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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roe v. Wade: 1973

I was a 23 year old, seriously lapsed Roman Catholic, pregnant with my second child when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on Roe v. Wade, making abortion legal.

I vaguely remember this article on the front page of the NY Times, which began, "Washington, Jan. 22 -- The Supreme Court overruled today all state laws that prohibit or restrict a woman's right to obtain an abortion during her first three months of pregnancy. The vote was 7 to 2."

Mostly, I was concerned about the death of our 36th President, Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was my way of not dealing with what I needed to deal with.

My mother and some of my aunts and uncles and many of my neighbors were outraged about the legalization of abortion. They were good Roman Catholics. They knew what they should think. We all did. We had all be very carefully taught what to think and mostly, that's what we thought.

I would rather have poured my attention into the death of a former president than walk into that emotional mess - the one that was in my own heart, that is.

I also took heart from my grandmother who was strangely silent while everyone tut-tutted around us about the abortion decision. In fact, she shushed her daughters and neighbors when they talked about it.

"Have respect for the repose of the soul of Mr. Johnson," she admonished piously, making the sign of the cross on her body and looking up at the framed picture of JFK, the one right next to the framed picture of Jesus - the one I call his "high school graduation picture" (You know the one: long hair, profile shot, back lighting. Yup, that one.)

That worked for a while but when they started up again she pointed to me and said, "Look, you are upsetting Isabella (That's what she called me instead of 'Elizabeth'). She's pregnant. You don't want this baby to be born with a birth mark, do you? That will be on your soul."

My grandmother, like many women of her generation, had been carefully taught that, if a child was born with a birthmark, it was due to something that had upset the mother while pregnant. She believed it. And, that settled it.

The room fell quiet. Even though the next generation of women didn't really believe it, no one wanted to take that chance.

In the midst of very strong emotional bond I had with my grandmother, I could feel - I knew - in my heart there was something more about this that she was not saying. Something was disturbing her about this abortion decision, but I got the distinct impression that it wasn't about the legalization of abortion. What, then, might it be?

Later that evening, I came back to see her for our nightly drink. For as long as I could remember, she and my grandfather had a glass of brandy or schnapps (apricot was her favorite) before they went to bed. These days, she warmed it and put it in her evening latte - her own "dessert coffee".

She poured me a glass of wine. Red. "Good for the baby's blood. Good to build up your milk for the baby." Bad for fetal alcohol syndrome, but we didn't know about that then, so we had no worries.

I asked her about abortion. What she thought about the decision of the Supreme Court. What that meant to her.

It was then she told me about a friend of her's with whom she shared a room when she worked as a domestic in Boston in the early days of her immigration to this country.

The girl had been flattered into having an affair with one of the sons in the house - one she thought loved her and would marry her. Until, of course, she got pregnant. Then, he gave her some money and took her to a man near Chinatown who would, he said, "take care of everything."

She died three days later of an infection and bleeding that could not be stopped.

My grandmother looked around to be certain that no one was around and then she whispered to me, "The Supreme Court did a very good thing for women today," she said. "It is not something that should be used carelessly, but only when necessary."

"But," I said, "what about the Church? They say it's murder and its a sin and you will burn in hell for eternity."

A look of revulsion came over her face, "Yes, yes, that's what they want us to believe. But then, every year on the fourth of July, they dress men up in uniforms and parade them down the street and everyone cheers because they have killed - they have killed many men and women - some of whom are pregnant - as well as their living children. And everybody cheers and Father blesses them with Holy Water when they march by because they have done these things in the 'name of God'."

"When it is convenient for them, it is okay," she hissed, "but they would rather protect and defend the lies men tell than to allow her to make a decision about her own body, her own life, her own future, in the name of God."

It was then that I heard for the first time what I would later see in posters supporting the decision of Roe v. Wade. The logic is so simple as to be considered simplistic, but there is also great wisdom inherent it the logic.

My grandmother said, "If you don't want to have an abortion, don't have one." Then, she added, "But, if a woman needs to have an abortion, that is between her heart and God, and no one - NO ONE - should make that decision for her or have the right to take away her right to make that decision for herself."

I suspect this is the genesis of my distress over those who call themselves 'orthodox' - small 'o'. Very small 'o'. I do not mind if someone thinks they are 'right'. Indeed, I do. I don't even mind that someone thinks I'm wrong. I certainly think that of the 'orthodites'.

That's not the point. The point at which my 'Portuguese' gets fired up is when that thinking is imposed on me as that which I must embrace. And then, they shame or blame me for everything that's wrong with the world.

You can get a sense of the RC position, which is embraced by the 'orthodites', in this new video here from 'Catholic Vote'. It's the same old RC 'guilt trip' of my youth, all gussied up in new technological clothes. Some things never change. Sigh.

I give thanks for the courageous decision of the 1973 Supreme Court. I give thanks, this day, that we are a democracy, and not a theocracy.

I have never had an abortion, and, unless some great miracle occurs, I will never need one. I will always believe that an abortion is a tragedy. It is so because sometimes, because we are human, our lives make tragic turns. We make bad choices. We believe the lies we are told and that we tell each other. We declare war and murder in the name of God.

In a democracy, a decision to go to war is made by a president and must be approved by Congressional vote. In a democracy, the decision for abortion is made by a woman, hopefully with the advice from and support of the man who helped her conceive, her family, her doctor and her pastor.

I pray that we will always keep abortion safe and legal. With this particular presidential administration in place, we have a greater chance of doing just that.

"You have to be carefully taught." Isn't that the way that song from South Pacific goes? The one about the ways in which prejudice and discrimination are instilled in us? Even so, I believe that there is something in the human heart, something deep in the human soul, that understands right from wrong, good from bad, despite what our culture or our church may carefully teach us.

It is this understanding that is at the heart of all of the goodness that is also part of the human enterprise. It is this understanding, ultimately, that will bring an end to war, eliminate prejudice and discrimination, improve health care, housing, employment and education and, thereby, limit the number of abortions.

Not laws, well crafted as they may be. Not government, necessary as it is. Certainly not religion, the paragon of good intentions.

The the impulse to protect and defend and secure the 'sanctity of life' is where it has always been - deep in the human heart.


Two Auntees said...

Wow! A powerful post and I couldn't agree more. I worked in Family Planning clinics for 34 years. The constant wrangling of people over the issue of abortion was so frustrating. This really speaks to the heart of the matter.

rick allen said...

Rev. Keaton, thank you for a thoughtful and obviously very personal post. I hope you don't mind a few observations by one who doesn't share your opinion.

Your grandmother was of course quite right to be disgusted by the hypocrisy of disapproving abortion while rewarding those who kill the innocent in war. When, a century or so ago, we began to wage war by the aerial bombing civilians, the conscience of the world was shocked. We have now progressed to the point that we think it a normal part of conflict, and give these atrocities video-game names like "Shock and Awe." Gaza city is just the latest witness to how far we have come.

But it disturbs me that, rather than taking a stand that, "if it's wrong here, it's wrong there," we do the opposite: "If you can get away with it, why can't everyone?" Rather than demanding an end to killing in war, we see that as a reason to extend it. So we recognize an unreviewable right to kill, but call it "progressive."

I often point out that the Roe v. Wade decision was by a Republican judge on a Republican court, with the most eloquent dissent by the Democratic Kennedy appointee Byron White. How a decision to move the unborn from the "person" category to the "thing" category became a Democratic dogma has always been for me a great mystery, at least from the party that so often took up the cause of the least and most helpless.

In any case, we have a new administration, and I am curious where we go from here. I was, and am, an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama, though I voted for him in spite of, rather than because of, his position on abortion. It is very much my hope that, with two questionable wars raging, and an economy going from bad to worse, he doesn't unnecessarily re-ignite the "Kulturkampf."

I suppose it's inevitable that we will now directly fund abortions, both here and abroad. But I hope that he looks carefully at this idea that hospitals and obstetricians that won't perform elective abortions should be penalized.

In criminal law, at least last time I looked at the issue, people who oppose the death penalty (such as myself), are to kept off juries where the law provides for possible capital punishment. I think it's a violation of the principle of trial by jury, myself, but I bring it up only because it has brought into existence a strange phrase, the "death-qualified jury."

It is my hope that we are not on our way to restricting our medical practice to "death-qualified obstetricians."

But peace, and at least we can both rejoice that Guantanamo is being closed, that torture is no longer the American Way of interrogation, and that we have, if not a perfect president, an active and caring one.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Yes, who is to make that decision, if it has to be made... The woman has to do it. No one can do it for her! Simple as that in my simple view.

Brian R said...

What a wise grandmother you had, and wise before her time. You obviously take after her.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks to everyone who had the courage to leave comments here about what continues to be a very controversial, 'hot' topic. Rick, I think there are many, many of us who have been trying to end the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Gaza, but for 8 long years, our cries and the cries of people in those countries have fallen on deaf ears. What is astounding to me is that those same deaf ears are often the same ones that are horrified at reproductive rights for women. That leads me to think that the abortion debate is not so much about the 'sanctity of life' but power. Specifically, I think, it's about the sanctity of the dominant paradigm of power, which is decidedly tilted toward the maintenance of patriarchy.

In question of when life begins is one that has been a mystery since the beginning of time. Scripture seems to support that life begins with the first breath. Although the psalms talk about being known by God before we were knit together in our mother's womb, the wonder and mystery of that is more about the miracle of being known and loved by God even before life begins - before we are a full 'person'.

We moved "the unborn from the "person" category" not as a political posture but as an embrace of the standard posed by the scientific and medical communities.

You and are not going to settle this debate. What gives me hope is that, at today's march on Washington on the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the so-called pro-life and pro-choice forces joined together to reduce the number of abortions performed by a deep commitment to changing the climate of economic disadvantage which contributes to the need for abortion in the first place.

Now, that's progress!

FranIAm said...

This may be the most powerful post about this topic that I have ever read.

As for me, I too have never had to make the choice to have an abortion. If by some miracle I were to become pregnant now, I would not terminate it.

I do believe that abortion is wrong. That is a choice that I have made in my own heart and not one that could be imposed upon me.

Nor is it one that I wish to impose upon others.

I actually was in a conversation about abortion with a woman from my parish. She was on the big rant, although to her credit, she is less histrionic than most.

The thing that she said that astounded and offended me most was that George Bush was such a strong president for life issues.

It was a parish board function and was not the time nor place for me to have the blow up that was taking place in my mind and heart.

It illustrated the pathetically narrow view of life held by so many.

I won't even go into the woman who came into my office on this topic. She was simply a sad example of people who are politcally active in "pro-life" politics and who has no clue about how government works.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fran, You make my point from the other side of this argument with passion and truth and eloquence.

The point is that no one - no one, not another man, not another woman - can know what it's like to find yourself pregnant and have to make a decision about what to do.

Your choice would be different from mine. But, you have searched your heart and are free to make your choice. No one has the 'right' to make that decision for you, or to impose their theology on you, no matter our differences.

Our job is to keep all options for reproductive choice open, safe and legal.

Thank you, my friend. This is at the core of why I have come to love you.

PseudoPiskie said...

I know what it is like to be in a position to have to decide whether or not abortion is the best solution. Frankly, it ain't nobody's business. Everyone other then the woman and her physician needs to butt out.

When my brother was in ninth grade, one of his classmates became pregnant. Her professional father was able to find someone to abort the fetus. Unfortunately, she died from the illegal procedure.

When abortion is necessary, it must be medically safe. IMNSHO those who would make abortion illegal are potential murderers. But then so are those who make birth control devices verboten.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Good point, Kirke. I hadn't considered that argument.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

All of it is incredibly powerful...the post, the comments, everything. I do not want to go back to the days when we needed to put "septic abortion" on the top end of the differential diagnosis of a young woman who comes to the ER with an "acute abdomen". I just don't want to go there.

JCF said...

How a decision to move the unborn from the "person" category to the "thing" category became a Democratic dogma has always been for me a great mystery

Because it's logical?

We, in the United States, are not a Jainist culture (believe ALL life inviolate). Most Americans "stop a beating heart" w/ almost every meal.

That some people can believe a fetal life form, w/ less sentience than a cow or pig, a "person", is just as much a mystery to ME, Rick, as the alternative is to you.

I don't understand it at all (though, admittedly, I didn't grow up Roman Catholic, w/ that particular dogma hammered into me).

Beyond indoctrination, however, I find myself speculating.

One consequence OF our sentience, though, is a lot of psychological conditions (I say this as a person w/ my own share of 'em! *g*). One such, is projection. Human beings love to project their own inner issues, outwardly. I humbly suggest, that to project one's own inner sense of powerlessness onto "the powerless, innocent unborn child", must fulfill a psychological need for many people.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

"... move the unborn from the "person" category to the "thing" category..."

Traditionally it has been considered that the "quickening" is what makes moves the from the one to the other.

Two Auntees said...

We all have different feelings about abortion and what choices we would make personally. I am thankful that we can all honor our feelings on this subject. Early in my career as a nurse, I cared for a number of young women who had had illegal abortions and complications. That experience changed my position on abortion.

The bottom line is that it is impossible to legislate whether abortion will occur or not. We can only legislate whether it is legal and safe.

Suzer said...

I think the difficulty for me comes in those circumstances where women are using abortion as a means of birth control, who are using abortion because of their own (and their partner -- not letting the men off at all!) recklessness. I am pro-choice, but believe abortion should really be a last resort. I do believe life begins at conception, and hate the idea that abortion happens at all. But the reality is that it does, and there are circumstances where a woman finds it is a necessary choice.

But, again, what to do in the circumstance of women who get abortion after abortion, with virtually no thought to the life of that unborn child? Many of my fellow pro-choicers would argue with me, saying "every woman who makes that decision agonizes over it," but that's just not true. There ARE women and men who don't take sex or its consequences seriously. There are women who DO get two, three, or four abortions (I've known a couple of them personally). Not only do I believe it takes a life each time, but I also know this can't be good for the woman's health.

So, I guess my question to those who believe in a more absolute "abortion on demand" approach would be -- would you support a limit on the number of non-medically necessary abortions a woman can have? I realize that brings a whole other set of complications. However, the irresponsbility factor -- which is indeed a number of women who get abortions -- is something not often discussed by pro-choice folks. We'd like to believe it is only women in dire and desperate circumstances that turn to abortion. We don't like to deal with those messy situations where the anti-abortion crowd has a point. Where do we draw the line?

IT said...

What Two Auntees said.

Look at what has happened in Nicaragua, where abortion is completely illegal, and hospitals are even afraid to treat women for hemorrhage from illegal abortion for fear of being criminally prosecuted as accessories. See the report from Human Rights Watch (PDF).

Women will not stop having abortions. There will always be reasons they want to terminate a pregnancy. But they will die. The "pro-life" movement is very selective in whose lives it is "pro", leading to the conclusion that they believe that women should die for the "sin" of wanting to terminate.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Suzer - I agree. It am personally repulsed by abortion as birth control. I do not believe that is the intent of the law. You name the problem, however - how to contain or control the problem. Where to draw the line? One? Two? Three strikes and you're out? What do you do with a child that is not wanted? Would you be able to sleep at night if you were a judge or doctor who forced a woman to have the child against her will? Or, forced her to give it up for adoption? What then? Forced sterilization? Can you say "Hitler"? That distresses me as much as abortion as birth control.

Bottom line: We need to keep abortion safe and legal AND educate, educate, educate while we work on the causative factors of poverty.

Sorry. No easy answers. You know. Like the rest of life.

JCF said...

would you support a limit on the number of non-medically necessary abortions a woman can have?

Absolutely not (speaking personally, of course).

Ultimately, it is the pregnant woman who decides whether an abortion is "necessary" or not. Short of deciding that an abortion might itself harm her (and I mean IMMEDIATELY harm, not the BS that anti-choicers would have you believe about "consequences"), abortion providers SHOULD respect a woman's expression of need of an abortion.

People make decisions I don't like, all the time.

But even as *I* can't set "a limit on the number of" times someone votes Republican ;-/, neither should this other thing we don't like ("abortion as birth control", as you stipulate) be outlawed, either.

Grace said...


I consider myself pro-life, and I think abortion should be a very last resort, too, Suzer.

I think the sanctity of life in general has become cheapened in our culture. It's true that many women do agonize over the decision to have an abortion, but many do not.

And, I can't help but think the law has played a major rule in helping to further shape, and influence
public opinion. The law should be helping to deter, and not enable the taking of life.

To be honest, I think this is more than just a religious matter. There are atheists who are pro-life.

And, what are othodites?

P.S. I also agree with many of Rick Allen's comments.

Before the election, I had been struggling with my vote. I actually had taken one of these online tests to see where my opinions would fall on the issues, either progressive, or conservative. My score was split evenly down the middle, absolutely fifty, fifty. It was a stalemate.

I was still struggling, praying, and undecided right to the point of pushing the buttons on the voting machine.

But, in the end, I could not bring myself to vote for such a strongly pro-choice president. I just couldn't.

And, now barely in office, Obama, has signed legislation that means a portion of my tax money is going to be spent helping to fund abortion overseas. I'm broken-hearted, and totally angry at the sametime.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Grace, for stopping by and risking leaving your opinion. We will always disagree on the final, legal matter of abortion, but we do agree that they should never be used for birth control or convenience. I suspect where we disagree is that, even when abortion is used for convenience, I still feel strongly that it is the woman's decision - even though I am strongly opposed to her making that decision which I believe is a tragedy.

I'm curious though, Grace, and wonder if you would risk further: Would you REALLY write a law that would restrict or deny an abortion based on 'convenience'?

Who gets to define 'convenience'? What stops this law from invading in other parts of our lives? Say, a fatal car accident is now 'vehicular homicide' but would become 'first degree murder' if you were in your car just for the sake of convenience?

And, what would the punishment be if the woman was found to have lied about the reasons for her abortion? Would it be considered a capital offense?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Actually, Grace, you don't have to answer those questions. I'd just like you to think about them, is all.

FranIAm said...

Perhaps late to this portion but I must weigh in on this matter to Grace, whom I have come to know and respect in the comments of many blogs. We may disagree on much my sister, but so we grow and learn.

My words are not meant to antagonize you or anyeone else but...

I am wondering how you feel about your tax dollars that are spent on wanton war and destruction as well as those that were used for torture?

What about the tax dollars that are used to bail out companies that result in large executive compensation packages for the mighty and job loss for the less so?

What about the tax dollars not spent on education, housing and health care?

These rhetorical questions are posed to ask the bigger questions.

We can't so easily impose our views on others in a secular democracy.

Two Auntees said...

I worked in Family Planning Clinics seeing patients on a daily basis for 34 years. During all that time I saw only one woman that was using abortion as a method of birth control. I, too, find using abortion as a method of birth control repugnant.

I believe that women who do make the choice to use abortion as a method of bc may have deeper issues going on in their lives. However, I would not limit the number of times a woman could use abortion as distasteful as that might be to me personally. I do believe that the women who have repeated abortions are rare.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You make some excellent points about how our tax money is used against our better judgment or even our will. I know many people who have refused to pay taxes as a protest against the war. Indeed, I know someone who learned that part of the taxes we used to pay to Ma Bell went to fund the Viet Nam war and got their service cut off because they refused to pay it. They took it to court, made the phone company reinstate their service while it was in litigation, and after 10 or 12 years won the case.

I would love to know if there are those who are so opposed to abortion that they would do the same thing.

I think this will be an ongoing conversation, Fran. I hope we don't stop. We keep each other accountable and, as you say, we grow and learn.

I have not met a woman who has had more than one abortion, and I've been at this for more years than I care to admit. I don't think it's as common as some would like to think. Even so, it happens more often than I would like to think. More than once is too much for me.

But then again, it's not about me. And, that, ultimately, is the point.

Br. Christopher Nicholas said...

I am an Affirming Catholic, Integrity member who is generally progressive on most social issues but not this one.
I consider abortion the ultimate form of discrimination against the most vulnerable. To my way of thinking human rights begin in the womb.
I have worked in social services for many years and have worked with clients, who were very savvy about birth control and were given free condoms and other forms of birth control regularly. The problem is not education, at least not anymore.
The problem is getting people to USE the birth control. I worked with many at-risk youth, some of whom had more than three abortions. The main reason I heard from these young women was that a.) they were going to go to college one day b.) a baby would affect their lifestyle (i.e. "I just want to have fun and party for awhile. I'm gonna have a career one day but now I just want to be free and experience eveything!"
Also, do a little looking and you will see that couples/singles/glbt families take out adds in Rolling Stone and all other kinds and types of magazines and newspapers. There are women and men dying to be parents, agencies that will pay ALL the mother's expenses, enroll her in college or vocationsl school, teach her life skills, and help her get a job, and apartment and they follow up for 5 years after the birth and offer lifetime assistance in some cases i.e. Edna Gladney Center.
I do not support making abortion illegal (though I would support limits...three strikes and your out seems more than generous to me!) I only wish we spent as much on education and resource allotment towards really showing women the beatiful choice of adoption.
In my younger years I supported abortion strongly. Then, I saw (thanks to the internet) several actual abortions performed and my heart broke open with sorrow. They weren't blobs of jelly but teeny tiny babies.
Finally, I've never understood why we call an unborn child a baby when it's being carried by a mother that wants her/him but a fetus when a mother doesn't want it.
Also, why do we grieve with, support and comfort women who have miscarriages if they are not seen as unborn children? Current therapeutic practice is for these mothers to name their miscarried babies.
I recently joined Democrats for Life. They are not trying to repeal any abortion laws but too make good on the often claimed "safe, legal and RARE." and they support adoption and issues of poverty and education to help women have other viable options.
My heart aches for a child to love and care for. I hope to go through the foster care process and eventually adopt a medically fragile child. But I make very little money and adoption is expensive. I will be happy if I can just foster a child and be Mr. Rogers meets Aunti Mame!
I'm not judging or condemning anyone who is pro-choice but my belief is that human rights start when human life begins.
For any who are interested check out the GLBT pro-life group (they are NOT fundies either): the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
Bottom line: promote foster care and adoption (with money and awareness) with at least the same commitment and attention we give to reproductive rights.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for dropping by today, Br. I'm not where you are, but I do understand your point. For me, bottom line, it's a human right's issue, too - where we differ is that I believe the human with the rights is a woman.

Yes, the pictures on the internet are not pretty. Those pictures are placed their by "Talibangelicals" who want to elicit the exact reaction you had.

Let me tell you about the pictures they won't show you: Women and children living in poverty. The uterus of women that have been punctured or infected by botched abortions. Women who have bled to death or died from sepsis from poorly done abortions.

Foster care and adoption? I speak as a former foster care parent as well as the adoptive mother of a profoundly retarded, multiply handicapped special needs child. Throwing money at foster care and adoption won't make it better. Needs lots more regulation.

I'm neither judging nor condemning your, Br., but this is a much more complex problem than foster care or adoption.

Stats prove that the 'wanton youth' who have multiple abortions are not the source of the problem.

Let's deal with the causative factors: Poverty. Unemployment. Poor educational standards. Alcoholism. Drugs. Divorce.

And, oh, a little thing called 'sexism' which causes women to have lower pay, higher unemployment, poorer education, and is more adversely affected by alcohol, drugs and divorce.

As people of good faith across the religious and political spectrum have come to agree, we can reduce the number of abortions done in a year by working together to deal with the causative factors.

That's where I'm with you, Br.

rick allen said...

"And, what would the punishment be if the woman was found to have lied about the reasons for her abortion? Would it be considered a capital offense?"

I am not sure about the old abortion laws in all fifty states, but I have looked at New Mexico's old abortion statute, and it carried no penalty for the mother. She was considered as much a victim as her child, and was subject to no punishment for an illegal abortion.

It does raise a question that I've always been curious about. Roe v. Wade transformed what had been a crime into a constitutional right. Presumably anyone imprisoned at the time as a result of an abortion could no longer be incarcerated. How many people, I wonder, were in fact released when Roe was decided--if any?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Great question, Rick. Anybody know the answer?

IT said...

Br Christopher, the Catholic church opposes birth control. It is a logical inconsistancy to oppose abortion while simultaneously opposing the means to avoid abortion.

And no one has address the Nicaragua experience (or the US pre-Roe):

Criminalizaing abortion will not stop it. It will instead kill women in illegal back-alley efforts to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Is that acceptable? Apparently so.

So, back to the days pre-Roe of unwiling mothers strapped to the tables for delivery. Charming picture, isn't it? This womb for hire. Or rather, this womb as property of the state.

I also find that the willingness of so many of the pro-life side to ignore what happens to children after birth, including abuse, starvation, the death penalty, unjust war, and other issues of, simply, LIFE, makes it hard for me to see their "pro-life" stand as part of a consistent thread of LIFE.

Don't like abortion? Don't have one. Feel free to advocate your views. But you have no right to force your views on any free individual who does not share your religion, and prevent her from having full authority over her own body.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

In fairness, IT, I think that's what Br. was doing - saying that he doesn't want abortion to become illegal, but stating his views in opposition to abortion in certain situations. At least, that's how I heard him.

It's hard, when you feel so emotionally attached to your position, not to hear anything that comes even close to a compromise of your - or any woman's rights - as a threat. But Br. was simply stating his opinion while stating that he did not believe in making abortion illegal.

I know. He also said "three strikes and you're out" sounded good to him. I heard that as musing. I don't like the sound of that either, but he wasn't proposing that this become the law. He was just expressing his revulsion to multiple abortion / abortion as birth control.

Feel free to weigh in, Br.

rick allen said...

"I also find that the willingness of so many of the pro-life side to ignore what happens to children after birth, including abuse, starvation, the death penalty, unjust war, and other issues of, simply, LIFE, makes it hard for me to see their "pro-life" stand as part of a consistent thread of LIFE."

I agree entirely, but would point out that it is a sword that cuts both ways. Why is it any less inconsistent to oppose those atrocities, but care nothing for the millions who have not been allowed to live till birth?

Why, I wonder, is a consistent ethic of life so difficult to maintain?

Suzer said...

Thank you for sharing here, Br. Christopher. I think it's important to note that not all who identify as "liberal" or "progressive" are in lock step on this issue. My opinion closely mirrors your own.

JCF -- I'm not suggestion abortion be outlawed altogether. However, I do suggest that something be done to avoid the abuse of abortion as a tool for irresponsible people. I'm all for birth control, alleviation of poverty, education, affordable day care, helping women escape from abusive situations, etc. However, because I truly believe that life begins at conception (my belief is not based on science, but is more of a spiritual/religious belief - though one could scientifically argue the matter as well - even a zygote is a form of human life), I do tend to see abortion as a form of murder.

So honestly, why not create a limit to non-medically necessary abortions? Women who need an abortion for medical reasons could have any number of them.

I went to a meeting yesterday (had nothing to do with abortion, this was just coincidence) where a woman spoke about her experience working at an abortion clinic. She was trying to conceive at that same time. She was astounded (and I dare say sickened) by the number of women coming in to get late term abortions in particular. Women came in at 36 weeks wanting to end their pregnancies. Of course, she had to explain they could not get an abortion at that time, but would have to choose adoption.

What is so wrong with people having to face responsibility for their actions? After two or three abortions, don't you think a woman would have "figured it out" so to speak? And yeah, the guy, too? If a woman killed three human lives outside of her womb, she would be held responsible. I would think that, after three abortions, sterilization would be appropriate. I'm not talking about throwing anyone in jail, but about setting some limits on irresponsible behavior that harms the life and health of mother and baby.

Multiple abortions can also cause much harm to the woman's body. Should we not be concerned about that as well?

Br. Christopher Nicholas said...

A final thought.
When I was hospitalized for AIDS related anxiety (I could not accept, cope with or beleive my diagnosis)we were having a support group meeting which always opened with a meditation from one of the wonderful Hazeldon (sp?) series books most often used by folk in recovery. The daily meditation closed with this affirmation:
"I forgive myself for accepting sex when I needed love."
I almost fell out of my chair because of the resonance I had with those words. That was the source of my sorrow. From there forward I began to accept and to live with AIDS instead of see myself as dying from AIDS. It was an Epiphany like the hard fall of roses on an empty grave. The clarity was my Damascus road.
I remember moving deeper into that awareness and thinking that if I had been a woman I would have most likely been pregnant several times already. What would I do? Probably, I would be a welfare mom but who can say for sure.
What I mean to say by all of this is for how many women with an unplanned pregnancy would that affirmation ring true? I think many.
Love is what we were made for and some of us are/were dying for it so much that we settle for loves too small and risk all kinds of dangers.
Most secular awareness programs won't/can't get to the blood and root of the hunger. But the Church can.
In the end, to my way of thinking,
"The greatest thing we ever learn is just to love and be loved in return"

Grace said...

Thank you, Mother Kaeton. But, I don't feel that I am really taking a risk sharing. I sense the love of the Lord in everyone here, and I know we are all grappling with this together. Our lives are hidden in Christ with God.

Brother Christopher I"m especially blessed by your comments. My prayer for you is that God will open a path for you to adopt that special child.

My heart is to maintain a consistent life ethic, and I have to be honest, and say that it is my progressive Christian friends that have very much challenged my thinking in this, and have shown me some inconsistencies in my own life, and thinking.

I would not make all abortion illegal, particularly very early on, or when medically necessary.

But, unlike many here, I do think we need a fresh look a Roe vs. Wade, and would want to see the legal parameters tightened. Of course, I also feel that we need to do everything possible to show compassion, and support women in poverty, and in crisis pregnancies.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I just want us to pay attention to something here: We have disagreed with each other, but we have done so with respect and dignity - and, often, with eloquence. But mostly, while we have disagreed on methodology, we have agreed that we need to keep abortion safe and legal while working to reduce the number of abortions performed in this country.

This, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle.

Can I just get me a "Woo hoo!"?

Or, at least, an 'Amen! Thank you Jesus!"?

Br. Christopher Nicholas said...

Deo Gratias!!!
And (so far) no one has left the debate to start a new church.
Civil discourse and agreeable disagreement are not lost arts.

Two Auntees said...

You definitely get a WOO HOO from me. This is a wonderful conversation from differing points of view.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I really think this has to do with the tone set by this new administration. YES WE CAN is absolutely infectious - on so very many levels.

Grace said...

Hey, I'll give ya an Amen, and a thank you Jesus!! :)

Paul (A.) said...

A couple of points:

Roe v. Wade was not about a criminal defendant trying to get out of jail. It was about a pregnant woman seeking an injunction against the anti-abortion law so that she could get an abortion. It may be that following the decision imprisoned doctors may have sought to have sentences reopened, but I am not aware of any.

Br. Christopher writes, "The problem is not education, at least not anymore." But consider that the administration just passed was strongly committed to restricting contraceptive education at home and abroad. Some have mourned the end of that policy. There is always room for education.

He also asks, "Finally, I've never understood why we call an unborn child a baby when it's being carried by a mother that wants her/him but a fetus when a mother doesn't want it." Not everyone does this. A fetus is a fetus. A baby is a baby. Calling something other than what it is is either metaphor or propaganda.

Rick Allen notes that under pre-Roe New Mexico law the aborting woman "was subject to no punishment for an illegal abortion." Other than the death penalty, in far too many cases.

Göran Koch-Swahne corectly points out that the traditional position of the Church drew the line at "quickening:. This was held to take place at around the end of the first trimester (coincidence?) and represented ensoulment: Abortion prior to thie time was only a venial sin but a mortal sin thereafter. This "life begins at conception" line was introduced in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century by revisionists. The scientific position is that life begins about 3.8 billion years ago; everything since is mere variation.

And pregnancy begins at implantation. And the person in whom the implantation takes place is the one person affected by that. And she should choose, in my view, what if anything to do about it, not anyone else.

Br. Christopher Nicholas said...

Paul A. Wrote:

"Roe v. Wade was not about a criminal defendant trying to get out of jail. It was about a pregnant woman seeking an injunction against the anti-abortion law so that she could get an abortion."

In fairness, it should at least be mentioned in this discussion that the real Jane Roe, Norma McCorvey, has since come to repudiate her involvement in the abortion movement and claims, in her own testimony, that she was used by her lawyers as a pawn in a legal battle. She speaks quite loudly for herself and has since written two books about her journey. She entered the Roman Catholic Church in 1998 and has her own ministry.
"It was my pseudonym, Jane Roe, which had been used to create the "right" to abortion out of legal thin air. But Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee never told me that what I was signing would allow women to come up to me 15, 20 years later and say, "Thank you for allowing me to have my five or six abortions. Without you, it wouldn't have been possible." Sarah never mentioned women using abortions as a form of birth control. We talked about truly desperate and needy women, not women already wearing maternity clothes."

To follow her journey, whether you pity, disagree with or support her go here:

Paul A, says:
"There is always room for education."
I don't deny this. What I am trying to say, based on my experience working with at-risk youth for 16 years and teaching comprehensive sex education is that I personally gave out tons of condoms to HIV+ youth who were highly educated about virus transmission, how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STD transmission. The majority still choose, like most teens,to have unprotected sex.
Therefore, I think we need to swith from knowledge ABOUT birth control (at least in the USA) to getting these birth control and sex educated beloved ones to USE them. This article supports what most of us already know:

"As for sex education's impact on condom use, Brown notes that knowledge is only part of the equation when it comes to adolescents' engaging in risky behaviors. Kids are taught over and over again to use seat belts and not to smoke, he points out, yet they continue to ignore those lessons in droves.

So here's my proposal: Let's get the people who do marketing for cigarettes and hyper-caffeinated soft drinks to put their might behind marketing condoms. If condoms were presented as fun and cool, wouldn't kids be more likely to at least buy them, and perhaps even to use them?

You tell me."


For those who think that being pro-life is for religious folk, less enlightend Christians or out right Fundamentalists, please see:

The Athiest & Agnostic Pro-Life League
Pagans for Life
and Feminists for Life

Paul A. wrote:
"This "life begins at conception" line was introduced in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century by revisionists. The scientific position is that life begins about 3.8 billion years ago; everything since is mere variation."

Their is no "scientific position" and more than there is the "Christian position". There ARE "scientific positionS" as there are widely varying "Christian positionS".

For a non-biased and well done presententaion of the earliest held positions (pre-Christian) up to current "scientific positionS" see here: "When Does Human Life Begin?" (from a widely used, award-winning, college level developmental biology textbook)

Finally, Paul A. wrote:
"And pregnancy begins at implantation. And the person in whom the implantation takes place is the one person affected by that. And she should choose, in my view, what if anything to do about it, not anyone else."

I side with Mother Theresa on this one: ""It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you live as you wish"

Good debate!

P.S. My letters in caps. are meant to be italicized, but being new to blogging, I have not yet figured out how one does this.