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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."

About the Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

Dear Krista

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from A Difficult Decision

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

Testimonional for A Difficult Decision

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

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

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

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

So what happened to A Difficult Decision?

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,
Joy Gardner
www.highvibrations.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would I like them to understand about me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time.

Kathleen Tooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion and social justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we need to mourn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sum: 3737

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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