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

Pertinent Posts

1

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

Selected Readings

Sacred Conversations

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

Cited Research: CNN 2004 Election Exit Poll

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

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

(photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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474Reflections

Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments on abortion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again - Abortion should not be a legislated issue.

Thank you.

Sara Breeze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sue Szymanski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you,
Daniel Killman

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

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

My new frame of reference- Pro-responsibility!

SOF:

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

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

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

I am grateful for your broadcasts.

Mike Kerrigan
Steamboat Springs, Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government should not be invloved in the topics below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for an important and enlightening program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RE: New Frame of Reference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,
Bill Berger

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

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

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

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

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

ANTI ABORTION, PRO CHOICE

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

Moral and spiritual aspects of abortion

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding others and being understood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s positive,” the nurse said.

“Define ‘positive’.”

“You’re pregnant.”

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

And then I had this whole other inside of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. In a society that respects human life how does both sides account for the amount of children born and unborn that are homeless or living in foster care and orphanages?

4. What is the difference in the respect shown for an unborn life opposed to a life living in a war torn country such as Iraq and for the lives of these people who like us are effected by disease, disability, tradgedy, injustice and the lack of a voice in the public realm?

5. If aborting an unborn fetus is murder what is capital punishment? What is the reason/justification behind the "accidental" executions that have occured and which side of the abortion issue will take responsibility for such lives?

6. Why do both sides of the issue continue to "go forth and multiply" when they live in a world of child crimes, disease and any other number of possible birth defects that have been bred into our races of people?

7. If the righteous right wants to refuse any woman a right to abort a fetus what will that person do specifically after the birth of the child? Are the pro-life individuals willing to adopt these children or is this the responsibility of their neighbors?

8. According to the Christian creation story, man and woman were told to "go forth and multiply" prior to allegedly committing original sin. What then is to be said and/or answered for as a result of bringing forth new life knowing that one is bringing forth a life that is held to the premis that man is born a sinner and cannot know the goodness of the Christian god?

9. Today many people speak of the "end times." Why is it that the same people continue to birth children and is this not making the same choice to abort a life?

10. Where does the heierarchical understanding of life come from and is this not something both pro-lifers and pro-choicers acknowledge? Murder one, two, and three; man slaughter, involuntary man slaughter, vehicular man slaughter and murder by self defense.

11. Does the commandment thou shall not kill refer specifically to the body or does it also include the mind, spirit and emotions of human life? Is there evidence stating that not killing applies only to two-leggeds and if so, why do we not consider animal lives as important if a creator thought them so important that they were spared or at the beginning of multiple creation story floods?

12. Deciding to send young people to war to shed blood of others is also killing. How does this fact play a role in the discussion and how is it moral and acceptable to shed the blood of others to ensure one's happiness when the action results in the unhappiness of mothers, brothers, sisters and fathers of the life taken?

I think that every situation is unique and presents its own unique set of moral and spiritual trade-offs. I am a Lutheran and very much believe that my relationship to God is personal and that God and me are the only ones who need to know what that relationship is and whether or not s/he accepts me with all my brokenness. Every moral question is a choice between two or three options; none of which is perfect or simple. All choices have negative and positive consequences. Those choices should be up to families; not the government. We can't govern religion or morality.

I worked for a wonderful man who had the opposite opinion and we would have very thoughtful, respectful discussions about it. Too often people have very shallow opinions on the issue, which usually leads to raised voices and displays of anger when one can't explain one's view in terms of a deep-seated philosophy (because one does not have a deeper philosophy to explore). The question you are asking brings up images of shouting matches over shallow talking points; not my thing.

That I really do not share their world view (or other-world view) and I just want them to leave me and my family alone with our God to make our own unique decisions.

No, because people are always trying to change the names of things thinking that will eliminate the polar ends. It never does and then in a few years, the new names are just as polarizing as the original names were. I am very much hoping that one day the whole argument will be something that people study in history books, like the battles between the gold and silver standard.

Overall, I believe it is a personal medical decision, and one that should not be legislated on a federal level.

I am interested in the possibility of your show exploring the larger societal impacts of legalized versus illegal abortion. For example, the book "Freakonomics," written by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, has a section in which it explores the concept that crime rates in this country were reduced in decades following the ruling that made abortion legal. In other terms, is it harmful to force someone to bear an *unwanted* child? If the child is unwanted and causes an economic, emotional or physical burden, are we not forcing an undesired societal change by encouraging an influx of children who become adults with psychological issues? Whether a morally conservative person can imagine such a thing as an unwanted child or not, legislating this morality seems like a very dangerous slippery slope.

Likewise I would love to hear an engaging dialogue on the following question: where is the line drawn in someone's mind between life that is sacred and life that is disposable? How can one accept forcing a woman to bear a child she cannot or will not care for, while simultaneously accepting and supporting a violent war in which men, women, and children's lives and bodies are disrupted, broken, or brutally ended altogether?

Thank you for considering this topic.

The two categories of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" don't include my community's perspective on the issue of when life begins and whether abortion is permissable.

Orthodox Jews have a perspective on when life begins that is a continuum. Without condoning outright abortion, for the first 40-days after conception, if a spontaneous abortion occurs, the fertilized ovum is considered as "mere water" and no special value is assigned to it. As gestation progresses, the fetus's life grows in value, but even after birth, for the first 30 days it is not considered as a full human life, and if it should die, it does not receive the full funeral and burial rites accorded to an older infant.

In some ways, Jewish Law considers even a 9-year old and even a 19-year old as not being fully mature humans.

Abortion is allowable in cases where the pregnancy endangers a mother's life. The fetus in that case is considered a "rodef" (Hebrew for a pursuer who intends to murder). All necessary actions to save the mother's life are encouraged. But once that fetus is born (even minimally), its status changes and abortion becomes a potential murder.

"Endangering a mother's life" may include cases where the danger is psychological and not just physical.

And so, Judaism refuses to paint this controversy as a black or white issue.

If the Jewish approach was widely known, perhaps both Christian and secular Americans might see their views on abortion in a new light.

I am pro-life. I am satisfied that life is a gift from God, and we must not treat this gift casually. But--does life begin at the moment of conception? We don't know.

The Psalmist writes, ". . . it was You Who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:13-14). But King Solomon, reputedly the wisest human in history, wrote, "Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother's womb, so you do not know the word of God, Who makes everything." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

So we do not know when life begins in the womb--when the fetus becomes a living soul. I cannot find in Holy Scripture any statement to justify the belief that "life begins at the moment of conception."

Conservative Christians have been accused of believing that life begins at conception and ends at birth. Once a human is born, they are on their own, facing the hazards of premature death at the hands of other humans, the result of a crime, an act of war, or a state-ordered execution. One who is consistently "pro-life" should be against war and capital punishment.

Abortion is a moral issue, and must be left in the hands of the woman who carries the fetus, in consultation with her doctor, her conscience and her God. It is not a legal issue, and the state always errs when it seeks to legislate morality. Abortion, like any other medical procedure, is a public health issue, and if the state outlaws abortion, it will go underground and become a health hazard.

The government must restrain itself, limiting its activities to matters of law and social order. It is ironic to me that most people who advocate pro-life legislation tend to be political conservatives who want less government intervention in our private lives. They make an exception when it comes to requiring others to adhere to their own unique moral standards.

My son is pro-life. My daughter is pro-choice. They love each other very much and have learned to disagree with civility. We should all follow their example.

Although I am not a lawyer, I come from a family of them, and have always been struck by the difference between what's legal/illegal versus what's right/wrong.

I am old enough to know the fear experienced by someone who thought she might need to terminate a pregnancy as she contemplated the possibility of a dangerous, unsanitary, and unsupervised medical procedure which might in and of itself endanger her life. Based in part on that experience, I strongly believe that the safe medical procedure should be available within the normal medical system.

This is to say that abortion, as a medical procedure, should be legal, i.e., the society should not erect barriers to prevent it absent some clear legal consideration. And as with all legal matters, the court system exists to protect the rights of those impacted by the law.

The moral question is something else.

Whether or not to have an abortion is a question I will never face personally, but I cannot imagine a more personal kind of decision to make. This is a moral decision. Surely a moral decision has to be made by the person involved. Arguing that life has or has not begun with respect to the fetus is a consideration, but it is one of many. I do not see how someone else's version of morality can control my own. It may inform or influence it. I may or may not want to hear the opinions of others. But in the end, I must make my own moral decisions and accept the consequences.

What I see too often is persons of good conscience who hold a particular moral position for themselves seeking to impose their morality on others by means of the legal system. That is bad law and unjust morality. In our society, people are free to express their opinions so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others. They are not free to impose their moral positions on anyone else.

It would perhaps help for people to read Jon Meacham's "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation." It helps to understand what was intended. History may provide a useful bridge to understanding.

I find the pro-life and pro-choice labels misprepresent a lot. I get really sickened mostly by the modern christian popular church movements and the Christian "brand" at how the leaders are trying to force it as a test of being a "real" christian you have to oppose keeping abortion legal in the US. I do support keeping it legal. I am a Christian too. I find it really disgusting how both sides, those who want not restrictions on abortions and those who want it outlawed have to use sort of dishonest language to describe the situation. Like a prochoice person calls it a fetus, but when you go to the obgyn even in thefirst weeks they say " here is your baby" and we all accept that. And prochoice cannot say, " yes, a developing human being is being killed, and quite gruesomely" becuase that is what happens. They cannot admit that having an abortion is traumatic to the woman and she can have a lot of guilt afterwards. They just cannot be honest about all the implications and exactly what happens when an abortion occurs.

And the anti-abortionists cannot admit that the person who is pregnant can be at a terrible disadvantage, and may have to shoulder the burden alone- they will not admit that all children are not a blessing to all people. It is like they cannot admit that women will die terribly getting underground abortions as they have since the beginning of time, or that women do suffer when they have to bear a child they don't want to bear. They want to decide for other people how their lives should play out when they themselves will not be responsible for the outcomes. This is fundamentally cruelly conveninet for them, because Christians have rules that manage their lives that are not part of the lives of non-Christians, and they try to force people to live by their rules without the benefits of the faith. It strikes me as insensible and sort of against the tenets of our faith anyhow. They cannot admit that they ARE de-valuing a woman's right to make her own moral choices, what is going on in her own body and her own future. Its so much easier to picket and find some group to hate and go "against" than it is to be a solution for all the women who are stuck with trouble pregnancies- it seems such a cheap, age old show of humans most troubling natural tendancy to find a group to go against in order to shore up and validate the boudaries of one's own group! It seems to be low hanging fruit.

I would like to see the discussion center on if we want the law to recognize a human embryo or pre-born human as the same as a born human and give it the same rights and protections under the law. I honestly don't think we as a society do. I believe that if a government can tell us we cannot have an abortion, then we give them the rights also, that they can tell us we must. I like to think I would not have one, but I have considered it once. I like to think I would be strong enough to live out the rules of my faith. But I don't think I have a right to tell someone else what they must do with their lives. My mom had one when my dad was just in really bad shape and we were all living on a thread, she had 4 kids already. Was it right or wrong. We will never know I guess. My sisters had them and I am glad they could do it at a doctors office rather than a back alley.

I`m for pro choice, not because I agree with women having abortions but whether I like it or not,women who find themselves in unwanted pregnancies will expose themselves to butchers in back alleys or do it themselves and put themselves in danger.
I wonder why it`s not ok to curtail life in the womb but many of the same people would think it`s ok to send young people to wars and have their lives cut down in their prime.

Pro-choice to me is the moderate position, endorsing making choices possible and leaving those choices to the individual. My background is that of a Christian (Presbyterian variety) grounded in free choice, born by choice and through use of birth control to plan my birth. Pro-choice is a term that is just fine, one that is pro-life. Forcing women to bear children is not pro-life, but rather anti-choice. No one should force a woman to bear a children or to have an abortion; we do not force women to have abortions, so why would we force women to bear children not conceived by choice. This position is consistent with my Christian faith and is expressed through my politics.

Humanism does not develop until the third trimester. Individual right to choose should be prevented until then. Am agnostic so do not believe in the valildity of of spiritual invocations. Nothing sacred about "man". Their justifications for their position. How they feel about extending their principle re unborn child to other beings and environment. Same as above. Pro Humanity

I want to start out by expressing my deepest sympathy and concern for any woman with an unwanted pregnancy. (Yes, I'm pro-choice, and a feminist) Many of the women here have written commentaries far more moving that I can, at least today. However, my feelings immediately return to anger for obvious reasons:

The deception inherent in addressing the abortion debate is that it is or should be about abortion at all. I believe that the only matters worth discussing, indeed in desperate need of discussion and responsible action are sex education and birth control. Responsible sexuality, in other words. And, it should go without saying, this should include males. The concern is or should be about unwanted pregnancies, and the answers have been known for years.

Thirty-four percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 -- about 820,000 a year. Eight in ten of these teen pregnancies are unintended and 79 percent are to unmarried teens. (2004 data)

If 34% of teenagers had been seriously injured because of say, seat belt failure or non-use, our society would be totally outraged.

If any consumer product in this country had a comparable failure rate, the manufacturer would have been sued out of existence in a very short period of time.

Statistically, few things indeed have a lower correlation than abstinence education, and abstinence. Indeed, at times a negative correlation has been found. Our government is lying to us about abstenence education, and we (well, most of us) have been taking it lying down.

When I go to SIECUS, http://www.siecus.org/ their lead article is entitled "SIECUS Reviews Three New Fear-Based Curricula"

I spent the first weekend of Oct. volunteering in Souix Falls South Dakota volunteering with a local organization to work to stop an anti-abortion ballot initiative that would be unenforceable at this time. But I did not, per se, prevent any unwanted pregnancies.

My wife and I have felt for many years that abortion is NOT the decision to be made by government or law; it is a deeply personal decision, in which spiritual support, parental and family support, and Christian love all play a significant role.

Unfortunately, this issue has been politicized and thus has become a flashpoint for those on "either side" of the debate. And some commentators, either conservative or liberal, have chosen to inflame the rhetoric in order to justify their position as well as enhance their political standing.

In the last few years of increasingly hostile debate about "conservative vs. liberal" issues, America has struggled to regain our sense of civil debate and compromise, one of the cornerstones our our republic. I believe we are seeing the unravelling of this divisive approach in the changing attitude reflected by Sen. Obama in the most recent debate, when he offered that "we can disagree without being disagreeable and try to reach a position based on mutual and shared ideas". For too long, toxic rhetoric has poisoned our national psyche, and the results are plain to see; the "if you're not for us, you're against us" fingerpointing during the run up to invading Iraq; the Swift Boat attacks during the 2004 campaign; the senseless and vitriolic attacks by Right against Left over abortion ; and the inflammatory speaches by Pres. Bush and Sec. Rice which had us on the road to attacking Iran. Has all of this anger and hatred moved us one step closer to addressing the problem of abortion, or any other of the serious issues we face? No.

It is clear to many that abortion is a bad thing; it is also becoming clear that the reasons for abortion are much more complicated than as portrayed by certain right-wing factions, and that abortion is not a civil right as guaranteed by the Constitution, according to the Left, but a legal act as affirmed in Roe v. Wade.

We need to engage in civil debate as rational, moral beings, and try to come to some shared position on this issue. For too long, it has been exploited by the ultra-right wing faction of the GOP, which lead folks to vote for a president who recklessly and untruthfully lead us to war. Voters have been treated with contempt by those who knew that some would vote for a candidate solely because of his/her position on this issue, regardless of their ideology on other issues. As one post above asked: "Does being pro-life involve ONLY infant life?" People of faith are tasked by God with respecting His creation, and that means ALL creation, not just the unborn. We are heartened to see that many folks are beginning to see and undertsnad that we are stewards here, of ALL life; one responsibility of stewardship is to guard against too mush passion in one case, and too little in another. We pray that this will one day be so in America.

I see abortion as a moral/spiritual belief that cannot be easily shaken by scientific or rational understanding. Just as people have strong beliefs in Jesus as Lord and savior, the existence of God, or even the righteousness of our current wars, abortion is based more on deep-seated beliefs, not scientific proof or rational thought.

Politics can often trump value beliefs, though,when practical considerations are factored in. For example, most Americans abhore children and other innocents being killed in war. However, most of us would probably agree that "collateral damage" is necessary but unfortunate in order to maintain a cetain degree of freedom and security (although we may disagree as to the degree).

If Roe V. Wade is overturned and some states decide to ban abortion, the practical outcome may not be one that most Americans would tolerate. Consider an outright ban in some of the poorer states. It could, in all probability, lead to higher levels of poverty and higher welfare rolls if poor women choose to keep their babies (especially in light of the fact that currently poor women have a 400% greater chance of having an abortion than other women). Converesly, if more women chose to give their baby up for adoption, many of these children are not likely to be adopted considering most couples seeking adoption want a healthy, white child. Unadopted children will add to the financial burden of these states and to America as whole. These are just two scenorios. While uncertain, the practical results of over-turning Roe v. Wade may eventually play out in favor of providing greater access to abortion than many imagine.

As a pastor, I have found that people who do not know me well enough to have asked what I think immediately assume that I am politically pro-life. I receive emails with pro-life agendas and assumptions from congregation members and neighbors and family members. I am politically pro-choice, though do not appreciate either of the terms that we use. Or perhaps it is more that I do not appreciate the assumptions that come along with both terms--that people who advocate for the pro-life agenda are opposed to choice or that people who advocate for the pro-choice agenda are opposed to life. It is rather a mixture of both. Pro-life advocates, in my experience, already realize that by the time a woman makes a choice of whether or not to go ahead with her pregnancy, she has already had to choose between whether or not to have sex and whether or not to use protection (assuming the pregnancy resulted from a consensual sexual experience). Pro-choice advocates, such as myself, do value life--and in particular, the life of the mother.

What I wish people would realize is that this is more than a theoretical debate issue with real, practical, life-long effects on all who are involved, and even on individuals who are not forced to make this decision. I wish people would ask me what I believe and how it fits into my faith as opposed to assume that my career and faith would dictate my stance on this issue. I wish people would see that life is more than just birth and that people on all sides of the debate should be held accountable for their position. Someone who votes pro-choice ought also to vote for policies and laws and programs that offer prenatal care, affordable childcare, and support to mothers and fathers who most need it. Someone who is pro-choice ought to be held accountable to making sure women are educated and supported throughout the process. They are also responsible for realizing that abortion is only one choice of many, and ought to fight for appropriate and good education of the variety of choices available to women.

I approach abortion as a woman who had one when I was 20, who knows that I ended a life (not a human life, but a life.) I understand it as a sin -- something which separated me from God. In other words, I always think of abortion as a concrete experience, rooted in real dilemmas of life and faith. But I also take my Christian faith seriously enough to know that I have been forgiven: that my relationship with God was not ended forever by my choice. Many years after my abortion I met a woman who'd had an abortion the previous year and said, "I know this was a sin, but I know it was also the right thing to do." A wise Episcopal priest once said to me that there were two situations where there was no "good" choice -- a marriage that was falling apart and an unwanted pregnancy.

I actually don't need much help understanding the absolutist position; it's morally very simple. But since I don't experience my moral life as simple, I'd like to know how those who hold it deal with the messiness of life that women experience. And I'd like them to honor women who -- in good conscience -- make the decision to have an abortion. That is, to understand that women are not just carrying cases for a uterus. (Over the years, I've heard lots of stories that pro-life people have had abortions, or supported daughters having them; and that too is silenced.)

In reframing the discussion, it seems to me that we have two blind spots: the "pro-life" world tends to treat women as a body around a uterus, ignoring the ways in which a pregnancy may be a problem for a woman -- which cuts off the discussion. The pro-choice world tends to ignore the ways in which abortion does cause a death. I would say that my eight-week fetus was not human, but s/he was alive. It's probably not accidental that about six months or so after my abortion, I stopped eating meat.

I think too often the discussion about abortion is held in the abstract, so to change the discussion, it is so important to get away from the slogans and talk about how women make decisions in the case of problem pregnancy. That is, to focus on women making life choices and how they think them through. My hunch is that in that context, most women actually do understand how someone can make the other choice. And that from that discussion we might be able to do better than "pro-life" and "pro-choice", or "pro-baby" and "pro-woman".

As a retired American Baptist pastor, I have grappled with this issue and have helped parisioners and many others think through their own beliefs about the many issues in reproductive health. The materials and outreach of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have proved very helpful in my work. The efforts of RCRC to offer comprehensive sex education in 60 African American congregations in the greater Twin Cities has made a major difference in those communities. They have found that the youth are much more responsive because they see their "extended family" in church every Sunday. With that many people concerned about your welfare, Black youth find support to think through sexual issues. American Baptists have done many "common ground" meetings to bring understanding between those who have drastically opposed views. I've found them fascinating, but I have seen little shift of opinion--we are almost hopelessly polarized. I contend we are all working toward a better life for our young people. One of my interests is with the half who receive abortions after 25, often after the birth of a first child. These women understand the realities surrounding childbirth, way beyond the experience of carrying around a 9-pound doll that wets and cries.
We ask women, "Do you think your God wants what's best for you?"

I am now sixty one years old but will always be haunted by that innocent little life I aborted at age 27, as a young married mom with two little ones. It was the hardest decision of my life, and I have regretted it ever since, but at the time I did what I thought was best for my family.

I had attempted to prevent getting pregnant after my son was born by getting an IUD placed. Unfortunately the IUD migrated through the wall of my uterus into the cul-de-sac, so it never actually came out, and I was none the wiser. We were struggling financially,our marriage was not the healthiest, and I had major behavior issues with my daughter, our eldest child. My husband travelled with his job, leaving me without relief for a week at a time. Not only did I not see how we could afford a third child, I did not see how I could cope with a third child, struggling as I was with the behavior of my daughter. I had been abusive with her from the time she was an infant, and knew this additional stress would aggravate that possibility, perhaps with all three kids. It seemed the addition of another child would cause an already unstable situation to potentially explode, and I felt it would not be fair to the other two children, much less to the new little life that might cause it.

I talked with my mom, I talked with my older sister, both on the other coast and both of whom listened and were supportive, regardless of the decision I made. I was not involved with a church at the time, and had I been, there would have been other alternatives I could have chosen, I know. But at the time I knew I could not carry a child to full term and then give it up for adoption, because I would have kept it instead, and that truly did not seem to be an option.

I believe abortion is wrong, especially when used as a method of birth control, but I do not believe any church, any government, any court or any person has the right to an opinion on the subject unless they have been personally involved in some way. I have been punished a thousand times over for what I did, and the punisher was me. But what I did is between the Lord and me, it is to Him that I am accountable, and I have no excuse, just circumstances.

Probably in most of the stories you have received there are women just like me, caught between a rock and a hard place, making the best decision they could at the time. I cannot believe that most women who do this are cavalier, because an abortion kills a part of the woman too, and in my case, part of my soul. The issues around abortion are so much more complicated than either being for or against Roe V. Wade, which passed just prior to my own abortion.

I appreciate your asking your listeners for their own insights and stories, because this has given me the opportunity to share my story in hopes that it might help others. Sadly, sharing the story doesn't seem to help the pain I will always feel, but that is OK: it was my choice and I have had to live with it. This pain is part of who I am, and has given me an empathy and compassion for others I might not have had, otherwise. But it has also made me intolerant of those who pontificate about issues of which they think they have knowledge, but have no experience.

There is more I would like to say, but for now I just want to thank you for making this opportunity for those of us with sad stories of our own. I look forward to hearing the program you have that will explore all these issues. Thank you.

Melissa Hutton

As a retired physician, I have dealt with patients requesting abortion information over the years (35 years) and it was almost always my experience that women didn't really "believe in" abortion, i.e. they didn't really believe that it was morally OK; but rather that they were desperate and in emotional pain, and they were willing to do whatever it took to escape from their plight, including sacrificing their baby. I agree with your guest speaker: it breaks my heart that there are so many babies lost to abortion; but it's my feeling that we aren't really ready as a society to change Roe vs. Wade until we are willing to change the social conditions that contribute to the perceived need for abortion. That is, we need to be prepared to deal better with poverty and lack of appropriate education and social backup of various kinds for young pregnant women and women at risk for unplanned pregnancy. It seems to me that so many people who are against abortion, are not willing to become engaged in reaching out to and helping these women. We need to become engaged on a personal but also on a national and societal level if we are really serious about reducing the number of abortions. And yes, the cost of any such effort would be huge, but in the long run much less than the cost of the way we are doing it now, with the huge financial and emotional costs of massive numbers of abortions.

I believe abortion is wrong. But it is a part of a network of wrongs, none of which can be fixed in isolation from the others. It is a cheap distortion to put abortion alone under the spot light. The very fact that a woman may feel 'punished' by a pregnancy says much about the lack of social and economic support for most people during their child-bearing years. Our economic system 'preys' upon young people with high rents, front-loaded mortgages, the vagaries of the low steps on the career ladder, etc. All of this while they are having babies, and are engaged in society's most IMPORTANT job: being parents.

A truly PRO-LIFE position must take this into account. Missteps while a child is young only compound social cost in years to come. Pro-life must mean not merely that a child has the right to be born, but the right to love, care, emotional safety, food, clothes, shelter after birth. A truly pro-life position must take account of the death penalty, the over-crowding of U.S. prisons, and the bombing of innocents in other countries. We must get beyond the 'pelvic politics' of puritanical moralism, that we may imbrace the far more demanding and extensive morality of compassion.

I embrace Obama's assertion, "No one is pro-abortion." My guess is that almost everyone involved with abortion considers it an evil, but the lesser of two evils. (And, yes, their position might be wrong, in most or all cases, but that is how they see it.) The common ground now could become, as Obama says, uniting pro-life and pro-choice under a common banner of reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Abortion as a Moral Choice

In April of 1973 my husband left me, pleading that he had fallen in love with our upstairs tenant and wanted to spend his life with her. I was four months pregnant. Roe v. Wade had been decided three months earlier.
My obstetrician sent me to see a social worker to help me sort out my feelings and make my plans. She began every one of her questions or suggestions with, “if you want an abortion…”, until I finally shouted at her, “I DON’T want an abortion. “ “Well, “ she observed, “That solves that problem.”
I had wanted this baby fiercely for some time, and my husband’s defection did nothing to diminish my desire. But that conversation with the social worker, and the knowledge that an abortion would have been legally available had I felt unable to proceed with the pregnancy, added depth and resonance to my desire. This was a most wanted child. I had the choice, and I chose to have a baby.
My daughter told me recently, in a discussion about her father– who has never figured into her life except as an absence, a question mark– “Mom, when I was a kid and used to ask about my father, you always said, ‘You were a very wanted baby.’” So that knowledge has been central to her sense of her self.
At another point, a few years later, I did have an abortion. I was a single mother, working and pursuing a path to ordination in the Episcopal Church. The potential father was not someone I would have married; he would have been no better a candidate for fatherhood than my daughter’s absent father. The timing was wrong, the man was wrong, and I easily, though not happily, made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
I have not the slightest regret about either of these decisions, nor the slightest guilt. I felt sorrow and loss at the time of my abortion, but less so than when I’d miscarried some years earlier. Both of my choices, I believe, were right for me and my circumstances: morally correct in their context, practical, and fruitful in their outcomes.
That is, both choices were choices for life: in the first instance, I chose for the life of the unborn child; in the second, I chose for my own vocational life, my economic stability, and my mental and emotional health and wholeness.
Shortly after my ordination to the priesthood, I was asked to speak at the National Abortion Federation’s annual meeting, on a Clergy Panel, with the theme of “Abortion as a Moral Choice.” I wondered skeptically who would attend such a panel, but to my surprise, the room was packed with people – abortion providers and other clinic workers. Our audience was so eager and grateful to hear their work affirmed, to hear religious authorities assuring them that God was on their side! I understood that I had a responsibility, indeed, a call, as a pro-choice religious professional, to speak out and to advocate publicly for women’s reproductive rights and health, and I have tried to be faithful to that call.
To talk theologically about women’s right to choose is to talk about justice, equality, health and wholeness, and respect for the full humanity and autonomy of every woman. Typically, as moral theologians, we discuss the value of potential life (the fetus) as against the value of lived life – the mature and relational life of a woman deciding her capacity to continue or terminate a pregnancy. And we believe that, in general, the value of that actual life outweighs the value of the potential.
I like to talk, as well, in terms of gift and of calling. I believe that all life is a gift – not only potential life, but life developing and ripening with its many challenges, complications, joys and sorrows. When we face difficult reproductive choices we balance many gifts, many goods, and to fail to recognize the gifts of our accomplished lives is to fail to recognize God’s ongoing blessing. I believe as well that God calls us all to particular vocations, and our decisions about whether and when to bear children are part of that larger pattern of our lives’ sacred meanings.
The Reverend Anne C. Fowler
Rector, St John’s Episcopal Church, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

I am a Baptist minister and president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice - RCRC. I am pro-choice about abortion because of my religious tradition and beliefs. I believe that God has given each of us free will and the responsibility to exercise it according to our understanding of God’s plan. I believe that women cannot exercise their God-given free will unless they can control their reproductive lives. That is why women’s ability to make moral decisions about their reproductive lives is a social justice issue – because without that ability (and the economic, medical and educational resources that make choices possible), women cannot be equal and cannot have justice.

I think we are polarized over abortion because of the framework we use (almost unconsciously) to think and talk about it: “religious = anti-abortion and secular = pro-choice.” It’s a mistake to think that all religions are against abortion. In reality, many faith traditions believe abortion must be an option for women. People who are religious are pro-choice and women who are religious have abortions.

Labels and stereotypes contribute to the polarization of views. We say that abortion is a moral issue – but then we make the mistake of thinking that the only moral position is to be against abortion. I don’t agree with that. Is it moral to have a child you can’t care for and – to be honest - don’t want? Is it moral for the government to force a woman who has been raped to have the child that results from the rape? Is it moral to require that a woman with a life-threatening illness continue a pregnancy? Is it moral to insist a young woman who has become pregnant have the child and place it for adoption? So you see, having an abortion can be a decision that is moral and responsible.

We need a radical change in thinking. We should stop stigmatizing abortion and women who have abortions and stop talking about “reducing the number of abortions” as if abortion were a plague. We should focus on improving women’s health and lives and on creating the conditions for responsible decisions about having children – including sexuality education for young people that teaches values and consequences, contraception, healthcare, childcare, and good jobs.

I don’t think it will be easy to change the conversation – the anti-abortion groups have a vested interest in keeping up interest in abortion and the media ask politicians about it as a litmus test of how liberal or conservative they are. I don’t think people who are against abortion on religious grounds will change. And I don’t think women will stop having abortions. But we have to move forward. What term do we use? I suggest reproductive justice.

Francis Kissling believes that abortion numbers need to be reduced, but that making abortion illegal is not the answer. I agree with her because even if it was against the law to seek an abortion, there would still be women who would find a way, as they have in the not-too-distant past, and often with grave results.

Kissling’s approach is different in that she has an enthusiasm for difference, which she feels is critical to change. She looks to honor the other person’s values without giving up her own. I think her approach is refreshing, and will go a long way toward bridging the gap to common ground.

When most of us are in the realm of topics such as Gay Marriages and Abortions, there is usually a line drawn down the middle. Some of us think it's wrong while the other side of the line believes it is right. These 2 subjects have had much more criticism then ever before nowadays. There isn't even a correct answer. That's what brings these 2 ideas great things to talk about. Frances Kissling talk about subjects as these and gives her input.

Frances Kissling, just like Karen Armstrong, actually joined the convent at age 19. However she only stayed for about a year. The bad choices that Frances mom chose, influenced Frances to become a nun. Her mom experienced 2 divorces and Frances did not want to experience the same, so that lead to be a nun. Frances had different views on the Catholic faith as she grew up. Her idea was that if someone got divorced it wasn't a big deal and someone should be able to re-marry. Sexual relations are only permitted through marriage in the catholic faith. Frances didn't believe God had casted her to no sexual relations just because she wasn't married. This is what sets her apart from the faith.

Frances wasn't very supportive of marriage, however she was very active with the complications and the curve balls that are thrown from Abortions. Frances had a strong belief in values when speaking about abortions. She talked about the rights of the mother and of the child within the womb. Which rights are more important then the other? I am on the same path with Frances on one thing we agree upon. I believe that abortion itself is not always good but if it is necessary, then it must done and there will probably be positive outcomes.

One thing she says is that unlike abortions, homosexuality is engaged with the positive side of life. For example relationships among eachother and having a partner. There are people out there who do not believe this is right if you are gay. They believe these "gay" people should not have these things because they are the same sex. This idea has brought these people together and they have accepted their social identity. These "gay" people need to their place on this planet.

Like myself, a lot of people do not want to even speak the word abortion or deal with it. If one must get an abortion, she doesn't want to be stressing about it. Frances thinks that people who have just thought about an abortion or even had an abortion, do not want to be labeled with that and have it stamped across their head by people.

When we talk about these issues, its very key to know both sides of the battle. Someone who only believes in one side is a fool. If you only accept your side of the battle, then you are not worthy of even argueing about it. What is point of arguing? It's to compromise and make ends meet on both of your criteria. "Common ground." Frances had a deep belief that finding this "common ground" is not difficult if the differences are'nt much. Frances had even discovered her beliefs after understanding both sides of the fight. This is what we need in todays society. If you can understand what the person is trying to display/do and can back it up, it is okay. Take a minute to yourself and see this in someone elses shoes. You would hope people would understand.

I can't imagine the idea of committing to be a nun at only 17. Something she said really struck me, that there wasn't much "thinking" involved in being a nun. I grew up religious, but I found that there wasn't much thinking or challenging what you believed. The more I started questioning, the harder I found it to reconcile the idea of "blind faith" and what I saw as the likely truth. When she mentions her boss wanting to examine religion with the same amount of vigor as any other subject, that I how I feel it should be. I think religion should be evaluated for truth as much as anything else you study. Believing in a God is something you can never prove, or disprove, thus you have to take it on faith. But you can examine what is put forward as facts, such as the Bible is to be taken literally, or that the books were written by who they claim to be written by. I do like that she examined other religions such as Islam. I think to truly believe you need to not close yourself off to any information that might challenge your beliefs, but instead to find out all you can and at the end to base your beliefs on all the facts.

The broadcast that I chose to listen to is on abortion. I chose this topic because it is very controversial and I am always curious to hear what people have to say on the topic. Frances Kissling is best known as the president for Catholics for a Free Choice. She was one of four children to a twice divorced Polish American mother, from Pennsylvania. She became involved in abortion around 1970. While listening to the broadcast Frances made a statement about her mother that really stood out to me ‘She was aware that her mother’s life was burdened by children that she didn’t want’. That is a statement that really makes you think back around that time abortions and birth control weren’t easily available as it is today. If a woman became pregnant she didn’t have the option to term the pregnancy and really didn’t have the option to try to prevent it either, so basically you just had to deal with your situation the best way that you can. Another statement that Kissling made during her interview that really stood out to me is that “You have to approach difference with the notion that there is good in the other. If we can’t figure out how to do that we won’t have change”. I like this statement because it makes sense to me, if you aren’t able to see the good in the point that someone is trying to make you will constantly butt heads with that person and not make any progress. You have to be able to see where they are coming from too.

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