Peace Through Pro-Voice?

Regular readers of RH Reality
Check have no doubt encountered recent thought-provoking articles contributered by
Exhale leader Aspen Baker.

Aspen promotes a radical new approach to the abortion debate, which
is to get past the political camps known as "pro-choice" and "pro-life"
to forefront the stories of actual women who’ve had abortion, asking
them what they want and need and shaping our national conversation,
and law, in response.  Aspen calls it the "pro-voice" solution. 
I’m deeply impressed with the results you can get when you treat the
voices of women who need or have had abortions as if they matter most. 
At minimum, it’s a major step up from watching disturbing videos of
Sam Brownback rubbing his uterus-free stomach protectively while implying
that fetuses can talk.   

Taking women’s stories out
of an ideological context has great potential.  Now, many pro-choice
women feel they can’t admit to any mixed feelings about having had
abortions for fear of fueling anti-choice fire.  And, of course,
we have the growing problem of anti-choicers coaxing suffering women
into blaming every problem they’ve had, from failed relationships
to toe-stubbing, on previous abortions.  The reactions women have
to abortions are as individual as the women themselves, and it’s time
our public discourse on the subject reflected that. 

I think the pro-voice approach
has radical potential to change the debate.  But there are some
things that it just can’t do, and where we still need the more traditional,
rights-based pro-choice movement. 

Pro-choicers could really benefit
from dwelling on pro-voice methods—many of us are admittedly uncomfortable
acknowledging the experiences of women who, while knowing that they
had to end their pregnancies, mourn the loss of the potential child,
and may even use language that implies that the potential child was
real to them.  (It’s a feeling well captured in Gwendolyn Brooks’ "The Mother": "Believe me, I knew you, though
faintly, and I loved, I loved you/All.") By refusing to face this
reality, we make many women seeking help and support feel they can’t
find it in the pro-choice community.   

Pro-voice is having the courage
to believe that our convictions can handle the messiness of the real
world.  Really, we have nothing to lose.  Our nation already
embraces a pro-voice attitude about divorce.  Most people are intimately
familiar with the highs and lows of divorce, that it can be a relief
a gut-wrenching loss, or both, and it’s precisely because we
know about people’s stories that most Americans support the pro-choice
view on divorce, known generally as no-fault divorce.  

A pro-voice approach to abortion
can help the mushy middle better understand the issue, for this reason. 
Generally pro-choice Americans who support measures like parental notification
might reconsider their positions if they heard women’s stories. 
One law about parental notification or waiting periods can’t adequately
deal with the diversity of women’s experiences, but how will average
voters know this if they don’t hear stories from women who were injured
by "commonsense" regulations? 

Pro-voice could have a dramatic
impact on those who naïvely identify as "pro-life," but are unaware
of the misogynist and racist history of the movement, or don’t realize
that the movement actively fights common sense measures to spare women
unintended pregnancies, such as increased contraception access or sex
education.  Rank-and-file pro-lifers often see a few pictures of
disembodied fetuses and sign up to protest or fund-raise without giving
much thought to the women they could be hurting.  Perhaps more
exposure to the real experiences of real women could encourage them
to take a more nuanced view, and put their efforts into more productive
areas (like fighting for sex education or Title X funding expansion).   

But where I must disagree with
Aspen is on the issue of whether or not this strategy will do anything
to bring peace to the abortion wars.  At best, it would help drain
the pro-life side of the energy of naïve activists.  That might
be enough to marginalize the movement.  But it won’t shut up
the hardcore anti-choicers, who are not and have never been in this
to protect fetal life so much as reinstitute a patriarchal society that
stifles women’s hopes and dreams, rewarding "good" women who practice
submission with wifehood and punishing the rest with ostracism and poverty. 
As such, we can expect the anti-choice movement leadership to use women’s
stories for poster child purposes if they can be manipulated to their
own ends, or condemned if they conflicted with their ideology.  

We don’t even have to dwell
on figures that could, with straining, be dismissed as fringe (like
Leslee Unruh) to prove this point. Rick Warren, major political player
and of course, a shining star of the pro-life movement, is someone who
has declared that his opposition
to abortion rights is non-negotiable.
His views about abortion are inextricable from the larger tapestry of
pro-patriachy views–Warren also believes wives
should submit to their husbands
that gay marriage is immoral and should be illegal, and that victims of domestic
violence should stay with their abusers.
Abortion bans function as part of this tapestry, a way to control and
punish women.  People who view women as things to controlled and
punished aren’t going to be swayed by women’s voices, when they
don’t respect them in the first place. 

The national conversation over
abortion feels like war because it isn’t about
abortion per se. It’s the most important battle in the struggle over
the existence of the patriarchy.  The dictionary defines patriarchy as, "a form of social organization
in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or
tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging
to the father’s clan or tribe."  This explains why abortion matters
more than anything else–if we believe that "life" begins at conception,
then the father gets all the credit for making children, and this in
turn justifies male authority over women and official "ownership"
of children.  If we believe that "life" begins at some other
point in fetal development, then the credit for new people goes to women,
and patriarchal justifications dry up. 

That said, the pro-voice approach
could have a powerful effect on all the mushy middle people who identify
as "pro-life" even though they don’t have the stomach to ban abortion
or may even use abortion services themselves.  At the end of the
day, the feminist side can only reach peace if we manage to dwindle
the numbers of patriarchy enthusiasts until they are officially a marginal
group that can be safely ignored.

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  • invalid-0

    You are the poster child for why abortion should be legalized and easy to obtain.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Despite being a woman?  And therefore I deserve respect and to be treated like a person with full human rights, including the right to determine my own sex life and my right to bodily autonomy.


    You are correct, sir!  I am the poster child.  As is every woman on this planet who is currently oppressed by misogynist anti-choicers.

  • marysia

    Anonymous, what does your hostile remark accomplish?  If you are saying this as a sarcastic prolifer–then what part of prolife don’t you understand?  The part that says everyone has a right to be here and not subjected to remarks like this?



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • amanda-marcotte

    I was born in 1977, which was a time when abortion was legal and easier to get than any other time in history.  Yet I was born.  How did this happen?


    Because I was wanted.  I’m grateful my mom had the choice to abort the pregnancy, because I would hate to feel like I was forced on her.  The weird anti-choice belief that none of us would be alive unless women were legally bound reproductive slaves is a funny one, since so many of us are evidence that it’s not true.

  • invalid-0

    Amanda, I’m glad your mother wanted you.

    But does, and did, the value of your life depend on the fact of your wantedness to your mother?

    It so happens I was not wanted. So, was or is my life, before or after my birth, any less valuable than yours?

    Or was it that maybe your mother was living in a more hospitable, less stressful situation than mine? and so she was freer to recognize and honor your innate value than mine was to recognize and respect my innate value?

    Often when specific, existent children are unwanted, it is because the responsibility for them is so heaped entirely by the culture onto the mother’s already overburdened shoulders. it’s not because the children are wrong to exist.

  • amanda-marcotte

    But I don’t think a child’s value depends on their wantedness.  But a pregnancy’s, oh yeah.  Whether a pregnancy is valued or not depends 100% on the pregnant person.  I believe very strongly that women are human, and have a right to define their own experiences, like men get to.


    I would hate to exist only because the law enslaved my mother.  Because I would always be a reminder, as valuable as I am, that the law didn’t regard her as human.  Luckily, my mother had a choice.  

  • amanda-marcotte

    I don’t dwell on statements about my value before I existed, by the way.  I’m not thrown into an existential crisis because my parents could have chosen not to have me by skipping the sex that night and sleeping in instead.  I’m not out there demanding that everyone has sex all the time.  I fail to see how that choice is different than the abortion choice.  Had my mother not met my father, or had been out of town that day, or had watched TV instead, I wouldn’t exist.  I fail to see how this gives me the right to commandeer the bodies of others to soothe my existential crisis.


    People have value.  Potential people, not so much.  They certainly don’t have more value than real people, and I include women in the category of real people.

  • marysia

    Now me, I don’t worry about the lives that didn’t get conceived because people didn’t have sex, or they used contraception, or had forms of sex that could never lead to procreation.

     But once a pregnancy starts–two interconnected and equally valuable lives and bodies exist.  Both equally deserving of the utmost social support, whether or not the woman chooses to raise the child herself, or have someone else raise the child.

    This, Amanda, is why I oppose abortion.  It is not because I am some covert enemy of contraception, LGBT rights, or any other practices that really are about the right to one’s body. Indeed I fully support all these practices in their own right, as a matter of civil liberties, and as utterly necessary measures for reducing abortion.

    This is not a view based on "naivete" but on bearing witness to the reproductive sufferings of many, many women, and on a strong aspiration to create better, more humane alternatives than abortion OR ELSE.

    I don’t have an existential crisis over those who never came into existence at all.  But I mourn all those whose existent lives are cut short, whether this happened before or after birth, through whatever form of preventable lifetaking, not only abortion–it makes no sense to single out abortion without also challenging every other thing that takes and hinders existent lives.  And because I mourn, I work for better ways.


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    Life does exist prior to conception…you just don’t value it.

  • marysia

    I’m not sure why you bring this up.  Are you implying that my position regarding fetal life is as absurd as giving equal rights to sperm cells or ova?  I’ve been told repeatedly by some prochoicers that as a prolifer I am supposed to have funerals every time someone menstruates or ejaculates, but sorry..I am not that ridiculous!

    If that’s what you’re up to…Of course sperm cells and ova by themselves are simply part of one organism.  They are no more distinct, rights-bearing lives than any other cells belonging to the organism, in and of themselves.  But if a sperm and an ovum combine, there’s a giant shift, there’s the start of a new organism.

    Now of course that doesn’t settle the question of whether that new biological human life is to be regarded as a socially human life as well.

    But as a disabled woman whose family hails from several genocided ethnic and racial groups, I am very wary of any attempts to exclude any biologically human lives, born or unborn, from the definition of socially human lives. Especially on the grounds of "dependency" or "biological inferiority."



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • jodi-jacobson


    Totally right on.

    Jodi Jacobson

  • aspen-baker



    I am so glad you have taken this on.  You’ve laid out some potential effects of a pro-voice approach and asked some great questions. 


    The primary thing I want to clarify is about "peace."  Peace is not the absence of conflict and in no way am I suggesting that there will be a time when everyone will agree on abortion. That’s not possible, and in fact, is not ideal in my mind. Our individual and cultural values about abortion are deeply rooted in who we are and how we see the world, some of which you have pointedly laid out in your article.  


    Rather, peace is about how we deal with and approach the conflict that is inherent in human existence.  There are many stages of peace and ways to peace and what it gives us is a less-adversarial, less divisive cultural discourse and climate around abortion.  This can be good for so many reasons.  In particular, and from the viewpoint of Exhale whose constituency is women who have had abortions, less war and more peace is better for everyone’s emotional well-being.


    What you are suggesting is that pro-choice should win the war, because pro-choice is a morally better position and because your opponnets are really bad in all kinds of ways.  This is why and how conflict and war continues.  We use the ways we have been wronged or hurt or "the truth of who they really are" to justify our continued investment in conflict, in winning and in war.  


    That is one way to go and is for sure the most common way we deal with conflict here in the US, especially conflict where so much is at stake and where there are deep and fundamental differences that make it hard to imagine resolution. 


    I am suggesting we make investments in a different kind of approach  and that we hold onto the vision and the possibility that a new day is possible, that peace is possible.  I don’t accept that what we have now is all we can hope for, but just a little bit better.  


    I would also like to encourage the readers to check out the comments that follow a recent interview with me that is posted on the blog Mother Talkers: It is only the second time in four years that this blog has covered abortion and its gotten its mommy members talking. I believe a pro-voice approach invites new conversations that would not normally be heard, and it is more voices that we need on this issue, not less. 


    I also want to thank you for helping me get more clear on what I want to write for my next article in my series "peace for the abortion war." I can’t wait to finish it and read your response!


  • harry834

    "We use the ways we have been wronged or hurt or ‘the truth of who they
    really are’ to justify our continued investment in conflict, in winning
    and in war. "



    If the facts support that many of these individuals and groups will continue to spread lies and create these anti-freedom laws, then isn’t it our duty to call this out and advocate stopping them?

    And the act of "stopping them" is far more practical than the concept of revenge, which seems to be where you were going in that statement I pasted. Were you?

    I’ll agree that sometimes the anger of our side might be counter-productive (and I don’t have examples of this, just imagining it), but isn’t there a need to see our opponents for who they truly are, not as we wish them to be?

    I advocate a case-by-case judgment of each individual and group. We should not have to choose between "assuming the best" and "assuming the worst". Let’s assume neither, until we have facts to support our judgment of a certain group, a certain set of groups, a certain individuual.

    And it seems Amanda has backed up her claims, yes no?

  • harry834

    The former deals with avenging wrongs past. The latter deals with stopping wrongs present and future. I advocate for the latter.

  • colleen

    "What you are suggesting is that pro-choice should win the war, because
    pro-choice is a morally better position and because your opponnets are
    really bad in all kinds of ways."


    This trivializes  what Amanda had to say to an insulting degree while simultaneously denying the realities of anti-choice tactics and goals.






  • harry834

    If the data (facts, observations, properly measured empiricals) say that the anti-choicers do these terrible things and can’t be reasoned with, then we deal with that reality.

    If the data does not support this, then we work with a different reality.

    Should we trust someone or not? It all depends on the accurately recorded observations. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to those who show proof of trust (through their actions, behaviors, all observed)

  • invalid-0

    “Equally valuable” is lovely rhetoric…but if you had suggested it to the Better Half during the final hours of a doomed gestation…he would have caustically informed you…in great detail… why his wife’s life and health was of far greater value.

    The point being…”equally valuable” is so much hooey…if you are asking the people most directly involved. Feel free to check with the women themselves, and their husbands and kids…about who is more “valuable”…and get back with us.

    I can pretty much guarantee you that the person that exists will claim the greater value.

  • amanda-marcotte

    But I don’t think that happens before really late in the pregnancy, sometime between 30 weeks and birth.  And even then, the actual life of the woman still matters more to me, since she’s a proven, real, not potential life.


    Sorry, I just can’t rank a fertilized egg over a woman.  I don’t think sperm have more rights than people, and once again, I consider women people.  The women-are-people thing really keeps me from being able to entertain the idea that we should give rights to mindless embryos.


    But this argument is as old as the hills.  You won’t budge me off my solid, unshakeable belief that women are human, and therefore deserve full human rights.  Claiming that "life" begins when men shoot off only convinces me that you really do put men over women, and think that women’s hard work of 9 months is worth nothing of value.  I see no way to believe life begins at fertilization without erasing women’s lives and work in a fundamental way.  To claim that men make life by ejaculating is to ignore biology in favor of sexist religious dogma.  Women make lives with the hard work of their bodies that takes  9 months.


    But yes, of course, living, breathing human beings have value.


    I just happen to count women in that group.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Your stance is that a woman’s bodily autonomy ends if a sperm manages to get hold of one of her eggs.  This is fundamentally sexist, ranking not just men over women, but men’s fluids over women’s rights.

  • aspen-baker

    Apologies that my attempt to summarize seemed insulting or trivializing –  not my intention.  And, when I think of all the wars and all the conflicts in all the lands and all the horrible things that have been done by and against others because they are different, because someone else treated them worse, first, the abortion war pales in comparison.  And, if it is possible for those peoples to find new ways to be together, then we certainly can too. We have a choice in how we respond to the actions of others: we can be informed by their actions but they need not determine ours.

  • amanda-marcotte

    I agree with you that forefronting the voices of women who’ve had abortions has a great deal of power to calm some of the hair-pulling on this issue, but I think it’s fundamentally going to be pro-choice.  The axis of the debate is over whether or not women should have equal esteem and rights to men.  Anti-choicers are, in my experience, either patriarchs commited to an entire litany of anti-feminist actions to restore women to gender roles they think are appropriate, the old-fashioned barefoot and in the kitchen stance.  And then there’s pro-lifers who’ve been sucked in by the baby rhetoric and haven’t considered how it’s fundamentally sexist to deny that women make babies with hard work and instead imply that only the man’s effort counts. 


    This latter group can be appealed to by putting a human face to the issue.  Women who have abortions are objectified as voiceless victims by the anti-choice movemen at best.  More often they’re ignored completely—all women are.  Fetuses are portrayed like in this ad—invariably male, floating out in the world with no reference to a woma, and much later in the pregnancy then in the vast majority of abortions.  This erasure of women’s work, women’s bodies, women’s voices, and women’s lives bespeaks a deep misogyny that drives the movement.  If people in it haven’t really thought about these ramifications, they’re probably going to shaken awake by women’s voices on the issue.  But if they really don’t care, and the leadership of the anti-choice movement doesn’t, then they won’t budge an inch.


    I simply don’t think the moral standing of the two sides is equivalent.  Pro-choicers have major flaws, but on the whole, they are committed to equality and truly committed to life (both existence of and quality of).  They are also pretty straightforward about their motivations and the feminism that drives it.  It’s about promoting the welfare of women, and pro-choice behavior usually reflects this.  Not flawlessly, but beliefs and actions are pretty consistently pro-woman.


    But I see a disconnect between claimed beliefs and actions in pro-lifers.   Ampersand drew up an interesting chart on this, showing the disconnect between the stated belief (abortion is murder) and the demonstrated belief (abortion bans are part of a patriarchal agenda).


    The thing is, I see a lot of hardened pro-lifers grow more sympathetic not just from hearing women’s voices, but being exposed to the fundamental dishonesty that drives anti-choice activism. 


    I pretty much agree with you.  I’ve flinched when I’ve read pro-choicers who say that we should impress upon women who get abortions their need to support the pro-choice movement, when that’s probably not a good time to approach anyone.  We shouldn’t forget the human people we’re fighting for.  But we also shouldn’t forget that this is fundamentally a fight over rights and whether women should have them, and the axis of the legal battle turns on that question.

  • aspen-baker

    I think my question for you is, if this is a fundamental debate about rights, which is where the conflict has been for the last 35 years, what needs to change, and how can it change, so that its not another 35 years like this? 

  • amanda-marcotte

    Thirty-five years seems like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not.  We’re trying to overturn thousands of years of patriarchy, and that’s not going to be a small task.  It took suffragettes over a centurty to get the vote for women, and not one of the original suffragists lived to see it happen.  


    Compared to other social justice movements, the pace of change for feminism has been remarkable, actually.  You look at how hard it’s been to get even a modicum of justice for African-Americans in our society.  It took decades and a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people to get slavery abolished, and immediately a series of different methods of keeping black people down and their labor cheap cropped up—sharecropping, segregation, wage slavery.  The Civil Rights Act wasn’t signed until 101 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and still things have not improved for a huge percentage of black people who are still stuck in poverty and treated like second class citizens.  Oppressive social forces are incredibly stubborn, and oppressors are, too.


    Honestly, the legalization of abortion happened with remarkable speed, for various historical reasons.  I also think it’s taken on the flavor of being a last stand issue for the pro-patriarchs.  After all, pregnancy, more than anything, is what makes men and women different, and putting control of it in male hands is a powerful symbol of male power.  It also, for pragmatic reasons, maintains the patriarchy one family at a time.  Look at the Bristol Palin situation, and you have all the hopes of anti-choicers bundled up in one shot—that instead of going to college and getting jobs where they compete with men on equal footing, teenage girls can have pregnancy used against them to streamline them into young marriages and low-paid, pink collar work or no work at all.  For young women living in povery, unintended pregnancy works to perpetuate the cycle.  Middle-class, rich, poor—the point is that mandatory childbirth keeps you down in all sorts of ways.


    This is where we have more most radical agreement—we’re in this to prove that women are human, and our institutions should exist to help humans, not hurt them.  I think pro-voice works on two levels for that reason—it helps pro-choicers establish that women are human and deserve rights, but it also establishes that women are human and deserve empathy, which is much harder to define legally but just as critical.

  • marysia


    I think you are sorely, sorely mistaking me for someone else?

    Because if you knew anything about me and what makes me tick, you might begin to understand that even if we disagree about when life begins, the difference in our opinions is not due to misogyny on my part.  You still might not find my argument convincing, but at least you would understand my motives better, which is valuable in its own right regardless of whether or not any "persuasion" takes place.

    Instead of assuming that you can know the horrific motives of every "antichoicer" beforehand–why not listen for a moment to those of us who don’t live down to your a priori assumptions?  Instead of just dismissing us as "naive" or deluded?

    How can I *not* be aware of and value the hard, nine months work of a woman that is behind every human being on this planet?  I gave birth to and raised an unplanned daughter in very difficult circumstances, thank you very much.  And I am helping through her own difficult pregnancy and beyond as she finishes school and  cares for her child, who fortunately is OK now but was born with very serious, life threatening disabilities…thank you very much again…


    And I have borne witness to many, many other women’s reproductive stories and experiences, and helped whenever and however I can.  I have spent most of my adult life fighting for everything most prochoicers would recognize as reproductive justice, minus one issue…and that is only because I have my well-considered, agonized-over reasons to believe that ultimately lifetaking, and the situations which lead up to it, run contrary to justice.  (I certainly didn’t end up there because I want to win either prolife or prochoice popularity contests!)

    And it’s not because I believe that there’s an almighty squirt that sanctifies a human life into being.  Please. The sperm can’t go *anywhere* to help create a new life unless and until it gets to the much larger egg and the egg admits it!

     In fact, during the nineteenth century, the discovery of the process of conception horrified patriarchs.  It contradicted their dogma since Aristotle that pregnancy was just the "animating" male principle taking over the "passive" and "inert" material of the womb.

     But early feminists, on the other hand, loved the discovery.  Their attitude was, "See!  science proves that women contribute equally to new lives–and then some!"

    And I feel that if our culture provided more *real* as opposed to merely rhetorical respect for those equal-plus contributions, the abortion rate would plummet.  because women would really have more freedom in sex and contraception, including women who wish to remain childfree (a perfectly valid way to spend a life), and women would have more support to get through hard pregnancies and beyond without resort to abortion…What a horrid misogynist I am, to work for such a world!!



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia

    Thank you, this is good and encouraging to hear.



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia


    Personally, I wish you would try harder to listen to those who are trying to explain to you that their position on abortion is *not* motivated by a zeal to impose "mandatory motherhood" or force teen moms into bad heterosexual marriages and bad jobs.


    You don’t have to agree.  but I wish you wouldn’t leap to the conclusions you do about us.  Trying to listen would be a real work of peace.

    Just as prolifers try to make peace when we honor the fact that prochoicers can have thoughtful and compassionate motives, and try to work with prochoicers in reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. 

    If you are confident in your own prochoice stance, what do you have to lose by listening to these complexities?

     Any stance that is based on "win-lose" rather than looking for "win-win"–whether it is an antiabortion or abortion rights stance–will cut out large areas of human complexity.  And so it cuts out possibilities for substantive alliances and for respectfully held differences.  This just adds to the climate of hostility and frustration that arises inevitably when people feel unheard and disrespected.

    Like Aspen, I would rather not have another 35 years of this.  There are a lot of us who don’t relish the prospect either. We have to find something better than this war-to-the-death of "Woman v. Fetus."


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia

    I don’t deny there are medical situations where only one person’s life and health can be spared, and usually that person is the woman rather than the fetus. 

    I myself went through a real rollercoaster of an unplanned, medically complicated pregnancy, and it’s surprising my daughter and I both survived it.  So please don’t assume I don’t know about these situations, and I am sorry you and your family had to go through such an experience.


    However, in many, many more situations, the conflict between the woman and the fetus is directly created by societal circumstances that pit them against each other, causing abortion to appear the only or the least bad alternative.  if the culture learned to value both equally instead of being a partisan of just the woman, or just the fetus, the abortion rate would likely plummet…It need not be mere lovely rhetoric.


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • colleen

    "I wish you would try harder to listen to those who are trying to
    explain to you that their position on abortion is *not* motivated by a
    zeal to impose "mandatory motherhood" or force teen moms into bad
    heterosexual marriages and bad jobs."


    I don’t care what ‘pro-lifers’ believe their motivations to be. I care about the inevitable and horrible results of public policies they support. Should y’all succeed in recriminalizing Roe v Wade it would indeed  impose mandatory motherhood on millions of women just as the agenda of the religious right devalues the lives of women and girls and limits our lives. You may not LIKE that conclusion but the results you list so mockingly are precisely some of the results of recriminalizing abortion.

    "and try to work with prochoicers in reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions. 


    With NFP? Because that’s what you were advocating for a few days ago. It was clear that it was more important to you to sell and validate a ‘family planning’ method with an outrageously high failure rate even for women in stable, monogamous relationships than to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions amoungst Title X recipients. 


  • invalid-0

    Who was claiming that life begins when men shoot off? Conception usually doesn’t take place until hours or even days later.

    I’m a woman who has gestated a child, and I don’t see how it diminishes my hard work one iota to acknowledge the biological fact that she was a human being the entire time she lived inside of me. I think it would diminish me a lot more if I had to deny reality in order to feel that what I had done was significant.

    You won’t budge me off my solid, unshakeable belief that women are human, and therefore deserve full human rights.

    Of course nobody’s trying to. This is so dishonest of you.

  • amanda-marcotte

    And I know that you schtick is to be the "good" pro-lifer who doesn’t hate women.  I just think you’re misguided.  If you take the misogyny out of the pro-life movement, there’s nothing left.

  • amanda-marcotte

    If you believe it’s when a sperm penetrates the egg, you are, and there’s no nice way to say this, saying that life begins when men make it happen.  Sure, it may take hours or days, but you’re giving all credit to the man.  This view of pregnancy posits that men create life, and women merely house it.


    If that.  Most anti-choice materials don’t even show the woman surrounding the fetus.  They also strenuously ignore what a fetus looks like around the most common time of abortion, (a bag of goo, albeit a fascinating bag of goo) focusing solely on later term fetuses.  The sort of chronic dishonesty is what makes me distrustful of anyone who associates with anti-choicers, even if they claim to be otherwise feminist.  Their dishonesty should turn you off unless you share it.

  • amanda-marcotte

    But I saw you promoting an ineffective form of contraception that will result in pregnancy in most women who use it.  And I was disappointed.  So far the hunt for a truly pro-prevention pro-lifer continues.

  • invalid-0

    Amanda I honestly don’t see anyone trying to tell you that women are less than human. Believe me if someone was trying to say that we’d all be straightening him out but you seem to be the only one who interperted any of the previous comments that way. I’d be curious to know which commenter you believe said or meant this. Also the idea that life probably begins at thirty weeks gestation. You might want to rethink that. Recently, I spoke with another parent waiting for her preschooler. He had just turned three. He was born three and a half months premature and when he came out of that school he was the happiest healthiest little guy. Jabbering away and didn’t miss a trick. You would never have known he was premature but for being a little smaller than the other kids. He obviously wasn’t born dead. He was born alive. At 24 weeks.

  • invalid-0

    If you believe it’s when a sperm penetrates the egg, you are, and there’s no nice way to say this, saying that life begins when men make it happen.

    If you ever once listened to someone who disagreed with you instead of telling them what they were *really* saying, I would fall over dead of shock.

    I do not interpret the biological reality of sexual reproduction as meaning that only men’s contribution counts. That is a distorted and sexist interpretation, and I would appreciate you not imputing it to me.

    Sure, it may take hours or days, but you’re giving all credit to the man.

    No. You are wrong.

    I give credit to myself and my partner for co-creating my daughter’s life. I give credit to myself for sustaining her life and meeting her needs as she developed. And I give credit to HER for being a separate organism whose development was self-directed. I didn’t build my daughter a brain, you know? Once her father and I started her on the way, she built it herself. I’m not going to take credit for that in an attempt to prop myself up. I don’t need to — what I actually did was hard enough and important enough. I don’t need to refer to her with ignorant and demeaning language such as “a bag of goo” to assert my own personhood, either.

  • invalid-0

    Right on colleen, I’m not much concerned about their motivations either but share the concern about the results of their policies. Not all of us believe that life begins when the sperm penetrates the egg or in mandatory motherhood. I don’t value the embryo the same as women, nor do I translate equal value to include rights to my body for a fetus.

  • harry834

    opposing abortion personally vs advocating for it to be re-criminalized. Though many (if not most) pro-lifers would say they support both premises.

    And if you support the re-criminilization of abortion, then you are asking that the government take the choice away from women, even if that idea sounds dislikeable to some otherwise-good pro-lifers. If you support a ban/excessive restriction on abortion, then the woman is then not allowed to make that choice for herself.

    Is this clear enough? I’m being serious. I really want to be exact in my explanations, as many have guessed.


  • harry834

    even if you hate the idea of forced motherhood as much as we do, the fact is supporting the re-criminilization of abortion creates just that horrible scenario.

    Also, do you support other forms of contraception, besides NFP. And do you agree that NPF has a higher failure rate than say, the pill or condom? If not, why not? I honestly want to hear your data.

  • harry834

    This seems to be the crux of what Amanda is getting at. It may sound TMI, but it makes the point. The man squirts, the woman endures the 9 months. It is fair to proclaim the latter as significantly more difficult.

    That said, I’ve read a little on the topic of embryo development, and it seems that the entire molecular process is one that begins before conception, and the sperm and egg go through many journeys. Then the embryo does its own thing, as Jen R said, "self-directed".

    However, these molecular jouneys traveled by sperm, egg, and embryo are not what women and men experience. Women always experience the nine months of burden (more than I could describe or imagine) whether or not they wanted it. A man will stay and help his partner if he is good. Jen R’s husband did this. But other men do not. But either way the women must ALWAYS bear the nine month burden, while the men only has to squirt.

    Jen R’s husband – and the many husbands, boyfriends, and partners who are as nurturing – play an important non-biological, but spiritual role in supporting the mother and child-to-be. But they do not represent the whole of menkind. And the desire to be a mother does not represent the whole of womenkind.


  • marysia

    You know who I am! Well good for you!  It’s not like I’m hiding, or have any hidden agendas.


    And my "shtik" is to do my best to value all lives, born and unborn, as best I can.  There is more company in this that you appear to believe. 

    If you cannot accept it when I say I work for women’s lives and wellbeing, too, only in a different way than you do, I can’t do much about that.  But I know what is in my heart, and it is not misogyny.



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia

    Colleen, I don’t believe women should be criminalized for having abortions.  The real problem is that women lack other and better choices.  When those are available, the abortion rate will take care of itself. 

    if anyone should be criminalized it is a culture that so often places women  in situations where abortion looks the only or least bad way.


    Why, for example, should a poor woman and her child have to sacrifice , simply because the company she works for denies her right to a living wage and works against their right to health care?


    Colleen, after Harry’s questions below, I will post some info about FAM and its effectiveness.


    If you look at the comments on Cristina Page’s article re the FAM/NFP researchers, you will find a number of prochoicers who also defend the method.

    And why do you assume I haven’t done anything to promote access to ALL methods for poor women who rely on Title X?  I have done things to support Title X expansion, and encouraged others to do the same.

    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    I don’t know if Marysia has left the field in disgust by this point, but I can tell you that she absolutely does support other forms of contraception, including public funding for it:

  • marysia

    See below after Harry’s questions–info on FAM/NFP and its effectiveness.




    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • colleen

    "I honestly don’t see anyone trying to tell you that women are less than human."

    Look, the bottom line is that when you describe yourself as  ‘pro-life’ you’re saying that you wish to see Roe overturned and abortion criminalized once again and that, politically, you work towards that goal.

     In order to take such a  stance one has to dehumanize and depersonalize other women to an extraordinary degree while simultaneously practicing deep denial about the very real and widespread  suffering such a change would cause. You have to pretend that all other women are or should be just like you.  There’s no doubt that in trying to overturn Roe and criminalize abortion you are trying to force other women to conform to your belief system and in doing so you would deny other women whop do not agree with you the  basic rights of freedom of conscience, religion and the right to bodily autonomy. And if that isn’t dehumanizing hatred it’s a pretty good imitation

  • marysia

    Harry, these are fair questions.

    Once again, i don’t think criminalizing women for abortion accomplishes anything.  There is a collective responsibility to ensure that no woman and no unborn baby, or as few as possible, ever end up in a situation where abortion appears the only or the least bad choice.  And our very high abortion rate in the US speaks to how miserably we have failed this collective responsibility.


    I absolutely support *all* forms of voluntary pregnancy prevention, whether the various permanent or reversible contraceptives, outercourse, same-sex relations, FAM/NFP, or abstinence.


    No method of prevention works without diligent practice–same for FAM as anything else.  But the socalled "natural" methods, the more recently developed and scientifically based ones, can be just as effectively as other methods that more prochoicers approve of.


    The Fertility Awareness Center is a nonreligious and (I think) prochoice feminist effort.  The FAQs address concerns about effectiveness:


    Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers is the evidence-based manual used by UNFPA and the World Health Organization. Among many other methods, it includes chapters on FAM and one on another "natural" method, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (based on breastfeeding practices & as much as 98% effective):

    By the way, I encourage everyone to visit this site and help out in the global distribution of this manual.  A mere ten dollars will pay for one copy of the manual, in the appropriate language, to be given to a health provider in the Two Thirds World.  That’s a ten dollar bill with a big impact.




    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia

    Thanks, JenR!



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia

    Combining two (or three!) methods of prevention–any of the methods– diligently can boost their effectiveness.


    FAM is no exception.  It can be combined with barrier methods during the fertile period or throughout the cycle.  Some couples to be absolutely careful practice outercourse only during the fertile period, and barrier methods (if anything else) during the remainder of the cycle.



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    “Abortion is baaaaad, unless it gets rid of some uppity female I don’t like.”

  • marysia

    if we do not care about what moves our respective and different passions, on this or any other important issue, then we fail to recognize one another as equal human beings who all have something to offer–regardless of who is "right" or "wrong."

     by the way colleen i do not think fears of involuntary motherhood and concerns about what happens to young moms are trivial and contemptible.  not in the least.  i share these concerns, i just don’t think abortion, lifetaking, belongs in the repertoire of solutions.  that’s different  from saying these issues about motherhood are dismissable.

    if i didn’t share these concerns i would not for example be taking care of my grandson now so his young mom can go to her college classes and his young dad can get better pay on the night shift.  i would not advocate contraception and open, ethical adoption..but bye for now, the baby needs a new diaper!


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    Harry didn’t ask about ‘criminalizing women for abortion’. He asked about re-criminalizing abortion. There is a difference which you dodge in your answers.

  • colleen

    "Colleen, I don’t believe women should be criminalized for having abortions"

    That’s a clumsy tapdance on your part. My point was that you and other ‘pro-lifer’  folks DO want to see Roe overturned and abortion criminalized. This is what folks mean when they speak of being ‘pro-life”.If y’all succeed in having Roe overturned a good many women will be jailed and worse whether you believe they should be or not.

    "The real problem is that women lack other and better choices.  When
    those are available, the abortion rate will take care of itself." 

    I don’t believe that that is the real problem at least not on my planet. I know very few women who have regretted their decision to have an abortion or would have willingly carried to term had their financial circumstances been different.

    "If you look at the comments on Cristina Page’s article re the FAM/NFP
    researchers, you will find a number of prochoicers who also defend the


    You mean the commenters who were all using the same set of inane talking points about how "empowering" it was of the woman was good at "communicating with her partner" and never addressing Christine’s honest, well expressed and practical arguments? 

    "And why do you assume I haven’t done anything to promote access to ALL methods for poor women who rely on Title X? "

    I don’t recall expressing that assumption or, for that matter, expressing any interest in your activities at all. I was responding to your comments  in that thread. Specifically your rather strident defense of a non-contraceptive method which, under optimal conditions, has a  failure rate of 25%. You dismissed the failure rate

    by saying, "As for effectiveness, when condoms, diaphragms, and pills are not practiced diligently and correctly, they don’t work, either."

     a statement which, though factually correct, implies that the high failure rate for NFP is not the fault of the method but, rather, the women who become pregnant using the method. You’re wrong.  The problem is the method. As a practical matter, NPF like abstinence-only-sex- education does not work or at least not if you’re primarily interested in working to prevent unwanted pregnancies and, thus, abortions..


  • marysia

    i am not evading anything.  if i think criminalizing women is wrong, why, pray tell, would i approve of recriminalization?

    it makes me sad that i can’t try to have a conversation around here without icynical suspicion and inspection of every word and phrase. not on everyone’s part to be sure, but, more often than not…

    but such is the nature of the abortion war.  i am here because i want to find ways past it, but it’s no easy feat.  just important and necssary. 


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • marysia

    if i dont’ advocate criminalization, why on earth would i promote *re*criminalization?



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    No one ever asks you if you favor ‘criminalizing women’ but that is always how you answer.. You did the same thing to both Harry and colleen and in other threads on this blog. The question is never ‘do you favor criminalizing women?’ yet you only answer as if it was. I know many ‘pro-lifers’ that do favor criminalizing abortion but not criminalizing women.

  • invalid-0

    of women or abortion?

  • colleen

    "if i think criminalizing women is wrong, why, pray tell, would i approve of recriminalization?"


    The problem is that the phrase you keep using "criminalizing women" does not mean anything. One does not ‘criminalize’ a gender. ‘Pro-life’ people want to overturn Roe and criminalize abortion. It’s what most people in the US mean and understand by ‘pro-life’.  Sometimes ‘pro-life’ folks say that don’t want women jailed if they’ve had an abortion and so I imagine that several people, myself included, thought this was your meaning when you spoke of not wanting to ‘criminalize women’.


  • marysia

    Well, if I don’t believe in criminalization to begin with, why, pray tell, would I believe in *re*criminalization? recriminalization wouldn’t solve anything either.





    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    Yep, another dodge…

  • marysia

    I am not interested in putting anyone in jail, but alleviating problems that cause unintended pregnancies and abortions.  That’s what matters even more than the question of the law, so this is where I focus.

    I don’t know if you would like this thought, but when I encounter criticisms such as I am encountering from you and from some other people here, I really do have to wonder: how would we speak with one another if it was in person, where we could see one another’s faces?


    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • invalid-0

    If I saw you face to face just now I’d still ask you to clarify the question ‘do you favor criminalizing abortion ?’. Just because I’m still asking you to clarify doesn’t mean its a matter of being behind a keyboard. If I were constantly answering a question differently than what was asked of me then I deserve the criticism that I’m not answering the question…I’m not treating you any different than I expect to be treated when I don’t actually answer the question asked.

  • harry834

    I’ve read through the back and borth on the question I asked. I do appreciate colleen and anonymous trying to ensure that I got a complete and thorough answer.

    And yes, we know of many (if not most) pro-lifers that want to criminilize abortion, while saying they would never criminilize women. Usually they mean they would put the doctor in jail, but not the woman.

    But I’m seeing that Marysia isn’t aiming to put anyone in jail, not just by her words but by her advocacy work. I think that her views on the beginnings of life, we might disagree on. But I don’t see any reason to think her advocacy work is aiming at putting anyone in jail, woman, doctor, or anyone.


  • invalid-0

    Everyone should read this because it provides knowledge that many people don’t have. The body is not the person. The “person” is the soul that is using the body to develop their full mental, emotional, ethical and spiritual potential. It develops these ways by doing good for the right reason, meaning an unselfish one. Research has shown that when someone helps someone else, they feel better as a result. Every act should be based on the idea: “First, do no harm.” If a soul hasn’t yet reached full development, it will return to live again and again until it does reach full development. While it doesn’t state in the bible what full development is, Jesus’s statement “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” describes karma. Everyone should do the best they can and let karma work things out. It will always work out for each soul. I’m a straight single senior who loves everyone and know that when I do remarry, it will be when the love is deep and the desire to make sure my wife knows how deep it is in all ways. I would do everything I could to increase her pleasure from being married to me. Everyone should feel this way. The way to gain the state of consciousness and development of heart is through the Transcendental Meditation technique. This develops full consciousness and that results in maximizing all the positive qualities of being human and eliminating the negative ones.

  • colleen


    I was trying to get a complete answer for myself and the question I asked is if Marysia wants to see Roe v Wade overturned and abortion, not women, recriminalized.

    My sense from her remarkably nonresponsive answers to  fairly straightfoward questions is that you and I have reached a different conclusion.  I think she is saying that despite the fact that she is allied with people who do work towards the criminalzation of Roe (because, after all, she believes abortion is some form of murder) she herself devotes her efforts toward ‘helping’ the poor women.

    I could be wriong in my understanding of her intentions but, then, it’s been  a little like dealing with  Alberto Gonzoles.

  • invalid-0

    I think men should be reminded that they are all female for the first six weeks of life, and that they came from a women which makes them no better than she!!The former was scientifically proven many years ago and was hardly discussed. Geee I wonder why!

  • invalid-0

    They should of gotten rid of you!!

  • invalid-0

    “Jail” is not the only way to criminalize something – doctors could have their licenses revoked or have hefty fines as the penalty instead.

  • marysia

    I accidentally posted more than one response to the "dodge" accusation
    because the first and second response did not show up and I thought
    they were lost.  Apologies.

    I do not think I deserve to be jumped upon or called an Alberto Gonzales (compared to an apologist for torture!) simply because my answers to these questions about the law are complex, painstaking, and do not instantly fit into the tiny little either/or boxes that turn the abortion issue into a counterproductive caricature of what it needs to be to be truly humane.

    But I am leaving this particular discussion at this point because I have the sinking feeling that no matter what I say or do, I will be found lacking, lacking, lacking and worse–automatically, by definition.

    For example, because I support FAM/NFP as one choice among other prevention choices–never mind that some committed prochoice feminists do this, too, never mind that I have looked through the evidence on its effectiveness rates compared to those of other methods–well, that somehow makes me an underminer of women’s prevention needs!


    The abortion war rages on in large part because partisans on both "sides" are far more interested in the dubious joys of decreeing, "I’m right, you’re WRONG!" than in finding ways to make peace and creating other possibilities for women and children.


     If anyone here is serious about productive dialogue and shared
    solutions, and I gather that some of the more kindly spoken people here
    are, you are welcome to visit Nonviolent Choice, whatever it is that
    you bring to the table.



    Nonviolent Choice Directory,

  • colleen

    "I do not think I deserve to be jumped upon or called an Alberto
    Gonzales (compared to an apologist for torture!) simply because my
    answers to these questions about the law are complex, painstaking, and
    do not instantly fit into the tiny little either/or boxes that turn the
    abortion issue into a counterproductive caricature of what it needs to
    be to be truly humane."

    The questions were not complex at all and neither are the answers. I asked if you wanted to see Roe overturned and abortion, not women, criminalized. In reply you kept saying you didn’t want to see "women criminalized" despite the fact that this phrase makes no sense at all. You tapdanced around these simple questions and now are pretending that the answers are too complex.

    I didn’t call you Alberto Gonzoles, I said that you answer questions or, rather, speak and do not answer questions like Alberto Gonzoles. 

    "The abortion war rages on in large part because partisans on both
    "sides" are far more interested in the dubious joys of decreeing, "I’m
    right, you’re WRONG!" than in finding ways to make peace and creating
    other possibilities for women and children."


    1. You don’t get to peace by being dishonest and evasive

    2. As I said I do not care about your motives, I care about the results of the policies you  support and the women that people like you do and will harm. 


  • invalid-0

    The questions are:

    1) Do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned? Yes or No

    2) Do you want to see abortion become a crime again? Yes or No

    It doesn’t get any easier than that.

    I also want to know:

    3) Do you propose that, since life is the ultimate right, men and women both should be required to give blood, donate bone marrow, partial livers, skin to those who require them to live (and are a good tissue match)? Or does this “right to life” apply only to zygotes/embryos/fetuses at the expense of only women?

  • invalid-0

    Asking whether or not one favors criminalization of abortion is a common question used in polling etc…it doesn’t turn the issue into a ‘counterproductive caricature of what it needs to be to be truly humane’. You could have acknowledged that you are qualifying your answer, when asked. This has nothing to do with “I’m right” “your wrong” …it was a matter of continuing to act like your answering a question when you are in fact, not doing so.

    You told colleen and I to care about what ‘moves’ your passion ….however going round and round like this on a single question leaves me no reason to believe that dialogue would be productive.

  • invalid-0

    As I read the comments here and watch this same debate on countless Websites and every election cycle, I conclude the following:

    If you are a devout Christian and ardent defender of the Declaration of Independence/Constitution, you typically are pro-live. The legal immigrants who take the time to read the early American documents, see that our founders recognized that we are all endowed with certain unalienable rights by our Creator. Even the luke-warm Christian will admit that God is the author of all life and that “He knew you before you were formed.” The luke-warm Christian simply lacks the will and the grace to follow God’s will, because sometimes the SACRIFICE is too great. Sorry, but that is the message of the cross, whether you accept it or not. You might want to look up what the Bible says happens to luke-warm Christians…

    For those who do not believe and/or defend the DOI/Const., I get it. I can understand why you feel as you do if you are the most important thing in your life. I accept why you would defend abortion, and contraception, and the porn industry, and partial birth abortion, and a general debasing of cultural values as depicted in most TV shows and movies all in the name of freedom. But don’t you realize the tragedy is that the woman is the victim in all instances? What you see as a choice to be free, is actually an enslavement and attack on the dignity/femininity of women – USED for the gratification of undisciplined men with no integrity. The bad fruit of the pro-choice/abortion movement are the social ills that stem from a society of self gratification that puts ME first. In reality it puts MEN first. The peddlers of smut love abortion. Every HS boy who has no understanding of his sexual powers loves abortion. Men who cheat on their wives love abortion. Men who coerce women with money and or drugs to have sex on camera love abortion. When are women going to wake up and realize they have been duped? But until you do, can you indulge yourself without demeaning others who put their faith, love, and trust in someone other than themselves?

    The point of the main article is that the debate is stalled and we should include the pro-voicers. I agree. Let’s here from the women who think abortion should be a sacrament (actual bumper sticker) and also from those women who feel they were lied to by the pro-choice/abortion argument.

  • invalid-0

    But don’t you realize the tragedy is that the woman is the victim in all instances? What you see as a choice to be free, is actually an enslavement and attack on the dignity/femininity of women – USED for the gratification of undisciplined men with no integrity.

    Umm… so taking the choice away from women, and forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, is not “an enslavement and attack on the dignity/femininity of women?”

    These stories are not “an enslavement and attack on the dignity/femininity of women?”

    The peddlers of smut love abortion. Every HS boy who has no understanding of his sexual powers loves abortion. Men who cheat on their wives love abortion. Men who coerce women with money and or drugs to have sex on camera love abortion.

    Then why don’t you advocate and take action against them, and leave the women alone?

    (I suppose your solution to muggings would be to lock up all the law-abiding citizens, too… voila, no more muggings!)