Frances Kissling —
Listening Beyond Life and Choice

Frances Kissling is known for her longtime activism on the abortion issue but has devoted her energy more in recent years to real relationship and new conversations across that bitter divide. She's learned, she's written, about the courage to be vulnerable in front of those with whom we passionately disagree.

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is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and served as the president of Catholics for Choice until her retirement in 2007.

Pertinent Posts

1

The natural sex ratio quotient doesn't add up. A stark portrayal from MediaStorm of violence against females in India.

Selected Readings

Sacred Conversations

A Christian ethicist and Evangelical scholar, David Gushee shares this smart essay about how he brings his religious values into hot-button conversations and the "sacred humanity" of the other.

Cited Research: CNN 2004 Election Exit Poll

View the 2004 election exit poll that Frances Kissling mentions regarding the attitudes toward abortion.

About the Image

Pro-choice and pro-life supporters gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on January 22, 2007 to commemorate the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which decriminalized abortion.

(photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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Funding provided in part by the Nour Foundation.

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474Reflections

Reflections

Through the abortions and adoptions that dear friends of mine have experienced, I am acutely aware of how painful the decision was, and in many ways continues to be.

My personal sense is that a deep part of us is aware that we are ending potential, ending life, no matter the difficult circumstances. I personally feel that choosing to go through with the pregnancy, through the alternatives of adoption or keeping the child, are also difficult -- however my sense is that the scar on the parent's hearts, on the mother's psyche, is less for adoption/keeping that with the abortion option.

My step mother gave up a child for adoption 40 years ago, and it continues to affect how she parents, always feeling like she needs to compensate for having "given up" this child. However her sister chose to abort, and it seems that that pain has almost paralyzed her into not being in close relationship with anyone. A friend of mine aborted a pregnancy, and years later has lost two children perinatally... and I wonder oftentimes how those three experiences affect each other. It's too touchy of a subject for me to approach.. I just think of, worry a little, about it all.

I do not think the government is the appropriate venue to guide/restrict these decisions. It is a personal decision between the woman and her Maker. If there is an after-life sort of "making of amends", I believe it is not up to the government to do anything with this. The rights of the child belong to the mother and her relationship to the Creator.

I do not like either term pro-life or pro-choice. What do I consider myself?... pro-health of woman and child.

I think it is important to remember when considering the abortion issue the inherent paradox routinely overlooked, or worse, ignored; that is, the further liberation and, hence, power over another human life, we grant an expecting mother, the less freedom and rights the unborn child retains. So, the question becomes, why has this point been largely left in the dark when it so naturally derives from the subject matter? Why is what is oftentimes a result of irresponsibility on the potential mother's part--an unwanted pregnancy--left to the irresponsible party to make a grave/very serious decision, literally one of life or death? Personally, I think the innocent, the future human resident of this world, having played no derisive role in the decision-making process of abortion or the advent of his or her new life, ought to have the same rights currently granted/given legal sanction to his mother! I know there are always exceptions to those that take advantage of the convenience/accessibility/"safety net" of the availability of having an abortion (rape, incest, inability to care for the child, risks to the life of the mother if pregnancy is carried out full-term, etc.). For that reason, I hesitate to appeal to either pro-choice or pro-life politics specifically. Instead, I approach it as you have at the end of your comment; the terms pro-life and pro-choice make two-dimensional an issue multi-faceted in its very nature. I just urge anyone who reads this to consider the common "liberal" stance of pro-choice, juxtaposed with what the human, who would come into existence without the interference of a liberated woman's constitutionally-given right to choose whether or not to carry the pregnancy to full-term, is left with, as far as rights and freedoms. Just how liberal is a public policy which completely NEGATES the rights/freedoms/liberation of another human being?! It's just dumbfounding and appalling to me. Sorry to vent. The hypocrisy is just rampant in popular political ideologies, both liberal and conservative. It's just frustrating. Perhaps a major step in the direction of true liberation would be an admission both by society as a whole, and also by each individual within that society, that we are all, to some degree, hypocrites! It seems like name-calling; a bad word; slander. But, I ask you this, the only way to avoid being a hypocrite is to be steadfast in everything you believe and know; but experience and education increase our knowledge of the world and its issues, so opinion and stance on issues is necessarily a fluid entity....to not be a hypocrite, one would have to be in a state of constant perfection, void of any miscalculation or error. Are any of us without flaw, without a single wrongdoing committed in our life thus far? Can anyone honestly say that they have NEVER changed their mind about something? Has anyone NOT been influenced/affected by their personal experiences? Until the humble replaces the obstinate and the arrogant, people will continue to live in a state of denial and fear of being labeled "hypocrites". I say, we ought to liberate ourselves; admit we are all guilty of hypocrisy at some points in our lives. Only through this admission and act of humbling ourselves in the face of the vast tapestry of information that makes up our world, both spiritually and physically, can humanity ever hope to attain true liberation and freedoms provided for all. Until then, self-absorption and the need to be accepted by the community will hold free thought and altruism at bay, if not in chains. Hypocrisy has been demonized through popular culture, the political correctness and hate/slander rhetoric; it is time and again labeled negatively with naivete. To be guilty of hypocrisy is to admit one is still a mere student in this world; that one still has more to learn. When seen from this perspective, I think it is pretty clear that to NOT be a hypocrite is silly, unrealistic and completely pompous and self-aggrandizing, at the expense of the values and principles set and enforced by a society and its government.

I have thankfully never needed to have an abortion. But as a family counselor working primarily with troubled teens and their families, I am a strong supporter of the pro-choice philosophy. My feelings about abortion are simple -- it is an intimately, profoundly personal decision made by the woman (and hopefully the man) involved in the conception. No one else is even qualified to make this decision. Perhaps if the pregnant female is very young -- say 11 or 12 years old, then the parents should have some say in the matter, but only then should the parents' involvement be allowed, and certainly not mandated. I've also raised teen girls. I can say this: I have NEVER met a person faced with the decision of having a baby or aborting an embryo/fetus who wasn't personally deeply involved in and changed by the decision before them. In my experience abortion has never been used light-heartedly as some pro-lifers claim. I do have issue with having abortions later in the pregnancy. If the fetus is viable and feel this is something we need to address in the medical and human services field. If an aborted fetus is viable, I believe we should do all we can to help the child medically and find the child a good home, because as a society we owe children this much. This is something we take on in society when we judge people unfit as parents, and we should do the same for any viable child. Viability is fairly predictable, medically. I cannot feel good about killing a child once the child is born alive. BUT I am very frightened about the possibility of women losing our rights to make these decisions.

Questions are more powerful than answers. They can be the keys which unlock the answers or can lock them up under obscurity, distraction, or confusion.

In the debates about abortion, one of the least helpful questions is, "When does life begin?" The question falsely assumes there is a beginning of life which we can identify, at least in theory. In fact, life began long, long ago and is simply passed on from generation to generation.

The question we really need to be asking is, "When does human dignity begin?" The followup question would be, "How do we know that?"

Michael Hayes
Red Wing

1. The Body is only 1 of the "essences" in the locus of Being. University research in After-Death Commuication is prooving this, as well as scientists like Ervin Laszlo.
2. Also, without quality of life, physical incarnation serves devolution, not evolution.
3. And of course, there are already too many humans for earth to sustain.
4. Medical and Genetic complications must be the parents decision, not that of the physician or law.
more to come. we love you Speaking of Faith !

I consider such issues as this from the standpoint of Situational Ethics. Each situation is different and I believe that we were given free will to face such choices and make such choices, as individuals, in the context of a relationship (or not) with God. And of course each individual is a part of a larger community - so if the family influence is one way, then that individual will choose accordingly - rebellion against or simply go along with it unthinkingly - ultimately it comes back to the extent of the relationship with God

I would like to understand why they think that they have any right to ask the Govt to legislate against a practice undertaken by others that has no affect whatsoever on them here on earth - or their future in heaven or wherever they believe they will be after they have left the mortal sphere.
Are they vegetarians? - probably not but there are many many people who sincerely believe that eating meat is bad for the environment, bad for an individual's physical health, bad for a person's moral health ... wouldn't it be ludicrous to try and legislate against the carnivores in our society?

How socially active are these people - have they decried the deforestation of the Pacific North West, not to mention everywhere else in the world and the examples abound - where govts and individuals and corporations do stupid things - and millions of already born, alive people are affected - and badly - unnecessarily.

Why can't the Pro lifers describe themselves as pro choice - and state very plainly that given the choice of whether to terminate a pregnancy or not, no matter what the circumstances, they would choose to continue with the pregnancy - and leave it at that.

It would be wonderful if a woman became pregnant, and found herself torn between whether to keep the baby or not (for whatever reason - rape, fear about the future financial impications, shame ... whatever) and if she did have the choice - legally - then all that is left is the moral side of it and she would have to live with whatever choice she made - the choice would be made based on the moral conscience/ or moral consciousness of the persons involved. But if she didn't have the choice - and was forced to keep the baby or went ahead and got an illegal abortion anyway there would be defiance, resentment - altogether unhealthy stuff for the mother and the baby both.

You are referring to the vote for the next president? It is totally irrelevant. I wish all politicians would simply see it as a larger issue of choice - leave the life part out of it - this is a matter for you to choose - just as getting married is, or having a baby is, or driving a gas guzzling SUV is, or being self righteous about your hybrid is, or serving in the military or not is, or getting vaccinated or not is, or being vegeatarian or omnivorous, or eating fast food ... uh-oh you got me going here ...

When I was young I couldn't understand how abortion could be legal. Then I went to a lecture in my sister's med school given by a doctor who worked in a small Catholic hospital for women (ca 1980). He expressed that this particular hospital received about seven cases each week of young women with seriously botched abortions. This changed my view entirely. Does pro-life just mean pro-infant life?

Now I live in a different community which is very anti-choice. There are many teen pregnancies and like the Sara Palin situation....they are almost applauded. But then I look at the numbers of young people in our community who do not go to college, live on meager salaries and have unstable marriages. Those numbers are high.

I don't think, policy-wise, this is a spiritual issue. This is a practical issue. This is a political issue that I see as aggressive toward people who engage in sexual behavior for purposes other than reproduction. I see this as a political issue of embracing the sustained pregnancy so not to be labeled a hypocrite.

How does this sound? "live and let live"

This old axiom can be read and understood in many ways which allows room for many points of view: to be in favor of all life, to be in favor of freedom for all to make life choices which effect them personally, and, most importantly, to be in favor of making available all resources deemed prudent to inform those decisions. I say live your life and let others live theirs.

In our current political climate, clarity on this issue is absent. During a challenge to Senator Obama I heard it stated that he was por-abortion and against life. He corrected the speaker to say he was for life. There is a middle ground. I am not in favor of abortion, per se, but I do not walk in others' shoes. In the area of childbirth, neither I, nor the government, should dictate another's responsibility (the root of this word is "the ability to respond").

I expressed my views in a letter to the editor published on Tuesday, Sept. 23 in the Post-Dispatch. Abortion is not the underlying problem; we shoudl be speaking of poverty and other issues which increase the number of abortions. Also we don't seem to care about the child AFTER it's born, so sometimes people are not pro-life; they are only pro-birth. thank you

In my Catholic college education of the late 1940's abortion was not on the agenda as such. I do recall that in theology classes we discussed the dilemma of "the life of the mother versus the life of the child." The conclusions were far from clearcut and the outlook very compassionate. Marrying late in life and not having had children, my viewpoint has become anti-abortion, pro-choice–the quintessential waffler. I think of women I know who struggled with large families, one of whom once said, "Keep the politicians out of it!" It seems that when legislation is signed, a row of men, pens in hand, is pictured. Keeping women from family planning information because it is "artificial" is astounding to me, when we use every artificial means to keep a barely-breathing, clearly-dying elder alive as long as possible. Churches urge the use of "natural methods." In our work with poor families in Guatemala, I've pondered their lack of opportunity, education, and health care. Lastly, one question, crucial for me, if abortion is murder, what would be the penalty? So far no one has answered that question, at least with any kind of rational compassion.

I could not call myself "pro-abortion" or "pro-life" although I think all women should have access to abortion and am appalled at the act itself. To me, the question comes down to that of free-will. We each make our choices in life--influenced by our own intellect, education, social, cultural, and economic circumstances. To decide that "we"-whether that we is the government or a religious group, can make the most personal of decisions for all is to take away the responsibility for our own choices that give our life meaning.

Maybe 'pro-choice'isn't the best term to show the diffference in points of view re abortion, 'Choice' says you may choose to abort or you may choose to give birth. Better terminology, it seems to me, would be to say therapeutic abortion or contraceeptive abortion.
Therapeutic abortion would be a decision between the pregnant woman and her doctor, and not at all the business of any one else - certainly not Congress.
Contraceptive abortion is another matter entirely. I very much like the position President Carter stated when he was on an SOF program a few months ago. He was obligated to uphold the law, to which he was elected, but personally, he was very much against abortion. In an effort to resolve this conflict in himself, he did everything he could to make life good for the child that was born. There were organizations formed to help get the baby off to a good start.
In my own familly, a granddaughter made great effort to do the best she could to find an open-adoptive family, and they are doing a super job of parenting. Our biological family is grateful for the care he is being given and for our easy access to enjoying his growing up.
On the other hand, I think what I would want, if I were a fetus being born to Mrs. Simon and her drunken husband and her uncared for brood of 6 or 8 unloved chldren. I believe I would choose to be aborted rather than being born to a miserable existence and an early death.
Theologically speaking, God is good to have given us the intelligence and means to make the better of two bad choices.

I learned in the 3rd or 4th grade in a Catholic school, what abortion was and what birth control was. I formulated immediately in my own young mind, that abortion was wrong and birth control was not(Which differed with the Church's view).

I learned in the courses of a science education in a secular University that life begins at conception without question or nuance.
The causes of all other opinions are nuanced by the value of one human life over another, theological differences that say real personhood begins with first breath, and pure ignorance of the truth of the biological sciences. Violating absolute truth has its consequences, no matter the innocence or guilt of the perpetrator of the act. (And for those around the perpetration of the act.)

The five year old who finds a gun and kills a friend, is totally innocent of the act of murder because the child is not old enough to comprehend the enormity of the act. The act remains a burden for the child and those involved for the rest of their lives.

The woman, who enters an abortion clinic, may have failed to make the right decision when she truly had a choice or may have had no choice at all in the present circumstance, but the life with in, is an absolute truth, that will impact her and those involved for the rest of her life. The healing of which is carried as seriously in the hands of the Church (Project Rachel)as the absolute stand against abortion is.

I have watch the face of a young man, who thank his wife's mother for carrying her daughter to term and raising her. The mother had been a victim of rape and with all the love in him for his wife, and children, he thank her for raising her daughter as she did.

In the worst of circumstance, the child is the most innocent. Fetus means "young one". So the little one in the womb was recognized in the Greek language at the dawn of medicene.

I do not know how to speak to the heart that is very troubled and needs a quick solution. When we, as women, have concieved a child,we are in position like no other human being. Our bodies were meant for this. It requires the body to provide for the child. We need to care for ourselves like an athlete cares for their body. We are about something very important. The human body is actually programmed to provide for the baby. I believe God has a plan for the baby within.

Mother support and the accidents of life can be factors in the success of the plan. Baby's left in cribs, fed and changed, but not nurtured will fail to thrive and probably die. (Mother support is vital.) Nurturance can be given by an adoptive mother, if the natural mother just cannot raise the child.

Nutrition and injury or disease can affect the development of the child, but Stephen Hawkings and Helen Keller should give you pause before you believe that decisions about the relative worth of lives can be determined easily. Even Beethoven, was the fourth or fifth of siblings with serious impairments. We would not have had his music, if Mom had thought about herself over him and had easy access to abortion or thought the danger of him being deaf was more than she could risk.

We have stepped so far away from the basics of life. Bearing babies into the world seems so burdensome for some today. The biological imperative to pro-create seems like something for the masses but not for ME. So we have lost one third of our population since the legalization of abortion.

I would like you to understand about me that I do not want to criminalize women who go for abortions without understanding the full import of what they do. I want a world where abortion facilities go out of business because women get so smart, the facilities close because no one goes there.

I want you to know that I want the world to value the lives of children, like the year that little girl was down the well in Texas and guys going to Alaska (to drill at the beginning of the Alaskan Pipeline), dropped off big diamond bit drills in her front yard, so the guys trying to get to her, could do it faster. That little girl had no claim to fame. She was just a child in trouble in these United States. We need to get back to that. I want the busi-ness to stop, when a child is lost, and everyone who can goes to look for that child.

I work in a Church office. The staff is going to dinner Monday at Chili's, because Chili's is donating its profit that day to St. Jude's Children's hospital. Pro Life means commitment; anytime, anywhere that we can make a difference.

As one of our men said on retreat recently. "I am "pro-choice". I just believe the choice is a lot sooner than the decision for abortion." If you feel that you do not know the truth of when life begins go to any university and take a biology class. It is at conception. The genetic package of the first fertilized cell, if read, can tell you more about the adult to come, than staring in the nursery window when the baby is born. We all need to be educated on this one.

Men and women are walking around dealing with the issue of an abortion in their histories and do not understand how heavy a burden they carry, if they have not addressed it. To have an abortion or help someone have one, does not end that day. That baby is a reality in your physical and spiritual life. If you experience sorrow, you can know forgiveness. We are more and more becoming aware of our spiritual reality. True freedom is in our soul. God gave us intellect and free will. Or if you care to dispute that, who ever gave us free will and intellect is God. My Judeo Christian belief just tells me God is creator and author of my human freedom, which at its best is disciplined and accountable.

New names for all of us? I think we found the best. I am pro-life. In my Church's social teaching it is a seamless garment from cradle to grave. Life at all stages is charged with human dignity from its creator. It requires our most accountable behavior if we even think about putting it at risk. Our countries founding Father's recognized it. Our rights are inalienable from our creator. Alan Keyes says he wants his freedom given to him by no mere man. He has it from his creator and there is no variable in that.

Pro - Choice. I believe in the heart of most of these folks is a distaste for the act of abortion itself, if they understand what it is. But the face in front of them receives the tenderness of their sympathies. They will not tackle the monumental task to explain to a young woman in terrible trouble that the baby will one day stand in front of her and loving her with all that is in him or her, hold her in their arms; whether she raises them or someone else does. My religious opinion is that that will happen even if she goes through with the abortion.

My Grandson is a part of the 40 Days for Life project. He is 17 years old and a senior in High School. He tells me from his times of prayer at our local abortion facility downtown that homeless people who come up to them as they pray are pro-life. One came carrying a baby doll. The worn down man put the baby doll by the door in the mulch of the planting bed. He said to my Grandson, "Maybe that will stop someone from going in." My Grandson thought that was amazing in a society that thinks abortion is an answer.

In jury trials, the juries have not understood the DNA evidence and found people innocent who perhaps were not. They have sent people to jail and only the DNA evidence could free them. The Law and Order Series on TV and the CSI series, I have been told are about educating our jury pools so they can come up to speed on DNA and forensic evidence. Someday I hope we have the courage to educate for the truth about the abortion issue.

John Paul II called us to make a culture of life and not a culture of death. He had experienced so much in his own life as one group attempted to take power over another. I think he had a wisdom that resonates in a lot more people that Roman Catholics.

First of all, "pro-life" must include death penalty and war. "respect for life", in my opinion, would be a better category that would encompass both positions. I am personally opposed to abortion..as a choice...for myself. I could not do it. However, were the pregnancy a result of rape/incest or other unsavory forces and were the life of the mother in danger, then ONLY the pregnant woman, with the assistance of her someone of her choice, can make the decision. I guess that makes me "pro-choice". If you support a war in which over 100K innocent people have died, (and that's most of the wars), or if you support a death penalty then how can you claim to be pro-life? This is a religious issue, best left out of government control. If most people were to research abortions, how many and the reasons, I think they would be surprised at how few there really are....and becoming fewer. My daughter had a pregnancy (twins) that was extremely and daily painful and frightening. "We" have wonderful 10 yr old twins, but had she decided to end her pregnancy, it would HAVE to be her choice with my full support. NO ONE can place themselves in the position of making that decision for another person. Teaching sex education, production, safety, birth control etc. needs to be in our schools with the choice to opt out of those classes for those that wish to. Due to ignorance/shame or whatever, I was not taught at home. Too many do not have that available at home and youngsters have no appropriate access to knowledge. Keeping our children informed is a duty for the entire country, no different than teaching about drugs. There seems to be an inordinate amount of emotion on the subject of sex, birth control, etc. Unbelievable in this era and in this country.

I am very pro-choice. I march in on of the largest Pro-Choice Naral Women march in the late '80's. I actually found myself later on in 1999 making such a difficult position of an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 32. Despite my being older than many who are in such a position, I actually found myself considering whether or not it was in the interest of by myself and my unborn child if I was even capable of not just being a capable and responsible parent but if I could be a source of empowerment for my child. I wasn't sure I would actually like being a parent. I didn't spend much time around children when I was a child. And even though I like children not sure I had social skills to be a parent. I didn't want to bring a child into the world and having to face and insecure parent throughout her life.
I was actually still considering terminating the pregnancy until about 24 weeks and when I was making calls around to different clinics and the price was continuting to rise as I contemplate such a discision. I emotionally couldn't go through with it. I chose to keep my child for what I consider selfish reasons in some ways. I did't want to be wondering "what if" years down the road wondering what my child would have been like when it was 5 years old. I am so glad that I made the chioce to have my beautiful daughter. I am still to this day very pro choice however!! There is not enough support for women in general by any particular side on so many levels except perhaps the feminists side but even that side has its extreme ways and still we are all at odds on how to create a better place for a woman to be when she has become pregnant accidentally regardless of how or why. Years ago I sort of flirted with the campaign of Pro-choicers for Pro Life because folks from both sides will tell you that know one Wants to have an abortion! There is another side of this though that troubles me greatly and yet perhaps is none of my business but perhaps this is where pro choice for pro life could come in as well. I have also been know women who have had multiple abortions because they have had multiple unwanted pregnancies. All of these women were working women with children of there own who in for some reason or another just didn't use birth control. Some of these women were in monogamous relationships most were not. I wonder about there risks of HIV/AIDS and why they aren't even worried about these things. Let alone have to live with the idea of denying my daughter other siblings to be with in the future. Yet every woman should have the right to make her choice. Why are women choosing to continue to get abortions over and over again instead of taking responsibility to use safer sex methods. They run the risk of not being around for the children they already do have should they become infected with HIV/AIDS.
As long as Pro-lifers aren't willing to supply housing and financing for unwanted children who may end up in foster care for life and for the pro choicers who could possibly help come up with ideas to allow pro choicer more options to choose life because ...this dialogue could provide a table that where we aren't so far apart from a more supporting solution for women who must make these kids of deciscions regardless of their choices.

I look at abortion in a large context of Bible teaching on the nature of God and the nature of human beings created in God's image. I have earned a PhD in Family Studies and MA degrees in Marriage/Family Counseling and Theology and have taught human development in university and college settings for 20 years. If we apply the ordinary use of language to the human fetus, we say both that it is "alive" and that it is "human." Common sense and common language tell us that. While none of us can 'prove' when essential human life begins, I think there is ample evidence from a broad range of Old and New Testament passages that one valid Biblical view is that it probably begins when a baby draws its first breath. Not only is reference to "the breath of life" made in many places, but the penalties under Old Testament Law for accidentally causing the death of an unborn child are limited to the damage done to the pregnant woman. I think we might talk most productively about this important subject if we look at underlying interests and concerns. I see at least three: a concern for a woman's welfare, a concern for human life, and a concern for society/community built on law. Law describes the ways we have decided to live together. It must bridge a concern for the individuals with a concern for the community itself. I believe that the decisions around a difficult pregnancy are not simple. They are much like decisions around war – in some cases there are no really good alternatives. As a society/community we need to care for and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Both a woman and a child at the edge of medical catastrophe are unable to speak for themselves, and logic has always held that the mother's life represents more potential to the family and the community for either help or hardship than the infant's does. When the difficult decision must be made to save one or let both die, I would choose to save the mother at the terrible cost of the infant’s life. In all other cases, I have two values that inform my thinking. The first is that moral choices have a deeper base than the convenience, preferances, or even needs of any individual. Our society has come to hold the individual and that individual's power to choose as the most important value. In my understanding, the real "sin" of many abortions, is not murder, but selfishness, pride, and the determination to take control of one's life rather than trust God for solutions that may be costly, but ultimately respect God and God's creation as well as the wonderful ability to choose that the Creator has given to humankind. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have over 60 years of personal experience that God provides and protects out of God's extraordinary, self-giving love for humankind. There are always solutions to problems beyond my immediate fears and limitations. I can trust a loving God, I don't have to control all of my world. As a counselor and former pastor, as a single-parent of four children, as a poor woman for much of my life, I understand that pregnancy makes a woman hugely vulnerable. Emotional and mental health are often just as precarious as physical health. The needs of a woman who has more than she can handle physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, relationally must be addressed by her community. The community that outlaws abortion must contribute to the care of the people affected. If we would humble ourselves and come together to listen to one another's concerns and fears and pain, I believe we could come to solutions around this issue that are far more moral than allowing the ending of human life for any but the most dire of painful choices between mother and child's survival. If we would humble ourselves and ask God to show us a way, the Creator has promised to respond to the creation. If we can learn from history and look around us, we will see that a society that takes human life lightly at its' beginning will soon take it lightly when it is damaged or difficult, when the society needs expendable lives for warring, and when it is near enough to its end to be considered non-productive for the society. Whenever individual convenience and choice is the top value, the society is in fatal trouble. Whenever there is no respect given to the needs and dignity of the individual, the society is in fatal trouble. We have the great blessing and opportunity in this society to come together to find ways to support one another through all manner of hardships and difficult circumstances so that all human life can be valued and protected.

While I no longer identify as a Christian, I do understand their teachings and observe how they are put into pratice. I myself have a hard time with the logical inconsistency of the 'pro-life' group.

If you subscribe to the idea of 'original sin', then you would believe that the soul of an unborn child is pure, and should the child die before birth, then that child goes directly to heaven.

That being the case, the true sinner then are the adults, the doctor and the pregnant woman, who actually terminate the pregnancy. It logically follows that they are sacrficing their salvation for the salvation of another. Over the course of a career, a Doctor could ensure thousands of souls get a free pass to paradise. In fact, the Germans colloquially refer to this specialist as an "Angelmaker".

Of course not all faiths subscribe to this extreme view. If the did, then every miscarriage would prompt a funeral, and this is rarely the case, even for those that are strongly pro-life.

I personal not subscribe to this at all. I feel this is a woman's issue and it is her choice and her responsibilty. She can sort it out
when she meets her maker

Dear SOF, There is bad new for you and good news for you. First, there can be no subjectivistic solution to the ethical problems Your efforts, unfortunately, will be largely in vain because they are not founded on truth, but on the very premise of subjectivism ("first person" approach). However, if you found them on philophical anthropology (i.e. reason and evidence-based Revelation) then you could do untold good proclaimin the infinite Divine Mercy of God. But of course in the context of public radio, it will probably cost you dearly in terms of the feeling-based, subjective reactions of your audience, however tenderly and tactfully--I imagine Ms. Tippett might be more tender and tactful than me :)--you present your instrinsic love for all life. But please consider these noble words: 70. At the basis of all these tendencies lies the ethical relativism which characterizes much of present-day culture. There are those who consider such relativism an essential condition of democ- racy, inasmuch as it alone is held to guarantee tolerance, mutual respect between people and acceptance of the decisions of the majority, whereas moral norms considered to be objective and binding are held to lead to authoritarianism and intolerance. But it is precisely the issue of respect for life which shows what misunderstandings and contradictions, accompanied by terrible practical consequences, are concealed in this position. It is true that history has known cases where crimes have been committed in the name of "truth". But equally grave crimes and radical denials of freedom have also been committed and are still being committed in the name of "ethical relativism". When a parliamentary or social majority decrees that it is legal, at least under certain conditions, to kill unborn human life, is it not really making a "tyrannical" decision with regard to the weakest and most defenceless of human beings? Everyone's conscience rightly rejects those crimes against humanity of which our century has had such sad experience. But would these crimes cease to be crimes if, instead of being committed by unscrupulous tyrants, they were legitimated by popular consensus? (John Paul II "Evangelium Vitae")

Dear SOF:

Here is the rest of that article 70 of "Evangelium Vitae". This is also excellent.

Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a "system" and as such is a means and not an end. Its "moral" value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs. If today we see an almost universal consensus with regard to the value of democracy, this is to be considered a positive "sign of the times", as the Church's Magisterium has frequently noted. 88 But the value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. Of course, values such as the dignity of every human person, respect for inviolable and inalienable human rights, and the adoption of the "common good" as the end and criterion regulating political life are certainly fundamental and not to be ignored.

The basis of these values cannot be provisional and changeable "majority" opinions, but only the acknowledgment of an objective moral law which, as the "natural law" written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself. If, as a result of a tragic obscuring of the collective conscience, an attitude of scepticism were to succeed in bringing into question even the fundamental principles of the moral law, the democratic system itself would be shaken in its foundations, and would be reduced to a mere mechanism for regulating different and opposing interests on a purely empirical basis. 89

Some might think that even this function, in the absence of anything better, should be valued for the sake of peace in society. While one acknowledges some element of truth in this point of view, it is easy to see that without an objective moral grounding not even democracy is capable of ensuring a stable peace, especially since peace which is not built upon the values of the dignity of every individual and of solidarity between all people frequently proves to be illusory. Even in participatory systems of government, the regulation of interests often occurs to the advantage of the most powerful, since they are the ones most capable of manoeuvering not only the levers of power but also of shaping the formation of consensus. In such a situation, democracy easily becomes an empty word.

(Pope John Paul II "Evangelium Vitae")

As a loving mother,sister,daughter, aunt to 5 little girls and grand daughter, I STRUGGLE to understand why this remains such a issue in our society. I was a teenager in the 1970's when I purchased the book "Our Bodies, Our selves." I remember the chapter on abortion and the picture of a woman in a hotel room, dead from an illegal abortion. I remember thinking how terrible,to die alone and naked in a dirty hotel room, soaking in your own blood. I sometimes wonder if that picture should "argue" with the other pictures that are brought up in the discussion of abortion. As a nurse I took care of a young girl who shook up a coke bottle to induce an abortion, and had to have fragements of glass removed from her vagina. Why can't our priorities be for existing life and not potential life. Why isn't this a personal decision that only 1 person can make, namely the mother who has to live with the decision. I love your show Krista. You have opened my eyes to some amazing stories. I look forward to your discussion. Sincerely, Anne Nagel

I am an Evangelical Christian who recently published a theology book called Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, along with a study guide exploring contemporary issues from a Christian perspective. It was a tough call, but I decided to exclude abortion from my list of issues in the study guide since the conversation has turned into a shouting match with little hope of middle ground. People get too emotional, and it's hard to have a fruitful discussion.

Recently though, I have hope since Evangelical activist Tony Campolo recently shared on the God's Politics blog his role in writing the Democratic platform, adding provisions that outline plans to reduce the number of abortions. This most clearly represents where I stand today and how I hope the pro life group can move forward: make abortion the least desirable choice for a pregnant woman by making it possible for her to keep the child. We should also throw our effort into pregnancy crisis centers, where women can get the support they need. This will not save every child, but it will save many, not to mention helping the mothers and saving them from a potentially harmful procedure.

Unfortunately some Evangelicals are convinced that since abortion is murder, the only way forward is to outlaw it. They fail to realize that banning abortion, however unlikely that may be, will not necessarily stop the more determined from having one. So while we fight to pass laws, we are missing opportunities to help mothers in need along with their unborn children. It's as if we haven't collectively realized that we can simultaneously be pro-child and pro-woman.

RELIGION, MORALITY AND REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE
Richard S. Gilbert – Planned Parenthood Conference – UR – September 27, 2008

The public pregnancy of Bristol Palin, daughter of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and her own decision to give birth to a Down syndrome child, has thrust reproductive issues to the front burner in this election. In one stark admission we visit the issues of comprehensive sexuality verses abstinence education, abortion verses out of wedlock pregnancy. I empathize with the Palin family and the choices they have made – difficult ones. However, what disturbs me is Sarah Palin’s conviction against choice – a devout Christian, she opposes abortion even in cases of incest and rape, the imminent death of the woman being the only exception. The point here, of course, is responsible choice. The sad thing is that she and her running mate, John McCain, would deny it to others.

One pro-choice blogger related the political campaign to domestic life in an article, “How my 7-Year-Old Learned about Pre-Marital Sex from John McCain.” When Bristol Palin’s pregnancy was announced, Karen Dolan was asked by her 7-year-old son: “But how can she be pregnant if she isn’t married?” and “Does a girl get pregnant every time she has sex with a boy?” “Thus ensues,” she writes, “the revelation that sex is possible before marriage.” She concludes, “In a way though, McCain and Palin have done us all a favor as they now have removed the chastity belt which hampered honest discussion on sex education in schools and realistic, effective ways to prevent teen-pregnancy and STDs.”

While I do not believe that intimate family matters should play a significant role in political campaigns, it is fascinating to see how they do impact social values and public policy. And this episode once again reminds us that reproductive choice is a moral, religious, and, yes, even political issue. I discovered that reality years ago.

I was minister at the First Unitarian Church of Ithaca and a Chaplain at Cornell University in the winter of 1969 when my colleague David Evans, minister of the First Baptist Church, called me. In those days abortion was essentially illegal in New York State and problem pregnancies were rampant. In 1967 the Rev. Howard Moody of New York City had formed the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCS), a counseling service for women with problem pregnancies. David asked if I would be interested in forming a similar group in Ithaca. I was.

We brought Howard Moody to Ithaca and subsequently launched the Upstate New York Clergy Consultation Service on Problem Pregnancies in March of 1969. In preparation, we met with obstetricians and gynecologists to learn something of human biological development; with psychiatrists to explore the psychological dynamics; with lawyers to apprise ourselves of the potential legal ramifications; and we had our own theological/ethical discussions.

We developed a counseling discipline, not only to provide effective consultation, but also to maximize our legal protection should that become necessary. We counseled only at our church offices. We required that all women seeking our services must have a note from a doctor indicating in weeks the length of the pregnancy and must complete a counseling form: "(1) My reasons for wanting an abortion at this time; (2) My reasons for or against parental or other family involvement in this decision; (3) The involvement and decision of the other person in this choice; (4) My experience with and feelings about contraception."

In each case, we explored with the woman (sometimes accompanied by her partner) all the options available to her: bringing the pregnancy to term and keeping the child; placing it for adoption; abortion. No specific information was given until we were convinced she had firmly opted for abortion. If the man who impregnated her was there, we tried at some point to speak alone with the woman to be sure this was her decision.

In every case we tried to determine if the woman might qualify for a legal therapeutic abortion in New York State, but that was only if the "life of the woman were threatened" and that had to be certified by two doctors. Through the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion we had a list of safe and legal alternatives for women seeking abortions. We used only physicians licensed in the state where they were practicing. Each physician had been checked out by someone in the CCS. We would not refer women for non-hospital abortions after 12 weeks. There was England, where abortion was legal. And Puerto Rico. There were doctors in other states where abortion was less restrictive than in New York State. We went over the list of doctors, their requirements and their fees. Some of the women were poor, but we were seldom able to provide adequate financial aid. Arrangements were to be made by the woman herself directly with the doctor. Upon her return, we advised a physical examination by her own doctor, discussion of contraceptives and their use to prevent further unwanted pregnancies. We asked that they report their experience to us.

Our caseload grew quickly. I counseled with 50 women in our 15 months of operation, 17 in one unusually hectic week. It was not pleasant business. Each of us took a week on call, leaving our office phone number on the answering tape of the service. Women from all over New York State and beyond called us. Those who appeared in my office seemed a microcosm of the nation's social problems: a young college coed whose parents were so sexually repressive that she feared telling them of her pregnancy; a young Cornell couple, seniors heading together to medical school, both intending to be doctors. Their contraceptive had failed; pregnancy now would scuttle their plans for one if not both; they wanted to have children when they completed their professional preparation - to some an abortion of convenience; for them potentially a lifetime career decision; a couple both near 40 who already had five children and could not afford more. There was a Native American woman who had failed to obtain a legal abortion. It turned out we could not help her obtain an abortion; she left my office in anger, threatening suicide. I counseled women whose stories were so heartbreaking that I knew an unwanted pregnancy was only a symptom of much larger personal problems.

From the beginning we agreed that we would combine counseling with advocacy work toward legalizing abortion in New York State. Local Republican Assemblywoman Constance Cook had introduced legislation to repeal the then-current restrictive abortion law. The debate on the Assembly floor was bitter and the vote was close. The legislation passed when Auburn's George Michaels, whose son I knew as a Cornell student activist, changed his mind, risked his career and cast the deciding vote, legalizing abortions as of July 1, 1970. In the next election he was swept from office. To this day I regret not having worked in his re-election campaign.

With a great sense of relief we disbanded in June 1970. It had been heartbreaking to speak with desperate women forced to sneak about like common criminals to exercise their right to control their own bodies. We assumed that the new law would make our consultation service unnecessary. Our relief turned to hope when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We could turn to other issues, or so we thought. In April, Connie Cook went to the office of the coalition that had supported her efforts. On the locked door she found a sign that said simply, “We Won" - as if to say that the battle was over. That was 1970. The lesson is too painfully obvious in 2008.

The 2008 political campaign has surfaced reproductive issues in yet another way – at mega-church pastor Ric Warren’s now famous interviews with John McCain and Barack Obama on how their faith influences their politics. When Warren asked each when life begins, McCain said without hesitation, and to the cheers of the audience. “Life begins at conception.” I thought it must be nice to have his utter confidence in the rightness of that conviction on an issue that has baffled saints, sages, scholars down through history.

Obama, in typical liberal fashion, said making a decision like that was, in his words, “beyond my pay grade,” meaning beyond his capacity to know for sure. He now believes these words were a bit too flip and acknowledges differences of opinion, all within the right of choice for individuals to decide. The Democratic Party platform has moved from Bill Clinton’s words that abortion should be “legal, safe and rare” to an effort to reduce the incidence of abortion, while preserving a woman’s right to choose.

Where are we in this conundrum? Values are born out of fundamental religious convictions - the beginning of life is at its root a theological question. And on theology there are bound to be striking differences. Knowing the same essential biological facts, we cannot agree when a single human life begins. That is not susceptible of empirical proof. In arguing from this perspective, anti-abortionists are perhaps without knowing it joining hands with materialists who reduce the human to the biological. Thus it is impossible to argue from the "is" to the "ought" - from facts to values - what ethicists call the "naturalistic fallacy." We might better talk of “person” which includes not only the biological, but also the social and moral status.

Though abortion is a terribly serious issue, there is a "Ziggy" cartoon that gets to the nub of the matter. Ziggy is patiently listening to his pet parrot: “Well, if you go by when my egg was laid, I'm a Sagittarius. But, if you go by when I was hatched.” When does human life begin, or, since all sides acknowledge the fetus is human tissue with at least the potential for human life, the more appropriate question is when does human personhood begin?

The Roman Catholic position has been debated over the years, from Augustine to Aquinas to the 19th century papal encyclical which made abortion a mortal sin. One can sum it up in these words: “It is not up to the biological sciences to make a definitive judgment on questions which are properly philosophical and moral, such as the moment when a human person is constituted. Even if a doubt existed concerning whether the fruit of conception is already a human person, it is a grave sin to dare to risk murder. The rationale is that since we don't know the exact moment of ensoulment, we must assume it is at conception. On the basis of that theological assumption we have the abortion wars that so divide our nation.

If human life begins at conception, does that constitute a moral equivalency among a just-fertilized egg and a mother of 35? How do we balance these rights? At a meeting of the American Society of Christian Ethics, one ethicist confronted delegates with a case of a three-year-old child and an 18-week fetus, each with a dread disease for which there was only a single portion of life-saving medicine in Chicago, whose airports had been closed by a blizzard. John Swomley wrote: "We unanimously concluded that the three-year-old child should get the injection. The moral difference is that the child is among us in a way that the fetus is not. It is a claim based on relationship, rather than a legal point of birth."

I cannot attribute full personhood to a fertilized egg one mili-second old, which is what the "life begins at conception" argument requires. I cannot equate a fetus 1/5 of an inch long at 4 weeks, 2 inches long at 8 weeks, 3 inches long at 10 weeks (by which time nine out of ten abortions are performed) with a fully human being who has a whole web of relationships with other human beings.

Abortion is an unyielding dilemma. No one person, no one group, has a firm handle on the issue, no matter how emphatic their claims. Each articulation of value is marked with ultimate uncertainty. We do not know and will not know who is "right." It is incumbent upon us, then, to accept the mystery that inheres in human existence, work out human problems as best we can and accept the finitude of our judgment with awe and humility.

Roman Catholic theology is absolute – no abortion save in cases of the so-called “doubt effect” – in trying to save the woman’s life the fetus may be destroyed. Some bishops would deny Communion to politicians who support a woman’s right to choose – just ask Senator John Kerry or Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Nebraska. One pro-life former political advisor to Ronald Reagan has asked “how can we not support Barack Obama?” He feels the McCain Palin ticket would enshrine the state quo, whereas Obama and the Democrats advocate actually reducing the number of abortions by comprehensive sexuality education and better birth control. John Smiec was admonished for this position at a Catholic Mass as he was denied Communion in person.

Former Governor Mario Cuomo gave a rationale for his Catholic position that, while he personally opposed abortion, he felt as a public official he could not impose his morality on the wider community. The numbers of Catholics favoring birth control and abortion as a last resort is not greatly different from a cross section of the population. Christian evangelicals are all over the map, many opposing abortion but avoiding one-issue politics as global warming, the persistence of poverty and the energy crisis take precedence. Still other Christians believe emphasis should be not only on prevention of unwanted pregnancies, but also public services that support families having children – nothing that many anti-abortion politicians have a poor record in supporting these human services. In all this Christian theologizing about abortion it is interesting to note that Jesus says not a word about it in the Gospels.

This continuing argument between liberals and conservatives on the abortion issue reminds me of a Garry Trudeau Doonesbury cartoon captures our problem as we set our sails in a tsunami of conservatism. Zonker, the 60’s liberal, is in the radio studio watching TV. “Fox News: We report, you decide.” He responds, “That has to be the most cynical slogan in the history of journalism.” His fellow talk-show host, Chase the conservative, chimes in: “Drives you crazy, doesn’t it? You know why? Because you liberals are hung up on fairness! You actually try to respect all points of view! But conservatives feel no need whatsoever to consider other views. We know we’re right, so why bother? Because we have no tradition of tolerance, we’re unencumbered by doubt! So we roll you guys every time.” Zonker ponders as Chase pauses, and finally says, “Actually you make a good point….” To which Chase grins and says, “See! Only a loser would admit that!”

Those of us who advocate for reproductive choice cannot afford to be “losers.” It seems to me the basic issue is whether or not each human being is allowed to follow his or her conscience – whether or not the state can mandate motherhood. We need also to acknowledge the wider picture – the thousands of women around the globe who die of aseptic abortions for want of access to abortions – and the reality of a world which even now has probably exceeded its optimum carrying capacity in terms of population.

All of this takes me back to some of the pioneers in the Planned Parenthood movement: Margaret Sanger and her incredible courage; David Rhys Williams, one of my predecessors at the Unitarian Church, who in 1934 urged the congregation to vote to use the church parish house as the Mother’s Consultation Center, the precursor to Rochester Planned Parenthood. And, yes, Carol Love, recently retired Executive Director of Rochester/Syracuse Planned Parenthood, who has had to endure the increasing militancy of the anti-abortion movement.

What I have learned over the years is that social justice is never a once-and-for-all enterprise. It is always a work in progress – a life-long endeavor. Battles we once thought were won, must be fought all over again. Look at South Dakota – another anti-choice initiative is on the ballot; look at the federal gag rule on international family planning; look at the effort to get the Federal Drug Administration to approve even a limited Plan B; look at the political power of anti-abortion forces. Look at some Catholic bishops essentially excommunicating public officials who defy church doctrine and defend reproductive freedom. It is possible, in their view, to have a “just war” in which thousands may be killed, but not to grant women the right to an abortion.

Defending reproductive freedom is hard work, but it is satisfying work. Furthermore, it is religious work, “sacred work” in a book of the same title by the Rev. Tom Davis. Working for this freedom taps our most basic religious beliefs and tests our deepest faith commitments. I am proud to be prayerfully pro-choice.

And I must remember that the important social justice work in this world is often done by people who are tired, have no time and don’t feel well. These are hard times for our movement, but I leave you with the words of Father Daniel Berrigan – a strange source it would seem at a Planned Parenthood gathering. But he spoke wise words for all of us. When asked at a Cornell University lecture if he didn’t despair of bringing peace and justice to a hurting world he said: “Despair is a luxury I cannot afford.” Nor can we. Thank you and keep on keeping on.

IN 1982 I was pregnant and happily married. This baby, while a surprise was welcome and we were thrilled. At 6 months I got septecemia and by the time I got to the hospital I was close to death but the baby was fine. An abortion was NOT a choice, I was told I had to have a D&E (late term abortion) in order to receieve the medications that would hopefully save my life but would not be safe for the baby.

My heart was broken but this was life saving. I want people to know that sometimes abortion is the best or only choice although a terrible choice and stays with you forever.

I think the most important thing to do is define terms. Once you accept the notion that "life begins at conception" you paint yourself into a corner. If life begins at conception then there is no choice to even be considered. But the position that "life begins at conception" is an arbitrary line. This is a totally secular notion. The Bible talks about life beginning with the breath of life. Further there is a reference in Jeremiah where God says "before you were conceived in your mother's womb I knew you."
The biggest mistake of drawing the line of when life begins at conception is the, then, misuse of language by calling a fetus or a fertized egg, a baby. In terms of identification, A is A, this sets up the false sides of mother against baby. A baby has the same rights as the mother. An egg is not a chicken. A fetus is not a baby. Besides a sperm and an egg are just as alive and to prevent them from uniting stops the birth process just as definitly as an abortion.
The state, the bible, and human understanding is that human life, with all the rights of personhood, begins at birth. That is when the law reconizes personhood and when we start the age process.
Abortion is when the pregnancy is terminated be it volunatary or involuntary (miscarriage). When it's a miscarriage we say it is God's will. Why is it not God's will when a woman chooses to do terminate an unwanted pregnancy? If a woman is forced to carry to term the product of rape or incest then we side against the victim. Since there are good health reasons for terminating a pregnancy these too might be considered God's will. Let's ask God?
Abortion is a medical issue and should not be a matter of political debate. The politics of life ought to involve the protection of the rights of the living.
Futher, life begins in the mind of God and when we draw the line at conception we take God out of it. We say we are in control. This leads to injustice for the living. It devalues human life.

Tell Us Your Story How do you think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion? What would you genuinely like to understand about the perspective of people who feel differently? What would you like them to understand about you? If the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are limiting and polarizing, can you imagine new frames of reference for new and better conversations? * Here is my answer: No. Innocent human life has an absolute value, as the Church fathers taught since the beginning. Those who have violated the moral law can be healed, as I have of related sins, but only through repentance which is the opening of the door to Divine Mercy. Abortionists,their victims, and "pro-choice advocates" like P.Parenthood people need both affirming love emotionally (see books of Conrad Baars, M.D.), and affirming love intellectually (Catholic teaching) and the Sacraments to regain their integrity. This polarity cannot be defeated by any suggestions of subjectivistic thinking. There's no mental trick, anthropological "discovery", or compromise formula to get us out of this culture war we are in. Human dignity is too central to human destiny for that. Good thinking will help, yes, but not based on subjectivism. (It must be a moral and religious absolutism:affirming the absolute value of all humans in God’s sight). In fact, this polarization you are discussing--God (and us, His image) vs. subjectivism--is there until the end of time. That's why the Book of Revelation is described in such potent, dramatic terms. Life is the battle of the infinity of Divine Mercy for rebellious human souls till the very end. Contraception (also condemned by the fathers and even railed against by the reformers) and abortion—as well as sexual modesty and chastity--seem particularly at the center of this battle.

Abortion is a tragic, wrenching and ultimately psychically devastating reality of our contemporary time and place. In all truth, as I write it is hard for me to not feel tears rolling down both my inside and out because for me the fact that our age deems abortion necessary (whether it remains legal or not) is not the province of only Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, Christians or non-Christians. Abortion's necessity in our time and place is the province of a country that will not do the hard work to determine why any woman is compelled to the truly awful state of having to make such a decision in the first place. What is the greater social and cultural reality of a country that assures any woman who chooses to abort a baby of 1.) the fact that she cannot adequately care for the child and 2.) her country will do very little if anything to aid her to that end to begin with. When we debate abortion why do we simply talk about pro-life and pro-choice? Why do we not also talk about the fact that many women have to fight to get a reasonable/if any leave of absence to have a baby from their place of employment and that when they get it, maternity leave is very often called a "medical leave" or "sick leave?" Why do we not talk of the abysmal wage compensation for child care workers? Why do we not talk of the fact that there is very little, truly excellent child care and when it is present such care is often prohibitively expensive save for the upper middle class? Perhaps our country really needs to examine the value it places on the life of its children once they are born, the value it places on the role of "mother" within our society, and the ability of woman to actually practically (as in feeding and clothing and protecting)enact that role. I find it offensive that the political and religious spheres have so debased the fuller implications of these issues-- turning abortion into a battleground of party affiliation and quantification of religious belief--because to me it all seems to be further indication of a deep-seeded refusal to confront the darker reality of what and who we really value, and who we patently do not.

When I was 23 y.o. I became pregnant and had an abortion. 20 years later I'm not sure that I would make the same choice at this point in my life-but all things considered I would have made the same choice under the same circumstances at that time. Therefore I cannot in good conscience deny any other woman the same "choice".

None of us know what brings a person to a decision that she must make. What is definitely need is more compassion and kindness and less blame and judgement. It helped me at the time-without it things could have been much worse.

I agree that the long used phrases of "pro-choice' and "pro-life" are misleading, misused and misunderstood. Though I tend to be aligned with the pro-life position philosophically, I refuse to justify it as my only reason for voting for a candidate -- and I resent religions who insist that their congregants do. While I deplore abortion I find myself almost secretly glad to see women take more responsibility for their reproductive health. I may intellectually be defined as pro-life, but emotionally pulled in another direction. Could it be that other women have such conflicting feelings? If so, isn't there more hope for understanding each other's positions?

My fundamental assumption about abortion is that it is the taking of innocent human life and is consequently never defensible. I am a pacifist and any kind of violence is abhorrence, but most especially lethal violence against an innocent person. I believe in the "Consistent Life Ethic" - a morality that excludes abortion, capital punishment, economic injustice, euthanasia, and war - and I also believe that violence done against another is violence done against the self.

One thing that I cannot understand about the public discussion of abortion is the argument in favor of abortion in the cases of rape. If you think that abortion is simply a personal choice to have a medical procedure, rape would be immaterial. A woman would just have an abortion at her own discretion, irrespective of how that pregnancy came about in the first place. If you think that abortion is the murder of a person, why would it be okay to murder a person who is the product of rape? It would certainly be a very difficult thing to bring that child to term, but would that justify murder?

Those who are pro-choice and pro-life need to understand that the others believe in their positions as fervently as they do and both sides should assume charity on the part of the other. I have heard those who are pro-choice use slanderous terminology toward my point of view (e.g. labeling me "anti-choice") and making broad and ignorant assumptions about my religious beliefs and whether or not I want to oppress women. I can understand that those who disagree with me believe in their convictions deeply and are not necessarily persons of bad faith; I would appreciate reciprocity. Also, both of these camps need to understand how the other frames the debate so they are not talking past one another: as I understand it, pro-lifers are primarily concerned with taking innocent human life; pro-choicers are primarily concerned with continuing women's liberation and personal autonomy.

I think that liberals have tried to undermine the terms pro-choice and pro-life because of the obvious implications - the "other guy" is anti-choice or anti-life. While it's noble to try to challenge these implicit problems, it's also a fool's errand. These terms are not going away and really, we need to just accept them for what they are: they are a badge of pride to those who use them and essentially a political slur for the others. It's best to keep on using those terms, as any new coinages will only encourage more new slurs and momentarily derail any substantive discussion to a semantic debate or a semantic shouting match. For better or worse, these are the words we have and no alternative is going to be better.

In closing, I would also like to point out that the argument from ignorance is clearly on the pro-life side. If we don't or can't know when personhood begins, we surely must err on the side of protecting innocent human life. This is the same assumption that is embedded in our legal system: innocent until proven guilty. Pro-lifers also need to stop combating abortion by assuming that illegalizing it will just make the problem go away. They need to provide the services to induce women to not want them in the first place as well as try to convince women of the reality that abortion is murder. Many women simply will not believe that and amongst those who do, they might still sanction the procedure (e.g. Naomi Wolf "Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die.") The position of many vocal pro-lifers is essentially a ham-fisted fundamentalism that requires the government to be a blunt instrument that enforces their morality and for each individual to accept a large amount of assumptions. This is wrong-headed on a variety of levels.

I grew up in the Catholic church and was taught that abortion was wrong. As an adult, however, I would feel more comfortable holding a pro-life political stance if I knew that our society worked diligently to protect a child's development after birth as well as before birth. It is government's responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We need adequate health care, social services, and education for every child in America. Until our government can prove that it has done everything in its power to give these securities to children, I am unsettled by the idea of restricting a woman's right to choose.

I believe that at our core, all humans are moral beings who do not wish to limit life in any way. Terminating a pregnancy is not a choice that one would make in favorable circumstances. However, for many women, there is great fear surrounding the thought of bringing a child into the world. I think that many women who decide to have an abortion are afraid of being alone or overwhelmed as a parent, or of being in an environment that will have significant negative impacts on their child's development. If this is true, then we need to be doing more, both as a nation and in our communities, to ensure women that we will act as a collective to help support our next generation.

Abortion is not an illness to be addressed; it is a symptom. When we solve the underlying issues behind abortion, we will no longer have tension-filled, partisan debates, because there will no longer be an issue to argue about.

It may be my European background, but I believe the debate about abortion in this country is driven entirely too much by religion. That would not even be so terrible if we had equal access to health care for everybody, but we clearly don't, and now there's a movement afoot that wants to "protect" health care workers from being forced to provide care that may not jibe with their religious beliefs. There used to be a bumper sticker that said it far better than I can: "Keep your rosaries out of my ovaries!" I don't care what anybody chooses to believe, but I do care that they are trying to force their world view upon the rest of us. So until we have universal health care, abortions should be available upon demand to all women, with a sliding fee scale so that the poorest are not excluded.

If the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, shouldn't we start with making sure pregnant women have health insurance and health care? Then, maybe we should talk about health care and nutrition for the baby when it's born. Day care, education, parenting classes, etc., all should be taken into account. I think there are a lot of ways to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. if "pro-life" people would be willing to compromise.

A few years back I realized that if a person believes abortion is morally wrong that they probably are obligated to try and change the laws and policies associated with it. I respect civic action based on strongly held personal beliefs. However, in my world the people are more nuanced and less strident. I have had so many interesting discussions with women about abortion. Our opinions and conclusions are hard won but gently held; representing an uneasy truce among antipodal ideas.

The conversation about abortion, sex, and public funds is not improved by intellectual argument or debate. The context of a situation does matter. This is a heartfelt issue that cannot be "solved" as a problem and then dismissed. It is something our society should not rest easy with. The choices at the individual level are painful and never easy even when they are clear, therefore, it should not be easy at the public policy level either. That said, I am very sorry that the pain of the individual has been worsened by the public debate.

I wish we could offer each other the kindness of respectful listening. I wish it could be taken out of the public debate. I am very tired of this issue driving so much of our political system. It does not feel authentic or balanced. I do not think it is more important than war, greed, our relationship with the natural world, education or health care. I wish we could take all the money spent on abortion politics and create a fund that would be available to allow those women who believe they need abortions to be able to get them. Similarly, those who believe that adoption and support of children is right should set up a real safety net and a practical option for women who are in need. Let us replace the disapproval and anger of male politicians with the energy of kind solutions in hard times.

I worry about the apparent increasing insensitivity of large numbers of people in our society (although certainly not limited to our society, or even Western society) to the wonder and mystery of life -- all life, but in particular human life. But even assuming this awesome and unfathomable quality of human life does not lead one to easy answers on the question of abortion.

It is just as arbitrary, and therefore arrogant, to assume that meaningful life does not begin until the final trimester of embryonic development as it is to assume that it begins with conception. Those who maintain that we must respect the wonder and value of life as early as conception may offer, quite rightly, as their rationale that the very potential for two united cells to develop into the fullness of a human being gives us reason to regard as awesome and wondrous even life at this very early stage. Those who suggest that it is at some later stage in embryonic development, where potential becomes significantly realized and, therefore, demonstrable, and is where respect for life as human and, hence, significantly meaningful, also present a plausible argument.

However, both positions rest upon an essentially arbitrary understanding of what can rightly be regarded as 'meaningful' life, and therefore deserving of the moral or -- even more complex -- legal protections of society. This can only lead to the conclusion that we, as mere moral and finite human beings, are not given and -- by the ultimately unanswerable nature of the issues involved -- shall never be able to answer this question.

The implication, then, of this 'agnosticism', of our recognition that we are not able to determine at what point life becomes truly significant, or 'human', is that we must approach life in its early stages with an attitude of giving it the 'benefit' of our doubts. Although this throws the weight of the argument in favor of those who would accord reverence and human significance to the simple cellular union at conception, it does not share the dogmatic and arrogant 'certainty' of most who assert the same conclusion.

This more respectfully cautious conclusion shows more respect to those who differ, assuming the latter recognize the contingency of their own position. And those who hold either position on the abortion question -- that is, the question of "At what point are we morally obligated to regard life as truly human and therefore deserving of protection?" -- should realize that one's answer to this question does not immediately solve the question of when it is permissible to abort, much less the question of when legal sanctions should be invoked to enforce the protection of 'meaningful' life, or to punish infringements of this protection.

Here one has to consider the very difficult question of "Life vis a vis life" -- e.g., the protection of the life of the mother or the life of the unborn child?, where both cannot be assured. In this circumstance, perhaps we must conclude that only the mother can decide. For anyone else -- and certainly the state -- there can be no morally 'right' answer. Far more complex are questions that weigh such matters as quality of life, whether it be the future quality of life of the mother or the future quality of life of the child. 'Complex', because we have no easy answers in regard to what kind of qualitative factors are morally worthy of our consideration, and how to rank one worthy quality relative to another when they come into conflict. This is where convenience has too often been confused with 'quality', particularly by those who argue, without qualification, for 'abortion on demand.' 'Complex', also because there are many different circumstances in which the expectant mother, and sometimes society, must weigh the issues. Therefore, being neither expectant nor a female who might become expectant, I must open the discussion at this point to others more qualified.

Beyond this, the only other requisite qualification, but an extraordinarily important one, to my thinking, for entering into this extremely important discussion, is that the participants be those who have what, I think we can say, IS a distinctly human quality: a profound sense of true mystery and wonderment in regard to all life, and particularly human life.

She has emerald green almond shaped eyes – a gorgeous middle school cheerleader that’s also a devoted science student. She never shares a negative word – never a negative thought… And her younger sister, tall and strong with over-sized chestnut eyes and expressive brows. She’s possibly the best swimmer for her age in the state – and has superlative leadership and organizational skills. And she’s devoted to her brother. He is only five years old. But he already shows a prodigious ability to win over people. He’s the little Irish-looking boy that marches onto the playground and immediately develops rapport and relationships with any one and every one, ages 2-20. He stumbled into what looked like a black family’s union at the park the other day – and after a couple of gentle rebuffs, he finally succeeded in tempting several of those kids to play on his terms.

These are my children. Even as young people, each has demonstrated special skills and passions that our society will need to survive. Each could literally be responsible for the scientific or athletic or political breakthrough that could save our world from the brink of destruction.

And all were candidates for abortion. My wife and I adopted each from different birth parents and through different circumstances.

I don’t argue technically & esoterically about when life begins. I just know that without them, the world would be a lesser place. Of the million abortions each year in the US, how many of those could have contributed to a better world – but won’t get the chance?

I am a Catholic nun who has ministered to people who either have had an abortion or close to someone who has.I have worked with women who are in abusive situations that would only worsen with another child. I have worked with families whose marriages are on the brink and another child woould collapse it. I have had to think and pray over the issue. I think abortion is a terrible solution to a human problem and a woman lives with it all her life- even if it is just thoughts of- that child would be 12 now, or ready for marriage. I do not go with the thinking that a soul is present at the moment of conception.I do think it is reasonable to think that little form at 3+ months is a human life. Every seed that is planted does not have to germinate to breathing life. Though all life forms are precious and should not arbitrarily be expended. I think calling this pro choice and pro life does not begin to identify the issue. I am pro life AND pro choice. I want all life placed in our hands to be treated with respect, dignity and the supports needed to not just survice but thrive. It is too easy for my own church(and others as well) to tell its congregation not to vote for anyone who supports pro choice- then in direct or indirect ways promote war and ongoing war, not call to account congregations to support legistlation and local programs that help support the lives who are born- young, elderly infirm, handicapped, and oppressed-to be strong and viable; not to recognize and put our name and votes down on our responsibility to be good caretakers of our world; to be our brothers keeper when people are being murdered by the thousands in other parts of the world; to remove the death penalty and work toward a prison reform that addresses racism and rehabilitation support congregations that vote down be wholesome. There is the whole to be uplifted not just a frament. And I think people of faith have an obligation to put their minds and spirit to the whole issue, to ensuring practical ways that all life and all of life can be respected and supported. For all this I do not want a woman jailed or punished( of course her cosort would rarely be indicted)should she seek an abortion. I would want that there be so many supports and resources and alternatives available ( and well known) that a woman would not have to make a choice between the life of her baby and her own survical and wellbeing. Should she have an abortion I would like to see healing clinics to help her and her partners grow on with their lives in a wholesome way.

Many years ago a dear friend and I who agree on much but have diametrically opposed views on abortion, initiated and co-facilitated a Commmon Ground on Abortion group. We tried to have equal numbers of people who did not, and did support legal abortion. The group continued for perhaps 2.5 years, with some attrition, but always interesting discussions.

The goal was for people to be able to speak their views without being attacked or even judged by others, and to move into topics where we would seek to find areas of agreement. This proved to be very difficult in a number of ways. Some people could not stick to the rules that we not pass judgment on another's views, and we often found far more areas of disagreement than agreement.

It was good for people to see that not everyone "on the other side" or on one's own side was the same; there was diversity of views and in how we got to our views on each side.

We had one notable public success; shortly after Dr. Bernard Slepian, an abortion provider, was shot and killed while standing in his kitchen by a sharpshooter some distance from the house shooting through the window, we wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, noting that though we disagreed on abortion, we all agreed that violence of any kind, most especially hurting/killing people was wrong and not the way to deal with the explosive issue of abortion.

As for labels, I would let people define their views, and try to minimize the use of short-hand phrases such as pro-life and pro-choice. The media were key in moving the nation to those simplified labels and I wish they could be part of a less inflammatory reporting and presenting of views.

I don't think we are going to get to agreement on this issue, so we need to figure out a way, in our own lives, in our laws and in health care practice, and assistance to pregnant women and new parents, to allow for some midground. Many European countries have moved to one strategy which is to promote and provide for very early abortion, but make later abortions harder, and to make sure that people understand the important role of contraception and have access to safe, legal ways to prevent pregnancy.

I am very involved in my church and my views on abortion have always been very much linked to my religious/spiritual views and my values, and my hopes for a world that is better than the one we now inhabit, so I hope the issue of abortion will not continue to be seen and approached in divisive, simplistic ways. We need also to discuss the many other issues which influence situations where abortion is sought. Ideas about sexuality, about how children are provided for and on shrinking gendered division of labor, adn media role in encouraging sexual objectification of women and irresponsible sexuality are some of the topics that we need public conversations on.

It seems that the issue of abortion has been made a pawn in the game of conservatives without the concommittant compassion that should be a part of every Christian's life. The Supreme Court's careful balancing of the rights of the woman and the rights of the fetus has been glossed over in an effort to paint the decision as simply "legalizing abortion." I wonder how many Christians have even read the decision?

My husband and I were forced to make a heart-wrenching choice. We had a baby who had microcephaly, and who died at 14 months. When we finally gained the courage to try again, and I became pregnant, we rejoiced until the devastating news that the fetus had another chromosomal defect that would be fatal. The baby would either be stillborn or die in its first year. How could we go through that experience again, and how could it be "Christian" to force us and our extended family to bear that pain? We had both suffered major depression after our son died. We are Christians. We consulted with our Christian doctor, our Episcopal priest, and our consciences. I had a second-trimester abortion which required hospitalization. We grieved that loss, and had a private ceremony and mass with our priest. We surrendered the soul of that fetus back to God.

How dare someone else tell me that we should not have made that decision! That abortion should not be legal and safe for another woman who is placed in a similar position? That a youth who is raped by her father ought to bear that child and be reminded of that horror for the rest of her life? There simply is not a way to legislate these difficult issues and it is simply not the place of government to do so. Roe v. Wade is the best balance of rights and even the more conservative Court in recent years has reaffirmed that balance. I think the formulation "abortion should be safe, legal and rare" is correct. I do not think it is a decision that should be made lightly, but the fact is that women who feel so strongly that they do not want to go through with a pregnancy have attempted to kill fetuses by any means whether safe or not in the past, many have killed themselves in the process,and they will continue to do so if denied a legal abortion. This is a serious health risk for them, and who are we to say that they should be denied a safe and sanitary procedure?

Because the Christian "right" has co-opted Christianity, I no longer attend a Christian church. I belong to the Unitarian Universalist congregation, which recognizes the validity of different religious traditions.

Although I believe that the abortion issue should be a personal decision between the woman and her partner, and my personal decision would have been to have the child (but I used contraception, never got pregnant and never tried to, and my 2 children are adopted), I have a problem with the larger issue of what being "pro-life" should mean. If one is "pro-life", then to me that means one should fight just as hard if not harder for life for human beings already born, like the elderly, as for unborn fetuses. However, I do not see that happening. To me that is hypocritical. Also, I have not seen the vast majority of "pro-life" people step up to the task of helping to care for those children they insist should be born. How many of them would be willing to adopt these children they want to legislate into being? What is supposed to happen to those children? What kind of life would these children end up with, and what kind do they deserve? All human beings are made in the divine image of God, and all deserve the same chance to develop their uniquely human creativity. It is hard to do that when you have to scramble for your next meal, or a safe place to sleep.

Krista, et al., All of the abortion debate seems to center around a definition of when life begins. That is an interesting distraction. Why do I say distraction? Simply because a lot of things are alive, my plants are alive, my cats are alive, every cell in my body (with the technical exception of my nails and hair) are alive. Does being pro life mean that I murder plants when I eat a tomato? Is having my appendix removed and act of murder? The reality is that what we are asking for is a definition of "Human Life." Theologians have wrestled with this for a long time and the first know treatise on this topic was written by St. Augustine. To Augustinian theology an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy would constitute adultery, not murder because he did not consider a fetus at that stage of development to be human -- potentially human, but not fully human. The reality, known by just about every couple trying to have a child, is that few fertilized eggs actually implant in the uterus, and of those not all make it to full term and birth. Left to the natural state of human fertility fully human life is not as simple as having an egg fertilized by sperm. Now we enter into the realm of intent. Do the people who created the child actually want the child? There is a presumption that they do, but there are a lot of unwanted children in this world -- I know because I am one of them. Yes, my parents saw me through to birth and beyond but I was often told that I was both unplanned and unwanted and a burden to them. More often than not in the phrase "I'll make you wish you were never born." Sixty plus years later there is rarely a day when I do not realize that perhaps they were right and I should not have been born. The other consideration is that many pregnancies are involuntary not simply because of recreational sex, but of coercive sex or rape/incest. Are these fertilized eggs to become humans just because the egg was fertilized even though the child is a product of and involuntary situation that happened to the mother? I do not support abortion as a method of birth control, but I do support it if the mother does not want to bring the fertilized egg into the state being fully human. Largely because there will always be a lingering displeasure with the person formed from this ill-conceived union. Finally, there is a cure to the unwanted pregnancy: Economic opportunity for both women and men. Look at the fertility rates in Japan and Singapore where there is boundless opportunity to women and men based on the education and economies available to them. In these countries fertility rates are less than one to one. George N. Wells 166 Brook Drive Dover, NJ 07801-4705 973.361.1776 (Home) 973.270.8135 (Cell) teamwells1@verizon.net

Comments on abortion

As I listened to your request for comments on abortion this morning, Saturday Oct 4, I am motivated to respond to tell how the many women in my life: grandmothers, mothers, aunts, my intersection with pregnancy, my peers in high school, my adult friends, and over the last six months my nephews’ choices.

My simple comment on how abortion intersects, has intersected my life is that it appears any possible termination of pregnancy is always present when a women is with child. In most cases the loss of a child, no matter what case, follows the arc of a pregnancy until a child is born or lost.

For me the current political debate on what abortion is or is not is Abstract, not real. I greatly appreciated President Clinton’s framing abortion as (and I paraphrase here) something that should be infrequent. Hilary Clinton and Barrack Obama have kept this goal in their comments on abortion too. And when I talk with my family and friends who don’t support abortion I turn to Clinton’s axiom. This is where we can agree: keeping unwanted pregnancies from occurring in the first place. We also agree that all of our goals on abortion should be supporting the decline of aborted pregnancies. (Character building and self-knowledge along with education is how we can achieve this goal.)

If all of us would seek out women’s stories on their intersections of choice throughout the 20th century I think our understandings and conclusions on this reality in women’s and men’s lives would point us to: every choice is personal and private based on their specific situation. (I support a women’s right to choose based on keeping medical choices available as they are needed. Legislating medical treatments/procedures is just wrong-headed.)

The apparent absence of women’s stories, of their personal intersections with choice, in the political dialog is the problem. But I also know that the private, these private experiences, don’t belong in political discourse. Ultimately, can we conclude that the conversations on the right to life, the right to choose should occur more closely to home and not be politicized?

After setting out this preamble, I was going to proceed with stories of my intersections with abortion choices, but now I realize it is unimportant to tell my specific education. The point is that I am better educated by knowing that unwanted pregnancies occur and in hearing of my friends and families experiences with this reality helped me appreciate the biggest possible picture of what this issue is. Unwanted pregnancies are apart of most family histories and should be shared– I believe this how character is developed. It is important for the young to hear and be witness to all moral challenges– and what better witness and teacher than one’s family.

I am a pro choice Christian Democrat. I see abortion as a symptom of a problem, just as I see the use of the death penalty as a symptom, as I see the wars we are involved in as a symptom. The virus is poverty. This belief coincides perfectly with my understanding of what Jesus was trying to teach us. If you take care of the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, the symptoms will disappear. You treat the VIRUS not the symptoms. When someone speaks of the right to choose, they ASSUME there is a choice to be made. A woman with no money, health care, or support sometimes feels she doesn't have a choice. Sara Palin's daughter has a choice because she comes from a supportive, wonderful family. What about the girl in the inner city who has a poor education, and comes from a family with no education and so on? Where are her choices? The immorality lies with the condemnation of people in whose shoes you have not walked. The spirituality and redemption comes with the education, the spiritual awakening of someone who has the choice and can make the right one, because her bases are covered.

I understand the people who feel differently, I really do. I only question the intent of a political party who trolls out the abortion and gay rights issues every four years and then, alas, does nothing about it. I see the issue as a political ploy.

Others don't need to understand me for me to feel comfortable in my position. I say the things I say out of love. Love for those who agree, and those who disagree.

I tend to dislike labels but feel they are sometimes necessary. I do not, however, think that pro life or pro choice actually describe the issue. The pro life movement EXCLUDES the rights of the LIVING and the pro choice movement ASSUMES a choice. They are both wrong.

Fully embracing a woman's right to choose, I wonder where the men are in this conversation.

We do not make ourselves pregnant, yet the burden of abortion is exclusively female. Shouldn't men somehow be 'morally' involved in this debate?

I suspect the reason for this is partially within the culture practice of 'blaming' the woman, expecting her to live to a higher moral standard, and excusing men from their behavior due to their cultural power and also because culturally we allow 'boys to be boys'.

I also wonder, however, if just as much as men view women as either 'Madonna' or 'whore', women see men as either 'abuser' or 'savior', with no middle ground. And I believe solutions / answers are quite often found in this middle ground.

Thank you for your thought provoking dialogues. My life has been greatly enhanced since I discovered your program. I organize forums for non-profits and quite often look to your programs for assistance with respect to structure, forming questions, and a standard of excellence.

about the show on abortion. you wanted new perspectives. I would like to suggest that any discussion of the termination of a life in utero, whenever it starts, be coupled with the death penalty question. A life is a life. Once any exception is made [heinous murder, suicide, war, ["collateral damage" = "fetus as an innocent" arguement, doesnt it?], insurance decision to not pay for life sustaining medication/procedure, etc, etc], then everything is open for examonation. Hmmm. Why havent those that are Pro-life been vocal about protesting ANY lose of innocent life? Unless white, Christian embryos are more important than all other innocents. Just some thoughts

When I hear those who oppose abortion expressing themselves with such force and confidence, I wonder what they know about the lives of the women they are condemning. I spent yesterday volunteering as a chaplain in the recovery room of a Planned Parenthood clinic. I don't think I met a single woman there who did not see her abortion as a life-changing experience. Many women were there because they were physically unable to bear another child due to high blood pressure, spinal deformities, and other issues which made childbearing against their doctor's orders. There were a lot of tears, and a lot of faithful Catholic women praying that their priests would be able to help them heal from this experience.

After women leave the recovery room, they have a family planning consultation to help make sure they do not have another unwanted pregnancy. Only 5% of Planned Parenthood's work involves abortion. The other 95% is directed toward family planning and women's reproductive health. The goal is to reduce the need for abortions to zero. We can all pray that this goal is achieved.

It would be helpful if the federal government would join us in this work, instead of limiting federal funding to abstinence-only sex education, which has proved to be a remarkable failure and a waste of funds that could have been better spent to reduce the need for abortions.

I would like to see us abandon the polarizing phrases pro-life and pro-choice. Instead, how about using a phrase we can all agree on: pro-family. This would include all aspects of nurturing and sustaining families, instead of focusing only on the abortion issue, which is a small part of the total picture, and a great distraction from what could be a productive discourse.

I respect the intention to connect and consider the unborn; but ultimately, it is the decision of the mother to nurture the fetus or not. The debate does not recognize the magnamity of being a parent nor does it respect the needs of the mother which have to drive the decision nurture or not. No mother makes that decision lightly: it is agonizing and it has dire repercussions for the future of that woman.

I want to understand why the "pro-life" movements thinks that society has a collective right to override a woman's decision on such an intimate and life-altering decision. The way I see it, government legislation over fertility sets dangerous precedents in family planning issues like access to procedures such as vasectomies and tubal ligation and in end-of-life care issues such as DNR orders.

Why should government be so involved in these kinds deeply personal health and family issues?

I grew up with no information about birth control and with a deep need for the love and protection I didn't get from my father. I am deeply familiar with the kinds of emotional needs that drive women to make poor choices in intimacy. At 23, I was still not using birth control, and became pregnant. Deeply depressed and alone in my life, I chose to have an abortion. The clinic visit for the abortion was the first time I had any comprehensive review of birth control options, and I went on the pill.

At 20, I was raped by the uncle of a friend in a foreign country; I did not go to the police. Fortunately, I did not become pregnant. I simply cannot fathom a society that would force a woman to have a baby originating in a rape or incestuous relation.

I think that human sexuality is a complex issue, that there are so many intricate factors that play into whether a woman has an unplanned pregnancy. I believe that the conversation should shift to policies that lessen unplanned pregnancy. Men should be included in the discussion. Centering the conversation on abortion criminalizes a women's role in sexuality. And in criminalizing that role, we are left with an environment in which it's okay to kill doctors who perform this procedure, in which women don't feel safe sharing their stories, and which doesn't look at the very depressing statistics of women raising children alone.

Two in five women have had an abortion. It's a open secret and those of us who have had abortions don't talk about them and can't talk about them. The frame of reference should include privacy, whether women have a right to own their uteruses or whether the government gets to legislate that. It should also include the impact on women's equality - unless women can control their family planning, they can't achieve economic and social equality.

I am a practicing Buddhist. I do not believe that life begins at conception. And I believe that this decision is for the individual who will have to answer for whatever karma derives from abortion.

Thanks for opening this dialogue. I am 47 now, and I am raising two children alone. Being a parent has compelled me to do a lot of healing work to be a better parent. But I have resources most don't have.

I am perplexed as to why the pro-life movement never voices an interest in protecting the life of death row inmates and victims of war. I have trouble trusting the motives of people who only seem to be interested in protecting life when it relates to abortion.

It also seems like some representatives of the pro-life movement would also like to limit women's access to birth control, and I'm not talking about the morning after pill. There was a Frontline a few years ago on the last abortion clinic in Mississippi. By their account reduced access to abortion in Mississippi has lead to reduced access to affordable birth control and has resulted in even more unwanted pregnancies. I am sure increases in the number of woman and children living in poverty are so to follow.

Abstinence only sex education is another policy that increases the number of unwanted pregnancies.

I am a Buddhist, pro-choice, RN, mother of 4, democrat who would like to see fewer abortions and more limits on late term abortions. I would especially like to continue living in a country where you rarely hear about a desperate woman dieing from a botched abortion.

I was interested to discover in my Buddhist studies that there was a period in the largely Buddhist nation of Japan's history when access to birth control was very limited despite it's availability in the west. This resulted in many Japanese women using abortion as their primary form of birth control. Buddhist often feel uncomfortable killing bugs so I imagine this caused some ethical anxiety. The practical issues of unwanted pregnancies must have out weighed the ethical concerns. They seem to have dealt with this in an interesting way. Jizo (the Bodhisattva of the unborn, travelers and children who have died) is very popular in Japan. Japanese woman often participate in Jizo ceremonies to honor and ask for assistance for the souls of their water children who were lost to abortion.

I prefer to use the term anti-abortion instead of pro-life. As I explained before, there are more situations where life is in need of protection than just abortion.

My great-aunt Nellie died from abortion-induced peritonitis in 1913. My grandmother told me this when I was 19. She also told me that in 1925 she - my grandmother - became pregnant with her 4th child, my mother. My grandmother was a busy grocery store owner. In the Roaring Twenties women were feeling their independence and their rights. All her friends, she said, urged her to have an abortion. There was no mention of sin (she was Catholic), only decisions to be made. My grandmother remembered her beloved Nellie and was scared to die... so she went ahead... my mother was born... and I am here.

Later I got the transcript of the coroners inquest for Nellie's "homicide": http://www.madinpursuit.com/Family/Barrett/FlanaganNellie02.htm. It's a chilling tale and my heart aches for Nellie's last desperate hours. But the rippling of her story through my history gives me more questions than conclusions. It reminds me that life is fabulously complex and decisions echo wondrously through history.

i strongly believe that the language of used concerning this matter, by you, by others who i thought were more thoughtful, more progressive, helps in keeping this a polarizing issue.

this is and always has been a matter of privacy. period. dot. the end.

even moving from 'anti abortion' and 'pro-life' (we now have a self proclaimed pro life candidate for VP who is not pro moose life, or pro wolf life) to 'anti-choice' is not going to get where we need to go. continuing to use 'anti abortion' leaves no room for someone who may have chosen abortion and doesn't consider it an easy choice.

regarding your questions about moral and spiritual aspects - another matter of privacy and choice concerning a vast array of circumstances that must be made case by case by individuals - is one prepared emotionally, physically, logistically, healthwise, financially to care for and support in every way another human? what is the likely outcome for everyone involved? that something no one but the people directly involved can answer.

thank god the state i was living in when i was a pregnant teen was more progressive than most since roe v. wade had not yet come about. My state had a constitutional right to protect the health (mental and physical) and welfare of the mother. and thank god i had parents who knew how to support the decision of a scared and confused child.

unless and until journalists and politicians as well as anyone who wants to have a thoughtful and intelligent conversation about this begins speaking about PRIVACY, the polarization and vehemence and divisiveness will remain.

Thank you for having such a wonderful program with fabulous guests. I look forward to it every week and always learn from it.

I enjoy listening to your program on WAMU Sunday mornings. I come from the liberal end of the spectrum. I can not believe that the monks in South East Asia are not people of God and so I find any religion that holds that you have to believe in Jesus are destined to eternal damnation. So I like hearing the exploration of other religious traditions. In this morning’s program you asked us to share our beliefs about abortion. I have long been frustrated about how limited the debate has been. I understand that in the Jewish tradition they do not have a conflict between the commandment not to kill and early abortions and that is the position that I can support. I find it much more difficult to square the commandment with capital punishment or, more importantly still – the Bush administration’s concept of preemptive war. I believe life begins at conception, but human life does not. I do not believe that a zygote of human cells is human. Until the sole enters the body human cells do not constitute a human being. The question is when does a collection of human cells constitute a human being? Perhaps the definition of the beginning of human life should be the same as the end of human life – when organized brain activity begins. Certainly that could not occur until brain cells have differentiated from other cells, so stem cells by definition would not be human beings. It occurs before birth since late term fetuses respond to music and other external stimulations. The beginning of brain activity depends on the fetus; some fetuses are born without a fully developed brain. Because of these differences and the health of the mother and child, it should be up to the doctor and the mother to decide whether a fetus should be aborted or not. Government should be involved.

There is a lot of talk about "Judeo-Christian values, especially on the right, but no one seems to know or care about Jewish views on abortion. I often feel left out of what is a debate among Christians. This is partly because 99% of Christians think that Judaism begins and ends with the "Old Testament". The don't know what the Talmud or Rashi or Maimonides said about when life begins adn most of them don't care to know.

There is one exception. The right wing Christians who compare the abortion to the Holocaust. I feel that this is offensive and it is an insult to the memory of the actual Jews who died in the Holocaust.

Personally, I think that abortion should be legal, because there is such a variety of beliefs about abortion and when life begins that I don't think you can force one stance on anyone. Jews are a small minority and our voice alwaysw get lost. Also, Evangelicals would make birth control available only to married couples if they could, which makes it hard to find common ground.

I am a life-long devout Christian who for the most part vote Democratic. My views are liberal because I believe this is consistently in line with Christ's concern about feeding the poor, visiting the sick, and expressing a loving attitude toward others. I have had a lot of contact with very conservative Christians. I respect many I have known. Others, as I see it, tend to be militant and "hell-fire-and-damnation." (The "damned" being those who disagree with them.) Their militancy arose during the "holiness" movement of the mid-nineteenth century---a reaction against liberalizing intellectual views. In the twentieth century, during the cold war, they were "anti-Communist" against fellow Americans who didn't agree with them. As Communism has declined, they have grasped the abortion and gay marriage issues as "damned." Karl Rove and others have cynically pandered to these very often sincere individuals, equating Christianity with the Republican Party.
As a woman and a retired physician, I am well aware that the vast majority of women take abortion very seriously and struggle with such a decision. There is a strong sexist component to the anti-abortion folks. They often seem not to care what happens to mother and baby after the birth---or whether the father has any responsibility at all.
The issue is not whether abortion is good or bad---most people see it as tragic. The real issue is whether the government should be involved. Individuals who don't want the government to help provide education and health care for those who need it seem comfortable with the government enforcing decisions about abortion and gay marriage.
The people Jesus spoke out against most often were the church leaders of his day---not those ordinary individuals struggling with the moral issues of everyday life.

My "story" is one of fatigue at the loose language and self-righteous judgmentalism that permeate most discussions on abortion. According to reproductive experts, there is no "moment of conception," so how can human life begin at the moment of conception? (Like so much that is human, conception is a process, not a moment.) For approximately two weeks after fertilization, or until the fertilized egg is safely implanted in the uterus, there is no guarantee that a fetus will develop, so the "morning after" pill cannot be described as an abortifacient. There really is such a thing as a necessary, or therapeutic, end to a pregnancy, so the loaded term "abortion" cannot bear the same moral weight in every instance. Many cultures and religious traditions have a teaching about when human life begins; these differ so widely (from the "moment of conception" through the first breath after birth) that enacting public policy based on one/any tradition is completely irresponsible.

Suggestion: find and read the late Richard McCormick, SJ's article, "Abortion: The Unexplored Middle Ground" for some points where meaningful dialogue may actually be possible. (It was my privilege to study with Dick as part of my doctoral studies in theology at Notre Dame before he died too young. His breadth of expertise was infused with a deep pastoral sense and true respect for every person he met.)

In relation to politics, there shouldn't even be *any* discussion of people's personal beliefs. Talk about abortion all you want, its morality or not, etc., but please do not continue to encourage nonseparation of church and state by tying it in with politics thus government, ie, the state.

All this talk goes against the Constitution. Separation of church and state means that it is irrelevant what your neighbor believes as long as he or she does you no harm, period. I would like people who feel differently about abortion rights (both sides) to keep their opinions out of any discussion of politics, ie, the state. I am appalled even at the coining of the phrases "pro-life Democrats" and "pro-choice Republicans" as it furthers the nonseparation of church and state.

"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."—Thomas Jefferson

Let me begin by putting myself in a box. I am a passionate Christian who considers the sanctity of life to be the most important political issue. I am also a registered Democrat. It's a lonely box.

My parents pushed me to really think about my faith as I was growing up. They wanted my faith to be mine, not just a reproduction of theirs. This push led me to think about a lot of issues connected to my spiritual beliefs. One of these issues is abortion. What do I believe and why?

I grew up in a loving pro-life family. My parents walked their talk, adopting two of their six children and serving as a refuge for young(usually unmarried) pregnant women and their children. Many of the adults in my life, at home and at church, spewed hateful words when referring to pro-choice, 'pro-abortion' and even, 'anti-life' people. Leaders in my church compared the fight for life to the abolition of slavery, ending Nazi rule in Germany and the civil rights movement.

I find these comparisons problematic. To compare abortion to these events is to equate abortion with acts of hate. I do not think that women who chose abortion do so out of hate. That said, I do believe that abortion is a human rights issue. This is where many of my loved ones would move on to speak about the rights of the unborn child. While agree that unborn children should have the opportunity to live their lives, I think the more productive conversation would be to speak about the rights of the pregnant woman. What events brought her to such a heart breaking choice? If we unpacked every story of every woman who has had an abortion I think we would discover that woman thinking about abortion have suffered great injustice.

I do believe that abortions result in the loss of life and I don't want them to happen. I also believe that making abortion illegal is not the best way to prevent abortions. I think that the best way to prevent abortions is to deal with the injustices that lead women to unwanted pregnancies and to chose abortion. These injustices, in my opinion, are connected to other sanctity of life issues such as education, poverty, war, exploitation, oppression, violence and poor health care.

I could continue to unpack this issue but I will end my story here. Thank you for your show. It's nice to know that my box isn't as lonely as I thought it was.

I am retired after a 30 year career in Public Health Administration, during which time I oversaw along with others a multitude of local programs, amongst which were services commonly known as family planning. Often to the general public's surprise, abortion was and still is not a part of publicly funded services and never a means of contraception.

I witnessed first hand how the pro choice and pro life "conversation" has waxed and waned over three decades. At its worst, while my dire prediction fortunately did not come true, that this issue would split our nation much as our Civil War did, I have come to sense that both sides want the same thing, namely unintended pregnancies.

If as a nation we can drive hard at re-framing the conversation to unintended pregnancies and do better at sex education for all people, not just adolescents, we will perhaps have made great progress. Secondly, I agree there is a moral and ethical element to this issue, but we also need to re-frame that part, not just as the domain of faith or religion, but include in the conversation the practical aspects for the consequences of our personal choices.

Thank you.

ps Amy and Krista were marvelous on the show this morning.

Though I live in Nebraska now, I was born and raised in South Florida to a family of Democrats. Though my family was not overtly political, I would say we were a pro-choice family. I grew up into feminism from an inherent sense of equality, and as I delved into academic and activist feminism in college, I became very familiar with the standard feminist pro-choice position. I even wrote an op-ed in my college newspaper stating that the only difference between Gore/Democrat and Bush/Republican was abortion rights. (Boy was I wrong there!) I understand and support the standard pro-choice reasoning.

However, shortly after college, I got pregnant. I was not married. My boyfriend lived in another state (Nebraska). I was in an entry-level job and lived with my parents. An ardent feminist and pro-choice supporter in a classic scenario, right?

I never once thought about abortion. I was so happy to be carrying a child. The love my son has brought into my life is beyond anything I could have reasoned. My experience as a mother has colored my thoughts on the abortion debate. And as I have matured, I have tired of the strident positions and negative energy on both sides of the debate. It's time to rethink things when this one single issue informs your vote. There are so many things going badly right now. It's time to introduce tolerance and nuance back into the American dialogue.

I am still a supporter of legalized abortion, but there are some things that I have never had the courage to say out loud. Having carried two children in my womb, I believe that every conception is a life. And if you have an abortion you are ending a potential life. That being said, I believe that women have the right to have an abortion. It is their choice. God gave us free choice. If it's good enough for God, why isn't good enough for pro-lifers?

I have heard that it is murder. Yes, if I believe that every conception is life then I have to admit that it is a type of murder. But I think that even murder has nuance and that laws are established to protect societal peace. Killing an adult in the act of passion or with calculation has societal consequenses if left unchecked. An abortion has no negative societal impact that I can pinpoint. We have accidental murders. We have state sanctioned murder. We have self-defence. We let people go without healthcare that could save them. Murder has shades of grey.

I would like us to ask ourselves - WHY does a woman have an abortion and what can we do as a society to support that woman so that she doesn't feel like she has no other choice? That is a debate I want to see. If we have pro-life values in this country, that shouldn't stop at birth. If we beleive that it is worth it to save a life, then we need to support mothers who want to keep their children. If that means welfare and education and child-care support then so be it. If that means creating a national dialogue around adoption that gives diginity and support to a mother to carry her child for 9 months and then give that child up to someone better sitauted then so be it.

I think abortion is a values debate. But I think that we need to be ready to put up or shut up. If you don't want women to have abortions than give them a good reason not to. I have carried two children in my womb. I know that it would not be an easy decision to kill that child. We need to be ready to give them other real options. THAT is the way to reduce abortions in this country.

When I had my abortion, I didn't feel that I could do right by a child, but steeped in the rhetoric of choice, I wasn't prepared for the sudden knowledge that I was engaged in a life and death choice for baby. I felt a need to mourn afterwords, and at the same time felt that I didn't have the right to (especially faced with the miscarriage of a co-worker.) The Japanese have a way to mourn aborted children -even a temple dedicated to that purpose- and we would do emulate them.

I feel that once pregnant we are responsible for the potential child, and the decision to abort should be dependent upon whether or not we can do well by that child. When I was pregnant I was in a disintegrating marriage and I had no skills, living far from family. I wasn't sure I could take care of myself, let alone a child. And the idea of giving away my flesh and blood was inconceivable- a topic that should be explored further as it seems to be a visceral value at least as strong as the right of the fetus to life. I had hoped my husband would come through and declare he was willing to pump gas or whatever it took, but he wasn't willing to step up to fatherhood and I wasn't willing to bring a child to life under those circumstances.

I declared then that I would never have an abortion again. However many years later, with one child and a mentally unstable husband who would have fallen over the edge if we had a second child, I was forced to concede that if I had gotten pregnant, the life of my born child and the mental health of my husband would have trumped the potential life of a fetus.

I believe that abortion does violence to the mother at some level. It may still be the best decision, but it does not come without cost. I have medically treated Russian women who have had ten or twelve abortions, having lived in a society where other contraception was unavailable, and it leaves psychic scars.

While I do not believe that government can or should make a decision that involves weighing delicate competing interests, I find it appalling how many pregnancies end in abortion. All sides of the on the debate should find common ground in reducing the need for abortion.

The two best ways to prevent abortions are to make contraception available and to provide economic supports for women who bear children so that they can raise them properly. Absent such supports- which would include health care and enough welfare to support a child, with no penalties for part time work or requirements to work with a child below school age, we cannot claim a culture that values the life of a potential child.

An intriguing example of recent Evangelical approaches to reducing abortion and promoting alternative choices is the counseling/prenatal services ministry of a non-profit called "A Woman's Concern." http://www.awomansconcern.org/ These folks have gone beyond the conventional approach of counseling/pregnancy testing to also provide ultrasound imaging and parenting classes. I believe that their ambition is ultimately to provide comprehensive pre-natal care. That's costly The organization was founded in the mid-1990s by a christian minister, John Ensor. John has since moved on to larger things: http://heartbeatinternational.org/ He has also written a number of books http://www.amazon.com/Doing-Things-Right-Matters-Heart/dp/1581348428/ref... http://www.amazon.com/Experiencing-Gods-Forgiveness-Journey-Gladness/dp/... http://www.amazon.com/Great-Work-Gospel-Experience-Grace/dp/1581347731/r... I've known John since the early 1990s. He's a gentle soul and, I think, a good example of a "middle way" in the Evangelical engagement with Abortion. The great objection of Evangelical pro-choicers is that the principal concern of "pro-life" believers is to stop abortion, and that there is little concern for families in distress. I think that John's work is a significant move in the direction of addressing that objection, though there is doubtless much further progress to be made. He might be a very worthwhile interviewee for your show. Sincerely, Sam Conner

If we want to get beyond the intransigence characterizing much public debate on abortion, it is less important to state what we think individually than to seek common ground in the underlying principles that drive our divergent positions. From a conventional moral perspective the onus is on the pro-choice contingent. Pro-life advocates are unlikely to be dissuaded of their conviction that equates abortion with pre-meditated taking of human life. Even so, few pro-lifers are pacifists. If pro-lifers acknowledge that some instances of pre-meditated killing are morally defensible, perhaps they can be persuaded to contemplate the legitimacy of others who define exceptions different from their own. Understanding that thoughtful advocates on both sides of the argument share common philosophical precepts is an important step towards dialogue.

This is how I feel about the abortion issue. Abortion SHOULD NOT BE A LEGISLATED ISSUE - period.

Abortion should be something that is strictly between a woman and her medical professional. Should a woman decide it's best that she have an abortion, then it should be a medical procedure like any other.

It is abhorrent to me that lawmakers, (and let's face it - this has typically meant men) have been given the power to speak for any woman regarding this very private and personal issue.

Again - Abortion should not be a legislated issue.

Thank you.

Sara Breeze

Ever since I was an irresponsible teenager, raised by a single mother, I have considered myself pro-choice. The way I rationalized it was by asking myself what kind of life I would like to live, and what kind of life I wouldn't be willing to live. There were all kinds of scenarios in which the answer to this question seemed obvious to me. I would not want to be raised by an irresponsible teenage mother without the support of her family. I would not want to live so severely mentally handicapped that I couldn't think about the things that matter to me or engage in meaningful relationships. Thankfully, I was never faced with this choice... until now. My partner and I finally became pregnant after careful consideration, and several repeated tries. At our ultrasound last week, we found out that there are at least three common markers of down syndrome present in our baby. Ironically, we had spent the previous evening making not-so-appropriate comments during the vice presidential debate about Sarah Palin's decision to carry her baby with down syndrome to term. Though we are not actually at that point yet, it is likely, or at least possible that we are going to find ourselves in one of these places where we will be forced to make a decision that, previous to it actually coming up, we thought we knew the answer to. Enough so to joke about it. The truth is that we don't know how to make this decision. We are not even thinking about it in the same way that we were able to, so abstractly, so detached, as a voter, or as an opinionated citizen. The decisions we make as citizens, the decision to take one side or another, is completely different from the actual decision of whether or not to have an abortion. You do not even use the same part of your brain. I have heard many people claim that they are pro-choice, but would never have an abortion themselves. I wondered about the circumstances they imagined themselves in, how they knew what kind of decision they would be able to make or not. It seems almost foreign to me, now, to think of myself as the pro-choice, cynical, rational, level headed person I was before last week. I am not that person now. I think that there is room for much to be done in terms of separating out these two, very different, kinds of decisions people are faced with and, in the case of the decision to take one side or another, I believe that there is far less content to either position than we initially assume. It is not at all clear to me that I meant ANYTHING by being pro-choice before this happened.

In the 70's I worked in a "Family Planning" clinic in Chicago's downtown loop. Very high end offices where family planning consisted primarily of abortions and other physical interventions to end pregnancy or ensure no pregnancy would begin. I saw a lot of things, flight attendants using abortion as a type of birth contol, young women scared "to death", foreign women with too many children who did not want their husbands to know they where they were, and older women with attentive husbands who definitely did not want "change of life" families. This work became the foundation for my beliefs about abortion. The business was extremely lucritive; plush offices, penthouse lunches, quietly coming and going doctors in Jaguars, which unsettled me somewhat. Some family planning counseling was offered by staff, I was a 23 yr old barely trained intake clerk, hardly qualified to help women through such difficult decisions. Rarely, did a woman leave the office without having a "procedure". They seemed to be relatively well informed and quite clear in their decision. The women whom I saw who changed their minds were typically young, alone or with their boyfriends. If Mom or Dad was there they went through with the "family" decision.

I believe termination of pregnancy is a personal decision, at the same time I appreciate the guidance supplied by laws and regulaitons and am deeply concerned about the chronic divisiveness of the issue in our culture. Later term abortions after 12 weeks or so, give me a cold chill, by that time the fetus has almost made its own decision. I have read that 80% of all fertizied eggs go down the drain so, early termination is in some ways natural and protects reproductive rights.

In the clinic days, I was struck by the number of young women who repeatedly used abortion as a method of birthcontrol. That did not seem a well thought out plan, they seemed unaware of the physical risks of the procedures, and unconcerned with the possible cosmic implications of such weighty interpersonal decisions.

Now, I am a dedicated practitioner of the metaphysical philosophy of Science of Mind I know that there is only One Mind and Creator of every thought, feeling and expression of life and that each of us, visible or invisible is intricately woven into the fabric of the Universe and God, the One Mind, Heart and Body and while I still think abortion is not a good solution to a very difficult challege, I accept that each of us walks a uniquely individual path filled with Divine Grace and Guidance. I fear not for the lives of the not yet born, nor for the souls of hard pressed potential Mothers. With this world filled with abuse, neglect, abandonment, and disease the life of an unwanted throw away child is much more worrisome. Filled with fear and torment children all around the world are forced into armies, street corners, crack houses and lonely graves - that is the real moral struggle and spiritual abandonment.

I would genuinely like to understand what others think are good resolutions that will work for all parties involved and how we will work together to create and support skilled and willing parents, provide truly safe homes for children, offer medical, education, and financial supports to build strong families, etc.

I have a personal, sacred, relationship with the Indwelling Presence of God that fully inspires my life, family, society, and the world. Christians do not have an exclusive relationship with God and the golden rule applies to all people, not just those with whom we agree. Each person is on an individual journey through eternity and freedom to make choices that lead to the highest and greatest experiences in this One Life of God. Divine Life is continuously active and moving to balance and harmonize all life for the best in spite of our perception of It.

If the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are limiting and polarizing, can you imagine new frames of reference for new and better conversations? * Reproductive Rights for Successful Societies, Women's Rights, Rights for Successful Families

I have never had an abortion nor known anyone who has had one, but several years ago I took a class to help me in teaching fourth graders about the Cathoilc religion. I came across and article by a Catholic Bishop who stated that "you can't be pro-life for one thing and not for everything". This pretty much summed it up for me. Either you believe in the santity of life in ALL forms or you don't! Since God created us it is only He who should determine when we live or die.I truly grieve for those who find themselves with an unplanned pregancy and feel they have no other choice but an abortion and for parents and spouses who lose a love one to a violent crime and those of us who struggle with long term care of a sick relative. But when we lose respect for life we lose respect for ourselves and each other.God has made man so intellgent ... there are always better solutions then destroying life, it's so very precious! I truly believe that the issue of "life" will not be resolved until our country turns back to God and reconizes Him as the purpose of our existance, here and in the after life.
God Bless
TB

To depolarize abortion we need to stop debating it and discuss instead the underlying problems. Do not ask "Do you believe women have the right to abortion?" Ask instead, "Why would a woman ever be in the position she would need consider an abortion?"
Why did the woman not have birth control?
Why is adoption not an option?
Why was this woman raped?
Why can this woman not afford to raise her child?
How did a 13 year old become pregnant?
The pertinent question is "How is our society going to support women, children and families as we go forth into the 21st century?"
Let's take the millions of dollars wasted on a fruitless discussion about the merits of a medical procedure no one wants and use that money to study and solve some of the profound problems of our society.
If we would put this money into universal healthcare then all women could afford to go to the doctor and get effective birth control.
If we put some of the effort into looking at our attitudes about adoption perhaps we could make it a tenable option for more women.
If we had more supports in our towns and schools perhaps we could give teens something to do besides have sex.
If we had more comprehensive sex education perhaps we could help young people know how to prevent pregnancy.
If our culture didn't glamourize sex in the movies and on TV perhaps young people would respect themselves more and not feel the pull to have sex so young and so casually.
If we had a better foster parent system perhaps we could justify bringing children into the world when their biologic parents aren't prepared to raise them.
Let's stop hiding behind the "abortion" issue and ask ourselves how we are going to deal with the problems that create such crisis for women that sometimes abortion seems like the only way out.

My story begins with the fact that at a certain time in my life the issue of abortion was not even on my radar screen eventhough I considered myself a serious Catholic. I soon felt differently when Pope John Paul II wrote "the Gospel of Life," that our God is a God of life not of violence and death, which abortion is. Furthermore, PJ II wrote that abortion is so horrendous and the millions killed so massive that we are a nation without hope if we do not stop killing the innocent. I also now hold this view - i've seen the pictures, worked with post abortive traumatized men and women and continue to pray for it's end. There is no other alternative - either we will continue to destoy life and destroy ourselves or we will turn back, repent and embrace life once again.

The political pilgrimage to Terry Schiavo's bedside a few years ago brought this issue into focus. To those in power, a human has moral significance before birth and after being trussed up with tubes and wires on his/her deathbed. Between those times, we are all on our own.

I would like the "pro lifers" to understand that I cannot take them seriously in their concern over humans pre birth if they do not care about human life after birth. My ears are quite simply deaf to their protestations of high moral dudgeon over murdered babies while they salivate over endless war and the prospect of the death penalty for an endless supply of criminals with other than white skin. Humans are morally significant at all maturities, or they are not. It is really as simple as that.

We accept the taking of life in many circumstances. Many religious people promote a war where there are deaths of all kinds of people even the unborn. We legally allow killing to protect yourself or others, we mitigate it when a person loses his temper vs. plans carefully to kill someone. The same religious people promote keeping guns at home in order to be prepared to kill to protect themselves. Many support killing people who have committed terrible crimes though Jesus specifically enjoined us to support those in prison and we have made countless errors in executing innocent people. Bishops refuse the eucharist to politicians who support prochoice positions while having nothing to say about those that try to expand the death penalty.

Killing is wrong. We instictively consider it the ultimate sin, yet it is not first in the ten commandments and there is no ranking anywhere of sins in any religious book I am aware of.

We accept killing under some circumstances. Abortion is a private personal decision that is difficult to submit to debates such as we could have about the death penalty or wars started with lies about the level of threat we were under.

Abortion for one is the result of carelessness and for another the result of the impossible weight of poverty and tragedy in their life. I prefer to let diety make these judgements until I am absolutely not a part of other killing such as war or the death penalty. When we have achieved this level of virtue then we can have this conversation with the serious weight it deserves.

Right to Life but no Rights to Live. Where this debate always breaks down for me is that the “Right” wants to preserve the right to life but will do nothing to enhance our quality of life. The RIGHT’s position is that all government programs such as food stamps, medicare and social security should be eliminated. If a 16 year old girl, is pregnant and not married, who is obligated to help in raising this child? The way I look at it, as an educator, if you help the child you are making an investment in the community. An educated and cared for child will tend to grow up to be a productive member of society.
My question to the right is why are you in support of life but not for living?

I have no personal experience with abortion. When I was single, I chose to be a virgin, since I did not want to be a pregnant single woman. After I was married, I had some unplanned pregnancies whom I welcomed and loved. But I was not poor. I was educated.

My moral and spiritual values make me pro-choice, because I believe in a woman being responsible for her actions and choices. I do believe that abortion can be a horrible, crippling emotional experience for some women. (I have a theory, unproven, that it may be a contributing factor in anorexia and bulimia.) But I don't believe it is the state that should make her choices for her, even though she may make choices that turn out to be bad ones.

I believe that both "pro-life" and "pro-choice" people hate abortion. It is not a casual procedure. Nor is capital punishment a casual procedure. I find it strange that "pro-life" people often are in favor of capital punishment, and that I tend to be "pro-choice" and against capital punishment. The one who is executed certainly doesn't get a choice.

I can think of no better phrases than "pro-life" and "pro-choice", even though I consider myself "pro-choice" because I honor the life of the woman over the life of the fetus. (Incidently, I believe life begins at conception. Therefore I do consider both abortion and capital punishment "murder". Did I mention that this is a terribly difficult issue? Maybe the phrases could be changed to "pro-life for the unborn" and "Pro-life for the born". Ha.

I have swayed from one extreme to the other over the course of my life. When I was 13, the Catholic mother of a friend gave several of us information about and pictures of aborted fetuses, and I became strongly pro-life. My mother (who was pro-choice) disapproved, but left it to me to make up my own mind. While I was in college, my roommate became pregnant, and it was harder for me to maintain a condemning stance--I ended up driving her to and from the clinic for an abortion. During the summers, I worked with a 19 year old woman who casually commented one day about her "second abortion." I asked how many she'd had, and she said three. I was horrified to realize she'd been using abortion as a means of birth control.

And then, at age 24, single and in my first quarter of a Ph.D. program, I became pregnant. I'd taken out loans to pay for school and did not have a job; my boyfriend at the time (later my husband) was barely making ends meet at a job he hated. It was particularly shocking news because I'd tried hard to be "responsible": I'd gone to the campus clinic to get birth control pills but was delayed for over a month due to a family history of heart disease that required several blood tests. We had been using barrier methods until I could begin taking the pill.

The decision to have an abortion was extremely painful, and not one I made lightly. I knew that neither I nor my boyfriend had the wherewithal (financially or otherwise) to care for a child. We feared that if I had the baby and tried to put it up for adoption, our parents would pressure us to keep it (they wanted us to get married). I'd worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot to get into graduate school, and could not see a way to care for a child and remain in school. Having an abortion seemed the least bad of several really terrible choices.

So, where do I fall on this issue? It's far more complicated than the political rhetoric suggests. I do not favor making abortions illegal, in part because history shows that this makes the procedure more dangerous without putting a stop to them. I don't see any benefit in endangering the life of woman who is determined to get an abortion. By the same token, I have a hard time supporting abortion as a casual method of birth control. In summary, I don't think one answer (abortion, adoption, having a baby) can fit every situation in which a woman has an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.

What I'd like to see is a compassionate community response that enables each woman to figure out for herself--in the context of her own beliefs, values, and life--what makes the most sense for her situation. If we could step back from harsh judgments and agendas that push one decision over the other, and simply listen, ask questions, and provide support, we might realize that there are times when all possibilities can be moral.

When someone identifies as "pro-life", I want to ask them if that means they are "pro illegal abortion". I see that as the result if their stance became law.

I would like to see the two sides turned around and expressed as "for illegal abortion" and "anti illegal abortion". I don't think that anyone really is for abortions--both sides can agree that it would be much better if abortions didn't happen. However, as long as women find themselves considering abortion as their last resort, they should not be forced to have an illegal abortion.

Thanks for "Speaking of Faith"; I appreciate the ideas you bring to me.

No story, just a position. Since, according to research, @50% (or more) of the times conception occurs it either does not take, or aborts itself. So, many of us declare that a baby becomes a human being with its first breath of air. My religious friends feel that is when the soul enters the child.

The aspects of abortion are universal, as well as deeply private. We are a naive bunch, if we believe that abortion is a new issue. Like other formerly "unspeakable" moral dilemmas such as prostitution, abortion is probably as old. Only since medically safe techniques were introduced, and it became part of a scope of medical procedures that is funded by tax dollars, did people become so vocal and so high and mighty about it. As usual, when you hit folks in the wallet, you really hear them scream. I feel that people who are COMPLETELY pro-life, no exeption, are often people who have lived on the safe side of the street, so to speak. It's easy to say when you have had heathy children born into a loving environment, and enough material wealth to keep them safe, fed and clothed. We need to open the scope of conversation to include guaranteeing quality life for the infant after 9 monthes gestation. There can be so so many extenuating circumstances of individual problems, that this should not be legislated, or used as a pro-con point in political debates. Conversely, women who represent themselves as having the sole decision in wether to be pregnant or not, and have not used responsible birth control methods, but have had multiple abortions, these creatures muddy the name "woman" and sicken most of us who still embrace an element of pro-choice in our profile. We do need to invoke words like "Privelege of parenting" and "Responsible Sex" instead of the continual tug-of- war concerning who has the most RIGHTS. Americans are a spoiled lot in general, always crowing about their Rights, while side-stepping their responsibilities.

I believe that liberal policies, which I define as taking care of those who are most vulnerable, would make for a world in which women will be more likely to decide to go through with a pregnancy because they know their country will not let them slip through the cracks. Conservative ideology -- every person for themselves -- makes for a harsher world -- one which is not as hospitable to children born into poverty or to a single mother. I think that is proven by the increase in abortion rates under President Bush.

One thing I would like to understand better about those who are "pro-life" is how they can justify voting Republican considering the tens of thousands of people -- many of them babies and small children -- who were and are being killed in Iraq under the Bush administration. I just don't get it.

Although I don't view it as a litmus test for a presidential candidate, I believe the question of abortion is important because of the day and age in which we live. It is refreshing to hear someone interested in re-framing this complex question, and I would like to support your effort with my views. Right at the outset, I seem to come up with a double standard!

From my college days (I graduated in 1964), I have believed that it would be inexcusable for me to have an abortion. This is not so much a religious response as an ethical and pragmatic one. I have had the advantages of a stable upbringing and a college education. I have always had the ability to support myself and my daughter, both when I was married and when I was single. I had the means to procure birth control easily and did not have to go through picketers to do so. In other words, I had the freedom and means to take full responsibility for my reproductive choices.

I know there are millions of women in the world in much different circumstances. How can I possibly hold them to a standard I have set for myself, when I would most certainly fall short of that standard if I were in their shoes? I cannot imagine the heartbreak of having to give birth to an unplanned child, knowing that birth further jeopardizes my other children. For a woman grappling with such wrenching circumstances, abortion is an option which must be easily available.

Ironically, I could never be a presidential candidate in this day and age, being a non-theist with a Buddhist practice! My greatest concern is the future of the planet, with the future of my species running a close second. In an admittedly futile attempt to impact these concerns, I no longer eat meat, and have taken other efforts in my personal life to lessen my impact on the earth. I view the question of abortion as one of many issues involved in long-term sustainability of our only home. It is concerning that this question seems to get more consideration than that of providing for easily accessible birth control for all. The latter could certainly have an impact on the former.

I feel it is important to listen carefully to others who hold views different than my own. I would hope that someone with differing views could listen to mine, resisting the temptation to dismiss me because I lack a belief in a deity. Ultimately, we are more connected to each other than we are separate. We survive together or we pass from the scene together. I resist positions that attempt to polarize us by underestimating the complexities of the issues (such as abortion) facing us.

Thank you so very much for your excellent program, and for the very thoughtful approach you bring to each subject!

When I think about abortion, I rarely think of the NOW, pro-choice organizations, or pro-life camps. The abortion issue does not shape my voting patterns. I do not contribute to pro-life or pro-choice organizations. I do not think about moral or spiritual aspects of abortion. When I think about abortion, I mostly think about my own experiences and my many friends who have made the decision to have or not have an abortion.

I chose to have an abortion the summer before my junior year of high school, when I was 15 years old. I grew up in a strict Catholic home, with a single mother who voted primarily on the pro-life issue. When I told my mom I was pregnant and that I wanted an abortion, she was supportive and understanding. She never judged me, or told me that I was a bad person. She simply told me she disagreed with my choice, that I would have to pay for the procedure, but that she would support me and love me - no matter what. She drove me to the neighboring state, walked by the protesters, sat in that clinic with me, and held my hand during the procedure. The day I had my abortion was the day I truly understood what is meant by "a mother's love" and mark that moment as the start of my adult friendship with my mother.

A year after my abortion, I traveled to another country for a year as an exchange student. I returned home, went to college, earned a bachelors degree, worked abroad, learned two languages, returned to the US for graduate studies, and began my career as a professor - at the age of 28.

A year after my abortion, my best friend got pregnant. She is now a medical doctor with an 11 year old daughter and is happily married to her child's father. We made very different choices, but I am positive that both of us made the best choice.

I have had a number of friends who have faced the decision of whether or not to have an abortion - friends in high school, friends in college, colleagues who take medications that make accidental pregnancy dangerous, and students who come to me for support.

While working with Catholic sisters (nuns) I have often heard them talk about being both pro-choice and pro-life. Many liberal Catholics argue that the problem is not abortion, but unwanted children and unsupported women and families. They say, if we developed a society that was supportive of women and children, abortion would be less of an issue.

I do not consider myself "pro-life" or "pro-choice", but when policies are passed that limit the ability to access abortion, I find my heart sinking. I cannot imagine what I would have done had I not had the option of getting an abortion.

I feel that our understanding of "the issue" would be less polarizing if the many women that have had abortions could speak openly about their experiences. Many women do not regret their decision to have an abortion. Many pro-life organizations tell women they will have "feelings of guilt and dread" but I never have. In fact, I feel relief knowing I have the choice. Because we cannot openly talk about abortion in US society, people do not realize that many different types of women have abortions for many different reasons. Many of our nurses, clients, teachers, neighbors, and pro-life friends have had abortions.

If we could create a less hostile environment for speaking about abortion - less shame and judgment on women in general - we might be able to have a more mature, nuanced conversation about abortion.

I would recommend Dr. Susan Wicklund's book "This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor" as one recent publication that offers a new perspective for reframing and understanding the abortion issue.

I would describe my wife and myself as right of center in most matters, but not all. When we decided to try and start a family my wife was 36 & I was 40. We knew that there was a greater chance for the baby to have birth defects or downs syndrome. We discussed that possibility and what we thought we would do. Our decision was actually quite simple, we would try to become parents and whatever hand we were dealt we would play.

Abortion just wasn't an option for us. But that is a decision we can only make for ourselves. Yes we made it because we didn't think that abortion was the right choice,for us, we could not and would not force anyone else to have to make the same choice.

Every ones circumstances are different. I don't think abortion should be used as birth control. I would prefer that those in difficult circumstances would choose life for the baby and give it up for adoption, but in the end the choice has to be hers.

If you believe that abortion is a sin or murder, are you willing to take responsibility for the life of that child? Feeding it, educating it making sure it is a good member of society.

If you believe that someone who has an abortion puts their salvation in jepordy, what about free will.

I believe in the end each of us has to answer for our actions. It would be better for us to make sure that those faced with the decision of aborting a child would not be concerned about the social or economic ramifications, and could easily choose life. Then we would not have to concern ourselves with what the law is.

As for my self, I consider myself Pro-Choice, My choice is life.

Here is my story- as a woman who has been raped, more than once,
controlled most of my life by a male world; constantly beset upon by
promoters of all religions, I keep remembering the founding fathers
and our original reason to create our great failing country-
TO KEEP YOUR RIGHT TO FOLLOW ANY FAITH
AND KEEP IT OUT OF POLIITICS
Doesn't that mean anything to Amy Sullivan, Sarah Palin and 60 million other
fools who think they have the right to tell anyone what to do?
I am horrified at this country-
and what is happening-
if God was speaking to George Bush- the connection must have been intercepted
WAKE UP
THIS IS WHAT IS MAKING US HATED AND MAKING US FAIL
IT'S A SMOKE SCREEN TO FLEECE EVERYONE
we have become a country of stupid people
led by a few powermad smart ones

I believe that the Bible tells us that abortion is the taking of a human life. However, I have come to understand over the years that just telling people that is not going to change their mind about the need for abortion to be legal. While I believe abortion is not good for women or children, I can't affect change by just spouting forth and not showing compassion for the fact that many women are absolutely freaked out by the decision they face when they have an unwanted pregnancy.
I guess I would like to understand how people so quickly dismiss the mere idea that a fetus could actually be a human being when there is so much evidence that says this is a fact. I want to understand why so many pro-choicers seem to want to focus so much on the woman and "her body" that they just can't see anything else that might be affected by abortion...like a culture that cheapens human life.
I would like people who oppose my views on abortion to understand that I am not a traitor to my sex. I am also not just a lemming who's following the so-called Christian party line. I come to my opinions honestly and with a lot of forethought.
After 35 years of abortion on demand being the law of the land, I can't imagine us successfully changing pro-life and pro-choice into better terms. Unfortunately, that means that pro-lifers are always seen as anti-woman or anti-freedom of privacy and pro-choicers will be seen as anti-life or pro-death.
I used to be very militant in my advocacy for the unborn. As I have mellowed and grown over the years, I have come to see myself as more of an advocate for the women and the children as well. I would love to see our country become pro-education. I truly believe that if more women knew of ALL the choices available to them and knew what actually happens in an abortion, they would choose to have their babies a majority of the time. Legal abortion would become largely obsolete if we could just educate women about the absolute need for birth control of all kinds as well as educating them as to what options they have if they do become pregnant.
I'm waiting for that day.

I'm not a fan of either of the terms: pro-life or pro-choice. These are labels that are about painting the other guy as "pro-death" & "anti-choice". They're about making enemies, and not reconciling people. While I hold strong views, that abortion is always wrong, except in extreme circumstances to save another life, I don't feel the need to condemn those who disagree with me. I can see how a reasonable person- that is an intelligent, well informed moral agent might reach different conclusions than myself. This calls for dialogue -listening, reasoning and persuasion.

I think the Pro-life moral lens is often black and white, setting up a judgment situation -not of the issue (abortion) but people. This deonontological rule-set also makes for in my view an inconsistent ethical set - pro-life and pro-capital punishment. While there is some truth in this view, I prefer to look at through my left-wing lens a struggle for civil-rights and coupled with the principles of non-violent resistance. Abortion is one issue where I feel called to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (the unborn, the poor, imprisoned, the ill, the hungry, and the environment). And just as in other non-violent struggles I assume that those who disagree with me have a conscience and I appeal to it, and I speak truth to power.

Abortion is a health care issue. To reduce abortions we need more sex education and free contraception. We need to have clinics that provide free sterilization. These services need to be pervasive. It also has to be easier and more socially accepted for married people to give up infants and older children for adoption. Open adoptions may help with this.
It is difficult for people to change their ideas about abortion, contraception, and adoption. But holding the ideas we have now will not decrease abortions. Making it illegal does not work. Desperate women abort in what ever way they can, even at great risk to their health. I agree this discussion need to occur. I hope you can have productive discussions on your radio show, Krista.

Dear Producers, I enjoy your views and respect you on what you say. You are gifted person. I made a special DVD of artifacts for 2009. This is the first atfer 25 years time I 'm sharing with you . I spent time in the mountain of the himalayas. My faith and meditaion has been answered. What I have will benifit all mankind. In the future all human being will humble and what have will comfort for humantiy we are all in the same benwagon. I hope I can share with you and learn from each other. I preserved artifact from different cultures and national and divine treasure. This is for the 21 first century it is the sign of the time for education and science. Take a look at what im sharing with you. You are a gifted person to share with. I need help setting this up, I wondering if I could get help. It is the sign of the time. Who will be the gifted person? I hope you are enjoying the American History. I want to help people of America and those whose in Texas and Louisiana. These are also personal belongings of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.. The Heaven stone is 4.6 billion years old. In 2008 Ill be ready to share with the world. Im planning to make a documentary about the artifacts history. If you would like to be part of the making history, please let me know. Many other artifacts are presenting different cultures. Some of them are breath taking, garment and clothing, pen of someone for you to guess who was born in c 6 B.C- c. 30 A.D. And other person in c.4 A.D. -c 64 A.D. Also c 280-337 A.D. Many other of first human languages and the time of anicentand many other relgion like Islam , Buddha and hindu and many others.. These are lost horizon wisdom. When we all humble then well have comfort for humanity. We all are seacrhing for the truth. Please let me know. Peace, Love, and Good Karma. Take a look at what I have. Sincerly, Karma Shah

I believe that abortion is a very complicated issue. I do not like it, would have a hard time supporting my own daughters if they were in the position where they thought they had no other choice, but realize that in some cases it has to be a choice. The more important issue is reducing the number of abortions. As a Catholic christian I know that I differ from the church's teaching on this topic and that is difficult for me.

I would like to understand how people on both sides see this as such a black and white issue.

Respect for life is not just for the unborn, which is why I could not choose a candidate soley on one issue, even one as emotionally charged as this one. Other people should understand that I don't take this issue lightly. I hate the idea of abortion, but I also cannot deny a woman the right to choose what happens to her body.

Sue Szymanski

I feel that abortion is not the right thing to do, but also I believe in choice.
My mother had an abortion three months before becoming pregnant with me, and chose not to have a second one. Since then she has been heavily pro-life.
The abortion haunted her for many years, contributing to her bipolar disorder.
If not for abortion I wouldn't be alive.
So I am somewhat ambivilent.
Morally abortion is very bad, adoption would be a much better choice.
Morally being a terrible parent is bad also though.
So I guess I would have to call myself personally pro-life, politically pro-choice.

As I talk to people about abortion rights, particularly those who oppose abortion and consider themselves to be pro-life, a question I ask concerns a possible future where abortion is held to be illegal with few or no exceptions. In other words, abortion would considered a criminal act just as, for example, car theft and murder are considered criminal acts. In this context, I ask people to consider what the appropriate criminal penalties for those who might be involved in abortion should be. Interestingly, I find that most people have not considered this aspect of criminalizing abortion.

As we talk about abortion, I think a discussion of the criminal aspects of "pro-choice" and "pro-life" positions is essential. Moving past these slogans to thinking about how a criminalization of abortion might work in our society might provide a very valuable perspective and help bring the two sides closer together fairly quickly.

Depending on the severity of the penalties involved (misdemeanor? felony?) and breadth of their application (women only? women and doctors? etc.), the ramifications of criminalizing abortion could be fairly significant.

I believe that abortion should be completely legal, with no restrictions, at all stages of pregnancy. I also believe that Medicaid should pay for abortions for low income women. As you may have guessed, I am not a "person of faith" - I am agnostic, although my grandparents are devout Christians & they also believe strongly in a women's right to choose and have, throughout their lives, contributed to NOW & Planned Parenthood.

I believe what I do because the ability to control when and if to have children is THE main reason that women have been able to move toward equality. Birth control is not enough, it fails sometimes and sometimes a woman's health or other circumstance may make carrying a baby to term dangerous, or honestly, inconvenient in some way. Perhaps she is in an abusive relationship and the child will somehow endanger her more, or she fears bringing the child into that life. Basically, there are MANY reasons a woman may need or decide to abort a child and NO ONE besides her and her maker should judge her.

I feel that "pro-life" people are very judgmental and not living in reality. While yes, I understand that people see aborting a fetus as murder, if we can not reconcile the beliefs of the few with the laws of the land then it must remain legal. Of course, now we have to also discuss when life begins. Shouldn't it begin when it can stay alive on it's own?

I would genuinely like to understand how or why anti-choice individuals think that their beliefs should be followed by everyone, and how their views fit under the law.

I would like the anti-choice to understand how difficult it is for a woman to choose to have an abortion, and to have some compassion. ESPECIALLY when it comes to "partial-birth abortion" - of which there is no such thing medically speaking - that those are such rare circumstances when such a procedure would be done - and it is almost always only when there is something wrong with the baby or where the pregnancy would harm the mother in some way. Who are we to make that decision - it should only be between the woman and her doctor.

In law school I was president of our school's chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. We use to be Law Students for Choice, but as you mentioned, choice can be very polarizing. That is why we changed our name, because it really is so much more than choice - it's about reproductive rights, a person's (man or woman) ability to maintain their reproductive health and to control their reproduction - when, how and if they have children. The abortion issue really needs to be more inclusive - it needs to include contraception, the rights of pregnant women*, child care support for low income families, and other things I can't think of right now. :)
*if a fetus gets rights, wether from conception or at any time before birth, this will jeopardize a woman's ability to make choices for her own healthcare, in fact it already does. As National Advocates for Pregnant Women pointed out in a letter to Sarah Palin, if those rights had been in forced when she was pregnant with Trig she could have been imprisoned for not going to the hospital as soon as her water broke because she was jeopardizing the health and safety of her baby by waiting so long, including a flight back to Alaska from Texas, before going to the hospital.

And finally, abortion should not be a shameful thing - women should be able to talk about it openly. If they have had one they should be open to share their story so others understand why they had one & how they feel about it. This would help other women in times of crisis - to make the best decision for themselves. Also, even without outlawing abortion states are managing to make it unavailable. I don't think Mississippi has any providers, and there is only one in South Dakota and that doctor flies in from MN once a month. Also, medical schools don't teach the procedure anymore. It's a surgical procedure for God's sake - all ob/gyn's should learn the procedure for the health and safety of their patients - it's tantamount to malpractice.

Sorry, one last point - It is misguided that American's put so much weight into the personal beliefs of presidential (and vice presidential) candidates because the only power they hold in the decision is through veto of bill or through selection of judges and justices. Now granted that is pretty powerful but, as John Kerry said, I'm personally pro-life but my personal beliefs should not dictate my policies and politics because they may not be best for the country.

'Sorry - this isn't directly answering these questions, but I couldn't find anywhere else to voice my frustration that you and all the media seem to totally ignore the large number of Christians for whom other issues are FAR more important than abortion.

Listening to your program tonight I realized that even though you interviewed Amy Sullivan as an example that the media concept of an 'Evangelical Christian' is stereotyped and over-simplified, it still excluded me and millions of others by falling back on the common habit of equating all Christianity with evangelical Christianity.

The media is shortchanging the entire discussion of faith when they repeatedly discuss Christianity only in terms of abortion. Christianity and morality encompass many issues, and different individuals or congregations make different choices as to which issues are most important.

For me, some of the strongest teachings have been the belief that the 'Christian' thing to do is to take care of those who are in need (fortunately, that's a belief that's not limited to Christians). This is closely tied to the belief that all people are children of God - not just the ones who interpret His word in the same way I do.

I can't claim that I live up to those goals, but since my understanding of faith stresses these values, it leads me to political conclusions that are very different from the ones the media claims are 'Christian.'

I do not dispute anyone's right to make their own decisions about which religious beliefs are most important to them - but I strongly dispute the media's tendency to disregard the millions of people whose faith leads them to believe that the most important issues are concern, respect and help for others, and to make political decisions based on that belief. I'd really like to hear a discussion about that aspect of Christianity, and its affect on political choices.

It's not an either/or situation. I'm sure there are millions who would put some other portion of their faith above both the abortion issue and the concerns for the disadvantaged, and many of us try to weigh all of these. The bottom line is: PLEASE DO NOT USE THE MEDIA SHORTHAND OF IDENTIFYING A GROUP AS HUGE AND DIVERSE AS 'CHRISTIANS' ONLY IN TERMS OF A SINGLE ISSUE.

I've limited these comments to the Christian faith simply because that was the topic tonight, and that is the term that I think is being misused. However, there are many who are of a different faith, or no organized faith, but whose moral philosophy has a dominant place in their political decisions.

When I think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion, I think about core beliefs that cause a strong divide. That is, whether you believe that an unborn zygote or fetus is a person or part of a woman's body. Second, there is the question of whether someone should have a choice of whether or not to bring a child into the world if one is pregnant. Thirdly, and this is the part where I have shaped my own opinion, there is the question of whether the act of terminating a pregnancy should be punished or prohibited and what if any good this would do.
I believe that my energies and money would be better spent on supporting programs that support healthy pregnancies and children than on opposing abortion.
From a personal standpoint, my period was late once after my first sexual encounter early in my teen years. I went to get tested at an abortion clinic. Even though I did not wish to terminate the pregnancy, I considered it seriously. My period came later. Later on, at twenty-one, I became sexually active again with a steady boyfriend and I became pregnant. I knew that I didn't want to have an abortion, although I was very scared of being a single mother. No matter what the decision, it was daunting. I looked into adoption, because I wanted the child to have adequate support. I ended up having a miscarriage. No matter what the choice, it was daunting.
As far as the terms, pro-life and pro-choice, they are not the best. However, within the context of what they have come to mean, I am very cautiously pro-choice, with strong pro-life leanings. I am also a Catholic and realize the conflict. While I do believe that life begins at conception and this is sacred, I also believe it is sacred at all of its other stages. This is the true teaching of my faith. That is where I would like to place my emphasis with my vote.

The issue is framed in moral extremes for a reason - because it gets really muddy any other way. Here are the extremes: 1. Life begins at conception 2. Life begins at birth These positions are defensible and allow one to make reasonable decisions on a host of other issues and specific cases of abortion. For example, partial-birth abortion, fetus-rights (is it double homicide to kill a pregnant woman), embryonic research, rape & incest, etc. But science is going to blow this whole issue into an entirely new dimension. Cloning will happen as will, gene selection, screening, splicing, etc. And these new technologies will result in questions like, do clones have a soul? how did it get there? and what does it mean to be human? I think a temporary practical solution is to use the earliest saved premature baby as a benchmark for life ... this results in a moving time as technologies improve, but prevents the slaughter of viable premature lives. The pro-life position takes the side that saving the new life is weighted higher than the decision making convenience of the mother. By using the earliest survivable date - the mother would have some time to decide, but not an excessive amount, 8th month. Compromises like this are also difficult because there is a practical privacy aspect to the issue - the interweaves the privacy of the mother with the right-to-life of the unborn. These are at odds and at the heart of Roe v. Wade from my limited understanding of the case. So, there is an enforcement issue rarely discussed, and a practical matter of "it's been happening for hundreds of years - a law will just push it to the back alleys." These are difficult questions and it's a shame that these issues are given so much weight over more solvable issues such as eliminating the death penalty, another pro-life position. I am pro-life, but the practically of the issue prevents it from influencing my voting habits.

As a young student nurse in the 1960s, the first patient for whom I cared who was my age and who died was a teenager who had given herself an illegal abortion. It is difficult for young people today to remember that there was a time when it was not uncommon for young unmarried women to be shamed by a repressive culture into aborting their babies. Although I was raised Catholic, I could not help realizing that the God I knew and worshipped grieved as much for the young women who died after illegal abortions as He did for the babies they lost. I became a strong supporter of Roe V Wade, believing that the lives of young mothers in difficult situations are just as precious as the lives of unborn babies. The God who from the cross forgave those who crucified Him can surely forgive those who make desparate and difficult choices. I cannot find it in my heart to condemn others to the death my first young patient died.

I am a psychotherapist employed by a Child Advocacy Center, where my colleagues and I encounter and have to deal with the issue of unwanted pregnancy on a regular basis. Child Advocacy Centers thoughout the US do forensic interviews for law enforcement and provide counseling services for children who have been sexually abused. I have been raised Catholic and, at one time, was strongly pro-life. It was easy to hold that view when I didn't have to face the consequences of it. In my work I have encountered children as young as 11 years old who were pregnant due to rape. Commonly, we encounter 13 to 16 year old victims of rape or incest who have been impregnated. The decision to keep or abort is not ours, but the families of these children or in some cases, Child Protective services. Often because of a lack of sex education, the girls don't even know they are pregnant until it is too late to abort. My point is that unless you have looked into the face of a weeping 13 year old who is terrified of giving birth and whose body may not be ready for such a stress, you cannot render a judgement for that child or that family. What of the life and emotional stability of that child? Why is a fetus more precious that a living, breathing child? It is my personal opinion, that when a 60 year old can impregnate a 12 year old, that is not God's plan, but nature at its worst. I would also pose the question to those who hold a very conservative view and who usually are conservative Republicans, how can you be pro-life and pro-war at the same time? I also feel that unless you are ready to be an adoptive or foster parent to an unwanted baby, then you have no right to render an opinion at all. I consider myself very pro-life and thererfore I am pro-choice, because all life is sacred, including the life of the pregnant child.

Women my age know that no one can prevent abortion because a woman can do it to herself with a knitting needle or straightened out coat hanger. So making abortion illegal simply punishes a woman who has made the wrong decision by denying her medical care. Last I checked Jesus had told me to put down my stones and not punish other people. There should be much more discussion about why a woman would choose abortion and ways to help midigate her concerns. Simply calling her a killer and shouting at her as she seeks help is the wrong way to go.

Years ago, being pregnant out of wedlock meant a woman was in trouble, literally, as well as figuratively. So women either got married to the father (or a very generous man who ageed to take on a troubled package) or went "to take care of a sick aunt" and went to a home for unwed mothers and gave the baby away. Or, she could abort. All this took place before there was much in the way of birth control and before women's lib, so there was not much negotiation taking place as far as under what circumstances sex took place. If the guy didn't want to use a condom chances were good the woman didn't have much say in the matter. But she could say no, so if pregnant that meant she was of weak character. Thus the trouble. Note the man bore no shame.

So abortion laws were changed to allow for a safe medical procedure. When the right tried to stop abortion all of a sudden they had to say that there was noting wrong with being pregnant. Which lead to mothers keeping their babies when there was not a shnwballs chance in hell that the baby would have a decent shot at life. So now we have a situtaion where it is not politically correct to tell unmarried women that having a baby is not acceptable. And the result is that the babies pay the price. We need to go back to a time when babies before husband is shockingly bad and since birth control is now varied and available we need to do everything we can to prevent conception until ready. But that allows for sexual activity that goes unpunished. If we can have sex and not get caught (pregnent) then there is no way for society to inflict judgement. And don't forget, Jesus doesn't want us judging others, just helping them.

The sub title speaks volumes - 'between polarized extremes.' How does anyone ever expect to have a conversation, let alone resolution, when the conversation partners are polarized to extremes? The traditional way of studying Talmud is for two people to take a position and argue it fully and vociferously. After a time, the teacher stops the argument and the students have to switch positions, arguing the new side just a vociferously even if they don't agree with the argument. What might happen if those on both sides of the abortion issue were forced to fully understand the passions of others' positions?

At the age of 20, as a struggling college student, I became pregnant. My mother wanted me to have an abortion. My friends wanted me to have an abortion as well. I chose to have and raise my son, because I felt like things happen for a reason, and I knew that I was mentally and emotionally capable of raising a child.

I consider myself pro-choice for others, but pro-life for me. If I had an abortion, I think the grief would consume me.

I have friends who are pro-choice, who have had abortions, who didn't grieve, but felt relief. Who am I to saddle them with the burden of a baby that they never wanted?

I would like the pro-life side to understand that they'd do way more good if they provided services to prospective mothers like healthcare, parenting classes, and financial support. That would change many more minds than a photoshopped picture of an aborted fetus.

I would like the pro-choice side to provide more counseling to those who are genuinely confused and troubled by their pregnancy. Help them through the process of the decision.

I would like to know if it's better to have a life of suffering as an unwanted baby than to be snuffed out before consciousness? Because for many abortions, that's the choice that I think is being played out.

First, a bit of context. I born in Berlin, Germany and grew up overseas since my parents worked for the Military school system. My parents were devote Catholics and raised us that way -- not quite the Kennedys kneeing down to do rosary every night, but certainly doing that during Lent. I went on to get a Master's in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College, and now have a Master's in Oriental Medicine, which is my current half-time profession. The other half of my life I work for MIT. My life seems to be about balancing different perspectives, and while it creates a certain amount of cognitive dissonance, it also makes me look below the surface of things to see what binds it together.

This mindset is what I keep bringing to the question of abortion, in addition to the fact that I am female. I come out on the side of "pro-choice" because I believe a woman needs to have a say over her own body, and that if she is not able or willing to make the commitment to go through a pregnancy, she should have a choice not to do so. At the same time, I work with women who are infertile, trying to have a child. I've felt the joy and happiness when the pregnancy can happen, and the gift that life is to the parent(s). I know I've felt the energy of a little being in utero, so I do believe there is life there. That said, I usually don't feel that energy till after 3 or 4 months, and I've also worked with many women post miscarriage. Its a really sad event for most women, and tremendously hard to make peace with. I also know the women I've worked with who've had abortions, struggled with the choice but felt it was incredibly sad but necessary. It seems whether a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or an elective abortion, most women have a lot to work through about the whole thing.

It raises the issue for me: if life begins at conception, then is "God" the Great Abortionist?

The March of Dimes theorizes that 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage before the woman even knows she is pregnant. A further 15% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions prior to the end of the first trimester. This is just 5% less than the number of elective abortion in the same time period.
If so many pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions, then what is "God's" role in this equation? Is miscarriage okay because God chooses it? But that would imply that only God should have a say over life and death. So what role to ANY form of family planning/birth control? Are all forms of contra-ception wrong as the Catholic church seems to say? Are we not interfering in God's plan by simply deciding not to have sex when fertile to avoid pregnancy? If God gets to decide death as well as life, how can we possibly justify war? Oh yeah -- God's on our side! Funny how both sides can claim that in a war and be so sure they are right, and how the same is true in this abortion debate.

It seems to me there is something else happening in this debate that we couch in terms of right & wrong and God and choice. We seem to be going through a developmental phase in human awareness where we are now aware that we have the power to make choices that can create or destroy life. We can make babies in test-tubes -- though we still need women to carry them, and we can create death in those same test tubes as biological weapons. We have weapons that can destroy most of human and other life on the planet and now we can prevent life from happening in the womb. This is unprecedented power, power that used to be reserved to kings or presidents or God is now within all of our reach.

We have not developed the ethical and moral decision making skills to handle these decisions, nor do we have a moral or ethical world view that can help us with them. All the major religions sprang out of agrarian societies with little control over the forces of nature. While the truths of the world religions may be timeless, the formats of delivery ie the Bible, the Koran, the Old Testament, etc. are context sensitive. In other words, Jesus saying "Pay unto Casear what is Casear's" doesn't mean we still pay taxes to Rome.

Speaking in our context, the Bible had nothing to say about preventing conception because in an agrarian society conception and fertility is what you were interested in promoting. Consequently, women, as the source of human fertility were honored for the role of giving birth and that fertility promoted. As we humans have increasingly moved away from agrarian lifestyles, we have struggled to put our current lifestyles against the strictures and teachings of our moral and ethical guides -- the major religions, and have had increasingly to read more and more into the space between the strictures and rules to cover our current situations. Rather like the Supreme Court did in reading into the 14th Amendment a right to privacy, which supports Roe v. Wade. Given that we are all on open ground on this issue, it seems people have become more strident and single minded because questioning the issue brings into question too many other areas of life -- and its really, really hard to operate without a clear guideline such as a good map in an unfamiliar area, especially if you are scared.

What then can we do?

To me, when lost, you need to first stop and assess your situation, take a deep breath, and then start talking to people. Find out where here is, and together you can work out how to get from here to there. This is hard to do in groups. We are still learning as a species how to talk across differences, to respect different points of view and realize maybe the other has something of importance even if we don't see things their way. However, it seems that this kind of cross cultural respect and communication is the only way we will start to find some way out of this together. First we have to all acknowledge that this is new territory and that while our religion(s) and teachings may give us guidance, it probably won't give us THE answer. Reasonable people can agree to disagree on interpretations of the teachings, however, we need to start agreeing they ARE interpretations not THE TRUTH. In that place we can begin to listen with respect. In that place it is safe to talk and let down our guard. In that place we can move beyond being right to being in relationship. Maybe together we can come up with some some answers.

The question I've been grappling with for a while now is what the appropriate response to abortion is from the position of a commitment to non-violence. I just don't know. As I've become, through my faith life, increasingly committed to non-violence and increasingly convinced that non-violence is the necessary moral response, I've become increasingly troubled by abortion. While I wouldn't say that I believe it's murder--I don't know when a human life enters the realm of personhood or what the ethical or moral status of an embryo or fetus is--it is an act of violence against a human life. As such, I think it's best avoided if at all possible. It's always better, I believe, to nurture life rather than to end it, and that is true in the realm of abortion. This was a somewhat difficult leap for me to make, as a person who for many years held the belief that abortion was a morally justifiable or at least morally neutral act, but I personally can't be honest about my belief in non-violence without taking abortion seriously as an act of violence.

At the same time, though, I also see using state power (or any coercive power) to try to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will and quite possibly about the dictates of her own conscience as an act of violence, as well. To do that is to assault a woman's bodily integrity. I cannot support the government forcing women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. I cannot believe that that act of violence is justifiable in order to prevent another act of violence. If an act of violence is going to occur, I personally have to err on the side of individual conscience rather than state power. For me, a woman choosing to have an elective abortion is a moral wrong and an act of violence against human life, but one that is less troubling at a societal level than a government committing violence against women by forcing them to continue unwanted pregnancies.

But where do you go from there? If abortion is an act of violence that we must take seriously and address, and laws against abortion are also acts of violence, what do you do? What is the non-violent solution to the issue?

I hate that those who would seek to make abortion illegal have come to own the term "culture of life," because I do believe that's what we need, but not in the way they mean. I don't want us to be a culture where people are legally compelled to nurture the lives that the state wants to protect. I want us to be a culture where we have such a deep and abiding respect for human life at all stages that abortion--like child abuse and pre-emptive war and rape and people living in dire poverty--becomes something that people choose not to choose unless there are extremely pressing reasons. I don't know how we get there. But I think that if we were a society that, in general, nurtured and respected the lives of all born persons, then we'd be a step closer to nurturing and respecting human life in its early stages.

I would would like to bring up an issue and ask several questions of those who believe that as soon as an egg is fertilized it is a human being and has a soul.
It is well established that in women of normal fertility, with no attempt to end the pregnancy, only about 50% of fertilized eggs reach the 3rd trimester. The rest are spontaneously aborted or miscarried. (You can look this up in any Obstetrics textbook such as William's Obstetrics)
So if there are 4 million live births a year there are approximately 4 million spontaneous abortions. When you consider women who have reduced fertility there are even more. This is far more than the approximately 1.5 million induced abortions per year the 'pro-life' people are so upset about.
Some of these spontaneously aborted fetuses are clearly not normal, but others appear normal.
What are the 'pro-life' people doing about the spontaneous abortions? Should we do less research on diseases at the end of life such a Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and divert the resources to research on spontaneous abortions?
If you could prevent one-third of the spontaneous abortions, that would "save" about as many "souls" as ending all induced abortions! Also,
why does God kill so many unborn babies?
Obviously, I am 'pro-choice', but I do not recall ever hearing a 'pro-live' person deal with this issue.
Thank you.

I am a pediatrician. In my practice I have encountered four cases where the family felt that abortion was the best choice. I doubt that anyone could condemn their decision. I really don't know who thinks that they can judge others in this painful decision. I'm want tot hear from others why they think that they can. I also don't know what would have been accomplished in these four cases if everyone involved would have been criminalized. If abortion becomes a crime then everyone who assists becomes a criminal also. If someone comes to me because of a botched illegal abortion with an infection, and if I don't report it to the authorities then I commit a crime also. I want to know who goes to jail if abortions become illegal.

A month ago, a very difficult pregnancy of mine (my fourth) ended pourly. The pregnancy started as any other, much anticipated with joy and happiness and hopes and dreams. Because of some problems I was having, I was subjected to bi-weekly ultrasounds so that we could watch our sweet baby grow. what a miracle! we were amazed, at every step, to see our baby. at 8 weeks, her heart beating. at 12 weeks, to watch her move around and kick and to see her tiny limbs and feet and spine. and then at 15 and 17 weeks, even more development, movement, facial features. we got to know our baby through ultrasound. at 20 weeks, my water broke and our baby died days later. our little girl was born still - not given a chance at life. through this process of watching my child live and die, i could not help but think of abortion, and why it is something that happens in our intelligent society. my baby at eight weeks was as real as she was when she was born. and for that matter at 6 weeks, or 4 weeks. i ask myself, why is it different to kill the unborn than to kill another child? or an adult? if we are to have choices as to whether or not to kill our unborn baby, should we also be allowed to mame or kill our older children, if we decide we don't want them? morally, this is a no brainer for me. anyone who has seen an early ultrasound of a baby should realize that this is a child we are discussing, and if so, then there is no question that this child has constitutional rights just like any other.

what i would like to understand about someone who feels differently is what exactly they think abortion is and who chooses abortion. Obama stated that it is a weighty decision for women. as a woman, i know many friends for whom it was absolutely NOT a weighty decision. this is the tragedy. human life, not even valued. abortion is a brutal, cruel end to life that should not be allowed to happen. i wish that every pro choice person would check out the priestsforlife.org website and follow the links to see actual abortions being performed. would they feel the same if they saw the pictures?

being a realist, i know that to some degree abortion will always happen, regardless of what happens with roe v. wade. women who want them will find them. i think education is key to prevention, and i think that if we had a democrat or republican who had his or her heart set on decreasing abortions, the way to do it would be to leave roe v. wade as is and flood the media with info and pictures and images of aborted babies and truely educate women on their options and show them what their baby looks like at different stages, and present them with the possibility that an abortion is the same as murder. i think there should be a more general term for pro life which embodies all life, not just the unborn, and paints a nicer picture of it than just the denial of a woman's right as it is now. we are so afraid in this country to deny women of things, GOd forbid we allow them to choose what to do in this situation even though another human being's life is at stake.

The only way this will ever be settled is that it can be determined exactly when God exhales then the light or soul enters the body (around birth), before that its just a fetus or shell. When light enters the shell we are called Human, and after death when God inhales thats called death when the human becomes a shell again and the light leaves .

RE: "There's no more important question than abortion" (or why is abortion such a big issue).. as an indigneous person I find this issue reflective of the inevitable decline of American pioneer religions. Those trying to maintain traditions have become more desperate to save their older forms of culture. 100 years ago Christian leadership had the freedom to openly discriminate. This changed 50 years ago, as we're all still dealing with that. Abortion has been permitted to float to the top because pioneer Christians still practice unquestioned leadership.

As I was writing, it struck me that the moral issues of giving away ones flesh and blood have not been well-explored. Most American women who cannot raise a child apparently would rather not bring their child to life, or would kill their baby depending upon your frame of reference, than give birth and give away the child. When I had an abortion years ago, giving away my flesh and blood was inconceivable, even with the realization that I was making a life and death decision. It seemed less responsible to carry a pregnancy to term and give the child away than to have an abortion.

Regardless of your take on the morality of abortion, there seems a visceral revulsion to giving away your flesh and blood that is at least the equal of the visceral revulsion to abortion (which has its own psychic costs.) What do you think is at the root of this?

If I look at it abstractly, I don't see a moral equivalence between taking even a potential life and putting a child up for adoption. But I think there is something hardwired about letting go of your genetic heritage that we don't acknowledge.

I suspect that the lack of control in adoption is an issue- open adoptions might well reduce abortions, or adoptions like they have in Germany where the birth mother becomes part of the extended family. But there is something stronger because our abortion rate wouldn't be 1/5 pregnancies when open adoption is at least an option. And I don't think embarrassment, inconvenience or the great physical difficulty of pregnancy is the only reason why we don't have more unplanned children put up for adoption.

Here's a real exchange between myself and my sister. I am a pro-life evangelical Christian. My sister has a liberal political bent and is pro-choice. We were raised Catholic. She does not practice any faith now.

_____________________________________

I had set up a pay per view movie that we had to watch when I made Mom hang up. Have you seen Juno? It’s a great antiabortion movie. Take care.

Love,

K

Haven’t seen Juno. We saw Bella though. I thought you were pro choice?

P

Did I tell you about Bella? Did you like it? I am prochoice but I also am pro adoption and other alternatives that would place the baby in a safe and loving environment. So I think these movies make the case for alternatives way better than someone standing and yelling at young girls as they go into an abortion clinic. It is such an emotional issue on so many levels. I’m sure I have said to you that of the kids we get in Head Start about 60% are born to teenage moms. They start out in an economic deficit that most do not recover from so children are greatly affected by that. And it is often the least capable people who keep babies based on the antiabortion rhetoric. What bugs me the most about that rhetoric is that it displays no understanding of what happens to a baby when it’s not aborted and grows poorly parented and poor in every way. TaDah! I step down from the soapbox!

Love,

K

You told us about Bella. That was such a good movie. I agree that adoption is better than the young girls keeping their babies.

I don’t mind your venting. I wish the two sides would talk more. I can’t agree that the possibility of economic hardship is a reason to kill the baby. I think most of the world wouldn’t be here (even you and me. Look at grandma and grandpa.) if that criteria was applied across the board.

I think much of the problem goes back to the “sexual revolution” that said sex is always a good thing for whoever and whenever. It’s obviously not. The consequences on our society have been enormous. The abortions, the inability to commit, the breakdown of the family, VD, AIDS... At least the rules Mom and Dad grew up with were designed to protect women and children. And they worked. Our culture has no rules anymore except maybe that my personal happiness is more important than anything else.

I used to work on a pregnancy hotline in CA and have seen the other side — the reckless lack of regard for human life some of the girls/women have. I had one girl tell me, “If I can’t have it, then no one else can either.” Another older unmarried woman said she couldn’t have the baby because of a “bad back”. Obviously not too bad to have sex.

So there’s my sermon.

Love,

P

Well this is a fun discussion. I have to go to a meeting but I do have to say that the sexual revolution only brought the behaviors that have been going on for centuries into the spotlight. Back alley abortions and sexual activity have been going on forever. It was just something no one talked about. Look at the difference between John F Kennedy’s affairs and how they were treated by the media vs. Clinton and Monica. I think you are so right about the breakdown of the family and a lack of social mores but none of this is new. We just know about it now.

K

Of course the bad behaviors have always been going on. The rules existed because of the bad behaviors. Just like laws exist but people break them anyway. But does that make the law bad?

I think the difference with the sexual revolution is that it said the rules re: sexual behavior were bad and should be abandoned. Those rules protected marriages, women and children. Look at the difference is the number of divorces in Mom’s siblings vs our generation. The sad thing is that children have suffered the most.

P
_____________________________

This is as far as we got. Life got too busy again or the topic was too intense. I'm not sure.

If you think this is worth posting on your site, let me know, and I will ask my sister's permission. -Pam

I think that the issue of abortion...'pro-life or pro-choice' is a very private personal issue. I don't think that my neighbor, government or church has a right to take that choice away or push their beliefs in a condemning fashion. This is an individual choice that should be made by the woman herself, or if she chooses with the other half as a choice made by them together freely.

Women, who make that choice, to have abortion, have not done so lightly. And when they make that decision, it stays on their conscience for the rest of their lives.......

There are many reasons that women make this choice to have an abortion. Some are caught, between the choice of family looking down on them, and then thinking that, raising alone would be too hard to handle. Others may not feel they have the resources to raise a child, and I guess this would be the lesser of .....

Drugs, alcohol and abuse are also reasons one might consider.

I think that the stigma of having a child without a 'husband', can be a failing of 'the' dream....that is marriage, home, then baby and everyone is 'happy'.

In our society now, it's not unusual to be a single parent. but in the 60's,70's and early 80's. It was hard to continue the pregnancy if your surroundings weren't acceptable.

I think that religion in many ways has been very damaging to women who either make the choice for abortion or make the choice to keep and have the baby. They damn you if you do and damn you if you don't.

Our society's compassion for women in need in this situation is in a sad state of affairs.
We are a very splinter society. Where is this compassion, it's nowhere to be found if you don't believe what the general mainstream religious believe.

Choose any 'God', Higher Power, Jesus, Mohammed.... The people who 'believe' are there if someone has the same beliefs. but dare compassion and understanding to follow if you need this help in understanding your own delemma .... If one found herself in this situation, of having to make a choice. In other words to find someone to allow a woman to make the choice herself objectively thru human help.

I guess we need open discussion which I'm happy you are going to do. This is such a heated subject.

But until we as a society accept our neighbors as who they are, in all their wonders and beliefs. And until we respect the different Gods that people have chosen. How can we openly help anyone in a time of personal need.

My 12 year old daughter brought up the abortion topic the other morning. and at one point she kept insisting that she wanted to meet some women that have made the decision to have an abortion! It struck me that she wanted to start the dialogue to understanding .....

I'm so happy Krista you are starting. We all need to realize that to live in peace in ones home, community, country and world, we need to stop thinking that we are better than, and just to accept differences in order to live together. How simple and yet it seems impossible!

Thanks for allowing me to write this down. I never have. and have never talked to anyone about the choice I had to make and live with. Thanks.

You may publish this but only using my initials please.

Fifteen years ago, I had an experience that I think I am ready to now share. I was a new fourth year medical student and I was doing an out of state rotation in Washington state. Suddenly, a short story seemed to pour out of my hand, and I think it's actually a blueprint on how to solve the abortion issue in America. I'm an agnostic, but I have to say I'm not sure where these words actually came from.

This story creates a different lens into the debate. The story helps define what I call, "brain birth". I want to change the words "pro-life" and "pro-choice". I call them "position A", "position B", and mine, "position C".

I've done a lot of thinking in the 15 years since then and viewed all kinds of topics from the brain-birth perspective. If you would like me to send this short story, (it's about 5 typed pages), I can try to send it. I've never published it.

I feel like sometimes I'm the only one on the planet that has this position. However, it's actually most similar to when Aristotle said human life began. This was the Catholic Church's position for about 15 centuries. I happen to think in 50 years, it will be Americas's.
Shawn Foley

I became a vegetarian a long time ago when I concluded it was not right to kill. So I used to have a big problem with abortion, since I used to believe life began at conception. [But I also did not believe I had the right to impose my believe on others]. Then I read the letter below and I no longer have a problem with abortion. Then I came across additional science articles that reinforced what the letter had said, that I am also including. I tried to get you to deal with this a few years ago but you ignored it. My position changed based on ‘facts’ and science not just ‘beliefs.’ I’m really wondering whether or not you will use the information below to really enlighten your interviews and future discussions or continue to present positions that are based on outdated ‘knowledge.’ When life begins is either a biological question [with out a soul] or a religious question if people are dealing with a soul. If a religious question then the government is constitutionally required to stay out of it or it endorses one religion over another. If biological, then the following letter indicates life does not ‘start’ but is simply transmitted. I am sad that this position is never dealt with. I would hope that in the future you would consider doing so rather than allowing yourselves to become part of this religious bias. This is the letter I appreciate Zacher's thoughtful letter, but he doesn't go far enough. The common assumption that life begins with fertilization simply goes counter to fact. Not only does fertilization not create life, there has been no "creation" of life for a good many millions of years. Instead, females of any species simply transmit the life they inherited from their mothers through their own ova. The notion that the sperm contributes to the formation of a new life is a purely sexist assumption. Admittedly, sperm have two very important roles to play- delivery of genetic information from the male and stimulation of cell division and development-but neither is formation of life. The ovum already contains the life [it is a living cell] and has the capacity to develop without fertilization into an adult, functioning animal [parthenogen]. Admittedly, no human pathenogens are certainly known; the one purported case in religious history is suspect because the sex is biologically wrong, but parthenogenic reproduction is commonplace in various invertebrate species and also occurs in birds. One rarely sees adult parthenogenic birds, but unfertilized avian ova regularly undergo a large number of cell divisions. Those embryos usually die while still in the egg, however, a research biologist named Marlow Olsen of the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Beltsville, Maryland, succeeded through a minor adjustment of incubation conditions in hatching several chicken and turkey parthenogens and then, by genetic selection, developed strains that produced large numbers of such offspring from carefully protected virgin hens of both species. Parthenogenic rabbits have also been obtained experimentally, and I suspect that live birth of human parthenogens could be made possible were it not for legal constraints on research with human reproductive material and for lack of interest in such a project in this male-dominated society: After all, human parthenogens would all be female. But the possibility is unimportant to the question. The simple fact is that the human ovum contains life transmitted from the mother, even if that life has little or no possibility of development and birth unless fertilized by a human spermatozoon. Since that is a readily available remedy, any woman who fails to attempt fertilization during any non-pregnant month between puberty and menopause could be considered guilty of negligent homicide. Now, whether such homicide is a crime or a sin are entirely different questions. It is obviously not a crime, since no law has ever been passed against it. Whether or not it is a sin depends on one of a number of unproved and unprovable assumptions, beliefs or values and usually involves some assumptions regarding an eternal soul, presumably attached to the life in question. If one believes, with the majority of the world, that the soul suffers a series of incarnations, then it seems to me that destroying or failing to foster the body [or the potential body] chosen for a particular soul would at worst be an inconvenience to that soul and on balance, hardly a sin. If, on the other hand, one believes, with somewhat fewer of his or her, [ones] contemporaries [i.e., the Christian world], that a newly created soul inhabits the new individual, then the consequences may be more serious but depend on the time of occupancy. In the extreme case, we could be talking about the millions of ova as they develop by a special form of cell division in the ovaries of the baby girl while she is still a fetus in uterus of her mother. Alternatively, soul occupancy might be delayed until ovulation, fertilization, some definitive development of the brain, birth [as Zacher chooses] or baptism [as others believe]. Any such delay would help to relieve our guilt feelings, but there is absolutely no basis in evidence or in rational philosophy for assuming that belief or accepting that relief. If one prefers to choose a later moment for the entrance of the soul, the problem is only quantitatively different. Suppose, for example, that one believes [as many do] that the soul enters at fertilization. Our concern with ovum death is reduced [or] but not [phrase added] eliminated, but it is well established that some 70 percent of fertilized ova die spontaneously, usually so early that the mother doesn't realize that she was transitorily pregnant. That means, of course that any woman who sets out to become pregnant or who, through indolence, allows pregnancy to occur is, in the majority of cases, simply condemning a soul to hell. However, there is another way of looking at it. After all, the supposed predilection of God for hell-fire is a characteristic imposed on "Him" by some of "His" worshiper; it is no more proved or provable than the presumed behavior of souls around ova or embryos. I think "He" should sue for libel. Fred W. Lorenz, Professor Emeritus University of California Davis, CA ------ Egg's Head Start on Sperm NY Times 10/[3 or 10]/95 by Asso Press Scientists say they have discovered the first known person, a 3-year-old boy, to come from and egg that began dividing before it was fertilized by a sperm. As a result, the boy has genetically female blood. Normally, sperm delivers a half-set of the father's genes to a half-set of the mother's. The combination gives the egg a full set of genes that is passed on to each cell. But in the case of the boy, scientists believe the egg started dividing before the sperm showed up and fertilized it, said Dr. David Bonthron of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The details are not clear, but fertilization still occurred early in the embryo formation process, and perhaps even before the egg had completed its first splitting, Dr. Bonthron reported in the current issue of Nature Genetics. The delayed fertilization meant that the father's genes did not reach all the cells in the boy's body. ++++++++++++++ August 15, 2001 Stem Cell Issue Causes Debate Over the Exact Moment Life Begins By NICHOLAS WADE When does a life begin. Scientists' desire to study human embryonic stem cells has raised this ancient question to new prominence. The Catholic Church says that life begins at fertilization, when egg and sperm unite and that the embryo created from this union has the same rights due any person. Because embryos must be destroyed to generate embryonic stem cells, opponents of the research say it is morally unacceptable. But embryos have been destroyed routinely at fertility clinics for decades, long before the prospect of stem cell research came along. For some reason, perhaps the relatively recent origin of the human species, many human embryos are imperfect and fail to develop or implant properly in the wall of the uterus. Fertility clinics typically generate eight or nine embryos per pregnancy, of which only the healthiest looking are implanted. The rest are stored, and ultimately, most are destroyed. The number of embryos disposed of by clinics is not known because there is no national authority that gathers the statistics. In Britain, however, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has reported that some 50,000 babies have been born through in vitro fertilization since 1991, and 294,584 surplus human embryos have been destroyed. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, about 100,000 children have been born in the United States by in vitro fertilization, or twice the number in Britain, implying that some 600,000 embryos would have been destroyed if American clinics followed the same five- year storage limit used in Britain. Only a small fraction of the discarded embryos would provide as many stem cells as researchers could use. But opponents of stem cell research, who condemn scientists for destroying embryos, seem less eager to criticize the clinics and the infertile couples who seek their help. Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said that in-vitro fertilization "is outside of our purview." His committee has not taken a position against fertility clinics, Mr. Johnson said, because "we don't get into passing judgment on the conception of any person." Richard Doerflinger, the chief lobbyist for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the church's moral opposition to in vitro fertilization "has been pretty clear from the outset, but in terms of political action we have to choose the issues that are raised for us." Sean Tipton, the public affairs director of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said, "We have not seen any opposition from the Catholic bishops to put a stop to in vitro fertilization." Another possible answer to the question of when life begins, and one that does not imply criticism of the clinics' practices, is based on determining when the embryo can be viewed as having an identity. In the womb, the egg occasionally splits into two separate embryos that develop as identical twins. Very rarely, a second round of splitting occurs, leading to identical quadruplets. If individual identity does not begin until after the last moment when twinning can occur, then the starting point for life can be set at around 14 days after conception, or a week after implantation. Dr. Margaret A. Farley, a professor of Christian ethics at Yale University, said, "A lot of Catholic ethicists take seriously the finding of embryologists that prior to implantation, you don't have an individualized entity because it can twin." In the Jewish tradition, the embryo has no status outside the mother's body, a view that also finds no fault with in vitro fertilization treatments. A leading opponent of abortion, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, takes a similar view of the early embryos created for in vitro fertilization, but for different reasons. Senator Hatch said last month that he supported embryonic stem cell research and explained his views by referring to the practices at in vitro fertilization clinics, which he described as ethical and laudable. "To me a frozen embryo is more akin to a fertilized egg or frozen sperm than to a fetus naturally developing in the body of a mother," he said in a letter to Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services. He outlined the various ethical and legal difficulties with the proposition that life starts at conception. "He's saying there is something magical about the mother's womb," Mr. Doerflinger said in criticism of Senator Hatch. "In Mormon theology there is a belief that souls are pre-existent and are inserted into bodies at some stage by way of the parent, in a way that is not common in the various Christian denominations. I can't argue Senator Hatch out of his theological beliefs, but I don't think he should make the rest of us fund this research based on them." Though Mr. Doerflinger represents the views of the Catholic bishops, he has presented his arguments against embryonic research in ethical, not religious, terms. He caricatured Senator Hatch's view by saying that if life depended on the mother's womb, then people grown in artificial wombs, if that became possible, would be nonpersons who could be used as slaves. Senator Hatch said there was "definitely a difference between those who believe life begins when the sperm combines with the egg and those who believe that human life begins in the womb, that you must have a mother." He said he had not based his reasoning for a post-conception beginning of life on the phenomenon of twinning. A third response to the question of when life begins is that the "when" is impossible to pin down. That is the view of Dr. Brigid Hogan, an embryologist at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Hogan, principal author of a 1994 National Institutes of Health report on embryo research, is an expert on the mouse embryo, which is similar to the human embryo in its early stages. In her view, conception marks not the beginning of life, since both egg and sperm are alive, but merely an increase in complexity. Many people think of the embryo as a tiny homunculus that just grows bigger. To Dr. Hogan, the building of an embryo is a process like origami, except that the sheets being bent and tucked are made of cells instead of paper. The early embryo is "a flat little sheet that gets folded," she said. A pivotal event is when a spearhead of cells, called the node, loses contact with its neighbors and moves into the fold, sending out signals that give the embryo a polarity and structure. The visible structure was called the "primitive streak" by early embryologists. Biologists now know that it is at this time, some 14 days after fertilization, that specific genes are switched on, like goosecoid and brachyury, cordin and noggin — fanciful names devised by those who first found their counterparts in the fruitfly. Is the true beginning of life the moment when the goosecoid gene is first transcribed? "It's wonderful that the public is getting interested in embryology," Dr. Hogan said, in a tone suggesting a tinge of doubt that the subject's full intricacy would be appreciated. Wherever the line defining the beginning of human life is drawn, supporters of in vitro fertilization would like to avoid equating the clinics' practice with the killing of human beings. The anti-abortion movement "has tried to draw a clear and bright line at fertilization," said Dr. Thomas Murray, director of the Hastings Institute in Garrison, N.Y. "Until now, they have been able to avoid having the question called. Embryonic stem cell research has called the question for them. And what we are seeing is that some politicians who have strongly supported the pro-life position now acknowledge they do not accept fertilization as the clear and bright line." Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company ++++++++++++++ November 6, 2001 New Work May Provide Stem Cells While Taking Baby From Equation By ANDREW POLLACK LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5 — In a developmemt that may side step some of the ethical issues surrounding stem cell research a scientist here says he has created stem cells that can turn into nerve cells using a kind of embryo that cannot develop into a baby. The work, done in mice, is one of several recent experiments that explore the usefulness of asexual reproduction in deriving stem cells. The researcher, Dr. Jerry L. Hall, uses chemicals to coax an egg to grow into an embryo of sorts without being fertilized by a male's sperm. Such embryos, even if implanted into a womb, would not grow to become viable babies, Dr. Hall and other experts said. But the embryos can be grown in a laboratory for a few days, long enough to become a source of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells can turn into virtually all types of the body's cells, potentially providing replacement cells that can be transplanted into patients to cure diseases. But opponents say such research is immoral because deriving stem cells involves destroying embryos, which they see as nascent human life. Dr. Hall argues that if an "embryo" were not formed by conception and would not be able to turn into a child, that might make stem cell work more acceptable. "We feel that this really could circumvent a lot of ethical concerns," said Dr. Hall, an embryologist at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Genetic Testing, a fertility clinic here. He presented his work at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Orlando, Fla., late last month. But Richard M. Doerflinger of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the technique was unlikely to end the opposition the Roman Catholic Church has to embryonic stem cell work. The real question, he said, is whether these are really embryos. If they are, "the fact that these beings would not survive to birth does not answer the question," he said. "Our teaching about the embryo does not rely on it having been created by fertilization." Numerous scientific questions remain as well about the work, which has not been published in a scientific journal. Dr. Hall, who did the research with Dr. Yan-Ling Feng of the Center for Reproductive Research and Testing in Rockville, Md., said they had not determined whether the stem cells could turn into other types of cells, or even whether the nerve cells were normal. Dr. Hall said he had not yet tried to derive human stem cells this way. But others are getting closer to that. The University of Massachusetts has applied for a patent on using the technique to derive stem cells from primates, including humans. The work was done with Advanced Cell Technology, a stem cell and cloning company in Worcester, Mass. Scientists at the university and the company derived a line of stem cells from monkeys that could be maintained for months and that spontaneously differentiated into many types of cells including beating heart cells, according to the patent application, which has been published in Europe but not yet granted. Dr. Michael West, chief executive of Advanced Cell Technology, would not comment when asked if the company had tried this in humans. He also would not discuss the company's work in detail, saying he did not want to jeopardize an upcoming publication in a scientific journal. The work takes advantage of a phenomenon known as parthenogenesis. It is known that some species of flowers, insects, lizards and snakes can reproduce asexually, with the female's egg growing into a baby without being fertilized by a male.. Parthenogenesis, which is from the Greek for virgin birth, does not occur naturally in mammals. But for decades scientists have known how to trick the eggs of mice, rabbits and other mammals into developing as if they had been fertilized by subjecting the eggs to various chemicals or to temperature changes, needle pricks or electrical shocks. The resulting embryos are called parthenotes. It has not been reported that this has ever been done with human eggs, however, and it would raise ethical questions. An egg has a full number of chromosomes right up until fertilization, when it ejects half of them and receives a half set from the sperm. So if this ejection is suppressed, an egg will have the full number of chromosomes. The embryos created this way would not be clones of the woman, Dr. Hall said, because the chromosomes in an egg are somewhat different from the woman's set. Still, he said, the tissues derived from stem cells from such embryos would be close enough to a woman's own tissues that they would not be rejected if transplanted back into the woman. Another possible way to develop such compatible tissues is to use stem cells made by cloning the patient's own cells. The idea, known as therapeutic cloning, is to take genetic material from a patient's cell and fuse it with an egg that is missing its own nucleus, creating an embryo that is a genetic copy of the patient. But because an embryo made through that method would in theory be able to develop into a person, Roman Catholic authorities and other abortion opponents have objected. To create the parthenotes, Dr. Hall and Dr. Feng bathed the mouse egg cells in alcohol and then exposed them to a chemical called cytochalasin D. About 30 percent of the eggs were activated and 40 percent of those went on to form a blastocyst, a several-day-old embryo from which stem cells can be taken. The stem cells were treated with retinoic acid to turn them into nerve cells. Dr. Azim Surani, a professor of biology at Cambridge University, said the work was not surprising since he and others had derived parthenogenetic stem cells more than a decade ago and saw evidence that they would turn into nerve cells. But he said it was unclear how many other types of cells could be created this way. "They don't form muscle cells very easily," he said. Dr. Surani also said the parthenotes and any tissues derived from them might be abnormal. That is because in normal embryo development, certain genes from the father but not the mother, or vice versa, are turned on. But parthenotes don't have genes from the father, so this process, called imprinting, would go awry. Lack of imprinting is also probably the reason that parthenotes do not develop into babies, he said. Still, Dr. West said it might be possible one day to produce human babies through parthenogenesis. Male parthenotes could be created, too, he said, by replacing the DNA in an egg with the DNA from two of a male's sperm cells. But male and female parthenotes have shown differences, said Dr. Jose Cibelli, vice president for research at Advanced Cell Technology. Stem cells derived from male parthenotes tend to turn into muscle cells, while stem cells from female parthenotes turned more often into brain and nerve cells, he said. Dr. West said that if this process could be used to produce live offspring it would open up vast new reproductive possibilities. A woman could give birth by herself. Or two men may be able to each contribute one sperm to have a baby together. Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

The group Feminists for life has been most helpful to me thinking through abortion. This group has allowed me to reconcile my path over the years regarding this issue. I was raised in a conservative Catholic home to protest at the abortion clinics. I grew more liberal in my college years and departed from my parents on many political beliefs, but have never strayed from recognizing the immorality inherent in abortion. I strive to hold a consistent life ethic, opposing violence from conception through death. Yet I recognize that simply being against legalized abortion doesn't solve the issue because it fails to recognize the complex factors pushing women to choose abortion, individual and social factors. Feminists for life articulates a philosophy against abortion that places the dignity of the woman front and center.

As for new frames of reference, I once heard a pro-choice woman speaking about abortion describe it this way: no one is pro-abortion, just like no one is pro-amputation. I think discussions that promote this acknowledgement that abortion is always an awful, horrendous event are critical. My party, the democrats, avoid acknowledging this and it is to our own detriment.

I think about abortion in several different ways. I support a woman's right to have an abortion, but I would oppose it on a personal level if anyone in my family would consider it. I don't like the idea of aborting innocent fetuses, but I would not preclude other people from doing it. The constitutional right to an abortion should not be changed.

I am trained as an accountant and as an attorney. I am sure that these disciplines influence my thinking. When I consider abortion from an economic standpoint, I would conclude that abortions should be permitted. The population of the world continues to grow at an alarming rate. Air and water pollution, global warming, shortages of water and arable land are all exascerbated by the increase in the numbers of people. Today, there are 6.5 billion people. In 100 years, we could have 30 or 40 billion. The resources on this planet are finite (limited). If we do not curtail population growth, we will cause the extermination of many creatures on the planet and could even put our own existance in jeopardy.

Abortion reduces population. Homosexuality often reduces procreation and also holds down population growth. These are regularly opposed by religious groups whose doctrines were developed at a time when our planet's population was not a factor in the ecological balance of nature. At those times, religious groups sought population growth by their adherents to increase their numbers and influence (and to assure the survival of those groups). These guidelines to "be fruitful and multiply" need to be reconsidered in light of the current problems that are raised by overpopulation. Permitting abortion and accepting homosexuality should be included in that consideration.

Thank you for your excellent programs on Speaking of Faith. I am a regular listener.

The thought recently occurred to me that nowhere in the abortion debate have I heard a discussion of what I believe to be a central theme to this issue. It seems to me that we need to consider what brings women to a perceived need for an abortion. It is only women who are pregnant who experience this need. It is just as important to examine the reason behind the pregnancy as it is the reason why a woman might feel she needs the abortion. These are the facts: women who have sex the conventional way with a man often become pregnant. When this happens for the wrong reasons, many times women elect to terminate the resulting pregnancy. While there are sometimes extenuating circumstances that can lead to an unwanted pregnancy within a committed relationship or a marriage, I would be very surprised to learn that it is these circumstances that lead to most abortions. Until men and women abandon the attitude of entitlement that many hold about having free reign to satisfy their sexual urges at will without proper regard for the consequences of these actions, the need for abortion will remain at current levels. However, if more couples treated each other and themselves individually with more dignity and respect, and exercised a measure of restraint, I think there would be fewer instances of regret which lead to abortion. When the sex act is treated as nothing more than a form of recreation, the results are predictable.

Being raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment many years ago and later coming to find my own faith experience, I have come to what I consider to be my own particular view of abortion.

I think of terminating a pregnancy as a negative, sad, unfortunate thing. I feel this way both as a spiritual thinking person and as a loving father who never experienced any greater miracle than the birth of my two children.

Notwithstanding, I CANNOT support the overturning of Row v. Wade with these thoughts attached:

- Making abortion a crime again won't stop it from taking place, but rather will in many cases return women to the days of back-alley hacks.

- Abortion in the cases of rape, incest, the eminent death of a mother absolutely have to be a decision of the individual in a given circumstance.

- The case of a barely fertilized embryo is a world away from a late-term abortion where a formed child is fighting for its life while being destroyed.

- In the case of a barely fertilized embryo, where a child is unwanted, about to be born into an atmosphere of assured poverty, assured of facing sexual abuse when reaching as certain age, assured of a life of crime at a slightly later age, and practically no hope of a quality of life at any age, the choice of terminating or not terminating a pregnancy - of sending that embryo back into the hands of God or not - must be in the hands of the adult(s) directly affected.

- Our energies must be directed toward changing people's hearts and minds, not the law. We must promote an awareness of alternatives to abortion, education of safe sex/contraception, and overcoming the effects of cruel poverty instead of concentrating our efforts on the changing of a law.

Thank you,
Daniel Killman

I have moved from pro-choice to pro-life. The question I have for the pro-choice thinker is where is the personal responsibility? There are the extreme cases of rape and incest causing pregnancy, but, that is not where the millions of abortions have come from over the years, it has been a method of last resort birth control. Where are peoples heads at the time of conception? Why choose sex if you are not prepared to choose life? Where is the personal responsibility in choosing to have sex-shouldn't we live with the consequences of those choices? If people would take on the moral responsibility of sex, abortion would not be an issue. I have come to the realization we cannot legislate this morality, it must come from one on one interpersonal discussion and understanding.

What changed my thinking was a speech I heard where the speaker noted the millions of babies eliminated by abortion and then posited the question- have we killed the person who would cure cancer, who would negotiate peace in the middle east, who would solve our energy crisis, who would be our next Einstein? How much have we retarded the growth of the human race by killing millions of productive souls?

My new frame of reference- Pro-responsibility!

SOF:

I am reminded of Soren Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling when I think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion. Might the pro-life/pro-choice dilemma involve a similar "teleological suspension of the ethical" that Keirkegaard contemplates in his meditation on Abraham's will to slay his son Isaac? D. Anthony Storm's Commentary on Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling provides an excellent framework to entertain this possibility within the abortion issue. I suspect that the Justices who decided Roe V Wade had read Keirkegaard!

As a pro-choice catholic I am troubled by the ethical/moral/universal transgression of abortion; however, I have faith that through God's love a policy that permits abortion may also reflect a manifestation of the absolute.

I will leave it up to your keen spiritual curiosity to further explore this issue in the context of the problems contemplated in Fear & Trembling.

I am grateful for your broadcasts.

Mike Kerrigan
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

I think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion as a liberal, with no regard to authorities or doctrines, but for the good of the voiceles underdog.

It is important to understand that the people who feel differently are the victims of this polarization, thinking as they are told rather than thinking for themselves. They are lured into this mindlessness by stereotyping anyone who disagrees with them as merely thinking what they are told, rather than reflecting on themselves in the same critical light. This accusation may be correct in some cases, but it is not in many others, even when it is not as seemingly preposterous as when they accuse me. This is because I have no political, religious or party affiliations whatsoever to expose me to brainwashing. They accuse me of deriving my opinions from websites I have never seen or religions I don't subscribe to.

I would like to understand that I have experience with things that they don't. I have lived in countries with extremely different laws regarding the right to life, and have met some of the few who actually survive attempted abortions. I would like them to realize that I agree with them on most liberal issues, even regarding sex, but do not take this extreme liberalism to excess by mimicking the worst aspects of conservativism as they do by following a mindset to excessive measures.

Pro-choice is a rational oxymoron. The proponents of abortion are the least in favor of a choice. The Chinese Communist Party's one-child law involves no choice for a woman, but rather a male-dominated government dictating a woman's reproductive rights. A true liberal will oppose this steadfastly. The lack of outcry against the anti-feminine nature of this hypocrisy is manifesting in other crimes against female humanity, like the forced sterilization of Mayan women in Guatemala by US Aid and the attempt to impose a one-child law on the Phillipines. A true feminist supports all a female's rights, from the right to be born onwards. The recent legislative bill in California about informing the parents about minors is a prime example of the hman rights issues at hand. A mother of a 14-year old girl one day learns her daughter is dead. Not even knowing she was pregnant, she is shocked to find her daughter died from a ''safe,legal'' abortion. The pretext that anything legal is safe is utterly false. 19 women die each year from legal abortion, in the state of Florida alone! I convinced a pro-Abortion friend to change their vote on this one by saying ''I support a woman's right to choose who lays their hands on her daughter.'' Plus, what rights is a woman granted once her right to be born is withheld? Yes, abortion is anti-women, anti-freedom, and has nothing to do with choice.

I would like to think women are strong enough to fight for their rights. We are still working on that however. I cannot really walk in someone else's shoes and I cannot make a decision about someone else's body. Human beings, especially woman, should be allowed to decide what they will do if an unwanted pregnancy occurs. None of us knows until it happens to us. How could it ever be different in a true democracy? I think the term pro life for someone who wants to control another's life is really not pro life at all; it is just the opposite.

Bill Clinton's comment that "Abortion should be legal but rare" seems to me to strike the right balance, but may have little effect on those who regard any abortion as murder, on religious or philosophical principles. There are certainly situations where continuing a pregnancy would have consequences so severe as to justify an abortion, but "pro choice" implies that abortions of convenience are permissible. Giving the woman the unfettered ability to choose an abortion up until the viability of the fetus seems excessibly permissive even to those who are willing to allow choice where "justified." A fetus is a life, which should not be snuffed out at the mere whim of the prospective mother. A woman unable to raise her child could give it up for adoption, as the fetus, while not yet a "person" legally, should be allowed to have a chance to live. I recently read that 90% of fetuses diagnosed as having Down syndrome are aborted selectively. While caring for a disabled child is a tremendous burden (which can be a labor of love), it is playing God to discard such a life as non-optimal. For that matter, the father, if identifiable, should have a say, as he would be liable for child support of various kinds if the child is born. A constitutional amendment on our Colorado ballot proposes to officially notice that life begins at conception, which is true, but to extend that to granting a fetus "personhood" in defiance of decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court I think inapppropriate.

This is a more general reflection on how I see my role as a priest and pastor. For more detail, you can find my sermon on the subject, from a month or so ago, at http://www.stmatthewsvt.org/sermons.

It seems to me that it is my duty to preach the Gospel as I understand it within the community of the church. That relates to how we live out Gospel values and precepts in our individual lives AND as members of the community of the baptized.

What we believe as Christians certainly affects how we view the laws and actions of the state. But our role as citizens is different from our role as church (synagogue, mosque) members, in this way: In those latter roles we are called to act for the good of the community of faith. In our role as citizens we are called to act for the good of the polis, the community of all citizens. So I can urge my congregation to behave in a certain way as church members and Christians (which might mean I'd urge them not to have abortions, and also, positively, to do all in their power to prevent them through positive means such as aid and support to pregnant women). But I must not demand that they vote for Politician X or Law Y as a way of enforcing Christian principles through state coercion, unless they discern that such a law would be for the good of the state/polis/body of citizens. I personally, as a citizen, do not believe that a law forbidding abortions would make for the peace and good of the body politic, and therefore I, as a citizen, am opposed to such laws.

I took an Ethics course at Seminary last fall, and the topic thread that ran through the entire course was on Abortion. We looked at all different aspects of the topics to explore basic ethics. At the end, we were to write a position paper. I am including the one I wrote:
Abortion: An Ethical Position

The subject of abortion is a complicated and emotion-laden topic. There are a few who take absolutist positions on either end of the spectrum: I place myself somewhere along the middle of the spectrum of opinion. As a woman, mother and physician, I have had experience with the many and varied consequences of abortion. Experience, scripture, and other ethical writings all inform my pro-life position. Safe, legal, affordable early abortions need to be available for women.
Scripture has little to say specifically about abortion. Scripture supports life-giving activities and equates life with the care of the least among us. “…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you… (Deut 30:19-20)” That may mean different things to different people in different circumstances. Though scripture says little specifically about abortion, it says a lot about a God who creates us, loves us, and anguishes with us in this life. It repeatedly calls us to look with compassion on our fellows, to care for those least able to care for themselves.
As a physician, I am fully aware of the awesome nature of the developing human. The series of events beginning even before conception are nothing short of miraculous. Within weeks, the first few cells have multiplied and begun to organize into a form that is startling familiar to us as a human form. Modern day advances in imaging and video technology bring home this fact in stark and beautiful pictures. Yet this embryo is still highly dependent on its connection to its mother for continued life and will be far beyond birth. Modern technology has also transformed premature birth from the foregone conclusion of death. Infants born as early as 22 weeks old can survive, though not without significant, prolonged and expensive intervention and risk of permanent disability. One normal, healthy child can profoundly change the lives of a family, let alone a child with significant disabilities. Families with multiple children can be even more affected by the addition of a newborn. The economic and personal resources required to raise healthy and happy children are enormous. Families large, small, and alternative often find creative ways of meeting multiple needs. There are also heartbreaking examples of resources spread too thin, poverty, disability, neglect and outright abuse.
Ultimately life is more complicated than the simple miracle of dividing cells becoming organized. Though sacred in its own right, it is not the only aspect of life that is sacred. It is easy to glibly mouth platitudes such as “God never gives you more than you can handle”. It is a profoundly different experience to live out these kinds of challenges. Women and men come with varying resources, not just economic but emotional, spiritual, intellectual and relational. Not all families are equipped with the same energy. News of new life does not bring with it the same amount of joy to all who hear it. For some it brings fear, others dread, and still others, simple depression. The sacredness of their lives and those around them will be affected.
No woman takes this decision lightly. All the women I have counseled who have contemplated an abortion – whether because of a fetal anomaly incompatible with life, or a third pregnancy in three years even on birth control, or a pregnancy during college – have anguished over the decision. All have arrived at decisions that were right for them, in their particular circumstances. My role has been primarily to ask questions and to help women explore what options are available to them – “Are there resources they haven’t considered? Will their parents prove to be more understanding? Will their boyfriend be able to find a better job?” I have then watched women live with the not insignificant consequences of choosing an abortion. They have all coped in varying ways, with or without a partner, with or without counseling, some going on to have children very soon afterwards. I have known women who deeply regretted their choice later, as well as women who were very able to say they made the right choice at that time in their lives. The woman who lived out the most anguish belongs to a faith tradition that categorically opposes all abortion. Though she wasn’t judged by others, she carried the decision heavily in her own heart as a result.
Experience with women in all stages of life informs my view on abortion, and is regularly confirmed by my readings on the topic and by scripture. Abortion is a weighty and significant act in and of itself. Whether the final decision is to move ahead with a pregnancy or an abortion, I experience women to consistently make choices for themselves and their families that on the balance are life affirming.

I had an abortion in 1988. At the time I was young, unmarried, without a job, and couldn't bear the thought of bringing the child to term and then giving it up for adoption. I did a lot of reading on the development of the fetus, and learned that the brain is not developed until after (I believe) the 8th week of gestation, so that before then, the fetus does not experience PAIN. This was important to me in my decision- I did not want the fetus to suffer- and had the abortion as soon as possible. (This is why I am against late-term abortions, in particular.)

My decision was a sad and difficult one. It makes me sad to this day and given similar circumstances today, I might choose differently. Still, I believe the decision is an individual one and do not condemn those who choose to have early abortions. I do, however, condemn later abortions (except in the case where the health of the mother is at stake, or when the mother is very young)because I believe they are needlessly irresponsible.

Spiritually, I believe there is a karmic price to be paid for an abortion, but there is a karmic price for any choice that brings harm to any or all of God's creation. In our choices, there are lessons to be learned.

I do not like to argue with those who are adamantly Pro-Life because they have a right to believe that all life is sacred. I would simply say that forcing a mother to carry an unwanted baby is also a form of violence. In my opinion, early on in the pregnancy, the well-being of the mother must come first.

I'm not sure that conversations between those who are Pro-life and those who are pro-choice can ever sway one side or the other. But- as Obama said- both sides can surely agree that we need to find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to support young mothers.

Thank you for all your great programs! For me, each Saturday morning with Speaking of Faith is a spiritual renewal.
Sincerely, Karen

I'm writing as a "pro-choice" person -- although I've never much liked the terms "pro-life" or "pro-choice." I think they push us further away from one another and cheapen what should be a serious and careful conversation.
About twenty years ago, my husband organized a forum on abortion. He was managing an art cinema and whenever the theater showed a provocative or issue-focused film, he would hold a panel discussion after the Sunday matinee. I can't remember the film that inspired the Abortion Forum, but the event itself stands out in my memory.
The usual format was to invite a group of experts to speak and then have a Q&A session with the audience. But for the Abortion Forum, he invited a very caring family therapist we knew to moderate an open discussion. There must have been 300 people in the audience. There was not an empty seat in the place. As I recall, we were all, apart from my husband, women, although that may not be an accurate memory.
The woman who was moderating told her own story of abortion and then invited anyone who wanted to speak to tell her story. And one by one, women stood and spoke. Women who were extremely pro-choice, women who were extremely pro-life, and everyone in between. There was just one rule. No kibbitzing, analyzing, arguing, or one-upping. Just listening to one another with as much heart as we could muster. A lot of healing happened in that room that day. A lot of laughter, a lot of tears, a lot of connection. It was a very safe space. Women who had kept their story secret for years found the strength to tell it. Women who had never forgiven themselves for terminating a pregnancy found forgiveness from women who were fiercely anti-abortion.
It was a room of three hundred women, mostly strangers, all different lifestyles, value systems, and religions. But in the simple telling of and listening to our stories, we found the commonality that binds us all together.
And call me crazy or simple-minded, but I believe if we can work for that commonality, if we can focus on all that connects us, rather than what divides us, if we will simply listen, really listen to one another's stories, and leave all the posturing and opinions at the door, I suspect the abortion debate will lose its charge and we'll be able to find inspired resolution for all.

As a Hospice director and chaplain in he 90's - I often said that if everyone received the kind of hospice and palliative care available, that the euthanasia debate would be a mute point.

Is there something similar in the abortion issue? I think we're starting to hear a little move away from extremes in the Dem platform and the shared value of less abortions.

I also think Frederica Matthewes-Green needs to be heard on this. issue
(Frederica.com) - Orthodox writer and speaker who Krista is undoubtedly knows of. She has written strongly on true women's choices and the incredible work done by those in crisis pregnancy centers who go beyond protest to compassionate care.

LM

I am "Pro-Life", but lately I have been making a point to approach that position from a "social moral" or "social structuring" position. Too many voices push back against a supposed religious intrusion into such a personal issue. But this issue goes beyond religion, into the realm of ethics and the dignity of human life. Where do we draw the line? How can we say that "this life doesn't matter" or that "this life does"? How do the ethical implications of abortion impact how we address "end of life" issues? Does human life have value only because I think that it does, or is there an intrinsic value to human life that does not depend on what I or someone else may think? Does human life only have value because some religion tells us so?

Besides passion, the thing both sides of this issue seem to have in common is a strong sense of certainty about a subject that is not only complex but shrouded in mystery. There can be no certainty about an answer to the question about the origin of an individual life. And unless you are willing to settle for the rather limited definitions of science--which touch only on biological mechanisms--there is not much certainty about what a human life is. Abortion may be tragic, but calling it murder in the face of this mystery is not only reckless but harmful to the quality of our social relations and political discourse. And as with any assertion of rights, the claim for "choice" must take into account the responsibilities associated with chosing in the face of the mystery of our life. Both sides of this contentious debate need to realize that the frame of pro-life/pro-choice that has hardened around our understanding of abortion is set within a vast mystery. Who am I? Neither side can see through the darkness all the way to the end. Neither should lay such passionate claim to the certainty that motivates them in support of their respective position.

I always vote Democrat. I believe abortion is wrong and would not encourage anyone near and dear to me to have an abortion. To me it is a sanctity of life issue. All life is sacred, created and part of God. Neither the age nor the inocence of the life is the overriding fact. The overriding fact is that all life is sacred. I say that to point out why I vote democrat. Republicans seem to only focus on the sanctity of life they consider to be innocent. That would be unborn children and people they deem deserving. If all life is sacred then even the non-diserving life is sacred. That would include children after they are born and begin to live which is messy and often leads to actions that render that life non diserving in the REpublican worldview. Acoordng to Jesus we are supposed to love our enemies. That is the crux of the matter. An enemy is life that most would say deserves to be discarded and held in contempt. Jesus will not let us off the hook that easy. We must consider all life with love even the life of our enemy who in our eyes is vile and below respect . The Democratic worldview seems to have a higher view of the value of all life therefore it better fits with the teaching of Jesus. As a follower of Jesus I believe that is of high importance. It is not always easy to follow Jesus but it is sad when those who claim to bear his name refuse to even try.

I believe that life begins at conception. I also am pro-choice.

The man you interviewed in your last broadcast (who was so well spoken) said something like he didn't see where pro-choice and anti-choice people could ever come together because it's either life or it isn't. I think both sides could agree on and work together toward a goal of eliminating the need for abortion.

They can join efforts in promoting the sanctity of life by making sure pregnant women have healthcare; making sure our culture supports families; helping with childcare; taking care of unwanted babies and families in crisis; promoting real sex education for pre-teens and teens so they really understand the consequences of sex and we don't have unwanted pregnancies; opposing the death penalty, opposing war. That is if they are really pro-life and not just anti-choice.

The term "pro-life" isn't very accurate term for what the movement is about, it makes one think that the alternate view must be "pro-death." No one I know is "pro-abortion." More than 40 percent of women in the U.S. will have an abortion in their lifetime. It's not too realistic to think that a law will stop that--it never has before in human history--we have to do more if we really care about life.

Jesus supposedly said what so ever you do to the least of your brother that you do unto me. All we have to do is take that to heart, really, and these two sides can work together toward a shared goal of eliminating the need for abortion.

For years since I first heard about abortion, it had no real meaning for me until as a flight attendant, a roommate burst into our room crying..."Today would have been my babies one year old birthday" she said. She went on to tell me the story...sobbing the whole time. Since then, over the years I've realized that the aftermath of having an abortion is the secret most women never want to reveal or talk about. I wonder if or how much they think about it. I've talked to psychologists who tell me the hardest discussion they've had as therapists involves regret...as the woman ages...to get over and realize that they cannot fix that decision. I work at an urban Health Department now and hear everyday, the date stamp get put on the paperwork of those who've aborted the week before...some twice in one year. I wonder if the pain my roommate had will haunt them later on.
For me that pain would be unbearable.
Elizabeth

Michael Sandel covers alot of compelling territory that is related to this difficult issue in his book, "The Case Against Perfection."
in it he uses a hypothetical case for folks to consider: if a fire broke out in a fertility lab, and there were 24 fertilized embryos sitting on a table, and also the 5 year old daughter of one of the staff members, trapped in two different rooms in the burning building, and you only had time to go into one room and save the occupant(s), which would it be?

I dont know anyone (yet) who says they would save the embryos first.
however, i am sure that there are some who would argue that the embryos should be saved first.

i think this illustration at least would make folks acknowledge that there is no fixed line about "when meaningful life starts" and where a "human being" is defined and "deserves" the rights accorded to extrauterine life. also, it hopefully makes folks realize that the situation is truly truly complicated and that these issues are gray at best - and that respect is required to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Society's laws have to be purely pragmatic without morality.

Women get abortions. It's always been so, and always will be so. Providing safe abortions is truly a necessary evil. Like soldiers dying, murderers being executed, and police/firefighters getting killed. It's one of the four ways that a government has to recognize that some of it's citizens must die for the common good. Laws can be immoral. But we have to know that they are necessary.

Religious laws have to be purely moral without pragmatism.

So, abortion is always wrong. It's a tragedy for the mother, the father, the baby and the world. It should not be illegal, but it should be regarded as a mortal sin.

I'm a recent college graduate who is re-engaging with my home church where I came of age spiritually throughout my teenage years. Coming from a liberal culture in the Boston Public Schools, I attended Gordon College, a Christian liberal arts institution, and really wrestled with spirituality, ethics and politics. I believe we ought to protect life in all forms, but I am frustrated at how Evangelicals have engaged in politics with a holier-than-thou attitude and a non-negotiable approach to complex public policy issues.

It's been difficult trying to articulate a Biblical view of justice, compassion and equality (therefore endorsing some "liberal" agenda items) and not be dismissed by fellow Christians as "not serious enough about faith." The assumed norm is that a Christian should have a clear conviction on life ethics and marriage and family values, and when political support for a candidate who is pro-choice – that is deemed to be an unchristian and immoral choice. This seemingly unequivocal support for pro-life candidates and the GOP is only matched by a stubborn suspicion of liberal candidates and movements which advocate for moral values such as creation care, economic stewardship, equality, peace-making and justice – all of which are prominent moral issues in the Bible. I personally believe that this type of support is encouraged by the assumption that Christians ought to stand up for what’s right while the secular society is doomed – which is an incomplete and divisive view of civic engagement. Moreover, the reality that life-ethics is such a vital issue adds to the self-righteousness of Christians that are for it. However, this is often just a proxy for conservative agenda to maintain the status quo of unfettered spending (government and individuals), free-market fundamentalism, and worst of all, not addressing the problem Christians are trying to tackle in the first place. Voting pro-life thus becomes the easy choice for Christians because it ultimately asks very little for the Christian in terms of civic engagement and in return rewards him or her with the satisfaction of standing for the truth. Why wrestle with justice, inequality, gender and sexuality in a pluralistic society when a Christian can start and end political engagement with the ballot and the picket signs? When the battle is focused on verbally attacking pro-choicers, harassing abortion clinicians, and fanning the flames of culture wars (of sexual ethics, class, and race) – it diminishes the opportunity for Christians to step in as agents of compassion, affirmation and effectiveness. This then results in extreme pro-choicers and other secularists filling the vacuum with inconsistent life-ethics and removing moral and spiritual dimension in such vital choices – leaving pregnant women with little middle-ground alternatives.

After all, public discourse is important, but uncivil debates do not serve women who are facing the decision to terminate to sustain pregnancy. Christians should be as scandalized by the daily murders via abortion as daily struggles which women face and the larger culture and narrative of gender roles, sexual ethics, social accountabilities, family, and class. Unfortunately, these conversations are quickly deemed as socialist or liberal and therefore unwelcomed in Evangelical religious discourse. A dynamic which I think shows that Evangelicals are “single-issue” voters with an underlying materialistic and individualistic agenda. I think, therefore, voting pro-life feels good, a Christian feels good to know he/she is on God’s side, but are slow to examine the causes of high-abortion rates (abortion is not always just a convenient choice), slow to lead a lifestyle of service and sacrifice (think about how frugal and generous habits can affect the community, and make room for adoption, counsel or service for women and families), and slow to see the humanity in the “other side”, the victims and those who deserve reaching out to and working with to reduce the number of abortions. Lastly, I’d like to point out that the GOP and conservatives in the political class recently have courted the Evangelical vote quite effectively, but in fact have betrayed our trust not just by acting with arrogance, exceptionalism and alienation of opponents, but also simply by being ineffective and unapologetic – which shows in the Bush Administration’s recent cutbacks of contraceptives in Africa: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/09/opinion/09kristof.html?em

If Christians can start walking humbly in this issue, God also has a host of issues He invites us to be co-workers with him on – to steward nature, to administer justice, to feed the hungry and care for the imprisoned, the sick and oppressed.

Samuel Tsoi
worldview@gmail.com
October 2008

I am both pro-life and pro-choice though neither of these terms adequately describe my point of view as neither major political party stands for what I believe. I believe that all life is sacred, that humans exist long before conception and that with conception, implantation and birth begins the process of a human spirit uniting with a human body. Thus, abortion cannot be anything but a tragedy and I am pro-life.

At the same time I don't think any of us have the right to limit another person's freedom and that one cannot separate the baby from the mother. We cannot say that an unborn child has the same rights as the mother when it is unable to live without being in the womb of the mother. If abortion is made illegal many women will seek illegal abortions and may die in the process. Thus, I am pro-choice.

I would love to see a policy which would allow emergency contraception (abortion before implantation, which is when the mother's body agrees to allow the fetus to grow within her), and would discourage all other abortions by providing financial help for poor women with unwanted pregnancies, better educational and work opportunities for mothers and a simpler process for adoption. I think that many women would choose to birth their babies rather than abort them if they felt that they could care for them well. What we need is not more laws that limit a person's freedoms but more compassion and support for mothers and children and more recognition of the father's responsibility in unwanted pregnancies.

What I do not understand is how someone can be pro-life and then also support war, the death penalty, or any other policy or action in which humans are treated inhumanely or killed. To be pro-life, means to me that one honors all human life, even that of criminals, terrorists, and those we don't like or agree with. It saddens me that some people fight tooth and nail for the rights of the unborn but not the rights of those who have already been born. Can we say that life is sacred and not honor the lives of all people?

Where did the words "pro-choice" and "pro-life" even come from in the first place?
I grew up in a Pentecostal family, and have attended churches of several different denominations of Christianity throughout my life. Yet I can't think of anything before where the prefix "pro-" was used to describe spiritual doctrine so absolutely.
It strikes me as odd that such a fresh and modern label like "pro-life" would become a banner for very traditional and conservative Christian values.

These labels seem to focus on being so PRO-something, it makes me question if the words are the fruit of marketing-savvy leaders in an effort to disguise more embarrassing ANTI-something words. Perhaps both sides (and everyone in-between) need to talk more honestly about what they are so against. These pro- words seem too innocuous and too easy to do justice to the obvious contention raging in the abortion issue.

On a side note, I also think the abortion issue is peripheral to other internal struggles among Christians that had gotten much less public spotlight until recently with Jeremiah Wright and Sarah Palin. Issues such as racial stereotyping and pre-marital sex are closely tied to, if not preceded, the abortion debate in this country. So I wonder where are these debates of morality - are they being concealed or are they just lying in wait for the next culture clash. I hear pro-Lifers make comments such as "well, she had a choice to get pregnant or not!". This is a popular comment that seems more a condemnation of "irresponsibility" or "looseness" - a condemnation often seen pointed at young people and minorities during our post-civil-rights era. I wonder how much of this debate goes back to the backlash and perhaps resentment against the progressive and so-called "radical" tone of 60's and 70's American culture?

I think one of the reasons inflexible barriers exist on this issue is that life is viewed (here in the West) on a linear timeline; it has a definitive beginning, and it has a definitive end.
Most of us are comfortable with the notion that death (lack of breath or heartbeat) is the end of that timeline. But the beginning is not so easily defined, especially with advances in modern medicine revealing much about development in utero. Because of our desire to 'cap' or quantify the notion of a human life, we want to ferment another moment that signifies the beginning as well.
So, I believe that it is this notion of a fixed linear view of life that is the heart of this controversy. Which in some ways is ironic because religious people, those who have a firm belief in life continuing after death, seem the most insistent that there needs to be a clear starting point for it.

I have chosen to remain anonymous because my story involves another person, and I must respect her privacy.

Two years ago, my younger sister had a tubal pregnancy that required
emergency. Her fallopian tube was removed, which, of course, also terminated her pregnancy.

Are my sister and her surgeons murderers? Should a young mother and wife be put at risk of death in order to save an embryo that is very unlikely to survive?

If someone truly believes that any termination of a pregnancy after conception is murder, then the answer is yes. Yet I know that my sister wanted to have another baby, and by no means was this murder. After this incident brought this issue home to me in a very personal way, I find it absolutely insulting that people hold such extreme views so tightly that they are unwilling to admit that there are exceptions.

So many discussions of abortion are simplistic, as though the issue were easy. But the truth is, the issue is complex, and that is why it has been debated for centuries. Very few people have read the Roe v. Wade decision, and people on both sides misrepresent it. The Court lays out the individual rights of both a pregnant woman and her unborn child, as well as the interests of the State, and attempts to balance those rights. A woman's rights to health and life cannot be disregarded. An unborn child's right to life cannot be disregarded. The state's interest in protecting a woman's rights and an unborn child's rights cannot be disregarded. One may disagree with the way that the Court balanced these rights, but views that disregard these rights are a discredit to us all. Extreme pro-life views disregard a woman's right to health and life. Extreme pro-choice views disregard an unborn child's right to life. The solution lies somewhere between these extremes. Until politicians are willing to drop the polarizing views that they use to win votes, and become willing to sit down and discuss the nuances.

I am saddened by the ease with which women can get abortion on demand. However, I also fear that one day embryos will be granted rights that supercede the rights of adult women.

Is Roe v. Wade perfect? Probably not. But we would do well to follow Roe v. Wade's lead in acknowledging the various rights and interests that must be considered. Until that happens, the conversation on this issue will continue to be dominated by extreme minority views.

From a Pro-Balance woman in Minnesota.

My main point in writing is to strongly recommend a little-known and excellent "pro-life" organization with a very fresh approach, one that avoids all the negatives of the mainstream pro-life movement that has resulted in so much division, polarization, and animosity. It's called Feminists for Life. They have a real gift for finding common ground between people across the political spectrum who disagree on the abortion issue and have a very fresh, non-judgmental, and non-ideological approach. They can be found at: http://www.feministsforlife.org/index.htm

As for me, briefly, in order of questions:

I don't think there are any "spiritual" aspects of abortion. I think through the moral aspects based on my belief (I am a Catholic Christian) in the dignity and intrinsic worth of every human being in themselves. This is the same belief that explains my opposition to racism, sexism, child abuse, slavery, capital punishment, exploitation of the poor, etc. Who is a human being and who isn't is a question I believe that can be answered through reason and good empirical science, as long as it isn't hindered by ideological blinders. This is why I believe a human being comes into existence at the moment of conception and is no longer present after natural death.

People who "feel" differently? This is a category mistake. We don't - or shouldn't - "feel" our moral judgments on anything. If you mean "think" or "judge" differently, then yes, I would like to understand their reasoning when it comes to determining who is and is not a human being. In my experience, "pro-choice" adherents do not even seriously engage the debate at this level.

I would like pro-choice supporters to understand that when it comes to everything else about the issue - the rights and interests of women, especially in the "tough cases" of incest and rape, I share their sympathy, outrage, and understanding of the tragic and impossible situations women find themselves in. The first tragedy is that women find themselves in situations where they need to make such a choice in the first place - either their needs have not been met in some fundamental way, or they have been used or abused by men - both moral evils that need to be opposed.

Again, I think Feminists for Life provides a new frame of reference that can bring people together. Take a look at their website! Their founder would be an excellent interview.

To me the most compelling fact has always been, is, and will continue to be that women have been ending pregnancies for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Any history of abortion (not abortion rights, but the actual practice and procedure) demonstrates that methods for terminating pregnancy ranging from mechanical to chemical (using various herbs) have been known and used throughout history. Most recently, in the U.S. in the pre-Roe v. Wade era, we heard of "back-room" abortions performed by unqualified persons under unsanitary conditions using tools which included coat-hangers. These abortions not only resulted in a termination of the pregnancy, but the maiming or death of the mother as well.

We will never agree on "when life begins", so let's stop debating it and look at FACTS. A woman will find a way to abort an unwanted pregnancy if she wants to. Shall we take the woman's life in the process? Shall we leave her unable to conceive and deliver a wanted child? What exactly is to be gained by outlawing safe, sanitary procedures?

I cannot control your behavior and you cannot control mine or that of any other woman. The issue to me is not when life begins, or even the right to choose. The is issue is can our society deal with an existing condition that will not change (i.e. the fact that some women will terminate their pregnancies) in a safe, sane manner?

I have thought long and hard about the abortion issue. Here are my 3 key challenges to each side of the abortion debate:

A. Key questions for any *pro-life* person:
1. What certainty does a religious pro-life person have that the soul enters the body at conception or soon thereafter, when the fetus is made up of only a few cells, rather than nearer the time of viability or perhaps even at birth? In the absence of such certainty, why not show greater respect to people's right to live according to their own theological views?
2. There are many immoral behaviors that are not made illegal (from adultery to never giving money to charity). Such behaviors are typically those favored or condoned by a large portion of the population. Because abortion currently falls into this category, what wisdom is there in trying to outlaw it entirely? What OTHER action/behavior/belief that is supported by about 50% of the population is also sought to be made outright illegal, and if the answer is "none," then perhaps there is no wisdom in the outright outlawing of abortion?
3. If abortion is truly murder, how can the overwhelming majority of people favor abortion in the case of rape or incest?

B. Key questions for any *pro-choice* person:
1. Isn't a fetus more accurately said to be "IN A woman's body" rather than "A woman's body"?
2. If a fetus has considerably more worth than a toenail, isn't what happens to it of considerably greater consequence and thus of greater concern to society than what a woman does with her toenail?
3. Arguing that a woman who wants to carry a fetus to term has a fetus of great moral worth, but that a woman who wants to have an abortion has a fetus of no moral worth suggests that the woman's thoughts and wishes are the only factors that determine the worth of a fetus. Isn't such an argument morally untenable?

Faith has no place in politics or our government. it only divides the American prople and is used as a weapon. All people should have the Freedom to practice whatever faith they want. And having this freedom is what makes our nation special not mixing it with politics. There are people of numerous faiths in our nation and those who do not believe in God at all. When the word Liberal and conservative are mixed with religion it is a divisive tactic that is destructive to our Democratic way of life and because it focuses on the Christian faith is bias and distracts us from the more important issues that we face. There was a reason the founding fathers separated church and state and we are seeing the harmful effects unfold right before our eyes.

Government should not be invloved in the topics below

I, first and foremost reject the phrase pro-life. I am pro choice, meaning that I believe that a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body, including whether or not to have an abortion. I also believe in life - I am against the death penalty, which so many anti- abortion people are for, and yet claim to be pro life. I have two children that I chose to have. I am an atheist - I don't believe in god and I very adamantly do not believe in organized religion. I have had an abortion - after having two children and knowing that i could not handle another. I have no regrets, no apologies. I respect the right of every woman to do what she chooses when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Your guest today is incredibly hypocritical when stating that we are not the 'cops of the world' in regard to spreading our values - he has no business telling me or any women what to do with their bodies.

Although I am a very strong advocate and supporter of protecting human rights, I do not believe that human rights begin at conception. Conception joins two cells that begin to further divide and grow. Until the nervous system forms, self-awareness is impossible. For some time, no one is aware that conception has taken place. If these few cells are destroyed, there is little or no loss; the cells are unaware, others are unaware, and conception can usually be readily repeated.

While replication, such as cell division, is the signature of life, self-awareness is the signature of sentient beings. Human rights certainly arise whenever the developing human becomes self-aware, or others begin to know and care about the fetus, infant, or person. Specifying when this takes place is complex, if not impossible.

In considering abortion, the rights of the mother, father, and family have to be balanced against the rights of the unborn child. This is a complex assessment that must consider the circumstances of the pregnancy, the extent of development since conception, the health of the developing fetus, the fertility of the couple, and their love, resources, plans and preferences.

Discussions about abortion often focus on preserving human souls. I believe that self-awareness emerges as our brains attain a certain level of complexity, perhaps as an infant approaches one year old. That emergent self-awareness is often confounded with the notion of a divine soul that originates externally, and may outlive the body. While the emergence of self-awareness is extraordinary and awe inspiring, it is not evidence for a divine soul that can exist without human consciousness. Frankly there is no evidence for such a divinely created and sustained soul. To claim there is a “ghost in the machine” is extraordinary, and that extraordinary claim has to be substantiated by extraordinary evidence. There is so much we do not understand about the origins and nature of the universe. It is authentic to admit to what we do not understand; it is speculation to hold firmly to an unsubstantiated explanation.

Is it possible to be both pro-choice and pro-life? How about calling it pro-women and children. Now get ready, 'cause I'm about to get brutally honest.

As a 44 year old woman, I was faced with the awful choice of ending two pregnancies that left me with tremendous hurt and pain. I have a daughter who, if she ever found herself with an unwanted pregnancy, I would encourage her to have it and either give it up for adoption, or I'd help her with raising it. If my now 20 year old son fathered a child, I'd help him with that one too.

Not too long ago, the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC had a guest who was pro-choice and she said something about women who've chosen to have abortions never feeling life-long hurt or guilt or something (I don't remember off hand) and I called in to correct her (gave a different name). The first abortion I had was when I was 19 and despite my pro-life beliefs, I had no support from the father (who was trying to deny it), his family or my family, so I capitualated and afterwards lost most of my friends, suffered from post-abortion depression, self-destructive and suicidal thoughts for years. I directly attribute that experience and my lack of getting proper emotional support as the reason I married my first husband who I later felt was on the verge of phyiscally abusing me. In addition, these self-loathing feelings interferred with my finishing college and were feeding my terrible self-esteem, again, for years -- possibly even until now to a lesser degree.

That abortion sent me down a road of drug abuse for a few years and man-hating promiscuity. Eventually I decided I needed forgiveness and I got involved with a questionable religious group called The Way International, which is where I met my ex-husband (he seemed to accept all of me at first). TWI's interpretation of the Bible suggested that abortion may not actually be murder since the Old Testament did not require the death of someone who maliciously caused a woman to mis-carry, but instead the husband could set a price. This was liberating to me and allowed me feel slightly above unworthy for the first time since having ended that pregnancy.

Some years after having ended my first marriage (we had a son together), I had a car accident that injurred my back to the point of my having a limp and nerve damage. About a year after that I met my current husband and we had an unexpected pregnancy within the first few weeks of seeing each other. My delemma or Sophie's Choice became trying to figure out if I was going to be seriously disabled by this pregnancy and thereby unable to continue caring for my learning disabled son (he's dyslexic and I've been his only advocate). Despite the fact that I wanted another child, my husband and I didn't really know each other and I vowed I'd never terminate another pregnacy, but I hadn't had enough time yet to heal my back sufficiently, so I felt I had to choose my 11 year old son and preserve my health -- not to mention that I didn't have health insurance at that point.

My coping mechanisms are a bit better developed by now and I found some relief through traction therapy and activator chiropractic. My husband and I had a wonderful little girl 6 years ago (October 22) and she has healed my heart tremendously. My back was worse for a while after having her, but not to the point of being disabled.

I look at my son as saving my life, because when he was 3 months old, he was the motivator for my seeking out and remaining with a psycho-therapist for 4 years. The birth of my daughter then brought us all back to life after some terrible experiences by bringing new love to all of us.

What I wish people would do is to stop arguing about this topic from an idealogic stand-point, and instead talk to the real people who have walked the walk to find out the reality of what's needed. If so-called pro-life people want to stop abortion, then universal pre-natal and post-natal care should be automatic, as well as actual options for young women and girls who have an unwanted pregnancy. It's as if they want to shame these women by not supporting them in having these children and then calling them baby killers if they terminate the pregnancy. Why is it that they're so concerned with the unborn, but seem to have total contempt and condemnation for the living. Newsflash: From what I've read about God, he's a God of forgiveness and if we're supposed to be more like Him, then it's a no-brainer. As for pro-choicers, they try to say that there are no long-term emotional scars from abortion -- well I'm here to tell you that there are and the truth of this conversation needs to finally be told.

I believe that abortion should remain a choice, but that real alternatives should be more available for all women of all classes. However, I will never let my daughter live with the guilt, sadness, grief and hurt that I will always feel. There is no easy way out of pregnancy, it changes the life of the parents no matter what route is taken. I just hope to God that those other two babies will forgive me.

Please contact me first, if you're thinking of publishing this story.

I would like to suggest two interesting and important new angles on the abortion issue:

1. Men and abortion.
In this context I would recommend that you interview Dr. Arthur B. Shostak, author of the 1984 book "Men and Abortion: Lessons, Losses, Love."
shostaka@drexel.edu
http://www.futureshaping.com/shostak/

2. The idea of Choice as it might be applied to men.
An unwanted pregnancy can have very significant effects on men's lives, often interrupting or completely derailing educational plans and career options, tying them to eighteen or more years of economic obligation for which they might be totally unprepared. Pro-choice advocates give women the right to make their own life choices, but they seldom give any consideration to life options for men.

Best wishes for an important and enlightening program.

Conversations on abortion quickly become contentions for a number of reasons.

People arrive at their strongly-held beliefs using a variety of approaches that are rarely discussed and not often understood. We each use some theory of knowledge to decide what to believe. It can be helpful to directly discuss our theories of knowledge See: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/theoryofk.htm

People aggressively assert their own firmly held beliefs, even when those beliefs do not have a firm foundation. See: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/belief.htm

People use a divisive tone of communication when dialogue would be more helpful. See: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/tone.htm

People establish false dichotomies that make vital parts of the solution space invisible. See: http://knol.google.com/k/leland-beaumont/false-dilemma/1oqldl2m8prj5/8#

People are unskilled in the practice of dialogue. See: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/dialogue.htm

And people are unskilled in resolving conflict. See: http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/conflict.htm

Improving our skills in these areas can lead to more enlightened dialogues on the difficult topic of abortion. I hope these web pages, that I have written, can be helpful in moving the discussion forward.

I am pro-life, both before and after someone is born.

I feel abortion is wrong, and that society should do what it can to make the procedue rare, through education, the free distribution of contraceptives, and legal limits short of a return to the bad old days of back alley abortions.

That said, I am pro-life after someone is born as well. Capital punishment is wrong. War, when not it's not self defense, is evil. Torture is wrong. Higher taxes don't bother me if they can reduce the growing gap bewteen rich and poor. And how about a "living wage". That seems to be a pro-life position.

Am I alone? I don't think so. Here in Wisconsin, one of the more Catholic states in the nation, many like me are torn between the pro-life (before birth) position of someone like McCain, and the pro-life (after birth) positions of Senator Obama. Yet the media never talks about us.

1. Each child brought into the world needs loving hands, needs to be wanted before birth, needs to be loved before birth, needs to be received at birth with devotion to moment-to-moment long-term care. Each child needs to be given a good life! This is an enormous responsibility for the parent. Each child brought into this world needs parents ready with a safe, nurturing, warm, loving environment, parents who can and want to provide the child with a good life, who will feed the child's body, mind, spirit. This is a true "pro-life" view. (Some seem to insist that a child be born but look away for the rest of its life, leaving it in the lurch).Each child needs a good life, not just any life. I'm a mother and teacher who loves children.

2. Forcing any person to go through childbirth is a form of torture.

3.Forcing any person to become a parent is endangering the life of the child."Pro-life" should mean the life of the child is nurtured by the whole society, with long-term care, as each child needs.

4. A woman with child is a woman with a lifetime of care ahead needed for each child. This huge responsibility needs to be chosen, not forced.

I am a pro-choice person. To me, this means leaving the choice up to a woman and her doctor. What right has a person especially a male tell me what to do with my body. The pro-life people would better serve society concentrating on the children who are here now with providing a secure enviornment. That means making health care, education and a clean safe world available for those children who do not now have them. Now that is pro-life.

The topic of abortion is a very difficult one for me. I have been on either side of the divide multiple times in my life. I have never had to make the decision for myself, and so I am just supposing I can be a fair essayist without the perspective of facing the decision. I am so ambivalent about abortion. I cannot help but think that it is awful the way we find it so easy to kill people in the United States. I think of capital punishment as awful for how it detaches us from our own humanity. I think of abortion in this way, too. We are precious to God among all the creatures on earth. However, I try to put myself sometimes in the place of the woman or girl who is pregnant and perilously close to setting herself on a path to lifelong poverty with the birth of a baby. The birth could so profoundly change the trajectory of some women's lives because they lack the resources that some of us can take for granted. Whether to take a pregnancy to term is not devastating for a woman or girl with great family support of her, reliable financial means, an education, and the emotional strength to withstand the stress of the unwanted pregnancy and either raising the child or living with the pain of giving the baby for adoption. I cannot make that choice for someone else. Unambivalently, I believe that in the case of rape, incest, or a real threat to a woman's health, she should be able to make the decision in her best interest without taking grief from other people. I offer you the example of the woman with serious mental illness who has a pre-school child. She cannot stop medication for her illness without risking becoming ill and hospitalized or dangerous. She should not place the unborn child at risk of developing under the physiologic influence of these medications in her body. This is a serious medical decision. I do not belong in this decision. My religion does not belong in her decision.

Yet, I surely believe that for some the choice to abort a pregnancy is absolutely cavalier. How repugnant. But, I accept that I am not in control of her, though some part of me wants to be. What will be the life of a child born to her? What about the loss of life in abortion? Surely, this unborn spirit will not go to hell. I have felt the closeness of God in dark times in my life. I feel God's compassion and forgiveness. It is not my impression of God that the unborn spirit is more loved than the living. I think the unwavering placement of greater value on the unborn than on the living woman and those who her pregnancy will impact is the imperfect judgment of human beings. Why do we try to insert ourselves so aggressively in the lives of others? Haven't we all felt that God deals with us in our right and wrong actions? So, though I would prefer that the person who cavalierly took a decision for abortion had not done so, I pray that God will touch her privately and show her another way. I genuinely hope that people who are so anti-abortion will have compassion for that woman who chose abortion and will pray for her to be in prayer about that decision even after the fact. God has forgiveness for her, if she was wrong, and has support for her, if she was right.

I think that as we think about abortion, we should also think about the death penalty. Must we do this? Is is so impossible to feed and cloth and impress humanity upon the murderer? Can we not challenge him to come to God? Why do we kill this person? Are we trying to send them to hell before they can repent and come into the graceful embrace of God?

I am concerned that the vehemence hurled at people who get abortions or perform them is not from the spirit of holiness. What we hear sometimes is absolutely hateful. I cannot reconcile to that approach to disagreement even on something one feels passionate about. I would say that people on both sides of the debate need to accept that we do not know everything. We are not God and we are not the person that has to make a decision and live with it.

I am an obstrician-gynecologist and this is my take on the abortion issue. A survey of teenage girls asked which is morally worse--to plan to have premarital sex and to have sex, or not to plan but still to have sex, and planning was worse--probably analogous to premeditated murder being morally worse than a crime of passion. But the outcome of that thought process is that girls and women who are most conflicted about their sexual behaviors are the ones most likely to get into trouble. Which may be why Catholics are actually over-represented among women and girls who choose to have abortions. In my practice, I have taken care of pregnant teens where the mother says to me "we don't believe in abortion but SHE can't have a baby." Many people who believe and vote anti-abortion clearly have some flexibility in the belief that life begins at conception. After all, if abortion were truly murder how could you make an exception for rape or incest, or even the life of the mother? You can't kill a baby who is a product of rape or incest, or because the mother needs its bone marrow for cancer treatment. Full human rights begin at birth. Through history women and girls have found themselves in situations in which abortion seemed like the only option. Where abortions are illegal, young women die from making this choice. In the 1950s and 1960s, obstetrician-gynecologists were the experts in the treatment of total body infection (sepsis) because they saw women die. I wonder whether the people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade understand that women will die because these women will still make the choice to terminate a pregnancy that is unacceptable to them. There is a difference between feeling that abortion is wrong and making it unavailable and unsafe for others. And sometimes those others turn out to be you or someone you love. I don't understand why groups who really oppose abortion don't take community actions that would actually decrease the number of abortions. Even if they don't believe in birth control, they could support mothers who choose to place their babies for adoption with places to live and free prenatal care, for example.

RE: New Frame of Reference.

Despite your pro-life or pro-choice position, the abortion issue has always been resolvable but the real issue is why we are afraid to resolve it. I introduce a frame of reference and a road map that can be used to address the issue in a short article at the following link: http://www.successthroughquality.com/Abortion_issue.htm

The basic premise and principles: People can agree on facts, ideals, and can find common cause that they can work together to reduce. They will likely always disagree on desired outcomes, e.g, legality of abortion. An ideal represents a standard of perfection (everybody wins) that one can strive for but never achieve: a fact that makes continuous improvement possible.

The U.S political system was founded upon these principles and is a system that was designed to be continually improved (if we so choose) through quality leadership (as opposed to political leadership), amendments, and new and/or improved laws.

To summarize, the abortion issue can be resolved through application of the quality leadership paradigm which can be applied immediately but may take a little longer to fully comprehend.

My personal story, Transformation to a World that Works for Almost Everyone, is availabe at the following link:
http://www.successthroughquality.com/bbl-oct10.htm

Many Americans will never move off their stances on abortion until we are willing to go beyond simply stating “I’m against the taking of life,” or “I support the woman’s right to choose.” These terse phrases are too facile, letting people off the hook on the accountability for the outcomes of their stance.

Opponents of abortion talk only about the elimination of killing, but not about obvious outcomes that will probably result with ending legal abortions. What financial responsibilities will be established for a mother’s medical necessities during the pregnancy and robust adoption services after the birth? What is the pro-family social responsibility the nation would then have of caring for those unaborted lives condemned to a marginal life with a teenage mother?

Supporters of pro-choice see abortion as a woman’s right, but only consider that right extended to the person carrying the fetus. The life essence within the womb is considered part of the mother, not an person unto itself.

While most pro-choicers could never take a life themselves, nor condone the death penalty, they support the freedom of women to make the choice of ending life in the womb as a form of contraception or eliminating a less than ‘perfect’ child, too many times cloaked in guarding the health of the mother. Whether as a form of contraception or retaining a lifestyle, too many pro-choice advocates do not consider accepting the responsibility of conceiving that child.

Until we extend the discussion on abortion beyond the action of aborting life, there will be no movement forward. Unless the fetus is seen and considered in equal standing to a human outside the womb and social legislation is an integral alternative to ending a life with safeguards of care during pregnancy and after birth, there can be no common ground on which to discuss the issue to help a woman, who sees this issue in the clear light of day, to answer the question…”What am I to do with this child?”

Dear Ms. Tippett:

I listen to your program every Sunday morning and enjoy the chance to hear so many perspectives. (Crunchie Conservatives? Who would have thought?)

On the abortion issue. There are several points that never get addressed. For instance, Liberals need to admit that abortion really is killing (that's a hot one!), and Conservatives need to admit that horrible things go on when the right to abortion is denyed and that women need a viable choice.

I think the basic issue is that the fight over abortion is a fight over a flaming red herring. If birth control were permitted and its proper use trained into people, the abortion rate would drop dramatically. The real issue has never been abortion, the issue is Sex. Which Americans in particular never seem to be able to deal with even though home training and abstinence have always failed and obviously continue to. But try talking about sex education and birth control. People hit the roof. They can't discuss Sex sanely. They would far rather go back to the divisive but much safer topic of abortion. Its sad since abortion often causes psychological harm and maybe physical harm, and certainly economic harm, to some women, which could have been prevented by the simple use of birth control.

I know everyone cannot use birth control pills, but there are many ways of practicing reliable birth control now. I also know that people wrap Sex up in all kinds of moral bouquets and chains. Sex can be a spiritual experience but it's still just Sex. I wish people could get over themselves.

Personally, I consider myself very lucky. I used birth control pills, starting at 16, given me by my mother when I went on a trip abroad. I used them until I was 26 and then switched to a diaphragm. I never had an abortion but friends of mine did and it was quite difficult for them. I asked why they had not used protection, and the answer was usually that they would have to have admitted to their parents and doctor that they were having sex. This was especially true of teens. So now they had to admit being pregnant? That's better?! No one should have to worry about any of that.

Thanks for the opportunity to write about this issue. Are you going to consider a show on Sex? I hope so Sex has a distincly spiritual side for some religions and some people.

Best regards,
Antonia Davidson

Reframing the argument is key to understanding all sides of the abortion issue. The two main opposing views can be summarized briefly by assuming the focus to be on when life begins. One side says it begins at conception, and that the zygote/embryo/fetus has equal rights with any other fully developed human being. The other side says that the unborn is a living thing, but that it is not a "real person" yet, so it does not have equal rights. Also, the focus is on whether or not the beginning stages of human life are held to be as sacred as a fully formed human being. But what if both sides could agree that life begins at conception, and that the unborn life is as sacred a life as in any other stage of development? It only seems logical then, that abortion is murder. Or, is it?

Throughout human history, the willful killing or taking of human life, has been sanctioned by the laws of man in one form or another. The abortion issue does not set a precedent here. Would it not also be logical to say that the taking of fetal life, is in some cases lawful, and in other cases murder?

As a child of the 60s, my views on abortion come from a time when women did not have full reproductive rights. They didn't have the right to decide what would take place within their own bodies. They had no right to a legal abortion for any reason. The decision to abort a fetus was a medical decision, made by the doctor, with the constraints of the state. The wants of the woman for herself, and for her baby, were only a consideration if the woman had money and/or status.

I knew from an early age, that I didn't want the church or state to have dominion over my body. I wanted women to have the right to a legal abortion for this reason, in addition to the obvious tragic consequences of "back alley" abortions. Now this perspective is only from the point of view of the rights of the mother. What about the rights of the unborn? I believe in fighting for the rights of the unborn, but not over the rights of the mother or other human beings.

Speaking personally, and as a woman, I am pro-life and pro-choice. I would not want to undergo an abortion for any reason. But that is not to say that I would not do so in a circumstance that I cannot fully understand now, that may take place sometime in the future. I would want total jurisdiction over this most personal, life altering decision. I would not want the courts, the church, a family member, or even my doctor making this decision for me. I would take counsel as I saw prudent, but the final decision should be mine alone.

I believe that it is up to the mother to decide what is best for her, and her unborn child, as long as that child can only be viable within the mother's body. In my view, this right cannot be compromised. If the mother does not want to keep her unborn child for any reason (good or bad), does she have the right to kill it? If she has domain over the cells that live within her body, the answer has to be yes. As long as the child is not viable outside of the mother's body, the answer has to be, yes.

If the unborn child could be successfully, and safely transferred from the mother's body to another host, or to an artificial environment in which it could continue to develop, the answer could then be, no. Could the mother be forced to consider this option as opposed to taking the life of the fetus? This is an argument for another time, maybe in the near future, when this technology is available.

I also believe that life begins at conception. This does not mean that I believe the life of the unborn has equal rights with a child who is viable outside the mother's body. This distinction is the key to the abortion argument. As long as the child is not viable outside of the mother, then it remains a part of the mother's body, and she has full jurisdiction over it. Once the child is viable outside of the mother's body, it has full human rights equal to any other.

So, if we can all agree that the beginning of a new life takes place at the moment of conception, and that all life is sacred, and furthermore, if we can all agree that a human being has the authority to control the manipulation of the cells within their own body, so long as these cells cannot be a viable, separate life outside their body, then it would follow that their can be some agreement as to how to write the law.

What we humans share with all creation is our breath. Historically, life was marked by 'the first breath'...and 'the last breath.' For me this is a key element for understanding life and our obligations. Ecology has helped me in my own understanding of the abortion issue. An infant that cannot survive on its own - that cannot breathe - is not 'alive' in the way that its mother is, because it does not breathe; it does not share the air with all life on earth, except indirectly through its mother. I recall the era before the supreme court decision and the reports of women losing their lives in botched illegal abortions. I believe that society's obligation is first to the living.
For the last thirty years, I have been an environmental educator and activist. I have sought to bring people together, especially to overcome artificially created divisions, so that we can work together for a clean and healthy environment. Science has changed and complicated our understanding of conception and birth, and enhanced our ability to save lives of younger and younger prematurely born infants. These changes have complicated our understanding of life, but the fact remains for me that concern for an infant in gestation must be secondary to our concern for the mother.

My 18 year old son walked through the kitchen this morning and overheard just a part of the discussion of abortion and the republican party. He turned to me and said, it is interesting isn't it, that the pro-life people favor the death penalty; while the pro-choice people generally oppose it. This contradiction heightens for me the sense that abortion is used as a 'wedge issue' more than it is truly a moral issue. I guess I would genuinely like to understand how people who support war and the death penalty can balance that with their "pro-life" morality.

I would like them to understand that I do not want to see abortions either. But I believe that the state should not be in the role of legislating how a mother lives and the decisions she makes. I believe the role of the state is to support the living, and the more effectively we do that the less there will be an economic reason for a woman to choose abortion.

While probably painted as an elite, eastern-bred liberal, I think both sides have focused too much on the issue of conception. Neither side talks about, strategizes for, nor finances - emotionally, spiritually or economically - programs for children born out of this dilemma. I suppose the Pro-Choice side says they don't have to, but their focus is altogether about the mother, not the child. The Pro-Life side, supported by churches and some social networks, but not by any government (or, for that matter, any political party) has no safety-net program in place domestically or internationally, not even the Roman Catholic Church, to cre for these kids. Children need our help in their right to be born, but they also need the support in situations where their economic, social, educational, environment is adversely challenged. I do have much trouble when the abortion issue takes center stage. Today, we have huge issues that need to be addressed: invading a foreign country on false pretenses, imprisonment without due process, capital punishment, health care initiatives, especially for the uninsured, education, race and myriad others.

I have been a Presbyterian all my life, but for many years have been frustrated that our views of a Christianity based on peace, compassion, and forgiveness have been overshadowed by the strident voices of the right-wing fundamentalists. Intolerance, bigotry, promises of financial rewards in exchange for faith, and a view of the world as a Christian Holy War are as far from my understanding of Christ's teachings as can be imagined.

Abortion is a more complicated question. Many protestant churches take a pro-choice view, but I can sympathize with those who sincerely believe that life begins at conception. Nevertheless, I would like to see all people of faith and compassion dedicate their energies and resources to caring for our children already in this world, providing them with safety, health, education, love and hope before we even consider bringing thousands of additional children into a society where we do not care for them. There's no morality in considering the unborn as human beings only to abandon them to conditions that should be intolerable to any believer in Christ. Demonstrating concern for those already in our care would go a long way to bridging this most devisive gap among American Christians.

ABORTION
I am 70 years old and remember well the years before ROWE when because of illegal abortions women died or were damaged so they could never again have children. Desperate women have always had abortions and will still have them if ROWE is repealed.
Abortions are sometimes necessary for medical reasons. It is, of course, the non-medical ones that thoughtful consideration. I personally believe be infrequent but safe. "Pro-life" & "Pro-choice" need to talk to each other because many of their goals are the same.

I also strongly believe so called Christians that are "pro-life" yet believe in the death penalty are hypocrites and should be ignored.

FYI I've been thinking about these issues for quite some time. In brief, I think that a major opportunity for developing "common ground" on the abortion issue is that nearly everyone across the spectrum agrees that abortion is inherently a "bad" thing (either "morally," or at least in terms of women's psychological health, etc.); no one thinks it's a "good" thing to have many abortions happen. And there's a growing understanding and agreement that we should be working to reduce the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Some Christian health professionals and activists, for example, realize that increasing the access to family planning services will result in a significant reduction in abortions. (Even Catholic organizations can support "natural family planning" methods, some of which are quite effective and would also reduce the level of abortions performed.)

I have been invited to address the United Nations General Assembly this month (for a panel on "Globalization and Health," along with the Director of the World Health Organization and some other public health experts), and plan to emphasize this point.

Sincerely,

Daniel Halperin, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Lecturer on Global Health
Harvard University School of Public Health
dhalperi@hsph.harvard.edu
(617) 432-7388

Dear Krista

Thanks so much for having the courage to discuss this extremely sensitive subject.

Let me tell you some of my personal experiences with attempting to talk and write about abortion.

I'm the author of 11 books on holistic healing. Back in 1982, Bantam
Books published my third book, Healing the Family—Pregnancy, Birth and Children's Ailments. This was intended to be the first of three books on Natural Healing. The second would have been for ailments of adults, and the third would have been for ailments related to aging. I already had contracts and significant advances for all three books.

My intent was to take a woman (and her partner, if applicable) from the point of thinking about having a child, to conception, through prenatal care, pregnancy, birth, postnatal care, breastfeeding, and remedies for small children. It even included a section on how to cope with miscarriage, stillbirth, or the possible death of an infant. It also seemed perfectly natural to discuss the possibility of an unintended pregnancy, and how to handle that with natural remedies.

This didn't seem unreasonable to my editor, Tobi Sanders, and so we simply sailed through the publication of Healing The Family with the 13 pages on Abortion fully intact.

A few months after the publication of Healing the Family, my editor called to inform me that "people have been complaining" about the section on abortion. Shortly thereafter, all of the books were recalled and destroyed. Yes, this really happened in America. Bantam canceled both my contracts (I did keep the advances).

It took me at least a year to recover from this trauma. When I did, I contacted Crossing Press. They agreed to publish Healing the Family as two separate books: one would be Healing Yourself During Pregnancy, and the other would be A Difficult Decision—A Compassionate Book About Abortion. This time we did not publish the recipes for herbal abortions. The book is primarily visualizations to help women (and their partners) cope with an unexpected pregnancy. It takes what I believed to be a very middle-of-the-road position. Here is an excerpt from the Preface, followed by some reviews.

Excerpt from A Difficult Decision

"The purpose of this book is to give support to the woman (or couple) who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. For most women, this is a profound crisis.
"If you are pregnant, and if you feel ambivalent about having an abortion, I want to encourage you to explore your options carefully. Too often there are social pressures, family pressures, and peer pressures which make a clear decision difficult.
"I believe that a woman should be free to make her own choice, because carrying a baby for nine months and/or raising a child is a profound commitment.... Children are such a blessing-when they are truly wanted. I believe we should have fewer children, and take better care of the ones we have....
"many women feel pressured to have abortions which they later regret. Please be extremely careful; unwanted abortions can traumatize your body, mind, and spirit."

Testimonional for A Difficult Decision

"Finding myself with an unwanted pregnancy, I didn't know where to turn...Your book was a real friend to me through the whole painful process and I just want to thank you. I can't imagine what this experience might have been like without the information and spiritual support your book provided."
- A woman in Colorado

"The political controversy-pro-choice versus anti-choice-has created a dead-end situation that forces many women to feel that because they have chosen an abortion they must feel OK about it and ignore their true inner feelings. Gardner's book offers a lot of support and space for acknowledging and dealing with our deepest feelings about abortion. "One of Gardner's fortes as a death and loss counselor is her ability to guide visualizations in facilitating the healing process. There are some truly lovely ones in this book. I welcome her acknowledgment of the whole spiritual realm of abortion, and her wisdom in dealing with abortion as a death-because for most women it is."
-Healthsharing, Judi Pustil, Midwife

"Stories of adoption, how to heal oneself after an abortion, grief and guilt and recognizing the spirit are
-Imprints Magazine

"For women and couples who face an unexpected pregnancy, this compassionate book will give you the options and support to help you make a choice you can live with. Equal support is given for either keeping the baby or having an abortion."
-Cascade

So what happened to A Difficult Decision?

It was purchased by bookstores and libraries throughout the United States and Canada. And in virtually every case, the books mysteriously disappeared from the shelves.

I was interviewed on a television talk show, and the station received threats that it would be picketed if they re-ran the show as scheduled.

I thought that at least it would be popular in women's centers, but most of the pro-choice women rejected the idea that a soul was involved, and that it was a strongly emotional decision. So the book fell through the cracks.

As I listen to your program, it occurs to me that we may be entering a social and political time period that will be friendlier to the publication of this book, and I should think about publishing it again. If you like, I'd be glad to send you a copy. As you can imagine, I could go on and on about this topic.

Thanks for being an incredible talk-show hostess. I love all your programs, and I'm delighted that I can listen to them anytime I like on the web.

Warmly,
Joy Gardner
www.highvibrations.net

How could I have made a different decision? Why did I make this one? What kind of sexual education did I have? What are you supposed to do when the father skips town? Didn't my own life have any value? Was I ready emotionally and financially able to bear a child for my lifetime? And alone?

Did I have any idea of the psychological price I would pay for 20 years afterwards? Did I know my whole life would be about over- compensating and so to, hopefully, replace the life that I had destroyed? Did I have any idea at the time about how wonderful children are and what a gift they can be to a life?

When and how did I come to know and understand that God had forgiven me? What happened to me, that I at last let go and started to allow myself to enjoy life and happiness in my my own life again? What is the supreme importance of woman friends and their sensitive perspectives?

How did my religious background and tradition help and hinder me from beginning to end of this many years process? What am I doing now on behalf of women in the darkness of an unwanted and unsupportable pregnancy? Where is my anger about abortion now directed? What helped me not be angry with myself? What did I learn about gender differences because of my ordeal in hell?

Why do I still uphold pro-choice decisions about abortion? Why is the freedom to have an abortion protected and why is such a law wise? What worst things happen to women without legal laws and clean hospital care?

What did I deny to myself as a right, a freedom and a liberty out of constant projected guilt from my culture? Who walked in my shoes -with me and for me -- during this core challenging time? Did I even have non-judgmental parents to turn to at this crisis in my life?

Where did I find God in all of this? Why do I still care about what God cares about with regard to women, with regard to abortion?

A Catholic legislator recently told me,: "Life is a gift. It's just that simple." That simple to a poor woman who already has 11 children? Does a loving God "do holy rapes on our will." Isn't my life a gift too? Don't I have the freedom to choose life or death and the consequences of each? Who gave the Church ownership of my own whole life and my own whole being? Who gave power over my life to the "Evangelical Vatican?" What does the Church do in a practical sense, to minimize the temptation to abortion? When will the Church educate men about the creative power and responsibility of having a penis - responsibly? When will the Church know and teach love and believable respect for women, for human sexuality as a celebration fo the life that comes as Gift? Even to women.

Read my story. Let the pain in it speak to you. Talk to 10 other women who have experienced abortion in their history. Let them teach us about abortion instead of insensitive, celibate men and righteous non-sexual women. I would like to share my story anonymously at this time. But it needs to be part of the conversation you have initiated, Krista. I am happy to express my anger about the profound realities of abortion and the pain of it - with women who care to help other women go on to their own lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

I am a conservative and embarrassed by conservatives who are pro-life and pro capital punishment. Bring people into the world and then execute them makes no sense to me. Creationism does nothing but show contempt for science and the scripture. Why are my conservative brothers and sisters so mean and self righteous? It was the righteous who killed Jesus. The scripture is not a friend to patriotism. Nothing says the God is a friend of killing - support our troops in killing mother's and children? As a conservative I find this and more very difficult to support.

I believe that every workable moral code, religious or otherwise, is essentially a codification of instinctual human responses. For example, humans have evolved into a species that can only survive as communities. Thus, codes of morality- the ones that work at least- stress the notions of community and communality. How that plays out in different cultural and religious traditions can vary markedly. Many Asian cultures for instance have no or little tradition of charity, but they do have deeply felt traditions of respect for elders, the importance of consensus over individual action, and the value of conformity. In the West, the situation is almost the opposite. The idea of charity is deeply imbedded in our culture, but so is the idea if the primacy of individual rights (at least we have since the Enlightenment).

So what does this have to do with abortion? Because I think that our instincts are that life does not begin at conception- it evolves gradually until the baby is born. Just as the death of an elderly man or woman is less sad than that of a teenager entering the prime of his or her life, so is a miscarriage at 6-weeks less tragic than a full-term stillbirth. Imagine how most of us would react at the idea of a full-blown funeral for a miscarried embryo. I suspect that would strike most people as excessive and perhaps even unhealthy. No one would think that about a funeral for a stillborn infant. Why do we react this way? Because our instincts tell us that the embryo is not a fully developed person.

It seems the me that a rigid anti-abortion stance is a morality grown in a hot-house; it is not natural, and therefore it cannot work for most people. Most people- at least from my reading of the polls- would accept a law that made abortions more difficult to obtain as a pregnancy progressed. The escalating difficulty would be in proportion to what our insticts tell us how the "personhood" of an embryo/fetus progresses.

If, as you receive this, all formatting is lost, please e-mail. I will send a document w/ formatting, to make it readable............ The Rod Dreher interview let me put pieces together. They are painful. If he could "run" with this question, it might be helpful in bringing us together--if that is possible. Crux: Pro-choice looks at "pro-lifers" as full humans, with whom we happen to disagree. Pure anti-abortion, in my visceral self, traces directly back to the authority of "THE CHURCH" of Calvin and the Inquisition to deprive those of life who disagree re doctrine. It is my everyday subliminal awareness--maybe wrong, but my gut says is right--that the safety of me and my family is at risk. If, under the guise of religion, human beings can label some is human and some as not, then I become the "non-human." Translation: The "religious conservative" could believe it proper to muder me because I would "murder" a fertilized egg. Our daughters understand, viscerally as well as intellectually, the "Nationalist religion" of the US. If McCain absolutism solidifies a Supreme Court that functions as linchpin of a Mullah-type thoecracy, I predict that our kids will not be part of it. Evidence: -The seemingly absolute link of "pro-life" with support for death penalty. -The refusal to acknowledge the biological basis of gender identity heterogeneity. The absence of real condemnation of chaining a gay man to a fence, beating him, letting him die. -The Viet Nam concept of "we need to destroy it to save it." Context: I am Unitarian Universalist. Age 56. Straight (w/o ambiguity, tho' both daughters insist that all of us are on a gay-straight continuum). Dermatologist in a university-based academic teaching program. The concept of "respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person" is central. An extremist "pro-lifer" or avowed hater of gay/lesbian is a human being--just as is a murderer or sexual predator. All are "worthy of life," if you will. I am about 7/8 German. Folks ethnically just like me did the Holocost. But my German name got here in 1876, when someone bribed someone to get my then 13 yo grandfather smuggled onto a merchant ship, to arrive here as an "illegal" in Galveston TX. To avoid conscription into Bismarck's army at 14th birthday for the Franco-Prussian wars. I trace to the "Good Ship" Hope, 2nd ship at Plymouth Colony after the Mayflower. The 1639 Boston ancestor traces to a survivor of St. Bartholomew's massacre 1572, southern England for a couple of generations, then over here. The "Candee" name is likely a respelling of Conde--as in Compte de Conde, 16th century Huguenot. I am grandkid of sister of wife of Rev. Edmund Holyoke, Harvard president 1670s-1720s. I have photo of my mom's dad's mom, born Candee, in bobby socks, with two others, one of whom is Elizabeth Katy Stanton (or Susan Anthony--my 91 yo mom's not sure), passing out woman's suffrage literature. There's also some ca 1670s Scottish refugee in me--offspring of a minister Cromwell pursecuted. Comment: It is hard not to overcome irrational fear. In 4/78, I found myself against a building per two Black men, at far end of a sawed off shotgun. I, wife-to-be (now post 30th anniversary), and two other friends were not harmed. But, as I campaign door-to-door for Obama, the image from that day still flashes before me. The comment re "truck bomb a fundamentalist church"--emerge, I presume, from fear. In my mind, true "pro-choice" would never wish any harm to the pro-lifers amongst us. We may or may not wish to invest energy talking with those who don't respect us--on a spectrum ranging from patronizing/condescension to distain. But the fundamental status of dignity and humanhood of those with whom we disagree is not questioned. Re: Would this issue change my vote? The question is not "pro" vs "anti" abortion. It is re respect for the dignity of the individual, vs putting doctrinal authority an a supra-human but human-run agency, that would threaten execution of an astronomer because it was against doctrine to look through a telescope, to see that the earth was not flat et al and didn't have the sun rotating about it.

This is long. Feel totally free to edit it down if you want to use any part of it. If you use any of this, please just use my given name and last initial, not my surname. Thanks.

How do I think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion?

I use biology. The idea that "life begins at conception"...in a way that's true, but nature is a cruel and indifferent force, and in nature, frankly, life is cheap and comes and goes all the time. When, at 32, I wanted a child and had a fist trimester miscarriage, I was devastated and mourned the loss with my whole being. I did a lot of reading about early embryo development, trying to figure out what had caused this pregnancy to end. I found out that somewhere between 25-50% of all fertilized eggs spontaneously miscarry in the first trimester, sometimes before a woman even realizes she's pregnant (think about women who get their period late one month - probably an early miscarriage). If you ask around, almost any woman you question will have had one or known somebody who had one or more. Fertilization is not an automatic ticket to a baby, and I came to realize that what I mourned was the loss of my dreams about this baby, my hope for its future, my naivete about how easy it would be to have a baby. It was not the loss of a bean-sized blob of tissue, it was sadness about ideas and feelings I had attached to that blob. After all that reading, I have a hard time getting worked up about something like a morning after pill or even a first trimester abortion because at that point, there is the POTENTIAL to have a baby develop, but making a human means that a lot of things have to go right. Often, nature aborts embryos that have genetic deletions or don't implant properly, and nobody can know for sure whether an early abortion (before 12 weeks of embryonic growth, 14 weeks of pregnancy from lmp) is actually hastening the inevitable or not.
After having a successful pregnancy that resulted in a much-wanted son last year, I empathize with the pro-life stance in a way that I did not prior to getting pregnant. It is an amazing thing, that we can grow babies inside our bodies, but the experience made me believe even more firmly that women should have control over their bodies and when and with whom they will create a family or a child.
I also had an abortion when I was 19 because a condom broke. Choosing an abortion isn't something women do in a cavalier fashion. Even 14 years later, I still think about the baby I could have had, maybe on my own birthday, that I could have a TEENAGER in my house right now. But at 19, I was not ready to be a parent, wasn't even ready to make a 9 month sacrifice of my body to bring another being onto the planet. I was in school, not dating a man who would have been a good marriage partner, and I am grateful that I had the ability to make that choice. I don't regret it at all. Then and now, my moral hierarchy privileges the needs of the already-living above those of the "pre-born".
Abortion has economic and social pressures that come to bear on a woman's decision, and there are moral dimensions to this issue that are often neglected in 'pro-life' platforms. I can tell you from a public health standpoint that having a child out of wedlock, especially when you are a teenager, strongly predisposes you and your child(ren) to a life in a low socio-economic status. To some extent, having kids keeps you poor and hampers efforts to get an education if they come too soon in your life. If a family already has money, parents can buffer the effects on a teen of having a child by helping with childcare, paying for schooling, all the things they would do for their kids even if they didn't have a baby at age 17. Here's a page of stats with citations at the bottom:

I don't think the suggestion is that babies of poor people should be aborted, but people with more financial resources at their disposal need to be aware that if you are poor, the prospect of having a baby or an 8th child will help ensure that you STAY poor. Some people who are poor might choose to abort when they already have lots of mouths to feed, when having the baby would hinder their ability to work and go to school full-time, when they have no source of outside support...lots of poor people are very pro-life though, and lots of wealthy people might choose to abort a pregnancy. I come back to the belief that individuals should be allowed the right to determine for themselves whether bringing a child into the world at a particular time or with a particular person will be in the best interest of the already-living persons involved and the future child.
And I think saying, "If you don't want the baby, adopt it out" is also more complicated than it might seem on the surface. I know that after carrying my son for 9 months, I would have physically attacked anybody who tried to take my baby away, and there is NO WAY I could have been persuaded to give him to somebody else to love and nurture, no matter what my socio-economic status. There is also the argument that telling young mothers or poor people to give their babies away is predatory (plus, come on, it's not as easy to adopt out a mixed-race child with in-utero alcohol and drug exposure as it is to adopt out a pink-cheeked white baby).
It is also a tough thing to say to women: I know you only have a high school education and a job at Walmart, but don't abort this baby. By the way, you can't have paid maternity leave unless you have the sick and vacation time already built up, and it can't be more than 6 weeks' paid maternity leave if you haven't worked there more than 2500 hours and at least one calendar year, and not more than 12 weeks otherwise, and that's only if you have leave available. (FMLA is not very generous with new parents, nor with people who have sick parents to care for). There is no subsidized day care available for the baby when you go back to work at your $7.50/hour job either. I hope that people who are pro-life are also very pro-social services because it's inconsistent to say that the baby is infinitely valuable only until it exits the womb, at which point it and its mother become a drain on society.

What would I like to genuinely understand about the perspective of people who feel differently?

I would like to know why you think you know what is best for any individual woman? How can you presume to dictate what is best for her life, for her family, for her body, for her spirit? Why can't this abortion decision be something left between an individual woman and God? What gives YOU the moral authority to make this medical decision for her? If you compel a woman to have an unwanted child, how will you support her and that baby? If life begins at conception, it certainly does not END at birth, and that dyad needs a lot of support for YEARS.

My other big question: how can you simultaneously be pro-life and pro-death penalty? Has it ever occured to you that some of the people on death row might have been the babies whose lives you once fought for? Does their inherent worth depreciate as they get older?

What would I like them to understand about me?

I believe that individual autonomy is sacrosanct and that we need to respect and trust our fellow humans to make decisions that ARE RIGHT FOR THEM. As a culture, we need allow individuals the space to work out their spiritual and moral philosophies on their own, to have their own relationship with God or Spirit or whatever you want to call the divine, and not to impose our own religious or moral values onto others.
I totally agree that abortion should be rare. Every pregnancy should be a wanted pregnancy, and women and their partners should have easy access to accurate sex education and a variety of birth control options to stop unintended pregnancy from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, humans are irrational and impulsive creatures, condoms break, somebody forgets that antibiotics interfere with birth control pills, and pregnancy happens when we are not intending for it to happen. Because of this and because becoming a parent is a serious matter, I think it's important to keep abortion legal and to allow people to decide for themselves how and when to start or increase families, and for women to have the right to self-determination in matters pertaining to their bodies. No woman makes the decision to have an abortion lightly, and many mourn for the baby, even if they decide that they cannot bring that child into the world for whatever reason.

If 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice' are polarizing, how about this for a new frame of reference?

If life begins at conception and we have a responsibility to honor that sanctity, it is certainly not the case that this collective responsibility begins at conception and ends at birth. How about talking more realistically about human biology, sex drives, and community? How could we work to reduce abortion and make it easier for women who choose to bear children to rear them well?

1. Access to pre-conception family planning options. We should all have the ability to determine when, and with whom we will make a family. Until those who support an end to abortions also make sure that there is good access to accurate information about and options for family planning and pre-conception contraception, so that EVERY pregnancy is a WANTED pregnancy, we will always have people who wish to terminate pregnancies for medical, family planning, financial, and psychological reasons. Unfortunately, "abstinence only" is a nice idea, but for many people, biological drives win out over nice ideas, and they have sex at a time when they do not want to have a child. I think we can all agree that it would be best that they have sex (because let's be honest, that's what we illogical, impulse-driven humans do) without the possibility of accidentally creating life. It is unrealistic and asking too much of people never to have sex until they get married in a culture where many delay marriage until their late 20s or early 30s.

2. Maternity leave that honors the dependence of a young baby on his mother. That means we should have at least 6 months of supported maternity leave for all working mothers, and 12 months would be better. This is what most EU countries offer their mothers. Any mother can tell you that a 6 week old baby needs his mama to nurse, to cuddle with, to feel safe and secure. My heart would have broken into a million pieces if I'd had to return to work 3 weeks after my son was born, and at 10 weeks, it only broke into thousands, and he got to stay with his papa. Family values should support the WHOLE family - mothers, fathers, and children who are no longer fetuses. A culture of life would work to promote extended breastfeeding, maintaining family bonds, and the emotional health and well-being of all family members throughout their lives.

3. Better support for women, especially young, single women (46% of babies born to women under 25 are born out of wedlock) who do choose to carry their pregnancies to term. If conservatives advocate for women to bear their children, they cannot then turn around and say, "Well, now that the baby is out, she's just YOUR problem." I'm very much of the opinion that once a child is born, he is everyone's "problem". My aunt says women shouldn't abort babies because being pregnant is 'inconvenient', but if they are born, a baby is either a treasure or an inconvenience to her whole community, not just the woman who gives birth. If we ask women to carry their babies to term, we have an obligation to help them with being the best parents they can be, providing mentoring and parenting classes, decent housing, job training or schooling so they can be self-sufficient and be good role models for their kids. We can't turn our backs on the already-born. Fetuses are easy to take care of; it's those pesky babies, kids, and teenagers they turn into that really ask us for a big commitment, right?

I just wrote, and I want to add this quote from my book, A Difficult Decision:

"I believe that women who definitely do not want a baby should be given abortions. Our society does not allow a man to use a woman' body without her consent—how then can we consider forcing a woman to carry a child to term within her body, when she does not want that child? Recent studies clearly indicate that the mother's emotional well-being (or lack of it) during pregnancy has a profound effect upon the baby. And I have found in my practice that adopted children often suffer from feelings of unworthiness and chronic fear of abandonment. And parents who have children that they do not want are most likely to be abusive toward those children. Compulsory pregnancy simply does not make sense. Children are such a blessing—when they are truly wanted. I believe we should have fewer children, and take better care of the ones we have.

I find that many women want to keep their babies, but lack the resources to do so. I believe that far more abortions could be prevented if people would stop trying to force women to have babies that they don't want, and turn their attention to the women who want to have babies but lack the resources.

On the other hand, many women feel pressured to have abortions which they later regret. Please be extremely careful; unwanted abortions can traumatize your body, mind, and spirit...

Any highly significant decision must come from the heart, the gut, and the spirit, as well as the mind. For women, particularly, the emotive, intuitive right brain must participate in decision making along with the rational left brain. This book gives guidelines for involving the whole person in coming to a clear decision before an abortion."

I wrote this letter(which turned out to be too long for our local paper) because I believe that even though I am pro-life, the democratic positions on health care, poverty and compassion are much more reflective of my values than the republican platform. I think it fits in well with today's discussion on the radio:

Compassion is my highest value. It is compassion for the voiceless unborn that has led me to my pro-life position. But my pro-life stance doesn’t end with the unborn. It saddens my heart each time I hear of the death of another American soldier to a war that needs to end. And it is caring for the children that I see as a school nurse, whose lives may be shortened by a broken healthcare system, that drives my desire to embrace change.

Compassion is a Christian value and I believe it is compassion that drives Barack Obama. It is evident in his policies in every arena that he cares for the down trodden. His proposed policies demonstrate his caring for the sick, the soldier, the impoverished and even the air that we breathe.

There are those who would say that a pro-life position is the voter’s litmus test. I believe there is a danger in letting one issue drive our decisions. Is a candidate who purports to be pro-life really driven by that issue or is he using it to gain power?

Obama is not pro-abortion. He has compassion for the least of us. He has proposed policies that would go a lot further than current policies to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. His pro-choice position is a reflection of his desire to lead a government that rules not with an iron fist, but with respect for individual circumstance in every aspect of our lives. Wouldn’t it be better to apply this kind of leadership to ALL areas of your life and the values that YOU hold dear, and use that as your litmus test?

We have witnessed the emergence of a great leader, a visionary who gives hope to the common man. I believe his time is now.

I've had 3 abortions. Over the years (the first was in 1971, the 3rd in 1986). All my decisions involved maintaining my social standing within my family and my community. I was raised in the Pentecostal faith. Parenting in my family was very rigid, denial of self, corporal punishment, passive hardworking mother, controlling father. In Alice Miller's book, For Your Own Good, there are many passages on parenting dating from the 17th & 18th century that my father seemed to repeat by heart, yet I doubt he ever read any those words. He was only repeating what he was taught.

My mother did not see her children as her own, rather we were her husbands children. She never spoke to me about being a woman, just that I would have to "sleep in the bed I made".

We read the Bible a lot. I could never find anything in the Bible that said that terminating a pregnancy was an unforgivable sin so preserving my standing in the family became most important. I did not want to live my mother's life. Outwardly I was a model child. I had started going to college and having a child would not only destroy my dreams but an out of wedlock birth at 19 would have brought much shame to my family. Once I became aware of abortion as an option, there was no other choice.

Later abortion decisions have different contexts, yet all include maintaining social norms, either mine, or the father's, or both.

I don't believe one can speak of moral and spritual aspects outside of social dynamics of the family. It seems to me that the decision to terminate a pregancy will always include how the woman is and will be perceived her community.

*You may publish/use what I've written and my first name, but please do not include my last name*

So much of the media and country seems to think that a pro-choice stance is a pro-abortion stance. As a Christian, I believe in the value of life, and personally, I believe life begins at conception. I would never get an abortion…even if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. If asked for personal advice, I would advise against abortion except in cases in which the mother’s life is at serious risk. BUT that does not mean I think abortion should be made illegal.

I am sympathetic to the pro-life view that even though it’s a lost cause, Christians should still fight for God’s truth, yet what truth are we fighting for? Setting up the United States as state that enforces God's truth? Whose God then? The separation of Church and state is absolutely necessary for the success of our country.

As Christians, we ought to be more concerned about changing hearts and helping people see truth. Changing laws can change actions but seldom hearts. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, women seeking abortions would be able to find them anyway. So why not work to change actions through changing hearts? The Democratic Party has indicated that it’s willing to work with Republicans to reduce the number of abortions performed. This will mean more education and more Christian abortion alternative centers that, rather than simply scaring women away from abortion, offer practical advice and resources so women can make healthy decisions for themselves while considering the help God can and does offer.

Christians everywhere need to constantly reevaluate their voting priorities and practices. What is our goal? Jesus said to go and make disciples of all nations. The political priorities many Christians have claimed regarding issues like abortion and gay rights have actually given nonChristians more reasons to run as far away from the Church as possible. I’m not saying we should water down truth, but we should put more of our attentions in changing actions through changing hearts.

People look for God but they cannot comprehend the infinite. Nevertheless, some people presume to speak for God or even to give commands and condemnations in God's name. Many times what is spoken in the guise of a message about God's love is actually a symptom of the hatred felt by the speaker.

The limit cases are always instructive. Some people regard both the protection of any viable fertilized ovum and support for the death penalty as sacrosanct. Albert Schweitzer was correct to observe that we should have reverence for all life. Even the potential for life is precious. But, in the limit cases, can we consistently believe and act to actualize all potentials for life? Must every fertile woman govern her life so as to maximize the actualization of the potential lives represented by her viable ova? Must every fertile male preserve and donate sperm to contribute as needed to fertilizing those ova? I doubt that very many people would accept that extreme case.

On the other extreme of life, should the state have the right to terminate any life that it decides should end? Or, are there no circumstances when it is ethical to end a life?

A non-extremist position toward abortion, execution, and euthanasia says, again, that all life is precious, but that humans need to make decisions to shape their imperfect lives. When the environment does not permit everyone to procreate without limit, then something must be done to limit fecundity. What is the range of limits and what values may humans attach to those limits? If abstinence is the ideal (which may not be a universal judgment), when individuals fail to abstain is it better to provide contraceptive strategies or to bring a baby into life with statistically very low prospects personally and the additionally the sure promise of contributing to over-population and all its consequences for the welfare of all life?

Some people will make the decision to practice infanticide. Some people will make the decision to seek an abortion. All of these courses of action have bad consequences. The objective of good planning should be to minimize the damages. A late term abortion is better than infanticide. The earlier an abortion is performed, the better it is if all other circumstances are equal. A "morning after" pill that prevents an embryo from implanting is better than any procedure needed to deal with an implanted embryo. Prevention of the union of ovum and sperm would be preferable to that, and so on. We do not live in an ideal world, and reverence for life will move us to deal in a loving way with all eventualities.

The same reasoning applies to execution. How much better it would be if nobody ever became such a threat that authorities judge the safest course for the community is to end that person's life. Perhaps there are cases when it would be a mercy to end the lives of some individuals whose violent impulses cannot be remedied and who hate themselves because of what they are. But the ideal would be a society that values all life so highly that it is willing to pay in money and time what is necessary to minimize the possibility of the individual's going wrong, and to do everything possible to correct problems as soon as they are manifest. It makes no sense to me to protect the lives of all individuals from the time of their conception and then abandon them to an uncaring and even hostile environment as soon as they are born.

I also fail to see the logic behind an ideology that holds that it is permissible to end a human life as an act of vengeance, but it is not permissible to end a human life as an act of mercy. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord," but mercy is enjoined upon all of us. The realistic danger is euthanasia is that it becomes a disguise for ending the life of an individual whom others value negatively.

My biggest challenge with those who are "pro-life" is that so often the conversation begins and ends right there, that the life of the child after it's conceived and then born into very likely an incredibly challenging situation isn't really taken into consideration as a crucial topic for moral and spiritual people to delve into as their responsibility in a just society.

The religious right is happy to bring forward women who regret their decision to have an abortion because now they see their lives would have turned out just fine. But at the time of their original decision they didn't feel that way, they felt they had no choice, and perhaps that their child would have even fewer.

As an adopted person one might think I would be pro-life across the board, but no, I'm far too aware that I was simply lucky to be adopted into a loving family as an infant. Too many children aren't so lucky. Our orphanages and foster care systems in this country and around the world are packed full of children in desperate need of love and care, many of whom are simply too old for the majority of the world's population to even ever consider taking home and loving as one of their own.

Rather than glaring at each other across the abortion divide why don't we all looking more closely at the appalling numbers of orphans and fostercare children who end up unceremoniously on the street at 18, and the huge number who commit suicide?

I would love to live in a world where abortion is rarer than rare, but until men and women are treated equally in regards to the great responsibility and ramifications of sex I believe women need to have the ability to choose a legal and safe abortion. Across the world, across religions, men and women are held to different standards of behavior, and it is women who are judged the most harshly when an unwanted child is conceived (even, sadly, if it's from a rape).

My own birth mother was raped and advised by a friend who was a cop not to press charges - even though she'd been beaten black and blue. You see my birth mother was an attractive divorcee in her mid thirties, and in 1963 nice women didn't accept a ride home from college boys from a bar. The cop advised her that the attack would be seen as her fault for accepting the ride home in the first place.

My birth mother was so distraught when she learned she was pregnant she tried to kill herself. I would like to think times have changed and that such a scenario doesn't happen now, but I read the news. The current over the top sexualizing of youth, most especially young women, with barely a thought to responsibility and ramifications of it leaves me queasy, as queasy as the state of our unwanted unloved and abandoned children already stuck in the system.

**How do you think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion?**

I have taken pains to develop a political as well as personal stance on abortion that can make sense to people of all faiths and none, and thus is admissible to the public sphere.

My stance on abortion--like my stance on women's equality, disability rights, racial justice, environmental protection, war, and a wide variety of other social justice concerns-- is deeply shaped by Buddhist and Christian values of reverence for all life, and for the web of interconnections among all lives.

I oppose abortion because I believe unborn lives are sacred--but already-born lives, including the lives of women, are equally sacred. Women should not be forced by social conditions into situations where they have to sacrifice the lives of their unborn children and parts of themselves in order to "resolve" grave problems.

And so there is an enormous and inescapable responsibility, at every level of society from the individual to the global, to ensure that (1) women have the knowledge, the means, and the power within intimate relationships to prevent unintended pregnancies and (2) women who conceive, along with their children, have the utmost social supports, before, during, and ever after birth, in avoiding abortion and finding real, substantive alternatives in parenting, guardianship, foster care, or adoption. Both prevention and surprise-pregnancy support of course must include substantial male responsibility.

My deliberations are deeply shaped by my own experiences of bearing and raising an unplanned daughter in immensely difficult circumstances including my own disabilities, and bearing witness to many, many women's stories of unplanned pregnancy.

**What would you genuinely like to understand about the perspective of people who feel differently?**

(for *some* prolifers) How is it possible to be prolife and not be for every single life threatened by violence of discrimination--including and especially the lives of beleagured pregnant women who feel abortion is their least bad or only choice?

(for *some* prochoicers) Why do you invest so much energy in defending a right to abortion, instead of channelling all that energy into making abortion unnecessary? Wouldn't that be far more constructive?

**What would you like them to understand about you? **

I would like *some* prolifers to understand that I am not somehow 'watering down" prolifer by my insistence that "prolife" applies to every life, including but not exclusively the life of the unborn child. Would not the abortion rate plummet in an overall climate of respect for life, especially women's lives?

I would like *some* prochoicers to understand that I am not motivated by right-wing patriarchal theology, obedience to authoritarian dogma, troglodytic hatred of women and already-born children, or fear and loathing of nonprocreative sex--let alone rabid judgmentality or a frenzy to commit violence against anyone who has had or provided abortions.

Those are the stereotypes, but I, and many likeminded people, thankfully do not measure down to them. We are genuinely moved by reverence for life, born and unborn.

**If the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are limiting and polarizing, can you imagine new frames of reference for new and better conversations?**

I have long described myself as a pro-every life feminist who advocates nonviolent (nonabortion, voluntary, fully-informed, abortion-reducing) sexual and reproductive choice. I see myself as a spiritual, ethical, and political descendant of the prolife feminists whose lives and works I helped to document in the book ProLife Feminism Yesterday and Today, Second Expanded Edition.

Although I disagree with many (not all) of its advocates about abortion itself, I also have a strong affinity for the approach of the reproductive justice movement, which arises from disabled people like myself, people of color, and working-class people.

Reproductive justice goes beyond looking at individual "choices" to their social contexts, and the overlapping and institutionalized ways that sexism, racism, ablism, poverty, ecological destruction, and other forms of discrimination and violence constrain people's ability to make life-affirming decisions.

I have the fortune of being involved now with the Nonviolent Choice Directory, http://nonviolentchoice.blogspot.com and http://www.nonviolentchoice.info This is a global directory of resources that help to alleviate the root causes of abortion and otherwise promote reproductive justice. It grew out of a promise made in the ProLife Feminism book. It can be helpful for everyone for a women wondering how to get through a crisis pregnancy to policy makers to anyone who wants to see specific, concrete ways they can help to reduce abortion.

I believe that women need to have the option to choose abortion. It is not a light choice for anyone I have known, just a necessary one. My religious upbringing taught me that life is beyond physical, so I do not think that not choosing a particular fetus is necessarily the end of life options for that being. I do think of the context of the life of the potential new one – I believe many if not most abortions are done out of care for the unborn one who would come into a place that is not right for it. It’s easy to say that the child could be adopted, but the world already holds an abundance of children needed care and adoption.
I would like to understand more about how people who disagree explain forcing others to make choices against their will. That seems like an aggressive act. I understand that they see the life of the fetus as meaningful and real, but I don’t understand how that life takes precedence over the woman’s, the one who is trying to make the best of what she has.
I left organized religion in part because I was always disturbed by the suggestion that this particular one was the superior religion. Removing options from women mirrors this kind of imposition in a powerful way. It also suggests a dangerous lack of separation of church and state. Whenever one religious attitude dominates our administration, I feel that the freedom of all religious organizations is threatened.
I would like to see the conversation about abortion be discussed in this light: how can we support and promote freedom of and respect for religious practices? Perhaps because my mother is a holocaust survivor, who fled her persecuted Jewish identity and fell in love with a smaller American Christian church, I feel passionate about this fundamental value of tolerance in our country.

I was raised Catholic and participated in Pro-Life activities with my mother; I recall walking door-to-door handing out pamphlets containing gruesome photographs of aborted fetuses.
Like many people, my black-and-white understanding of abortion blurred considerably during college and beyond. Learning about the history of contraception in the United States and the current state of women's reproductive health world wide has broadened my perspective such that the basic concept that many people focus on solely-the "life" of the fetus- is now only one small piece of a very complex puzzle that we refer to so simply as the "abortion issue".

I do wonder if "pro life" people often think more broadly about the related issues- because they are rarely addressed in public debate where the focus is so often simply the number of abortions recorded in any given time period and what efforts are currently underway to decrease or defent access to clinic- do they ever think about how many unwanted pregnancies are PREVENTED in that same clinic, for example? Do they ever hear that there are fewer abortions during times of economic prosperity, and that many women seeking abortions are married women who already have children and cannot afford another?

And the polar opposite of a "pro-life" position, really, would be a "pro-abortion" position- a person who said you MUST have an abortion. If "pro-life" means you MUST carry a pregnancy to term, then "pro-abortion" would mean you MUST terminate a pregnancy (or perhaps you could appeal to a panel of judges who might allow you to continue the pregnancy if they decide to allow it). Pro-Abortion would not allow the individual woman to choose- they would gather enough signatures/votes/judges to make mandatory abortions the law of the land. And they would picket OB clinics, I suppose. I wonder if "pro life" people ever really consider that scenario; because it seems to me that is what they have been doing to the rest of the country. And by that standard, "pro-choice" starts to sound pretty moderate, doesn't it?

I would love to see people come together and really talk about the social, economic, and cultural forces that contribute to unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Really, really listen to people in whose shoes we have never walked. (I was once at a parent group with parents of children with Down's Syndrome and they began talking about whether they would have had an abortion had they known early in their pregnancy that their child would have Down's and what that would mean- every single parent said s/he would have elected to have an abortion- it was a powerful moment & very instructive) Instead of repeating the same arguments over and over- I would like to have a real HONEST discussion and come to some conclusions as to what we can really expect of one another as human beings. For example; What rights to privacy would we be willing to give up? Really?

Having had two children, I understand why people feel that "life begins at conception." Any first time mother who sees her little embryo waving it's arms in an ultrasound would have a hard time believing otherwise. I believe that for the vast majority of women, choosing an abortion is a difficult decision. However, I am absolutely pro-choice because I feel that we will never stop abortions from occuring, we will only make them dangerous. There will always be women who seek abortions and making them difficult to obtain and dangerous to undergo will not stop them. I am particularly incensed by many in the "pro-life" movement who seek to not only deny women access to abortion but deny them access to contraception as well. It seems logical to assume that ready access to contraception would decrease the need for abortion, but this argument seems to go nowhere. In addition, the people who care most about fetal (and embryonic) life don't seem to care one bit about the women carrying these unwanted babies or about the babies themselves after they are born. The right to life doesn't seem to mean the right to a quality life. The people who insist that these babies be born should be held responsible for a minimal standard of health care, education, nutrition, and housing for them once born. Lastly, I cannot understand how anyone who calls him/herself "pro-life" can, with no remorse, also call him/herself "pro-captial punishment." Isn't that being pro-life and pro-death at the same time? In this scenario, the fetus has the right to life but can grow up with no health care, substandard housing, substandard education, substandard opportunities of all stripes, sink into a life of crime for lack of other opportunities, and then be killed by the state! So much for the right to life...
While many, many people would never choose abortion for themselves, why do so many think they have the right to make that choice for others? Do they genuinely believe that outlawing abortion will end the practice? And how can any "pro-lifer" have peace in their hearts when clinics are bombed or doctors are murdered in the name of life? I wish there was more discussion of the fact that abortions happened at an estimated rate of 1.2 million per year PRIOR to legalization. A much more constructive use of our efforts would be preventing unwanted pregnancies, not ranting about the right to life. While many would like to believe that these unwanted babies could be given up for adoption, in some communities, that simply doesn't happen, one doesn't give away one's baby. Denying access to abortion means that more children will grow up with unprepared parents in poverty, with few options for bettering themselves. We can do better than that.

I am a Christian woman, age 57, divorced, mother of 3 and grandmother of 5. I was born to a woman who had fallen in love with a married co-worker in 1950. Fortunately for me, abortion was not an option. My grandparents and aunts and uncles came together with her to determine the best solution for my pending birth. They wanted to protect me and my mother from gossip and labels that could impact our lives forever. It was decided that I would be raised by my aunt and uncle until the time when my birth mother was married and able to raise me herself. The two families moved out of state together until after I was born and then we all returned to our community with me as the new baby of my aunt and uncle. Life moved along for several years with my birth mother very involved in my life. Then everything changed in 1954 when my birth mother and her fiance were both killed in a car accident After recovering from the overwhelming sadness of that event, the decision was made for my aunt and uncle to adopt me. I was so young I did not remember these events. I grew up believing that my parents were my natural parents, until circumstances (or what I feel was God's intervention) revealed the truth to me. At that time, I realized that if abortion had been legal and accepted in 1950, I could have been killed and never known life.

At the age of 24 (1974), I remember a startling event that truly brought the horror of abortion to my senses. My husband and I were visiting a couple whom we hadn't seen in several years. They were planning to be married in three months and were very excited about their decision to marry. I was 9 months pregnant at the time with our first child. I remember feeling very old, fat and out of touch with this younger couple, when suddenly the discussion took a dark turn that left me absolutely nauseous. As we were sitting there talking in their living room, my baby inside of me kicking away, when the woman announced that they had accidentally gotten pregnant a couple of months ago, but aborted the baby as "it wasn't the right time". I couldn't understand how they could sit there and tell me they had killed their child while mine was a few weeks from birth and they didn't feel any remorse or regret. They had actually convinced themselves that it wasn't a baby at all.

How do we move the two sides together to talk? We have to get to the core issue of why women feel so threatened by anyone who challenges their "right" to abortion. We have to re-frame "pro-life" to include the expectant mother and provide her with support and options for her baby and provide her with support if she decides to give the baby away. We have to move this country away from embracing death and embrace life with all its challenges. We have to show love to those women who have no one to turn to and can't imagine any alternative. We have to look at how woman are treating themselves and how they get into positions of getting pregnant with someone they can't raise their child with. Abortion mentality is killing our culture. It is reducing women to a level of sexual beings and nothing more. They were given the ability to create life and we need to build up our value.

As the saying goes..."the neo-cons want poor people to have their babies so they can be used as cannon fodder."

Also, religion should be kept out of the presidential race!!!!

Knowing what I know now as a 40 year old woman about abortion, there is no difference between moral and spiritual aspects of abortion. I believe it is morally wrong and spiritually wrong. Everyone I have ever come in contact with that has been pro-choice has never had an abortion.

Those that I have come in contact with who actually have exercised that right to choose to have an abortion regret that option and believe there is a strong need for more education about alternatives and the actual stages of pregnancy. Every woman I know who has had an abortion regrets it. They did it because they were convinced that was the only realistic alternative for them in their life situation at the time. If more funding was put into providing safe places for women to go and more accessable awareness of exactly what is going on with the development of a human life inside their body chances are they would choose otherwise. I know that 21 years ago I would have.

If voters don't want the government involved in this decision then Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion outlets need to stop asking for government funding to subsidize the cost of abortion for low income women. There are safe places to go and the funding should go to those places and women shouldn't be made to feel by society that having a baby alone and giving it up for adoption because of a poor choice they made that caused the pregnancy is a bad thing to do. It is the most unselfish act anyone could ever do.

In the case of rape, statistics show that pregnancy as a result of rape is extremely rare and that in those rare cases those women more likely choose to have the baby! Go figure! In the case of incest, as I said before, more education and funding for safe places for girls to go is needed not more funding to provide them with the ability to get an abortion. They are already messed up due to the abuse they suffered, and then society thinks they should add to that with more psychological effects of having an abortion. Yes, women suffer serious psychological issues after an abortion but Planned Parenthood never discusses that it messes up two lives not just the unborn one.
Just because the pregnancy is terminated doesn't change the hormonal changes occurring in the body after the baby is removed either, the body still reacts as if it is pregnant for some time afterwards. These things are not widely known and they should be. The full ramifications of both sides should be made clear to every woman facing this situation and chances are once that is provided less abortions will take place and more loving families can adopt. There is nothing wrong with that and people need to know. Women who get pregnant and are not in a position to raise a child on their own should be made to feel that if they have the baby and give it up to a family who can't have children of their own they are a hero not an outcast to be gossipped about. Everyone is entitled to make a mistake, but an unborn life shouldn't suffer because of it. Trust me, your own life suffers worse in the case of having an abortion.

I’m a 49-year-old adoptive father, an atheist and religious ‘Speaking of Faith’ fan. I’d describe myself as politically independent, leaning at times to socially liberal and fiscally conservative positions. I’m both pro choice and pro life. In fact, I believe all life on Earth is sacred, and that if you save a life, you assume a responsibility for it from that moment forward. My views on abortion, like anyone's, were formed though a lifetime of experiences and observations.

A lifetime ago, my first wife became pregnant when we were in our late twenties. Her own history of sexual abuse and uncertainty about being ready to parent a child led her to choose abortion, which I agreed to with reservation; after all, it was her body that would be involved.

During the 1980s, I worked extensively with abused and neglected children as young as 2 and as old as 18, many of whom had been utterly rejected by their biological parents—most of whom bore emotional and physical scars one might naturally associate with torture. I wanted to adopt them all, but that wasn’t an option.

I now work routinely with rural Idaho communities, and run a toll-free hotline for Idahoans experiencing housing instability and/or homelessness. A large percentage of the 25,000 callers I’ve spoken with personally over the past ten years are single mothers and pregnant teenagers (as young as 15) rejected by their own families and larger society. They share a mix of bad judgment and bad luck that leave them jobless, carless, and homeless. I have talked with self-proclaimed 'good Christians' who cast out their own children or their partners when an unplanned pregnancy is involved.

Prior to the 2004 election, I was fortunate to take part in the PBS Deliberation Day. This national event brought together voters from all perspectives to explore the landscape of ideas and values. One of the most meaningful conversations I had during Deliberation Day was with over lunch, with a woman who would be considered ‘pro-life’ by any standard. She taught theology at an evangelical Christian charter school in conservative Idaho, and in many respects represents a typical socially conservative perspective informed in part by a literal interpretation of the Bible.

We spoke at length, not about our differences, but about our mutual interest in reducing unintended pregnancies and abortion. We both embraced the ideal that all children should enter this world wanted, loved and safe in order to reach their full potential. I think a turning point was when she learned I was an adoptive parent and had spent my time caring for children in distress. I came away with a renewed hope in the power of respectful conversation.

I believe that the commonly used terms ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-abortion’ are neither accurate nor productive. The discussion of abortion essentially revolves around whether women in this country have a right to their own reproductive choices, and whether we as sexual beings will make better choices with accurate and unbiased knowledge of sexuality, reproduction and the public health issues involving sexual activity. Reproductive rights and education are recognized as the most effective measures to ensure human rights and to reduce poverty, but there is tension when religious beliefs enter the equation.

Many self-identified ‘pro-life’ folks also consistently support the death penalty and/or the Iraq war, and tend to dismiss or ignore issues of global poverty, climate destruction, human trafficking, and genocide. Few support social programs that help the mothers and children resulting from unintentional pregnancy, and view ‘abstinence-only’ curricula in lieu of comprehensive sex education. The same ‘pro-life’ lawmakers and groups that speak passionately about the rights of the unborn tend to abandon interest in them once they have left the womb.

On religion in general (with all due respect to faithfull readers)
This is a tangent, but relevant in that most ‘pro-life’ folks seem to assign religious values to their thoughts on the beginning of life. I’m fascinated by the human inclination to impose meaning, values, or the concepts of justice and balance to what appears to be an indifferent universe. I believe the part of our brain that makes us prone to gambling also causes us to invent religious belief. It is human nature to feel that a ‘run of bad luck’ must be followed by ‘getting a break’ of some kind. Thus suffering must be followed by salvation.

I have no quarrel with others forming their own opinion of how and why we exist or our ultimate fate; but I get a bit snarky when someone attempts to impose his or her values on me or my family and friends, to limit what we can read or say, or who we can love. And I’m alarmed to know how many Americans subscribe welcome the destruction of the Earth. This seems insane.

My thoughts on religion were largely formed at the age of twelve after consuming Twain’s ‘Letters from the Earth’ and Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’ (my personal frame of reference prior to this was Mormonism). I realized how many religions claimed to be the ‘one true faith’ and simply applied something akin to Occam’s Razor: they can’t all be right, but they can most definitely all be wrong.

We are three-part beings; mind, body and spirit. So if the issue is "when does life begin?", the body begins to form shortly after conception and the brain begins to form around two months, the mind one could argue begins with our first thought? Who can say when the spirit enters our being? Are we complete beings without a spirit?

I believe our spirit choses the life into which we incarnate so that our soul can evolve in the way in which it chooses.

I have been physically disabled as a result of living with Multiple Sclerosis for 14 years and it is beginning to affect my cognitive function in some ways. My journey has led me to discover meditation and I have experienced profound levels of consciousness that can only be described as bliss. I believe at those moments I reconnect with Divinity. It is these experiences that have lead me to know that I am not my body or my mind, I am a spirit that has chosen to inhabit a broken body so that I may see the kindness in people's hearts, and experience what so many of our less fortunate brothers and sisters live with.

Namaste (The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you.)

I consider myself a pro-life Catholic Democrat. Neither political party really fits my value system. I have reconciled myself with the pro-choice platform of the Democratic party because I know abortions occur whether they are legal or not. That is I have read that the legality of the procedure does not determine the frequency with which it occurs.

I believe I read a year or two ago that the lowest abortion rates are found in some western European countries where abortion is legal. It would seem, if we were serious about common ground we would study why those countries have low rates of abortion and try to duplicate those conditions. I doubt we have the political will to do so, however.

Moralisticly/spiritualy I can't imagine the weight of the grief and torment that a woman must endure who finds herself in a position where the thought of abortion enters into her mind. As a Catholic I have hope that all humans have some sense of right and wrong(I believe this is inate and reinforced by good parenting/religious beliefs) and that where abortion lies in the right-wront spectrum is very black and white- abortion is wrong- and from this understanding of abortion's degree of wrongness comes the weight of the decision. Abortoin is ultimately a greedy decision, but one I believe a woman should have the right to make.
What bothers me most about so much of politics in American- and ESPECIALLY the abortion 'issue' is that discussion about the ways to avoid the problem/issue being debated are not at the forefront. We should be focusing the abortion debate on:
1) how to get people to make better choices about their sexual activity.
2) providing options to those who don't want an abortion and dont want a baby
3) Encouraging parents to speak with their children early and often about the importance of abstinence and birth control.

What I would like to understand from hard core pro- lifers is why they focus so much on the abortion issue and not on education issues that would avoid the majority of the unwanted pregnancies? Why do they not see value in focusing there? Do they really think that teenagers will stop having sex when they put on a sliver ring?

I'd like them to understand that there has to be middle ground here, new ideas are needed- this black/white approach that we have for the abortion issue is not making progress.

I don't have an idea for terms less polarizing than pro life/choice but would prefer terms that worked at the root cause- where I think we all agree- we are all anti- unwanted pregnancy- so lets work together in realisic ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

I grew up Catholic and believe that some form of 'life' begins at conception. I would be labeled pro-choice now as I support the individual's right to choose what is best for them and the life within them. I expect all consenting adults to recognize that from every act of intercourse, regardless of contraceptives employed, there is always the potential to create a pregnancy and that they will not use abortion as a form of contraception. In the cases of non-consensual sex (rape) and incest I believe the individual should not be required to carry to term the result of this illegal, immoral, devastating and traumatic act. I also fear that if abortion were made illegal, more deaths would occur as women would continue to seek the procedures, now from an unregulated profession. I wish the discussion on this issue would transcend the lifespan of the embryo in question. I do not understand how someone can be pro-life yet then not support programs such as food stamps and head start and welfare to work, to help the individuals who had a child and may now be experiencing financial difficulties. I do not believe that saying 'they should just give it up for adoption" is an acceptable argument from the pro-life position against these programs. If you believe this is a moral issue, then you must look at the morality of helping others in these situations. The terms pro-life and pro-choice are not equal in meaning and connotation. If one side is pro-life this implies the other is pro-death and that is not accurate and demeanonizes anyone who is pro-choice as a baby killer. If one is pro-choice, then the other side should be pro-no choice. There does not seem room on the pro-life side for instances mentioned above of rape and incest - this I would genuinely like to understand. I also don't understand why people vote for an individual based on this one issue. The pro-life candidate may not help them economically, and may actually make their life financially more difficult, yet because they are pro-life they will vote for them.

I came of age when one had to lie ( pretending an impending marriage) to get birth control advice or pills. Finding myself pregnant after practicing vatican roulette at the age of 19, I took unknown pills given by unknown sources. When that and other silly/dangerous ideas did not work I was lucky to have the sister of a friend of mine notice my frantic distress. Even though I thought she was very conservative, she pointed me to a church affiliated underground pipeline to an illegal abortion clinic in Mexico. She and that church may have saved my life.

You, who have not been there cannot imagine the lengths a women / girl will go to terminate a pregnancy if that is her desire. I was lucky to find a " safe situation" . I had a friend who overcame extreme distress to accompany me. I was so lucky not to be in a back alley. I was so lucky not to be left infertile, maimed or dead. It was extremely scary to go to a foreign country and place my life and my friends life in this underground secret situation. But I did it. A parent may never know . Is this what we want for our daughters?

I learned during that trip and in following years that those on the east coast went to Puerto Rico for safer operations and on the west coast, Japan, was where very safe, legal care could be had for a price that very few could afford. Sadly many of these operations were late term,( saline induced labor) because cost meant parents were involved and that meant it took precious time to deal with the realities of travel and arrangements. Is that a choice we want people to be making?

Listen to young people caught up in unexpected pregnancy. The ignorance ( not to be confused with stupidity ) is phenomenal. Romance and sexuality promoted by media are a confusion for our uneducated youth that cannot be under estimated. The denial of sexual reality is the result of our refusal to accept sexuality as a large and natural part of our being. To ignore this drive is to have teenage pregnancy,abortion and child abuse. .

Abortion will decrease when real sexual education and access to pregnancy prevention prevails. Ending Rove vs Wade will simply drive abortion for the poor back underground,increasing abuse, crime and murder for the disadvantaged. The rich will continue to access other countries to get abortion for themselves and their children. Many women will be maimed or die once again at the hands of illegal procedures and myths. That will be the only choice for the disadvantaged. Can we then pretend that America is blessed by goodness?.

That facts are, that state by state mandated laws will be unfair to women. Clinics have already been harassed out of some states. The wealthy quietly take time off from work and drive or fly for needed care. The poor panic, try drugs, coat hangers and back alleys. The rich will continue to protect their own and the poor will have no control over their lives. The poor and desperate will risk all to protect their current employment and future chances of survival. Or they will be weighed down with an unwanted pregnancy, shunted further down the road to less choice for themselves and their families.

We all want to prevent abortion. Look at history. Look at countries around the world that endorse high quality sexual education. The facts are clear. Abortion goes down when sex is dealt with in the realm of reality. Education leads to good choices not necessarily sexual activity. Education and equal access to health care are the answer. This is the middle ground we seek.

Or, the so called Christians could stand up and pay for and adopt EVERY child from an unintended pregnancy. Where are the so called Christians once a child is born? How would we rate foster care in this country? Do you call for equal education, health care, elder care, mental health care, etc ? These are the issues that show our real moral values.

Abortion will decline when women are empowered with self esteem, knowledge and access to choice and control over their bodies.

I believe that abortion along with guns and gays are the issues used by the so called Christian right to AVOID social justice as taught by their inspiration, Jesus Christ. Legal execution even after it has been proven that mistakes have been made- okay, Killing and maiming of hundreds/ thousands of innocents in preemptive wars- okay. Torture -Okay. Long term ( unending ) imprisonment (of even teenagers) without trial- okay. Women as less then human - Okay. Blaming the needy,rewarding the greedy- OKAY. Assuming knowledge about "end days" against all of biblical warnings, not to do so- OKAY. Abusing and destroying "god's" creation(s) - OKAY. A nation that has a economy based on arms sales- okay, Jesus never mentioned guns, gays or abortion- but he did speak often about sharing the wealth, not judging others and treating " others" as we would treat our own. Where are his teachings in the call for national moral obligations?

A lot of slight of hand seems to be the shield of the so called christian right to avoid the lessons that Jesus bought forward from the new testament. He left most of the ancient strictures of the old testament , such as stoning, selling women/what to eat and how to cook etc. without mention. It is so much easier and politically expedient to raise a hue and cry, an outward focus on issues that Jesus never mentioned, but that play well in our media and political structure.

PS- Your guest on Sunday 10/12/08 falls into the frightening group of the willfully ignorant. Sara Palin is a person that condones witch hunting, a church run government, cronyism, slander and hate speech to win at all cost and on and on. She is not a christian she is a "true believer". Do some research. See the films of the " witch hunter" praying for her success. Read about "pastor Muthee". What kind of debate is it when the participants can say that they will "not answer questions" they will just choose to make speeches of sound bites. She is a divider, a pusher of hate and fear. Professing beliefs do not make them ours - actions do. Too many church raised people are brain washed from birth and cannot be trusted to have a thought in their heads not planted by a market driven church of business. She fits the the image of a christian when it is convenient and sadly there it ends, even if she believes she is righteous.

Thank you for your time.

Kathleen Tooke

As a Catholic (see the USCCB 2007 statement on Faithful Citizenship and voting), I don't see how a Catholic can vote for someone who is pro-choice. With euthanasia, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage, abortion must be fought against, according to the bishops. Considerations of education, health care, etc., even competence of the candidate, are important but only secondary to the issue of life, since all rests on that. The only way a Catholic can vote for someone who supports any of these things is if the other candidate is a lunatic - supported slavery or world war as a policy, or segregation, etc. Or if the other candidate is even more anti-life.
I hope that Catholics read the bishops statement and vote responsibly. Also, I hope Catholics would examine the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: "Immaculate from the first moment of her conception". Immaculate doesn't make sense unless there is a human being there. Mary always teaches us.
I must say that there really is no common ground between the two sides of this issue. Like slavery, it's either OK, or it isn't. It is a most serious moral issue, and how we vote and deal with it affects our spiritual lives. In the Catholic Church, the groups that are flourishing in numbers are those that are pro-life, those that are not ardently pro-life, or compromising, are declining. It's almost a litmus test.
My suggestions about new ways to view this issue are two: the first is for Catholics to read the bishops' statements and to vote with a correctly formed conscience. We must realize how seriously immoral this act is, and evil. As it is said at a visionary site of Mary in Ohio, each time an abortion is performed, not only is the good that God had in store for that person to perform lost, but there is a vacuum, and an evil spirit occupies that space. This is possible in Catholic thought.
The second suggestion, which supports the above, is that in American history success of the pro-choice forces has always been accompanied by obvious disasters for our country. For example, abortion became legal in 1973. In that same week LBJ died of a heart attach (the day before), and the U.S. signed the only surrender in its history (Viet Nam). Within a year the Watergate affair began and caused a President Nixon to resign the next year (the only time this occurred). And New York City, which led the legalization fight, almost went bankrupt, and adopted the symbol 'The Big Apple', reminding us of the Garden of Eden. The big apple indeed.
In the early 1980s the Congress failed to pass a pro-life amendment, and the Supreme Court made a two pro-choice rulings, and the U.S. lost 200 plus Marines in Lebanon, the largest terrorist loss in the U.S. up to that point.
In 1993, when the Supreme Court re-validated abortion in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the World Trade Center was attacked for the first time, and would have fallen over except that the bomb was placed a few inches in the wrong spot. Sixteen people were killed.
The U.S. passed the 40 million mark of abortions in the spring of 2001, and later that year the World Trade Center was destroyed. 3000 people died, about the same number of people killed on any business day in abortion. The number of workers of Windows on the World who died on 9/11 was 73.
A belvoed priest chaplain rushed to the towers and was killed immediately by a piece of falling rubble: his name was Michyl Judge. (We will be judged.)
On 9/11 the hospitals in New York opened in anticipation of masses of casualties. But, eerily, there were no casualties. As in abortion, the people died. It was a blue, sunny day, and all of a sudden disaster struck: and this is the experience of the unborn child. And the word 'twin' in 'twin towers' reminds us of unborn children.
And the times of the two attacks plus the times of the two building collapses, as reported in the NY Times, when added up, add to 3737: the reverse of 73 twice. 'Stop abortion' is the message.
The architect in charge of rebuilding the WTC was named 'Liebeskind' or Love Child, or child of love, i.e. love the child. And no building has been erected yet on the site, and abortion is still legal.
When abortion was made legal in New York before 1973 women would fly in to New York, stay at hotels at the airport, have an abortion, and fly back. And what destroyed the WTC was airplanes.
If President Bush hadn't outlawed further embryonic stem cell research in August 2001, maybe the towers would have fallen over, as the terrorists had planned, resulting in the deaths not of 3,000 but of hundreds of thousands of people. But God is kind: the buildings' structure was critized, but it held up long enough to get everyone out below the impact site out, and then collapsed straight down, not touching other buildings.
The number of police and fire men killed was 343: adding two digits either was gives 37 or 73.
The only hijacked plane that didn't reach it's destination went down in Pennsylvania, the state of pro-life Governor Casey, who had almost overturned legalized abortion. That morning the attack cancelled the Democratic primary for mayor in New York City, and the Democratic Party is the one that is pro-choice. The journalist Daniel Pearl was killed on 1/23/2002, the day after the Roe anniversary. In the late 1990s the Congress twice voted to continue to allow partial birth abortion, and at that time the two embassies in Africa were destroyed.
There are many other connections that make me conclude that 'The message of 9/11 was 'Stop abortion''. And later I'll post a picture also. Abortion is terrorism, and if we don't stop this terrorism, we will not stop the terrorism that threatens our country and we will have no security. Spiritually speaking, if we continue to do this crime which cries out to heaven, God will withdraw his protection from us, and since that is the source of our security, we will be destroyed by terrorism.
Finally pro-choice President Clinton took office in 1993, and then the new economics of derivatives began (with the Congress also),
which led to the economic disaster we see today. And we saw the sexual problems President Clinton got into.
Some people say we can't vote on a single issue. But the bishops write that, indeed, we can't vote on a single issue, but a candidates position on a single issue can disqualify him or her from our vote if the issue is serious enough, as in the issues of life.

Let me begin by saying that I believe that abortion is the taking of a life. I also want it to remain a choice. My reasoning is that it is impractical/immoral/unethical to force a woman to bear a child she does not want. Yes, the baby could be adopted. But if the mother doesn't want the child, can we expect her to get good prenatal care, avoid alcohol, cigarettes, drug use? Back in the 60s one of our neighbors in our small town called my mom to give her a ride to the hospital because she was hemorrhaging--the result of a "coat-hanger" abortion. My mother wouldn't give her a ride because she was afraid of the consequences.

I would like to understand what those who oppose abortion can offer as alternatives. I would like them to understand that calling abortion murder is not helpful. I think most women going for an abortion are making a difficult choice and know what they are doing. I tend to agree with the bumper-sticker slogan, "If you don't trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?"

I wonder whether some of our strong feelings about abortion are tied to our attitudes about sex, sin, and punishment. For example, do some of us take the attitude that "if she didn't want to get pregnant, she shouldn't have had sex"?

I heard a terrific story once about folks who were on the opposite side of the abortion question working together for the health and wellbeing of unwanted children. Somehow we must find our common ground by focusing on common values--love, compassion, security-- and be willing to let go of black & white positions to consider all the shades of gray. We need to look at what lies behind/underneath our positions toward abortion, what our fears are.

Is the essence of pro-choice "Free Will is a Gift from God" and pro-life "Killing is Wrong" ? ?
If so, most of us are on both sides. One side is not in direct opposition to the other!
So the real argument is which of these two widely held beliefs you put first.
I could not make judgment for a mother's decision, especially with lack of personal, financial and emotional support - pro-choice. I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death - pro-life.
So my hope has been for supporting women who need more from all of us. Most could do more, whether it's working for adoption reform, offering direct support to individuals or working toward an encompassing view which puts LOVE first. Prayer, along with words, actions and fulfilling these women's necessities are needed. Prayer is free and available to all.

I'm a physician. I've spent the last 35 years taking care of adults and children with disabilities—working to keep them healthy and to maximize their functional ability, dignity, and self-esteem. I believe passionately that the strength of our society is in how we treat the least fortunate among us. I am strongly pro-life and as strongly pro-choice.

I was a medical student and surgical intern at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, an inner-city hospital, between 1969 and 1974, before and after Roe versus Wade went into effect. I really wanted to learn to handle emergencies and spent most of my my free evenings and weekends working in the emergency room or operating rooms. Before abortions were legal, we'd see young women coming in,perhaps 5 to 10 per week, with severe infections or bleeding following back alley or kitchen table abortions, many done with coat hangers and some after attempts to do it themselves. We'd see others poisoned from administration of whatever concoction was rumored to cause one to lose a baby, or worst of all, dead or near death from a suicide attempt. One of my most difficult tasks was telling a beautiful blond college student that her ability to ever become a mother had been taken away by the trauma she had received at the hands of the back alley abortionist who had destroyed her uterus. When abortion became legal and freely available, these stories quickly became a nightmare from the past. The rate of complications and death decreased to almost zero.

Still, abortion is not a life-affirming procedure. It is painful physically and emotionally. It is a desperate approach to a desperate situation. When I first saw tiny arms and legs in an abortion suction jar, I decided not to perform abortions, and probably would not have had one, had I become pregnant out of wedlock. My personal decision was that abortion is something that should not have to happen. Yet, it is clear to me that legal, freely available abortion is absolutely necessary in any civilized society. This has been shown again and again. In countries such as Brazil, that severely limit abortion, the abortion rate is actually over TWICE that in the United States. On the other hand, in the Netherlands, where abortion is freely available and funded by the government, the percentage of women of reproductive age having abortions is one-third of that in this country.

Here's how we can actually decrease or stop abortions. If we give girls access to first-class educational opportunities from preschool through graduate school they will learn to have dreams and they will realize those dreams. If we educate them about the science of reproduction, we will dramatically decrease unwanted pregnancy. If we offer support, education, child care and jobs to single mothers, we will keep them from having multiple pregnancies. If we are serious about actually reducing abortions, we will keep abortion legal and freely able, AND deliver first-rate education, health care, and rewarding, interesting jobs to America's wonderful children. If we make this procedure illegal, it will only serve to increase abortions and kill and hurt more women. This is just one of the reasons why I believe that a McCain/Palin ticket would be DANGEROUS and BAD for our country. Their judicial appointments would most definitely put the Supreme Court into a position to repeal Roe v. Wade, push the decision back to the states, and throw our country back into the dark ages in the areas of actually affirming life.

An Obama/Biden administration is all about getting people out of poverty, giving young people opportunities and dreams, and valuing human life in all of its forms and stages. Life is valuable. Babies should not be killed. But there are some behaviors that you don't change by making laws. You change them by changing hearts. Changing hearts is all about love, education, nurturing, opportunity, and self-esteem. Turning pregnant teens and those who try to save their lives into criminals is antithetical to that.

I approach the subject of abortion as a biologist who was raised Christian. I have worked most of my life as a church organist ("mainline Protestant"). Most of the arguments against abortion reflect an appalling lack of knowledge about life. They also reflect an Old Testament and extremely outdated view of the superiority of human life over other life forms and a patriarchal view of women's place in human society, as merely the conduit for heirs.
Until they are born, babies are, biologically, parasites on women's bodies. Therefore, until they are born, I believe that the health and welfare of the woman should take precedence over that of her unborn offspring. Church teaching, especially Roman Catholicism, has traditionally put the welfare of an unborn child higher than that of its mother. I realize that faith and logic are mutually exclusive, but something is very wrong with this attitude, when an unknown quantity is considered more valuable than a known, usually loved, thinking, mature (or nearly mature) human being in which society may have invested considerable resources.
In framing the discussion of abortion, we must get past the popularly held assumption that most women who get (or even consider getting) abortions are unmarried and find being pregnant an inconvenience. In reality, many married women seek abortions, for a variety of reasons that have little to do with convenience.
Three examples from my own extended family illustrate three very different reasons that married women may choose abortion.
(1) After marrying young, one relative learned that she had married an extremely abusive man. After she had decided to leave him and seek a divorce, she discovered that she was pregnant. She immediately had an abortion, because she could not imagine bringing a child of this abuser into the world. Also, if they had had a child, she would legally have been compelled to deal with him for many years. A few years after the divorce, the family learned that her ex-husband had murdered his brother.
(2) Another married relative already had three children, as many as the family could financially support (barely). Although the couple practiced birth control, she became pregnant. Unfortunately, she learned that she was pregnant AFTER she had just come through a bout of German measles, a known cause of severe birth defects. For this family to have another child would be a great burden. To have a fourth child that also required a huge investment of time and resources because of birth defects would have meant that their existing children would suffer. Although this was before Roe vs. Wade, the couple and her doctor decided that she should have an abortion, and he arranged for her to have one at her local hospital. The fetus was defective.
(3) An in-law married a woman who came from a big family and wanted children of her own. They were thrilled when she became pregnant and crushed when she spontaneously aborted ("miscarried"). They tried again, and this time things seemed to go well. They went ahead and furnished a nursery. Then ultrasound revealed that this fetus lacked a part of its anatomy essential to life. It would not survive after birth. Genetic testing showed that both parents carried a very rare lethal recessive gene. Rather than carry this child to term knowing that it would die either before birth or immediately thereafter, she chose to abort so that they could try again for a normal child. If a safe, legal abortion had not been possible, this family might never have dared again to try to have children. Happily, their next pregnancies produced healthy babies, though one carries the lethal gene.

In any of these cases, would it have been the right choice to continue the pregnancy? Are there not more important considerations than simply life, any kind of life, versus death? Is birth to a life of torture morally more desirable than simply not being born? Think about couples that carry the dreaded Tay-Sachs gene. If a child inherits the gene from each parent, it is born appearing to be normal and healthy. The parents fall in love with their baby, as normal parents would. Then they must watch as this child melts away before their eyes, usually dying before the age of five. How much better if this child had never been born!

There are other terrible genetic diseases that condemn their victims to lives of torture, and their loving parents to watching the torture. Is abortion immoral for these parents?

In answering the questions below, I am requesting that my name, which is uncommon, not be used in order to protect the privacy of the family members discussed above. If you could share these stories without using my name, they might help to provide starting points for discussion.

I was adopted by a couple in this country in 1956 that was trying for almost 10 years to have a child. Then in 1960 & 1962 they had children, on their own. I was told that my birth mother died shortly after child birth and I learned that my "father" did not sign my birth certificate. I was very angry about that and assumed that he did not care enough to be a farther to acknowledge it. It took me a few years for me to come to the realization that I did not know the truth and would probably never know the truth as to why he didn’t sign the birth certificate, maybe the “mother” didn’t want him to, maybe there were other forces or pressures at work, maybe she was raped. No answers at all. I grew up with my own issues and problems with intimacy and when I was 18 or so I made a woman pregnant. She under went an abortion, her second. We were young and scared and saw this as a way out of the situation. A few years later I made the woman that would become my wife pregnant, she also had an abortion. We then went on to have a few miscarriages, two children who are now 19 and 22 and a third child born prematurely but died a few hours after childbirth. In about 1998 I under went a vasectomy, some thing I wish I had done much earlier. In 2002 after much struggling and counseling we separated and in 2007 we finally divorced. I think that ultimately it is a woman’s right to chose to go through with a pregnancy. There are no guarantees that each pregnancy will result in the birth of a child, or even that that child will be fortunate enough to be cared for after birth. I think since he is the delivery system the man needs to take responsibility for the pregnancy and the ability to make a woman pregnant. It is not a life event that he should, with out forethought and understanding.

The focus on "life beginning at conception", mentioned by your recent guest, is a quest to identify some starting point, some beginning that is clear. But it is not clear. There is so much life before this beginning. It is clearer to point out that a fundamental conflict exists between two absolute values for us: the rights of an individual woman and the value we place on a child--which some extend all the way to the very moment of conception.

To me, what is breathtakingly disturbing is the discounting of a wholeness of experience. It is a radical individualism that renounces human connectedness, and lives in a fantasy of ultimate independence. When will scientists design vats for raising these ideal little individuals, to grow all by themselves? Since when do children flourish without a caring mother--parents? One thinks of the Nebraska man who abandoned 9 of his 10 children after his wife died, out of sheer inability to cope. And so, I acknowledge that in cases where a natural, healthy future for both is not possible, our society will have to let the woman make her own decisions about the new life, in full knowledge that her own life will never be unconnected from the existence of this pregnancy ever again. How can the State know what will make the world whole?

If doctors are forced to allow women to die in order to bring a dangerous pregnancy to term, if women are forced to bear their rapists' children, if women struggling to live are subjected to the power of police and the state, our nation has committed abomination against life.

When people insist "life begins at conception," what exactly do they plan to do with the 15 million frozen embryos currently stored in the nation's reproductive clinics, which exist only in case the first implanted embryo doesn't work out?

And let's face it. Any laws on abortion only ban abortion for the poor. The rich will always be able to travel to get one.

Thank you for your show- the phrases pro choice and pro life are limiting the conversation to stereotypes.

We need to come to common ground and that is that no one wants to have an abortion or have to be the one performing it- so why do they happen? If we are all on the same side- its easier to save lives.

I propose a converstation start from the perspective of social justice and compassion.

Under Bush the rate of abortions increased if you add in the morning after pill. Talk does nothing and saves no lives.

Obama has been a member of a congregation that meets the needs of communities- not bangs them over the head with rightious condemnation. The community and religious communities need to solve the issues- not the legislature- abortions are as old as time and the Supreme Court will not stop them.

start from more common sense issues- why do we deny health coverage for birth control and allow a huge group to have no access to health care? Why not help create jobs and a better economy instead of sending money overseas- invest in us so those more inclined to raise a child will have more options. The groups who counsel and help women through pregancy have saved more lives than those protesting on the streets. The Bible study groups that get into people's lives and build community, helpiing each other - save lives. I never recall Jesus participating in the government as a solution for moral issues or protesting against abortion.

I do not mean to pick out one faith - its just what I personally have seen - I suspect those faiths and communities with similar values of helping each other save lives too.

Palin is someone who has children with options- so her daughter was more inclined to make the right choice- will we help create a society that gives others the same options?
If Palin had kicked her kid out - would she have made the same choice? We need compassion in our legislation to give all the opportunity she has

Compassion and social justice

The way I try to understand the emotions of the abortion issue is to try and really see the people who are getting abortions as people who are walking their own spiritual path. I have yet to meet anyone, who has had to make the decision to abort, who was not forced to look at themselves and grow in conscienceness; no matter how young and irresponsible they were or what the circumstance.

I am a physician and I have seen the worst of human nature and lack of self responsiblity; I have also witnessed heartbreaking human tragedies. I have been there when couples - people who were married, educated, high income earners who had planned their pregnancies and wanted their babies more than anything else in the world - be told that there was some horrible defect, and the pregnancy and the baby that they had such expectations for and such plans of perfection and joy were not to be. All most all of these adults choose to abort, because they knew themselves and knew that they would not be able to meet the challanges of a special needs child or a child with overwhelming handicaps. How could I judge someone in that situation and tell them that they were sinning or wrong for following what their own conscience was telling them was the "right" thing for them to do in their individual circumstance? How could I not acknowlege their heart ache and devestation in hearing that their dreams were not to be?

Likewise, I have also been there to see young women make the same mistakes of judgement again and again with men that are abusive and be left alone with a pregnancy that they could not support, or become mothers that were too emotionally detached from their infants to mother them - most times due to their own psyco-spiritual wounds that needed healing. How could I tell them that "they made their bed and had to lie in it" with out seeing the distorted psyche underneath and the need for healing and a second chance?

I remember when I was a resident in internal medicine, one of my fellow residents and his wife decided that it was time to start a family. At five months of gestation, an ultrasound told her something that she had begun to suspect; the baby was not developing properly and near dead.The kidneys had failed to develop. It would be just a short matter of time before the fetus was dead and it would cause her a serious obstectrical complication called DIC ( disseminated intervascular coagulation), due to her body recognizing that the protein of the baby was foreign and would kill her. She needed to terminate the pregnancy before that happened. Since they were active duty military and in a military residency and military hospital, she could not have the abortion in our facility. My fellow resident and his wife had to travel to an abortion clinic in New Orleans and be subjected to the slurs and judgements, and unbridled hate of people picketing the enterance of the clinc. Not one of the people on the picket line ever once, stopped to think and ask themselves the question of what could possibling be going on in this couple's lives; that is how sure and confident the "right to lifers" were in their judgements of how the world and the people in it are suppose to work and how people who get abortions must be. The word devestation does not even begin to describe the blow this young couple experienced. It was the first major, adult disappointment of their lives, and to be ostrasized by people who did not know them and did not even feel the need to know them and their circumstance was the true sin.

I guess the the limiting factor in this debate is the notion of compassion, what it means and how it shows up in practice. I want to know what makes the people on the "right to life" side so sure that their view is so right all the time and that their way is the only way. I would think that in order to have compassion for the people involved in these circumstances, you have to suspend the way you think it is suppose to be and actually be emotionally present for what is in front of you. The reality of life is that there are disappointments and there is irresponsibility and mistakes and you can't help the person through the mistakes and help them learn from it if there isn't room for a second chance and some understanding. The topic of abortion, as far as I am concerned, does not allow for ridgidity of thinking or for any kind of fanatasism. To do so is to lack compassion and a sense of humaness for the people involved.

I'm sympathetic with the pro-life position to a point but have a hard time equating a fetus (not viable outside the womb) with a full-blown infant.

Here's a question to help me understand the pro-life position. Generally, people distinguish between death by accident and death by intentional violence in the sense that the latter is a crime, while the former is not. Many pro-lifers (especially those who speak of a holocaust of abortions) would identify a natural miscarriage as an accidental death and an intentional abortion as a crime (if the law were on their side). But the law isn't the only way we deal with death, of course. There are many other ways we deal with death, even of infants. We hold funeral ceremonies, we bury the deceased in coffins with name and dates on the headstone, we memorialize them through photos and mementos, we list them in family records, we identify them in conversation as one of so many close family members (e.g. I have four brothers, one of whom died young), we remember them vocally on special occasions, etc. Pro-life families want to extend full legal status to fetuses. Do they also extend full social status to them in the above ways? Given that 1/5 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, if they did accord full social status to them, it would certainly be readily apparent in such circles. I would like to know more about the social status of miscarried fetuses in pro-life communities.

At fourteen, my parents aborted Rose from my body. She would be 31 today. I wish I knew her. I wish she knew my other daughter Kirsten. I wish Kirsten knew her.

I don't know who Rose's father was. Perhaps my father. Perhaps one of his friends. Perhaps one of the men who paid him to assault me. It does not matter to me now. I just think of Rose. I just think of the ideal of having her alive now.

I do support keeping abortion legal. I hate that we can abort. But, if something horrible were to happen to my daughter, I don't know that I wouldn't want to reach for that "fix" that would keep her from further agony and keep a child from coming about that way and living through God knows what.

I went through hell as a child. I am glad that I have healed and turned out reasonably balanced, yet not without painful scars. The image I have of Rose is an ideal one: healthy, healed, happy, strong, like me. But that might be far from what would have happened.

We need to educate. Show the truth in great respect for one another. And then we need to back off. We need to surround people who are faced with these decisions with support, prayer, education, personal story, and give them the room to work with God their own way.

Death is not an end. The "pro-life" people act as if it is. No, it is not up to us to decide if this life or that life is better for anyone, but, you know, with our medical "progress" these days, some of us will find ourselves in the position of having to make that decision.

Our answer is to teach the sacredness of life, all life -- the mom who aborts, the dad who leaves, the child, the grandma who cries. We are to support, to talk, to pray, to be open, to ensure that we respect as best we can the continuing development of brain, pain receptors. Development gives us two months to make our decision if we've been irresponsible enough to engage in life-producing acts; two months if we've been assaulted. That's enough time.

And then we need to mourn.

I listened to the article on LaVon's and Craig's competition between organic and conventional corn production yesterday as I was planting cover crops for next year's corn on my own farm. The article and comments that I saw ignored major differences in the way real world agricultural production is taking place. It did not differentiate between insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Your article made it sound as though the corn was sprayed with "pesticides" to make it bigger. Instead, the non-organic plot was bigger and healthier because of weed suppression.

I think that there is a real viable place for organic fruit and vegetable production. While these practices are more labor intensive than conventional farming practices, it is sensible to limit our exposure to most insecticides. However, organic row crop production [such as Craig's corn] that is not used for human consumption is vaguely immoral. Organic row crop production requires tillage to incorporate a crop grown for fertilizer, and requires more tillage to reduce the weed load of the cropland. Tillage destroys soil structure, releases stored carbon, and allows erosion

In contrast, modern no-till farming involves planting crops such as corn and soybeans in an herbicide killed cover crop. This cover crop prevents erosion, sequesters carbon and suppresses weed growth. The added organic mater increases soil microbiotic activity, increases water infiltration of the soil, and lessens the stress and fertilizer needs of the crop. Fertilizer and pesticides adhere to soil particles when applied at agronomic rates. It does not mater if the fertilizer is organic or non-organic. The vast majority of pollution from farms is from erosion of these soil particles into our water ways. Most of the "dead zone" that now occurs in the Gulf of Mexico from run-off from mid-western farms could be eliminated if they were to switch en masse to no-till.

I would like to thank you for this forum. I listen to your program while milking cows on Sunday afternoons. I have spoken out for the "flaming moderates" on the abortion debate in our local newspaper, and been condemned for that stand. My brother-in-law has Down Syndrome. I think that abortions in this day and age should be unnecessary for the most part. There is no longer any real scorning of un-wed mothers in our society. At the same time, most "partial birth abortions" are performed on the advice of a physician; and, I refuse to see an undifferentiated blastula as human. I would love to sit down and have beer with Rod Dreher, but feel that he is more a student of liberal arts training and less a student of biology. There are holes in Mr. Dreher's understanding. He is against abortion, against same sex marriage, but for organic farming.* There is more to a holistic life than being crunchy.
I was raised as a Southern Baptist but abandoned that mindset by the time I was in high school. I spent half of my life divorced from God because of critical thinking. In that time, I received a science degree in college, married and came back home to take over our family's dairy farm. It was only because my wife found a church [in my own town, amazingly] that accepted what Marcus Borg calls "post-critical naiveté" that I was able to return to religion. Biology is the essence of a chaotic system.
As a working farmer, part time student of theology, and a "scientist", I become impatient with those that shut out other sciences. We are more than the sum of our DNA. It is absolutely necessary that an embryo implant into the uterus in order to grow, divide and become a functioning human fetus. Until it reaches a point of vague medical viability, the fetus is very much a body part of a woman. From a biological viewpoint, it seems to me that a fetus evolves into a human. The resolution of this is "above my pay grade".
I was struck, recently, by a passage from Exodus that I had never heard from either the left or the right. Starting with Exodus 21:22, this passage relates that the contents of the uterus are the property of the husband [not the father], and that the value of the fetus' humanity is to be set according to a sliding scale. As a small-b-baptist, I was dumb-founded that the Catholic Church could simply go its own way on this issue and ignore this passage. As a descendent of abolitionists and suffragists, I wonder how anyone could not understand that there are inherent contradictions in the Bible that we work out according to our greater angels. We are to hold up human dignity first and foremost.
Combining these things together leads me to be mostly against abortion AND to know that we have to keep Roe v. Wade. It simply can not be black or white, red or blue.

* I have some difficultly understanding those that blindly accept things such as "organic is better". There is a range of effects. Organic production of fruits and vegetables is probably a great idea, though it is extremely labor intensive and would require hordes of migrant workers if practiced on a wide scale. On the other end of the scale, organic production of row crops is immoral. Tilling the soil merely to kill a few weeds destroys the soil, releases carbon to the air, and causes erosion. Modern No-till farming practices build soil structure and sequesters carbon by utilizing limited quantities of herbicides. Organic dairy farming is somewhere in the middle. The vast majority of the benefits of organic dairying are to be gained from grazing which increases the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants in the milk fat.
By the same measure, homosexuality is a mater of biology, not choice. The Bible deals primarily with inheritance and the necessity of avoiding idolatry. The opposition of some Christians to homosexuality, gay marriage and other such issues is difficult for me to accept when we are told that nothing that is of God [God created] is evil. All of my cows are bisexual. I use artificial insemination, and observe homosexual relations between my cows to know when to breed them. If homosexuals remain "straight" in their actions, then they are going against their God given nature.

As a Radical Catholic Feminist, I believe in a consistent life policy, one which respects the dignity of all human life, including both the unborn child and the struggling mother, by seeking to provide all people with all the choices they deserve in a free, equal and inclusive society. A consistent life policy is opposed to abortion as well as war, the death penalty, human trafficking, euthanasia, terrorism, racism, sexism and poverty.

I am pro-choice-of-life, in a way, because I believe that the ultimate goal in all positions and policies on abortion should be to build up viable alternatives so that any woman who finds herself resorting to abortion will have the opportunity to choose life for herself and her unborn child.

As a Catholic, I look to the example of Jesus as well as social justice leaders like Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Mollie Rogers (the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters), for inspiration in my continuing efforts to help "the least of these." And I believe that "the least of these" includes minority women, single and unwed mothers, victims of rape and incest, and the unborn child. I firmly agree with Barack Obama that the most effective way of reducing abortions, and thus breaking out of the misguided binary of "pro-choice" versus "pro-life", is to "provide the resources that allow women to make the choice to keep a child" (Saddleback Civil Forum).

As a feminist from Smith College, I believe that passive indifference to the needs to women who resort to abortion is a greater form of disrespect, oppression and sexism than any legal action criminalizing abortion. But I do believe that overturning Roe v. Wade without working to provide better support and resources to women whose only choice is abortion, will only force hundreds of thousands of women into dangerous criminal situations, and will do nothing to reduce the overall number of abortions. This is why I am a liberal, Catholic, feminist, pro-choice-of-life Democrat voting for Obama-Biden in November. I truly pray that we can all work together to find an effective and progressive solution to the tragic problem of abortion.

Krista, I think through the various aspects of any subject, including abortion, by looking at its history. In the 90s I wrote a paper on abortion for my university and discovered many important aspects of it that I hadn't known prior. Two examples are: 1) the Roman Catholic Church didn't always object to abortion. I forget the dates now but during the 1700 or 1800s, the church felt strongly that terminating pregnancies were issues between the women and their physicians. 2) In America, during WWI and WWII, the "white males in charge" looked the other way regarding abortion because women were needed in the workfield. One can also look at the posters during those time periods. And when the wars ended, women were again put in their place -- in the homes -- and abortion legislation increased. I believe strongly that most pro-life people surely have no idea of the history of this topic. So I think that your discussion could be greatly enhanced by delving into the history of abortion and the various churches' history concerning it also. Norma Knapp

One of the things I personally don't understand about the abortion debate, is that in most cases the fact is ignored that at least 20,000 if not more(is it 1 every 5 seconds?)children around the world, die each day from preventable causes such as malnutrition or diahrea. There is no ethical, scientific, or moral debate as to whether these children's lives are viable, or when life has begun for them, but for some reason the fact that in our abundant world these children die as they do, is simply pushed aside or not acknowledged. This is perhaps judgemental, but maybe it is just too inconvenient to consider the loss of clearly viable lives in other parts of the world, in a country that consumes for more than its fair share, or what is necessary to sustain life. Instead the defined debate is relegated to speculative issues such as when life begins, or to unknowable moral abstractions. In my mind the terms "pro-life" or "pro choice" are simply matters of convenience in an affluent society, that obsure the larger issues of gluttany, greed, and indifference to the suffering of others already living and breathing in the real world.

This is a continuation of an earlier email. I'm including the times of the 9/11 attack:

First attack 8:46
Second attack 9:03
First collapse 9:59
Second collapse 10:29

Sum: 3737

Since '37' is the reverse of '73', it can be read as meaning 'reverse the decision of '73', which was Roe, so it means 'Stop legalized abortion'. The factors of each of the four numbers include a 3 and a 7 also.

And in the picture below I have the plot of the flights of the four terrorist planes on 9/11 and the flight of the president's plane. And you have to say what it looks like.

Vatican Council II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) says that “society itself may enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, which result from [people’s] faithfulness to God and his holy will” (no. 6).

We can enjoy the benefits of justice and peace, but if we go against God's Will and kill the unborn, we will have terrorism, which I think is the message of 9/11.

Or, as Jesus said, I paraphrase: Just because a man suffers does not mean that he has sinned, or that his parents have sinned, but if you sin, you will come to ruin.

So, I think a linkage, not for blame but for conversion and repentance, is legitimate.

I believe all people have a soul that is set on a unique spiritual course that is beyond our comprehension. I have heard and find I agree with a discussion some years back with the spiritual leaders of the Science of Mind philosophy. Stated simply, if a fetus is aborted it is possible that that experience is part of a higher spiritual experience we as human beings simply cannot judge. We can seek discernment for that soul that didn’t fully develop into a human being and KNOW knowledge was gained. We can panic less if we chose to become aware that something else is at work beyond our comprehension. What I find more limiting in the "pro-life" or "pro-choice" labeling is how that very statement (pro-Life or Pro-Choice) contradicts the actions of violence we as human beings create upon the living. We do not value life when invading a country, and we make choices for others on how their country or family or lifestyle or community will be shaped. We choose who is “bad” or “evil” and we determine what group of people is worth saving for “life”. Abortion is a distraction from the destruction of lives we consciously take and reshape or destroy on a constant basis. This however, can come back to the original idea of that soul's journey. To me, whether at moment of conception or at various ages once out of the womb, we exist within choices that are unique and necessary for each individual. Without concrete knowledge of a life after or an opportunity to come back to “do it all over again” the notion that each day has purpose and meaning is a place to start. If we are going to fight for the "rights" of the unborn then we should fight just as hard for the living and the ones suffering. Somehow, the living seem neglected in the arguments because they aren’t seen as defenseless. I would like to understand from other people's perspective why they feel so passionately about their "side" and why does there have to be a side? Where do they find unity and meaning from drawing a line in the sand to be "right" about their perspective. What do they gain by taking such a determined side? Do they see similarities that can create more of a common ground instead of a tradition of arguing? Human beings have forgotten how to have reverence for all living things. I would like others to understand about me the following: I observe what feels like a Loving and Powerful Force that has somehow shaped and sculpted each person’s mind, personality, essence and purpose (perhaps) that allow each of us to participate with and around others. We are a huge puzzle of human beings and the pieces sometimes fit together and sometimes don’t…but each person’s presence comes from the same Source. I believe the person who found a safe way to perform abortions, or speak to a woman about keeping her child, or counseled a family on a birth defective fetus and the choices allowed, or helped a rape victim reconcile her choices can all be seen as performing God’s work…they obtained their position from the same Source. They are God in action and we cannot judge the gifts God has given each human being who interacts with another around this issue of an unplanned or unexpected pregnancy. I don’t believe God chooses sides…God created the sides by creating the soul in human form to make choices. It would be nice if the pro-life and pro-choice sides would trust that what is taking place is part of the flow of Life. I would like the sides to ease up and find a way to have less battles and more support for the family that is having a difficult time deciding what to do with an unexpected pregnancy.

In this country with determined seperation of church and state, I think that the origins of this conversation should be taken in a historical context. On the surface, it seems that the answer here is clear, the objection to abortion is the assumption that "human-ness" starts at conception and then termination of the fetus is murder as described in the Bible. Religion. No role for legislation of a religious belief. That leaves "moral" grounds. Much of what is considered moral in this country is based on Judeo-Christian belief. The evolution of a moral code from a religious tradtion would be an interesting conversation. What is human life? A beating heart? A working brain? How does a society decide? When is it acceptable to take a life? Punishment? Euthansia? Suicide? Once society decides, then it should be applied across the board from birth to death. But it must be on moral grounds, not religious grounds, because the state can not, under our constitution, decide which religion I practice and how I practice it.

IMAGINE...a country where the "pro-life" and the "pro-choice" forces have pooled all their time, money and energy to help reduce the number of safe, legal abortions. We know that legislating against abortions will not stop them and will have the greatest impact on people of less economic means. All the legislators and judges who might rule against Roe v. Wade will still have access to safe abortions because they have money which gives them the ability to travel to a country where abortions are legal and safe or to pay someone to do them a service...they will still have "choice". We know from history what the choices are in a country where abortions are not legal...add a child to a family who is for whatever reason having trouble imagining taking care of that child, carry a child you know you cannot keep to full term to give it up for adoption, self-induced abortions through many horrendous means, paying a 'butcher" as they used to be called to do a back alley abortion. I call myself "pro-choice" for these reasons. I would love to reduce abortions. But with so much of the energy of both sides of Winning, little is done to bring the numbers down.
Communities of faith could work harder within their own communities to educate their members and keep abortions down. They could help by encourageing their members to adopt here is the US, not from some other country. Local groups could work together to get information out about adoption, birth control, and abortions. I can remember a time when hundreds of children were lanquishing in foster care. If "pro-life" adherents want to get rid of abortion it would behoove them to have a plan for children who have no family. Who will bring them up?
We need to work together to help people in crisis in lots of creative ways. The operative words are "work together".

Yes, let’s reframe the conversation.
Let’s talk about how we can do a better job of being pro-child and pro-mother.
People on both sides of this debate can agree on that. I want abortion to remain legal in this country because I care deeply about children who are born into situations where they are only marginally wanted—where their chances for love, care, education, and the necessities of life are very slim. As a born-again Christian, I respect the fertilized egg and the embryo in the first few weeks, but I believe that God approves a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy in the early stages if she cannot bring the child into a loving home. It is sad to end a life that is just beginning, but not as sad as watching a child grow up battered, neglected, or hungry for love—perhaps lacking even food and medical care.
Some will say that a woman who cannot raise her child should have it adopted; I thought so too until a friend told me that she could not make that choice because she herself had been given up for adoption. Though Karen had had a fairly normal childhood, she always longed for her real mother. “I had an abortion because I could not do that to my child,” she told me. She loved her child too much to let it be born and never know its parents.
I am now a 60-year-old married mother of three daughters. When I was 38 years old with two children, my husband and I planned to have no more children, but our birth control failed. We then had to make a decision, which he felt was mostly up to me because it would impact my life more than his.
Suddenly I realized what it would be like if the US government told me, “You have to bear this child. You must go through another long pregnancy and painful childbirth; then you must either raise this child [and love it? does the government care about that?] or give it up for adoption.” Most mothers of two could not give away that third “surprise” baby for adoption. That means that families—no matter how stressed or dysfunctional—would have to add another fragile life with additional stress, if ending an unexpected pregnancy were not a legal choice.
With prayer and reflection, I chose to complete that pregnancy, but I resolved to do something to keep abortion legal in this country. I started a book containing the stories of Christian women who have prayerfully chosen abortion in various real-life situations. Abortion—My Choice, God’s Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories was published in 1994; it’s still available on Amazon or through my publisher, New Paradigm Books, in Pasadena, CA.
I would like others to understand that a truly pro-mother position would respect the decision of a woman who wonders whether completing a pregnancy will be a good thing for herself and for her unborn child. Ending a pregnancy can be a responsible decision—a recognition that she would be endangering her child if she brought it into the world in her current circumstances. If the father is unwilling to take responsibility, if she has no education or income, her decision to end a pregnancy should be honored, not condemned. Some of the women in my book had two or three children later, when they could bring them into a loving family. Others were never able to conceive again.
People who feel that they are “pro-life” often do not like the term “pro-choice.” It’s a child, not a choice, they say, believing that women who choose to end a pregnancy are selfish and irresponsible. Therefore, let’s throw out both of these worn labels. How pro-life is it to condemn an unwanted baby to a life of foster care and misery, perhaps crime?
Let us who are in favor of abortion remaining a legal option call ourselves pro-child and pro-mother. It is we who truly care about a child who is not even 18 and has doubts about whether she should become a mother. It is we who truly respect mothers when we say that motherhood should be chosen, not forced on women who have an unplanned pregnancy. Do we value mothers when we say that any female who conceives must become a mother? If a woman says, “I cannot do a good job of this very important task at this point in my life,” we will respect her decision. For the government to force her to complete a pregnancy is to devalue motherhood.
I continue to write and speak on this important issue. In June, 2008, I gave a talk entitled Christians & Abortion: Finding a Middle Ground between Extremes at a meeting of Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, which was part of the biannual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA in San Jose, California. My articles often appear on the website of Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus, www.eewc.com. I also keep a blog on issues of importance to Christian women, www.marthaymaria.blogspot.com.

I am a Christian. That is a belief. My "Mission Statement" is to Love God and to Love My Neighbor as myself. Those are values, which come as natural and explicit results of my belief in a Living, Loving God.

I believe that each abortion is a tragedy - the end result of a tragic situation. But abortion itself is not a value. It is an action. Outlawing abortion is an action, also. But values are clear and defined in their intent and scope. Actions carry many collateral consequences.

My father and step-father were both conservative Republicans who would be in their 90s, if they were still alive. They were also good friends, going back to their Obstetric residencies together in the 1950s. Abortion was illegal then. They had both seen the results of the law. Most people think the downside of outlawing abortion would be orphanages and teenage mothers and social embarassment leading to quickie adoptions. My fathers saw septic complications from back-alley abortions. Young women dying needlessly. Girls, who saw no other option, committing suicide. This "collateral damage" was an integral part of their professional lives. They were both invariably socially conservative, but neither had an issue with abortion. That's because their experience had changed them. Changes this value.

They also knew (and apparently most of the medical community knew) which physicians did abortions. They considered many of them highly principled men (all OBs in that day were men) who chose one tragedy over another.

They also pointed out specific cases. Families I knew (back in the way-way pre-HIPAA era) who were outspokenly Pro-Life but had fallen into sudden silence on the issue. They invariably had teenage daughters.

My mother, who had four healthy children in her first 4 years and 2 weeks of wedded bliss, was afraid that she had become pregnant a fifth time. I know that my mother loves each of her children very much, but she still maintains today (at 92) that she would have "flown to Europe to have an abortion" if that had been the case. She could afford to. Most women - especially young, unmarried women - could not afford that.

I am the father of two beautiful, adopted children. In each case, their birth mothers had considered abortions, but chose to carry our children to term. I thank God for them and pray for them every night. My children are both in their 20s now, and I am not silly enough to think that they are not sexually active. I don't know what would happen if my daughter became pregnant. But I do know it wouldn't be my choice; her life is not mine to control - even if I were foolish enough to want to try. That lesson I have already learned.

Although some of these observations are "vicarious learning" they provide food for thought.

The problem with tragedies is that the root cause comes well before the painful end. If abortion is at the end of the chain, why do we focus our attention there. Wouldn't proactivity be more effective? Or is that un-Anerican?

If a law doesn't stop abortion (and it won't) does it at least slow it down? If so, what are ALL the collateral costs involved - including lives lost and ruined, careers destroyed, tax dollars spent on enforcement? Has anyone honestly done this math?

Is outlawing abortion the solution to abortion or just an action we take in a desperate attempt to enforce our values?

If my values differ from yours, what do we do? More to the point, WWJD? Or should I say: WWJI (What would Jesus Impose?) I can't honestly remember Jesus imposing anything but Love on anybody. No call to Arms. No political agenda.

I see His heart breaking and I see him sitting down to eat with prostitutes and tax collectors and abortionists and pregnant girls and girls not yet pregnant. And I see Him changing their hearts.
I see Pharacees making laws.

These have been some of my experiences. They inform how I view the world and other people and God. And myself. And I know that I am called - we all are called - to take action on our values. I am just not sure that outlawing abortion is a right action to take.

Peace,
Bill Berger

When I was in college in Indiana during the mid-1970's, a couple I knew became pregnant. They were "typical" college students; they were 18-years-old. At the time, abortions were not available in every state and the nearest clinic was two hours away in my hometown. They borrowed my map and we talked about the route they would need to drive.

I remember how scared my friends were in the day before they drove to the clinic. I remember how the girl cried. I remember talking about how she would have to face protesters. I remember the angry, dour faces of the adults at the rallies we saw on television.

Most of all, I remember thinking that the "adults" shouting the loudest would never be personally affected by a ban on abortions. From my perspective as a college student, kids my own age were pawns in the game being played.

That realization stung and has shaped my opinion on the topic ever since. As a person of faith, I dislike abortion but I feel nothing but compassion towards the terrified, powerless people that see no other choice.

I wish we could also discuss the fate of (and our responsibility for and to) those children born to parents who don't want them (in mild and in extreme forms), can't care for them decently (for economic or psychological reasons) or even hate them and end up torturing and killing them. For example, people convicted of violent crimes are not allowed to vote but no restriction is placed on their right to parent. Prospective parents aren't examined for undiagnosed mental illness. Episodes of post-partum mental illness dangerous to the child are not adequately treated. Anytime I read one of those stories in the news about some poor child tortured and murdered by its parents, I feel responsible for not protecting that child. Surely I'm not the only one who has that feeling. Yet there seems no way for me, for any of us, to protect those children adequately or at least none that works. I also think this kind of abuse is passed on to the victims who become abusers of the next generations and that aspects of our violent aggressive authoritarian culture stem from that "heritage." When I hear people gloat about those they imagine being thrown into eternal torture or see we all ignore those we are torturing right now, I suspect this inability to feel for another's suffering results from an abused childhood, manifests itself in the belief in the rightness of a cruel punishing authority (God, father, president) that must be venerated and obeyed; I think our behavior as a nation is being corrupted by that abuse, by the kind of twisted emotional thinking it perpetuates--in a sad ironic way--in its victims. My concern is that while we focus on what happens to the child at one stage of life, we don't look at (or take responsibility for) what happens in the next stages. I would like to see us talking more about reducing ALL forms of cruelty to children, including abortion as one but not the only and sometimes perhaps the least cruel of them.

ANTI ABORTION, PRO CHOICE

I would like every attempt to be made to limit abortion. I don't think I know any pro choice people who like the idea of abortion or think it is a morally neutral act. Just because we think something is wrong does not mean it should be illegal.
On a practical level there is no way to eliminate any undesired behavior through legislation and the thought of do it yourself abortions comes to mind on this issue. Many of the same people who are violently opposed to abortion also oppose sex ed and teen birth control, the tools people can use instead of abortion.
On a spiritual level I don't feel it nessecary to outlaw a decision a woman is making about her own body.
If we approach the issue as a matter of public policy with the goal of reducing abortions through education and prevention then our end result will be morally strong.

Moral and spiritual aspects of abortion

In my denomination, the United Church of Christ, we have had a pro-choice position statement since before 1973 (when Roe v. Wade decision was made). The UCC's statement on abortion reads, “to have reverence for life, does not mean to make an ideal of the possibility of life. To have reverence for life means to want the best for those children who are born. Our society needs to show as much reverence and respect for those who do the demanding work of parenting as we do for the potential life of the fetus. Throughout the Bible, scripture affirms that it is not simply the fact of life alone that sacred; it is rather our relationships, with God and with one another, that make life holy.”

This theology of relationship shapes how I understand the spiritual and moral aspects of abortion. The question of when a fetus becomes a child is not just a biological determination, it is a theological one. I have come to believe that a fetus becomes a child is when a covenantal relationship is established between a mother and the developing fetus.

For some pregnancies, this covenantal relationship is made early and by many as we gather around and rub a woman’s belly and wait with excited anticipation for the birth of a wanted child. An expecting mother might show you an ultrasound photograph of her fetus and listen to its beating heart with great excitement. She may already have names picked out.

Whereas, under different circumstances, a woman might find out she is pregnant and never create a bond or relationship with the fetus.

This emphasis on relationship allows me to honor the variety of feelings and experiences people have related to reproduction. If a mother (and potentially a father) has established a covenant with a fetus from the moment of fertilization, a miscarriage can be devastating.

Understanding others and being understood

I would genuinely like to better understand how the pro-life movement views contraception and it's role in preventing abortion. The official Roman Catholic teaching is against contraception and there has been a lot of publicity about pharmacists refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions. But, I wonder if there are other denominations who discourage contraceptive use, and if so, what their theolgocial reasoning is for doing so.

Personally, I would like a genuine conversation about the best way to reduce the number of abortions. I do not know anyone who is "pro-abortion." And it seems like having a pro-choice position statement is a litmus test for some political candidates. However, banning abortion does little to reduce the need in the first place. We need to have a real discussion in this country about sexuality and reproductive health.

I facilitated a day-long discussion with 80 clergy in South Dakota in 2006 before the vote on the abortion ban. These were clergy with a variety of opinions about abortion. But, even in that context, dialogue was possible. And, at the end of the day, some of the self-identified pro-life clergy said that they believed there were ways to work together to reduce the need for abortion and they thought that an abortion ban might not be the best way to reduce the need for abortion. I believe that if respectful dialogue is possible in South Dakota with a looming abortion ban, it should be possible anywhere.

The only voices I hear in the abortion debate are conservative or evangelical Christians and secular feminists. I was shocked when I heard Professor Shai Cherry of Vanderbilt University state that “Jewish law requires abortion when the woman’s life or health—physical or mental—is threatened by the pregnancy; Jewish law permits abortion when the risk to the woman’s life or health (again, physical or mental) is greater than that of a normal pregnancy but not so great as to constitute a clear and present danger to her” (from Rabbi Elliot Dorff [Conservative], Matters of Life and Death, as quoted by Shai Cherry in the Teaching Company course Introduction to Judaism guidebook). Professor Cherry when on to quote the Oholot Mishnah 7:6 which states “If a woman is having difficulty in labor, one cuts up the fetus within her womb and extracts it limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over that of the fetus” (Shai Cherry in the Teaching Company course Introduction to Judaism guidebook). I have never heard any one from the Abrahamic traditions express such compassion for women. It brought tears to my eyes.

Christians legislators add exceptions for the life of the mother reluctantly and only because they fear that without those exceptions their laws will be vetoed or declared unconstitutional. I only hear Christians talking about the “rights” of the unborn, but nothing about the suffering of the women on whose life the unborn depend. It is as if the potential life of an embryo/fetus is more valued by Christians, then the actual life of a woman. I would like to hear more about what non-Christian traditions, such as Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu Jain, Native American, pagan, humanist, etc. have to say on the moral and spiritual questions of abortion.

I had an abortion when I was 19 (I am now 38). I regret getting pregnant, but I don't regret having an abortion. I was raised Catholic, but I have always had eclectic views about religion and spirituality. I am not a Christian. At the time of my abortion and now, I feel that if humans have an immortal soul that to be reincarnated is it's likely fate. The unborn child, the embryo, which I aborted did not suffer; it's soul, if it had one, went back from which it came perhaps to be reborn or perhaps to drift into the nothingness which then we all are bound. I was not mentally or physically prepared to have a child.

No one wants to get an abortion, ever. I wish the two sides of the abortion “wars” could make peace and work together so that no one needs to “choose”. While abstinence certainly can be a wonderful thing, the sex drive is real, is powerful and is not going away; so to prevent abortion, we need comprehensive sex education, affordable and available contraceptives, as well as help (health insurance, financial assistance) for low-income mothers and families since poverty is a big factor in many women's decisions to have an abortion. I do want abortion to be safe and legal, but I also don't want anyone to need an abortion.

Nobody really favors abortion but certainly many of us support its the woman's body and its her right to choose. Abortion is a deeply difficult decision that takes lots of consideration. Pro-choice folks tend to look broadly through the decision where pro-life folks frequently take the narrow view. Abortions are going to happen and the focus must be on preventing unwanted pregnancies and women having control of their bodies. Only the individual woman can make the choice.

“It’s positive,” the nurse said.

“Define ‘positive’.”

“You’re pregnant.”

OK, that was not my idea of positive! I had positive all mapped out. Positive was a four year stint in the Army followed by a four year stint at college, then a career that included opuses, and lovers, and a family safely distant – say the distance between the San Francisco and Cleveland. Nowhere in my positive did the word ‘baby’ intrude. I wanted to be an aunt not a Mom, an Auntie Mame sort of aunt, only without the money or the husbands. I would be whole in myself without the need of any other.

And then I had this whole other inside of me.

This whole other... What? That “what” is the question at the heart of the abortion debate. What is it? This smidge of tissue, this conceptus, this abstraction? To me, this is an intensely personal question. Until this tiny thing can live on its own outside of a woman’s body, its whole universe is tied up in hers. The ‘what’ is a question that only a pregnant woman can answer. Until she answers the question, her pregnancy only implies the potential for a human being, not the child that the embryo might become. Only she fully understands where she is in life and what her pregnancy might mean. A woman needs a lot of support to have and raise a child and that support is not always there. Having been faced with this question myself, I do not believe any woman has an abortion casually. Quite the reverse, considering an abortion forces her to face the issue and answer those hard questions.

If a woman already is in an abusive relationship, where is the morality in bringing a child into a place that she knows will harm her child? Another moral question that arises concerns the greater community. If we are to say that no pregnancy can be aborted, then where is the support that a woman and her child need to survive? It’s easy to place the blame on a mother – she’s the one left holding the bag that can’t be detached from her. It’s easy to say she should have been more careful, less sexual, more saintly, but here she is and here the child is, and sometimes the father is nowhere in sight. Sometimes distance between mother/child and father is the best thing. Our community is very good at placing blame, but not so good at the practical matters.

As for the spirit, maybe God can answer the question of when does soul attach to a human being, but I’m certain that no human being can answer that question. For myself, I believe that soul arises from the mind and body combined. I don’t believe an embryo is capable of supporting soul. I also believe that God wastes nothing. If now is not the right time for this child, this soul, then maybe next year, next century, the right time will come.

I think that I already do understand the position of those who disagree with me. If I really believed that an embryo was a human being, then condoning abortion would be like saying that murder is OK by me. What I don’t understand are some of the things that seem to go along with the pro-life perspective. One I’ve already touched on: if it’s so important to save the unborn, then why do they waste so much time & money on protesting outside of clinics? Why don’t they direct that energy on helping women who don’t have a family to support them so that they can have their child? Another is the question of birth control and family planning education. People who are pro-life also seem to be the same ones who object to educating young people about birth control. Abstinence only can’t be the only reply to such complicated questions. And finally, how can someone labeled “pro-life” bomb clinics and murder doctors?

Pro-choice, pro-life – I don’t like either of those terms, but I’m not sure what I’d replace them with. I can’t say that I’m pro-abortion – I’m not. I’m pro-keep-the-government-out-of-my-most-personal-decision-ever. I guess pro-choice will have to do. I chose to not have an abortion. I’m glad that I had a choice.

(The pictures are of me and my son when he was a little thing. He's 31 now and teaches art at Montana State University in Bozeman --check out his website www.rollinbeamish.net -- moms are moms no matter what their stance on abortions :-)

I must begin by saying that I am not a practictioner of any one religion -although I do consider myself a spiritual person. I am, however, surrounded by a strongly evangelical community. In many of their eyes, I am considered to have no morals (which I have been told to my face) because I do not share their evangelical faith. They believe all abortion is wrong -no exceptions. Life begins at conception. Yet, birth control pills are okay. But aren't they also technically abortion? They seem unable to accept the complex life situations that lead a girl/woman into having an abortion. The world is always black and white, never grey. I believe that the world is a very complex place. No issue is simple. Abortion can not be addressed without addressing family planning, education, the welfare system, adoption, the economy, violence, incest, maternal health, fetal viability, and on and on. I believe most people can see those complexities. And yet, there is a portion of Americans who don't want to see (or possibly can't see) this. I understand why they believe abortion is wrong. I think it's wrong as well. But, I also know that life sometimes leaves you with the worst possible choice being the only one you can make. I am posting this to you even though I am not sure that it will be read at all because I want you to understand the effect that some evangelicals have on others. I did not think that last week's comments reflected the "right-wing evangelicals" I know. I have to be afraid of saying that I don't go to church. I also have to work side-by-side at my family's business with my brother who is also an evangelical minister. I know, through things his children have let slip, exactly what they think of me. They are pro-life, pro-gun, anti-government, end-timers who will not compromise on anything. I would love to meet the evangelicals you have had on this program.

The way I think through this ever-present and polarizing issue is that both sides need to examine what it means to have respect for life. In the last seven years we have been told that one religious group in particular has no respect for human life and this statement offered by television, radio and the internet casts its shadow over an entire culture of people with no consideration for individual lives.

Contradictory to this statement about a lack of respect for human life are the following facts and questions to be considered:

1. Is the abortion of a fetus said by one candidate in the current election to have rights at the moment of conception any different from the unborn babies that fall victim to bombings specifically in Iraq? What of the millions of children born and unborn who have been killed by this means?

2. If we hold such high moral ground in the topic of respect for human life and for human rights why then do we rush new mothers from hospital beds quicker than ever after giving birth?

3. In a society that respects human life how does both sides account for the amount of children born and unborn that are homeless or living in foster care and orphanages?

4. What is the difference in the respect shown for an unborn life opposed to a life living in a war torn country such as Iraq and for the lives of these people who like us are effected by disease, disability, tradgedy, injustice and the lack of a voice in the public realm?

5. If aborting an unborn fetus is murder what is capital punishment? What is the reason/justification behind the "accidental" executions that have occured and which side of the abortion issue will take responsibility for such lives?

6. Why do both sides of the issue continue to "go forth and multiply" when they live in a world of child crimes, disease and any other number of possible birth defects that have been bred into our races of people?

7. If the righteous right wants to refuse any woman a right to abort a fetus what will that person do specifically after the birth of the child? Are the pro-life individuals willing to adopt these children or is this the responsibility of their neighbors?

8. According to the Christian creation story, man and woman were told to "go forth and multiply" prior to allegedly committing original sin. What then is to be said and/or answered for as a result of bringing forth new life knowing that one is bringing forth a life that is held to the premis that man is born a sinner and cannot know the goodness of the Christian god?

9. Today many people speak of the "end times." Why is it that the same people continue to birth children and is this not making the same choice to abort a life?

10. Where does the heierarchical understanding of life come from and is this not something both pro-lifers and pro-choicers acknowledge? Murder one, two, and three; man slaughter, involuntary man slaughter, vehicular man slaughter and murder by self defense.

11. Does the commandment thou shall not kill refer specifically to the body or does it also include the mind, spirit and emotions of human life? Is there evidence stating that not killing applies only to two-leggeds and if so, why do we not consider animal lives as important if a creator thought them so important that they were spared or at the beginning of multiple creation story floods?

12. Deciding to send young people to war to shed blood of others is also killing. How does this fact play a role in the discussion and how is it moral and acceptable to shed the blood of others to ensure one's happiness when the action results in the unhappiness of mothers, brothers, sisters and fathers of the life taken?

I think that every situation is unique and presents its own unique set of moral and spiritual trade-offs. I am a Lutheran and very much believe that my relationship to God is personal and that God and me are the only ones who need to know what that relationship is and whether or not s/he accepts me with all my brokenness. Every moral question is a choice between two or three options; none of which is perfect or simple. All choices have negative and positive consequences. Those choices should be up to families; not the government. We can't govern religion or morality.

I worked for a wonderful man who had the opposite opinion and we would have very thoughtful, respectful discussions about it. Too often people have very shallow opinions on the issue, which usually leads to raised voices and displays of anger when one can't explain one's view in terms of a deep-seated philosophy (because one does not have a deeper philosophy to explore). The question you are asking brings up images of shouting matches over shallow talking points; not my thing.

That I really do not share their world view (or other-world view) and I just want them to leave me and my family alone with our God to make our own unique decisions.

No, because people are always trying to change the names of things thinking that will eliminate the polar ends. It never does and then in a few years, the new names are just as polarizing as the original names were. I am very much hoping that one day the whole argument will be something that people study in history books, like the battles between the gold and silver standard.

Overall, I believe it is a personal medical decision, and one that should not be legislated on a federal level.

I am interested in the possibility of your show exploring the larger societal impacts of legalized versus illegal abortion. For example, the book "Freakonomics," written by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, has a section in which it explores the concept that crime rates in this country were reduced in decades following the ruling that made abortion legal. In other terms, is it harmful to force someone to bear an *unwanted* child? If the child is unwanted and causes an economic, emotional or physical burden, are we not forcing an undesired societal change by encouraging an influx of children who become adults with psychological issues? Whether a morally conservative person can imagine such a thing as an unwanted child or not, legislating this morality seems like a very dangerous slippery slope.

Likewise I would love to hear an engaging dialogue on the following question: where is the line drawn in someone's mind between life that is sacred and life that is disposable? How can one accept forcing a woman to bear a child she cannot or will not care for, while simultaneously accepting and supporting a violent war in which men, women, and children's lives and bodies are disrupted, broken, or brutally ended altogether?

Thank you for considering this topic.

The two categories of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" don't include my community's perspective on the issue of when life begins and whether abortion is permissable.

Orthodox Jews have a perspective on when life begins that is a continuum. Without condoning outright abortion, for the first 40-days after conception, if a spontaneous abortion occurs, the fertilized ovum is considered as "mere water" and no special value is assigned to it. As gestation progresses, the fetus's life grows in value, but even after birth, for the first 30 days it is not considered as a full human life, and if it should die, it does not receive the full funeral and burial rites accorded to an older infant.

In some ways, Jewish Law considers even a 9-year old and even a 19-year old as not being fully mature humans.

Abortion is allowable in cases where the pregnancy endangers a mother's life. The fetus in that case is considered a "rodef" (Hebrew for a pursuer who intends to murder). All necessary actions to save the mother's life are encouraged. But once that fetus is born (even minimally), its status changes and abortion becomes a potential murder.

"Endangering a mother's life" may include cases where the danger is psychological and not just physical.

And so, Judaism refuses to paint this controversy as a black or white issue.

If the Jewish approach was widely known, perhaps both Christian and secular Americans might see their views on abortion in a new light.

I am pro-life. I am satisfied that life is a gift from God, and we must not treat this gift casually. But--does life begin at the moment of conception? We don't know.

The Psalmist writes, ". . . it was You Who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:13-14). But King Solomon, reputedly the wisest human in history, wrote, "Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother's womb, so you do not know the word of God, Who makes everything." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

So we do not know when life begins in the womb--when the fetus becomes a living soul. I cannot find in Holy Scripture any statement to justify the belief that "life begins at the moment of conception."

Conservative Christians have been accused of believing that life begins at conception and ends at birth. Once a human is born, they are on their own, facing the hazards of premature death at the hands of other humans, the result of a crime, an act of war, or a state-ordered execution. One who is consistently "pro-life" should be against war and capital punishment.

Abortion is a moral issue, and must be left in the hands of the woman who carries the fetus, in consultation with her doctor, her conscience and her God. It is not a legal issue, and the state always errs when it seeks to legislate morality. Abortion, like any other medical procedure, is a public health issue, and if the state outlaws abortion, it will go underground and become a health hazard.

The government must restrain itself, limiting its activities to matters of law and social order. It is ironic to me that most people who advocate pro-life legislation tend to be political conservatives who want less government intervention in our private lives. They make an exception when it comes to requiring others to adhere to their own unique moral standards.

My son is pro-life. My daughter is pro-choice. They love each other very much and have learned to disagree with civility. We should all follow their example.

Although I am not a lawyer, I come from a family of them, and have always been struck by the difference between what's legal/illegal versus what's right/wrong.

I am old enough to know the fear experienced by someone who thought she might need to terminate a pregnancy as she contemplated the possibility of a dangerous, unsanitary, and unsupervised medical procedure which might in and of itself endanger her life. Based in part on that experience, I strongly believe that the safe medical procedure should be available within the normal medical system.

This is to say that abortion, as a medical procedure, should be legal, i.e., the society should not erect barriers to prevent it absent some clear legal consideration. And as with all legal matters, the court system exists to protect the rights of those impacted by the law.

The moral question is something else.

Whether or not to have an abortion is a question I will never face personally, but I cannot imagine a more personal kind of decision to make. This is a moral decision. Surely a moral decision has to be made by the person involved. Arguing that life has or has not begun with respect to the fetus is a consideration, but it is one of many. I do not see how someone else's version of morality can control my own. It may inform or influence it. I may or may not want to hear the opinions of others. But in the end, I must make my own moral decisions and accept the consequences.

What I see too often is persons of good conscience who hold a particular moral position for themselves seeking to impose their morality on others by means of the legal system. That is bad law and unjust morality. In our society, people are free to express their opinions so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. They are not free to impose their moral positions on anyone else.

It would perhaps help for people to read Jon Meacham's "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation." It helps to understand what was intended. History may provide a useful bridge to understanding.

I find the pro-life and pro-choice labels misprepresent a lot. I get really sickened mostly by the modern christian popular church movements and the Christian "brand" at how the leaders are trying to force it as a test of being a "real" christian you have to oppose keeping abortion legal in the US. I do support keeping it legal. I am a Christian too. I find it really disgusting how both sides, those who want not restrictions on abortions and those who want it outlawed have to use sort of dishonest language to describe the situation. Like a prochoice person calls it a fetus, but when you go to the obgyn even in thefirst weeks they say " here is your baby" and we all accept that. And prochoice cannot say, " yes, a developing human being is being killed, and quite gruesomely" becuase that is what happens. They cannot admit that having an abortion is traumatic to the woman and she can have a lot of guilt afterwards. They just cannot be honest about all the implications and exactly what happens when an abortion occurs.

And the anti-abortionists cannot admit that the person who is pregnant can be at a terrible disadvantage, and may have to shoulder the burden alone- they will not admit that all children are not a blessing to all people. It is like they cannot admit that women will die terribly getting underground abortions as they have since the beginning of time, or that women do suffer when they have to bear a child they don't want to bear. They want to decide for other people how their lives should play out when they themselves will not be responsible for the outcomes. This is fundamentally cruelly conveninet for them, because Christians have rules that manage their lives that are not part of the lives of non-Christians, and they try to force people to live by their rules without the benefits of the faith. It strikes me as insensible and sort of against the tenets of our faith anyhow. They cannot admit that they ARE de-valuing a woman's right to make her own moral choices, what is going on in her own body and her own future. Its so much easier to picket and find some group to hate and go "against" than it is to be a solution for all the women who are stuck with trouble pregnancies- it seems such a cheap, age old show of humans most troubling natural tendancy to find a group to go against in order to shore up and validate the boudaries of one's own group! It seems to be low hanging fruit.

I would like to see the discussion center on if we want the law to recognize a human embryo or pre-born human as the same as a born human and give it the same rights and protections under the law. I honestly don't think we as a society do. I believe that if a government can tell us we cannot have an abortion, then we give them the rights also, that they can tell us we must. I like to think I would not have one, but I have considered it once. I like to think I would be strong enough to live out the rules of my faith. But I don't think I have a right to tell someone else what they must do with their lives. My mom had one when my dad was just in really bad shape and we were all living on a thread, she had 4 kids already. Was it right or wrong. We will never know I guess. My sisters had them and I am glad they could do it at a doctors office rather than a back alley.

I`m for pro choice, not because I agree with women having abortions but whether I like it or not,women who find themselves in unwanted pregnancies will expose themselves to butchers in back alleys or do it themselves and put themselves in danger.
I wonder why it`s not ok to curtail life in the womb but many of the same people would think it`s ok to send young people to wars and have their lives cut down in their prime.

Pro-choice to me is the moderate position, endorsing making choices possible and leaving those choices to the individual. My background is that of a Christian (Presbyterian variety) grounded in free choice, born by choice and through use of birth control to plan my birth. Pro-choice is a term that is just fine, one that is pro-life. Forcing women to bear children is not pro-life, but rather anti-choice. No one should force a woman to bear a children or to have an abortion; we do not force women to have abortions, so why would we force women to bear children not conceived by choice. This position is consistent with my Christian faith and is expressed through my politics.

Humanism does not develop until the third trimester. Individual right to choose should be prevented until then. Am agnostic so do not believe in the valildity of of spiritual invocations. Nothing sacred about "man". Their justifications for their position. How they feel about extending their principle re unborn child to other beings and environment. Same as above. Pro Humanity

I want to start out by expressing my deepest sympathy and concern for any woman with an unwanted pregnancy. (Yes, I'm pro-choice, and a feminist) Many of the women here have written commentaries far more moving that I can, at least today. However, my feelings immediately return to anger for obvious reasons:

The deception inherent in addressing the abortion debate is that it is or should be about abortion at all. I believe that the only matters worth discussing, indeed in desperate need of discussion and responsible action are sex education and birth control. Responsible sexuality, in other words. And, it should go without saying, this should include males. The concern is or should be about unwanted pregnancies, and the answers have been known for years.

Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 -- about 820,000 a year. Eight in ten of these teen pregnancies are unintended and 79 percent are to unmarried teens. (2004 data)

If 34% of teenagers had been seriously injured because of say, seat belt failure or non-use, our society would be totally outraged.

If any consumer product in this country had a comparable failure rate, the manufacturer would have been sued out of existence in a very short period of time.

Statistically, few things indeed have a lower correlation than abstinence education, and abstinence. Indeed, at times a negative correlation has been found. Our government is lying to us about abstenence education, and we (well, most of us) have been taking it lying down.

When I go to SIECUS, http://www.siecus.org/ their lead article is entitled "SIECUS Reviews Three New Fear-Based Curricula"

I spent the first weekend of Oct. volunteering in Souix Falls South Dakota volunteering with a local organization to work to stop an anti-abortion ballot initiative that would be unenforceable at this time. But I did not, per se, prevent any unwanted pregnancies.

When my 12 year old asked what abortion was, it was a difficult answer. So, my reply was that when mother nature, a doctor/midwife or the woman decided that the pregnancy couldn't happen at that time.

What bothers me is that I don't understand how a woman's life is still considered unimportant in this situation. Also how there isn't real solutions for the children that result in many unwanted pregnancies. And surprisingly I have recently been told that it is the woman's fault if she does get pregnant.

In talking about the issue with my 91 year old grandmother, she cannot believe that this is still an issue. This is a republican die hard. As she said no woman wants to be in this situation. Its no ones business.

My god, my beliefs allow for me to do what I or my daughter needs to. That being said, I also believe that there needs to be a loving place for every child born, wanted by biological parents or not.

My wife and I have felt for many years that abortion is NOT the decision to be made by government or law; it is a deeply personal decision, in which spiritual support, parental and family support, and Christian love all play a significant role.

Unfortunately, this issue has been politicized and thus has become a flashpoint for those on "either side" of the debate. And some commentators, either conservative or liberal, have chosen to inflame the rhetoric in order to justify their position as well as enhance their political standing.

In the last few years of increasingly hostile debate about "conservative vs. liberal" issues, America has struggled to regain our sense of civil debate and compromise, one of the cornerstones our our republic. I believe we are seeing the unravelling of this divisive approach in the changing attitude reflected by Sen. Obama in the most recent debate, when he offered that "we can disagree without being disagreeable and try to reach a position based on mutual and shared ideas". For too long, toxic rhetoric has poisoned our national psyche, and the results are plain to see; the "if you're not for us, you're against us" fingerpointing during the run up to invading Iraq; the Swift Boat attacks during the 2004 campaign; the senseless and vitriolic attacks by Right against Left over abortion ; and the inflammatory speaches by Pres. Bush and Sec. Rice which had us on the road to attacking Iran. Has all of this anger and hatred moved us one step closer to addressing the problem of abortion, or any other of the serious issues we face? No.

It is clear to many that abortion is a bad thing; it is also becoming clear that the reasons for abortion are much more complicated than as portrayed by certain right-wing factions, and that abortion is not a civil right as guaranteed by the Constitution, according to the Left, but a legal act as affirmed in Roe v. Wade.

We need to engage in civil debate as rational, moral beings, and try to come to some shared position on this issue. For too long, it has been exploited by the ultra-right wing faction of the GOP, which lead folks to vote for a president who recklessly and untruthfully lead us to war. Voters have been treated with contempt by those who knew that some would vote for a candidate solely because of his/her position on this issue, regardless of their ideology on other issues. As one post above asked: "Does being pro-life involve ONLY infant life?" People of faith are tasked by God with respecting His creation, and that means ALL creation, not just the unborn. We are heartened to see that many folks are beginning to see and undertsnad that we are stewards here, of ALL life; one responsibility of stewardship is to guard against too mush passion in one case, and too little in another. We pray that this will one day be so in America.

I see abortion as a moral/spiritual belief that cannot be easily shaken by scientific or rational understanding. Just as people have strong beliefs in Jesus as Lord and savior, the existence of God, or even the righteousness of our current wars, abortion is based more on deep-seated beliefs, not scientific proof or rational thought.

Politics can often trump value beliefs, though,when practical considerations are factored in. For example, most Americans abhore children and other innocents being killed in war. However, most of us would probably agree that "collateral damage" is necessary but unfortunate in order to maintain a cetain degree of freedom and security (although we may disagree as to the degree).

If Roe V. Wade is overturned and some states decide to ban abortion, the practical outcome may not be one that most Americans would tolerate. Consider an outright ban in some of the poorer states. It could, in all probability, lead to higher levels of poverty and higher welfare rolls if poor women choose to keep their babies (especially in light of the fact that currently poor women have a 400% greater chance of having an abortion than other women). Converesly, if more women chose to give their baby up for adoption, many of these children are not likely to be adopted considering most couples seeking adoption want a healthy, white child. Unadopted children will add to the financial burden of these states and to America as whole. These are just two scenorios. While uncertain, the practical results of over-turning Roe v. Wade may eventually play out in favor of providing greater access to abortion than many imagine.

As a pastor, I have found that people who do not know me well enough to have asked what I think immediately assume that I am politically pro-life. I receive emails with pro-life agendas and assumptions from congregation members and neighbors and family members. I am politically pro-choice, though do not appreciate either of the terms that we use. Or perhaps it is more that I do not appreciate the assumptions that come along with both terms--that people who advocate for the pro-life agenda are opposed to choice or that people who advocate for the pro-choice agenda are opposed to life. It is rather a mixture of both. Pro-life advocates, in my experience, already realize that by the time a woman makes a choice of whether or not to go ahead with her pregnancy, she has already had to choose between whether or not to have sex and whether or not to use protection (assuming the pregnancy resulted from a consensual sexual experience). Pro-choice advocates, such as myself, do value life--and in particular, the life of the mother.

What I wish people would realize is that this is more than a theoretical debate issue with real, practical, life-long effects on all who are involved, and even on individuals who are not forced to make this decision. I wish people would ask me what I believe and how it fits into my faith as opposed to assume that my career and faith would dictate my stance on this issue. I wish people would see that life is more than just birth and that people on all sides of the debate should be held accountable for their position. Someone who votes pro-choice ought also to vote for policies and laws and programs that offer prenatal care, affordable childcare, and support to mothers and fathers who most need it. Someone who is pro-choice ought to be held accountable to making sure women are educated and supported throughout the process. They are also responsible for realizing that abortion is only one choice of many, and ought to fight for appropriate and good education of the variety of choices available to women.

I approach abortion as a woman who had one when I was 20, who knows that I ended a life (not a human life, but a life.) I understand it as a sin -- something which separated me from God. In other words, I always think of abortion as a concrete experience, rooted in real dilemmas of life and faith. But I also take my Christian faith seriously enough to know that I have been forgiven: that my relationship with God was not ended forever by my choice. Many years after my abortion I met a woman who'd had an abortion the previous year and said, "I know this was a sin, but I know it was also the right thing to do." A wise Episcopal priest once said to me that there were two situations where there was no "good" choice -- a marriage that was falling apart and an unwanted pregnancy.

I actually don't need much help understanding the absolutist position; it's morally very simple. But since I don't experience my moral life as simple, I'd like to know how those who hold it deal with the messiness of life that women experience. And I'd like them to honor women who -- in good conscience -- make the decision to have an abortion. That is, to understand that women are not just carrying cases for a uterus. (Over the years, I've heard lots of stories that pro-life people have had abortions, or supported daughters having them; and that too is silenced.)

In reframing the discussion, it seems to me that we have two blind spots: the "pro-life" world tends to treat women as a body around a uterus, ignoring the ways in which a pregnancy may be a problem for a woman -- which cuts off the discussion. The pro-choice world tends to ignore the ways in which abortion does cause a death. I would say that my eight-week fetus was not human, but s/he was alive. It's probably not accidental that about six months or so after my abortion, I stopped eating meat.

I think too often the discussion about abortion is held in the abstract, so to change the discussion, it is so important to get away from the slogans and talk about how women make decisions in the case of problem pregnancy. That is, to focus on women making life choices and how they think them through. My hunch is that in that context, most women actually do understand how someone can make the other choice. And that from that discussion we might be able to do better than "pro-life" and "pro-choice", or "pro-baby" and "pro-woman".

-- How do you think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion?

I can remember, as a second grader in Catholic school in Decatur, Illinois, being shown the Lennart Nilsson photos of developing human embryos/ fetuses. I knew, from that point, that these were human beings. I was once an embryo and a fetus. I would expect my life to be protected.

Through my grade-school and high-school years, I was aware of public debate on a right to abortion. As a sophomore at Catholic high school in Decatur, we discussed these matters in religion classes. I certainly was not prepared for the Roe v. Wade decision. I looked upon this decision as a denial of the obvious truth of the unborn child's humanity and of the need to protect the child's humanity/ personhood in law.

At the time, I was an editorial cartoonist for a local weekly newspaper. I don't believe that my post-Roe v. Wade cartoon was published. I'll describe it to you. Sitting in front of the Supreme Court building are Dred Scott and a fetus. Each of them is tagged "not a person." Dred says to the fetus, "You too, huh?" (I was influenced by a story from what was then called National Catholic News Service [now Catholic News Service] in which an interviewee made the point that the Supreme Court had gotten personhood wrong in the case of Dred Scott, and that, as the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution had been a definitive answer to the Supreme Court on slavery, so a constitutional amendment would some day correct the Supreme Court on the natural rights of the unborn.)

In my junior and senior years of high school, I came to a decision to study for the priesthood of my diocese. I was motivated by the obvious need of our local church for priests, and also by my learning, in a religion class on social justice, about the Catholic Church's upholding of the rights of workers. My father was a UAW member working at the Decatur Caterpillar plant. (It was strange that only in my eleventh year of Catholic school did I make this connection.) My concern about the injustice of abortion was a theme as well. I volunteered to staff our local Right to Life organization's booth at the county fair, which displayed models of human embryos/ fetuses in various stages of development. I also wore a right-to-life bracelet similar to the POW bracelets popular in the late Vietnam era.

In recent years, my mother has repeated to me her conviction -- held by HER mother, as a result of witnessing a situation in which attempts were made to save a mother and fetus, but both died -- that a right to abortion is a necessary legal protection.

In the thirty-three years since I graduated from high school and entered the seminary, I have not been an activist in regard to these matters. I guess that the truth has sunk in that recognition of a right to abortion is not going to go away in my lifetime. As someone who hears sacramental confessions, I have found myself developing empathy for those who have chosen abortion. I rarely preach on the issue of abortion. During the 2004 presidential campaign, I gave what I considered a highly nuanced homily on these matters which drew expressions of appreciation especially from women in my congregation. I find my local right-to-life organization stuck in the naive belief that voting for X is right and that voting for Y is wrong. I find myself placing my trust in the idea that, at some point beyond my lifetime, there will be an evolution in outlooks on these matters which will lead to recognition of the rights of the unborn. Ultimately I understand "personhood" as meaning recognizing a human being as an end in him/herself and never as a means to someone else's ends or as a thing to be discarded. The 14th amendment to our Constitution declares birth to be the event which confers personhood. I hope and pray that we will progress beyond this to recognize a right to life of those not yet born.

-- What would you genuinely like to understand about the perspective of people who feel differently?

I have been involved in local interfaith activity for over 20 years, and I am aware that in much of Judaism there is a tendency not to recognize a right to life of the unborn. I say "much" of Judaism because I imagine that I need an opportunity to understand a multiplicity of viewpoints in Judaism and their origins. I am best acquainted with the outlook of one particular local rabbi, who asserts that there is no right to life before birth. I need to see the connections between the faith tradition of Judaism and this conviction.

I need to understand non-Catholic fellow Christians as well. Is it enough to say that abortion is always a tragedy but that there is no problem with protecting it in law?

Apart from any specific religious or interreligious context, I guess I need a deeper appreciation of how the rights of men and women in sexual relationship are observed or abused. My pastoral experience has helped me to see that men and women in sexual relationships engage in a great deal of abuse of one another. How can these sexual relationships be evaluated with a view toward enhancing the dignity of the man, the woman, and any child which may result from their union? Perhaps ultimately, this concern would lead to something which is very much against the grain of the American legal system: a certain recognition of intersubjective rights in addition to individual rights. Is it possible to think along these lines?

-- What would you like them to understand about you?

My stance on these matters is based on my considering it an objective truth that human life is present in someone yet to be born. I feel that this truth simply cannot be overlooked. If one professes that no one knows (or can know) when human life begins, I would expect that one must presume (err?) in favor of life.

I have long been troubled, particularly as a very public person in a very prominent church, by the dismissal of my convictions as my (often characterized "private") religious belief, impinging not at all upon what anyone else may think. Ultimately my convictions come from reason, which I trust I share with others. It happens that my reasonable conviction converges quite neatly with the ethical teachings of Catholic Christianity, which refers largely to a natural-law interpretation of ethics -- ultimately, an interpretation based on reason and not on religious revelation.

-- If the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are limiting and polarizing, can you imagine new frames of reference for new and better conversations?

Maybe "women's rights" and "child's rights"? Can we talk about an intersubjectivity of rights among the man, the woman, and the child?

As a retired American Baptist pastor, I have grappled with this issue and have helped parisioners and many others think through their own beliefs about the many issues in reproductive health. The materials and outreach of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have proved very helpful in my work. The efforts of RCRC to offer comprehensive sex education in 60 African American congregations in the greater Twin Cities has made a major difference in those communities. They have found that the youth are much more responsive because they see their "extended family" in church every Sunday. With that many people concerned about your welfare, Black youth find support to think through sexual issues. American Baptists have done many "common ground" meetings to bring understanding between those who have drastically opposed views. I've found them fascinating, but I have seen little shift of opinion--we are almost hopelessly polarized. I contend we are all working toward a better life for our young people. One of my interests is with the half who receive abortions after 25, often after the birth of a first child. These women understand the realities surrounding childbirth, way beyond the experience of carrying around a 9-pound doll that wets and cries.
We ask women, "Do you think your God wants what's best for you?"

I think that abortion is morally wrong, but that outlawing it only deals with the end result of a long process that could be better addressed earlier. If children weren't having sex, adults were practicing contraception responsibly, all unwanted babies were adopted and the needs of families for child care and other support services were adequately addressed, abortion rates would drop dramatically. I think that the debate needs to be framed as a discussion of the value of individuals at all stages of life, and how to create an equitable society where parents can earn a wage that will support a family, children can stay in school until they can earn that wage, and anyone who needs extra care and attention at any time from birth to death has that available. To me, to be pro-life in the case of abortion, but against funding for schools or day care, or against a minimum wage that is high enough to support a family is sending the message that abortion is the only moral issue that should be addressed in the public arena, and all other questions of quality of life after birth are matters of personal freedom and responsibility and should be addressed privately. (Except for gay marriage, of course.) Being pro-life is much easier than reducing poverty, or improving the foster care system, stopping child abuse or even adopting one child, and I think many people use their pro-life stance to seize the moral high ground without having to commit much time or effort to addressing the real problems that create the high abortion rate in the first place.

I'd like to know if, and if so why, pro-life advocates think that having legislation outlawing abortion would be necessary if the conditions that create the demand for abortion were done away with.

I'd like to have pro-lifers understand that even though I agree with his or her moral stance on abortion I will never embrace his or her cause until it is broadened to include a moral commitment to supporting individuals at all stages of their lives, whether they have lived their lives according to a particular set of moral values or not.

I am now sixty one years old but will always be haunted by that innocent little life I aborted at age 27, as a young married mom with two little ones. It was the hardest decision of my life, and I have regretted it ever since, but at the time I did what I thought was best for my family.

I had attempted to prevent getting pregnant after my son was born by getting an IUD placed. Unfortunately the IUD migrated through the wall of my uterus into the cul-de-sac, so it never actually came out, and I was none the wiser. We were struggling financially,our marriage was not the healthiest, and I had major behavior issues with my daughter, our eldest child. My husband travelled with his job, leaving me without relief for a week at a time. Not only did I not see how we could afford a third child, I did not see how I could cope with a third child, struggling as I was with the behavior of my daughter. I had been abusive with her from the time she was an infant, and knew this additional stress would aggravate that possibility, perhaps with all three kids. It seemed the addition of another child would cause an already unstable situation to potentially explode, and I felt it would not be fair to the other two children, much less to the new little life that might cause it.

I talked with my mom, I talked with my older sister, both on the other coast and both of whom listened and were supportive, regardless of the decision I made. I was not involved with a church at the time, and had I been, there would have been other alternatives I could have chosen, I know. But at the time I knew I could not carry a child to full term and then give it up for adoption, because I would have kept it instead, and that truly did not seem to be an option.

I believe abortion is wrong, especially when used as a method of birth control, but I do not believe any church, any government, any court or any person has the right to an opinion on the subject unless they have been personally involved in some way. I have been punished a thousand times over for what I did, and the punisher was me. But what I did is between the Lord and me, it is to Him that I am accountable, and I have no excuse, just circumstances.

Probably in most of the stories you have received there are women just like me, caught between a rock and a hard place, making the best decision they could at the time. I cannot believe that most women who do this are cavalier, because an abortion kills a part of the woman too, and in my case, part of my soul. The issues around abortion are so much more complicated than either being for or against Roe V. Wade, which passed just prior to my own abortion.

I appreciate your asking your listeners for their own insights and stories, because this has given me the opportunity to share my story in hopes that it might help others. Sadly, sharing the story doesn't seem to help the pain I will always feel, but that is OK: it was my choice and I have had to live with it. This pain is part of who I am, and has given me an empathy and compassion for others I might not have had, otherwise. But it has also made me intolerant of those who pontificate about issues of which they think they have knowledge, but have no experience.

There is more I would like to say, but for now I just want to thank you for making this opportunity for those of us with sad stories of our own. I look forward to hearing the program you have that will explore all these issues. Thank you.

Melissa Hutton

As a retired physician, I have dealt with patients requesting abortion information over the years (35 years) and it was almost always my experience that women didn't really "believe in" abortion, i.e. they didn't really believe that it was morally OK; but rather that they were desperate and in emotional pain, and they were willing to do whatever it took to escape from their plight, including sacrificing their baby. I agree with your guest speaker: it breaks my heart that there are so many babies lost to abortion; but it's my feeling that we aren't really ready as a society to change Roe vs. Wade until we are willing to change the social conditions that contribute to the perceived need for abortion. That is, we need to be prepared to deal better with poverty and lack of appropriate education and social backup of various kinds for young pregnant women and women at risk for unplanned pregnancy. It seems to me that so many people who are against abortion, are not willing to become engaged in reaching out to and helping these women. We need to become engaged on a personal but also on a national and societal level if we are really serious about reducing the number of abortions. And yes, the cost of any such effort would be huge, but in the long run much less than the cost of the way we are doing it now, with the huge financial and emotional costs of massive numbers of abortions.

I believe abortion is wrong. But it is a part of a network of wrongs, none of which can be fixed in isolation from the others. It is a cheap distortion to put abortion alone under the spot light. The very fact that a woman may feel 'punished' by a pregnancy says much about the lack of social and economic support for most people during their child-bearing years. Our economic system 'preys' upon young people with high rents, front-loaded mortgages, the vagaries of the low steps on the career ladder, etc. All of this while they are having babies, and are engaged in society's most IMPORTANT job: being parents.

A truly PRO-LIFE position must take this into account. Missteps while a child is young only compound social cost in years to come. Pro-life must mean not merely that a child has the right to be born, but the right to love, care, emotional safety, food, clothes, shelter after birth. A truly pro-life position must take account of the death penalty, the over-crowding of U.S. prisons, and the bombing of innocents in other countries. We must get beyond the 'pelvic politics' of puritanical moralism, that we may imbrace the far more demanding and extensive morality of compassion.

I embrace Obama's assertion, "No one is pro-abortion." My guess is that almost everyone involved with abortion considers it an evil, but the lesser of two evils. (And, yes, their position might be wrong, in most or all cases, but that is how they see it.) The common ground now could become, as Obama says, uniting pro-life and pro-choice under a common banner of reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Abortion as a Moral Choice

In April of 1973 my husband left me, pleading that he had fallen in love with our upstairs tenant and wanted to spend his life with her. I was four months pregnant. Roe v. Wade had been decided three months earlier.
My obstetrician sent me to see a social worker to help me sort out my feelings and make my plans. She began every one of her questions or suggestions with, “if you want an abortion…”, until I finally shouted at her, “I DON’T want an abortion. “ “Well, “ she observed, “That solves that problem.”
I had wanted this baby fiercely for some time, and my husband’s defection did nothing to diminish my desire. But that conversation with the social worker, and the knowledge that an abortion would have been legally available had I felt unable to proceed with the pregnancy, added depth and resonance to my desire. This was a most wanted child. I had the choice, and I chose to have a baby.
My daughter told me recently, in a discussion about her father– who has never figured into her life except as an absence, a question mark– “Mom, when I was a kid and used to ask about my father, you always said, ‘You were a very wanted baby.’” So that knowledge has been central to her sense of her self.
At another point, a few years later, I did have an abortion. I was a single mother, working and pursuing a path to ordination in the Episcopal Church. The potential father was not someone I would have married; he would have been no better a candidate for fatherhood than my daughter’s absent father. The timing was wrong, the man was wrong, and I easily, though not happily, made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
I have not the slightest regret about either of these decisions, nor the slightest guilt. I felt sorrow and loss at the time of my abortion, but less so than when I’d miscarried some years earlier. Both of my choices, I believe, were right for me and my circumstances: morally correct in their context, practical, and fruitful in their outcomes.
That is, both choices were choices for life: in the first instance, I chose for the life of the unborn child; in the second, I chose for my own vocational life, my economic stability, and my mental and emotional health and wholeness.
Shortly after my ordination to the priesthood, I was asked to speak at the National Abortion Federation’s annual meeting, on a Clergy Panel, with the theme of “Abortion as a Moral Choice.” I wondered skeptically who would attend such a panel, but to my surprise, the room was packed with people – abortion providers and other clinic workers. Our audience was so eager and grateful to hear their work affirmed, to hear religious authorities assuring them that God was on their side! I understood that I had a responsibility, indeed, a call, as a pro-choice religious professional, to speak out and to advocate publicly for women’s reproductive rights and health, and I have tried to be faithful to that call.
To talk theologically about women’s right to choose is to talk about justice, equality, health and wholeness, and respect for the full humanity and autonomy of every woman. Typically, as moral theologians, we discuss the value of potential life (the fetus) as against the value of lived life – the mature and relational life of a woman deciding her capacity to continue or terminate a pregnancy. And we believe that, in general, the value of that actual life outweighs the value of the potential.
I like to talk, as well, in terms of gift and of calling. I believe that all life is a gift – not only potential life, but life developing and ripening with its many challenges, complications, joys and sorrows. When we face difficult reproductive choices we balance many gifts, many goods, and to fail to recognize the gifts of our accomplished lives is to fail to recognize God’s ongoing blessing. I believe as well that God calls us all to particular vocations, and our decisions about whether and when to bear children are part of that larger pattern of our lives’ sacred meanings.
The Reverend Anne C. Fowler
Rector, St John’s Episcopal Church, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

I am a Baptist minister and president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice - RCRC. I am pro-choice about abortion because of my religious tradition and beliefs. I believe that God has given each of us free will and the responsibility to exercise it according to our understanding of God’s plan. I believe that women cannot exercise their God-given free will unless they can control their reproductive lives. That is why women’s ability to make moral decisions about their reproductive lives is a social justice issue – because without that ability (and the economic, medical and educational resources that make choices possible), women cannot be equal and cannot have justice.

I think we are polarized over abortion because of the framework we use (almost unconsciously) to think and talk about it: “religious = anti-abortion and secular = pro-choice.” It’s a mistake to think that all religions are against abortion. In reality, many faith traditions believe abortion must be an option for women. People who are religious are pro-choice and women who are religious have abortions.

Labels and stereotypes contribute to the polarization of views. We say that abortion is a moral issue – but then we make the mistake of thinking that the only moral position is to be against abortion. I don’t agree with that. Is it moral to have a child you can’t care for and – to be honest - don’t want? Is it moral for the government to force a woman who has been raped to have the child that results from the rape? Is it moral to require that a woman with a life-threatening illness continue a pregnancy? Is it moral to insist a young woman who has become pregnant have the child and place it for adoption? So you see, having an abortion can be a decision that is moral and responsible.

We need a radical change in thinking. We should stop stigmatizing abortion and women who have abortions and stop talking about “reducing the number of abortions” as if abortion were a plague. We should focus on improving women’s health and lives and on creating the conditions for responsible decisions about having children – including sexuality education for young people that teaches values and consequences, contraception, healthcare, childcare, and good jobs.

I don’t think it will be easy to change the conversation – the anti-abortion groups have a vested interest in keeping up interest in abortion and the media ask politicians about it as a litmus test of how liberal or conservative they are. I don’t think people who are against abortion on religious grounds will change. And I don’t think women will stop having abortions. But we have to move forward. What term do we use? I suggest reproductive justice.

A Poem Upon Entering the Fray
by David Blauw

Watching them enter,
Wondering where they stood
on the issue of tissue development
and soul acquisition.

Could I tell from their haircut
or the way their glasses
sat upon their noses?

There beside me is (I guess) an evangelical glancing
wondering who is orthodox and who invites carnage.

So unlike a prize fight,
the combatants smiled before-hand
and talked politely
about the traffic on Route 22 and the mild winter...

Then unleashed, upon command,
distrust and bias
that cut to the core of humanity.

A pigeon-holing of will
that relegated all the foe
into the oppressor.

Jesus has come to relieve the oppressor
and the oppressed
to relieve the enslaved by another's will.

O Lord,
deliver us from all bitterness
and unforgiveness
for the born and for the unborn
for the silent and for those
fallen victim to this world
of competing values.

Bring us to justice
Carry us to your will.

(Written Feb. 1992 at Princeton University, while waiting for a debate between representatives from Planned Parenthood, New Jersey Right to Life, Operation Rescue and Roman Catholics for Choice)

Dear Faith,
Please explain why Chritians debate the issue of excusing abortion when God's moral law emphatically states that murder is prohibited? How have we come to devalue life within the womb and value life outside the womb? All life is valuable and sacred to God. Yes, abortion is the murder of an unborn child. Neither of us would be having this interchange if our mother's had chosen abortion. US citizens reserve the privileg to destroy their unborn for convenience. What a shame that the Democrat Party supports abortion rights in its platform. I am proud to be "pro-life." To be "pro-choice' is to be pro-death.
Naxism devalued the lives of ethnic groups and millions were exterminated. Since 1973, we have killed nearly 50 million babies!!
It is time to ask for God's forgivenss and mercy. How can we expect to be blessed with His favor when we tolerate such atrocities?

Introduction:

In this piece, I will go so far as to suggest that abortion could become less of a problem if the rights of the child are given a a theoretical shape that commences before the child is conceived. This idea has emerged like a slowly ripening fruit from much thought and concern on my part about abortion in our society, though it now seems the logical end of a drawn-out thought process.

A relevant anecdote:

While walking along the sidewalk of a local street during the 2004 election campaign, I was greeted by a man who tried to give me some political literature distributed by the local Democrats. Though I've always been and remain a registered Democrat, I politely declined the offer. Continuing on my way, I was quickly stopped in my tracks by a question I wanted to pose this man, so I turned back. It is part of the story to note that the man was African-American, because my question* (see reason for question, below) to him was, "Why do you support the Democrats when their abortion policies are essentially killing off the African-American race in America?" At first, the man was taken aback and expressed shock when I told him some statistics I had read in the Washington Post that very morning, and he seemed ready to think more about the issue. At the time, I could not stay to discuss the problem with him further, and went on my way.

However, I came upon him again on my return trip, at which point he recognized and stopped me to answer my question. What he said shocked my conscience. Asserting boldly, "Sex is my right!", he gave an example that if he were in a hotel room with a woman, she might get pregnant and need an abortion. Through my shock, I managed to reply that I would not be in a hotel room with anyone but my husband, and went on my way in a state of utter perplexity as to his reasoning. In essense, he believed that a woman's 'right' to abortion gave him a "right" to sex at any time with any woman he pleased?!?

*Some background on my question to this man is that I had read that very morning a convincing news article asserting that the growth of the Hispanic-American population had outstripped the growth of the African-American population about about 3 decades ahead of what was expected, given the history of these demographic sectors. The principal reason given, with accompanying data and charts, was that a far higher percentage of African-American babies are aborted than Hispanic-American babies.

With the above anecdote as a jumping-off point, please see my answers (below) to the questions posed on the Speaking of Faith website.

1. How do you think through the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion?

Moral factors:

In the broadest sense, I think about the fact that when two people choose (most usually) to engage in a profoundly intimate act designed into our bodies principally to reproduce our species, that they should instead have a healthy, even overriding, respect for the fact that pregnancy could result, even when birth control is used, and that the profound nature of the act itself could impact them negatively in ways they may not have anticipated.

Then I consider that if the two people involved did have the proper respect for the potential consequences of sexual intercourse, they could and should be able to apply the brakes as necessary, prior to consummating the act of intercourse, regardless of the passions of the moment. Having gone to college during the thick of the sexual revolution, I know this is possible from a personal standpoint, having resisted the temptation to 'go too far' on a number of occasions during this period in my life. Being a warm and passionate person, this resistance was not due to indifference or frigidity on my part.

Then I wonder how two people who have deliberately consummated the sex act can justify their act by saying that they have done nothing wrong, and that the woman (girl) can 'just have an abortion' if she finds herself pregnant. This denies the profound nature of the act, ignores the unjust use of the fetus as a 'whipping boy' to stand in for the couple, and it can hardly be a good consequence for either participant's psyche to see a new life they themselves created in such an expedient manner. Extrapolating from that to the broader society, it is hardly surprising that we now too commonly hear of teenage lovers discarding their unwanted newborns in trash cans. How could such a cavalier attitude toward sexual intercourse not warp our moral view of the unborn?
Spiritual factors: I think that young people can perhaps more easily embrace a culture of behavioral standards than the average modern adult currently imagines. When you consider that young people can commit themselves devotedly to such practices as vegetarianism and the even stricter veganism, for example, you see that they are able to self-regulate with respect to what they think is important, regardless of the social pressure imposed by our broadly meat-eating and fast-food society that temptingly extols the taste qualities of steak, burgers, and fried chicken. If young people can do that, they can just a readily embrace the belief that 'the body is the temple of the soul', and honor the idea that sex is for married people. A return to such a concept would not be a first! Instead of this, sex and marriage are now so disconnected in peoples' minds that there is now a broad demand to legitimize inherently barren relationships as if they are akin to marriage, which they can never be, whatever they are called!
The separation of marriage from sex and procreation that abortion permits is another spiritual factor. Birth control became a strong factor in this delinking as well, especially once the 'right' to birth control was extended to the unwed woman.
Conclusion: I see the above factors as keys to the issue of whether abortion is a right or a wrong. Because most sex acts are chosen, I believe the choice factor of whether to abort or not ends with the sex act itself, given that the very real possibility of an 'unplanned' pregnancy could and should have been forseen and prevented by stopping at 'third base'.
Other consequences: Separation of marriage from sex and procreation.
The separation of marriage from sex and procreation has also had other profound consequences for the unborn, given the rise in recent decades of a demand for 'reproductive rights'. This development raises numerous profound questions as well. Is human reproduction a civil right? If so, where in such a 'right' are the rights of the planned child? What are the rights of the child? At what point in a child's development do his/her rights begin? Another way of framing the question might be, "Is a child a commodity to which every adult is entitled under her/his own terms?"
People today are so focused on their own perceived individual and group rights that many utterly forget even to consider that the child is a human being with basic rights, like anyone else, even though the Preamble to our Constitution addresses this point, asserting:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Who is "our Posterity" if not our children? what is it to "secure the blessings of Liberty...for our posterity" if we can murder our 'posterity' at will?
With all of this in mind, I will go so far as to insist that a child's rights must begin even before he/she is conceived! This conclusion did not come to me in a instant, I will readily admit, but emerged like a slowly ripening fruit from much thought and concern about abortion in our society, though it now seems to me the logical end of my drawn-out thought process.
If you have gotten this far, you might fairly ask me why this is my conclusion, which I am happy to explain.
My contention is that the rights of a child begin when a husband and wife decide to have a child. In other words, the child's rights preferably exist at least theoretically in the minds of every prospective parent prior to any effort to conceive that child. My thinking on this matter crystalized as a result of the increasing use of reproductive technology, which has ushered in an era that I believe demands that we must now consider the rights of the child prior to any planned conception. Yet, surprisingly, many unmarried adults, single or coupled, are demanding instead what they call 'reproductive rights', a concept that tragically compromises nature's uniquely bestowed (and thus inalienable) right of the child to his/her own natural parents by substituting a notion and terminology that refers instead to the 'right' (of any person) to bear children through the use of reproductive technologies.
Thus, when I hear sympathetic stories on NPR about two men, for example, who set out to use their sperm to artificially inseminate a surrogate mother, my blood pressure goes up instantaneously. In such cases, the child is treated more like a commodity, a slave, than a human being. What after all could be a more inalienable right than that to one's natural parents?
2. What would you genuinely like to understand about the perspective of people who feel differently?
I can understand better the thinking of people who believe abortion should be permitted with strong restrictions, because I can waver occasionally into that territory myself, but I have considerable difficulty understanding the sensibilities of those who broadly defend both their own 'human rights' and the right to abortion. If a person is so concerned about her own civil rights, why can she se no further than the end of her own nose with respect to the possibility that she may be abrogating the rights of another, in this case the unborn? We should not forget that America managed to exist for centuries without considering abortion either a civil right or even right!
I hear comparatively well-to-do white people like Ellen Malcolm and Hillary Clinton insist that abortion must be available to poor women, and wonder if they really understand or care about the serious negative impact of abortion on poor communities with more social chaos and less economic stability, in which men are more likely to share the lax attitudes of the man in my anecdote, women more likely to be treated abusively. A good expositor of the salient differences can be found in the work of Theodore Dalrymple, MD, who practiced in the slums of London, England, and has convincinly chronicled his observations in books and articles.
From back cover of Dalrymple's "Life at the Bottom":
Here is a searing account—probably the best yet published—of life in the underclass and why it persists as it does. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist who treats the poor in a slum hospital and a prison in England, has seemingly seen it all. Yet in listening to and in observing his patients, he is continually astonished by the latest twist of depravity that exceeds even his own considerable experience. Dalrymple’s key insight in Life at the Bottom is that long-term poverty is caused not by economics but by a dysfunctional set of values, one that is continually reinforced by an elite culture searching for victims. This culture persuades those at the bottom that they have no responsibility for their actions and are not the molders of their own lives. Drawn from the pages of the cutting-edge political and cultural quarterly City Journal, Dalrymple’s book draws upon scores of eye-opening, true-life vignettes that are by turns hilariously funny, chillingly horrifying, and all too revealing—sometimes all at once. And Dalrymple writes in prose that transcends journalism and achieves the quality of literature.
I've become aware of the dark attitudes of some of the early birth control and abortion activists: Margaret Sanger, who advocated the elimination through such controls of the Negro race in America (as she would have put it), Bernard Nathanson and the nascent NARAL organization selling abortion to the public by vastly inflating the statistics on female death rates from back street abortion practices (which Nathanson later admitted and repudiated when he embraced Christianity), Alfred Kinsey, who used his scientific creds to defraud the public on matters sexual, and others with equally contemptible ways and ideas. Why do people who claim a paramount concern for 'civil rights' not recognize the inherent inequality of Margaret Sanger's beliefs? Or the deceitful claims that prompted support for abortion rights to begin with?
3. What would you like them to understand about you?
I think it's very unfortunate that abortion rights supporters tend to look down upon and demonize those who disagree with them. It does little more than give renewed credibility and applicability to a famous passage in Romans 1:
"21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."
I have been against abortion from the first time the idea ever entered my consciousness, prior to the passage Roe v. Wade, but the majority of my friends and acquaintances have generally accepted the idea that abortion should be a woman's right, and I still love them anyway. We just rarely talk about our differences. I do not attempt to demean abortion supporters because they are only human, as I am, and I also know that Jesus not only loved people and exhorted the rest of us to as well, and yet could still say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." I would like to see that same sensibility towards my beliefs from abortion rights supporters, but more often they are very self-righteous, will give no quarter, and might even stop speaking with people who disagree. It's a very polarizing issue for good reason.
4. If the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are limiting and polarizing, can you imagine new frames of reference for new and better conversations?
I have never liked the distillation "pro-choice" because I think the choice is whether to act in a manner that risks pregnancy, and that one has to be pro-abortion, not pro-choice, to support it to begin with. Pro-choice is a comforting euphemism for the harsher term, 'abortion'. Pro-life is more direct, thus less euphemistic, but doesn't need to be as it is neither an ugly nor even questionable notion to support.
I think we need to move to the question of when rights begin, given my concern that birth is too late in an era in which babies can be created through reproductive technology. If we don't get a grip on this, how far off is a Brave New World morality?
Abortion may always be with us, but it strikes me that the more people who can be convinced that a child has pre-conception rights the fewer people will regard abortion as the 'choice' point, and will discover that the choice is indeed very possible and desirable to re-engage as a choice of self-restraint to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Emily C. Volz
Silver Spring, MD
eVolz@comcast.net

It grieves me that in this time in history, when so many choices are available to women and men that unwanted pregnancies still happen. In my ideal world, pregnancy would not the result of random acts of intercourse, but a true loving commitment on the part of two adults who chose to raise children.

Yet, because this is not the reality and often those who find themselves pregnant are not able or willing to responsibly raise a child; the option of safe, affordable, non-shaming abortions must continue to be made available for the good of the society.

I do understand the deep grief and pain associated with ending a pregnancy, I do understand the dilemma of the moral issues of the question of: "is this ending a life?"

I have come to understand through science and theological reflection that life does not begin at conception. Therefore, early term abortions are not morally wrong in my mind.
This is an argument that needs to be made more clear. If those opposed to abortion because of the fear of condoning murder, could understand that in most monotheistic traditions life is not said to begin until the end of the second month of pregnancy (and even later in some cases) I think that the opposition by well meaning and thoughtful religious people would be mitigated.

However, as with every cause, there are those for whom protesting and opposing abortion has become their meaning for life and their purpose for holding onto their faith, that arguments or stories of lives affected by unplanned pregnancies and the toll they take on families and individuals would not sway their minds. Being single minded about anything considered "moral" is a dangerous way to determine right from wrong.

My fiance and I sit on different ends of the pro-choice, pro-life spectrum. I am pro-choice. I am pro-choice because of rationalization--I worry about the people I can see (pregnant women), I worry about the consequences of bringing an unwanted child into the world (having known too many), I worry about the unfairness that tends to result from illegal abortion (wealthy women seem to get them anyway--poor women die getting them unsafely). It is rationalization, but I am comfortible with that. I think all political positions are rationalizations. It is not, to me, a religious topic, because I think part of "choice" is being able to take into account ones own religious views. Who am I to dictate to you what those are?

My fiance is pro-life Democrat. He is pro-whole-life. He makes comfortable exceptions for the life of the mother and less comfortable exceptions for rape and incest. He worries about the state of domestic adoption, the state of foster care in this country, the lives of children who have nobody else to speak for them. He supports better sex education, greater access to contraception, easier adoption procedures. He likewise worries about health-care--for him, it is a single issue. He worries, in his words, about life, conception-to-grave. He comes to this view as an observant Conservative Jew--a natural extension of Judaism's concern for human health and life.

People sometimes look at us and wonder how we can tolerate our differences. I try to explain to them that I understand where my fiance is coming from. I respect that his position is carefully thought out and that he is trying not to be a hypocrite. He is less comfortable with mine, but he does respect that it is born out of my life experiences, my observations, and careful thought.

More than anything, though, we both respect that we agree on 99.9% of this issue and we don't want that agreement to get lost for the sake of the 00.1% we disagree on. I worry about foster care, and adoption, and health care, too. I also want greater access to contraception. I want abortions to occur less often--as few as possible. And it seems so silly and wasteful that people draw this line in the sand--whether or not abortion should be legal--and become so split on it that the vast common ground gets abandoned, neglected, and lost. I don't walk around thinking to myself, to riff off Sarah Silverman, "Gee, I think I'd like an abortion today" the way I think I might like a haircut. My fiance doesn't stop caring at birth, the way many pro-lifers are accused (often wrongly in my experience) of doing.

He gets so frustrated when our friends attack him for his views. He says, truthfully, that he has never voted for a pro-life candidate on the basis of their being pro-life. He is not entirely comfortable with that, but being worried about whole-life, he makes the compromise for candidates that support health care and other life issues even when he disagrees with them about abortion's ultimate legality. It makes me sad to see him attacked and I take a lot of flack for defending him--I have been accused of being a bad feminist for it, even though I believe he is exercising what I would term his "choice" by having the point of view he does, and by defending him I am also defending my right to disagree.

I wish that people would understand that what we share is greater and more significant than what we don't.

My 25 year old niece recently ended a pregnancy at the beginning of her third trimester that illustrate the difficulty of legislating a single correct action in all cases. To this day I don’t know what the “right” decision would have been.

“Tracy” is a highly responsible young woman whose ability to make discerning adult decisions about her life showed up while she was still an early teenager. Last year she and her long-time boyfriend became pregnant. Though this was unplanned the two young people were decided to join together to make a family for the upcoming baby and for her boyfriend’s young son. Midway through her pregnancy Tracy was informed that the child suffered from a severe case of hydranencephaly. She was advised that there was a good chance the child would die quickly and an almost certain probability of severe disability.

Tracy has lived for several years with her best friend “Dani” and her children, one of whom is a severely disabled teenager. She knows first hand the dedication, probable poverty, and marriage strain caring for such a child involves. Tracy and I talked often about the ethical implications of the options open to her, especially given how much was unknowable until after the child’s birth. Tracey decided she was able and willing to bring her girl-child into the world and raise her, even if she was severely disabled. She also wanted the responsibility for deciding what kind of treatment was right for her daughter and whether or not withholding treatment and letting her die in peace was the best that could be done for her, perhaps allowing her organs to be donated so some other child could live.

Tracy’s doctors told her that once her daughter was born it was likely that her desires about treatments would be second guessed, and perhaps bypassed, if she wanted to allow her daughter to die. Tracy had great freedom before her daughter’s birth and much less afterward. It was the prospect of being constrained to make decisions that might cause her daughter needless pain that finally led Tracy to choose an abortion – one of the dreadfully named “partial birth” variety that are the best option because diagnosis of hydranencephaly happens late in a pregnancy.

I’ll be the first to say that Tracy’s level of maturity and responsibility is rare and few people I trust so much to do the right thing. He mother is an alcoholic. She is a practical mother figure to her younger brother and sister and to her boyfriend’s young son. She worked her way to a responsible job and has nearly completed her BA by take a class each term. She is as gutsy and ethical as anyone I know.

On the day of the procedure I found myself praying for the baby girl with sorrow and grief. I wanted the outcome to be different. Yet I could not ask her mother to make a different choice. If Tracy had been able to carry on using her own judgment I trust her to make courageous and ethical decisions. Her poise through the whole process awed me, as it did all the medical staff who worked with her.

For background sake, I am a prolife, democrat, life-long Episcopalian. I've been a Benedicting Oblate for 20 years, and hung out with a remarkable Evangelical baptist congregation for the last five years, as Episcopal churches are rare in outstate Minnesota. Tracy has no religious practice, but talks with me often about the ethics. She is a living example that a person without religious faith or practice can have the very highest ethics. I am against banning abortion because the only thing worse than an abortion are the awful ways that women harm themselves when they are desperate and prohibited from ending a pregnancy. In the ideal situation they would be rare because we discourage unwanted pregancy in every way possible. Tracy's pregnancy was the first time I was up close and personal with an abortion, and I felt more sorrow and grief than I realized I would. I felt attached to this little girl. I greived her death, even though I could not bring myself to pressure Tracy to do something different. I trust her enough that I know she did the very best that anyone could. If the young woman involved had been a heedless young person I would have encouraged her to straighten up and do the adult thing by making a commitment to the coming baby and to her boyfriend.

My wish would be that this story would help illustrate these principles.
1. that it not be undertaken lightly or without thought.
2. That it is OK and appropriate to grieve the child that was lost.
3. That the burden in a complex situation is too complicated to make easy judgements about.
4. That the ways we decide about ending a pregnancy are related to the ways we decide about the end of life for after birth.
5. That we encourage young people to avoid an abortion if at all possible.
6. That the consequences of banning abortion are too high to bear in terms of women who die from badly performed procedures.

Thank you.

I have had many abortions – legal and illegal. I have never met anyone who felt good about have an abortion – but there seem no other option – at the time.

I held a granddaughter - I had originally encouraged the termination of her life. When you hold a little baby and look down and think “I wanted her dead” boy o boy does that change your mind. We allowed her to be adopted.

So then what do we do? - GIVE REAL CHOICES -

NO ONE REALLY LIKE ABORTIONS. How do we stop abortion – stop unwanted pregnancy. How do we stop unwanted pregnancies:
·FREE birth control and pap smears – and no Planed Pregnancy does not provide free birth control.

·How about running TV ad campaigns on the beauty of adoption, the use of birth control, and painlessness and ease of vasectomies.

·Where are male birth control pills?

·Quit pretending teenagers are not having sex and allow them free, accessabe and privacy to a birth control choice.

·Incorporate a highschool class on the responsiblies of parenthood, how to care for children, how to pay bills, how to balance a check book, how do credit cards work, how to find a job, how to buy a house, respect, conflict management, ect…. pratical life information, Parents do not have the time to teach even the basics to their children. Parents do not even read with their children much less teach life skills.

·Run TV ads on what abortion looks like.

·STOP ABORTION WITH EDUCATION AND LOVE

To put it simplistically: morally and spiritually, abortion represents death. At the very least it represents death of a possibility of new, innocent life; a rare and sacred characteristic in American society. In my 20's I did not struggle at all with the question of abortion: it was wrong and whomever participated in the act was participating in murder. But as I meet more and more people, as I am changed by their stories and their lives, I find it harder and harder to take such a definitive stance on the issue. Abortion, like religion, is a deeply personal part of a person's life. It is a deeply personal choice. It is a deeply emotional aspect of life.

And so, in order to eradicate dissonance within myself, I've begun to explain my position in this way: I am personally pro-life, and politically pro-choice. I don't believe that my faith should dictate the options available to women who find themselves in a position I've never been. To do so is to suppose that every other woman in the world thinks like me, reacts like me, has had the benefits of my cultural background and family life, has my religious beliefs, and believes that life begins at conception.

To believe this is to believe a myth, to shelter myself from the world, and to limit my availability to others - my neighbors, my friends. It's to limit the potential for life changing interaction and the ability to grow in my own life.

I find myself in the middle, looking to the right and seeing my family and friends feeling superior and put upon and I look to the left seeing my family and friends feeling superior and put upon. I look to the left and to the right and I see absolutely no willingness to come together to talk about our differences in a healthy way. And I would go so far as to say that in my experience, my friends and family who come from a religious background, many aren't capable of that kind of discussion.

I dislike generalizations, but because we are talking about "pro-life" and "pro-choice," I will talk about this in reference to the most conservative and the most liberal people in my life. Certainly this logic does not apply to everyone I know. When a person pours their life into their faith instead of pouring their faith into their life, when a person needs hard and fast answers that are based on faith, there is no room for questions. People in my life whom I would deem "lefties" seem to always be open to the possibility of.... They seem more willing to philosophize and question. They see their faith as a something that cannot necessarily be defined in absolute terms; instead they see it as a prism, the colors changing depending on the experience at hand. They see God from many different angles and perspectives.

My friends and family who are more "right wing" seem to have a steadfastness in their faith that doesn't allow for contemplation or discussion. I can't tell you the number of times I have tried in the past to have a discussion on a passage of the bible or on spirituality and I've been shut down with a response that sounds like this: the bible says "this," it means "this" because "this person" says so and we don't need to discuss it further.

When there is no room for questions, there is no room for discussion.

So to my conservative friends and family I would beg them to approach this topic from a philosophical view. I would ask them to consider how a person who is kind, patient, loving, generous, could find themselves in a position of being pro-choice. Because that is a reality.

To my liberal friends I would ask them to come to the table respecting a person's faith as something intrinsic to their being. To try to consider how a person who is kind, patient, loving and generous can live from a perspective of absolutes. Because that is a reality.

The reality is that each of us lives with a measure of dissonance.

I was a conservative Christian who voted conservatively and fought conservatively. I used to be on that side of the spectrum. I used to view things as being extremely "either or." Then I met people who were raised differently from me, who never heard of the things I believed in, who had experienced a different life than I had. I realized slowly that to be "either or" really has no merit and is not productive, and rarely takes into consideration the individual standing in front of me. No one gets saved - physically or spiritually - in an "either or" situation.

I don't know that creating new definitions would help. They only way this becomes a less polarizing issue is for everyone to come together and discuss and be open to each other. Not open to each others beliefs or political positions, but to each other. Just be open. Hear people's stories. Be compassionate. Hear, listen, understand from the heart. For both sides.

This conversation needs to happen with the understanding upfront that no one is wanting the other side to compromise anything. Not their beliefs, not their stances. The first step is the discussion, the hearing, the being in each others shoes.

I am and always have been a deeply devoted, Evangelical Christian. I used to walk in every Walk for Life I could find, and stand in picket lines when I was young outside abortion clinics, until one day I was encouraged to go in and try to "sway" those inside to leave. What I discovered was that the women inside were just as sorrowful about their decision to abort as the people outside, and that really the issue is not one which anyone takes lightly, and that most of them would rather be able to choose another option than abortion.
Then, when I later in life moved to Sweden, I came into a society which showed much more common sense about abortion. Even in liberal Sweden, (and much of Europe) there is recognition that this is a moral issue, but that it is impossible as humans to pinpoint when exactly life begins. So we have boundaries set based on when it is possible for a infant to survive outside of the womb, and the law changes as science develops. In general it is set at about 2 weeks prior to when the baby can survive. Abortion is not impossible after that, but must be tried and receive special judicial permission for the procedure. The thought is that by about 19 weeks women know they are pregnant and should have been able to make a decision by then.
In addition, there is in general a lot of social support in msot of Europe - and definitely in Sweden - for single mothers as well as non-single mothers. There is not a stigma attached to having a child out of wedlock, and no mother with a child is homeless or hungry; medical care is also provided to all.
What you observe in this society then is that there are very few children up for adoption: which verifies the idea that most women would choose to keep a child if they could.
When I had my first child, I understood the gravity of the decision, and that some women might feel they could not cope with a baby on their own.
If abortion is really a concern to a society, then instead of arguing absolutes, like what I have seen in the states, the society should act to 1) prevent unreasonably unethical abortions (late term) and 2) enable every women to be able to afford to choose life. Then the term should be profamily or promorality that everyone uses.

Of course, abortion is the taking of a human life, but it is different from the murder of
a born child or adult. Because the embryo or fetus is a very small part of a woman's body the state of that woman's body influences the condition of that embryo or fetus. In nature, when there are circumstances which would not accommodate well the development of a fetus to live birth, the body will spontaneously abort the fetus. There is no moral judgement here, only the exigencies of the situation. But we humans polarize and politicize nature, and especially human nature. An unwed pregnant woman is an object of scorn and gives other "immoral" men and women the opportunity to feel superior. The politicians and religionists have no problem exploiting this cruel defect in human behavior to suit their own self-aggrandizing ends.

Abortion is a terrible thing to choose, and yet it should not be regarded as murder in the
usual sense. Rather it should be a private matter decided by the woman involved with
counsel from whomever she chooses to take counsel with.

Tell the truth about human sexuality and educate us all as to effective methods of birth control. Sexuality is a glorious gift. Let's celebrate it rather than continue to make it something dirty by exploiting it for all manner of less than honorable reasons.

If we, as a society, would prefer to see fewer abortions we should admit that humans
are sexual beings and not pretend that the "sin" of sexual activity is worse than the instigating of illegal wars for the benefit of profits for arms manufacturers and dealers, among all the other sellers and cronies of death. Let us learn how to live in peace, not pretend that wars of aggression are not murderous, and not pretend that what one woman decides in private is any of our business, unless she demands we all do as she does.

J. Berliner
Round Rock, TX

To me, it seems that some so-called pro-life people are really only PRO-BIRTH. They seem to care nothing about the children and their mothers AFTER the birth. There is no consideration given to fund child care programs needed so the mother can work to provide a life for the child, no consideraton in the workplace for new mothers to care for their children, no health care when the children are sick, etc. These facts make me realize the imbalance of this stance, making abortion the only life issue to be concerned about. There are others like war, poverty, sickness, unjust prison systems and lack of help to youth that could prevent their getting involved in crime, the needs of the elderly -- many other life issues that have to be considered in an entire web of life, respecting it from womb to tomb. Isolating this one part of life as the only thing to be considered is
not the answer to a just world.

Both sides of the discussion could make ground by agreeing to promote adoption as a viable alternative. This seems to be the little a in the room that never is mentioned or discussed. I don't know how to discuss my stance without the word choice. I believe strongly that a woman should have the right to choose - whatever that may be - to parent, to abort or to place a child for adoption. The discussion is always so polarized between abortion and parenting that adoption never is able to enter the fray. Our country still stigmatizes women who choose to place (not give up) their child for adoption. Most in the country don't truly understand the current adoption process and that biological potential parents are actively involved in selecting who will parent their child - that is a powerful choice. Since I view the world as gray and believe that one can't fully understand a diecision made unless they too have had to make that choice, and even then each persons life is so different, so unique. Often find that those that stand firmly in the pro life world do not view the world as gray but in black and whites, firm rights and wrongs and I don't know how be being to bridge that divide - it is so elemental to my sense of the world and for others it just isn't. Because I view the world as gray I am able to accept their opinion - as long as I am provide the space to have mine.

In 1985 I attended the State University of New York in Binghamton. One day I entered a stall in the ladies restroom where someone had written on the wall, "Anyone who gets an abortion should be killed." Underneath this, someone else had written, "This is typical of the so called 'pro-life' view."

In the early 1990s, I lived in Miami, Florida and became involved with the local NOW chapter. We went to a women's health clinic one morning to counter protest a group of "pro-life" activists. The protesters stood outside with pictures of bloodied fetuses, and were clearly very passionate about wanting to save these babies. I approached one of the women and asked, "If you really want to stop abortion, why aren't you out here promoting the use of birth control and sex education?" The response I got was a shocked face and the comment, "Abstinence works."

These stories illustrate the two main problems I have with the Pro-Life movement. It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about the sanctity of life within a context of hypocrisy. Many of these same people support capital punishment as fervently as they oppose abortion rights. I don't see them out marching for children's rights, health care reform, support for the homeless and hungry, or dollars for our lagging public education system. It seems to me that these well intentioned folks don't care nearly as much about life after gestation as they do about making a point about their view of G-d's will. Where is their passion when it comes to the rights of the born? At that point the message I hear is, "You're on your own."

At the same time, it seems obvious to me that the clearest path to preventing unwanted pregnancies, and therefore reducing abortions, is the effective use of birth control - which requires accessibility and education. But the Pro-Life movement is based in a set of values that sees human sexuality as sinful, and therefore something that should be denied and repressed. In order for the issue of abortion to be squarely dealt with, the Pro-Life movement must face the fact of preventing unwanted pregnancy. Additionally, they must allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and to protect a woman's life.

I have never had an abortion, and I have two very wanted children whose lives I treasure beyond all things. I deeply believe in the sanctity and miracle of all life, including animals, trees, insects - you name it! When I was a kid, my parents made sure that I understood clearly where babies came from, and that I knew how to prevent pregnancy. When I was 14 years old I received a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," as a gift from my father. When I was 16 and became sexually active, my mother took me to get birth control pills.

I have taught these same lessons to my children: people enjoy having sex, but there are risks of disease and unwanted pregnancy; wait to have sex until you meet the right person who you trust and who really loves you; and use birth control until you want a baby more than you want anything else in your life, because once you have a child, you need to give everything to that child.

I know that this is a complex issue, but at its very heart, I see the struggle to protect the "least of these" as a social justice issue. When we can no longer do even that, I wonder what kind of society have we become. Our beliefs obviously exist on a wide continuum, but when life actually begins does not. There is indeed a concrete beginning and I believe that the only safe place to draw that line is at conception. If not at conception, then where? The burden of arbitrarily drawing some other line is just too great.

In a Speaking of Faith podcast (The Faith Life of the Party - Part 1 The Right) I heard Krista say that she "yearns for a more nuanced discussion" about the issue. I couldn't agree more. Currently, it seems we hold very limited and unkind stereotypes of one another. Either you're a "baby killer" or your an intolerant religious nut and neither caricature is helpful in promoting understanding. When our dialogue is reduced to seeing eachother in these ways, true discussion ceases, communication shuts down and the possibility for understanding recedes from our grasp.

What I would genuinely like to understand is why the Democratic Party chooses to take such a hard line, immovable stance on abortion, especially on issues as seemingly clear cut as partial birth abortion. By being unwilling to even draw a line there, they are alienating many people of faith who might otherwise support them. I don't think I am alone in not knowing how to fit into a party that chooses to die on that "hill."

I may not know all the reasons why I take a certain position on the pro-life or pro-choice question, but I came to a decision based on what I have learned and what I believe. Science teaches that life begins in the womb and they likely are correct. But a scientist can only accept physical evidence. They do not consider the soul and religions refer to their own documents for their ‘truth’ but both would affirm that life begins at conception. The church takes comfort in the fact that it has the support of scientists on this, though they differ on many other topics. But neither religion nor science is aware of what happens in mind. The temporal embryonic brain isn’t capable of growing an eternal spirit or a mind.
One could merely accept the smug conclusions, or seek for a more inspired source - an unbiased authority. Such authorities do exist, not from science or religion, but from the higher psychic mind, and in this borderland area of life it should be considered the most reliable source since it is the connected approach.
One higher authority would be the extensive psychic readings given through Edgar Cayce, who is accorded by Jesus in His Masterpiece: A Course In Miracles, Urtext as having great accuracy.

“When he spoke of a dream in which he saw his own rather immanent reincarnation, he was perfectly accurate. He was sufficiently attuned to real communication to make it easy to correct his errors, and free him to communicate without strain. It is noticeable throughout his notes that he frequently engaged in a fallacy that we have already noted in some detail: namely, the tendency to endow the physical with nonphysical properties. Cayce suffered greatly from this error. He did not make either of the other three. However, you will remember that it is this one which is particularly vulnerable to magical associations. Cayce’s accuracy was so great that, even when he did this, he was able to apply it constructively. But it does not follow that this was a genuinely constructive approach.” Acim Urtext, Chapter 3, II. Atonement without Sacrifice, (Tuesday, November 22, 1965) http://www.courseinmiracles.com/urtext/chapter_3/section_3.htm

Edgar Cayce, the American psychic, when asked during readings about these areas of mystery could consistently describe the basic laws of operation, noting possible variations, and then answer related questions. The question of life’s beginning was put to the ‘sleeping’ Cayce on more than one occasion.

From the Edgar Cayce Reading 3744-5 (2/14/1924):

“(Q) Where does the soul come from, and how does it enter the physical body?
(A) It is already there. "and He breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul", as the breath, the ether from the forces as come into the body of the human when born breathes the breath of life, as it becomes a living soul, provided it has reached that developing in the creation where the soul may enter and find the lodging place. All souls were created in the beginning, and are finding their way back to whence they came.”

Edgar was consistent in the answers he gave on the ‘breath of life’ entrance of the soul or spirit into a separated physical form.
From Edgar Cayce Reading 2390-2 (12/5/1940):

“(Q) Does a soul ever enter a body before it is born?
(A) It enters either at the first breath physically drawn, or during the first twenty-four hours of cycle activity in a material plane. Not always at the first breath; sometimes there are hours, and there are changes even of personalities as to the seeking to enter.
(Q) What keeps the physical body living until the soul enters?
(A) Spirit! For, the spirit of matter - its source is life, or God, see?”

Here, spirit is not the soul or personality but like life, it is from God and the mother is the only personality involved with the life in her womb.

The readings of Edgar Cayce inspired a team of investigators who became motivated to compose a book to help many with spiritual understanding. For several years they met with Edgar to refine their concepts for their two books called A Search for God parts 1 and 2.
From Cayce Reading 281 (Prayer Group) -53 (3/7/1941):

“(Q) The entity preparing to be born into the earth has an influence upon the mother in building its own body.
(A) No. That would be the same as saying that an atom had an influence upon that to which it could be attracted! See the variation?
As in the realms outside of the material body, we have influences that are sympathetic one to another and we have influences that have an antipathy one for another, - as in fire and water, yet they are much alike. There are other forces that are active in the same manner, or that are of the same nature.
But in the physical world there is builded a body, by the process of a physical law, see? Now: There is builded also a mental body, see?
God breathed into man the breath of life and he became a LIVING soul. Then, with the first breath of the infant there comes into being in the flesh a soul, - that has been attracted, that has been called for, by all the influences and activities that have gone to make up the process through the period of gestation, see? Many souls are seeking to enter, but not all are attracted. Some may be repelled. Some are attracted and then suddenly repelled, so that the life in the earth is only a few days. Oft the passing of such a soul is accredited to, and IS because of disease, neglect or the like, but STILL there was the attraction, was there not?
Hence to say that the body is in any way builded by an entity from the other side is incorrect. BUT those mental and physical forces that ARE builded ARE those influences needed FOR that soul that does enter!
(Q) The entity desiring to enter governs the change in sex, which may occur as late as the third month.
(A) It may occur even nineteen years after the body is born! So, it doesn't change in that direction!
(Q) The physical development of the child is wholly dependent upon the mother from whom it draws physical sustenance, but its purpose, desire and hope are built up or influenced by the minds of all concerned.
(A) That's the first question you've asked correctly. CORRECT!”

In the second question Edgar was referring to a transsexual person - one whose mental or physical sex is undecided at birth, but may be a decision made later in life. This would require surgery and hormone replacement therapy when the decision is made to change. In some cases when the body is born undecided doctors have sadly made the decision for the infant soon after birth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexual

The term spirit has been substituted for soul in this Cayce reading, 281-49 (10/23/1940):

“Then, it is not that the entire life experience is laid out for an individual when there has been received that imprint as of the first breath, or the spirit entering the body as prepared for activity in the material world. For, again, choice is left to the individual, and the personality - as to whether it is the laudation of the ego or cooperation with its fellow men, or as a consecration to the service of the Creative Forces in its material environs.
All of these are to be taken into consideration, then; just as they are indicated in the study that first prompted this search for the BEGINNINGS of individuality and personality in an entity entering and becoming active in the material complacency of a changing world.”

Later, Paul Solomon, another gifted American psychic contributed further evidence of the requirement of the first breath as the true beginning of an individual’s life in this world.
From a Paul Solomon reading about astrology (9054) http://www.paulsolomon.com/NewFiles/9054%20Astrology.doc%20[Compatibilit...

“From time to time in the latter stages of that development, the soul may often actually enter as if trying on for size, if you will excuse the term, the feeling of adapting to the material cloak that is put about the self. Brief incursions, as it were, are likely to occur during the last weeks, months of pregnancy.
But the more or less permanent entry of the soul, which causes an interaction, for lack of a better term, we would call this for the moment a radioactive, or radiological interaction between the physical instrument and the external environment. When the physical instrument leaves the mother's body, the soul causes an inhalation. The moment of this inhalation is often the same moment of soul entry into the body and for taking in of the prana. For it is during that time when the seven seals extend or make contact with, accept their entry. It is as if it were that these permeate the body, make contact with their sources, the sources of the metal minerals that give properties to the body and are taken from celestial bodies, establish their kinship with their Source in the spheres, so that in instinct made one final influence. May we attempt now to identify their extent.
For a time, from the time of conception to the time of birth, the astrological influences upon the development of the fetus are not particularly important in the sense of assigning of the conception moment. The idea of a conception chart for example is inappropriate, for the materials to use in the structure are taken from the mother's body and are converted to the entry of her birth and are under that influence. Every metal mineral and element used in the creation of that fetus comes from and is related to other spheres in the solar system.
Yet during the time of pregnancy, the stage, the mother's body is the universe. The mother's body is the zodiac to which the fetus, being earth, is in. At the moment of leaving that universe, the body then is born into another. The soul then enters to incarnate upon its earth, which the universe or the solar system in which this body, earth, matter, now is the greater solar system,
When breath through the nose and the lungs is first taken, there is a change in orientation between the elements in the body and their source in the solar system, rather than these elements relating to their source within the mother’s body.
The influences upon the developing fetus up until that moment of birth, breath, those influences had been the influences of heredity, the mother’s thoughts and actions, that activity of the mother, father, that which they contributed to the child, the karmic pattern. The thoughts have been impressed upon the soul occupying the body and such, but the influences are not particularly strong astrologically except through the influence of the mother.
At the moment of first breath, the patterns, trends, and the relationships of the heavenly bodies to one, impress into the self at a final moment the thoughts, the patterns this soul will encounter in this life, this incarnation.
That moment is the important moment for the astrological time, even though this soul has often entered and left and entered again before that moment. And be certain that after the soul entry, even after this moment of first breath, during the period of the first year in the life of a child, the soul actually spends nearly as much time outside the body as within it.”

Although the chemistry we call life begins in the womb, the soul is not in a body until it takes the breath of life by its shared will, and even after that it is not locked in, but maintains a loose connection.

Religious organizations have never been able to prohibit anything. In the 1920’s they attempted through our nations laws to prohibit alcohol and drugs which generated the social disaster known as The Roaring 20’s
Realize that if the laws are reenacted to prohibit a woman’s right to choose, abortions will continue, but rarely in a safe medical environment.

Do the unborn have responsibilities and relationships beyond those with the women carrying them?

If only life begins in the womb, does an unclaimed life form need rights?

Does a tumor have rights?

Should we assume we have the right to make one common personal decision for everyone?

Should we worry over the removal of a particular opportunity for an individual’s life in this world?

Should we consider our nation a free country after giving away our freedoms?

These must be answered from within.

“Your creation by God is the only foundation which cannot be shaken, because the light is IN it. Your starting point IS truth, and you MUST return to this Beginning. Much has been perceived since then, but nothing else has happened. That is why your Souls are still in peace, even though your minds are in conflict.
You have not yet gone back far ENOUGH and that is why you become so fearful. As you approach the beginning, you feel the fear of the destruction of your thought-systems upon you, as if it were the fear of death. There IS no death, but there IS a belief in death.
The Bible says that the tree that bears no fruit will be cut off and will wither away. Be glad! The light WILL shine from the true Foundation of Life, and your own thought-systems WILL stand corrected. They CANNOT stand otherwise. You who fear salvation are WILLING death. Life and death, light and darkness, knowledge and perception are irreconcilable. To believe that THEY can be reconciled is to believe that God and man can NOT. Only the Oneness of Knowledge is conflictless. Your Kingdom is not of this world because it was given you from BEYOND this world. Only IN this world is the idea of an authority problem meaningful. The world is not left by death but by truth, and truth CAN be known by all those for whom the Kingdom was created, and for whom it waits.” ACIM Urtext, Chapter 3, VIII. Creating versus the Self-Image, (December 11, 1965, Text, p. 45-46/50-51) http://www.courseinmiracles.com/urtext/chapter_3/section_9.htm

A newborn is a garment we all chose to wear for a while to express our individuality and to physically experience the results of our choices. But the body seems to limit our ‘reality’ to a tiny bit of time and space. For the first year we were torn between the illusion and our eternal reality, but eventually we surrendered to live another life in this world to again learn and master our past lesson failures.
Thank you for deciding with me in this life to share and to learn to find our way beyond this world of problems and testings, and to accept His Truth that will again set us free.

Blessings,

Phil Hursthouse

I just have questions: Why is it so hard to focus on the causes rather the resulting abortions? When is abortion also make the men responsible for their actions? Can't we help young women who often say they want a baby so they have someone to love them? -- Help them see they are destroying their ow young lives- -- Help them see they are committing their children to poverty-- etc. -- Help them see their own worth, ability to make good choices. The Old Testament made reproduction necessary for survival, but the times have changed. Isn't human intimacy and comfort also a legitimate reason for sexual intercourse between committed individuals? But this is not the casual sex young folks see in the media. It is not another form of "hello." Poverty limits a young girl's hopes and opportunity. Help her get out of that terrible whirlpool. Educate the young men also to their responsibilities. A local high school has a nursery which the boys call the "Trophy Room." How can medical ethics and moral judgment keep up with scientific discoveries of human life?

Abortion is wrong. It's that simple. To take an innocent human life is an abhorrent moral wrong, and there is no way such the choice to kill should be protected by law. I have not been able to vote until this year, but I have always supported the Republican candidate for president based on the pro-life issue.
Yet, I vote in two days, and I am strongly considering a vote for Barack Obama. There are so many other issues at stake—an economy in the trash, many without healthcare, a war that lingers on. Obama is appealing to me. He strikes me as a man trying to live the Gospel—a crucial value for me as an active Roman Catholic. But I hesitate to give him my vote because his message of hope excludes the unborn. The change he brings is looser restrictions on abortion. This is not the change we need.
But I agree with him on so many other issues, my pro-Obama friends argue. This is true, and I don't want to be a one-issue voter, but the fact is that the pro-life issue is central to any just society. A just society must protect its most vulnerable members. Abortion destroys our society's most vulnerable members. If we are to build up a just society in our country, we must defend those who have no voice, no defense of their own.
I realize situations can be tough. Senseless acts like rape can cause crisis pregnancies and put women in miserable situations. I cannot possibly understand the pain these women go through. But I can say there must always be a more viable option than death. Whether it be economic support programs for pregnant women, early-childhood education programs, or adoption incentives, there must be a better option in death—an option that promotes life and a just society at the same time.

I think human life does not turn on and off like a light switch, but grows gradually, just as it sometimes (in old age or prolonged illness) dies gradually, like a perfume slowly losing its scent, when you miss the full and eventually even the trace of the spirit of the human life still physically there with you. The beginning of life is the wonderful inverse of this -- like a perfume base gradually getting a scent, a growing body and growing spirit, really very amazing. The whole process seems to me morally significant from its very start, from conception -- so much so that I think you always need a reason to interrupt it once it starts. Lesser reasons might do within the first few hours of conception, say, since there is truly less of both the body and the spirit of the life present. But as human life grows and becomes more fully present, you need a better and better reason to stop it.

I like to think we are all pro-life in the sense that we all value and encourage human life. And we are all pro-choice in the sense that we value and encourage freedom. Perhaps pro-responsibility? We want to make responsible choices about growing human life.

I'd like to hear us talking more about how we can allow choice but use non-judgemental education to encourage options other than abotion. I have to trust that no woman just lightly decides to get pregnant and have an abortion. I am sure that the decision to abort is painful and difficult. I am not sure, however, that help is at hand for other options. I'd like to see a woman be able to go to a clinic to receive good information about options, then be given a few days to think. If she still wants an abortion, then one should be allowed. If she chooses to put the child up for adoption, as an example, then social workers should be at the clinic able to help with the procedures.

Not being a traditionally religious person, I do not come to my views based on scriptures or doctrines. Instead I come to my pro-choice views based on a sense of practicality, and a hope that whatever Divine presence there is does not ascribe to the strict black and white views that generally go along with this topic.

I believe that it would be nearly impossible to find a person who believes that abortion is a "good thing." I, like many who call themselves pro-life, wish we lived in a world where every child conceived was wanted and would be loved and cared for. But unfortunately we do not live in that world, and so we must come to terms with abortion.

What has always baffled me is the unwillingness to compromise that many pro-life people exhibit. The easiest way to prevent abortion is to prevent unintended pregnancy. And yet the same people who want to outlaw abortion also fight against contraception and comprehensive sex education - two things proven to prevent unintended pregnancies. I find this approach to be as useful as hiding one's head in the sand. The reality we face is that humans are sexual beings - try as we might, there will always be teens who have sex. There will always be adults who have sex. Telling people not to do it as the only answer to preventing unintended pregnancies is a denial of reality.

As long as those in the pro-choice movement are the ones fighting for greater education, more access to contraception and health care for women of low socioeconomic background (statistically the group with the highest incidences of abortion), I will stand with them. To me the pro-choice movement is more truly "pro-life" as it seeks to address life as it is, rather than some unrealistic ideal held by many of the so-called "pro-lifers."

At the same time, I think it is important for people on all sides of the issues to engage in real conversation. Compromise and progress can only be made when people truly understand one another. When understanding is reached, we could use the best of both sides to drastically reduce the number of abortions which occur, and help the status of women in America and the rest of the world.

Prefacing my answers I have to state that before I saw SOF's outreach for fresh perspectives, I had asked myself a few months prior that:

"If I were running for office, how would I honestly answer this question?"

In being a male I first thought that my moral and spiritual perspectives would be mute however, my introspection led to a clear and concise conclusion.

Outside of context, the moral aspect of abortion and the potentiality of spiritual consequence of going through an individual seems to weigh against it.

I would like to understand of those who feel differently what context or lack of context makes this a choice. I would further like to explain my stance on what I believe can be simply classified as: an accidental pregnancy versus a forced or life threatening pregnancy.

Pro-life and pro-choice are black and white. In the terms of media it means one is for abortion without reason and the former is against abortion for one reason or another.

There needs to be a more granular conversation regarding abortion and those who stand somewhere between Pro-life and Pro-choice: regardless of agreement or disagreement.

This is a complex issue, but the complexity lies on the individual going through such a procedure and it is the voices of those that have undergone this procedure that should be heard amongst those that are caught somewhere in the middle in terms of being for or against such a choice.

Sincerely,
Jesse Benedict

When our first child was born in 2002 our annual household income was less than $30,000 and since we did not have employer-based health insurance, we were under a load of debt from medical bills. But even though we were under great financial stress, we never doubted our decision to carry our son full term. Ever. Even when we got pregnant nine months later and then had two kids to care for and--when compared to our friends--relatively little money, it never occurred to us that our lives would be less fulfilled because of these two boys.

See, we’re pro-life Protestants who agree whole-heartedly with the recent popes’ arguments that a culture of life is central to creating a just society, and that outlawing abortion is a foundational element in any society’s law code if it wants to be truly just. When Rod Dreher told Krista that the 19th century evangelicals wouldn’t say, “'I believe black people are humans but if you don't believe that, well, you know, I'm not going to force my belief on you in the South’,” we were right there with him.

A couple weeks ago I voted for John McCain. And, for many reasons, I believe I voted for the right candidate. But in the months and weeks leading up to the election I found myself debating with fellow evangelicals about the importance of electing a president who would appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. I put tons of energy into these debates, because I believe that we need to help move our society to the point where our laws state protect the unborn with the same vigor as they protect the born.

But then on November 4, I took the exit poll on Beliefnet.org. The poll had a question about how to get a real reduction of abortions.
I had two choices:
• “Best way to reduce abortion is through legal restrictions” or
• “Best way to reduce abortion is by preventing unintended pregnancy or providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers.”
Without hesitation I clicked the first choice, but before I continued to the next question my heart skipped a beat. I realized that I don’t really believe that. In fact, I knew in my bones that real change--change that makes a difference in people’s lives--rarely, if ever, comes from the top down, but rather it comes from the bottom up. Overturning Roe v. Wade fixes things--foundational things--but it won’t make the real change that is needed. Even without legalized abortion on-demand, there will be women and men out there who, when in the situation we were in when we first got pregnant, will continue to think that abortions are a viable answer to stress in their lives.

My focus on the legal side of the abortion debate had led me to act as though laws matter more than people.

So, I am now taking the election of Barack Obama as the start of a new day for me. It appears as though as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, the legal question will remain at the point it currently is for years to come. So be it. I did what I could on that front, but now I need to change my focus from laws to women’s lives.

Poor women who get pregnant are scared. I know this because we were scared before both pregnancies, not knowing where the money would come from or how we would stay afloat. But we remembered the lilies in the field and knew with certainty that children are a blessing that it would be worth the financial cost.

And although I’d like to credit that to my moral/religious anti-abortion convictions, if I’m honest with myself, I know we never considered an abortion because I believed that the Lord would provide for my family. Even though having children would mean I’d have to buy less stuff and make redefine what it meant for me to “follow my dreams,” I always believed that it would be worth it.

I am now just beginning to realize that the problem I see in America is rooted in the reality that most people in financial dire straights--many of whose are much much worse than ours were--do not believe that they will be provided for if they have another mouth to feed. They do not believe that the child they are carrying brings hope, but rather see it as a burden. They are so trapped in a world where a flourishing human being is defined as one who has financial freedom, that they can’t help but do cost analysis on their pregnancy and conclude that more financial constraints means lower quality of life.

That is sad. And worse yet, I have done little to help people become liberated from this bondage, either through charitable donations to alleviate their poverty or by helping people see that investing in the lives of babies and children is the most fulfilling activity human being are blessed with the opportunity to perform.

Our third child is now three weeks old today, and although I hope that someday he lives in an America where aborting children just three months younger than him is legal, my bigger prayer is that he will live in an America where conventional wisdom does not trap men and women into living as though financial considerations are more important than new life. Until that mis-perception changes, nothing will change.

Abortion has been blown all out of proportion. People use it today to attack the ideas of others twithout hinking things through.

I have been friends with one lady who considers herself a murder for having an abortion and another who considers herself a torturer because she couldn't have one.

This is an ethical issue that must be settled by the woman involved. I can never feel the pain because it will never happen to me. I can only advise and support the womans decision

If GOD wants a child born that child will be born. If the LORD does not want a child born it will not be born. We humans cannot tell the almighty what child should or should not be born. Therefore abortion is a mote point from that angle

In the end the state must decide when abortion becomes murder. Current efforts seem to be that the shift occurs when the medical proffession can keep a child alive outside of a women. As we get better at dealing with pre-mature babies this time comes earler and earler in the pregnacy. Evetualy we will not need abortion at all because we can keep an embro alive from conception.

The two sides of the abortion question—pro-life and pro-choice—have become so entrenched that healthy compromise seems out of the question. And how do you compromise, anyway, when one side believes abortion to be murder and the other sees its elimination as government control of a woman’s own body?
I believe there is an opportunity for greater understanding between the two camps, and the ball is in the pro-choice court. Can it really be that difficult to admit that abortion is a practice to be avoided whenever possible, an act of last resort? Yet the insistence on the abortion option, without acknowledging its dark side, reads, on the other side of the equation, as utmost callousness, even cold-bloodedness. Abortion should not be a form of birth control.
During the recent presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama made a step in the right direction by acknowledging that abortion occurs all too frequently. I applaud him for his comments. Now it is time for the pro-choice camp itself to address the issue honestly and realistically. I say this as a lifelong (liberal) Democrat, who, like many women, shudders at the thought of my government telling me what I can and cannot do with my body, but also as a single mother who once contemplated abortion. I believe my story illustrates the dangers inherent in a blanket endorsement of abortion.
Just before my 18th birthday, a few months after graduating from high school, I discovered that I was pregnant. I acquired this terrifying knowledge during a visit to my local Planned Parenthood office in a midsized Texas city. I found the women at that office to be extremely supportive of my situation, and understanding of the considerable fear it aroused in me, given my single, adolescent status. Yet it seemed to me at the time, based on the information I was given, that the only plausible course of action was abortion.
This was in the 1970s, just a few years after Roe v. Wade, at a time when abortion was not only legal, but subsidized, among low-income women, by the federal government. Before I knew it, an appointment had been scheduled for me at a Houston abortion clinic, and I was purchasing a bus ticket for the trip. No one ever sat down to explore with me, in any depth, my feelings about this choice, or to offer any option besides abortion. What makes my story even more remarkable is the fact that I had already passed the first trimester of pregnancy.
I rode all night, alone, on the bus to Houston, where a friend picked me up and drove me to the clinic. It was early morning when we arrived, shortly before the clinic opened, and we sat in the parking lot staring at the clinic’s front door. My friend, sensing my underlying distress, asked if abortion was what I really wanted and offered her support regardless of my decision. It was a long time before I could answer, though I had discovered on the long bus ride my true feelings on the subject: I did not want an abortion. I did not know how I would possibly raise a child on my own, but I was certain I wanted to raise it.
I want to emphasize my gratitude that I live in a country where I had the right to make that choice for myself. At the same time, I look back on that chain of events even now with a sense of horror over what nearly happened—namely, that one of life’s gravest decisions, the choice to become or not become a parent, was almost made on the fly.

Before the person is born, I consider it more of an issue of its being a part of the mother's body, in which case, it is between her and her family, her doctor and her clergy, since it is at least her life (to be 'pro-'). Life actually began well before anyone's particular life, continues through it well into the future. Your life, your particular set of cells and ideas started well before you or your parents were born, conceived or whatever and they lead directly to you--choosing any point of origin is arbitrary and needs some justification for being selected.

It is the "pro-lifers" that make it a public issue. Making it a public issue is a simple way of developing a 'moral' sense, especially in morally ambiguous times. If you were really "pro-life" you would be busy promoting prenatal counciling centers, school nutrition and after-school programs, lobying your government to support international health and education efforts--not inhabiting them. Not to mention natural resources conservation programs and issues.

Perhaps pro-life should be phrased anti-killing and baby-rights for that is the true issue is pro-lifers are trying to protect the babies, or the Latin term for baby a "fetus." If the baby "it" is just a "fetus" then they are not really accepting the fact that the baby is just a glob of tissue when the word "for an un-baby" in Latin. People try to justify killing babies claiming that nobody wants "it." When there are several people I know that would be delighted to adopt a baby. In several towns I saw that the people that wanted to adopt a baby out numbered the abortions preformed and that does not count the natural occuring multiple births aborted also, for one out of eighty women do have twins,and one out of 100,000 have triplets. The number of abortions occuring out number the people serving in the military and yet people complain more about people fighting for freedom then they do about millions of babies killed each year.

I am a pro-choice woman and mother, who leans heavily toward the progressive side politically. As I don't believe in the supernatural, all concerns of when souls are engendered or "life" really starting seem beside the point to me.

I think the fight goes beyond "is it cells or a life" and "do women have control over their bodies" and is a matter of fundamental disagreement people have over how family situations should be.

I think it upsets people to consider that some people have chaotic experiences that would not be optimal for a baby to born into, that economics, safety, health and personal interest are not always aligned to welcome a new child. I think a lot of pro-life people are advocating for a world they think we should have - where people are in control of their lives to the point that adding another family member is feasible - and they desperately want this world.

I want that world, too. I wish I could say that what goes on behind the closed doors in my community was all healthy, nurturing and loving. But I just don't know that, and I can't assume that we're getting to that optimal place any time soon.

I've experienced pregnancy and birth. I would not trade my child for anything in this world. But I know how difficult it was to be pregnant and to bring her into this world, and I know how difficult it is to be a parent, every day. So though I wish our families and personal lives could all be arrayed to choose "life" as it were, I am forced to accept the reality that we have and believe in giving the choice to the individual woman.

"Pro-life" has always struck me as inherently polemical. As well as inaccurate. It proclaims an absolute, yet many of those who claim the label of course admit qualifications and make exceptions like most mortals do. Pro-choice is at least more accurate to the extent that it presumes there will always be those for whom abortion could never be the right decision - and it leaves that to them. "Pro choice" imposes abortion on NO ONE.

You may have heard that complaint before. And yet I don't think it's easy or simple. "Pro-life" implies willful blinders, false absolutes, that have devastating consequences.

I thought about this quite a bit during the campaign, thinking about Sarah Palin. Even *if* she and her husband provide most of the care for their special needs child, they do it with other aid from the state, such as the chef she is provided by virtue of her being the governor. And yet she was clear that she believes everyone should be forced to carry such a child to term regardless of how conceived or its prospects for life, but also that no one should expect any aid from the state. If these positions could be stated plainly to voters for what they are, I question whether they would continue to vote as they so far have. Such people are the first to take advantage of laws, for instance, that require school systems to require equal education for special needs children. Yet if their platform succeeds, no states would make any such provision.

I think the Terri Schaivo case showed this as well. "Life" is not an absolute. Plenty of so-called pro-lifers support the death penalty while, like Gov. Palin, opposing programs like AFDC that would funnel direct aid to mothers with children. Most people want the power and freedom to make such decisions about life and death in accord with their personal, private, religious beliefs. Such people include, so it would seem, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. It was I believe 2006, months after the Schaivo case had been all over the news, that WBEZ public radio in Chicago interviewed the Cardinal following surgery he had undergone for (I believe) bladder cancer. It was one of those moments where you hear on the news something utterly startling said only once, and though the interview might be repeated, the startling bit usually isn't. But Cardinal George said he did not fear dying but rather being incapacitated. A very human sentiment that I imagine most people share. But the Church's position is that life should be preserved heedless of the level of consciousness or incapacitation, so this was quite something to hear him say. It received no comment, question, or remark from the interviewer.

I once heard Garrison Keillor say that if right-wing evangelical hard-line culture-war-loving so-called Christians could realize all they say they wish to, they would be the first to regret it. And I agree. Let them wake up to a world in which meat and water are no longer inspected, where women are once again relegated to back alleys and coat hangers and unscrupulous quacks and the state decides how long someone braindead is kept on life support. And then they might regret what they've done.

I try to hold on to hope that through dialogue they can be brought to rethink some of their positions. I've long wondered how it is that such professedly God-fearing folks can claim to know what God wants, and not fear they're committing blasphemy, setting themselves as false gods. How they can square supposed concern with proto-life forms with their opposition to sex education and access to birth control. Roe v. Wade ALREADY imposes limits. There has NEVER been abortion on demand without limits in the U.S. Media programs such as Speaking of Faith could do a great service by starting simply to insist on accuracy in these matters, and not let inflammatory misleading labels like "pro life" cloud the debate.

I don't really believe that anyone likes abortion. I think simply the idea is counter to our very being, our instinct or drive for survival, however, I believe that being human makes it all so very complicated. And I believe that it is an impossible conversation that cannot be resolved, not ever. That is because each person and each person's experience is so very unique. I myself would have told you for the majority of my adolescence and adulthood that I am absolutely and resolutely opposed to abortion because it is ending the potential for life, however small and unnoticeable, of a human being. That has changed somewhat over the last few years. I still believe that morally we are obligated to protect our young, and spiritually I believe that it is our obligation to let be what is to be. But I have had the unique and, at the time, cursed, but now blessed, situation of having a baby prenatally diagnosed with a significant birth defect. Just prior, ten months, to be exact, of this baby's diagnosis, our second child was stillborn due to a true knot in his cord. He was "perfect". She was definitely not. Having felt my soul ripped from the very core of my being, and the alienation of being betrayed by my own body, twice, some might say, left me standing in the rubble of my former religious, moral, and faith values. Lost. Alone. Completely alone. I was left wondering, was my stillborn boy anyone at all? Did he exist? Was he mere tissue? Were his red eyelashes, ten little toes, shock of dark hair, chubby little tummy and dimpled chin simply products of pregnancy? Did he count? Did I have two children, or just one? And then ten months later, the doctors told us, "she has Down syndrome. This is what her life will be like and yours....." What now? Does she count? Does she have ten fingers and ten toes, does her chubby little tummy count yet? It's been nearly five years since our boy, David, was stillborn, and whenever I hear an argument about abortion, I wonder about the woman who is facing this kind of a dilemna. I wonder about whether or not she has support from the man, if he was a stranger who harmed her, or a family overwhelmed by debt or life circumstances. I wonder who she will have to support her after her decision, or if she will have to suffer either choice alone. Because what I've found through my life circumstances, losing David, and welcoming Samantha, is that once something happens, you are alone. My son died accidentally, and the pain was too much for others to bear, my husband and I were alone in our deepest grief. Samantha was born alive and well, despite the Down syndrome, and we were alone again. The pain was too awkward for others to share. So my conclusion is not that this country is "pro-life" or "pro-choice", but that we are not either. We are "pro-birth" or "choose-one-or-the-other-and-then-out-the-door". Pro-lifers don't support each other once that baby is born, and pro-choicers don't help heal the wounds that termination leaves behind. What if we supported each other fully? What if the family struggling next door, was the recipient of occasional boxes of diapers and precooked meals? What if adoption was more of a real option? What if all the crazy red tape and high fees and stigma were removed from adopting and giving your child to an adoptive family? What if the embarrassment of finding yourself pregnant the fourth, fifth, sixth time and struggling to make ends meet was no longer embarrassing, but instead finding a loving home for that child was acceptable? What if we didn't see children like my Samantha as burdens and "icky" as a society and instead saw their unbelievable and very misunderstood potential as fully functioning human beings? What if we helped our young people who have always and will always make mistakes in their quest for "adulthood" deal with the consequences of their actions without stigma and blame? What if a woman who is facing death herself, could give her baby a funeral after she has made the unbearable decision to terminate to save her life? What if she were allowed to grieve openly for her child, or her decision, whichever side you stand on? Abortion cannot be black and white. And it will not be resolved until we stop looking to the politicians to make these kinds of decisions and start looking at ourselves and seeing what we can do to help in our own lives, our own circles.

I would like to know from both sides-where are you? Where are you during that termination and in the months and years afterward? Where are you after that baby is born and the parent(s) is struggling to parent, or survive, or feed that child? Where are you when that baby with that birth defect is born and the whole family is trying do their level best for each member of that family? Where are you when that woman is raped and then has to struggle with her morals and her spirituality when she finds herself pregnant? Where are you when those kids followed their hormones instead of their heads and now college is no longer an option? Are you simply pointing your finger and laying blame, or helping them heal?

My first child died at somewhere around seven weeks. I carried her (I call the child her because it's most probable that it was female) until somewhere around thirteen weeks gestation. After a great deal of bleeding, I was convinced that a D&C was the wisest medical course.

I never got to bury my first child. I still wonder what they did - threw the "tissue" out with the contaminated waste? Cut "the tissue" up to examine with laboratory tests? I don't know. I know the medical staff did find the baby because it was set aside, I suppose to prove I had really had an actual pregnancy rather than some sort of other issue.

It has been a bit over four years since going to the emergency room at about two in the morning. I still grieve that child, the one I wasn't really allowed to grieve. I have a living son who was conceived soon afterwards, a boy that I carried in terror and still have to fight with myself to allow to be out of my sight, and we lost another daughter a year and a half ago to hydranencephaly.

Although I understand that the D&C may have saved my life, and that we had to deliver my youngest daughter to preserve my health and that she would not have lived more than about the hour and twenty minutes that she did no matter how long she would have been carried, I constantly feel pain that I killed my children. I can't understand how anyone would purposely end their child's life; I live with the pain every day of what was medically unavoidable. Pro-choice bothers me because there are cases where "choice" isn't really part of it.

I am a white male Christian, "free range" variety.

As a white male, I do not believe I am in a position to judge what any woman does when faced with pregnancy and life's challenges.

As a Christian, I seek to inform my values and understanding using the Bible.

Many believe the Bible is silent on abortion, but it is not. In Numbers 5:11-31, God gives us the rule that, if a man suspects his wife has been unfaithful, the priest is to give her an abortificant - if she aborts (if God causes her "thigh to waste away")then she is guilty. (See, especially footnote d at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=numbers%205:11-31&version=NIV)

Of course, not God's most logical rule, but the simple fact is that God uses abortion as part of His rules of life.

This is not the end of the inquiry, but for Christians and Jews, I believe this passage must be incorporated into one's analysis and that, at a minimum, it throws the "sacred human life begins at conception" into disarray...."

In His dust...

I am thoroughly enjoying listening to your conversation with Frances Kissling. I am, however, struck by her description of common ground. I want to share this because the sense of "common ground" that Frances expressed on your show is not at all what I experienced. During the mid-late 1990s, I was actively involved in the Common Ground Network for Life & Choice, a project of the organization Search for Common Ground. This project grew out of concern on both sides of the abortion debate that the political conversation was leading to murders at abortion clinics. My own reason for becoming involved was a long-held frustration that the "movement" was getting no where; in fact, seemed only to be making things worse.

Frances must have had some other experience through the Public Conversations Project, because the work we did at CGNLC was *wholly* grounded in understanding the values behind why people felt the way they did. The full-day session we would hold yearly the week after the Roe v. Wade anniversary (and the week after the ProLife March) was focused entirely on helping attendees listen to and understand each other's values and experiences that lead them to hold the views on abortion that they did. Our ongoing monthly or quarterly afternoon sessions were also so focused. It was only through understanding the values and experiences of the other, that we could come anywhere near finding some space of common ground from which to work. And that common ground focused on answering the question: "How can we reduce the number of abortions?"

I was thrilled to learn of the gathering that Frances convened in Princeton in 2010, yet less thrilled that this was not covered by NPR, much less more mainstream media.

Keep up the good work, both of you, Krista and Frances.

Starting from the premise that pregnancy brings the potential mother closer to death like Kissling attempts to absolve women of some serious responsibility. This attitude is a dark result of civilization and is another attempt to further remove us from our natures, fortunate or unfortunate.

The conversation of Krista Tippett and Frances Kissling that I heard this morning
resonated with me very much. I have listened to and loved these Sunday morning
"Speaking of Faith" and now "On Being" programs enormously. They have become a weekly part of my attention to prayer and growth. Today,I found that there is much to ponder
and take into the rest of my life.

I was reminded of the wonderful little book, Ruel Howe's THE MIRACLE OF DIALOG. I wonder if Krista is familiar with it. I used it many years ago in teaching Theology to high school students and in discussing students' behavior with them, as a Dean of Students.
I find it eminently wise and helpful in the respectful context it establishes for difficult discussions and conversations.

First I am a man who some years ago agreed with my wife that we could not at the time properly care for a child and that an abortion was in the best interest of all. It was of course more painful in every way for her than it was for me. I will always feel some guilt. But I think we must confront the reality that women have and will at times need safe and legal abortion services and in my opinion we must take a pragmatic nuts-and-bolts approach. My main concern in this area and also in the areas of political dissent and human rights is pain. We need regulations that, if there is the possibility of fetal pain, prescribe medical procedures - anesthesia - which must be used to eliminate that pain, just as we must do everything we can to put an end to the practice of torture on this earth.

I am a pastor at a United Church of Christ Church in Dennis, MA, on Cape Cod. I drive about 45 miles each way,each day, to Dennis Union Church. I am fortunate to listen to "On Being" EVERY sunday morning. Today,this morning was a gift.

We are having open, intelligent discussions about "same-sex" marriage. In many ways, the issues and boundaries of abortion rights and same-sex marriage are quite similar.

Thank you for the commitment to grounded, thoughtful exchanges on difficult topics. I am considering printing copies of the text and conductiong an Adult Education Class on how to faithfully hold and address difficult topics.

You lift me up on the way to a wonderful faith community where we realize that "God is still speaking to us."

Thank you,
Reverend John C. Brink
Dennis Union Church
Dennis, MA 02638

I am a Baptist minister's widow--I wrote my first article 20 years ago for the FSU Flambeau entitled, "Is there a peaceable solution to the abortion war without compromise?" I have followed this issue through the years and have finished a book entitled, La Verde de la Vida: Wisdom for the abortion war. It is said to be the issue that won't go away; as divisive as slavery before the Civil War. Ending this conflict is vital. Causing havoc in our political process and draining our resources, this impasse touches us all and permeates our whole society--an example of the wrong way we deal with conflict. La Verde de la Vida transcends the history-laden labels of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice--it's neither and yet both. This is a book to stop all argument and can be given to the right, the middle and the left.

When we come to solutions, they are best for everyone concerned.

As a recent reader, John Santos, from Lakeland, a retired professor of political science said, "It's a book of healing--a book of common sense. I wish every American could read it. It goes far beyond the abortion issue. The world is crying out for this book."

La Verde de la Vida can be downloaded for free at www.ladylibertyqualityoflifebrigade.com
or from Amazon.com Thanks, Sheilah Hill
P.S. I have 3 children and 7 grandchildren.

I think Frances Kissling is onto something really important. If our society modeled her ideas we would heave a collective sigh of relief when we turned on the TV talk shows. Let me share a quote with you from a lecture that the scientist Richard Feynman made in 1963 at the University of Washington:

"Nobody's honest. Scientists are not honest. And people usually believe that they
are. That makes it worse. By honest I don't mean that you only tell what's true.
But you make clear the entire situation. You make clear all the information that
is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind."

So the challenge seems to be not only to be clear about our own positions, but also the
agreed upon positions of others. (Quote from "The Meaning of it All", Basic Books, 1998, p. 106)

Thanks,
Stephen Erickson

It was a sunny Friday the 13th of May, 1994. I was 19 and pregnant. My boyfriend had reluctantly driven me to the nearest abortion clinic earlier that morning, after an awkward series of events. With the help of my best friend at the time, a location was found and an appointment scheduled a week prior. It was the first time I was having a medical procedure without my mom nearby.

I finished the pregnancy test and paperwork, and handed over my personal credit card for the $300 charge. Then I was told at five weeks pregnant, they could not guarantee the results of the procedure, but that was not a worry of mine. I had to pretend this pregnancy did not occur, after all I had my whole life ahead. My boyfriend did NOT want the baby, and a few weeks prior my mother had voiced her very strong opinions about having a racially mixed grand baby. Yes, I was dating a man of African American descent and I was about as White as they come. The truth is: I really had no desire to have the baby. I was way too egocentric at the time. So even when the health care worker described the alternatives, I effortlessly said, “no thank you.”

My boyfriend was as supportive as was possible for a 19 year-old artiste/womanizer. He said he would pay for half of the procedure, but that was as solid as the rest of his promises. I knew in my heart he was a loser, and the pregnancy was a product of a huge mistake. However, at the time I was too selfish to even worry about regret or restitution . I only wanted to be done with the mistake; to move on.

I left the clinic that afternoon feeling very ill and bleeding heavily. However, luck seemed to be on my side: the abortion was successful. It was a chapter of my life that I closed and gratefully locked away for safe keeping.

Almost 17 years have passed since the abortion. In that time, I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters and a loving husband. Both our girls attend a private Christian school, and we are active members at a neighborhood Christian church. I had not even thought about that “May day” in a very long time. However, this past Friday (January 20th, 2011) I listened to Krista Tippett’s interview with Frances Kissling on Being, while driving to my daughter’s piano lesson. Krista ended the show asking for reflections and stories from the audience about abortion. It was at that moment, with my two girls sleeping peacefully in the backseat, I made the decision to share my story.

As I reflect on the abortion issue, I believe it is very easy for some to sit and judge the actions of others, especially when they are not in the situation. If presented with a pregnancy today, I would not even consider having an abortion. No, not just because I am married. And no, not because I am a Christian. The reason is because the confident woman I am today is a far cry from the frightened and misguided 19 year-old girl of yesteryear. But at the time, I was confident my decision to have an abortion was the right one. Without realizing what I had done all those years ago, I practically locked away a very painful memory.

Few people know I had an abortion. It is not a case of secrecy, because if someone asked if I had one I would not lie. No, it is more of a private issue. I know abortion is a topic that causes such high emotions, and I am sure I would hurt many around me if they knew. However, I am grateful I had the opportunity to chose what to do with my body. As much as I may disagree with my younger self, I would NEVER consider not letting my girls have those same choices. Choices are what defines us as people, and choices are what are essential to understand responsibility. Regardless of what I believe is the RIGHT decision, I believe each woman should have the opportunity to find that out for herself.

I had an abortion in 1965, before it was legal in the U.S.A. I had to go down to Tijuana, Mexico, to a doctor recommended by a U.S. gynecologist. The time was getting short for my decision to have or not have an abortion as my pregnancy approached 12 weeks. This baby was the child of my beloved boyfriend, but it was before we were ready. Since he was opposed to me having the child, I felt I could not bring the child into this world if the father didn't want it. So I took a bus to the border and walked across into Tijuana and found the doctor's office. I asked to see his medical license, but was trembling so much that I couldn't read the Spanish, though I know Spanish. I paid the fee and the nurse and doctor performed the abortion, which turned out to have no harmful physical effects. I asked the physician whether it was a boy or a girl, but he said he hadn't looked. The doctor said to send my friends to him - as if I would tell anyone what I had done. I took the bus to San Diego and stayed at a motel for that night and cried all night. I had murdered my own child and it still deeply saddens me and my beloved husband when we think about it. But life has been good to us - we married later and have two wonderful, successful adult children, to whom I eventually explained what I had done. We all believe in choice, but do not take it lightly. It is a tragedy to have to make that choice.

I wish to respond to the story you recently aired with the pro-abortion advocate who was speaking about the importance of civility in the discourse about this issue.
Feel free to post it there, i am very open to my words being posted. Krista made her opnion on the subject very clear. On the other hand, i wish to applaud her attention to the problem of the tenor of the conversation, although conversation is the wrong word, since the various sides do not listen to each other. This is something that i have noticed for quite a while. One of the biggest problems with the talking that goes on is that each side sees and defines the issue in completely different terms. The pro-abortion camp is focused on what they see as the rights of women, and the problem of unwanted pregnancy, and the way that women's lives are affected. In contrast, the pro-life camp starts with the basic issue that human life is sacred, and that ALL human beings should be considered persons. We see ourselves as championing the cause of the one group of human beings who are completely disinfranchised in the current American Legal System, of having the courage to stand up for the innocent who are helpless and voiceless. The pro-abortion camp denies the personhood of unborn human beings, not as the starting point of their argument or the core of their belief system, but rather as a result of their insistance of the absolute "right" of abortion; it is a logical end result of the thought process. So the result is that when the two sides talk at each other, each is putting forth their version of the issue, and neither responds to the other. In effect there are two different conversations taking place. So it is no wonder that there is never any progress made in the discussion, because each side is holding a different discussion. I found rather offensive the little smug and demeaning dig that your guest made against us by congratulating herself as being 'gracious' by using the term "pro-life'. I do however, strongly agree with her that the issue of gay marriage and gay rights has nothing to do with the abortion issue, except that both are about basic civil rights. I personally am very strongly for civil rights on both of these issues, i support the civil rights of both gays AND the unborn. I dont understand how one can be both for gay rights and for abortion, it is illogical. This is the one issue in which the liberal establishment is solidly AGAINST civil rights. I do recognise that she is speaking the truth as she sees it. I do wish that she, and you and NPR in general would give us the same chance. You stated that both Gay Marriage and Abortion are sexual issues, and i have to disagree. Abortion is not about sexuality, it is about the basic rights of human beings. I noticed that Krista was presenting the pro-abortion issue as true, and the pro-life issue as 'what some pro-life people would say'. This is endemic in the coverage of this issue by NPR. You make an attempt to be even handed in every issue EXCEPT this one.[in fact, i am rather annoyed that in the last year or so, we have heard MUCH more about the Tea Party than we have about activists on the left]. All of NPR's news coverage of this issue hews ABSOLUTELY to the vocabulary of the so called 'pro-choice' camp. The issue is ALWAYS presented as concerning 'abortion rights'. Those of us who champion the rights of the unborn are presented as being 'AGAINST abortion rights', rather than being "FOR the rightst of the unborn." The unborn human being is always refered to as a 'fetus' which is NOT a neutral term. It is just as leading and emotionally chargeed as using the word 'baby'. While in fact, both are true, each presents a particular interpretation of the ideological status of the individual. "Fetus" is a clinical, scientific word that refers to one stage of development of a human being. Because of that, it effectively presents the idea that the individual involved is NOT a person. Noone who is pregnant and looking forward to the birth refers to the child as a 'fetus', "Oh! LOOK at the ultrasound of my fetus!" It doesnt happen. The pro-abortion camp has spent a lot of time and effort in the last few years trying to insinuate their particular leading and prejudgemental vocabulary into the public discourse, and it is very unfortunate that they have, to a great extent, succeeded, at least on NPR. This is alienating a great number of your listeners and potential listeners. When we hear what is supposedly a neutral news story presented entirely from the pro-abortion point of view, we feel that we are being ignored and being demeaned. I do hope that you will bring this issue up with your news editors. Currently it is difficult to find truly neutral terms, but it is essential that we make the attempt. The solution to the issue, as i see it, is that we need to revisit the issue and work out a way to balance the sometimes conflicting rights of the mother and the child. I know that some on the pro-abortion camp object to the use of the term 'mother' untill the child is 'brought into the world'. The fact is, the child IS ALREADY IN THE WORLD. The big problem is that currently, people on one side of the issue are willing to ignore the rights of the child, while the the people on the other side of the issue are willing to ignore the rights of the mother. The legal system exists, in large part, to balance sometimes conflicting sets of rights and potential damages. We need to bring the best legal minds to this issue and find some method of compromise in order to balance these two sets of demands. The law does this in many other arenas, why not this one? But in order to do this, the pro-abortion camp needs to let go of their idea that the rights of the mother are absolute, the child being totally disenfranchised. And on the other side, the pro-life community needs to admit that criminalization of abortion is not an answer. It doesn no good either to the mother or the child to put the woman through the criminal law system. Neither side is going to be happy with a compromise, but it is obvious that neither side is going away. The proportion of public opinian has not substantially changed since Roe v Wade. The rights of the unborn need to be admitted and brought into the legal system, some balance must be found. We need to legally recognise that the unborn are not just a bag of cells, indistinguishable from a cancer, but a human being in one particular stage of life. I wish that you had thought that the words of the pro-life advocate that you mentioned on the program were fit to be broadcast over the air. I really hope that you read this with an open mind. I really agree with your guest that the current situation is not working, and niether side is going to convince the other because each has radically different starting points for this issue. Thank you, I hope that you find some of my thoughts worth sharing with others. Please post this for me on your reflections page and feel free to quote me on your show, hopefully not taking any of my comments out of context. Roman Kozak

Thank you to both of you, Ms. Kissling and Ms. Tippett, for your humane and illuminating discussion of the tenacity and vehemence of the abortion issue.
In my view a major reason for tenacity, persistence and vehemence of the abortion debate lies in our dogged unwillingness to confront the moral fact that death is no longer an event in life, something that happens. As a result of technology, death is now, and has been for sometime, a decision, but an event.
I published some reflections on this issue that listeners and readers might find interesting in the Sept. 2008 issue of the journal Bioethics, with the following ABSTRACT:
By concentrating on abortion, the culture wars have avoided facing a crisis about the end of life. This paper explores four themes: (1) the technological transformation of birth and death into matters of decision, not matters of fact; (2) abortion as the nexus of Eros (sex) with Thanatos (death); (3) the real crisis, conveniently masked by our obsession with sex, looming at the end of life, not at its beginning; (4) the surplus-repression that protects us from assuming responsibility for choosing between life and death.
Full bibliographic refernce:
Evans, J. Beyond abortion: the looming battle over death in the ‛culture wars’. Bioethics: the Journal of the International Association of Bioethics, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. (Sep. 2008) 22(7):379-387.

Krista, I wake each Sunday and prepare to go to Mass listening to your show and have always found it fascinating. I think you can also see where this is going. To wake to Francis Kissling on Pro-Life Sunday, as we prepare for communal prayer for the unborn is deeply offensive. However you frame the view or changing views of Ms. Kissling, they are so far from consistent with Catholic teaching that her calling herself a Catholic is doubly offensive. I hope that young Catholic listeners don't hear her as espousing a viable Catholic view, rather than an opinion. Further, to hear that she recognizes abortion as the destruction of life, though life she deems "not valuable" strikes me as a stunning example of hubris and ignorance, unworthy, I thought, for the discussions you foster. The reason that this national debate continues is that the dignity of all human life trumps any other consideration in priority, for the Church, for any right th inking person and for God.

Your guest makes a good point about working on an issue for 20 or 30 years and never, ever changing your mind. However, it's been my experience that many hyper-religious evangelical Christians do exactly that. They say the same things over and over and over and never open their minds to consider other view points. They never ever change their minds about issues they consider sacred and written in stone. It's a sad state of being.

I found your interview with Frances Kissling at once provocative and interesting; however, she spoke in gereralities about altering her views on unrestricted abortion, but conspicuously omitted any specifics that one could "sink his teeth into".

I am a convicted proponent of "life from conception" and would welcome any cogent arguments to the contrary.

I am rapidly concluding in listening to NPR,It seems that your host, Krista, is also an advocate of the "choice" mindset, as is also the preponderance of your hosts and guests.

I would welcome an unbiased comment regarding this opinion.

Respectfully,

Joe D'Agostino
215-534-3651
junction.csi@verizon.net

As a woman, life applies to me too. If you don't want an abortion, no one will force you to have one. Why should the government decide for me whether I can have a child or not. That is my choice and this is a free country the last time i checked. To those who are pro-life, please think about the life of the women who will be affected for the rest of her life. Think of the child who will come into the world with a mother who cannot support the child. This is not fair for the child either.

All this talk about big government having control over our lives. How is making abortion illegal not a big government move?

I listened to Frances Kissling's story with great interest and was inspired to share my story and thoughts about abortion. To state my position, I am 100% pro-choice, and have worked in various ways to support agencies that provide all components of reproductive services and have also spoken out politically, but not too much in the last 10 years due to the heated nature of the discussion, which I find intimidating.

Demographically I am 58 years old, white, and was born into an upper middle class family. My mother was an alcoholic, and I am a drug addict. I began using heavily at 16, and did all the stuff people did...dropped out, ran away from home, was a hippie, etc. I struggled to find recovery off and on most of my adult life until finally getting clean in Narcotics Anonymous in 1996. This information is relevant to my reproductive history because as a using addict I was incapable of practicing birth control. I became pregnant many times. I have 2 adult children. I also had uncounted miscarriages and 7 abortions: illegal, legal and self-induced. I was hospitalized in 1979 and nearly bled to death from aborting myself with a crochet hook. The first time I did it, I didn't die, so I tried it a second time less successfully. Illegal abortions at 16 & 17 included submission to rape by the "doctor". Legal abortions were kinder and gentler, though still not exactly a picnic they were preferable to the alternatives. All this sounds pretty awful, and it was at the time, but I can now frankly talk about these experiences objectivley. I have had a lot of support and help along the way. The "treatment" for my addiction is to surrender to a life lived on simple spiritual principles, and I have no guilt or shame about my abortions and I do not grieve for those lost babies. If there is a power that drives the universe, they are totally taken care of, and I am satisfied that I made the right decision. I am at peace.

I have watched in dismay as the "religious right" and the Republican Party have attacked a woman's right to choose over and over. I fear the overturn of Roe vs. Wade and a return to a time that many do not remember, when abortion was unavailable. Women who could afford it left the country of found the means, and those who did not have money resorted to dangerous means to end their pregnancies. A woman who is desperate will do whatever it takes, and I know this from my own experience.

Returning to the subject of women addicts and unwanted pregnancies, there is a hidden epidemic of women who have multiple children, often with multiple fathers, that they are not able to care for. I sponsor a woman in prison who has 5 children. She has never been able to support or care for any of them consistently or for any length of time. Some live with family members, and 2 were "adopted out". I love my young friend, and believe that she feels love for those children. I know she feels a lot of grief, sorrow, and loss about the children she gave birth to, but in a practical way this accomplishes nothing. Other people are taking care of them, and a lot of their support comes from public programs. Am I saying that they "should" have been aborted? Of course not. They are here now and need to be provided for. What we really need is a better way to conduct all of our discussion about reproductive rights and responsibilites. The atmoshpere has become so heated that it is hard to even broach the subject of women's reproductive rights without opening up all sorts of bitter, divisive language and emotion.

Thank you for giving me a place to share my story. No one else has ever given me a forum in which to tell it. I also enjoyed reading the stories shared by others.

How I long to have conversation that is respectful of the "other", whatever side of argument the "other" happens to be on. How I long to hear balanced, compassionate, and fair conversation. In the 60's I had an illegal abortion in the fifth month of pregnancy that nearly took my life. It was done in a barbaric way. The "doctor" involved had no respect for life, me, the fetus, or my husband. This abortion left me with emotional and spiritual scars that I carry today at 73 years old. After 50 years I still ask myself, "Who would this person have been? Would I have another son or daughter? Would this child care about me more than my living children do? Would this child be grateful to be alive? What happened to this child......this soul? Where did it go? Does a 5 month fetus even have a soul? Am I forgiven? Does the child forgive me? Does God? Should I have been punished? Maybe I am being punished. Thanks to the compassion of the emergency room doctor....where I had to go because I was hemoraghing after the proceedure.....I was not "turned in" to the authorities. I did not have to answer for the illegality of what I did. But I have had to answer all these years for the mental, emotional, and spiritual consequences of what I did. Listening to you, Krista, and Frances Kissling converse, I appreciated after all these years that there is good in me....and that if someone could converse from that perspective, I would be grateful.

When I listened to “Listening Beyond Life and Choice” on the airplane the other day, I found myself furiously scribbling down ideas like “listening for common values” and “understanding the other’s side”. More than a few times I’ve felt the discomfort of another person’s walls pushing against me, all the while holding on to belief that by staying present, staying honest, and staying open, we won’t necessarily agree, but we all grow in understanding, acceptance and compassion. My story begins with my unplanned pregnancy. Nearly six years ago I stood in my bathroom staring at a plastic divining rod which read “PREGNANT”. I dropped to my knees to beseech any God that would hear me. From some subconscious well within bubbled up my hearts deepest wishes for this growing life. Aloud, I blurted my pregnancy mission statement: “I will choose what provides the most loving and stable circumstances for this baby”. Women stared incredulously at me when I’d confide that I didn’t know whether or not I would raise my baby or give him up for adoption. After all, combine society’s still prevalent gender expectations with a (now “Jack”) Mormon upbringing where procreation is deemed my highest earthly duty, and I should have been elated. Instead I was terrified. A year before, I'd moved from San Francisco to a small resort town in Idaho to be "a mountain girl". Steve and I had been hiking buddies for a year before we engaged in a romantic relationship. He was ten years my senior, bright, adventuresome, loved the outdoors, hard working and kind. I, on the other hand, was struggling with my identity, my faith, and my long term goals. Quickly I realized I wasn’t ready for a relationship, but the train was moving, and I was having trouble getting off. When people found out I was pregnant, they would first ask me questions about my use of birth control, which I'd stopped taking after our breakup, but we had an unprotected “we feel lonely” reunion. Then they’d ask, “Did you ever consider an abortion?” The truth is I didn’t. It appears I contracted a responsibility bug ex-post-facto; I was 30 and healthy, had a job with benefits, and felt my original negligence could and should be countered by my choice to remain pregnant. I explored every other option, however. I hadn’t seen many successful long-term shotgun weddings, I saw lots of people using their kids as pawns in their own relationship struggles, and after working with a couple of pregnancy support groups, being a single mom did not match my ambitions for my baby. So what did Moses’ mom do with her son when she knew his future circumstances weren’t looking so good? She sent him to the Raft-of-Reeds-Adoption-Center in hopes he’d find a better life. This solution settled in like an irrefutable fact; finding a family to adopt my son was indeed the best choice. Two months into my diligent decision-making process I’d arranged a meeting between Steve, me and my therapist where I would announce my desire to seek adoption. My solution was met with adamant disregard. With equal conviction, Steve informed me HE would adopt our son. I later learned a parent doesn’t adopt their own child; rather, they exercise their parental rights. “But this is My body, My child, My choice”, I proclaimed. Already exasperated by shocked and shaming looks from moralistic neighbors who learned I got knocked-up, I’d now lost a say in my son’s future. I felt trapped. So began our joint-decision-journey towards my due date. Countless discussions (and dollars spent) with attorneys and mediators produced a co-parenting agreement promising a quasi-normal upbringing for our son. Before the ink could dry, however, I knew this was not “our final answer”. As the pregnancy progressed, I’d frequently awake from dreams where I would give birth and my son would then disappear, while intuitive nudges telling me I was not to raise this little boy were becoming more frequent. I kept praying I would fall in love with Steve enough to marry him. Instead of that happening, a deep sense of trust and confidence in his ability to raise our son settled upon me. I didn't know why, or for how long, or how things would all work out, I just knew I needed to step out of the picture, and all would be well. After childbirth, and three wonderful days with Steve, Dawson and I in the hospital together, I walked away from the two most significant men in my life. I cried until I almost threw-up, and then I cried even more. I rented a U-haul, packed up, and with tears blurring my view, I drove to a new state to start a new life. “Let’s see how things work out”, we agreed. I speculated Steve would meet a woman, marry, and they would raise our child. Instead, Steve was diagnosed with a tangerine-sized kidney tumor 9 months later, which would determine our next steps. During Steve's first week of chemo, I brought Dawson to my home. I’d taken off work so that we could spend time together. Each day we would go to the park and lie on blankets under trees and snuggle, but by night, him nestled in his crib, I would cry. Damn, this was still not the answer. Cancer was taking its toll; Steve's frail figure was wracked with pain and we knew time was short to make important decisions. I admitted it still didn’t feel right for me to raise Dawson. I asked Steve if based on his acquired experience as a single dad he felt it was the best option. This time, he answered “No”. At this point, we opened to broader solutions, which were met willingly by his sister and her husband, who share a great marriage and a fun-loving daughter and wanted to adopt our son. After 5 days in a morphine induced coma, I flew to Steve's bedside. Holding his hand, I assured him our son would be well-cared for, that his family and I would fulfill his wishes to cultivate relationships with one another, and I would be part of our son’s life. Sadly, the following morning he passed on. Our son turned five this summer. He lives in California, and I am a resident of Utah. My first three years of visits were painful and awkward, after all, a couple of times a year I would willingly reopen my deepest wounds and revisit my hardest losses. Yet, when I’d see him surrounded by all of that love and stability, I knew we’d made the right choice. Today, it’s much easier. A short plane ride takes me to building train sets, dancing and laughing with him. He knows he came from my tummy but calls me “auntie” and that his first daddy got sick and went to heaven. Pictures of Dawson and Steve during their few special months together decorate his home. I emailed Dawson’s mom (in adoption speak, she is his mom, and I am his birth-mom) a couple of weeks ago to tell her about an adoption conference I’d attended and how helpful it was for me to talk with other women who had given their children up for adoption. In her reply, she said she sometimes takes a step back to think about all that has happened over the past couple of years. She said, “We never even think that Dawson is adopted, it all just seems so natural. I guess that’s just how it is when you love someone so much”. When Steve and I were coming to our decision I spoke with his uncle, a social worker focused on family issues. He told me that the legal adoption documents people spend so much time and money to draw up are really only as good as the people involved. The best adoption plan may render an absolute disaster, while little to no plan may meet a healthy and positive outcome. Without a template, without a plan, we our successfully forging our way ahead. Frances Kissling's piece made my think of a phrase I tell myself when I am in a situation, and I can’t see the forest through the trees, when I’m stuck, at an impasse with ideas, or people. It’s a reminder to “Trust the Process”. In hindsight, this captures my experience with an unplanned pregnancy. Because I choose to move forward with carrying my child, to stay in my job and in my small town community, mine, ours, was no longer a private affair. As broad as I was growing, so too was the reach of the circumstances. Through the process, Steve’s family, my family, and our respective communities in Idaho, Utah, California and beyond, had to grapple with our notions of motherhood, fatherhood, responsibility, acceptance, life, and love, and we each chose to grow and expand. (The photo attached is one of Dawson, Grace (his sister) and me goofing off in Sonoma, California. If it does not show well, I can get another one) Britta Nelson Nelsonbritta1@gmail.com 801-865-4366

I just wanted to say that the interview with Frances Kissling was particularly good. Subtle and nuanced, both on her part and on Krista's. It is so rare to find a discussion of the abortion issue that aims for, if not common ground, at least a modus vivendi.

A comment on this spectacular program. In the program with Francis Kissling, Krista said "...rights are foreign to the Bible..." I disagree, Moses' conversation/debate/pleading/demanding for freedom was about rights (imvho). In the commandment requiring animals to be fed first is about animal rights. Property rights are clearly articulated including that of women.
More examples are evident :-)

Francis Kissling believes that abortion numbers need to be reduced, but that making abortion illegal is not the answer. I agree with her because even if it was against the law to seek an abortion, there would still be women who would find a way, as they have in the not-too-distant past, and often with grave results.

Kissling’s approach is different in that she has an enthusiasm for difference, which she feels is critical to change. She looks to honor the other person’s values without giving up her own. I think her approach is refreshing, and will go a long way toward bridging the gap to common ground.

When most of us are in the realm of topics such as Gay Marriages and Abortions, there is usually a line drawn down the middle. Some of us think it's wrong while the other side of the line believes it is right. These 2 subjects have had much more criticism then ever before nowadays. There isn't even a correct answer. That's what brings these 2 ideas great things to talk about. Frances Kissling talk about subjects as these and gives her input.

Frances Kissling, just like Karen Armstrong, actually joined the convent at age 19. However she only stayed for about a year. The bad choices that Frances mom chose, influenced Frances to become a nun. Her mom experienced 2 divorces and Frances did not want to experience the same, so that lead to be a nun. Frances had different views on the Catholic faith as she grew up. Her idea was that if someone got divorced it wasn't a big deal and someone should be able to re-marry. Sexual relations are only permitted through marriage in the catholic faith. Frances didn't believe God had casted her to no sexual relations just because she wasn't married. This is what sets her apart from the faith.

Frances wasn't very supportive of marriage, however she was very active with the complications and the curve balls that are thrown from Abortions. Frances had a strong belief in values when speaking about abortions. She talked about the rights of the mother and of the child within the womb. Which rights are more important then the other? I am on the same path with Frances on one thing we agree upon. I believe that abortion itself is not always good but if it is necessary, then it must done and there will probably be positive outcomes.

One thing she says is that unlike abortions, homosexuality is engaged with the positive side of life. For example relationships among eachother and having a partner. There are people out there who do not believe this is right if you are gay. They believe these "gay" people should not have these things because they are the same sex. This idea has brought these people together and they have accepted their social identity. These "gay" people need to their place on this planet.

Like myself, a lot of people do not want to even speak the word abortion or deal with it. If one must get an abortion, she doesn't want to be stressing about it. Frances thinks that people who have just thought about an abortion or even had an abortion, do not want to be labeled with that and have it stamped across their head by people.

When we talk about these issues, its very key to know both sides of the battle. Someone who only believes in one side is a fool. If you only accept your side of the battle, then you are not worthy of even argueing about it. What is point of arguing? It's to compromise and make ends meet on both of your criteria. "Common ground." Frances had a deep belief that finding this "common ground" is not difficult if the differences are'nt much. Frances had even discovered her beliefs after understanding both sides of the fight. This is what we need in todays society. If you can understand what the person is trying to display/do and can back it up, it is okay. Take a minute to yourself and see this in someone elses shoes. You would hope people would understand.

I can't imagine the idea of committing to be a nun at only 17. Something she said really struck me, that there wasn't much "thinking" involved in being a nun. I grew up religious, but I found that there wasn't much thinking or challenging what you believed. The more I started questioning, the harder I found it to reconcile the idea of "blind faith" and what I saw as the likely truth. When she mentions her boss wanting to examine religion with the same amount of vigor as any other subject, that I how I feel it should be. I think religion should be evaluated for truth as much as anything else you study. Believing in a God is something you can never prove, or disprove, thus you have to take it on faith. But you can examine what is put forward as facts, such as the Bible is to be taken literally, or that the books were written by who they claim to be written by. I do like that she examined other religions such as Islam. I think to truly believe you need to not close yourself off to any information that might challenge your beliefs, but instead to find out all you can and at the end to base your beliefs on all the facts.

The broadcast that I chose to listen to is on abortion. I chose this topic because it is very controversial and I am always curious to hear what people have to say on the topic. Frances Kissling is best known as the president for Catholics for a Free Choice. She was one of four children to a twice divorced Polish American mother, from Pennsylvania. She became involved in abortion around 1970. While listening to the broadcast Frances made a statement about her mother that really stood out to me ‘She was aware that her mother’s life was burdened by children that she didn’t want’. That is a statement that really makes you think back around that time abortions and birth control weren’t easily available as it is today. If a woman became pregnant she didn’t have the option to term the pregnancy and really didn’t have the option to try to prevent it either, so basically you just had to deal with your situation the best way that you can. Another statement that Kissling made during her interview that really stood out to me is that “You have to approach difference with the notion that there is good in the other. If we can’t figure out how to do that we won’t have change”. I like this statement because it makes sense to me, if you aren’t able to see the good in the point that someone is trying to make you will constantly butt heads with that person and not make any progress. You have to be able to see where they are coming from too.

For me, once the fetus feels pain ,there is just no justification to inflict pain unto death on the fetus for the sake of benefiting the mother. This is just basic ethics 101-a being is not an object and if and when it feels pain it is a being.To inflict pain unto death on an innocent being for the sake of another is unjust.

That it is a difficult decision for the mother is a smoke screen and irrelevant to the fact that it is unjust.To look for the goodness in the pro-choice position, the position that believes in keeping abortion legal for all stages of gestation] is to attempt to lessen the obvious injustice of inflicting pain unto death on an innocent being. What is more evil then to believe it is all right to do that (the pro-choice position)?

Though it is good that the pro-choice position cares about the well-being of the pregnant woman and illegal abortions hurt the woman as well as the innocent fetus, ethically you cannot make a trade off between the life and well being of the pregnant woman and the life of the being that feels pain unto death.That is inhumane and how can any ethical person and a Catholic accept this? When the life is not developed enough to feel, that is a different discussion.

Thank you very much for your interview with Frances Kissling. I found her perspective very helpful as someone who is pro-choice AND pro-life. I particularly liked the discussion about not getting lost in the desire to find points of agreement beyond respecting the humanity of the person with whom you disagree. I'm one of those people who talks to myself out loud (more often than I like to admit and frequently in public). Since listening to that interview, I find myself practicing out loud)how to talk about the points where I am uncomfortable about my own deeply held beliefs. I am willing to risk being vulnerable enough to try this with someone with whom I strongly disagree. I was also stunned and profoundly moved by Ms Kissling's comparison of an organ transplant to communion. That discussion took my breath away. This was one of my favorite interviews.

Kissling said, "People who have strong disbeliefs cannot come to a common ground."  I think this is very true.  If you truly are passionate about an issue, there is no possible way anyone can persuade you to think otherwise. The only thing that can really be done is to try and understand what the other party is feeling or believing and why.

She compared the abortion issue with the current issue of gay marriage.  She said the difference between the two is that the gay marriage issue has movement (meaning it is making progress), whereas the abortion issue has no movement.  I completely disagree with this.  The gay marriage issue has had absolutely no movement.  As Kissling said, when you have two sides who both have a passion for their belief, no common ground can be made.  I think this is true in both instances.

Kissling also said that when referring to gay marriage there are positive aspects that are recognized such as love, happiness, partnership, etc.  When speaking of abortion, you are always talking about the destruction of life.  I took this quite literally and it's true.  However, you are dealing with the destruction of life, as well, when you prevent a family to be recognized as a family.  Can you imagine the impact it must have on the children of same-sex couples?  To have your family who is loving and accepting and perfectly normal in your eyes, be looked at by others as inferior or "not a real family"?  If that's not destruction of life too, then I don't know what is.

Questions are more powerful than answers. They can be the keys which unlock the answers or can lock them up under obscurity, distraction, or confusion.

In the debates about abortion, one of the least helpful questions is, "When does life begin?" The question falsely assumes there is a beginning of life which we can identify, at least in theory. In fact, life began long, long ago and is simply passed on from generation to generation.

The question we really need to be asking is, "When does human dignity begin?" The followup question would be, "How do we know that?"

Michael Hayes
Red Wing

I consider such issues as this from the standpoint of Situational Ethics. Each situation is different and I believe that we were given free will to face such choices and make such choices, as individuals, in the context of a relationship (or not) with God. And of course each individual is a part of a larger community - so if the family influence is one way, then that individual will choose accordingly - rebellion against or simply go along with it unthinkingly - ultimately it comes back to the extent of the relationship with God

I would like to understand why they think that they have any right to ask the Govt to legislate against a practice undertaken by others that has no affect whatsoever on them here on earth - or their future in heaven or wherever they believe they will be after they have left the mortal sphere.
Are they vegetarians? - probably not but there are many many people who sincerely believe that eating meat is bad for the environment, bad for an individual's physical health, bad for a person's moral health ... wouldn't it be ludicrous to try and legislate against the carnivores in our society?

How socially active are these people - have they decried the deforestation of the Pacific North West, not to mention everywhere else in the world and the examples abound - where govts and individuals and corporations do stupid things - and millions of already born, alive people are affected - and badly - unnecessarily.

Why can't the Pro lifers describe themselves as pro choice - and state very plainly that given the choice of whether to terminate a pregnancy or not, no matter what the circumstances, they would choose to continue with the pregnancy - and leave it at that.

It would be wonderful if a woman became pregnant, and found herself torn between whether to keep the baby or not (for whatever reason - rape, fear about the future financial impications, shame ... whatever) and if she did have the choice - legally - then all that is left is the moral side of it and she would have to live with whatever choice she made - the choice would be made based on the moral conscience/ or moral consciousness of the persons involved. But if she didn't have the choice - and was forced to keep the baby or went ahead and got an illegal abortion anyway there would be defiance, resentment - altogether unhealthy stuff for the mother and the baby both.

You are referring to the vote for the next president? It is totally irrelevant. I wish all politicians would simply see it as a larger issue of choice - leave the life part out of it - this is a matter for you to choose - just as getting married is, or having a baby is, or driving a gas guzzling SUV is, or being self righteous about your hybrid is, or serving in the military or not is, or getting vaccinated or not is, or being vegeatarian or omnivorous, or eating fast food ... uh-oh you got me going here ...

When I was young I couldn't understand how abortion could be legal. Then I went to a lecture in my sister's med school given by a doctor who worked in a small Catholic hospital for women (ca 1980). He expressed that this particular hospital received about seven cases each week of young women with seriously botched abortions. This changed my view entirely. Does pro-life just mean pro-infant life?

Now I live in a different community which is very anti-choice. There are many teen pregnancies and like the Sara Palin situation....they are almost applauded. But then I look at the numbers of young people in our community who do not go to college, live on meager salaries and have unstable marriages. Those numbers are high.

I don't think, policy-wise, this is a spiritual issue. This is a practical issue. This is a political issue that I see as aggressive toward people who engage in sexual behavior for purposes other than reproduction. I see this as a political issue of embracing the sustained pregnancy so not to be labeled a hypocrite.

I expressed my views in a letter to the editor published on Tuesday, Sept. 23 in the Post-Dispatch. Abortion is not the underlying problem; we shoudl be speaking of poverty and other issues which increase the number of abortions. Also we don't seem to care about the child AFTER it's born, so sometimes people are not pro-life; they are only pro-birth. thank you

In my Catholic college education of the late 1940's abortion was not on the agenda as such. I do recall that in theology classes we discussed the dilemma of "the life of the mother versus the life of the child." The conclusions were far from clearcut and the outlook very compassionate. Marrying late in life and not having had children, my viewpoint has become anti-abortion, pro-choice–the quintessential waffler. I think of women I know who struggled with large families, one of whom once said, "Keep the politicians out of it!" It seems that when legislation is signed, a row of men, pens in hand, is pictured. Keeping women from family planning information because it is "artificial" is astounding to me, when we use every artificial means to keep a barely-breathing, clearly-dying elder alive as long as possible. Churches urge the use of "natural methods." In our work with poor families in Guatemala, I've pondered their lack of opportunity, education, and health care. Lastly, one question, crucial for me, if abortion is murder, what would be the penalty? So far no one has answered that question, at least with any kind of rational compassion.

I could not call myself "pro-abortion" or "pro-life" although I think all women should have access to abortion and am appalled at the act itself. To me, the question comes down to that of free-will. We each make our choices in life--influenced by our own intellect, education, social, cultural, and economic circumstances. To decide that "we"-whether that we is the government or a religious group, can make the most personal of decisions for all is to take away the responsibility for our own choices that give our life meaning.

Maybe 'pro-choice'isn't the best term to show the diffference in points of view re abortion, 'Choice' says you may choose to abort or you may choose to give birth. Better terminology, it seems to me, would be to say therapeutic abortion or contraceeptive abortion.
Therapeutic abortion would be a decision between the pregnant woman and her doctor, and not at all the business of any one else - certainly not Congress.
Contraceptive abortion is another matter entirely. I very much like the position President Carter stated when he was on an SOF program a few months ago. He was obligated to uphold the law, to which he was elected, but personally, he was very much against abortion. In an effort to resolve this conflict in himself, he did everything he could to make life good for the child that was born. There were organizations formed to help get the baby off to a good start.
In my own familly, a granddaughter made great effort to do the best she could to find an open-adoptive family, and they are doing a super job of parenting. Our biological family is grateful for the care he is being given and for our easy access to enjoying his growing up.
On the other hand, I think what I would want, if I were a fetus being born to Mrs. Simon and her drunken husband and her uncared for brood of 6 or 8 unloved chldren. I believe I would choose to be aborted rather than being born to a miserable existence and an early death.
Theologically speaking, God is good to have given us the intelligence and means to make the better of two bad choices.

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