
A decade and a half later, those words came back to me, and this is my response.
I would encourage you to read the excerpts below as I have arranged them, as an integrated whole. You will find voices for legalized abortion and against, voices of women and men who have confronted and grappled with the reality of abortion in very different ways. I would then further encourage you to click on the individual post and article links to see the excerpts in their full contexts, because as you see the excerpts in context, you will also see the context of abortion itself in this country, forty years after Roe v. Wade. And regardless of where you stand on this issue, I think you will come away with something new to consider.
::Why my support of abortion was based on love (Jennifer Fulwiler, Jan. 23) (Note: Linked post includes a graphic description of abortion.)
“Because I saw sex as being closed to the possibility to life by default, I thought of pregnancies that weren’t planned as akin to being struck by lightning while walking down the street: Something totally unpredictable, undeserved, that happened to people living normal lives. For me, and for many others I knew, being pro-choice was actually motivated out of love: I didn’t want women to have to suffer with these unwanted pregnancies that were so totally out of their control.”
::On “selective reduction” (New York Times Magazine, Aug. 11, 2011)
“The ability of women to control their fertility has created all kinds of welcome choices. ‘But the dark lining of that otherwise very silver cloud is that you make the choice of when to get pregnant, and so you feel really responsible for its consequences, like do you have enough money to do it well, and are you going to be able to provide your child with everything you think you ought to provide?’ says Josephine Johnston, a bioethicist at the Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., who focuses on assisted reproduction. ‘In an environment where you can have so many choices, you own the outcome in a way that you wouldn’t have, had the choices not existed. If reduction didn’t exist, women wouldn’t worry that by not reducing, they’re at fault for making life more difficult for their existing kids. In an odd way, having more choices actually places a much greater burden on women, because we become the creators of our circumstance, whereas, before, we were the recipients of them. I’m not saying we should have less choices; I’m saying choices are not always as liberating and empowering as we hope they will be.'”
::Women with children have more abortions than anyone else. (Slate.com, Oct. 17, 2011)
“Most mothers who abort say they are doing so to protect the kids they already have. As Jones points out, that rationale is tough to demonize politically, especially when you consider that most women making this choice are contending with some combination of low income, unemployment, and a lack of health insurance, or are struggling to raise kids on their own.
“These are the kinds of stories Anne Baker hears daily across the little round table in her office at the St. Louis-area Hope Clinic for Women, where she has been counseling abortion seekers for 35 years. In 2008, the last year for which the clinic has available numbers, 62 percent of its patients were mothers. But Baker says the number of mothers coming in has swelled markedly since then, just as it did during the economic slowdown of the late ’70s, when she was first starting out at the clinic. She has compiled a list of 25 reasons mothers commonly give her for not having another child. By far the No. 1 reason is a desire to protect the families they already have. Most of the time, this calculus is an economic one, though Baker has also noted a growing number of women like me, women who are ‘less apologetic than they used to be about saying they’re a good mom and for them to continue to be a good mom, they choose to do it with one.'”
::So what if abortion ends a life? (Salon.com, Jan. 23)
“When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb? […]
“[W]e make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise. […]
“My belief that life begins at conception is mine to cling to. And if you believe that it begins at birth, or somewhere around the second trimester, or when the kid finally goes to college, that’s a conversation we can have, one that I hope would be respectful and empathetic and fearless. We can’t have it if those of us who believe that human life exists in utero are afraid we’re somehow going to flub it for the cause. In an Op-Ed on “Why I’m Pro-Choice” in the Michigan Daily this week, Emma Maniere stated, quite perfectly, that “Some argue that abortion takes lives, but I know that abortion saves lives, too.” She understands that it saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.”
“The middle-class standpoint is an especially unreliable filter for understanding poor women’s attitudes about unplanned pregnancy and abortion. ‘Abortion is sometimes accepted as necessary – when a young woman’s situation is deemed truly desperate,’ Edin and Kefalas explain, but ‘most do not view their own circumstances as dire enough to qualify.’
“‘Mothers who choose abortion when they have the means to avoid it are viewed [by their peers, within their own communities] as immature at best and immoral at worst, unable or unwilling to face up to the consequences of their own actions. But beyond the confines of this moral landscape is the fundamental fact that, for these disadvantaged youth, a pregnancy offers young women who say their lives are “going nowhere fast” a chance to grasp at a better future. Choosing to end a pregnancy is thus like abandoning hope.'”
::What a Woman in Crisis Really Needs (Barefoot and Pregnant, April 9, 2011) (emphasis in original)
“Amidst the debates swirling around about defunding Planned Parenthood, some oft-repeated catch phrases are being tossed around like word grenades. One of these are ‘women in crisis.’ I’m sick and tired of hearing about ‘women in crisis’ and how they need access to emergency contraception and abortions. . . Women in crisis do not need access to abortions. What they need is love, support, a safe place to live, and people (even strangers!) who will tell them the truth: that they are more than capable of being a mother. That they can do this. That their crisis, no matter how terrible, will be healed in the long, sometimes painful, always joyful process of becoming a mother.
“Think this makes me heartless, speaking from my comfortable suburban home, having never known trials in my cushy little life?
“When I got that positive pregnancy test, the one that changed my life, I was addicted to crystal meth.”
::Forty Years Later: It’s Time for a New Feminism (ThePublicDiscourse.com, Jan. 22)
“The women of my generation were told that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. In the forty years since Roe v. Wade, over fifty-three million abortions have been performed on American women in the name of women’s equality. It’s time to face the facts: The brand of feminism that promotes abortion as the key to our freedom does not help us flourish, preserve our dignity, or protect us from evils. A society that is poised to overturn Roe must put in place the structures and support for pregnant women so that the ‘choice’ between life and abortion is no longer difficult because life is the natural choice. It’s time to rethink the feminist case for abortion. It’s time to fight the real war on women.”
::Mother Teresa’s Amicus Brief (1994)
“America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships.
“It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered domination over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters.
“And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.
“Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”
“Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” (emphasis added)
::Catholic Archbishop Samuel Aquila on his personal encounters with abortion (Jan. 22) (Note: Link includes a graphic description of abortion)
“I will never forget that I stood witness to acts of unspeakable brutality. In the abortions I witnessed, powerful people made decisions that ended the lives of small, powerless, children. Through lies and manipulation, children were seen as objects. Women and families were convinced that ending a life would be painless, and forgettable. Experts made seemingly convincing arguments that the unborn were not people at all, that they could not feel pain, and were better off dead.”
::Forty Years After Roe v. Wade: Not Being Forced to Choose (CatholicMoralTheology.com, Jan. 22)
“‘We insist on a world in which women have access to all nonviolent options. Think about the consequences of such a world for the workplace, schools, and society. We encourage woman-centered and parenting-friendly policies including distance learning, which allows a new mom to be with her child while continuing her education and saving on child-care costs; affordable family housing near campus; campus and workplace child care; health care plans for students and employees that include maternity coverage; telecommuting and job sharing; a living wage; and child support when one parent is absent.’ [...]
“A woman should never have to choose between herself and her unborn child. We who call ourselves pro-life should never have to choose between the unborn and the women who carry them. Forty years after Roe v. Wade, it is time for more of us to stand up and say that we just don’t want to choose.”
This is why today, 40 years and over 53 million abortions after Roe v. Wade, hundreds of thousands of people – women, men, teenagers, adults, Feminists for Life, Sisters of Life, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists and agnostics, gays and lesbians, women and men who have lost children to abortion – are converging on our nation’s capital for the March for Life.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor requite us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
– Psalm 103: 8-12