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Let's Talk About Obama & Abortion (put your shields up!)

I got into a mini-discussion on Facebook about Obama and full-term abortions and thought this might be a great (if volatile) discussion. It certainly is longer than a commentary in Facebook.

As some background, I am rabidly pro-choice. I used to work at Planned Parenthood and counseled women regarding their THREE options for their pregnancies – keeping the baby, adoption and abortion. I listened to some horrible stories of abuse, rape (by spouses, mostly), poverty and being extremely young (counseled girls as young as 12 and the youngest girl I doula’d was 11 years old). Not all of the women chose abortion, but all thought of it. Blessedly, they were able to choose from ALL of their options.

Some of the saddest stories came from the anti-choice women who found themselves pregnant and didn’t want to be. Listening to their inner struggles – on the one hand, picketing against abortion, shouting “That’s a live baby you’re carrying inside! Don’t kill it!!” versus finding themselves inside The Enemy’s camp, asking/begging for something they (supposedly) don’t believe in. It was really hard to cope with the hypocrisy, but they were treated and cared for just as anyone else. The most difficult of all was seeing that same woman, two days later, out picketing once again. Apparently, abortion should be illegal… except for her.

I know that some might think it is oxymoronic to be a pro-choice midwife, but for me, it makes perfect sense. I comprehend, first hand, the preciousness of a baby – and have seen the devastation an unwanted child can bring. Seeing children abused, some beyond recognition, changes one forever.

I’ve doula’d for women having abortions – friends and strangers. I’ve been with family members as they have terminated their pregnancies. The process isn’t the most pleasant, but it doesn’t gross me out. The decision is NEVER an easy one; I’ve never heard a woman flippantly choose to terminate a pregnancy.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, but I do want to address the Obama and “partial-birth” (late-term) abortion issue. It seems to have transformed into an infanticide discussion, so I’ll address that, too.

First, watch this video.

The “baby” in this video was 21-22 weeks.

This from the BMJ says:

While the birth of a baby more than 12 weeks early poses many dilemmas, the threshold of viability has certainly been pushed back by the advent of respiratory support. Recent North American guidelines have suggested that survival occurs at 22 weeks, but Win Tin et al for the Northern Neonatal Network found no evidence for this in any white community and identified only eight survivors among the 197 babies of 23 weeks' gestation who were alive at the start of labour in their own study (half of whom had severe disability at 2 years). A 60% increase in survival in babies of under 28 weeks over the 12 years of the study had not been accompanied by any change in the proportion with disability, with 10% never likely to achieve mobility or communicate intelligibly. Recent developments have improved the outlook for the viable baby but have not changed the threshold of viability.

This comment from an L&D Nurse says in part:

…more common way to talk about viability is in terms of when the baby can live outside the womb. There have been a few babies born as early as 21-22 weeks, but most neonatologists call either 23-24 weeks viable, and most of the time if birth were to happen before then they would not use any measures to save the baby because mortality rates are far too high and rates of permanent disabilities are also far too high if they do survive

It is sad the nurse in the video saw or put the fetuses in the dirty laundry room (if in fact that really did happen at all), but I have to say, in my experiences with NICU nurses and NICUs in general, this has to be so rare; she seems to be the only nurse quoted publicly. She says other hospitals have done this, but it isn’t anything I know or could find real proof of occurring. Granted, I am not an NICU nurse nor have I worked in a number of NICUs (or even one), but I have asked around and haven’t heard of anything like this. The fetuses (or babies, if you want me to use that term) are so tiny and so un-formed (especially on their insides, including their brains), the likelihood of their even taking one breathing gesture is minute. This nurse made it sound like what she witnessed happened during every shift!

The other mis-representation comes in other similar YouTube videos. Several of them showed full-term (6 week old!) babies, wrapped in towels or blankets, left on tables in dark rooms… no adult around, seemingly left to fall off the table and/or starve to death. THIS IS NOT SO! As the nurse said in the above video, the baby barely moved and she couldn’t even tell if he was alive or dead except looking through the baby’s transparent skin (!). A few lessons in fetal development are in order for those that believe this erroneous information.

As is typical of this argument/discussion, semantics/definitions can be the stumbling blocks between any two trying to get the other to hear what they are saying. Pro-choice/Anti-Abortion - Pro-life/Pro-Abortion -it all gets jumbled in the humanity of it all.

An anti-choice person can use the term “partial-birth abortion” and “infanticide” as much as they want, but I (and apparently Obama!) see things differently.

Originally, the poster on Facebook said that Obama believed in full-term abortion. I never found any truth in that. He does approve of a woman’s choice in second and third trimester abortions, but also acknowledges that less than 1% are later than mid-term.

I find the infanticide discussion grasping to incite. If you believe a fetus born with physical responses as living, then I can see how “pro-lifers” would think a baby is born alive. However, physical reactions to inner electrical impulses do not a baby breathing make. Not that they are anything similar, the best example of something not alive that can still physically function is the chicken with his head cut off. Or humans that continue physical movement even after they die.

Trying to find balanced information on this topic is virtually impossible. The verbiage is incredibly inflammatory when coming from the right and defensive when it comes from the left. Where is the truth? I am sure somewhere in the middle.

I have no problems with what Obama says about supporting Roe vs. Wade to its letter, including terminations late in pregnancy. While I wouldn’t be able appropriately counsel a woman unsure of her choices at 24+ weeks for anything that wasn’t a life or death issue (for mom OR baby), I wouldn’t keep her from making that choice.

I am not a great debater when it comes to issues such as this, but I am able to counter (or agree with) others’ thoughts as they present them. As long as the discussion is civil, not flaming (no name-calling or snide comments allowed!) and productive, I am glad to continue approving comments. When/If it disintegrates, I’ll just close off the topic. I do not expect anyone to change another’s mind – and we have all surely heard the arguments on both sides – but if we want to discuss the Obama issue, I am game. Just know there isn’t one thing you can say to make me vote for anyone else than Obama.

Shall we?

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
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    - Navelgazing Midwife Blog - Let's Talk About Obama & Abortion (put your shields up!)
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    - Navelgazing Midwife Blog - Let's Talk About Obama & Abortion (put your shields up!)
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    - Navelgazing Midwife Blog - Let's Talk About Obama & Abortion (put your shields up!)

Reader Comments (49)

Thank you for bringing this up. Being a pro-choice midwife is wonderful and makes perfect sense to me! I am also a former employee of Planned Parenthood and a current nursing/nurse-midwifery student. I applaud your efforts to address this issue.

September 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDanika

Thank you for this nuanced view of abortion. I have a couple of thoughts that I would like to share to add to the discussion. I identify as a feminist and have spent my fair share of time doing escort service past the picket lines. I have not personally had an abortion, but I have acted as moral, emotional and physical support for women who have. It breaks my heart that there are situations in which children aren't wanted, or women feel stretched to their physical capacity to care for their already living children. Who am I to dictate to someone they must or must not carry a pregnancy to term. Perhaps instead of debating on whether or not a fetus is a person whose rights trump that of the woman carrying it, or when life truly begins, or who should be having sex with whom, it would be more constructive to start looking at how we value children as a culture? Maybe if we sat down, decided we were removing those really emotionally charged issues of "anti-choice" and "pro-abortion", and had a conversation about why we women make the choices we do, the true picture would become a little less bleary.

At this point in my life, I believe that if my husband and I were to become pregnant, my husband and I would terminate that pregnancy. I am not physically or emotionally ready to be a mother. But maybe if our society had a better way of supporting families, or a better system in place to help support children from families that can't take care of them, I wouldn't feel so frightened about the prospect of becoming a parent. Or I wouldn't be so frightened of giving a child up to a foster-care system. From what my family has seen of the foster-care system, there are families that are wonderful and amazing and truly love every child that comes in their door. There are also families that are bat-crazy and I wouldn't entrust them with a goldfish. So as I like to ask people who feel strongly about women choosing adoption over abortion, have you adopted a child or two in your life-time? If not, what's stopping you?

September 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMerrie

Sarah is a tad more blunt and asks, "How many black crack babies have YOU adopted?" I would go on to add mixed race adolescents with three siblings that go with them.

Kids, however, aren't puppies at the kennel. They are human beings who need a lifetime of love and joy in order to thrive in this (often) painful culture of ours. If the kids aren't adopted, they don't get put to sleep, they keep living, in sadness, wondering why no one wanted them.

If life were easy and we all had enough money with plenty of room for all the kids in the world, there *might* be an argument against termination, but there isn't anything like that in our world, in any location.

There has been abortion since the beginning of time. There always will be. It is crucial to keep it legal and safe. Something I didn't bring up... what would I do if abortion became illegal in our country... would I learn how to do abortions? I think I probably would. (But, that's yet another one of those go-to-jail issues I'd have to really play out to the end.)

September 29, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Here is a link to my blog post about why Palin is not "committed to life" and why you should vote for Obama if you want the best life for your own children: http://mamablogess.blogspot.com/2008/09/palin-is-committed-to-life-huh.html

Also, the thing about these bills that allow abortion in later terms of pregnancy that everyone has to remember is that the wording usually provides the fetus actual legal rights. The fetus being granted legal rights is an absolutely horrible idea for every birthing woman in the country. Birthing women are already forced into procedures and c-sections in the name of the baby, and granting the baby legal rights mean that the doctors are then able to do anything they want with you during pregnancy and birth, and will be legally backed up because of the fetus's legal rights. The woman would have zero say. This wording gets into these late term abortion bills, but if it passes, then it can be applied to any abortion, and thus any pregnancy, labor or birth. I am glad Obama has the wisdom to decipher the implications of bills like this.

I consider myself to be pro-life, for myself, but politically pro-choice. And because of the implications of giving the fetus legal rights, my position will never change. I think abortion is a symptom of an unhealthy society, and if we focus on other factors (war, global warming, universal health care, economy) we would see less abortion.

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer (mama blogess)

I am aware that what I'm about to say is an unpopular postion, but I don't care, lol.

I think abortion, gay marriage, etc, are smokescreen issues and frankly , I'm insulted that the monkeys in office think we are all so brainwashed and stupid that we'll focus on these issues above things like, oh, the fact we are about to enter into a depression that will make the 1930's look like a cakewalk.

Fact: Abortion is legal. Personally, I'm about as rabidly anti-abortion as a person can be but that doesn't make me stupid, without compassion or unaware of the complicated issue it is for some women. I think attacking the legality of it is barking up the wrong tree, anyway. It's one of the reasons I don't like to label myself pro-life...because so many of them are MORONS. Don't get me started. Abortion is legal because that is what women want. If people like myself and other anti-abortion people want to see a reduction in that area, we should be doing it by supporting women, providing support networks for them and stop lying to and abusing our young women. Having the choice whether or not to kill your baby before it's born isn't much of a choice, in my opinion. Maybe we need to look at the society we live in and figure out why that is an appealing choice to some women. Perhaps there are a LOT of things that MUST change before abortion ever becomes no longer an issue. Dont' get me wrong, I do NOT support abortion. But I see it as a symptom of a much bigger problem and voting for or against someone that waves that flag around is just plain dumb in my opinion. It's legal. It's going to stay legal. The president doesn't have the power to just change something like that on a whim.

Obama is pro-choice. Good for him. Honestly, I don't care. I don't care if he's pro-choice, supports gay marriage etc. And to be completely fair, McCain scares the bejeesus out of me, too. And you know what? I don't care that he's pro-life! Things like that DO NOT MATTER in the long run. What matters is foreign policy. What matters is economics. What matters is how much government involvement this guys want in my MY PRIVATE LIFE. I'm not to happy with what I'm seeing in either camp and both of them are very good at making everything sound nice (though not nearly as good as they are at confusing issues by mud-slinging).

Oh, and so sorry, NGM, I don't want a socialist for president any-more than I want an fundamentalist republican team.

Honestly I'm sick to death of this. EVERY election people get all stupid about immigration, abortion and gay rights. I'm not saying these are not important issues, mind you. I'm saying that they are issues the Presidency has little effect on (obviously). It bothers me that every candidate waves these little flags of "hot button" issues and what's really disturbing is that IT WORKS. Meanwhile, our civil liberties have been whittled down to a teeny little nub. Our economy is in the death throws. People are going to be seriously concerned about starving and we are talking about what? ABORTION IS LEGAL.

Pro-lifers: Abortian is legal for a reason. Think about that for a minute. You want to see change? Be the change. Stop lying to your children, stop telling them that a baby will ruin their life. Stop telling them they *can't* be good parents because they are too young. Stop encouraging them to be CHILDREN until they magically become adults at 18. EDUCATE THEM. Stop believing that if you just tell them strongly enough not to have sex, they won't. Because all of those things add up to scared shitless 14yr old girls that think their life is OVER because they're pregnat. Or worse, they think you won't love them anymore or that you will abandon them. You know what makes me sick? SOME OF THEM ARE RIGHT. If we expect abortion to not be an attractive issue, we need to stop trying to squelch every other option in the book for women, no matter what their age is. Stop trying to restrict access to knowledge about their bodies, sex and for God's sakes don't restrict their access to birth control. Treat your daughters like they are PEOPLE with ideas, thoughts, opinions and sexual bodies that work like they are supposed to. She HAS a choice, whether you acknowledge it or not.. How about respecting that? Start there. Treat your children with respect and teach them to respect themselves and the people around them. Stop wasting everyone's time by spreading misinformation and lies. It's embarrassing. Stop setting them up for failure from the get go. We need nurturing communities! Not judgmental dynasties where everyone feels isolated and alone. Why should any pregnant woman ever be faced with the awful decision of abortion? NGM put it well: I've never met a woman who flippantly chose an abortion. Let's stop throwing rocks and FIX THE PROBLEM. Abortion is a symptom, people. And while I hate to say so, a large part of the problem is to be found right here, in this camp. Offensive? Sorry. I'm not trying to be. It's just reality. Young women don't have the support system they need...period. Grown women don't, either. The foster-care system and the adotpion agencies in this country are absolutely deplorable and I've actually known women who would chooses abortion because the thought of sentencing their child to that hell was something they couldn't do. Abortion shouldn't be a freaking rallying banner for self-righteous, judgmental people who spend all of their time worrying about how other people live their lives. Meanwhile, their teenage daughter is pregnant and it's largely due to ignorance.

*blink* Yeah, I get ranty. Sorry.

Pro-choicers: People who are anti-abortion are not necessarily anti-woman. I'm so sick of the pro-choice movement labelling us all like heartless bast*rds who have no appreciation or respect for women's rights. Some of us are feminists and deeply respect a womans power and ownership of her body. That being said, from my perspective, my rights end where yours start. That includes the child that is nutured and protected in my body. To kill that child while it's safely tucked away is to me, the greatest betrayal of a primal trust. I understand that tragedies occur and that some women are truly in horrific situations. I DO understand that. But the baby doesn't. The baby doesn't understand much of anything other than safety, warmth and swaying. The baby itself isn't a tragedy. Some of us truly understand that for many women, abortion seems like the only option. Some of us don't feel that spreading hate and discompation are productive or even appropriate.

The bottom line? There are no easy answers! But the reality of it is that the President is not going to change the state of abortion legality in this country...no matter which guy ends up in office. The President doesn't have as much power in those areas as the common people think. However, they are all dealing with wonderfully tallented campaign managers who know how to push everyone's buttons and keep everyone distracted from the real issues.

It reminds me of a little while ago while everyone was up in arms over some smoke-screen legislation dealing with imigration laws. Nevermind the NAU beign signed and all that being done. Barely covered by the media and NOBODY was paying attention! Yay! We are so worried about building a wall to keep the Mexican's out and um, woops, look at that, we're building a HUGE SUPERHIGHWAY connecting Canada, USA and Mexico together! But no, everyone was bickering over a damn wall. *sigh* I see this issue the same way.

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah


I think you had good things to say. No need to apologize to me about the socialist president... blessedly, we live in a democratic society and get to vote for whomever works best for our own ideology. One of my kids is extremely upset I am voting for Obama; she is voting GREEN! I keep telling her that is a vote for no one, but she is strong in her belief and, to be honest, that she even THINKS and cares is what is really important to me.

I do have to say that the President does, indeed, have the capability to eliminate legal abortion and that is through the Supreme Court. If enough far right Conservatives sit there, then abortion can go bye-bye.

I absolutely agree that too much attention is being paid on these (seemingly in the grand scheme of things) minor issues, but since they ALL affect me, they loom large in my house. I mean, here California is, once again, voting to outlaw my marriage to Sarah. It's extremely distressing to know that in this democratic society, I am not even afforded all the rights the heterosexuals are! How many more years is it going to take before the deep love and committment I have to and for Sarah is acknowledged and, dare I say, approved of?!

But, yes, the state of our country is definitely in the limelight at the moment. It is terrifying to watch what is happening, I'm remembering the details so I can tell my grandkids about it one day - just like my grandparents told me about the Depression of '29.

Sad, sad, sad... watching all of this unfold.

September 30, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I have been pretty much pro-choice for all my life when I was aware that this was an important thing to be kept legal. When I was 16 I was as active as a 16 year old could be with Alaskan's for Choice, and it still floored me when my peers were pro-life and thought they were feminists. So, for at least 20 years I haven't been strong in anything other them my firm belief that abortion needs to be kept legal.

In my family background I have a great grandmother who gave herself abortions with knitting needles, and had her last (of over 12 pregnancies, full term) when she was in her mid-40s. My own grandmother who was administered two abortions by her doctor as she was pregnant too soon after delivery, you just didn't say no to your husband in the 1930's and 40's. My cousin who perforated her uterus while giving herself an abortion, and getting an uterine infection when she was 16 - for fear of reprisal from her abusive father. And I am Christian and in no place in the bible is abortion talked about or referred to. Now the Greeks and the oath of doctors address abortion, but they were gentiles and "non-believers", so I do not think that abortion is an important issue to God.

As a mother now I have come to the realization that the right to one's reproductive destiny, that is control of outcomes not the right to reproduce (in that we, the people, do not need to help with getting someone pregnant), is a human rights issue. Our ability to choose where we give birth, how we give birth, and whether or not to give birth is a human right that women should be afforded universally. Anything less is a world that needs change.

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEthel

I am a pro-choice midwife...your argument is absolutely excellent as were the words of many others. You are far more eloquent then I can ever be.

I echo the sentiments that we need to get beyond whether abortion is legal or not...and focus on how can we reduce the numbers of abortions. But I do not believe the two factions can ever settle their differences to meet in the middle. I don't like abortion, probably would never have one myself....however, I firmly believe that the government should have no say so in our bodies. Each woman must make the decision and must live with that decision...not the government.

As far as the video - what propaganda! I worked as a L&D nurse for four years and no baby was ever left in a utility room to die. And certainly not a term one such as the one shown at the end...jeez!

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCiarin

Navelgazing Midwife, thanks for this educational post and for starting a great discussion!

Rebekah, I didn't find your comment offensive at all. In fact, yours are some of the most reasonable and refreshing thoughts on the subject I have ever read!

"Stop lying to your children, stop telling them that a baby will ruin their life. Stop telling them they *can't* be good parents because they are too young. Stop encouraging them to be CHILDREN until they magically become adults at 18. EDUCATE THEM. Stop believing that if you just tell them strongly enough not to have sex, they won't."

YES! Why didn't I ever think of it this way?

I had an abortion when I was 17. My boyfriend told me that I couldn't get pregnant from having sex a week after my period and I was ignorant enough to believe him. That is where the lack of education comes in. My parents convinced me that I NEEDED to abort, even though I wanted to choose adoption. They even used the fact that I was a vegetarian and had not been taking B12 or folic acid as a scare tactic, leading me to believe that the baby would almost certainly have some kind of problem. That is where the fear comes in. I grieve for my decision, but I can't imagine what my life would have been like if I had made any other one. But reading your words makes me imagine a whole different scenario: What if we, as a society, had real, comprehensive sex education for adolescents? Possibly, I could have avoided that unwanted pregnancy. Or possibly, I could have gotten pregnant anyway, because no birth control method is 100% foolproof. But then, what if in our society there was no shame in that? Knowing that I had gotten pregnant not out of stupidity but by sheer chance, and knowing that other people knew that, would go a long way toward alleviating that shame. So would eliminating the over-the-top stigma we have against teenage mothers. So would support systems that allowed me to have some flexibility in when I finished high school and went to college. What if accidentally getting pregnant then, at 17, was more like accidentally getting pregnant now, at 27, -- not the optimal time in my life for it to happen, definitely inconvenient, but certainly no reason to abort? Wouldn't that be an interesting world!

One final note: I am a vegetarian because I believe murdering animals is wrong, but I do not expect eating meat to be illegal. I see the abortion issue the same way. (That could probably offend some people, since it equates human and animal life, but to me, a breathing, pain-feeling, conscious cow is no less "life" than a fetus.)

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous for now

First of all, I want to thank Navelgazing Midwife for generously giving up blog space to discuss this. Thank you for the reasonable and charitable guidelines that you have established. For the other readers, I am the facebook poster with whom NGM discussed this with.

Wow, thank you all for your interesting insights on this very personal and emotional topic. It is truly heartbreaking to hear some of the stories.

Several people suggested that we do what we can to reduce abortions by getting women in crisis pregnancy situations the help that they need. Thank you for the painful, but oh so necessary, reminder of just how little I personally do to help my fellow humans. I know that at the end of my life, when Jesus asks me what I did to stop this, I will only be able to say “Not enough, Lord.”

I do have a friend who has fostered two boys, brothers, and has since gone on to adopt them. She also adopted an infant a month after having a baby of her own. She has two other birth children. She now has 6 children, the oldest of which is 8. And she would desperately like to foster more… So, there are certainly rabidly pro-life people out there who are willing to put their money where the mouth is so to speak. I also see several families with children of different racial backgrounds at Church. It’s not my place to walk up to them and ask them why their children don’t look like them, but I assume that they too have generously opened their homes to other children.

To the poster that said she would terminate right now were she to find herself pregnant, because she simply wasn’t ready, I say: It is very noble to be so concerned with your future children that you want to be the best mother you can be. But God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. If you wait until you are “ready”, you will die very lonely. On the contrary, if you jump into motherhood, asking God for the grace to get you through, you will receive “on the job training”. You will become more physically and emotionally capable!

To the poster that writes that she is “pro-life, for myself, but politically pro-choice” I ask: Using that logic, I can say I am personally opposed to slavery, but politically pro-choice. Of course that is absurd. If I know that slavery is wrong for me, because it degrades another human being, then I must fight so that no one else enslaves another human being. I am sorry, that logic fails.

To the poster that writes “You want to see change? Be the change. Stop lying to your children, stop telling them that a baby will ruin their life. Stop telling them they *can't* be good parents because they are too young. Stop encouraging them to be CHILDREN until they magically become adults at 18. EDUCATE THEM.” I say: Can I get that on a T-Shirt?

To the poster that writes “In my family background I have a great grandmother who gave herself abortions with knitting needles” I say: For your sake, I thank God that your grandparent wasn’t one of the aborted babies.
She further wrote “And I am Christian and in no place in the bible is abortion talked about or referred to.” I would like to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…”

I have a radical proposal. Abortion is the natural consequence of the sexual liberation that our society has adopted. We have a right to orgasm whenever, however, and with whomever we wish. Contraception is widely accepted. What can one do when it fails? Abortion is necessary as a backup.

I would invite any reader to read the following.


I know that not everyone here is Christian, and I’m sure that not everyone is Catholic! I’m not posting it for the purpose of converting anyone to Christianity! I post it, because I think that it is an amazingly eloquent and prophetic document, about sexual morality, that just happened to be written by a pope. Seriously… so many of the social ills that we have… ills that you ladies yourselves have seen… he foresees them, and discusses them in this document. I know it’s kind of long, but as far as Papal Encyclicals go, it’s very readable! My husband and I read it to one another, one evening, sitting on the couch. Again, I know that not everyone is going to agree with his conclusions on what is and is not morally right. But, please, it is most interesting to see how he predicts this crazy mixed up situation that we find ourselves in today… when this document was written back in the 1960’s.

And again, thank you everyone for giving me things to think about… new and very practical ways to be “pro-life” that can help to reduce abortion simply by helping women and children individually.
God bless!

September 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTheodora

Welcome, Theodora!

I haven't read the Papal commentary you suggested (yet), but will asap. Maybe this evening. I am game to hear what others cogently say... even if I don't agree with them.

I do want to say that most of us would say to ourselves or our creator that we haven't done enough for our sisters and brothers on the earth. I don't think you are alone in that feeling. I know I could/should do more and don't. Laziness? Selfishness? Ignorance? Name your "sin" and I will claim it.

I also felt compelled to explain that there is no contradiction at all saying "I wouldn't have an abortion for myself, but I am pro-choice for others." I know (because I have talked to plenty of women about this comment) that what women mean is "under MOST circumstances, I wouldn't terminate the pregnancy," but there is always that caveat of rape and incest. Also, one of the things about doing one thing for oneself while someone else does another is what CHOICE is all about. Those who wouldn't have an abortion for themselves also do not have judgement on those that do. There is a HUGE difference between being polarized in the "pro-life" movement and choosing to not terminate for oneself. I see no dissonance at all with the choice belief.

Thanks for coming and adding your words. It is always... ALWAYS... helpful to talk to each other as human beings, not objects in a war of words. I love hearing your beliefs, even as they counter so many of my own. It's fascinating to listen as you speak about your God and where your opinions and ideas come to fruition. It's so obvious, to me (and others?) that there are far, far more differences than just the issue of abortion. I mean, we'd have to first discuss what "god" is to each of us (if anything/anyone). Basic differences that make the whole abortion debate almost crazily absurd since trying to get the "other side" to just see The Truth already! is not going to happen.

Good feedback and I would sure like some more input from the pro-lifers (even though I, too, am pro-life! but also pro-choice).

September 30, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

So I read the Humanae Vitae and it definitely requires a belief in God and a belief that "The Church" can translate God's will impeccably. I don't ascribe to that, so the whole treatise is pretty moot.

Not that we need to move OT and onto Catholicism, but the Humanae Vitae assumes a WHOLE lot, ignoring a huge portion of the earth's ills (or realities) including rape, war, infidelity, AIDS, other STIs, incest - and even human nature. To believe that every man will be coupled with a woman (serious assumption there!) and work *with* her to have every sex act demonstrate a welcoming of a new life is preposterous. It is CLEAR the *men* who write this do not live in this world, the real world. They live on a mountain top, isolated from the lives that most of us live. They certainly don't have to contend with the reality that relationships provide - their speaking of ideals and a dogma very, very few could ever remotely come close to re-creating.

And forgiveness after the sin, to me, is a chicken shit way out of facing the music of one's dogma.

Just my little piece of mind on THAT topic!

September 30, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thank you NGM for your welcome, and for reading the article that I proposed! Yes there are many differences between us, but I can see from your posts that your embracing of choice does not stem from a hatred of babies, like so many pro-lifers might believe, but from a love for your fellow human being. So, we do have much in common too! We share this love, this desire for all to be treated fairly, with respect.

You said that the argument of supporting choice, but never personally being willing to do it usually includes the caveat for rape and incest. Let me say that were I to be raped, I would not terminate. I can say this with complete and absolute certitude. Would I be devasatated? I can’t even imagine. One of my worst nightmares would be to be raped by someone who looked different enough from my husband so that it would be obvious to the world at birth that he was not the father. I honestly don’t know how I would get through. But, somehow, with God’s grace I would. But, I would not kill that baby.

If I got to a hospital soon enough, I would request a blood test and if I had not ovulated yet, I would consent to (beg for actually) emergency contraception. But, had I already ovulated, I would pray. And if it were to be God’s will (because I believe that life comes from God. A sperm and an egg, and an act of intercourse, surely – but Life is always God’s will) that a baby result from that horrible, horrible, evil act… it could just be the one good thing that came from that.

I will also say that should my daughter (God forbid) ever become pregnant due to her father or brother…<shudder> I can certainly see the desire to eliminate and conceal all evidence of something like that. Wow, that’s a tough one. The reality is, I’m so convinced that my husband would never do something like this… I haven’t given it a lot of thought. Still, she has a brother.

Again, I don’t know how we would get through as a family. But it would not involve termination. It might involve a trip to visit relatives somewhere else for a few months. It would most certainly involve prosecution and incarceration if the perpetrator was of legal age. Ultimately, it would require a whole lot of love and prayer, prayer, prayer!! Again, I can say this with utmost certainty.

I believe that as a Christian I am to love God above all things! And then I am to love my neighbor as myself. For me, loving God means obeying the laws of God and of His Church. That includes its teaching on contraception, marriage and abortion. Loving my neighbor as myself (I confess I do a really lousy job of this – I so put myself first so often), includes allowing that unborn, developing baby (the ultimate neighbor really!) the freedom to grow and live.
The one case I support abortion would be in the instance to protect the life of the mother (and I didn’t say health, I said life). So, if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy that is threatening her life, it’s okay to remove the developing baby. Should she choose to allow it to continue… and pray that it all worked out, that would be permissible too. I don’t think I could do that though.

So, now you know just how radical my views are. I thought people might find them interesting, since there are probably not a lot of women who would profess what I just did.

NGM, you wrote “Also, one of the things about doing one thing for oneself while someone else does another is what CHOICE is all about.”

Absolutely. One thing we probably agree on, is that our creator has allowed us free choice. Whatever or whoever our creator is, he/she/it does not step in and zap us into doing what he/she/it wants. That is pretty obvious.

But let me talk about choice for a minute. I like to think of the Creator as a loving parent (I’ll refrain from saying Father, because I know it is painful for anyone who did not have a loving father). Think of the most amazingly lovingly, perfect parent you can imagine. NGM, you are a parent. If you are like me, you aren’t the most amazingly perfect parent, but you are still a parent, and you get parenting.
Now, you let your kids make their own choices, right? But some choices please you more than others, right? Some choices they make have or could devastate you right? But, you still allow them to make their choices. But, you’d prefer that they do what you believe is the right thing. And when they did obey you when they were little, did you prefer them to obey you out of love and respect for you, or because they were scared silly of the consequences when they didn’t obey?

It’s kind of like that with the Creator. He/she/it is a very hands off kind of entity. We get to do what we want. But, it pleases the Creator greatly when we make good choices. It pleases the creator even more when we do so because we love the creator and simply want to please them. But, if we do so because we are scared of the consequences, that will do to… but it isn’t the perfect love that the Creator desires.

So yes, we receive a choice. But, we are called to make good choices.

Secondly on the choice, but still being pro-life, front, I would like to propose this thought, using the same logic.

I am personally opposed to abortion, and I wouldn’t have one, because it is wrong – but I can’t impose my morality on someone else. I must allow them to make the choice that they believe is best for them.

I am personally opposed to slavery, and I wouldn’t enslave a black person, because it is wrong – but I can’t impose my morality on someone else. I must allow them to make the choice that they believe is best for them.

Okay… that should rile some feathers. Obviously, we can’t embrace the logic in my second statement because a black person is a person with the same inherent dignity and worth of life that every other person should be afforded. So what is the difference between the first statement and the second? Whether or not an unborn human being is a person with the same inherent dignity and worth of life that every other person should be afforded.

This is the inescapable question. If a person believes that an unborn baby is not a person, then it becomes permissible to follow the logic in my first statement – I personally oppose abortion, etc… But then if a woman does not believe that an unborn baby is a person, why would she personally oppose abortion?

Yikes, I must get the kiddos up and start my day. Thank you so much for looking at the Papal document. It must be frustrating to read what the Church teaches, when people have so many bad experiences with marriage. Just know that the Church teaches that a man must LOVE his wife! When all of the teachings are followed together, surely you must see the beauty that would ensue in the resulting marriage! Regrettably, we are a fallen, sinful world, and nothing is perfect.

Thank you again for your charitable discourse.

Oh, I just looked at your last statement... could you elaborate on the forgiveness after the act concern that you have. I don't know how to address it, because I don't know what your issue is with it. Don't worry about offending me, I'm tough :)

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTheodora

I am pro-life -- about as pro-life as NGM is pro-choice. I think that one of the worst lies that feminists have sold in the name of "protecting choice" is what was alluded to by another commenter -- namely, that having a baby is the worst thing in life and totally screws up your life. Yes, children change your life; but that change is not always bad. Witnessing the sadness and grief of women (such as one of the above commenters) who were made to undergo an abortion against their wishes shows that this topic is many times *not* about choice, because if *she* and many other women and young ladies had their choice, they would have carried their babies to term and either raised them themselves or given them up for adoption.

To the woman who said she would have an abortion because she's not ready to have a baby -- adoption is still an option, even if you're married. One blog-friend I have just recently adopted the baby of a married couple who had other children and weren't in a position to raise yet another baby. While I'm sad for the parents who gave up that baby, I'm glad for the infertile couples (like my aunt & uncle, plus numerous other people I know) who have adopted children.

Pregnancy is 9 months, which is not very long, in the general scheme of things.

Yes, some children are neglected, and even abused -- but that doesn't mean that taking their lives before they are born is the answer. Many children who are "planned" and "wanted" are neglected and abused.

Yes, abortion is legal, but it is not because so many people want it that way. It is legal because a majority of 9 people read that "right" into the Constitution, although the "right to privacy" does not make it legal for women to take drugs or engage in prostitution -- both of which are arguably private acts, even more so than abortion which requires someone else to actually perform the abortion.

I saw the video, and although I cringed at the hyperbole used by the makers (leaving a full-term baby alone on a table, when obviously the majority of babies aborted are hovering at the line of viability and are much smaller), I cringe even more for the babies who are treated that way. Most babies, however, who are aborted in such fashion would typically be given a shot of digoxin to the heart to ensure their death prior to birth; however if it's illegal to do that but not illegal to induce labor preterm, many survive, although not for very long.

One of the problems in this type of conversation is between the people on different sides who tend to use extreme cases. For example, on the pro-abortion side, people tend to talk about the "need" for legal abortion because of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Well, those can be legal (although I don't think I could have an abortion even if raped; and about 97% of babies conceived in incest are perfectly normal) without having abortion on-demand legal. What about pregnant women who are addicted to crack? There could be an exception for them as well, which would not necessitate abortion on-demand, although what would be better would be to require them to undergo drug treatment. And so forth and so on. On the other side, I might argue about the possibility of full-term abortion (killing the child at 37 weeks, rather than allowing it to be born) as a reason for making abortion illegal. Late-term abortions can be made illegal without making abortion completely illegal. BAIPA is a good law -- even NARAL went neutral on it -- if there are as few (or no) babies born alive after an attempted abortion as the pro-abortion crowd claims, then this law is empty, having no cases falling under its jurisdiction. So I don't see what is the big point of opposing it, unless cases such as Jill Stanek outlined *are* happening.

I think, however, that we can all agree that the desire for an abortion is sad, because children can be a tremendous blessing, if they are just viewed that way.

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Theodora, When I say that I probably wouldn't choose abortion for myself, but am pro-choice, I don't see a contradiction at all. NGM is right, it's about allowing others to make the choice that is right for them, just as I am making a choice that is right for myself. It does not mean that I believe that abortion is inherently wrong, but that I am ok with others doing it, it means that I do not believe it is the right choice for me. And she is also right that that choice is based on certain situations. I may terminate if I was ever raped. I know I would terminate if faced with a pre-natal diagnosis that was fatal or would certainly cause a great deal of pain and suffering. But for an unwanted pregnancy, more than likely, no, I wouldn't, because of what I believe for myself. Just as I don't attend religious services (I am a deist), but I respect other beliefs systems and the choices they make for themselves. My best friend is a Methodist minister, and we have a great deal of respect for the other's belief systems, it does not mean we believe that what the other is doing is inherently wrong.

I admit that the idea of someone choosing an elective (not related to any health problems of either woman/fetus) termination late in the 2nd trimester or in the 3rd trimester makes me uncomfortable, but I've also never heard of any woman doing that or a doctor agreeing to that. And I think that when it comes to late term terminations, it should be between the woman and her doctor, no one else. I know someone who choose to carry to term a baby with hydranencephaly knowing the baby would not survive long (I likely would have terminated). I also know someone who terminated a pregnancy at 20 weeks after a CF diagnosis (I would have continued with the pregnancy). But those decisions were between the women and their doctors, and only they can know what is the right choice for them.

My last thing to say is this. I am 8 months pregnant with my first. I was pregnant once before after my 3rd round of Clomid (I miscarried at 10 weeks). After that, I had 4 more rounds of Clomid. I conceived again with a cycle with Follistim/Lupron/Ovidrel and timed intercourse. This pregnancy is precious to me. People told me I wouldn't be so pro-choice after I had a child or after I finally got pregnant. But after the numerous meetings with the dildo-cam, the blood-draws, the d&c, the jabbing of needles into my abdomen, and the 12 weeks of prometrium, I am more pro-choice now than I ever was. Because pregnancy shouldn't be something we force upon women or punish them with, it should be something they want.

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Statistic: "only" 4.6% of abortions are performed later than the 14th week of gestation (source: <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html>. I thought that didn't sound like a lot, but I started reading more about this because it means that by 2005 stats, about 55-56000 second trimester abortions are performed, and that seemed really high to me. I assumed that anyone getting a later abortion MUST be doing it for medical reasons because if you don't want to be pregnant, 15 or 20 weeks gestation is rather late to make that decision.

Here's an interesting excerpt from the New England Journal of Medicine on this topic <http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/331/5/324>:

A question of particular concern in the United States is why we have as many second-trimester procedures as we do -- considered as a percentage, many more than in European countries. Only a relatively small number result from a diagnosis by amniocentesis of a genetic or other abnormality. A majority of later procedures in the United States are performed in teenagers, with the highest rates in the youngest age groups. Among pregnant teenagers under the age of 15, 22.5 percent of abortions take place in the second trimester and 11.7 percent at more than 15 weeks. For teenagers 15 to 19 years of age, the rates are 16 and 7.4 percent, respectively, and for women over the age of 20, 8.7 and 3.7 percent.

These dramatic figures demand a better understanding of the underlying social reasons and the development of steps to decrease the high incidence of second-trimester procedures among teenagers. Obviously, decreasing the rate of unintended teenage pregnancy, particularly among the youngest teenagers, should be our highest priority. A study of teenage pregnancy in the United States as compared with Canada and several European countries demonstrated that approximately the same percentage of teenagers were sexually active, age for age, in all the countries10. But pregnancy rates in the United States were substantially higher than those in the other countries, with resulting higher rates of abortion and live birth. The explanations for these differences are not clear, but two likely reasons are that sex education begins earlier and is more effective in the other countries and that contraceptive services are far more accessible and are usually free. Clearly, although there are important lessons to be learned from these other countries as we in the United States attempt to come to grips with teenage pregnancy, at a minimum we need to increase sex education and remove obstacles to contraceptive services. We need to ask ourselves whether it makes sense to decry teenage pregnancies while failing to make contraception more accessible -- for example, through school-based programs.

The requirement in some states of parental consent or notification before an abortion is carried out probably contributes in an important way to delays as a teenager debates how to approach one or both parents about the pregnancy. Even in states where courts can authorize abortion for teenagers who cannot or will not discuss a pregnancy with either parent ("judicial bypass"), this also presents a formidable obstacle for many teenagers that leads to substantial delays.

I can tell you from a public health standpoint that having a child out of wedlock, especially when you are a teenager, strongly predisposes you and your child(ren) to a life in a low socio-economic status. To some extent, having kids keeps you poor and hampers efforts to get an education if they come too soon in your life. If a family already has money, parents can buffer the effects on a teen of having a child by helping with childcare, paying for schooling, all the things they would do for their kids even if they didn't have a baby at age 17, but if a girl has a baby at 16 and has no financial resources, she and her child/children are pretty much doomed economically. Here's a page of stats with citations at the bottom:

I don't think the suggestion is that babies of poor people should be aborted, but people with more financial resources at their disposal need to be aware that if you are poor, the prospect of having a baby or an 8th child will help ensure that you STAY poor. Some people who are poor might choose to abort when they already have lots of mouths to feed, when having the baby would hinder their ability to work and go to school full-time, when they have no source of outside support...lots of poor people are very pro-life though, and lots of wealthy people might choose to abort a pregnancy. I come back to the belief that individuals should be allowed the right to determine for themselves whether bringing a child into the world at a particular time or with a particular person will be in the best interest of the already-living persons involved and the future child.

And I think saying, "If you don't want the baby, adopt it out" is also more complicated than it might seem on the surface. I know that after carrying my son for 9 months, I would have killed anybody who tried to take my baby away, and there is NO WAY I could have been persuaded to give him to somebody else to love and nurture, no matter what my socio-economic status. There is also the argument that telling young mothers or poor people to give their babies away is predatory (plus, it's not as easy to adopt out an African-american child with in-utero alcohol exposure as it is to adopt out a pink-cheeked white baby).

It is also a tough thing to say to women: I know you only have a high school education and a job at Walmart, but don't abort this baby. By the way, you can't have paid maternity leave unless you have the sick and vacation time already built up, and it can't be more than 6 weeks' paid maternity leave if you haven't worked there more than 2500 hours and at least one calendar year, and not more than 12 weeks otherwise, and that's only if you have leave available. (FMLA is not very generous with new parents, nor with people who have sick parents to care for). There is no subsidized day care available for the baby when you go back to work at your $7.50/hour job either. I hope that people who are pro-life are also very pro-social services because it's inconsistent to say that the baby is infinitely valuable only until it exits the womb, at which point it and its mother become a drain on society.

I think that the Republican party has seriously strayed from supporting policies that truly promote "Family Values" and a "Culture of Life." If life begins at conception and we have a responsibility to honor that sanctity, it is certainly not the case that this collective responsibility begins at conception and ends at birth. Here is what I think is missing from most pro-life advocates' platforms:

1. Access to pre-conception family planning options. We should all have the ability to determine when, and with whom we will make a family. Until those who support an end to abortions also make sure that there is good access to accurate information about and options for family planning and pre-conception contraception, so that EVERY pregnancy is a WANTED pregnancy, we will always have people who wish to terminate pregnancies for medical, family planning, financial, and psychological reasons. Unfortunately, "abstinence only" is a nice idea, but for many people, biological drives win out over nice ideas, and they have sex at a time when they do not want to have a child. I think we can all agree that it would be best that they have sex (because let's be honest, that's what we illogical, impulse-driven humans do) without the possibility of accidentally creating life. It is unrealistic and asking too much of people never to have sex until they get married in a culture where many delay marriage until their late 20s or early 30s.

2. Maternity leave that honors the dependence of a young baby on his mother. That means we should have at least 6 months of supported maternity leave for all working mothers, and 12 months would be better. This is what most EU countries offer their mothers. Any mother can tell you that a 6 week old baby needs his mama to nurse, to cuddle with, to feel safe and secure. My heart would have broken into a million pieces if I'd had to return to work 3 weeks after my son was born, and at 10 weeks, it only broke into thousands, and he got to stay with his papa. Family values should support the WHOLE family - mothers, fathers, and children who are no longer fetuses. A culture of life would work to promote extended breastfeeding, maintaining family bonds, and the emotional health and well-being of all family members throughout their lives.

3. Better programs to support women, especially young, single women (46% of babies born to women under 25 are born out of wedlock) who do choose to carry their pregnancies to term. If Republicans advocate for women to bear their children, they cannot then turn around and say, "Well, now that the baby is out, she's just YOUR problem." I'm very much of the opinion that once a child is born, he is everyone's "problem". My aunt says women shouldn't abort babies because being pregnant is 'inconvenient', but if they are born, a baby is either a treasure or an inconvenience to her whole community, not just the woman who gives birth. If we ask women to carry their babies to term, we have an obligation to help them with being the best parents they can be, providing mentoring and parenting classes, decent housing, job training or schooling so they can be self-sufficient and be good role models for their kids. We can't turn our backs on the already-born. Fetuses are easy to take care of; it's those pesky babies, kids, and teenagers they turn into that really ask us for a big commitment, right?

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

Great posts, all.

Katherine, your words have got to be some of the most clear and concise explanations for what is wrong with our culture and what *everyone* can do to help correct the deficiencies.

I wish I could have said it, but am very thankful you did.


Your last sentence: "I think, however, that we can all agree that the desire for an abortion is sad, because children can be a tremendous blessing, if they are just viewed that way." requires a comment from me.

WANTED children are a blessing. Unwanted children all too often suffer sad, painful lives of abuse and poverty. It really is so hard for me sometimes, wondering if women who are *so* pro-life have even seen or experienced the reality of unwanted children in their midst. Kids that are shoved away, yelled at, smacked, told to shut up, told how stupid they are, locked in rooms, left for hours alone, witness their parents doing drugs, given alcohol to put them to sleep early and turned into sex toys tend to grow up with their own death wishes. What is worse? Termination of a being with an unformed brain or the suffering of a child with a broken heart and complete knowledge of what is happening; to me, the answer is obvious.

In all these years, the latest termination I have known was 26 weeks for a fetus that would have died within a couple of hours of birth from an extremely painful anomaly. It was excruciating for the couple to decide what to do, but their decision was made as a kindness to the baby they would have had, but would have been in pain during its brief life.

Now, if *I* had a baby with anencephaly, I would continue the pregnancy so I could have the docs "harvest" the organs to give sick babies. I would probably do that with most anomalies that could come along. But, I am making a decision/thought as a very experienced mom who can see a much larger picture than I could have earlier in my life. I can't expect others to carry the baby to term only to watch the child be picked apart and allowed to die afterwards, possibly in pain. How hard can choices get?


As far as a pregnancy from incest, it isn't just wanting to hide the issue, but because the prospect of carrying one's family member's child is disgusting and repulsive - regardless of whether the baby is born healthy or not! Birth defects in incest are pretty rare... in this culture, it is the least of the issues in deciding whether to keep the baby or not. Yes, it would be a forever-stigma to have to say, "My dad is the father of the baby," but to LIVE that reality would have to be more difficult than any of us can imagine. Telling this woman in this situation that she HAS to have the baby, tough shit that she wants to kill herself over it, just lets us know who does and who doesn't have personal experience with incest.

As far as my kids making different choices than I do, I am *rarely* "disappointed" or unaccepting of their choices. I feel I have given them all I can give and that they know more to the story than I do, so trust they are making the right decision for them at the time that they make it. Their perspective might change over time (like body piercings, for example) and I might not enjoy staring at a nose ring, but I take their quirks and differences and hold them close to my heart... even if I would have made a different choice (DO make different choices). I have the benefit of many more years than they do, but they are much further ahead than I was at that age. I am proud of my kids... proud that they make decisions at all!

Re: forgiveness

I have a REAL hard time with religions that allow for forgiveness for transgressions, wiping them clean as if they never happened. The treatise you asked that we read spoke often of "if you falter from this trying-to-be-perfect-plan, all you have to do is ask for forgiveness and start over again" - as if forgiveness makes it all better. What of the partner that was betrayed? Is s/he supposed to just forgive and forget? What of someone with serial affairs? Is that person still Catholic/Christian if they ask for God's forgiveness each time? How many times is one allowed to ask for forgiveness for something as painful as an affair? Two? Ten? Twenty? Is there a footnote that says a woman doesn't have to forgive if she is beaten? Raped? Emotionally/Mentally abused? Left home to take care of all those kids while her asking-for-forgiveness husband is out with prostitutes?

Too many holes are in the pro-life arguments. Reality isn't addressed. Perfect marriages with plenty of money and no substance abuse is thought to be the norm. I HIGHLY doubt it is. I have been around for far too long.

I'd rather end the potential suffering of the fetus who doesn't even have brain synapsis to feel pain than to bring a child into a world that would suffer every cigarette burn, belt whipping, knife poking, gang hazing and back-handed slap across the face. No, none of really knows who will turn into a junkie and who will become Oprah Winfrey, but I believe the junkie will grow exponentially if birth control and abortion are outlawed.

October 1, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I would like to clarify a point. Kathy wrote, "Witnessing the sadness and grief of women (such as one of the above commenters) who were made to undergo an abortion against their wishes shows that this topic is many times *not* about choice..." I don't completely agree. Yes, I was coerced into aborting by misinformation and scare tactics, but ultimately, it *was* still a choice. I'm sure there are many cases where the pressure goes the other way -- a girl is scared to death of having a baby, sees the fetus as a parasite and desperately wants it out of her (if, for example, she was raped, or even if she was just too young and hormonal to grasp the consequences of her actions -- that sounds stupid, but I work with teenagers and that is how their brains work sometimes), but is coerced by her parents to carry the baby to term. Being coerced into a choice one regrets can happen in any sphere of life, but that does not mean we should block options people may come to regret.

What I am trying to say is this: While I think a lot of the answer lies in stopping the lies going out to young women (and young men) that having a baby will ruin their lives, in really, truly educating them about sex and reproduction, and in having a culture that values parenting, I do NOT think the option of abortion should be illegal. While it was not the choice I wanted, I cannot profess to understand every pregnant woman's situation. Making abortion legal only in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the mother's health assumes too much.

I do think a crucial pivot of this discussion is whether you believe that a fetus is a fully living person. I believe that a fetus is alive, but certainly not more conscious than, say, a cow or pig, so if people should be allowed to eat meat, they should be allowed to abort. If you believe that human life is inherently sacred, no matter at what stage, I can see how you would think abortion should be illegal, because you would see it as murder. What I really don't understand is people who are pro-life, but also pro-death-penalty. Is there anyone here who holds those beliefs and wants to explain them?

This is all not quite as coherent as I would like... I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts right now for some reason.

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous for now

Or pro-war! I cannot wrap my head around the inconsistencies of pro-life before birth, but let's slaughter whole villages /societies for no reason except greed and stupidity. What's up with that?

October 1, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Anonymous for now,

I am pro-life and anti-death penalty.

You wrote: "I believe that a fetus is alive, but certainly not more conscious than, say, a cow or pig,"

Fair enough. So is consciousness your defintion of when a human being is deserving of legal protection? If I were to lose consciousness, would I lose my legal right to life? And if you say that in cases of temporary unconsciousness, that would be deserving of protection, but not permanent unconsciousness - one could argue that an embryo is merely in a state of temporary unconsciousness. I'm sorry, the consciousness arguement does not hold water.

But let's go with the consciousness arguement a little longer. How do we know at what point consciousness is attained? It is not possible to define a specific point at which the fetus becomes conscious. And in the absence of a specific point of the development of consciousness, it is impossible to define a specific time at which it is morally permissible to kill the unborn human being.

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTheodora

I was brought up to be pro-choice. I didn't know why it was such an issue until I discovered that my mother had an (at that time) illegal abortion 15 years before she had me. It's very trendy in pro-life circles to say "Well, aren't you glad your [grandmother/mother/etc] chose life? Because you wouldn't be here if she didn't." I wouldn't be here if my mother had not had the abortion. She got a choice when she needed one (because she was well-off and lucky and able to buy her way to a safe choice), and got to graduate, go to college, meet my dad and finally have me.

Which is all a digression from what I meant to say. Which was that I was brought up to be pro-choice. And it was easy to be pro-choice for lots of years before I started thinking through what that really meant when I tried to have a baby of my own and couldn't get pregnant.

I am incredibly blessed by the women who have opened up their lives to me as I've been becoming a parent. I've heard the stories of two women who chose partial birth abortion. I've heard the stories of friends who had early terminations and how they felt about them. I've been with people who decided to have the baby anyway, even though they didn't want it and watched some of them rise to the occasion an some of them ruin the life of a child who just wanted to be loved and cared for. I was with a friend through 7 years of infertility and 7 lost pregnancies, a difficult birth and her beautiful son. I've been haunted by several friends who are birth/first mothers who placed children for adoption and have been haunted by that decision ever since. And I've spent weeks with the phone number to the local planned parenthood in my pocket, deciding whether we were ready for the baby who had suddenly decided he was ready for us.

What I learned from all those women is that being pro-choice is HARD. Because it means being pro all kinds of choices. It means being accepting and positive about choices that you really believe in your heart of hearts are the right choices. And it means, at least to me, advocating for way more than abortion being legal or even all the great things that people have already mentioned above about maternity leave and subsidized daycare and flexible schooling and programs to help the men on the other side of the glass in these pregnancies become dads and support their kids regardless of their relationship with the mom.

But it also seems to mean that we've got to guard the choice -- we have to make sure, to the best of our ability, that that choice is being made by the woman, and that she's making the right choice for HER and not the right choice as dictated by her family and circumstances. From my point of view, I think this is a great place for Midwives to be involved. I have never felt so strong and so sure of myself and so able to defeat obstacles as I did when I was choosing how and where to birth my children. I'd love to see that kind of support extended to women who are aborting -- even to the extent of having an "abortion doula" to aid them in the experience. And I want so much more for women who are chosing to place their babies for adoption. Doulas, plus legal respresentation, plus some damn transparency and respect in the process.

Because after all that, the only thing that I know at all anymore is that there is NO EASY PATH once you've become unexpectedly pregnant. They're all hard. They're all going to change who you are. And that the vast array of changes can't be managed by politics -- it's too much control over too much complexity.

October 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBelleweather


I did not mean that "consciousness your definition of when a human being is deserving of legal protection" (though reading back my words, I can see how they could be understood that way). What I meant was that, to me, aborting a fetus is not inherently worse than killing an animal. While I do wish that our whole society was vegetarian and hope that it will evolve to that point someday, I cannot seriously argue for meat-eating to be made illegal. Similarly, while I can wish for some ideal world in which abortion is unnecessary, I cannot seriously argue for it to be made illegal.

I also agree with NGM on this point: "I'd rather end the potential suffering of the fetus who doesn't even have brain synapsis to feel pain than to bring a child into a world that would suffer every cigarette burn, belt whipping, knife poking, gang hazing and back-handed slap across the face." Sometimes, abortion is the humane option.

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous for now


This has (maybe continues) to be a wonderful discussion, allowing both sides to have their say, and respectfully consider the other's reasoning. I've been graced and humbled by it.

At the risk of going too far OT however, please allow me this: Please be careful when you express your feelings regarding one of the key tenents of Christianity. I am a pretty "liberal" Christian...humbly Pro Choice, and almost indignantly supportive of Gay rights...the "church" (not Christianity, appropriately interpreted IMO), has been cruel and intentionally blind regarding its attitude towards Gay folks, and I find it repugnant; so I can see why you may have bitter feelings toward the religion; and apart from that issue, I can see why anyone, given the pain we humans cause each other, and the damage some do to others, why the concept of forgiveness can be difficult, if not impossible to understand. For me, I know that forgiveness is difficult in a lot of situations, and next to impossible in some. I try to keep in mind that forgiveness doesn't absolve the forgiven from responsibility for their behavior, or from the consequences of it; and certainly those who forgive (if, indeed they can), are allowed to protect themselves from having to continue suffering from both the memory of the pain and or indignity caused by the perpetrator, or the risk of further pain and indignity. They are certainly not required to embrace the perpetrator, or even face him or her, unless they feel that is what they want or need to do. At the risk of oversimplifying someone's pain, and the aftermath of it, I honestly believe that forgiveness is more for the forgiver than for the forgiven...as a way to free themselves emotionally enough so that they can heal (albeit with the inevitable scars) and move on in their lives as much as is possible. If the forgiven is at all redeemable, that is between that person and their God (and depending on the situation, the law, their family, their partner, future potential partners, etc.)

Even if I could express the correct theological argument (I doubt I could), I don't want to impose my beliefs on anyone or again, veer too far OT with my post. Know that this is the only thing you have ever said that I have ever taken (gentle) issue with. You are an amazing woman, writer, and midwife. My life has been richer for having been introduced to your blog.

Kimberly Wallace
Westerville, OH

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRedRn

RedRN: Point taken. Thanks for your input. :)

October 2, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

How gratifying to see meaningful discussion, not mud-slinging or name calling or somesuch. I have a couple thoughts if you don't mind bearing with me:

1- Jen, I think you are really pro-choice for yourself and for your politics. Being pro-choice doesn't mean one will automatically abort, it means one supports that option being available... whether or not you choose it yourself is irrelevant, its important to you that the choice is there, right? I think Theodora has a problem with people who say they are pro-choice but that they believe abortion is wrong. Well, why do most believe it's wrong? They say "Because it's killing a human life." Very well, but it's nonsensical to be "personally opposed" to killing a human life but accepting of others to do so, for fear of being seen as forcing one's morality or such. This is the inconsistency I see often. If you believe it's killing and that killing is wrong, you better have the kahunas to stand up for that belief regardless of the political or social ramifications. Otherwise, you have an inconsistent ethic of life.

2- Katherine, excellent point about the need for people to be "pro-life" after conception and I am also of the opinion that if one is going to fight and plead for the rights of a baby to be born, the same person should be doing their damndest to support those women after birth. I'm all for social programs in the sense that I believe it is a great work of mercy to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless etc. The problem I have is when people try to FORCE this kind of charity on others by making the government the arbiter and disposer of good works. that would seriously make people think twice about government social programs. Essentially, utopia means nothing without free will. Taxing the hell out of me to support programs removes all virtue of these programs and destroys both the GIVERS' and RECEIVERS' proper mentality regarding charity.

3- NGM, you stated that "WANTED children are a blessing." I can attest firsthand that there is a chasmic difference between an unwanted pregnancy and an unwanted child. I've had an unwanted pregnancy. Somewhere in the course of nine months, the little one started to grow on me and I got comfortable and dare I say excited about the idea of having a baby. Had I listened to my initial fears, I wouldn't today know the joys my 6 year old has brought to me. Furthermore, some parents are gung-ho about having a baby until 6 weeks after birth when the child is screaming non-stop at 2 am. Then, the child is unwanted. Should unwantedness be allowed as a reason to end that baby's life?

4- ."Abortion saves a child from a life of misery and pain!" I find it peculiar that our solution to the woes of child abuse is to kill the baby before it gets a chance to be abused. Snuff out any hope of rising above one's circumstances. Furthermore, statistics show that over 90% of abused children come from PLANNED PREGNANCIES; they were wanted by their parents. Just more proof that initial "wantedness" in a pregnancy is irrelevant. What is not irrelevant in my opinion, is the fact that child abuse has not decreased since abortion was legalized... it's dramatically increased. These are facts, you can look them up.

5- Does anyone else find it marvelous that something like 90% of women who see an ultrasound before getting an abortion, elect not to have one?! I think that one thing that is a HUGE and necessary change in this country is that women need to know the TRUTH about what they are doing. If you are pro-choice, fine. But let's be honest with ourselve huh? It is not just a random clump of tissue. I'm often embarrased to see prominent pro-choice advocates trying to trivialize the discussion into simple "tissue." A real, living human being is being killed. It's very belittling to women to try and paint a rosy picture of such a grim reality. They think that the truth would overwhelm women. Why aren't the feminists of this country demanding that women be told the truth about the procedure instead of being whispered sweet euphemisms of a "gentle suctioning until the tissue is removed"?! Yes, the baby has a heartbeat. Yes, you will likely feel regret. Yes, a life is being ended. Yes, you will be at a much higher risk for depression and other medical issues. If we can get past the inane mantra "My body, my choice!" (bullshit) and at least recognize the reality of the situation, we could advance into meaningful discussion. Am I pro-life or pro-choice? I am pro-truth.

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEllie


Great post... thanks for your thoughts. I'd have to read back, but when I say, "Save the child a life of pain and suffering," I am also meaning very ill and physically in pain babies. I didn't/don't mean just the potentially abused children.

You are right that unwanted pregnancies can turn into very loved and wanted babies... and wanted pregnancies can turn into unwanted babies. However, there *are* women who know themselves well enough to know they are NOT ready for kids and no amount of time to get used to it will change their minds.

And, I don't know about the 90% of women who were choosing abortion change their minds when they see an ultrasound because at our Planned Parenthood, EVERY procedure has a preliminary ultrasound. And the woman sees it, it isn't like she is shielded from the picture. Planned Parenthood *wants* women to make INFORMED decisions and there is *always* a discussion of regret, sadness, remembering the potential due date, etc. but that those feelings are normal and most women come to a place of peace within a few months after the abortion.

One of the points of departure for the two poles is the definition of what is actually being aborted... a baby or tissue... and you address that from your perspective. You say you want the truth told, but not everyone agrees with your definition of what's inside! To me, it *is* pretty much formed tissue that includes a heartbeat, but no brain to speak of. It is a clump of growing cells that POTENTIALLY makes a complete and whole baby, but that it takes time for all the cells to make that human being.

To me, under 24 weeks or so, the growing cells are the POTENTIAL for the baby. Under 24 weeks, when most babies die if born, they are merely growing to their potential.

Semantics. We've all got 'em.

Thank you everyone for remaining civil! The discussion is fantastic.

October 2, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Ellie, Perhaps I wasn't clear. I would never say I am pro-choice for everyone else, but pro-life (or anti-abortion) for myself. I am pro-choice, period. I was simply saying that being pro-choice does not necessarily mean I would choose termination. I was also saying that choosing something different for myself means that what others choose for themselves is wrong. I do not think that most people who would not choose abortion, but are pro-choice, consider abortion wrong, they consider it to be the wrong choice for them, and there is an important distinction.

Also, interestingly, as someone who struggled to get pregnant, and lost my first pregnancy, I didn't lost a baby. I lost a pregnancy, I lost potential. That's it, and yet, it was still a very much wanted pregnancy. I saw a heartbeat, the tiny little flicker on the screen. And yet, it wasn't really life to me, cardiac activity is not life to me. I mourned that loss for months because of what it *could* have been, but it was certainly not a baby, not a living human being, not to me.

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I will be voting for Obama as well, and I see no conflict between being pro-choice and midwifery (not that I'm qualified to judge such a thing).

What it comes down to for me, is an attempt to legislate morality. There is only ONE person that can judge the most moral course of action in an unwanted pregnancy. That is the woman carrying the potential life. No one else can know all of the circumstances involved, and no one else will bear the ultimate burden of that decision - one way or the other. I'm not going to try and parse all of the possible situations in which abortion would or would not be justified and slap some law on top of imagined circumstances. Any attempt would fall pitifully short and be an abject failure at grasping the nuance and magnitude of such a decision.

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarbon

I'll respond to those points in a bit NGM, but I just wanted to say that somehow I gimped up that link and where it was supposed to come into the discussion. Sorry all!

October 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

1- Jen, I think I was trying to say exactly what you did regarding your views. :o)

2- I've also lost a baby. Her name is Jane Frances. With all do respect and love, and compassion from someone who's been there and done that, you did lose more than a pregnancy. A pregnancy is not a "thing" with a heartbeat. There was a living being with an entirely separate genetic code from you living inside of you. If it helps you to call it "tissue" fine... but "a rose by any other name still smells as sweet." The reality of that life may not be real to you, but our feelings about reality are nothing more than subjective... the fact that "fetal tissue" is a live human being remains the same regardless of how we feel about it. 1+1=2 no matter how hard I argue against that fact. NGM, this is why semantics are important. They do not alter the reality, but they alter the perception of what is taking place in utero. For example, when someone who is 12 weeks along is in your office for an appointment, do you say: "Now we get to hear the tissue's heartbeat." Of course not... the woman would be insulted, and you'd be out of business before long. But another woman who is 12 weeks along who wants an abortion would never hear the word "baby" from the doctor: it would automatically be dehumanized to "fetal tissue" or worse "product of conception."

3- NGM: I find your 24 weeks standard curious. It seems a bit arbitrary and I'd like to know more about why that's the magic number. A 3 week old baby is certainly not up to his full human potential yet: he hasn't developed into toddlerhood or puberty or adolescence. His skull isn't even fully formed yet! Would we say that such a baby is "potentially" human still... afterall there is still a lot of development to go through before he reaches maturity! Why does the stage in development determine humanity? At 23 weeks, the baby is able to hear, has developed a distinct sex, is able to produce insulin, eyes are formed, limbs and formed fingers and toes are present and fingernails, primitive sperm are even developed in males! At 25 weeks, the structure of the spine is forming, the baby begins to get swallowing reflexes, lungs form better. I just don't get it. Why is the 23 week old just tissue and the 25 week old suddenly worth saving? Is there an exact DAY when the stage of development should suddenly promote the baby into having a legal right to life? On the contrary, it seems as if human life begins at conception (plenty of scientists with no vested interest in the abortion business have affirmed this)... any other stage in time to say "Ah! Now there's a life!" is just arbitrary. Now let's suppose that there WAS some reasonable grey area as to when human life began... shouldn't we err on the side of life? A hunter is in the woods and sees a movement that may have been a deer, or it may have been his buddy... should he take the kill or err on the side of life? You are driving in your car in the dark and you think that you see something jump from the bushes toward the road. Should you hit your brakes and err on the side of life? Of course. So if there is reasonable doubt as to WHEN human life is present and worth saving or not (which seems to be the consensus among many people here), shouldn't we too err on the side of life?

4- The ultrasound reducing abortion statistic is valid... but varies in exact numbers from inconsistent testing and such. (The lowest number I saw was 77% though, which is still hugely significant.) The most widespread testing I could find after a brief google search was that 89% of abortion-vulnerable women after seeing an ultrasound opt to keep or adopt out their baby. *Constitutent Insight Report, Sep. 30, 2007.*

5-I meant to bring this up earlier but there's so much meaty stuff in these comments it's hard to address everything. Katherine talked about the problems with abstinence only education. I agree to a degree. I don't think it's the public (read: government) school's business to be teaching sex-ed at ALL! Ideally the facts of life would be delivered by loving parents, but we all know that's not necessarily going to happen... so I admit that I'm not sure when or how the govt. should intervene. I for one, was insulted in high school before prom when the teacher gave a demo with a condom and banana as if we were all just a walking hormones with no self respect. I have a major problem with people reducing the argument to "Well, kids are just going to have sex anyway." As if we are nothing more than walking genitalia with no self control. Yes, our culture teaches us to give in to our passions and lusts, but this doesn't mean we should surrender to that influence. I plan on teaching my kids that sex is wonderful and beautiful and awesome in a way that is unlike anything else. Through it, two people give themselves to each other completely and with a total communion of love. That is precisely why it must be guarded so preciously and not dished out to the first pretty girl in a bikini they see. We must teach kids to avoid "recreational sex" and hold that entire beautiful, cosmic, life-giving love back until they are joined with the one person with whom they want to share their lives with. Otherwise, it's cheap.

October 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

With all due respect to your views and what you felt with your loss, my feelings about my loss are entirely accurate for me. While to you I lost a baby or a living human being, to me I did not. And believing this way is not specific to my experience, I have long felt this way, so I also find it patronizing that you feel that I somehow tell myself this to "help" myself deal with the loss. Telling me that I lost a baby doesn't make it so, not to me.

Yes, feelings are subjective, and the way I see my experience is very specific to me, my circumstances, and my beliefs. The same for you. I would never dare to tell you or someone else that you didn't lose a baby if that's how you feel. But in the same way, it's offensive for me to hear when someone tells me my feelings regarding my own experience of loss are wrong or inaccurate or to insinuate that I am in denial. Your feelings regarding your loss are just as subjective as mine.

And much of what I am saying is really at the crux of the abortion debate, do you believe that an embryo or fetus is a human being with rights or do you not? I do not. Does the line begin to blur at some point? Yes, certainly, but I also believe that the health/life of the mother ALWAYS supersedes that of the unborn, every single time.

October 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I also agree that Ellie's last response was patronizing (at best) and rude. To tell someone how they REALLY feel is inappropriate. We learn that when dealing with kids. "Mommy, I'm cold." "No you're not." That is what Ellie is doing in telling Jennifer how she *really* feels.

What is "magical" about the 24th week is that is when TRUE (to me and others, certainly not to Ellie!) viability comes about. When babies born can sometimes (not even mostly) survive and when, if they survive the birth and the first 30 days, might actually make it past severe mental and physical problems.

Potential does not mean certainty to me. Ellie, you can argue it up oneside and down the other and tell me (and others) that we aren't making sense, but we ARE making sense... to a different audience than you.

October 3, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Jen and NGM: I'm not telling you how to feel or that your feelings are wrong. I'm telling you that the reality is the same regardless of how you feel. This is an important distinction if we are to be honestly objective here and not too wrapped in the emotional confines of this topic. How is that patronizing? If I lost a pet duck and stated that I didn't lose a pet duck, the reality is just the same. NGM, if you had a client who had been seeing you and you and she had been calling 'it' a baby all along, and say she miscarries at 14 weeks or so. She then begins to cry on your shoulder and mourns the loss of her baby. Would you dare to tell her the truth of the matter that she didn't really lose a baby, she lost tissue? Or are we to allow everyone to make of it what they want just because they do or don't want an emotional attachment? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to say yes. That's called relativism: "there is no such thing as absolute truth." I say no: "There is a such thing as absolute truth that is not subject to our feelings about it. Forget for a moment how you or I FEEL about the topic-- do you agree that there can ONLY BE ONE TRUTH: either it's a live human baby, or it's tissue. I say yes, indeed it has to be one or the other. But maybe you think that no, it can be either or depending on how we feel about it.

If my assessment is correct, I don't have any more to say on that aspect of this topic at all. I don't buy into relativism one bit. So we'd better let that sleeping beast lie.

Now, Jennifer you said something that was particularly striking: "do you believe that an embryo or fetus is a human being with rights or do you not? I do not. Does the line begin to blur at some point? Yes, certainly, but I also believe that the health/life of the mother ALWAYS supersedes that of the unborn, every single time."

Thank you for that honesty! This is where the real discussion can begin and what I've been trying to say. If people can begin to admit that it IS a human being that is being killed-- we can move on to very interesting points in the debate about whether or not this human being has rights etc. But you asked a question that has two components that aren't necessarily married:

1-Do I believe the embryo or fetus is a human being? Yes, I don't see how any other argument could possibly be made with any reasonable amount of honesty... and I'm not interested in debating a phantom of an argument when so much science is on the side of "life begins at conception."

2- Do I believe said embryo or fetus (aka human being) has rights? I do. BUT, I think there is a whole lot of interesting debate and argument left in this point of your question than the first. This is where the really meaningful ethics of the situation come into play. I love how some pro-choice people can accept the fact that it is indeed a human life being killed... but they justify this killing with other points like you stated, e.g., the rights of the mother always supercede the rights of the baby. THIS is what makes for interesting and provoking discussion. And I've had fantastic debates and just discussion on this very point with adamently pro-choice people. THIS is the premise I think people need to get to before any honest progress can be made on this issue. If we don't want to accept the premise that a "product of conception" is a unique human life, than I'm not particularly interested in the rest of this discussion. It would be a waste of time when the facts are just ignored in order to make us feel better about what we believe.

October 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

I think I will post this last comment and then move on, because I am sure we can talk forever and not really get very far. So I will address a few things.

1. I do not believe it is an objective fact that life begins at conception, nor has science come to a consensus about this either way. If they did, the debate would be a great deal clearer. That question is still up for debate. Your assertion that it is indeed a unique human being worthy of protection is no more objective than my assertion that it is not true.

2. If NGM had a client with the scenario you mentioned about, it would not be relativism, it would be respect for the way someone else believes about their own experience. It would be rude, patronizing, insensitive, etc, for her to tell a woman she is wrong about what she feels about her own experience. It doesn't mean that she would suddenly believe that what had been lost was, in fact, a baby, but it is that she is acknowledging the loss and feelings related to a specific woman and experience. This is what I took exception to in your post to me. "If it helps you to call it "tissue" fine... ". That comment was dismissive of my experience and of my feelings, and it does not equal objective fact simply because you say.

3. I said the line begins to blur. A line where we take into consideration what it would take to save or treat both the woman and the fetus, or where our concern is just the woman. It does not mean that I believe that a fetus has rights equal to the woman.

October 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Good points, correct about me and my clients that lose their babies under 24 weeks. Being respecful of a woman's vision/love is part of being a human (to me). Just like I don't ridicule or deny someone's belief in Jesus as a god; I have some modicum of respect.

But, again, what they mourn, in my viewpoint, is the *potential* that the fetus held... the anticipation of a shared life together.

I do believe this is the place where we agree to disagree and encourage me to write something else we can all yack about.

But, I must say, this is one of the best discussions (even if each side re-iterated its views and beliefs) I've ever seen on-line about abortion. Thanks to everyone.

October 4, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

NGM, In regards to your last post: I thought they weren't babies?

October 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermamaescandon

Are you not following the thread?

When they are my clients, they are coming to me pregnant with *their* babies. I am with them, in love and compassion as they grieve (the POTENTIAL of) their babies. I would never presume to tell someone, "Naw, it isn't your baby... that's just tissue you're passing." That's real sensitive!

I see the "pro-life" folks so black-and-white that they figure we pro-choice people are, too. There are many shades of gray and it is in those that room for movement, kindness, respect and appreciation can happen. If you don't believe in gray, you will never comprehend what I am talking about because I will never be able to force someone to see something they don't believe exists.

THAT'S why I said I think the topic *has* run its course. I said nothing contradictory. Gray, yes.

October 4, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Yay for pro-choice midwives!

I have to disagree with you about voting Green, though, NGM. At some point, people in this country will wake up and realize that we are trapped in a dead-end two-party system and that nothing will really change until we stop relying on corporate Democrats. What we need is the kind of grassroots struggle that created real change in the 30s, 60s, and 70s.

October 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenni

I am pro-choice, to a point. I think it's ridiculous to allow a woman more than a trimester (and even that would be too long for me in that situation, I know that for a fact but I won't go into detail) to decide the fate of her fetus, regardless of the circumstances. You can still say you had respect for that creature if you at least didn't keep it hanging on any longer than necessary.

I was one of those who was terrified of what my parents would think if I got pregnant young and/or out of wedlock, so that method does work on some of us (it kept me from losing my virginity until I was 21, out of the house, paying my own bills).

I like the comparison above of kids to dogs at the kennel, I was just thinking myself that a doctor wouldn't wait until 2/3 of a dog's pregnancy was over to spare her the trouble of raising the pups she cannot care for. (In fact, I've never heard of finding a pregnant stray and eliminating the pregnancy at any stage before adopting her out.) We don't treat baby animals that way, why should we treat baby humans that way? I don't care if what that nurse said on YouTube only happened once in the history of humanity. It would only take seeing that once for me to become physically ill.

And finally, a true feminist would admit this topic holds no place for a man's opinion, regardless of his stance. I'm not prejudiced against men, I wish to God they could get pregnant, but they can't. It is our domain, like it or not. No man will ever ultimately make this decision, therefore how dare any of them push their views, and how dare any of us listen to them. They seem to adopt an "I'm staying out of it" attitude whenever we get into conflict elsewhere, how has this suddenly changed? As an afterthought, maybe if more men "feared" their women would keep the pregnancy (I think even happily married men panic a little upon realizing they're about to acquire a heavy responsibility like that), they'd take better care to use protection and help more of us avoid this very painful decision? Maybe telling them in advance "don't worry, if I accidentally get pregnant I'll abort" is letting them off the hook a bit too soon?

October 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCDN

this has been very interesting reading, lots of valuable comments and views. Personally I am pro-choice and always have been, I do find it interesting following American politics and the fact that your current President has done much damage in terms of women's rights vs fetal rights. Obama or McMaine well to me in Australia I know who I would choose, but it is not up to me.
In terms of midwifery and women's rights, America seems to be pro fetus, UK is pro woman and Australia we have not had too many cases to be either so we sit on the fence and watch - I hope that we tend to be more pro-woman however we have not had the test cases.
I might try this topic on my blog to see what responses I get, we certainly need to generate discussion.

October 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterinfomidwife

CDN: Your belief that it is "ridiculous" to allow abortion after 12 weeks because anyone should have been able to make a decision by then overlooks many different scenarios that have women NOT even *knowing* aspects of their pregnancies that would lead a woman to terminate.

Women don't even have the AFP until 16 weeks and if the screen is abnormal, further testing isn't completed until about 20 weeks (or even more if an amniocentesis is done).

Some women - many girls - don't even know they are pregnant for *months*. Even I... pregnant for the third time... didn't know I was pregnant until I was 6 months along! It isn't as uncommon as we would like to believe for women to not have periods and get pregnant without knowing it for many months.

There are always going to be extenuating circumstances. It's important to remember that.

October 12, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Deleted from Barb.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHoosierMama

I'm wondering why you were afraid to let my post be shown? The truth is uncomfortable isn't it?

October 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHoosierMama

I deleted your words, but wanted everyone to see WHOSE words I deleted because you are being inciteful and hateful. It might be YOUR truth, but it isn't MY truth and this is MY blog, so I can edit as I see fit.

It is people like you in the "pro-life" side that make ANY discussion impossible. I had a great discussion going on and then closed it as the positive began being outweighed by the negative. I have NO issue with airing opposing viewpoints, either, but comments like yours are meant to incite and manifest anger... so unproductive.

So, take your smug attitude somewhere else. You offer NOTHING to the discussion.

October 18, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

"I think it's ridiculous to allow a woman more than a trimester (and even that would be too long for me in that situation, I know that for a fact but I won't go into detail) to decide the fate of her fetus, regardless of the circumstances."

This is an almost laughable statement. Have you ever heard of severe preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome? These can strike in mid second trimester sometimes even though they are usually 3rd trimester complications of pregnancy. My HELLP syndrome struck at 27w 6d. I had Class I HELLP, my liver was about to rupture, and my platelets were almost nonexistent. Cesarean was a tremendous risk to me. I was advised I could bleed out rapidly and die. But my son was viable, so I gave it a go. This is not always the case, however. I have met women through my blog for whom HELLP struck in the second trimester but prior to viability.

One such woman, Cecily, had already lost a twin boy in utero and got HELLP at 22 weeks, prior to viability of her other son. She had Class I like me and a cesarean was not advised because she stood the same risk at bleeding out as I did AND the baby was not viable.

Here is her story.


If this doesn't show that there are lots of gray areas that pro-lifers don't always consider, I don't know what would.

Btw....thanks for a great discussion NGM.

October 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori

I stumbled across this blog post and I think it may be worth your time in reading- its a shame to continue to live in ignorance even after all we have experienced in history.


November 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternolongerareader

I posted the link because it was a cogent discussion of a viewpoint. Not because I agree.

November 7, 2008 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thank you for such a thoughtful post. Your perspective is, as others have said, nuanced and comes from experience.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTara Incognita

I am a regular reader of Conversion Diary and basically see this the same way she does.
But I love your blog and your thoughts about birth and have been devouring your blog for days now.
I hesitated to read this post because I knew it would make me uncomfortable.
I praise you for allowing pro-life women to speak here while you are prochoice, and for being able to maintain an invective free discussion of this sensitive subject.
I commend Theodora and Ellie for having the courage to speak here in what they might have feared was a hostile environment...and I commend you for letting them do so.
I don't think any more argument will change anyone's mind so I won't engage in it.
I hope we can still talk together about supporting women in birth.
Susan Peterson

August 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Peterson

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