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Sacred Conversations

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

Cited Research: CNN 2004 Election Exit Poll

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

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

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

Reconciling childhood recollections with the complexity of abortion.

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

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

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Our aggregated tweets from our interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,
Bill Berger

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

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

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

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

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

ANTI ABORTION, PRO CHOICE

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

Moral and spiritual aspects of abortion

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding others and being understood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s positive,” the nurse said.

“Define ‘positive’.”

“You’re pregnant.”

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

And then I had this whole other inside of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for considering this topic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The moral question is something else.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When my 12 year old asked what abortion was, it was a difficult answer. So, my reply was that when mother nature, a doctor/midwife or the woman decided that the pregnancy couldn't happen at that time.

What bothers me is that I don't understand how a woman's life is still considered unimportant in this situation. Also how there isn't real solutions for the children that result in many unwanted pregnancies. And surprisingly I have recently been told that it is the woman's fault if she does get pregnant.

In talking about the issue with my 91 year old grandmother, she cannot believe that this is still an issue. This is a republican die hard. As she said no woman wants to be in this situation. Its no ones business.

My god, my beliefs allow for me to do what I or my daughter needs to. That being said, I also believe that there needs to be a loving place for every child born, wanted by biological parents or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can remember, as a second grader in Catholic school in Decatur, Illinois, being shown the Lennart Nilsson photos of developing human embryos/ fetuses. I knew, from that point, that these were human beings. I was once an embryo and a fetus. I would expect my life to be protected.

Through my grade-school and high-school years, I was aware of public debate on a right to abortion. As a sophomore at Catholic high school in Decatur, we discussed these matters in religion classes. I certainly was not prepared for the Roe v. Wade decision. I looked upon this decision as a denial of the obvious truth of the unborn child's humanity and of the need to protect the child's humanity/ personhood in law.

At the time, I was an editorial cartoonist for a local weekly newspaper. I don't believe that my post-Roe v. Wade cartoon was published. I'll describe it to you. Sitting in front of the Supreme Court building are Dred Scott and a fetus. Each of them is tagged "not a person." Dred says to the fetus, "You too, huh?" (I was influenced by a story from what was then called National Catholic News Service [now Catholic News Service] in which an interviewee made the point that the Supreme Court had gotten personhood wrong in the case of Dred Scott, and that, as the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution had been a definitive answer to the Supreme Court on slavery, so a constitutional amendment would some day correct the Supreme Court on the natural rights of the unborn.)

In my junior and senior years of high school, I came to a decision to study for the priesthood of my diocese. I was motivated by the obvious need of our local church for priests, and also by my learning, in a religion class on social justice, about the Catholic Church's upholding of the rights of workers. My father was a UAW member working at the Decatur Caterpillar plant. (It was strange that only in my eleventh year of Catholic school did I make this connection.) My concern about the injustice of abortion was a theme as well. I volunteered to staff our local Right to Life organization's booth at the county fair, which displayed models of human embryos/ fetuses in various stages of development. I also wore a right-to-life bracelet similar to the POW bracelets popular in the late Vietnam era.

In recent years, my mother has repeated to me her conviction -- held by HER mother, as a result of witnessing a situation in which attempts were made to save a mother and fetus, but both died -- that a right to abortion is a necessary legal protection.

In the thirty-three years since I graduated from high school and entered the seminary, I have not been an activist in regard to these matters. I guess that the truth has sunk in that recognition of a right to abortion is not going to go away in my lifetime. As someone who hears sacramental confessions, I have found myself developing empathy for those who have chosen abortion. I rarely preach on the issue of abortion. During the 2004 presidential campaign, I gave what I considered a highly nuanced homily on these matters which drew expressions of appreciation especially from women in my congregation. I find my local right-to-life organization stuck in the naive belief that voting for X is right and that voting for Y is wrong. I find myself placing my trust in the idea that, at some point beyond my lifetime, there will be an evolution in outlooks on these matters which will lead to recognition of the rights of the unborn. Ultimately I understand "personhood" as meaning recognizing a human being as an end in him/herself and never as a means to someone else's ends or as a thing to be discarded. The 14th amendment to our Constitution declares birth to be the event which confers personhood. I hope and pray that we will progress beyond this to recognize a right to life of those not yet born.

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

I have been involved in local interfaith activity for over 20 years, and I am aware that in much of Judaism there is a tendency not to recognize a right to life of the unborn. I say "much" of Judaism because I imagine that I need an opportunity to understand a multiplicity of viewpoints in Judaism and their origins. I am best acquainted with the outlook of one particular local rabbi, who asserts that there is no right to life before birth. I need to see the connections between the faith tradition of Judaism and this conviction.

I need to understand non-Catholic fellow Christians as well. Is it enough to say that abortion is always a tragedy but that there is no problem with protecting it in law?

Apart from any specific religious or interreligious context, I guess I need a deeper appreciation of how the rights of men and women in sexual relationship are observed or abused. My pastoral experience has helped me to see that men and women in sexual relationships engage in a great deal of abuse of one another. How can these sexual relationships be evaluated with a view toward enhancing the dignity of the man, the woman, and any child which may result from their union? Perhaps ultimately, this concern would lead to something which is very much against the grain of the American legal system: a certain recognition of intersubjective rights in addition to individual rights. Is it possible to think along these lines?

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

My stance on these matters is based on my considering it an objective truth that human life is present in someone yet to be born. I feel that this truth simply cannot be overlooked. If one professes that no one knows (or can know) when human life begins, I would expect that one must presume (err?) in favor of life.

I have long been troubled, particularly as a very public person in a very prominent church, by the dismissal of my convictions as my (often characterized "private") religious belief, impinging not at all upon what anyone else may think. Ultimately my convictions come from reason, which I trust I share with others. It happens that my reasonable conviction converges quite neatly with the ethical teachings of Catholic Christianity, which refers largely to a natural-law interpretation of ethics -- ultimately, an interpretation based on reason and not on religious revelation.

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

Maybe "women's rights" and "child's rights"? Can we talk about an intersubjectivity of rights among the man, the woman, and the child?

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

I think that abortion is morally wrong, but that outlawing it only deals with the end result of a long process that could be better addressed earlier. If children weren't having sex, adults were practicing contraception responsibly, all unwanted babies were adopted and the needs of families for child care and other support services were adequately addressed, abortion rates would drop dramatically. I think that the debate needs to be framed as a discussion of the value of individuals at all stages of life, and how to create an equitable society where parents can earn a wage that will support a family, children can stay in school until they can earn that wage, and anyone who needs extra care and attention at any time from birth to death has that available. To me, to be pro-life in the case of abortion, but against funding for schools or day care, or against a minimum wage that is high enough to support a family is sending the message that abortion is the only moral issue that should be addressed in the public arena, and all other questions of quality of life after birth are matters of personal freedom and responsibility and should be addressed privately. (Except for gay marriage, of course.) Being pro-life is much easier than reducing poverty, or improving the foster care system, stopping child abuse or even adopting one child, and I think many people use their pro-life stance to seize the moral high ground without having to commit much time or effort to addressing the real problems that create the high abortion rate in the first place.

I'd like to know if, and if so why, pro-life advocates think that having legislation outlawing abortion would be necessary if the conditions that create the demand for abortion were done away with.

I'd like to have pro-lifers understand that even though I agree with his or her moral stance on abortion I will never embrace his or her cause until it is broadened to include a moral commitment to supporting individuals at all stages of their lives, whether they have lived their lives according to a particular set of moral values or not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Hutton

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

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

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

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

Abortion as a Moral Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Poem Upon Entering the Fray
by David Blauw

Watching them enter,
Wondering where they stood
on the issue of tissue development
and soul acquisition.

Could I tell from their haircut
or the way their glasses
sat upon their noses?

There beside me is (I guess) an evangelical glancing
wondering who is orthodox and who invites carnage.

So unlike a prize fight,
the combatants smiled before-hand
and talked politely
about the traffic on Route 22 and the mild winter...

Then unleashed, upon command,
distrust and bias
that cut to the core of humanity.

A pigeon-holing of will
that relegated all the foe
into the oppressor.

Jesus has come to relieve the oppressor
and the oppressed
to relieve the enslaved by another's will.

O Lord,
deliver us from all bitterness
and unforgiveness
for the born and for the unborn
for the silent and for those
fallen victim to this world
of competing values.

Bring us to justice
Carry us to your will.

(Written Feb. 1992 at Princeton University, while waiting for a debate between representatives from Planned Parenthood, New Jersey Right to Life, Operation Rescue and Roman Catholics for Choice)

Dear Faith,
Please explain why Chritians debate the issue of excusing abortion when God's moral law emphatically states that murder is prohibited? How have we come to devalue life within the womb and value life outside the womb? All life is valuable and sacred to God. Yes, abortion is the murder of an unborn child. Neither of us would be having this interchange if our mother's had chosen abortion. US citizens reserve the privileg to destroy their unborn for convenience. What a shame that the Democrat Party supports abortion rights in its platform. I am proud to be "pro-life." To be "pro-choice' is to be pro-death.
Naxism devalued the lives of ethnic groups and millions were exterminated. Since 1973, we have killed nearly 50 million babies!!
It is time to ask for God's forgivenss and mercy. How can we expect to be blessed with His favor when we tolerate such atrocities?

Introduction:

In this piece, I will go so far as to suggest that abortion could become less of a problem if the rights of the child are given a a theoretical shape that commences before the child is conceived. This idea has emerged like a slowly ripening fruit from much thought and concern on my part about abortion in our society, though it now seems the logical end of a drawn-out thought process.

A relevant anecdote:

While walking along the sidewalk of a local street during the 2004 election campaign, I was greeted by a man who tried to give me some political literature distributed by the local Democrats. Though I've always been and remain a registered Democrat, I politely declined the offer. Continuing on my way, I was quickly stopped in my tracks by a question I wanted to pose this man, so I turned back. It is part of the story to note that the man was African-American, because my question* (see reason for question, below) to him was, "Why do you support the Democrats when their abortion policies are essentially killing off the African-American race in America?" At first, the man was taken aback and expressed shock when I told him some statistics I had read in the Washington Post that very morning, and he seemed ready to think more about the issue. At the time, I could not stay to discuss the problem with him further, and went on my way.

However, I came upon him again on my return trip, at which point he recognized and stopped me to answer my question. What he said shocked my conscience. Asserting boldly, "Sex is my right!", he gave an example that if he were in a hotel room with a woman, she might get pregnant and need an abortion. Through my shock, I managed to reply that I would not be in a hotel room with anyone but my husband, and went on my way in a state of utter perplexity as to his reasoning. In essense, he believed that a woman's 'right' to abortion gave him a "right" to sex at any time with any woman he pleased?!?

*Some background on my question to this man is that I had read that very morning a convincing news article asserting that the growth of the Hispanic-American population had outstripped the growth of the African-American population about about 3 decades ahead of what was expected, given the history of these demographic sectors. The principal reason given, with accompanying data and charts, was that a far higher percentage of African-American babies are aborted than Hispanic-American babies.

With the above anecdote as a jumping-off point, please see my answers (below) to the questions posed on the Speaking of Faith website.

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

Moral factors:

In the broadest sense, I think about the fact that when two people choose (most usually) to engage in a profoundly intimate act designed into our bodies principally to reproduce our species, that they should instead have a healthy, even overriding, respect for the fact that pregnancy could result, even when birth control is used, and that the profound nature of the act itself could impact them negatively in ways they may not have anticipated.

Then I consider that if the two people involved did have the proper respect for the potential consequences of sexual intercourse, they could and should be able to apply the brakes as necessary, prior to consummating the act of intercourse, regardless of the passions of the moment. Having gone to college during the thick of the sexual revolution, I know this is possible from a personal standpoint, having resisted the temptation to 'go too far' on a number of occasions during this period in my life. Being a warm and passionate person, this resistance was not due to indifference or frigidity on my part.

Then I wonder how two people who have deliberately consummated the sex act can justify their act by saying that they have done nothing wrong, and that the woman (girl) can 'just have an abortion' if she finds herself pregnant. This denies the profound nature of the act, ignores the unjust use of the fetus as a 'whipping boy' to stand in for the couple, and it can hardly be a good consequence for either participant's psyche to see a new life they themselves created in such an expedient manner. Extrapolating from that to the broader society, it is hardly surprising that we now too commonly hear of teenage lovers discarding their unwanted newborns in trash cans. How could such a cavalier attitude toward sexual intercourse not warp our moral view of the unborn?
Spiritual factors: I think that young people can perhaps more easily embrace a culture of behavioral standards than the average modern adult currently imagines. When you consider that young people can commit themselves devotedly to such practices as vegetarianism and the even stricter veganism, for example, you see that they are able to self-regulate with respect to what they think is important, regardless of the social pressure imposed by our broadly meat-eating and fast-food society that temptingly extols the taste qualities of steak, burgers, and fried chicken. If young people can do that, they can just a readily embrace the belief that 'the body is the temple of the soul', and honor the idea that sex is for married people. A return to such a concept would not be a first! Instead of this, sex and marriage are now so disconnected in peoples' minds that there is now a broad demand to legitimize inherently barren relationships as if they are akin to marriage, which they can never be, whatever they are called!
The separation of marriage from sex and procreation that abortion permits is another spiritual factor. Birth control became a strong factor in this delinking as well, especially once the 'right' to birth control was extended to the unwed woman.
Conclusion: I see the above factors as keys to the issue of whether abortion is a right or a wrong. Because most sex acts are chosen, I believe the choice factor of whether to abort or not ends with the sex act itself, given that the very real possibility of an 'unplanned' pregnancy could and should have been forseen and prevented by stopping at 'third base'.
Other consequences: Separation of marriage from sex and procreation.
The separation of marriage from sex and procreation has also had other profound consequences for the unborn, given the rise in recent decades of a demand for 'reproductive rights'. This development raises numerous profound questions as well. Is human reproduction a civil right? If so, where in such a 'right' are the rights of the planned child? What are the rights of the child? At what point in a child's development do his/her rights begin? Another way of framing the question might be, "Is a child a commodity to which every adult is entitled under her/his own terms?"
People today are so focused on their own perceived individual and group rights that many utterly forget even to consider that the child is a human being with basic rights, like anyone else, even though the Preamble to our Constitution addresses this point, asserting:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Who is "our Posterity" if not our children? what is it to "secure the blessings of Liberty...for our posterity" if we can murder our 'posterity' at will?
With all of this in mind, I will go so far as to insist that a child's rights must begin even before he/she is conceived! This conclusion did not come to me in a instant, I will readily admit, but emerged like a slowly ripening fruit from much thought and concern about abortion in our society, though it now seems to me the logical end of my drawn-out thought process.
If you have gotten this far, you might fairly ask me why this is my conclusion, which I am happy to explain.
My contention is that the rights of a child begin when a husband and wife decide to have a child. In other words, the child's rights preferably exist at least theoretically in the minds of every prospective parent prior to any effort to conceive that child. My thinking on this matter crystalized as a result of the increasing use of reproductive technology, which has ushered in an era that I believe demands that we must now consider the rights of the child prior to any planned conception. Yet, surprisingly, many unmarried adults, single or coupled, are demanding instead what they call 'reproductive rights', a concept that tragically compromises nature's uniquely bestowed (and thus inalienable) right of the child to his/her own natural parents by substituting a notion and terminology that refers instead to the 'right' (of any person) to bear children through the use of reproductive technologies.
Thus, when I hear sympathetic stories on NPR about two men, for example, who set out to use their sperm to artificially inseminate a surrogate mother, my blood pressure goes up instantaneously. In such cases, the child is treated more like a commodity, a slave, than a human being. What after all could be a more inalienable right than that to one's natural parents?
2. What would you genuinely like to understand about the perspective of people who feel differently?
I can understand better the thinking of people who believe abortion should be permitted with strong restrictions, because I can waver occasionally into that territory myself, but I have considerable difficulty understanding the sensibilities of those who broadly defend both their own 'human rights' and the right to abortion. If a person is so concerned about her own civil rights, why can she se no further than the end of her own nose with respect to the possibility that she may be abrogating the rights of another, in this case the unborn? We should not forget that America managed to exist for centuries without considering abortion either a civil right or even right!
I hear comparatively well-to-do white people like Ellen Malcolm and Hillary Clinton insist that abortion must be available to poor women, and wonder if they really understand or care about the serious negative impact of abortion on poor communities with more social chaos and less economic stability, in which men are more likely to share the lax attitudes of the man in my anecdote, women more likely to be treated abusively. A good expositor of the salient differences can be found in the work of Theodore Dalrymple, MD, who practiced in the slums of London, England, and has convincinly chronicled his observations in books and articles.
From back cover of Dalrymple's "Life at the Bottom":
Here is a searing account—probably the best yet published—of life in the underclass and why it persists as it does. Theodore Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist who treats the poor in a slum hospital and a prison in England, has seemingly seen it all. Yet in listening to and in observing his patients, he is continually astonished by the latest twist of depravity that exceeds even his own considerable experience. Dalrymple’s key insight in Life at the Bottom is that long-term poverty is caused not by economics but by a dysfunctional set of values, one that is continually reinforced by an elite culture searching for victims. This culture persuades those at the bottom that they have no responsibility for their actions and are not the molders of their own lives. Drawn from the pages of the cutting-edge political and cultural quarterly City Journal, Dalrymple’s book draws upon scores of eye-opening, true-life vignettes that are by turns hilariously funny, chillingly horrifying, and all too revealing—sometimes all at once. And Dalrymple writes in prose that transcends journalism and achieves the quality of literature.
I've become aware of the dark attitudes of some of the early birth control and abortion activists: Margaret Sanger, who advocated the elimination through such controls of the Negro race in America (as she would have put it), Bernard Nathanson and the nascent NARAL organization selling abortion to the public by vastly inflating the statistics on female death rates from back street abortion practices (which Nathanson later admitted and repudiated when he embraced Christianity), Alfred Kinsey, who used his scientific creds to defraud the public on matters sexual, and others with equally contemptible ways and ideas. Why do people who claim a paramount concern for 'civil rights' not recognize the inherent inequality of Margaret Sanger's beliefs? Or the deceitful claims that prompted support for abortion rights to begin with?
3. What would you like them to understand about you?
I think it's very unfortunate that abortion rights supporters tend to look down upon and demonize those who disagree with them. It does little more than give renewed credibility and applicability to a famous passage in Romans 1:
"21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."
I have been against abortion from the first time the idea ever entered my consciousness, prior to the passage Roe v. Wade, but the majority of my friends and acquaintances have generally accepted the idea that abortion should be a woman's right, and I still love them anyway. We just rarely talk about our differences. I do not attempt to demean abortion supporters because they are only human, as I am, and I also know that Jesus not only loved people and exhorted the rest of us to as well, and yet could still say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." I would like to see that same sensibility towards my beliefs from abortion rights supporters, but more often they are very self-righteous, will give no quarter, and might even stop speaking with people who disagree. It's a very polarizing issue for good reason.
4. If the phrases "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are limiting and polarizing, can you imagine new frames of reference for new and better conversations?
I have never liked the distillation "pro-choice" because I think the choice is whether to act in a manner that risks pregnancy, and that one has to be pro-abortion, not pro-choice, to support it to begin with. Pro-choice is a comforting euphemism for the harsher term, 'abortion'. Pro-life is more direct, thus less euphemistic, but doesn't need to be as it is neither an ugly nor even questionable notion to support.
I think we need to move to the question of when rights begin, given my concern that birth is too late in an era in which babies can be created through reproductive technology. If we don't get a grip on this, how far off is a Brave New World morality?
Abortion may always be with us, but it strikes me that the more people who can be convinced that a child has pre-conception rights the fewer people will regard abortion as the 'choice' point, and will discover that the choice is indeed very possible and desirable to re-engage as a choice of self-restraint to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Emily C. Volz
Silver Spring, MD
eVolz@comcast.net

It grieves me that in this time in history, when so many choices are available to women and men that unwanted pregnancies still happen. In my ideal world, pregnancy would not the result of random acts of intercourse, but a true loving commitment on the part of two adults who chose to raise children.

Yet, because this is not the reality and often those who find themselves pregnant are not able or willing to responsibly raise a child; the option of safe, affordable, non-shaming abortions must continue to be made available for the good of the society.

I do understand the deep grief and pain associated with ending a pregnancy, I do understand the dilemma of the moral issues of the question of: "is this ending a life?"

I have come to understand through science and theological reflection that life does not begin at conception. Therefore, early term abortions are not morally wrong in my mind.
This is an argument that needs to be made more clear. If those opposed to abortion because of the fear of condoning murder, could understand that in most monotheistic traditions life is not said to begin until the end of the second month of pregnancy (and even later in some cases) I think that the opposition by well meaning and thoughtful religious people would be mitigated.

However, as with every cause, there are those for whom protesting and opposing abortion has become their meaning for life and their purpose for holding onto their faith, that arguments or stories of lives affected by unplanned pregnancies and the toll they take on families and individuals would not sway their minds. Being single minded about anything considered "moral" is a dangerous way to determine right from wrong.

My fiance and I sit on different ends of the pro-choice, pro-life spectrum. I am pro-choice. I am pro-choice because of rationalization--I worry about the people I can see (pregnant women), I worry about the consequences of bringing an unwanted child into the world (having known too many), I worry about the unfairness that tends to result from illegal abortion (wealthy women seem to get them anyway--poor women die getting them unsafely). It is rationalization, but I am comfortible with that. I think all political positions are rationalizations. It is not, to me, a religious topic, because I think part of "choice" is being able to take into account ones own religious views. Who am I to dictate to you what those are?

My fiance is pro-life Democrat. He is pro-whole-life. He makes comfortable exceptions for the life of the mother and less comfortable exceptions for rape and incest. He worries about the state of domestic adoption, the state of foster care in this country, the lives of children who have nobody else to speak for them. He supports better sex education, greater access to contraception, easier adoption procedures. He likewise worries about health-care--for him, it is a single issue. He worries, in his words, about life, conception-to-grave. He comes to this view as an observant Conservative Jew--a natural extension of Judaism's concern for human health and life.

People sometimes look at us and wonder how we can tolerate our differences. I try to explain to them that I understand where my fiance is coming from. I respect that his position is carefully thought out and that he is trying not to be a hypocrite. He is less comfortable with mine, but he does respect that it is born out of my life experiences, my observations, and careful thought.

More than anything, though, we both respect that we agree on 99.9% of this issue and we don't want that agreement to get lost for the sake of the 00.1% we disagree on. I worry about foster care, and adoption, and health care, too. I also want greater access to contraception. I want abortions to occur less often--as few as possible. And it seems so silly and wasteful that people draw this line in the sand--whether or not abortion should be legal--and become so split on it that the vast common ground gets abandoned, neglected, and lost. I don't walk around thinking to myself, to riff off Sarah Silverman, "Gee, I think I'd like an abortion today" the way I think I might like a haircut. My fiance doesn't stop caring at birth, the way many pro-lifers are accused (often wrongly in my experience) of doing.

He gets so frustrated when our friends attack him for his views. He says, truthfully, that he has never voted for a pro-life candidate on the basis of their being pro-life. He is not entirely comfortable with that, but being worried about whole-life, he makes the compromise for candidates that support health care and other life issues even when he disagrees with them about abortion's ultimate legality. It makes me sad to see him attacked and I take a lot of flack for defending him--I have been accused of being a bad feminist for it, even though I believe he is exercising what I would term his "choice" by having the point of view he does, and by defending him I am also defending my right to disagree.

I wish that people would understand that what we share is greater and more significant than what we don't.

My 25 year old niece recently ended a pregnancy at the beginning of her third trimester that illustrate the difficulty of legislating a single correct action in all cases. To this day I don’t know what the “right” decision would have been.

“Tracy” is a highly responsible young woman whose ability to make discerning adult decisions about her life showed up while she was still an early teenager. Last year she and her long-time boyfriend became pregnant. Though this was unplanned the two young people were decided to join together to make a family for the upcoming baby and for her boyfriend’s young son. Midway through her pregnancy Tracy was informed that the child suffered from a severe case of hydranencephaly. She was advised that there was a good chance the child would die quickly and an almost certain probability of severe disability.

Tracy has lived for several years with her best friend “Dani” and her children, one of whom is a severely disabled teenager. She knows first hand the dedication, probable poverty, and marriage strain caring for such a child involves. Tracy and I talked often about the ethical implications of the options open to her, especially given how much was unknowable until after the child’s birth. Tracey decided she was able and willing to bring her girl-child into the world and raise her, even if she was severely disabled. She also wanted the responsibility for deciding what kind of treatment was right for her daughter and whether or not withholding treatment and letting her die in peace was the best that could be done for her, perhaps allowing her organs to be donated so some other child could live.

Tracy’s doctors told her that once her daughter was born it was likely that her desires about treatments would be second guessed, and perhaps bypassed, if she wanted to allow her daughter to die. Tracy had great freedom before her daughter’s birth and much less afterward. It was the prospect of being constrained to make decisions that might cause her daughter needless pain that finally led Tracy to choose an abortion – one of the dreadfully named “partial birth” variety that are the best option because diagnosis of hydranencephaly happens late in a pregnancy.

I’ll be the first to say that Tracy’s level of maturity and responsibility is rare and few people I trust so much to do the right thing. He mother is an alcoholic. She is a practical mother figure to her younger brother and sister and to her boyfriend’s young son. She worked her way to a responsible job and has nearly completed her BA by take a class each term. She is as gutsy and ethical as anyone I know.

On the day of the procedure I found myself praying for the baby girl with sorrow and grief. I wanted the outcome to be different. Yet I could not ask her mother to make a different choice. If Tracy had been able to carry on using her own judgment I trust her to make courageous and ethical decisions. Her poise through the whole process awed me, as it did all the medical staff who worked with her.

For background sake, I am a prolife, democrat, life-long Episcopalian. I've been a Benedicting Oblate for 20 years, and hung out with a remarkable Evangelical baptist congregation for the last five years, as Episcopal churches are rare in outstate Minnesota. Tracy has no religious practice, but talks with me often about the ethics. She is a living example that a person without religious faith or practice can have the very highest ethics. I am against banning abortion because the only thing worse than an abortion are the awful ways that women harm themselves when they are desperate and prohibited from ending a pregnancy. In the ideal situation they would be rare because we discourage unwanted pregancy in every way possible. Tracy's pregnancy was the first time I was up close and personal with an abortion, and I felt more sorrow and grief than I realized I would. I felt attached to this little girl. I greived her death, even though I could not bring myself to pressure Tracy to do something different. I trust her enough that I know she did the very best that anyone could. If the young woman involved had been a heedless young person I would have encouraged her to straighten up and do the adult thing by making a commitment to the coming baby and to her boyfriend.

My wish would be that this story would help illustrate these principles.
1. that it not be undertaken lightly or without thought.
2. That it is OK and appropriate to grieve the child that was lost.
3. That the burden in a complex situation is too complicated to make easy judgements about.
4. That the ways we decide about ending a pregnancy are related to the ways we decide about the end of life for after birth.
5. That we encourage young people to avoid an abortion if at all possible.
6. That the consequences of banning abortion are too high to bear in terms of women who die from badly performed procedures.

Thank you.

I have had many abortions – legal and illegal. I have never met anyone who felt good about have an abortion – but there seem no other option – at the time.

I held a granddaughter - I had originally encouraged the termination of her life. When you hold a little baby and look down and think “I wanted her dead” boy o boy does that change your mind. We allowed her to be adopted.

So then what do we do? - GIVE REAL CHOICES -

NO ONE REALLY LIKE ABORTIONS. How do we stop abortion – stop unwanted pregnancy. How do we stop unwanted pregnancies:
·FREE birth control and pap smears – and no Planed Pregnancy does not provide free birth control.

·How about running TV ad campaigns on the beauty of adoption, the use of birth control, and painlessness and ease of vasectomies.

·Where are male birth control pills?

·Quit pretending teenagers are not having sex and allow them free, accessabe and privacy to a birth control choice.

·Incorporate a highschool class on the responsiblies of parenthood, how to care for children, how to pay bills, how to balance a check book, how do credit cards work, how to find a job, how to buy a house, respect, conflict management, ect…. pratical life information, Parents do not have the time to teach even the basics to their children. Parents do not even read with their children much less teach life skills.

·Run TV ads on what abortion looks like.

·STOP ABORTION WITH EDUCATION AND LOVE

To put it simplistically: morally and spiritually, abortion represents death. At the very least it represents death of a possibility of new, innocent life; a rare and sacred characteristic in American society. In my 20's I did not struggle at all with the question of abortion: it was wrong and whomever participated in the act was participating in murder. But as I meet more and more people, as I am changed by their stories and their lives, I find it harder and harder to take such a definitive stance on the issue. Abortion, like religion, is a deeply personal part of a person's life. It is a deeply personal choice. It is a deeply emotional aspect of life.

And so, in order to eradicate dissonance within myself, I've begun to explain my position in this way: I am personally pro-life, and politically pro-choice. I don't believe that my faith should dictate the options available to women who find themselves in a position I've never been. To do so is to suppose that every other woman in the world thinks like me, reacts like me, has had the benefits of my cultural background and family life, has my religious beliefs, and believes that life begins at conception.

To believe this is to believe a myth, to shelter myself from the world, and to limit my availability to others - my neighbors, my friends. It's to limit the potential for life changing interaction and the ability to grow in my own life.

I find myself in the middle, looking to the right and seeing my family and friends feeling superior and put upon and I look to the left seeing my family and friends feeling superior and put upon. I look to the left and to the right and I see absolutely no willingness to come together to talk about our differences in a healthy way. And I would go so far as to say that in my experience, my friends and family who come from a religious background, many aren't capable of that kind of discussion.

I dislike generalizations, but because we are talking about "pro-life" and "pro-choice," I will talk about this in reference to the most conservative and the most liberal people in my life. Certainly this logic does not apply to everyone I know. When a person pours their life into their faith instead of pouring their faith into their life, when a person needs hard and fast answers that are based on faith, there is no room for questions. People in my life whom I would deem "lefties" seem to always be open to the possibility of.... They seem more willing to philosophize and question. They see their faith as a something that cannot necessarily be defined in absolute terms; instead they see it as a prism, the colors changing depending on the experience at hand. They see God from many different angles and perspectives.

My friends and family who are more "right wing" seem to have a steadfastness in their faith that doesn't allow for contemplation or discussion. I can't tell you the number of times I have tried in the past to have a discussion on a passage of the bible or on spirituality and I've been shut down with a response that sounds like this: the bible says "this," it means "this" because "this person" says so and we don't need to discuss it further.

When there is no room for questions, there is no room for discussion.

So to my conservative friends and family I would beg them to approach this topic from a philosophical view. I would ask them to consider how a person who is kind, patient, loving, generous, could find themselves in a position of being pro-choice. Because that is a reality.

To my liberal friends I would ask them to come to the table respecting a person's faith as something intrinsic to their being. To try to consider how a person who is kind, patient, loving and generous can live from a perspective of absolutes. Because that is a reality.

The reality is that each of us lives with a measure of dissonance.

I was a conservative Christian who voted conservatively and fought conservatively. I used to be on that side of the spectrum. I used to view things as being extremely "either or." Then I met people who were raised differently from me, who never heard of the things I believed in, who had experienced a different life than I had. I realized slowly that to be "either or" really has no merit and is not productive, and rarely takes into consideration the individual standing in front of me. No one gets saved - physically or spiritually - in an "either or" situation.

I don't know that creating new definitions would help. They only way this becomes a less polarizing issue is for everyone to come together and discuss and be open to each other. Not open to each others beliefs or political positions, but to each other. Just be open. Hear people's stories. Be compassionate. Hear, listen, understand from the heart. For both sides.

This conversation needs to happen with the understanding upfront that no one is wanting the other side to compromise anything. Not their beliefs, not their stances. The first step is the discussion, the hearing, the being in each others shoes.

I am and always have been a deeply devoted, Evangelical Christian. I used to walk in every Walk for Life I could find, and stand in picket lines when I was young outside abortion clinics, until one day I was encouraged to go in and try to "sway" those inside to leave. What I discovered was that the women inside were just as sorrowful about their decision to abort as the people outside, and that really the issue is not one which anyone takes lightly, and that most of them would rather be able to choose another option than abortion.
Then, when I later in life moved to Sweden, I came into a society which showed much more common sense about abortion. Even in liberal Sweden, (and much of Europe) there is recognition that this is a moral issue, but that it is impossible as humans to pinpoint when exactly life begins. So we have boundaries set based on when it is possible for a infant to survive outside of the womb, and the law changes as science develops. In general it is set at about 2 weeks prior to when the baby can survive. Abortion is not impossible after that, but must be tried and receive special judicial permission for the procedure. The thought is that by about 19 weeks women know they are pregnant and should have been able to make a decision by then.
In addition, there is in general a lot of social support in msot of Europe - and definitely in Sweden - for single mothers as well as non-single mothers. There is not a stigma attached to having a child out of wedlock, and no mother with a child is homeless or hungry; medical care is also provided to all.
What you observe in this society then is that there are very few children up for adoption: which verifies the idea that most women would choose to keep a child if they could.
When I had my first child, I understood the gravity of the decision, and that some women might feel they could not cope with a baby on their own.
If abortion is really a concern to a society, then instead of arguing absolutes, like what I have seen in the states, the society should act to 1) prevent unreasonably unethical abortions (late term) and 2) enable every women to be able to afford to choose life. Then the term should be profamily or promorality that everyone uses.

Of course, abortion is the taking of a human life, but it is different from the murder of
a born child or adult. Because the embryo or fetus is a very small part of a woman's body the state of that woman's body influences the condition of that embryo or fetus. In nature, when there are circumstances which would not accommodate well the development of a fetus to live birth, the body will spontaneously abort the fetus. There is no moral judgement here, only the exigencies of the situation. But we humans polarize and politicize nature, and especially human nature. An unwed pregnant woman is an object of scorn and gives other "immoral" men and women the opportunity to feel superior. The politicians and religionists have no problem exploiting this cruel defect in human behavior to suit their own self-aggrandizing ends.

Abortion is a terrible thing to choose, and yet it should not be regarded as murder in the
usual sense. Rather it should be a private matter decided by the woman involved with
counsel from whomever she chooses to take counsel with.

Tell the truth about human sexuality and educate us all as to effective methods of birth control. Sexuality is a glorious gift. Let's celebrate it rather than continue to make it something dirty by exploiting it for all manner of less than honorable reasons.

If we, as a society, would prefer to see fewer abortions we should admit that humans
are sexual beings and not pretend that the "sin" of sexual activity is worse than the instigating of illegal wars for the benefit of profits for arms manufacturers and dealers, among all the other sellers and cronies of death. Let us learn how to live in peace, not pretend that wars of aggression are not murderous, and not pretend that what one woman decides in private is any of our business, unless she demands we all do as she does.

J. Berliner
Round Rock, TX

To me, it seems that some so-called pro-life people are really only PRO-BIRTH. They seem to care nothing about the children and their mothers AFTER the birth. There is no consideration given to fund child care programs needed so the mother can work to provide a life for the child, no consideraton in the workplace for new mothers to care for their children, no health care when the children are sick, etc. These facts make me realize the imbalance of this stance, making abortion the only life issue to be concerned about. There are others like war, poverty, sickness, unjust prison systems and lack of help to youth that could prevent their getting involved in crime, the needs of the elderly -- many other life issues that have to be considered in an entire web of life, respecting it from womb to tomb. Isolating this one part of life as the only thing to be considered is
not the answer to a just world.

Both sides of the discussion could make ground by agreeing to promote adoption as a viable alternative. This seems to be the little a in the room that never is mentioned or discussed. I don't know how to discuss my stance without the word choice. I believe strongly that a woman should have the right to choose - whatever that may be - to parent, to abort or to place a child for adoption. The discussion is always so polarized between abortion and parenting that adoption never is able to enter the fray. Our country still stigmatizes women who choose to place (not give up) their child for adoption. Most in the country don't truly understand the current adoption process and that biological potential parents are actively involved in selecting who will parent their child - that is a powerful choice. Since I view the world as gray and believe that one can't fully understand a diecision made unless they too have had to make that choice, and even then each persons life is so different, so unique. Often find that those that stand firmly in the pro life world do not view the world as gray but in black and whites, firm rights and wrongs and I don't know how be being to bridge that divide - it is so elemental to my sense of the world and for others it just isn't. Because I view the world as gray I am able to accept their opinion - as long as I am provide the space to have mine.

In 1985 I attended the State University of New York in Binghamton. One day I entered a stall in the ladies restroom where someone had written on the wall, "Anyone who gets an abortion should be killed." Underneath this, someone else had written, "This is typical of the so called 'pro-life' view."

In the early 1990s, I lived in Miami, Florida and became involved with the local NOW chapter. We went to a women's health clinic one morning to counter protest a group of "pro-life" activists. The protesters stood outside with pictures of bloodied fetuses, and were clearly very passionate about wanting to save these babies. I approached one of the women and asked, "If you really want to stop abortion, why aren't you out here promoting the use of birth control and sex education?" The response I got was a shocked face and the comment, "Abstinence works."

These stories illustrate the two main problems I have with the Pro-Life movement. It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about the sanctity of life within a context of hypocrisy. Many of these same people support capital punishment as fervently as they oppose abortion rights. I don't see them out marching for children's rights, health care reform, support for the homeless and hungry, or dollars for our lagging public education system. It seems to me that these well intentioned folks don't care nearly as much about life after gestation as they do about making a point about their view of G-d's will. Where is their passion when it comes to the rights of the born? At that point the message I hear is, "You're on your own."

At the same time, it seems obvious to me that the clearest path to preventing unwanted pregnancies, and therefore reducing abortions, is the effective use of birth control - which requires accessibility and education. But the Pro-Life movement is based in a set of values that sees human sexuality as sinful, and therefore something that should be denied and repressed. In order for the issue of abortion to be squarely dealt with, the Pro-Life movement must face the fact of preventing unwanted pregnancy. Additionally, they must allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and to protect a woman's life.

I have never had an abortion, and I have two very wanted children whose lives I treasure beyond all things. I deeply believe in the sanctity and miracle of all life, including animals, trees, insects - you name it! When I was a kid, my parents made sure that I understood clearly where babies came from, and that I knew how to prevent pregnancy. When I was 14 years old I received a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves," as a gift from my father. When I was 16 and became sexually active, my mother took me to get birth control pills.

I have taught these same lessons to my children: people enjoy having sex, but there are risks of disease and unwanted pregnancy; wait to have sex until you meet the right person who you trust and who really loves you; and use birth control until you want a baby more than you want anything else in your life, because once you have a child, you need to give everything to that child.

I know that this is a complex issue, but at its very heart, I see the struggle to protect the "least of these" as a social justice issue. When we can no longer do even that, I wonder what kind of society have we become. Our beliefs obviously exist on a wide continuum, but when life actually begins does not. There is indeed a concrete beginning and I believe that the only safe place to draw that line is at conception. If not at conception, then where? The burden of arbitrarily drawing some other line is just too great.

In a Speaking of Faith podcast (The Faith Life of the Party - Part 1 The Right) I heard Krista say that she "yearns for a more nuanced discussion" about the issue. I couldn't agree more. Currently, it seems we hold very limited and unkind stereotypes of one another. Either you're a "baby killer" or your an intolerant religious nut and neither caricature is helpful in promoting understanding. When our dialogue is reduced to seeing eachother in these ways, true discussion ceases, communication shuts down and the possibility for understanding recedes from our grasp.

What I would genuinely like to understand is why the Democratic Party chooses to take such a hard line, immovable stance on abortion, especially on issues as seemingly clear cut as partial birth abortion. By being unwilling to even draw a line there, they are alienating many people of faith who might otherwise support them. I don't think I am alone in not knowing how to fit into a party that chooses to die on that "hill."

I may not know all the reasons why I take a certain position on the pro-life or pro-choice question, but I came to a decision based on what I have learned and what I believe. Science teaches that life begins in the womb and they likely are correct. But a scientist can only accept physical evidence. They do not consider the soul and religions refer to their own documents for their ‘truth’ but both would affirm that life begins at conception. The church takes comfort in the fact that it has the support of scientists on this, though they differ on many other topics. But neither religion nor science is aware of what happens in mind. The temporal embryonic brain isn’t capable of growing an eternal spirit or a mind.
One could merely accept the smug conclusions, or seek for a more inspired source - an unbiased authority. Such authorities do exist, not from science or religion, but from the higher psychic mind, and in this borderland area of life it should be considered the most reliable source since it is the connected approach.
One higher authority would be the extensive psychic readings given through Edgar Cayce, who is accorded by Jesus in His Masterpiece: A Course In Miracles, Urtext as having great accuracy.

“When he spoke of a dream in which he saw his own rather immanent reincarnation, he was perfectly accurate. He was sufficiently attuned to real communication to make it easy to correct his errors, and free him to communicate without strain. It is noticeable throughout his notes that he frequently engaged in a fallacy that we have already noted in some detail: namely, the tendency to endow the physical with nonphysical properties. Cayce suffered greatly from this error. He did not make either of the other three. However, you will remember that it is this one which is particularly vulnerable to magical associations. Cayce’s accuracy was so great that, even when he did this, he was able to apply it constructively. But it does not follow that this was a genuinely constructive approach.” Acim Urtext, Chapter 3, II. Atonement without Sacrifice, (Tuesday, November 22, 1965) http://www.courseinmiracles.com/urtext/chapter_3/section_3.htm

Edgar Cayce, the American psychic, when asked during readings about these areas of mystery could consistently describe the basic laws of operation, noting possible variations, and then answer related questions. The question of life’s beginning was put to the ‘sleeping’ Cayce on more than one occasion.

From the Edgar Cayce Reading 3744-5 (2/14/1924):

“(Q) Where does the soul come from, and how does it enter the physical body?
(A) It is already there. "and He breathed into him the breath of life, and he became a living soul", as the breath, the ether from the forces as come into the body of the human when born breathes the breath of life, as it becomes a living soul, provided it has reached that developing in the creation where the soul may enter and find the lodging place. All souls were created in the beginning, and are finding their way back to whence they came.”

Edgar was consistent in the answers he gave on the ‘breath of life’ entrance of the soul or spirit into a separated physical form.
From Edgar Cayce Reading 2390-2 (12/5/1940):

“(Q) Does a soul ever enter a body before it is born?
(A) It enters either at the first breath physically drawn, or during the first twenty-four hours of cycle activity in a material plane. Not always at the first breath; sometimes there are hours, and there are changes even of personalities as to the seeking to enter.
(Q) What keeps the physical body living until the soul enters?
(A) Spirit! For, the spirit of matter - its source is life, or God, see?”

Here, spirit is not the soul or personality but like life, it is from God and the mother is the only personality involved with the life in her womb.

The readings of Edgar Cayce inspired a team of investigators who became motivated to compose a book to help many with spiritual understanding. For several years they met with Edgar to refine their concepts for their two books called A Search for God parts 1 and 2.
From Cayce Reading 281 (Prayer Group) -53 (3/7/1941):

“(Q) The entity preparing to be born into the earth has an influence upon the mother in building its own body.
(A) No. That would be the same as saying that an atom had an influence upon that to which it could be attracted! See the variation?
As in the realms outside of the material body, we have influences that are sympathetic one to another and we have influences that have an antipathy one for another, - as in fire and water, yet they are much alike. There are other forces that are active in the same manner, or that are of the same nature.
But in the physical world there is builded a body, by the process of a physical law, see? Now: There is builded also a mental body, see?
God breathed into man the breath of life and he became a LIVING soul. Then, with the first breath of the infant there comes into being in the flesh a soul, - that has been attracted, that has been called for, by all the influences and activities that have gone to make up the process through the period of gestation, see? Many souls are seeking to enter, but not all are attracted. Some may be repelled. Some are attracted and then suddenly repelled, so that the life in the earth is only a few days. Oft the passing of such a soul is accredited to, and IS because of disease, neglect or the like, but STILL there was the attraction, was there not?
Hence to say that the body is in any way builded by an entity from the other side is incorrect. BUT those mental and physical forces that ARE builded ARE those influences needed FOR that soul that does enter!
(Q) The entity desiring to enter governs the change in sex, which may occur as late as the third month.
(A) It may occur even nineteen years after the body is born! So, it doesn't change in that direction!
(Q) The physical development of the child is wholly dependent upon the mother from whom it draws physical sustenance, but its purpose, desire and hope are built up or influenced by the minds of all concerned.
(A) That's the first question you've asked correctly. CORRECT!”

In the second question Edgar was referring to a transsexual person - one whose mental or physical sex is undecided at birth, but may be a decision made later in life. This would require surgery and hormone replacement therapy when the decision is made to change. In some cases when the body is born undecided doctors have sadly made the decision for the infant soon after birth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexual

The term spirit has been substituted for soul in this Cayce reading, 281-49 (10/23/1940):

“Then, it is not that the entire life experience is laid out for an individual when there has been received that imprint as of the first breath, or the spirit entering the body as prepared for activity in the material world. For, again, choice is left to the individual, and the personality - as to whether it is the laudation of the ego or cooperation with its fellow men, or as a consecration to the service of the Creative Forces in its material environs.
All of these are to be taken into consideration, then; just as they are indicated in the study that first prompted this search for the BEGINNINGS of individuality and personality in an entity entering and becoming active in the material complacency of a changing world.”

Later, Paul Solomon, another gifted American psychic contributed further evidence of the requirement of the first breath as the true beginning of an individual’s life in this world.
From a Paul Solomon reading about astrology (9054) http://www.paulsolomon.com/NewFiles/9054%20Astrology.doc%20[Compatibilit...

“From time to time in the latter stages of that development, the soul may often actually enter as if trying on for size, if you will excuse the term, the feeling of adapting to the material cloak that is put about the self. Brief incursions, as it were, are likely to occur during the last weeks, months of pregnancy.
But the more or less permanent entry of the soul, which causes an interaction, for lack of a better term, we would call this for the moment a radioactive, or radiological interaction between the physical instrument and the external environment. When the physical instrument leaves the mother's body, the soul causes an inhalation. The moment of this inhalation is often the same moment of soul entry into the body and for taking in of the prana. For it is during that time when the seven seals extend or make contact with, accept their entry. It is as if it were that these permeate the body, make contact with their sources, the sources of the metal minerals that give properties to the body and are taken from celestial bodies, establish their kinship with their Source in the spheres, so that in instinct made one final influence. May we attempt now to identify their extent.
For a time, from the time of conception to the time of birth, the astrological influences upon the development of the fetus are not particularly important in the sense of assigning of the conception moment. The idea of a conception chart for example is inappropriate, for the materials to use in the structure are taken from the mother's body and are converted to the entry of her birth and are under that influence. Every metal mineral and element used in the creation of that fetus comes from and is related to other spheres in the solar system.
Yet during the time of pregnancy, the stage, the mother's body is the universe. The mother's body is the zodiac to which the fetus, being earth, is in. At the moment of leaving that universe, the body then is born into another. The soul then enters to incarnate upon its earth, which the universe or the solar system in which this body, earth, matter, now is the greater solar system,
When breath through the nose and the lungs is first taken, there is a change in orientation between the elements in the body and their source in the solar system, rather than these elements relating to their source within the mother’s body.
The influences upon the developing fetus up until that moment of birth, breath, those influences had been the influences of heredity, the mother’s thoughts and actions, that activity of the mother, father, that which they contributed to the child, the karmic pattern. The thoughts have been impressed upon the soul occupying the body and such, but the influences are not particularly strong astrologically except through the influence of the mother.
At the moment of first breath, the patterns, trends, and the relationships of the heavenly bodies to one, impress into the self at a final moment the thoughts, the patterns this soul will encounter in this life, this incarnation.
That moment is the important moment for the astrological time, even though this soul has often entered and left and entered again before that moment. And be certain that after the soul entry, even after this moment of first breath, during the period of the first year in the life of a child, the soul actually spends nearly as much time outside the body as within it.”

Although the chemistry we call life begins in the womb, the soul is not in a body until it takes the breath of life by its shared will, and even after that it is not locked in, but maintains a loose connection.

Religious organizations have never been able to prohibit anything. In the 1920’s they attempted through our nations laws to prohibit alcohol and drugs which generated the social disaster known as The Roaring 20’s
Realize that if the laws are reenacted to prohibit a woman’s right to choose, abortions will continue, but rarely in a safe medical environment.

Do the unborn have responsibilities and relationships beyond those with the women carrying them?

If only life begins in the womb, does an unclaimed life form need rights?

Does a tumor have rights?

Should we assume we have the right to make one common personal decision for everyone?

Should we worry over the removal of a particular opportunity for an individual’s life in this world?

Should we consider our nation a free country after giving away our freedoms?

These must be answered from within.

“Your creation by God is the only foundation which cannot be shaken, because the light is IN it. Your starting point IS truth, and you MUST return to this Beginning. Much has been perceived since then, but nothing else has happened. That is why your Souls are still in peace, even though your minds are in conflict.
You have not yet gone back far ENOUGH and that is why you become so fearful. As you approach the beginning, you feel the fear of the destruction of your thought-systems upon you, as if it were the fear of death. There IS no death, but there IS a belief in death.
The Bible says that the tree that bears no fruit will be cut off and will wither away. Be glad! The light WILL shine from the true Foundation of Life, and your own thought-systems WILL stand corrected. They CANNOT stand otherwise. You who fear salvation are WILLING death. Life and death, light and darkness, knowledge and perception are irreconcilable. To believe that THEY can be reconciled is to believe that God and man can NOT. Only the Oneness of Knowledge is conflictless. Your Kingdom is not of this world because it was given you from BEYOND this world. Only IN this world is the idea of an authority problem meaningful. The world is not left by death but by truth, and truth CAN be known by all those for whom the Kingdom was created, and for whom it waits.” ACIM Urtext, Chapter 3, VIII. Creating versus the Self-Image, (December 11, 1965, Text, p. 45-46/50-51) http://www.courseinmiracles.com/urtext/chapter_3/section_9.htm

A newborn is a garment we all chose to wear for a while to express our individuality and to physically experience the results of our choices. But the body seems to limit our ‘reality’ to a tiny bit of time and space. For the first year we were torn between the illusion and our eternal reality, but eventually we surrendered to live another life in this world to again learn and master our past lesson failures.
Thank you for deciding with me in this life to share and to learn to find our way beyond this world of problems and testings, and to accept His Truth that will again set us free.

Blessings,

Phil Hursthouse

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

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