Listening to the Heart of a Woman


If the proverbial Martians were to come to Earth, and specifically to the United States, they would naturally be interested in the dominant conflicts on the planet as the best way to learn about us. When they got to the abortion conflict, they would be perplexed that the most impassioned partisans were not those who personally decided to have or not have an abortion. And there’s a lot to learn about that observation.

What is missing in the abortion debate, including the Common Ground discussion, are the women themselves who have had abortions, or for that matter, who decided to parent or make an adoption plan.  You would expect that patients who identified as pro choice would choose abortion as needed without a lot of conflict. You would think that those women who were against abortion wouldn’t have one. You would be wrong on both counts.

When you sit with women on a daily basis as I, and most abortion care workers, do, you will soon learn that “until you understand the heart of a woman, nothing about abortion makes any sense at all.” Dr. George Tiller taught us that mantra, which is why he was so beloved by our community. A day or two listening to women talk about their decisions will make everything about the public abortion debate seem completely irrelevant.

Take Catherine (not her real name) who wrote on her chart last week: “Yes (it was a difficult decision) because it is wrong.” You might think Catherine was in the wrong place, but what I heard when I listened closely was a complex, thoughtful decision that considered her family and the needs of each of her kids, the financial prospects for her and her husband, and how she might feel about her choice later on, just for starters. I was so impressed with her process that progressed from a simplistic worldview of right/wrong to a more nuanced, ‘what’s right for me and my family?’ I also witnessed her courage in facing down the long held, but unexamined beliefs she had learned from her family. Still, she would not talk to them about her decision, physically recoiling at just the thought of it.

In this she is not alone. “What does it take to silence 45 million women?” many of us have asked. We know that the 30+ year campaign to stigmatize abortion is working remarkably well. It’s what keeps a woman from talking to her best friend, her husband, her doctor, or her minister. It doesn’t change people’s minds; rather, it’s how they are silenced. So, no wonder no one gets to really understand why more than1 million women every year choose to terminate their pregnancies! Imagine if there was only one story about divorce—instead of knowing women who were relieved to move on, traumatized for a long time, or should have gotten a divorce earlier, we only hear about the adulterer.

The problem is that only a few of us hear these incredible stories of people’s real lives. Aside from the mental health implications of stigmatizing a life event that 45 million people share, the silencing of the abortion experience has distorted the debate. Recently conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan acknowledged that women’s stories, written as comments on Dr. Tiller’s murder, changed how he viewed the issue. “Some of these situations are really tragic,” he said. “Duh,” we said in unison.

Even more tragically, there are very few opportunities to hear, really hear, women’s experiences of abortion, or indeed, their experience of unintended pregnancy and decision-making. Abortion care workers (and I include those who help women at abortion funds, family planning clinics, talklines etc) are like priests in a confessional. The public can sometimes listen into the stories they hear at blogs like abortionclinicdays.com or the abortioneers, but there are not many opportunities to hear more than partisan sound bites. A pregnancy decision is so rich with multiple layers of feeling, concerns, and ethics that it is a shame that the public can’t access them. A discourse that embodied these experiences would completely change the abortion debate and would significantly help women who are isolated in their decision-making.

Imagine if women were invited to use existing online public engagement technology so that our deeply conflicted society can try to understand the “heart of a woman.” So that this doesn’t turn into which side can log in faster to a FOX poll, the process would be designed to tease out the most complete story. A scientifically designed survey would invite women who have had an abortion to answer questions as well as to contribute a narrative about the significance of the abortion decision or experience in their lives. These questions would encourage reflection on various aspects of the abortion decision, such as the needs of children, her or her partner’s readiness for parenting, her concerns about the impact of a child on her relationship with partner or family, financial issues, educational goals, religious or spiritual beliefs, support, or lack thereof, for the woman’s moral agency, and societal attitudes toward various pregnancy outcomes (abortion, adoption, single parenthood, etc.)  

A content analysis would identify important themes. This qualitative approach is not a battle of numbers but will allow everyone to understand the range of factors in the decision making process as well as barriers to each option a woman considers. Instead of opinions we will be soliciting experiences.

Those who are making policy about funding, state mandated waiting periods, and other restrictions might just gain perspective from women themselves about what was helpful and what might have been more useful to them in their decision-making. For instance, what kinds of support would have contributed to their emotional health? What information would have been helpful? Were state and federal laws a help or a hindrance? What presentation of risk factors most often leads to negative mental health outcomes? What is the impact of the societal stigma placed on abortion in terms of healthy outcomes? What are the special needs of young women, those experiencing domestic violence, or those with other identified risk factors such as prior emotional conditions?

Just as any visiting Martian can tell you, the solution to the conflict does not come from the partisans on either side. It comes from the truths of the people who are living with the consequences of public policy. When women’s experiences, not just bumper sticker slogans, are part of the debate then—and only then– will common ground make any sense at all.

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  • aspen-baker

    There is so much of this post that I love, Peg. Thank you for writing it. In particular, I like this: “Instead of opinions we will be soliciting experiences.” Well done.

  • invalid-0

    Peg, this is a remarkable contribution to our way of understanding the abortion decision, and the stigma that has been attached to it. Thank you, and I hope it is read by millions of people. I have been thinking about the way the LGBT movement has overcome the stigma of choosing a same-sex partner, and comparing it with the fact that women choosing an abortion remain silenced. The LGBT community has ended the stigma by living next door and being a good neighbor, by participating in the residential community and earning respect, by holding public office and serving a constuency. Abortion is so private that only a few understand the nobility of wrestling with that decision, and many women may never come to the point where they can honor their own choice in an unintended pregnancy, whatever that choice may be. Solving this silence will certainly be difficult, and your proposal makes a real contribution to ending the silence.
    another A Baker

  • invalid-0

    You must believe that pro-lifers don’t understand the woman’s position. True, unless we have the experience ourself, or witness it closeup as you do, we can’t possibly grasp the gravity of the conditions and the pain of the decision. But we do get it. We do sympathize with the woman’s dilemna. To the extent possible, we do listen to the heart of a woman. But there is another heart beating within the woman. A heart belonging to another person. Who is listening to that heart?

    • invalid-0

      Jim, I think you are indeed missing the point, at least partly. You ask “who is listening to that heart” of the fetus/unborn child. If you think women who have abortions aren’t listening and don’t care about what they’re doing, then I think you truly don’t fully understand. (Neither do I, never having faced such a choice myself.)

      Yes, there are doubtless some women who will themselves not to think about it or are hardened enough not to care. But many, I’m assuming most, do think and agonize about it, and STILL decide that this is what they must do.

      That’s why I’m both pro-life AND pro-choice. I think abortion should certainly not be a casual choice and that it is wrong in many/most cases, but not all. I’m pro-choice because I don’t think I can possibly know which cases are which. And if I can’t weigh such a delicate moral question for anyone but myself, I assure you the government can’t!

  • invalid-0

    Peg, thank you for helping us understand the people behind the abortion debate. Your article breaks through the jargon that so often characterizes discussions on abortion and allows the voices of the women who have had abortions to shine through. Thank you for helping to break down the stigma that surrounds this issue.

  • invalid-0

    Peg,
    You so wonderfully take this from the perspective or decision of “right” vs. “wrong” -(that of an outsiders)- to the many complex levels of a the women choosing abortion, the women experiencing difficult, life altering decisions. It is such a unique perspective, different for each woman. It rarely EVER involves just her, as other, anti-choice, voices want us and her to believe… that she is being selfish. She considers so much more: her kids, her job, her partner, her neighbors…. in fact, she is often one of the last (and unfortunately, not the most important) persons she considers. Thank you for using your voice to let others hear “her” voice…. We can all stand to speak up a little more.

  • invalid-0

    You must believe that pro-lifers don’t understand the woman’s position.

    I think y’all often understand quite well. It’s just that pro-lifers value women as masturbatory aides, incubators and/or a source of cheap or free labor. Which is to say that your biblical roles, your notions of what ‘woman’ means is intrinsically dehumanizing and insulting. You do not care about ‘the woman’s position ‘.

    • invalid-0

      They care deeply about “the woman’s position”. His phrase was perfect, although he did not realize it. He truly want’s to keep that woman’s position as subordinate, easy to control, and defined as inferior to the (potentially male) zygote.

      What he does NOT care about is the woman. Or her heart.

  • jade-souza

    Amen amen amen. You’ve articulated exactly what it is that I find alienating about the policy debate over abortion. As someone who has listened to many women’s stories, I recognize that those stories are where the source of ethical and comprehensive policy exists, and no where else.

  • heather-corinna

    Big ditto, here. 

     

    And it’s always so great to read other people talking about this who have sat and listened, and listened and listened.  I didn’t come into work in abortion services any less pro-choice than I’ve been since, nor have many women’s stories I have heard firsthand exactly surprised me, however there simply is something to the process of listening to woman after woman talk in that environment that just adds a different flavor, a richer complexity and empathy, to everything.  I think it also can’t help but strengthen anyone’s commitment to assuring women aren’t reduced to numbers or flat ideology: these stories grow thicker roots in the heart.  I don’t see how they can’t for those who really hear and feel them, beyond listening to or reading them.

     

    Thanks for this!

     

    P.S.  If I may inject a fangirl squeal?  I LOVE Mom, Dad, I’m Pregnant, and your options workbook remains a completely amazing resource I always feel so good about using with women who need it, and they always report back as invaluable in their decision-making.  Thanks for all you do and have done!

  • heather-corinna

    …unless we have the experience ourself, or witness it closeup as you do,
    we can’t possibly grasp the gravity of the conditions and the pain of
    the decision. But we do get it.

     

    I’m white.  But I grew up with one parent who worked for the civil rights movement devotedly, in highly diverse neighborhoods where I was sometimes the racial minority, and have had many close friends and some intimate partners of color.  I have read volumes on racism and race issues from POC, and witnessed plenty of incidents and enactments of racism.

     

    So, sure, I "get" racism.  But I think it should be pretty obvious that there are GIANT barriers to how MUCH I can "get" it, so when a discussion is being had by anyone of color, I should very immediately and gladly take a back seat, let them take the lead, and do way more listening than talking.  Telling POC what choices they should make for an experience that is not mine, that cannot be mine?  I would not think well of me if I found myself doing that.

     

    If you haven’t been pregnant, can’t become pregnant, haven’t listened to so many of these stories yourself or witnessed abortion up close and personal, and also are not a fetus?  I’d suggest you at least consider coming to pieces and discussions like this the way I choose to come to pieces and discussions of racism as a person who is not of color and who never will be.

     

    Just sayin.

  • snowflake

    ““Yes (it was a difficult decision) because it is wrong.” You might think Catherine was in the wrong place, but what I heard when I listened closely was a complex, thoughtful decision that considered her family and the needs of each of her kids, the financial prospects for her and her husband, and how she might feel about her choice later on, just for starters. I was so impressed with her process that progressed from a simplistic worldview of right/wrong to a more nuanced, ‘what’s right for me and my family?’ I also witnessed her courage in facing down the long held, but unexamined beliefs she had learned from her family. Still, she would not talk to them about her decision, physically recoiling at just the thought of it.”

    Here’s a case where a woman is telling you she feels she is making bad decision–and she even writes it in her chart to make sure you don’t miss that conclusion. And she tells you her decision is so bad that she recoils from a suggestion of yours to make her decision public.

    So do you respect that? NO. You say, “I was so impressed with her process that progressed from a simplistic worldview of right/wrong to a more nuanced, ‘what’s right for me and my family?’ I also witnessed her courage in facing down the long held, but unexamined beliefs she had learned from her family.”

    You view her original thoughts as “simpistic” and applaud her for “progressing.” With a big shove from YOU, perhaps? No, you where just “listening” and I’m sure you never, ever let your bias show. Keep telling yourself it was all her decision as she “recoils” from the thought of anyone finding out.

    By the way, if you were discussing this, as you say, in the context of what was best for her FAMILY, and not just herself, why didn’t the husband get a vote?

  • invalid-0

    Where in the article does it say that her husband never had a say? It’s not mentioned if they made the decision together or if she did it unilaterally, though being married I would certainly hope she talked to her husband about it.

    You’re also showing your own bias by assuming you know how the conversation went, and that Peg ‘pushed’ her towards the choice she made. You don’t even know if Peg talked to her before or after she made her decision (hell, it’s not even clear if they talked before or after the procedure). It’s normal for people to have simple views of the world, and for those views to evolve as they gain more experience in the world. Very little in this world is black and white, as much as we might try to make it be so.

    Those of us who are truly pro-choice would never try to influence a woman’s decision in either direction. When my SIL found herself unexpectedly pregnant a year and a half ago, my first thought was that her best choice would be to abort. But I never said that much to her, because it’s not my choice to make, and while I still think it’s unwise for her to have a child right now, I will give her and her family all the support I can in the choices she does make. It is not my place to tell her what to do.

  • invalid-0

    None of what you say is true for me but you could certainly say it applies to some pro-choice men who view women in that way. Abortion gives them an easy way out of the “problem”.

  • invalid-0

    Well, I once was, and so were you. My mother was in high school and not married at the time she became pregnant with me and may have been in the kind of situation you refer to. This is one of the reasons I am strongly pro-life. I get it.

    • invalid-0

      I was also a fetus at one point. my mother was also in high school and not married and definitely Was in a bad situtation. She made the Choice to have me, just as she later made the Choice to give me up for adoption. Unfortunatly, my experience was Not a good one, as my parents were extremely abusive, which led to a childhood of trauma and an adulthood of fear, shame and self-loathing. i have Often wished she’d made a different choice, which is why i’m strongly pro-choice. Later, when i became pregnant at 21 (while in an abusive relationship)i made the choice to terminate the pregnancy, as i could not have provided for my child, financially or emotionally, and i wasn’t willing to risk putting my child thru the experience i had (or even worse, since there are Thousands of children in the system awaiting Anyone to love them). I wasn’t happy about it, but i’ve never regretted it. But even if i did, since i did have the Choice, how could i stand by now and try take that away from other women. we are not mere incubators, but Humans, and neither we nor our bodies should be Enslaved by the choices of another.

  • josh-truitt

    What a fantastic post Peg! It is telling of the sexism embedded in the mainstream abortion debate that the experiences and needs of women who have had abortions are all but absent from the discussion. Thank you for this important call to center the experiences of those who know most intimately what women who have had or will have abortions think, want, and need.

  • heather-corinna

    Indeed, but neither you nor I have any memories of being such, nor can you or I have a chat with a fetus right now to find out what it feels it’s wants or needs are or what it would prefer.  Even if I didn’t have a uterus, even if I had never been pregnant, if I hadn’t been in the position to be very up close and personal around abortion and all reproductive choices with many women (all of which are true for me but not for you), we both having been fetal at one time also does not — obviously — mean we’re going to share the same view about reproductive choices or equally or similarly understand these issues.  Nor would how either you or I feel about them be something I’d want to have any bearing on any pregnant woman’s right to make her own choiceswith her own life, experiences, feelings and personal understanding.

     

    And that’d be one of many reasons why, when we talk about reproductive choices being about women, and women determining what is best for themselves including every part of their body and anything inhabiting our bodies, we talk that way and put women first.

     

    For the record?  My mother didn’t have the right to choose abortion at the time she became pregnant with me, very young, and in a situation that was horrible for both of my (unmarried, though I’m not sure why that’s an issue beyond cultural and legal bias towards unmarried people, a bias I certainly experienced growing up) parents and resulted in a lot of pain and suffering for all of us.  I wish that she had, as it’s what she would have wanted and thought best, and I don’t presume that means I wouldn’t still exist, just that I may have been imncarnated differently.  Even if it meant I didn’t come into this world at all, that’s something I am personally completely okay with, especially knowing how it was for my mother to be without all her choices.

     

    I also stand by my saying that if you do not meet the kind of criteria I addressed above — you are not female, you have not been pregnant, you canot become pregnant, you do not have to make these choices about your own body — that no, you really can’t get it, and when you’re around someone who does have all or some of that criteria, the thing to do is to step aside and just listen. And your confidence that you can "get it" without all of those factors is one of the things that tells me that clearly you don’t.

  • invalid-0

    on whether a fetus is a life worth living. You continue to fight for the rights of the mother, only, and I will continue to include the rights of the fetus in the discussion. Just because you can’t hear that voice doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    • crowepps

      Just because you can’t hear that voice doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

      And, obviously, just because you imagine that you do hear that voice doesn’t mean it is there.  This is the kind of comment, frankly, that makes you seem just a teensy strange.  A discussion about what to do about a real-life situation which will actually affect the physical and mental health of millions of people should NOT be based on what someone’s imagination informs them that a ‘voice’ is saying.

  • heather-corinna

    Again, you clearly are not listening: not to me, not to the author here, not to many many women who know full well that women do not make reproductive choices based only on themselves.  In making these choices, women are almost always thinking of everyone involved in the situation, including a potential child.  To state that women are NOT thinking of anyone other than themselves is to deny what women say about making our choices, and to state that somehow you know better than we do about our own processes and our truths.

     

    You can say all you want that women like myself and/or women who terminate pregnancies are only thinking of the woman who is pregnant and no one else, but that doesn’t make it so.   We know better, especially because we’re not guessing or extrapolating.  These are OUR experiences that happen in our bodies, our minds, our hearts.

  • invalid-0

    I think most of the prolifers I know do try and get a feel for the feelings of women. If not we wouldn’t be going to sites like these and commenting on them. We want to know why people side with prochoicers. We want to know their reasons.

    That said, I was angered by the comment by Anonymous July 13th. Boiling down the abortion debate into sexism may be convenient but it isn’t right. Most male prolifers do care about the woman AS A PERSON, except we also care about the fetus AS A PERSON.

  • invalid-0

    While I don’t feel that most pro-lifers are trying to control women and their sexuality, it is hard to separate that lack of intention out from the results of their actions. As a pro-choicer, I don’t like it either when people try to make it sound that simple because it shows a lack of tolerance for the beliefs of others. That said, the typical arguments that pro-lifers make would have women return to a world where they are lesser than men. Although you may try to argue that you see the woman and fetus as being equal, that will never be the case, because it is impossible for both to have a full set of human rights. To claim that a fetus deserves that (and since science can’t prove the existence of a soul, this come purely down to personal opinion) will inevitably mean the woman won’t enjoy a full set of rights while she’s pregnant. Without abortion, she will bear the burden of either caring for that child or wondering if s/he’s alright for the rest of her life. And the usual argument that ‘she shouldn’t have had sex’ essentially denies women their sexuality.

    One of the ultimate, unchanging truths of this debate is that it is inherently sexist, because men cannot experience this the same way a woman can.

  • jodi-jacobson

    about the woman/women.

    It is about respecting her individual choice and her moral agency. The Taliban would say they care about women too. It is just that their way involves stoning, lack of education, rape and other forms of violence even with marriage, denial of property rights, denial of health care, and among girls denial of nutrition.

    And yet…they “care.”

  • invalid-0

    I have long been under the impression that you argue on sites like this in order to proselytize.
    The comment that angered you did not speak of sexism but, rather, the ways that socially conservative males view women and determine our worth. I’m often struck by the odd notion that it’s somehow morally superior to objectify and value women chiefly for our ability to gestate and for our free and cheap labor and yet it’s clear that this is quite common. Likewise there is absolutely NO evidence that socially conservative men are any more or less personally responsible for the children they have fathered. Indeed the adultery and divorce rates amongst social conservatives are on par with the rest of the population. One difference is that in the ‘pro-life’ movement when someone like Randall Terry hits on all the available women in his church and then divorces his wife and children and fails to pay child support there are often many more children involved. And what sort of example did men like Mark Sanford provide to his 4 young sons?
    What do you think the Pope is doing of when he speaks out against the liberation of women and equates it with evils like war and poverty? I would have thought that it was understood by everyone that when social conservatives speak of traditional values one of these ‘traditional values’ is a set of narrow, circumscribed roles for women.
    But, then, I don’t see how anyone could be politically ‘pro-life’ without recognising that they would deny women the right to freedom of religion, bodily autonomy and conscience.

  • invalid-0

    of Nature’s sexism. I’ve had people look at me strange when I say that: “You’re a woman. Why do you want to be a man?” fertile Women are biologically forced to expend resources for the next generation, where as the biological fathers are not similarily forced. Multiply the effect of that by millenia of expected gender roles.

    Naturen’s sexism is why prochoicers keep replying “sexism” when prolifers offer “reasonable” questions about “the other person”. It always seems that it’s OK to discuss the obligation of a woman to her fetus divorced from the risks of pregnancy, the inherent sexual discrimination, her ability to make private decisions, the effects on her ability to keep a job or fulfill obligations to her family. It always seems OK to say that providing “proof” isn’t demanding acceptance of unreasonable risk.

    Since nature is sexist, the way for society not to be sexist rather than amplify the sexism is to not interfere with the woman’s private decision. If strangers interfere, it’s sex and class discrimination because men and rich people wouldn’t be as affected as women and poor families.

    I believe that abortion care access and unfettered reproductive [early term*] choice are a necessary “affirmative action” type remedy for Nature’s sexism — even if there is a ethical question more complicated than “it’s my decision, not yours” (*preferably not limited by length of pregnancy; limited rather by medical standards). There’s a larger ethical problem with the effects expected gender roles on women. There is also a larger ethical problem with the classist discrimination effect of restricting abortion access — the effect of an unplanned pregnancy is less on a family with more resources, but that family can more easily access abortion.

    For people who think things happen for a reason, being born a fertile woman is a rather large sign of what God wants a woman to do — and, because of that, I can understand why prolifers have an expectation that a pregnant woman should accept any pregnancy and try to bring the pregnancy to term, and I can believe you believe you aren’t being sexist with that expectation. Me, I think my biological gender was chance, and I didn’t want to get with the program (When I had my abortion 28 years ago the Earth was already overpopulated — and we didn’t want children. (That’s why I had an IUD. Since it didn’t work in my body, I had my tubes tied … and that worked.)

    Many prolifer discussions seem sexist to me, even if it’s unintended. I keep hoping, considering the large differences in worldviews, that maybe prolifers can understand why I feel what I fee. Thanks for trying.

    • paul-bradford

      I certainly don’t think that your willingness to state the obvious is any reason to assume that you want to be a man!

       

      Have you ever considered this: suppose that, in the future, we develop the means for removing a developing fetus from her/his mother’s uterus and placing her/him in a deluxe incubator for the remainder of the gestation period.  I’m suggesting, as a ‘philosophical thought problem’ that we imagine it’s possible to have the best of both worlds — mothers could terminate unwanted pregnancies without ending the lives of their children.

       

      In such a world could it EVER be acceptable to destroy a fetus instead of putting it in the ‘deluxe incubator’?  I think that even Pro-Choice people would see the ethical problem in that.  We can say that Nature is sexist, and it is; but we can also say that the human race isn’t sufficiently advanced in technology.  The argument that you make doesn’t demonstrate that it’s justifiable to kill fetuses.  You’re arguing that the hardships of unintended pregnancy of fall unfairly upon women and on the poor.  I agree with you on that point and I’m eager to promote societal solutions to those injustices — but how is it just to place the ultimate hardship (the prospect of a certain death) on the unborn?

       

      My argument may seem sexist to you, but your argument seems ageist to me (even if it’s unintended). 

       

      Paul Bradford

      Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • snowflake

    <cite> Without abortion, she will bear the burden of either caring for that child or wondering if s/he’s alright for the rest of her life.  <cite>

     

    I would rather wonder how things turned out for my child who would be adopted by others, than KNOW they are dead because of me.

     

    There are some things in life that are hard, but worth doing.

    • invalid-0

      Read The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler and see if you feel the same way.

  • invalid-0

    I would rather wonder how things turned out for my child who would be adopted by others, than KNOW they are dead because of me.

    And if that’s the choice you make, so be it. That’s not the choice others would necessarily make in the same situation.

    There are some things in life that are hard, but worth doing.

    Those things vary from person to person, and what one person is willing to do because it’s worth it to them, another person may not be willing or able to endure.

  • paul-bradford

    These questions would encourage reflection on various aspects of the abortion decision, such as the needs of children, her or her partner’s readiness for parenting, her concerns about the impact of a child on her relationship with partner or family, financial issues, educational goals, religious or spiritual beliefs, support, or lack thereof, for the woman’s moral agency, and societal attitudes toward various pregnancy outcomes (abortion, adoption, single parenthood, etc.)

     

    Peg,

     

    You’ve done a nice job of outlining a number of the risks and considerations a woman with an unintended pregnancy faces.  I applaud your effort to give voice to the experiences of such women and am certain that the more attuned people become to these ‘real life experiences’, the more appreciation and understanding they will have for the heartbreak and tragedy of an undesired pregnancy.  As the saying goes, I wouldn’t wish such a thing on my worst enemy.

     

    It is vital to women, and to anyone who cares about women, to become concerned about the issue of preventing unintended pregnancy and of improving conditions for mothers who are carrying an unintended pregnancy.  I do want to challenge you, however, on your assertion that any of this is relevant to ‘the abortion decision’.  One would think, listening to your argument, that abortion is as much of a ‘women’s issue’ as unintended pregnancy is.  That’s a fundamental fallacy and once someone buys into that fallacy s/he is bound to become confused about the entire issue of abortion.

     

    Abortion is a fetuses’ issue.  In fact, abortion is the leading cause of death for fetuses between five and twenty weeks of development.  What is so terribly sad is that people have made the jump from the realization that unintended pregnancy is a women’s issue to the false conclusion that this issue can be addressed by ‘making the problem go away’.  That’s not a solution to a problem, it’s the cause of a more horrible problem.

     

    Unintended pregnancy is a vital women’s issue and we haven’t done near enough to address it.  We need to listen to the hearts of women who have been placed in this unenviable position — but we’re not going to do anyone any good by pretending that abortion is a woman’s issue.  That pretense demolishes any chance we have to give a voice to the people who are truly involved in abortion — the ones at risk of being aborted.

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

    • invalid-0

      Abortion is a women’s issue because the embryo or fetus is INSIDE THE WOMAN. Good gods, do you not know basic biology? Humans do not do the whole “external fertilization” thing, the way frogs and fish handle it. We’re non-monotreme mammals, so we have this whole nine months gestation and live birth thing.

      Even if you insist abortion is only the issue of those groups which die of it, and completely ignore the fact that fetuses do not exist in a vaccuum, it’s still a women’s issue. Not being able to get a safe abortion is currently claiming the lives of women in many parts of the world – they die preventable deaths of pregnancy complications and things like ectopic pregnancies, they die of unsafe abortions sought out of desperation, they die at the hands of partners, family, and community who do not want them pregnant, sexually active, or known to have been raped.

      Banning abortion kills women. There’s absolutely no way this isn’t a women’s issue.

  • otaku1960

     that other heart is not your concern.

    To the extent possible, we do listen to the heart of a woman  "To the extent possible"?  So beyond that "extent", you ignore the woman and her feelings?  That is an extremely insulting position to take.

     When you put the emphasis on that other heart, you’re ignoring the woman standing right in front of you.  Much worse, you are judging the woman as having value only because she has a fetus inside her.

     That is a piss-poor rationalization for denying women the right to decide. Shame on you.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • otaku1960

     the women as persons is hollow because it’s clear you do NOT TRUST women to be their own moral agents.  You won’t make any headway until you drop this conceit your personal morality is somehow superior.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • otaku1960

     Your personal opnion. As something so subjective, it is not "one size fits all".  You decided on what was right for you. Let other women decide what is right for them. Even abortion, which is also a hard thing to do, but worth it for some women.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • jodi-jacobson

    I honor your choice. I support your agency in making what choices you make that are right for you.

    I don’t know why–other than serious inability to trust women and serious denial of the human rights and moral agency–you can not recognize that other people will and do make other choices. Sometimes those are easy. Sometimes they are not. In the end, it is their choice.

    We need to be able to come to a place where we honor women’s choices.

    Jodi

  • otaku1960

    Please tell me who said fetal life isn’t worth living. That is something for each woman to decide for herself – not you. Your argument seems to be every pregnant woman must go to term because the fetus has "rights" and and a "voice", even if we don’t hear it. Riiigghhttt..

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • crowepps

    The thing that makes that wondering harder is reading the stories in the news, over and over and over, about foster children or adopted children who are killed, being abused physically or sexually, being neglected, and wondering if this or that one is the child you gave up.  Looking for their photos so that you can make a guess as to whether your fears are baseless.  Wondering if this news about this child is an indication of what has happened to your child.

     

    It’s true that there are some things in life that are hard but worth doing, but there are very few hard things in life which are worth FORCING OTHER PEOPLE to do against their will.

  • otaku1960

     "Abortion is a fetuses’ issue.  In fact, abortion is the leading cause of death for fetuses between five and twenty weeks of development.  What is so terribly sad is that people have made the jump from the realization that unintended pregnancy is a women’s issue to the false conclusion that this issue can be addressed by ‘making the problem go away’.  That’s not a solution to a problem, it’s the cause of a more horrible problem."

     On the other hand, forcing unwilling women to carry their pregnancies to term is no way to address the issue either.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • crowepps

    …give a voice to the people who are truly involved in abortion — the ones at risk of being aborted.

    The ones who, between five and and 20 weeks of development, aren’t capable of speaking, aren’t capable of surviving on their own, don’t have ‘thoughts’ because the parts of the brain in which thoughts are formed don’t yet exist.

    I understand where you’re coming from, I really do, but to put the fetus at the center of the question inevitably makes the woman surrounding it disappear from view, along with her rights, her freedom, her health and sometimes her life.

    • paul-bradford

      to put the fetus at the center of the question inevitably makes the woman surrounding it disappear from view

       

      I contend that it is possible to be concerned about the well-being of fetuses and to be concerned about the well-being of women as well.  I think, despite the cruel caricatures of Pro-Lifers that are exhibited by some (and some who post here) most of us who advocate for the very young care about their mothers as well.

       

      The post I made earlier was my attempt to emphasize the fact that everyone who cares about women has to be concerned about the problem of unintended pregnancy.  It’s a huge problem for the women involved and it’s a problem for the rest of us because even the ‘good’ outcomes (marriage, single parenthood, adoption, adapting to a larger family) often have a negative impact both on children and on the society in general.  I’m certainly not interested in having this vital problem "disappear from view".  I want us all to work harder to help prevent unintended pregnancy and to improve conditions for women who are coping with unintended pregnancy.  Just the same, those convictions of mine don’t lead me to the conclusion that it can ever be right for women to ‘make the problem go away’ by ending the lives of their children.

       

      The unborn aren’t going to have much protection if their only champions are middle-aged married men such as myself.  Our efforts shouldn’t be directed at crafting legislation to force unwilling women to carry their babies to term.  Our efforts must be aimed at making sure that the people at risk for being aborted don’t "disappear from view".  When we, as a society, begin to think in terms of protecting all of our members, no matter how young they are, the mothers of those young will shift the focus of their concern away from their own problems and toward the even more pressing problems of their children.

       

      I "put the fetus at the center of the question" with the hope that you will as well and with the hope that her/his well-being will be at the center of the question that the mother is asking.

       

      By the way, crowepps, it is obvious to me that you make the effort to be thoughtful and fair-minded and I appreciate that. 

       

      Paul Bradford

      Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • invalid-0

    Just because you can’t hear that voice doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    You cannot be serious. The only voice you think you “hear” is the echo of your own projections

  • otaku1960

     "but you could certainly say it applies to some pro-choice men who view women in that way."

    Just when you seem to be making sense, you come out of the blue with utter nonsense like this. What possible reason could you have for singling out pro-choice men?  Certain pro-life men could change their tune on abortion if it gets them off the hook for child support too. Personally, I feel men "who view women in that way" are far more prevalent on the anti-abortion side of the argument.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • invalid-0

    Hi Julie,

    Many prolifer discussions seem sexist to me, even if it’s unintended.

    Whether a discussion is sexist or not is decided on the arguments themselves, not on the intentions of the speaker. Sexism functions primarily as a society-wide system, not as an individual failing (even though many have this).

    If you look at the whole anti-racism debate, intention plays no part in determining whether something is racist or not—in fact, much of the problem is that many people fail to recognize as racist things that are very much so to minorities (e.g. the exotification of African tribal groups and styles).

    Many “pro-lifers” sincerely believe that they are not being sexist, but they are simply continuing the millenia-long tradition of denying women their own agency. It should come as no surprise that they are not self-aware enough to see where they fit into this enduring system of oppression, and that ignorance cannot be cited to mitigate their responsibility for doing so. Remember that a lot of people who supported Jim Crow laws claimed to hold no grudge against Blacks.

  • crowepps

    I think it’s pretty clear from a lot of the posts on this site that there are many people who don’t trust women to be their own moral agents but they don’t trust MEN to be their own moral agents either.  A fear that persons making their own decisions will inevitably make the wrong decision is pretty much a staple of conservative thought, don’t you think?

     

    The idea that there must be an outside agency, church, government, family, to control people and make them ‘conform’ to the social ‘good’ as revealed by generations of ‘tradition’ is something that is pervasive among a certain percentage in every society.  This gloomy view of autonomous people seems to be biologically predetermined in people and a preset level of anxiety.  Those who are not prone to it cannot understand that intense need to have the reassurance of structure and exterior control to enforce it, and those who need it cannot understand why everyone else doesn’t instantly recognize the absolute necessity for it.

     

    Perhaps these personality differences are parts of the underlying worldviews fueling the sides in this discussion to which we should be paying more attention.  The repeated demand that we respond to ‘what if YOUR mother had aborted’ or ‘aren’t you glad YOUR mother made the right decision’ is inexplicable to a more placid personality who shrugs it off with ‘if she had, then I wouldn’t be here but so what?’  To the person more liable to feel concerned, however, the possibility that they might not have been born and that the decision was totally in someone else’s control, their MOTHER no less, is a serious threat to their sense of personal safety and worth.

  • invalid-0

    Those who are not prone to it cannot understand that intense need to have the reassurance of structure and exterior control to enforce it, and those who need it cannot understand why everyone else doesn’t instantly recognize the absolute necessity for it.

    Thank you. This partially answers something I’ve been wondering about for some time now. I really do not understand at all why anyone would believe that the ‘but you (or I) could have never have been born then’ response would carry any weight with, well, an adult. Sometimes I note that this is accompanied by expressions of irrational fear and panic (“I am ‘pro-life’ because I’m fighting to save my life”.) I have absolutely no sense of why this argument, along with the oft used ‘you and I were once blastocysts, zygotes or fetuses’ response is considered compelling by ANYONE. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

    • crowepps

      If the fetus has no ‘sacred’ intrinsic value, then that means all persons ALSO have no INTRINSIC value in and of themselves.  In order to be valuable to society, they will have to make some positive contribution.  It is as though they are being told that their life has no value unless they are perfect (which of course is a common religious theme).  This may be why the word ‘innocence’ is so prominent in their arguments for the fetus.

       

      Look, they are saying, here is a human life which is PERFECTLY GOOD.  If you deny the value of THAT life, then doesn’t that mean I have no right to live myself, imperfect and defective and impure as I believe myself to be?

       

      If the anencephalic infant, capable only of breathing, isn’t VALUED during its few hours of life, if the profounded retarded, violent seriously mentally ill, those in the end stages of suffering fatal diseases aren’t VALUED, if that ectopic fetus accidently killing its mother isn’t VALUED, then what value is there for themselves, taught to regard themselves as degenerate, unclean and ‘disordered’, unable to resist ‘sin’, prone to suspect laughter, happiness and pleasure, all inappropriate in the face of how unworthy they are of God’s love so that they can be ‘saved only through grace’.

       

      The depth of anxiety there is truly awesome — and I truly feel compassion for them, but would suggest that a far more healthy solution to their anxiety would be converting to a religion which doesn’t loathe humanity.

  • invalid-0

    I was trying to reply to Alaric’s

    Boiling down the abortion debate into sexism may be convenient but it isn’t right.

    –being frustrated by the other side of a discussion miss-stating an argument & then objecting is a valid question. Alaric did express “anger”, but in a reasoned way which is why I wanted to reply (along with several others). It’s hard (but useful) to try to communicate across widely divergent worldviews. I usually ignore the screaming posts (& try not to do it myself). That’s a good point — thanks — it’s better to say that the arguments are sexist that the person making the arguments is sexist. Most of the time, especially if the person isn’t screaming, it isn’t intended.

  • invalid-0

    ..it is a fetus issue. If there were no fetus, there would be no issue at all. If a fetus were a tumor, who would deny a woman’s right to have it removed?

  • http://www.abortioncarenetwork.org invalid-0

    Thank you all for your engagement on this issue and especially recognizing its complexity.

    Paul, to answer your original question, who is speaking for the fetus? My answer is the woman herself. You would be surprised at how often this is directly articulated by women. Some women talk about how they would want to bring a new life into the world– under what circumstances, especially if poverty, an unstable or downright abusive relationship is present, or a strain on the mental and emotional resources of her as a parent. Most women, as you know, are already parents or have child-rearing responsibilities and they really “get” what their kids need–all of them, the ones present and the “could be” child. Some women have written letters of goodbye or poems about their “lost” child. Some are printed at http://www.pregnancyoptions.info. The point is that most women are very aware of the fetus, and sometimes having conversations in their head about it. When I am listening to a woman who seems heavy hearted, I often ask her if she is having such a conversation, and if so, what’s being said back and forth. One woman told me that the childspirit– her word– told her, “I’m a spirit, I can come back in any form.” And, most of my friends in the abortion care field also have a respect for the fetus who will not be a child, in terms of showing fetal tissue to women if they want to see it, talking about some ritual or religious ceremony, if desired, and viewing Ultrasounds etc respectfully.

    AS for pushing a woman one way or another: As you can imagine, this is a hard situation and I purposely chose a case that was contradictory and complex. I like to sleep at night and I work very hard to be sure I am NOT pushing anyone to a particular conclusion. Actually, the woman makes the decision, but I do try to test that decision a bit to be sure she is sure and no one is pushing her. (A parent or partner has a lot more power than I do!) But I also try to reflect her strengths back to her because this is not an easy decision to make in such a stigmatized environment. She needs to know that someone heard her, especially when she goes out into the world, and in this case into her family.

    Lastly, I would like to address the pro-life commentators specifically… I would love to see the day when we could sit down and have productive, insightful conversations about particular women who are thinking about or have actually chosen abortion. There are many patients that I send away to think more. We give out the Pregnancy Options Workbook a LOT, and also the “Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Resolution after an Abortion” (same website as above) to help people be sure. We often point out that this decision can’t be undone. On the other hand, if she makes a decision, knowing her circumstances, she also deserves to be comforted and to find ways to heal from such heart-wrenching decision, if she is having a hard time. I look forward to those kinds of discussions!

  • peg-johnston

    Thank you all for your engagement on this issue and especially recognizing its complexity.

    Paul, to answer your original question, who is speaking for the fetus?
    My answer is the woman herself. You would be surprised at how often
    this is directly articulated by women. Some women talk about how they
    would want to bring a new life into the world– under what
    circumstances, especially if poverty, an unstable or downright abusive
    relationship is present, or a strain on the mental and emotional
    resources of her as a parent. Most women, as you know, are already
    parents or have child-rearing responsibilities and they really "get"
    what their kids need–all of them, the ones present and the "could be"
    child. Some women have written letters of goodbye or poems about their
    "lost" child. Some are printed at http://www.pregnancyoptions.info.
    The point is that most women are very aware of the fetus, and sometimes
    having conversations in their head about it. When I am listening to a
    woman who seems heavy hearted, I often ask her if she is having such a
    conversation, and if so, what’s being said back and forth. One woman
    told me that the childspirit– her word– told her, "I’m a spirit, I
    can come back in any form." And, most of my friends in the abortion
    care field also have a respect for the fetus who will not be a child,
    in terms of showing fetal tissue to women if they want to see it,
    talking about some ritual or religious ceremony, if desired, and
    viewing Ultrasounds etc respectfully.

    AS for pushing a woman one way or another: As you can imagine, this is
    a hard situation and I purposely chose a case that was contradictory
    and complex. I like to sleep at night and I work very hard to be sure I
    am NOT pushing anyone to a particular conclusion. Actually, the woman
    makes the decision, but I do try to test that decision a bit to be sure
    she is sure and no one is pushing her. (A parent or partner has a lot
    more power than I do!) But I also try to reflect her strengths back to
    her because this is not an easy decision to make in such a stigmatized
    environment. She needs to know that someone heard her, especially when
    she goes out into the world, and in this case into her family.

    Lastly, I would like to address the pro-life commentators
    specifically… I would love to see the day when we could sit down and
    have productive, insightful conversations about particular women who
    are thinking about or have actually chosen abortion. There are many
    patients that I send away to think more. We give out the Pregnancy
    Options Workbook a LOT, and also the "Guide to Emotional and Spiritual
    Resolution after an Abortion" (same website as above) to help people be
    sure. We often point out that this decision can’t be undone. On the
    other hand, if she makes a decision, knowing her circumstances, she
    also deserves to be comforted and to find ways to heal from such
    heart-wrenching decision, if she is having a hard time. I look forward
    to those kinds of discussions!

    • paul-bradford

      One woman told me that the childspirit– her word– told her, "I’m a spirit, I can come back in any form." 

       

      Maybe it’s because I’m a Catholic.  Catholics are taught to believe that supernatural and other-worldly experiences are possible, but to be skeptical because many phenomenological claims are really the result of an eager imagination.  I’m certainly not ready to take this ‘childspirit’ claim at face value. 

       

      It seems to me that we really ought to look at this business rationally before we decide about the spiritual reports.  We can’t know anything for certain about this child’s soul, but we know s/he had a body and that that body died.  Whatever different people might believe about the soul we should be able to agree that the death of a body is significant.  Can we afford to allow one person’s claim about the disposition of the soul to shape our judgment about the propriety of ending the life of the body? 

       

      This woman certainly knew that there was a human life in her womb, and she knew that life was valuable.  She also knew that circumstances weren’t such that it wasn’t a good time for her to have conceived a child.  I’ll bet, if she could have gotten the moment back, she would have taken steps to avoid conception.  Isn’t it possible that her regret at conceiving this child provoked her to wish that she could have it both ways?  In other words, she wanted her situation to return to what it was before the child was conceived, but she couldn’t deny the fact that the child actually had a life.  "Empowering" the child to ‘come back’ after it died got her off the hook.  Not only does it become permissible to abort this living child, but she can feel that she’s actually doing the child a favor by giving her/him the chance to be born in a better situation. 

       

      Is it so hard to see that it’s a good thing to preserve the lives of living human bodies?  Wouldn’t it be best for us not to excuse ourselves for ending those lives by grabbing ahold of the all-too-convenient hope that the soul would be better off? 

       

       

      Paul Bradford

      Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • aspen-baker

    Peg, thank you for giving validation to the fact that women do consider the fetus. This is why pro-voice is so important – it opens up the door for women to be able to talk about and be heard for their views, values and beliefs about the fetus. If people are interested in this topic, you may be interested in checking out the Spring 2007 edition of Exhale’s zine, Our Truths-Nuestras Verdades (Peg was one of the original advisory board members of OT-NV, as is Amie Newman of RHRC), which covered the theme “Feelings About the Fetus.” You can find it here:

    http://www.ourtruths.org/magazines/OurTruths-NuestrasVerdades-Spring2007.pdf

  • invalid-0

    Since there is a man involved in every pregnancy and since, I believe, men are probably responsible for MOST unwanted pregnancies (just an assumption, but I hold to it), how is abortion just a women’s issue? Abortion is everyone’s issue, a life issue for man, woman and child, born or unborn. It will go away only when all unwanted pregnancies are eliminated.

  • invalid-0

    “[S]uppose that, in the future, we develop the means for removing a developing fetus from her/his mother’s uterus and placing her/him in a deluxe incubator for the remainder of the gestation period.”

     

    “In such a world could it EVER be acceptable to destroy a fetus instead of putting it in the ‘deluxe incubator’?”

     

    I’m game.

     

    In my view, abortion would still be acceptable an any of the following cases:

    1. Transferring the fetus to the “deluxe incubator” was significantly more risky for the woman than abortion.
    2. Incubation still carried a significant portion of the health risks for the child that are associated with premature birth today.
    3. The fetus possessed defects or abnormalities that would subject it to significant health risks.
    4. The creation of additional children would place a strain on environmental or societal resources.
    5. The creation and operation of the “deluxe incubators” would place a strain on environmental or societal resources.
  • invalid-0

    Well, you go, Jim! Impress upon your peers that the disproportionate negative consequences of unwanted pregnancy, and do it loudly, and with the same vim and vigor that you target women. We’ve no objection!

  • invalid-0

    I am not targeting women. If I am targeting anyone, it is men. Would you agree that men are more responsible than women for unwanted pregnancies? Is there any woman who wants to become pregnant if she does not want a baby? Are there men who do not care? You continue to insist that abortion is a women’s issue but I maintain that it would not be as big an issue if men behaved more responsibly.

  • invalid-0

    In order: No. Yes, surrogates. Yes, and finally, at no point have you or anyone here ever read anything written by me to suggest I believe that abortion is solely a women’s issue.

  • invalid-0

    So are you actually saying women are more responsible for unwanted pregnancies than men? I’m not sure how to react to that if true. Surrogates want babies. They have wanted pregnancies. They just don’t want to keep the babies for themselves. At least we agree that there are men who don’t care. And it was Wednesday, not you, who insisted that abortion is a women’s issue.

  • invalid-0

    Careful Jim…you are streeeeeetching. Please distinguish between “cause” and “consequences” as it applies to “responsibility. Then we’ll talk.

  • invalid-0

    http://www.theghanaianjournal.com/2009/07/15/abortion-cause-of-increase-in-maternal-deaths-dr-twumasi/

    You want people not to be dead because of your actions, Jim? Then advocate for safe legal abortion.

    You want us to believe that you target men? Then go to a men’s rights blog and prevent them from sharing their experiences.

    Jim Jim Jim. He is so happy! All the women are talking about HIM. In a thread dedicated to women’s experiences, he has chosen to speak raptly about how his commitment to murdering more women through denying them health care is oh-so-giving.

    Jim, shut up and listen to the women talk. Imagine Jim had not aborted this discussion. We could be sharing out thoughts and feelings. Instead we have MR Judgement-Slut-Shaming-Penis-Worshipper who had to kill the discourse. How does silencing happen? Look at the number of women on this post who have been effectively silenced by having either to accept Jim’s murderously insane policy pronouncements or discuss our experiences. Obviously, given the threat from the theocrats, we must fight him before we rest among ourselves.

    Love to you sisters. Your patience is amazing.

  • crowepps

    By the way, crowepps, it is obvious to me that you make the effort to be thoughtful and fair-minded and I appreciate that.

    Thank you.  I’m trying really hard.  Your posts are also more civil and I appreciate that.

     

    I still cannot figure out from your posts just exactly why when "we, as a society, begin to think in terms of protecting all of our members", you insist that the blastocyst/fetus is the appropriate place to focus.

     

    We, as a society, marginalize, neglect, discriminate against, harass, abuse, imprison and kill many whom society doesn’t find ‘useful’ or ‘valuable’ or ‘assets’ or ‘wanted’.  Almost every segment of our society allocates time, attention and money in terms of the perceived value to society of the recipient.  Making one special exception, the fetus, and insisting only it is exempt is an easy answer for those middle-aged married men you reference, because if the fetus is ‘sacred’ that means it isn’t ever going to be THEM who pay those consequences.

     

    Binding a burden to place on another’s back may engender warm fuzzy feelings of self-righteousness and moral superiority, but for men it contains no possibility of any actual sacrifice in economic or personal terms as would happen if they were valuing or protecting someone who as an actual, living human being would continue to be annoyingly imperfect, perhaps even resentful and ungrateful, who might insist on speaking for themself, and instead puts the focus on an idealized abstraction whose ‘needs’ and ‘voice’ and ‘opinion’ are always exactly like their own.

     

    I think that’s why the phrase ‘innocent human life’ comes across as so jarring – it makes it crystal clear to anyone experienced in the reality of actual pregnancy and actual children that the focus is on the ‘innocent’ instead of the humanity or the life itself.

     

    This is a problem with many religious edicts about morals for ‘humanity’ — the presumption that since people are imperfect and SHOULD BE PERFECT, philosophical discussion between moral arbiters should outline behaviors appropriate for a nonexistent ‘pure self’ not contaminated by ‘animal’ attributes, and then enforce that perfection by punishing everyone who falls short.

     

    I make this observation because I’ve made the point in several of our discussions that those blastocysts are not ‘perfect’ – genetic errors and developmental problems means the fertilized egg can fail anywhere along the line, initial division, implantation, ability to form a viable fetus, fetal ability to grow and grow correctly, ability to survive childbirth, and that these failures happen more than half the time.  Your insistence that none of this matters because everyone should PRESUME that all of them are perfect is as unrealistic as the religious insistence that people after birth must be ‘perfect’.

  • invalid-0

    I’ve always felt that since women carry the responsibility of gestation, they carry the risk of pregnancy, and as the primary caregivers, only they can decide who gets born and who doesn’t. It drives most men and many fundie folks batty to know they have no control over this awesome decision. With responsibility comes authority and women have the authority to decide who’s born and who’s not. Period. Perhaps everyone should listen to the woman in order to understand her decision, and then most importantly….ACCEPT IT.

  • invalid-0

    been around as long as humans have. I think perhaps if we learn to see ourselves as the Animals we are, instead of something different and apart from the rest of the natural kingdom, things might be different. Unlikely, I know. But, regardless, as the old wise bumper sticker says, “If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?”

  • otaku1960

    Abortion is a woman’s issue because it disproportionately affects women. Men are not as affected by it, neither are born children. The would be father does have the right to state his opinion, but he absolutely CANNOT dictate the woman’s actions. 

     

     Maybe little Johnny doesn’t like the idea that Mommy will have an abortion, but when there is a choice between putting food on the table for little Johnny, or paying for care of a baby; little Johnny will come first for his Mommy.  Little Johnny is too young to understand, but there it is, life is often unfair.  Your claim abortion is also an issues for fetuses is just laughable. 

     

    I realize you have ideals which no one should trample upon, but unwanted pregnancies will never be eliminated.  Even if they were in some kind of fantastical dimension only you inhabit, something can go wrong with even a wanted pregnancy.  Were you listening, Jim?  Because I’m am NOT going to repeat myself.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • invalid-0

    Your take on the concept of “innocence” is thought provoking, indeed. Historically, my tongue-in-cheek response has been to introduce the doctrine of “born in sin” to the discussion…which if I understand correctly…is the teaching that babies are conceived in sin and then corrupted by sin AT BIRTH. (Interpretations vary.) And subsequently, no one has ever given me a rational response to the question of what precisely the pregnant woman is guilty of…? Your sobering analysis precludes the use of this snarky rhetoric in the future.

    The reality is that ” fetal innocence” is subjective projection, without any real meaning or definition. This is helpful.

  • invalid-0

    I certainly don’t think that your willingness to state the obvious is any reason to assume that you want to be a man!

    it has been told to me, in incredulous “tones” by replies in other blogs when I wrote the same things as I wrote here: by suggesting nature is sexist and some women don’t want to be mothers, the conclusion is I “wanted to be a man”. The gender-role expectations are that strong. It’s the same “tone of voice” I read in a local letter to the editor: pregnancy can’t be a burden to women, it’s their natural biology …

    Have you ever considered this: suppose that, in the future, we develop the means

    I’m worn out. Even with Arium’s reply … your question isn’t something I have an answer for. As things are now, it’s impossible for me to envision any kind of utopia where discrimination doesn’t happen: where women & common people aren’t opressed by patriarchy & the rulers make decisions on “common good” not power & wealth. It gets wearying, year after year, seeing the same arguments over and over again, the expectations of how women should act and choose. And it hurts when fair minded people don’t see the systemic sexism that disvalues women.

    their children

    No, you can’t do that. You shouldn’t do that. It’s not on you or other strangers to tell a woman and her partner that they are parents, if the woman or couple doesn’t want the pregnancy. In the non-utopia we live in you’re asking too much of them, to either take on unwanted (perhaps debilitating) burdens or unnecessary guilt — because it’s “ageist” to disvalue a fetus.

    but how is it just to place the ultimate hardship (the prospect of a certain death) on the unborn?

    That is the quesion of someone who doesn’t trust women and doesn’t trust men, either. That is the question of someone suspicious of individual decisions, someone who thinks that
    community norms need to be coerced — human nature is too weak, since (in their “freedom”) too many people make the “wrong” decisions. People are only “truely free” when they make the “right” decisions, and haven’t been corrupted by the evils of the world.

  • crowepps

    Lucy had a line in a Charlie Brown cartoon many years ago, "I love Mankind, it’s people I can’t stand."

     

    The terrific thing about valuing the life of the abstract ‘innocent fetus’ is that it’s an entirely imaginary construct – no physical demands can be made on anyone except the woman in which it is contained.  Its voice can’t be heard so any words its advocate wants can be put into its mouth.  Its thoughts (if any) aren’t known so its advocate can assert the two of them are in perfect agreement.  Its future life can be presumed to be a huge future benefit to society, a genius or athlete or artist, but there’s no need to actually provide expensive schools or teachers.

     

    And best of all, by merely existing it provides a terrific excuse for ‘supervising’ the life, employment, diet, habits and morals of the woman in which it is residing to make sure that she doesn’t do anything that people around her find contrary to their concept of the role of ‘Mother’.

     

    The woman’s freedom is a small but necessary sacrifice, since her words and thoughts remain stubbornly individual, her imperfections are annoying, her unreasonable desire to do things like drinking coffee and making her own money and arguing with her husband are all just so self-centered.  Far more pleasant is the alternative of entertaining psychically cozy mental visualizations of that perfect agreement with the imaginary perfect infant and visualizing oneself in the role of ‘fetal savior’.

     

    Of course, once the birth is over, and the infant actually starts crying and pooping and demanding to be fed and needing expensive medical care, well, at that point it’s HER problem.  After all, SHE has to take responsibility for her choices and live with the consequences of her behavior.

  • invalid-0

    And best of all, by merely existing it provides a terrific excuse for ‘supervising’ the life, employment, diet, habits and morals of the woman in which it is residing to make sure that she doesn’t do anything that people around her find contrary to their concept of the role of ‘Mother’.

    Been on RH for awhile now…and have run out of the words to make this point. And it is not inconceivable that such “supervision” could be codified into law, should the proposals to extend superior rights to fertilized ovum be implemented. Getting this through to supporters of such proposals is an exercise in futility…

  • crowepps

    The problem is that supporters of these proposals think this is an appropriate role for government – making sure the ‘immoral’ are straightened out: forced to stop sleeping together, get married to legitimize their children, prevented from committing adultery, shielded from porn, liquor and tobacco, protected from rape by being chivvied into ‘modest’ dress.

     

    Of course, it never for a moment occurs to them that it’s possible there just might be something THEY are doing which government might be interested in supervising.  They are GOOD people and it’s totally unreasonable of the government to even for a moment interfere in THEIR lives.

  • paul-bradford

    it’s impossible for me to envision any kind of utopia where discrimination doesn’t happen: where women & common people aren’t opressed by patriarchy & the rulers make decisions on "common good" not power & wealth. 

     

    I actually wasn’t attempting to be utopian. I was posing a ‘thought problem’ to differentiate between an awareness of the fact that, on the one hand, when a pregnancy is undesired, the pain and suffering of bringing that pregnancy to term falls almost entirely on the mother and the more pressing question, on the other hand, of whether it is morally permissible to end a human life because preserving it would require someone to endure pain and suffering.  

     

    The discrimination we’re talking about, to use your term, is Nature’s sexism.  My claim is that even if we set aside the fact that Nature is sexist, we’re left with the reality that it’s possible for some humans to avoid pain and suffering as long as other humans lose their lives.  That reality plays out in a whole lot of other areas besides abortion.

     

    I think that back in the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies the patriarchy had wised up to the fact that poverty was bad for business.  We could have dealt with poverty the hard way — by aiding the poor, or we could have dealt with poverty the easy way — by getting rid of the poor.  The patriarchy figured that they couldn’t get away with sending marshals into the ghettos and knocking off poor people so they came up with a more workable plan: convince poor mothers that it was to their advantage to do away with their poor children.  It’s a great solution!  It’s good for the poor, and it doesn’t cost the patriarchy any effort.  Too bad it’s a tough break for children.

     

    I’m sure, Julie, that you’re well aware of the fact that a disproportionate number of abortions are performed on poor people.  It’s not for nothing that black Pro-Lifers refer to abortion as genocide.  

     

    You and I agree that the patriarchy is oppressing the powerless.  We just disagree about how they’re getting it done. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • crowepps

    the more pressing question, on the other hand, of whether it is morally permissible to end a human life because preserving it would require someone to endure pain and suffering.  

    And then of course there’s the OTHER problem involved here, is it ethical for the decision about preserving the pain and suffering be made by someone who knows that they are forever exempt from being in the same position.

  • invalid-0

    I try not to enter into comment threads these days since it’s probably bad for my blood pressure, but I need to point out that your assertion that abortion will go away when unwanted pregnancies are eliminated is simply untrue.

    Abortion will never go away–or, more accurately, the need for abortion will never go away. There will always be pregnancies with hazardous or even deadly complications that necessitate abortions, sometimes even very late-term ones. Abortions can prevent unnecessary fetal suffering, and they can save lives too, and for that reason the need for them cannot be eliminated (barring some bizarre future in which we can cure trisomy 13, among other things).

  • invalid-0

    I’m sure, Julie, that you’re well aware of the fact that a disproportionate number of abortions are performed on poor people. It’s not for nothing that black Pro-Lifers refer to abortion as genocide.

    Actually, it is for nothing, considering that Black people who have abortions—like most folks who have abortions—have them CONSENSUALLY. It is no more a genocide than a low birthrate is a genocide. If you want to talk about why Black people choose abortion at a higher rate than Whites, then feel free. But please leave out the secondhand “abortion = genocide” comparison, unless you’re itching to lose whatever credibility you have left.

  • invalid-0

    Across the miraculous nine months the life in question makes the transition from a human cell to a human being. A catholic friend told me that since even a zygote has a sort of agency it constitutes a human being. However, in my eyes, this agency is no better than a plant’s. I think most people intuitively understand where a fetus lies in the continuum of being merely human and alive and being a human being.

    Another Catholic friend gave me the “Handbook of Christian Apologetics” which argues that not even God can take away a human being’s moral agency (i.e. their free will, without it we aren’t really human). So then why do people in the government keep trying to do so to women?

  • snowflake

    …were more likely to be abusive that your natural ones? 

     

    It seems like you, very unfortunately, were adopted by a couple that made very bad, very abusive choices-but so have a lot of natural parents acted in that way.  Please help me understand your thoughts.

  • invalid-0

    Paul said

    the more pressing question, on the other hand, of whether it is morally permissible to end a human life because preserving it would require someone to endure pain and suffering.

    in response to Julie’s answer to Paul

    but how is it just to place the ultimate hardship (the prospect of a certain death) on the unborn?

    That is the quesion of someone who doesn’t trust women and doesn’t trust men, either. That is the question of someone suspicious of individual decisions, someone who thinks that community norms need to be coerced — human nature is too weak, since (in their “freedom”) too many people make the “wrong” decisions. People are only “truly free” when they make the “right” decisions, and haven’t been corrupted by the evils of the world.

    crowepps said elsewhere on this thread:

    The idea that there must be an outside agency, church, government, family, to control people and make them ‘conform’ to the social ‘good’ as revealed by generations of ‘tradition’ is something that is pervasive among a certain percentage in every society. This gloomy view of autonomous people seems to be biologically predetermined in people and a preset level of anxiety. Those who are not prone to it cannot understand that intense need to have the reassurance of structure and exterior control to enforce it, and those who need it cannot understand why everyone else doesn’t instantly recognize the absolute necessity for it.

    Since you didn’t say you didn’t trust when I said “it sounds like you don’t”, I’m going to conclude you don’t trust people who don’t make “right” decisions. Here’s a quote from cowepps from the Bitter Words discussion about “support”

    Support

    The unborn can never reach any degree of their potential without the support of their mothers.

    The thing you may be missing, Paul, is in any society where women are REQUIRED to go through with a pregnancy even when they don’t want to, that this social structure allows the unborn to reach their potential BY TAKING AWAY the potential of their mothers.

    As you’ve several times alluded to in your posts, ‘mother’ has a predetermined life course with predetermined duties which obligate her to abandon what she wants to do and always put her children first. Her talents, interests, intelligence and goals are all irrelevant because it’s her DUTY to do, FOR FREE, all the various and sundry caretaking and teaching that children require. If she has unique and wonderful talents which are never developed, well, too bad for her – the IMPORTANT thing is the kids.

    I’ve seen a number of posts that mention how that aborted fetus ‘could have been a genius’ or ‘could have been a great artist’. It doesn’t ever seem to occur to anybody that the women themselves might make important contributions or do great works.

    Submitted by crowepps on June 30, 2009 – 8:51pm.

    I get frustrated when people respond to real world oppression with disvaluing thought experiments.

    PS

    I think that back in the late ‘sixties and early ‘seventies the patriarchy had wised up to the fact that poverty was bad for business.

    No, poverty is good for business. Desperate people are easier to oppress. The patriarchy is blocking abortion with TRAP laws. Poor people have less contraception options, so they use abortion as birth control more than people who have better health care. I’m trying to use “fair words” here, but from the way you constantly disvalue women/the poor by calling unwanted pregnancies “children” and saying the destruction of even embryoes is “a worse problem” than their burdens I can only conclude you sound like part of the patriarchy.

  • crowepps

    Is it so hard to see that it’s a good thing to preserve the lives of living human bodies?  Wouldn’t it be best for us not to excuse ourselves for ending those lives by grabbing ahold of the all-too-convenient hope that the soul would be better off?

    Certainly no one would ever expect you to take this belief at face value.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that you get to dismiss it as invalid for the person who does believe it is true.  This is their belief, which is accorded exactly the same amount of constitutional protection as your beliefs.

    Whatever different people might believe about the soul we should be able to agree that the death of a body is significant.

    Knowing that naturally more than half of all fertilized eggs never make it all the way through the process to live birth, no, the death of the body of a fetus is not ‘significant’ – it is more likely than not going to happen.

     

    "FERTILIZED EGG (conservatively 25% lost)

     

    Half the number of eggs that are successfully fertilized through artificial insemination survive to be implanted. Some scientists speculate that the survival rate is similar for natural pregnancy, but other scientists argue that this cannot be determined.

     

    262 DAYS BEFORE BIRTH

     

    IMPLANTED EGG (25% lost)

     

    Once an egg implants itself in the uterus, it has a three in four chance of developing further. An embryo may abort even before the woman knows she is pregnant. Half of these natural abortions result from chromosomal abnormalities in the egg.

     

    241 DAYS BEFORE BIRTH

     

    FIRST TRIMESTER (10% lost)

     

    Three weeks after implantation of the egg, body parts begin to develop rapidly. At this stage, 1 in 10 embryos are lost due to chromosomal defects or a variety of external factors, including malnutrition and the mother’s exposure to toxins or diseases.

     

    178 DAYS BEFORE BIRTH

     

    SECOND TRIMESTER (2% lost)

     

    From the third to the sixth month of a pregnancy, roughly 2 out of 100 fetuses don’t survive. Most losses are less likely to be due to defects in the fetus itself than to maternal problems, such as a weak cervix, a faulty uterus, or malformations of the placenta.

     

    89 DAYS BEFORE BIRTH

     

    THIRD TRIMESTER

     

    Developmental biologists and doctors will treat a fetus in the last three months of a pregnancy as a patient on whom various diagnostic and therapeutic procedures may be performed, increasing the already promising odds of survival.

     

    BIRTH (1% lost)

     

    NEWBORN

     

    The death of a full-term baby at birth is rare. Occasionally babies die due to umbilical cord accidents, trauma, or a pregnancy that extends more than four weeks past the normal nine months. But national statistics are not compiled for such deaths."

     

    http://discovermagazine.com/2004/may/cover/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C

     

    Actually, stillbirths are reported and comprise approximately 1% of births.  Those fetuses aborted because they are nonviable are counted as aborted rather than stillbirths, and if those fetuses were included, the percentage would be higher.

  • crowepps

     suppose that, in the future, we develop the means for removing a developing fetus from her/his mother’s uterus and placing her/him in a deluxe incubator for the remainder of the gestation period.

    It would be pretty hard to get a ‘deluxe incubator’ that could interact biologically with the fetus in an appropriate manner.  I have a better idea!  On another site someone argued that a blastocyst that implanted in the woman’s abdomen shouldn’t be ‘interferred with’ because she should ‘trust in God’.  How about we take all those developing fetuses and implant them in the abdomen of men who assert they are ProLife?  After all, it would only be a ‘short-term inconvenience’ and with ceasarians now available, their lives wouldn’t even be threatened — necessarily.

  • invalid-0

    Bravo crowepps!…and there are also snowflake embryos available now for implantation.

  • crowepps

    “since even a zygote has a sort of agency”

    This thread is probably dead already, but I’ve just got to say, the idea that a couple of dozen undifferentiated cells have “a sort of agency” is one of those philosophical leaps that just frankly make me gag.

    One either has “agency” or does not – there is no ‘sort of’ anywhere in the concept. The average cat or dog has more ‘free will’ than a zygote.

    This is the logic error of insisting that the end product is totally present in the beginning, when that isn’t true at all. The zygote MAY have the necessary DNA information inherent in it to develop into a ‘human’ but it MORE THAN LIKELY does not.