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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.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

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

Reconciling childhood recollections with the complexity of abortion.

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A reflection on the compassionate nature of our listeners' conversations when we addressed the topic of abortion in 2008.

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Video of Obama's speech and how it came up in our live event with Joshua Dubois.

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Our aggregated tweets from our interview.

Frances Kissling reflects on the limits of seeking common ground on contentious issues. "The pressure of coming to agreement works against really understanding each other."

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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.

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Comments

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

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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.

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