October 17, 2006

Hey, let’s talk about abortion and religion!

(Wait, where are you going?)

Two things:

1. JB and I went to the Bodies exhibit a couple weeks ago. I highly recommend checking it out if it’s in your city, the specimens are truly amazing and give you a unique chance to appreciate the fascinating machinery under your skin.

One section of the exhibit is devoted to fetal development, and it includes many actual fetus specimens floating, ghostlike, in their containers. You can choose to bypass this room; I imagine it would upsetting to some people. There are heartbreaking examples of birth defects which are particularly difficult to view.

Most intriguing to me was the area depicting gestation week by week, from chorionic sac to embryo to 32 weeks in development. In the first couple weeks you see what you might expect: a tiny blob of cells. By five weeks it takes on the form of a living creature, preliminary arms and legs are there.

The eighth week specimen was so perfectly formed it took my breath away. Fingers. Toes. Eyes. I can’t explain it, except to say it’s one thing to see photos of this stage, and it’s something else entirely to see the actual body from all angles.

I have felt differently about abortion since Riley, which is not to say I have changed my pro-choice stance entirely, but rather that the subject feels much more emotionally charged. It is now difficult for me to be objective or clinical about a process that prevents a viable baby from being born.

I had an abortion when I was a teenager, which I hope is not such an intimate confession it will make you feel uncomfortable – it’s just the truth. I was maybe eighteen and was in no position to feel anything but an overwhelming desire to end the pregnancy. I have no lingering sorrows over that choice. At the time I was incredibly relieved to have the option available to me.

When I think about abortion now, my mind can’t quite escape the image of that eight-week-old fetus. Fingers. Toes. I don’t know how to view it any other way than ending a life.

For my own situation, I didn’t want to have a child. I had nothing to offer a baby: no stability, no money, nothing. I believe my life took a better course for not being a teenage mother, although who can say for sure. I believe Riley would not exist today had I made a different choice back then.

But was it morally wrong? I feel less certain that I know the answer to that question.

2. I have also felt differently about religion since Riley, which is not to say I have changed my personal agnostic, uh, nonbelief system. I am more empathetic to the desire to believe, I guess. I understand that there are things in the world so glorious and good there is no better word for them than miraculous. I understand, in some small scared way, the unspeakable enormity of a child’s death, and the need to believe that this world is not our last.

I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (which I picked up because she is a great and funny author; she also wrote Bird by Bird, one of the best books on writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading), and while I do not share Lamott’s spirituality, I find her point of view inspiring. She talks about Jesus and God and Mary and so on, but her faith is completely without judgement. She uses her faith as a supporting pair of hands, the motivation to get out of bed on a day that offers no comfort, and a reminder to love her fellow man without exception.

Her perspective is a beautiful thing to read, in my opinion. It is quite different from the ‘family values’ bullshit that is really just hatred and intolerance with a halo drawn on top.

She fundamentally lives her life by a set of what I choose to believe are mythological constructs. But her flavor of Christianity offers a moral compass I can respect and even envy.

Lamott herself believes in a woman’s right to choose, by the way. She wrote, “It is a moral necessity that we not be forced to bring children into the world for whom we cannot be responsible and adoring and present. We must not inflict life on children who will be resented; we must not inflict unwanted children on society.”

I want to support this right. I really, really do. I have many reasons for believing that women should have legal access to this procedure.

And yet. Fingers. Toes. Visceral reminders of the machinery being built, with all its potential. It’s complicated. It is more complicated for me than bumper stickerisms or yelling lunatics with signs or choices made in the name of God.

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Swistle
15 years ago

I feel just the way you do. I certainly want the right–and accessible means–to an abortion if I choose to have one, and I want other people to have that, too. But ever since my first child was born, every conception fast-forwards in my mind to the completed baby.

As a fellow agnostic, I’ll say that if anything happened to one of my kids, I might have to try to become religious as a sanity-saving measure. It must be so comforting to believe, and it’s hard to feel that belief absent and unreachable.

As an aside, I read an interesting study recently that said that agnostics are, overall, more moral and ethical in actual behavior, and less likely to get divorced, than are born-again Christians. Hey, controversy!

Paige
15 years ago

Thank you for this. It’s the most honest thing I have read in awhile. I also believe in the right to choose, and put my money and vote behind my belief, but since having Olivia, I can hardly wrap my mind around having to make such a choice now, feeling as I feel about her. That being said, I am still filled with abject dread at the thought of someone taking away the right. If things were different, I guess we would have the right, but have to use it less often? We would have better education, more support, higher value for children and parenting, etc….Sorry, I’m starting to ramble now….guess I should save that for my own blog. Thanks again.

LLL
LLL
15 years ago

I must say, I feel exactly the same way. I have always been pro-choice, and still am. But after having a baby I became very much in favor of (1) promoting birth control – like Norplant-which lasts 5 years and (2) limiting when an abortion may be performed (unless it presents a danger to the mother). I know that may sound bad and right-wing, but after sometime, even if not viable, the fetus is a human baby.

I felt my baby move at 20 weeks — she was a person. No, not viable, but a little person nonetheless. I have seen the pictures of when they start to become humans and I think we as a society need to try to figure out a way to educate and prevent so that those tiny humans need not be aborted (I am not crazy, I know this will never be done entirely).

Its an ungly balance — abortion agains the evil of unwanted children. I know the latter is worse because they must live (and sometimes) die in awful conditions. It all seems so heartwrenching.

I also am agnostic. But not without spirituality. Having a baby heightened that characteristic. It just changes you.

samantha
samantha
15 years ago

I agree with LLL. This is such a tough subject, and sooo polarizing.

I was a born again Christian. Before we conceived Zoe, we were gearing up to become missionaries with the Salvation Army. Once we discovered that we were going to have a baby, everything changed. I could not see taking a baby along to a third world country to preach the Gospel. (Nothing wrong with people that do, it just wasn’t the right decision for US).

Recently, I re-evaluated my spiritual life. I want Zoe to have a broad, open view of religion. I never want her to feel forced into any certain box, if that is not what she wants. We are trying to expose her to all kinds of faith now…

samantha
samantha
15 years ago

I agree with LLL.

This is such a tough subject, and sooo polarizing.

I was a born again Christian. Before we conceived Zoe, we were gearing up to become missionaries with the Salvation Army. Once we discovered that we were going to have a baby, everything changed. I could not see taking a baby along to a third world country to preach the Gospel. (Nothing wrong with people that do, it just wasn’t the right decision for US).

Recently, I re-evaluated my spiritual life. I want Zoe to have a broad, open view of religion. I never want her to feel forced into any certain box, if that is not what she wants. We are trying to expose her to all kinds of faith now…

Leah
15 years ago

I love love love this post. It is so articulate, even thought what you’re trying to say is so impossible to articulate. My pro-choice-ness all stems from the fact that I think government involvement in abortion would just send it into a nice little FUBAR spiral – even though I think it’s such a sad thing.

You’ve helped me decide what book to buy with my birthday money, too. Way to go!

I’ve been Lutheran my whole life, and am happy with it. But so much of happiness with one’s church is based on the individual church. So many churches ARE accepting and aren’t crazy, but the crazy ones get the word out. So then I end up feeling embarrassed by my Christianity, which pisses me off. Argh.

Gwen
15 years ago

I don’t think anyone, not even the most vehemently pro-choice people, ever wish for more abortions to happen. Ideally, for me, women should have much more education about and access to birth control, including Plan B, and the need for abortion could then be diminished, and mostly for cases when a mother’s life is in danger.

I also feel very strongly that abortion should always be available, and actually encouraged, when a woman is impregnated by rape.

Nonacita
15 years ago

You are always so articulate when it comes to the hardest parts of life, and this is no exception.

When you talk about viable fetuses, consider that there will always be some fetuses that will never be viable. Babies that will not make it no matter what-that was our situation. Even though I have always been, and will probably always be Pro-Choice, I still fought the fact that we would have to terminate the pregnancy for my health, and as the best course of action. It’s never an easy decision. Knowing what amazing changes had already happened…it’s different once you feel that little new thing.

You are so brave in your honesty. And you make me laugh until I think I’m going to pee most of the time. Thanks for both.

Sara
15 years ago

This is the best blog post I’ve read in a long time. Something serious, something to really think about. Having a baby changes so many things, but I never would’ve guessed it could actually change who you are as a person, as it certainly has me. The birth of my son has shaken me to the core, made me feel things I never thought I could feel, made me care about things I never cared about before.

I admire people that are confident and strong in their beliefs, who can give good reasons for why they believe what they do. I just can’t seem to make up my mind on some things, and maybe that’s ok. How can anyone really say anything for sure?

Anais
15 years ago

Thank you for sharing this with us. =)

Sundry
15 years ago

Thanks for your nice comments, guys. I should be clear than when I said “It is now difficult for me to be objective or clinical about a process that prevents a viable baby from being born” I meant viable in the sense that the baby would have progressed “normally”, without the kind of complications that require a decision based on health matters; I also didn’t mean viable in that they could survive outside of the womb at that particular point.

Whew. Hope that makes sense.

Christine
15 years ago

It’s odd that you posted this today. I was on my way this morning to the imaging center for my first mammogram (!), and I passed by a high school, where I saw, outside on the sidewalk, a bunch of people holding big placards. I couldn’t see what was on the placards until I stopped at the light near the school’s parking lot…and there were the most horrific pictures — they weren’t photographs, they were drawn, like cartoons, of mangled fetuses. The caption at the top of each placard in HUGE letters, said “Abortion!”. Abortion protesters!? There were about six people out there next to a *high school*, standing in the rain. I have an extremely strong distaste for the in-your-face style of protesting, especially abortion protestors. Wanted to yell something obnoxious at them, but didn’t. I agree with you, though. Having a baby changes not necessarily your view on abortion, but rather the emotion that surrounds it. I would never want to be without the choice, but I don’t know if I could actually have an abortion, if it came to it. I hope that makes sense.

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

I feel compelled to write. Firstly, because I think you’re a fabulous writer and I have been lurking here for many months. Secondly, because what you write strikes such a chord with me (Not just today. Most days.) I am a Christian, a spiritual person, and a huge fan of Ann Lamott’s writing and honesty. I think you are completely right about the religious right’s thinly veiled “family values” being a mask for hate and intolerance. But what I’m so glad that you have realized from reading Lamott is that there are people out there (like her, like me) who know that knowing God is much more than sitting in a pew somewhere on a random Sunday. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Jennifer
Jennifer
15 years ago

I think that was on of your most honest blogs yet. I admire your ability to be so candid and open and I also appreciate it.

I am a Christian, but not in the Americanized-bop-you-over-the-head-you-are-going-to-hell-born-again-obnoxious sense. My journey towards Christianity and Jesus is a personal and profound one. I am in no place to point fingers at, argue with, or try to convert anyone else to my way of thinking. I am as imperfect as they come and I have my share if mistakes under my belt. But after all the pain and all the mistakes, I have found my Purpose and that is what gets me out of bed every day; it is what allows me to love others more deeply, to be more understanding, and to be more compassionate.

That said, your writing always blows me away. Even when there are times that I don’t agree with what you’ve written, you allow me to see someone else’s point of view. Your blog has evoked more emotion out of me than any other blog I read and I thank you for that.

breckgirl
15 years ago

Thank you for your honest sharing. Everything does shift when you have a baby, doesn’t it? After I had my son, I started thinking that every time I ovulated and then had a period, I was losing another little person in that egg – I kinda felt like I should start trying to have as many as possible!!! Just a feeling, but it was funny at the time.

Um, I don’t think that family values are bullshit. I don’t hate anyone and I don’t just tolerate people – I accept them for who they are, non-believer agnostic, black, white, gay, straight, Christian, etc. It really isn’t up to me to judge the choices of other people – the true task of a Christian is to try and live their life in a Christ-like manner, which means loving people and encouraging them to accept His love. Christians who are judgmental and hateful give Christianity a bad name, because they are judging imperfect people when they themselves are just as imperfect. It creates that age old hypocrisy that some people seems to accuse ALL Christians of. I don’t claim to be perfect and I sin constantly, just like everyone else. But when I am making choices in my life, I try to make them in accordance with my Christian beliefs. I don’t personally think that is bullshit but I suppose there are some who do. All I can say is – I LOVE YOU, man.

I saw this bumper sticker yesterday that said – Welcome to America – Where you can’t hate anyone unless they’re WHITE. Sometimes it feels that way when it comes to Christianity. All Christians are judged as if they are crazy fundamentalists who hate everyone. That is just not the case and it is unfortunate that our media portrays such a skewed portrait. There are extremes in every walk of life and I suppose its the extremes that make the news!!

I really enjoy your blog, Linda. Thanks for providing a safe forum to read the opinions of others and to share my own. Please tolerate me!

Caitlin
Caitlin
15 years ago

Thank you for this; your honesty, as always, is so so refreshing.

Now that I’m in mid-20s range, my pro-choice stance is more and more about other women’s bodies, not my own. I’m older than my mom was when she had me, I’m in a longterm relationship, jeez, I even have two cats and car insurance! If I got pregnant now…I just don’t think I could end it. (But universe, if you’re listening, no babies for a long long time, please! We like being lazy!) The thing is though, I would never want to live in a world where someone else could decide that for me, or for any other woman. The polarity of this debate is so frustrating–pro-choice does not mean you think abortion is some great thing, but that you realize it’s a hard and sometimes necessary choice that needs to be kept safe and legal. And kept in the woman’s hands.

Sundry
15 years ago

Hey breckgirl: I totally respect what you’re saying. I should have been more clear that I am not bashing Christianity or saying that all Christians are as a total group any one thing or another. When I used the term “family values” (with the blatant, I hope, air quotes), I was referring to the poisonous right wing, homophobic, intolerant crap that like it or not, we sure see a lot of in this country these days.

The term has been used a lot by political parties who in my opinion don’t know a thing about global family values. But obviously it means different things to different people.

Brooke
15 years ago

I have been a Christian pretty much all my life. My fiance is agnostic and his dad is an atheist (hope he’s OK with the prayers and Biblical reflection at our wedding!). I have told my fiance that he is the best Christian-who-isn’t-a-Christian that I know. He is kind, patient, humble, thoughtful, a good citizen of the world. My ex-husband is a Christian who is not those things. Go figure.

I, too, enjoy your honesty.

Grace and peace be yours.

clearlydistracted
15 years ago

You’re awesome. Thanks for bulldozing right into the things that have occupied all of our minds but most of us are afraid to talk about. Your honest blogging is so refreshing.

biodtl
15 years ago

I can really relate to both of these issues. I was in the same situation, though I was a little bit older. I always felt comfotable with my choice, but after I ended up marrying the man I was newly dating at the time and going through a planned pregnancy, I started thinking about it more. Like you, I still am pro-choice and i can’t imagine changing that view, but at the same time, I see it as a necessary tragedy.

Also – the religion issue has been plaguing me lately. I just wrote an entry on my struggles – I have always believed and I feel like I am a spiritual person, but I am longing for happiness in an actual church. I have no problem with the believing/god/jesus part, but most churches I have experienced end up pissing me off by telling me what to do with my body or who to vote for or what to read or whatever and that’s where I find myself shutting down and going LALALALA I can’t hear you.

christen
15 years ago

Have you heard Wanda Sykes’ standup bit about abortion? Her problem with most pro-lifers is that they dub pro-choicers “pro-abortion.” No one is pro-abortion, just as she says. Though she puts a humorous spin on it, no woman sits around and says “hey girl, you wanna get crazy tonight? Let’s go get knocked up and then go have ABORTIONS.” You know? I thought I was pregnant earlier this year, and like you when you were younger, I had no means to support it, and knew that when it was born, I would resent it forever because it had “ruined” my life. I was not ready to have a baby. I saw what it did to several friends, and family members (my dad was the unwanted baby of an alcoholic, abusive father), to have a baby that they did not want, and though they tried to hide it, it was still OBVIOUS the child was unwanted–and let’s just say those kids did not turn out nicely. Not sure what I’m getting at here, but no one WANTS to have an abortion. Luckily for me, it was a false alarm, and I switched from the pill to an IUD. I’m all for personal responsibility, but I’m also all for not forcing women to have unwanted children–whether they give them up for adoption, which can be TRAUMATIC, or whether they are forced to raise them without means or support, or even desire. Anyone can have a baby, but not everyone should, just because they can. The same holds true for clothes–just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it. :)

jonniker
15 years ago

I had the same abortion experience. I have little – make that zero – regret about that decision, and I agree, I would not have this life, or rather, any life, the way I do now had I made a different decision. It was unequivocally the right one for me, and I haven’t really considered the moral implications for years. Practically, I know it was right, and I don’t really grapple with any long-term moral considerations about it. I’m not sure if I will later, but it’s been so many years, it’s hard to imagine any sort of what ifs, and I tend not to do regret well. I am also very open about this, whether it’s wise or not, I’ve yet to determine.

However. I’m not even a mother yet, and I already see the shift in my thinking towards how this goes towards myself moving forward, obviously, and I can understand what you’re saying here without question. On the flip side of the moral coin, I volunteer with Planned Parenthood, and I see up close and personally that not everyone has access to the same resources and support that we do, and that sometimes choices have to be made to sustain the life that already exists. And the things I deal with there keep my mind even more emotionally in the pro-choice camp than I even thought possible – even more so when I was the one in the stirrups.

erin
15 years ago

Having a baby changed my entire perspective on abortion as well. I understand that there are people who aren’t in a good position to take care of a child and that those unwanted children may very well grow up in horrific conditions. But it seems so terribly sad to me to be in the situation to have to make that choice knowing how complete the baby is at such an early developmental stage. The unwanted pregnancy rate needs to decline, through better contraceptive education and access to the morning after pill. Some politicians are now taking this stance, and I think it is one worth supporting.

Jacqueline
15 years ago

Having a baby and knowing what it does to my body, my life and the hard work it takes has made me EVEN MORE pro-abortion. There is no way a woman should be forced to have a child she does not want, end of story. While the miracle of an 8 week old fetus is something to behold, it can never trump a fully breathing, living, born woman.

LIsa
15 years ago

Sundry, you always say things so well, and spot on. I just read your entire entry to my husband, as a matter of fact. Becoming a mother really changes everything doesn’t it? Your post was honest, intelligent and refreshing – as have the comments so far. Now THAT is refresshing.

jonniker
15 years ago

Jaqueline, to some extent, I agree with you. From my (albeit brief) experience being pregnant, I will say that I never felt like more of a prisoner in my own body than I did then. I know/knew that if I had to carry it to term, my mind would have slowly eroded from the emotional and physical weight. I’m not advocating abortion as knee-jerk go-to solution, or suggesting that the physical inconvenience should weigh more heavily against other issues, but when you add that to individual circumstances, it certainly can complicate things.

I’m going to get in myself in a lot of trouble here if I keep up. I’m sorry. I always tend to overshare when this topic comes up, and I have no business speaking in the context of mothers’ (or anyone’s) personal feelings on abortion.

Eilis
Eilis
15 years ago

I am not currently a mother, but hope to be someday soon. I have never been faced with the need to make a decision about having an abortion, but always believed very strongly that I would not bring a child into this world unless I could care for it and raise it in the type of stable environment I was brought up in. I mean, it’s just not fair to the child. Not to be able to provide basic needs, let alone the extra love and attention that I was afforded by my parents-the nurturing that made me who I am today. So many of the problems in society today stem from people’s roots. So many children are brought into the world by people that aren’t able to care for them. Sure, there’s a lot of families looking to adopt…but there are still so many children going to bed at night hungry or cold or lonely or just plain sad. I want my children to feel the warmth of my love at every moment of their lives, and I want them to appreciate the life that they will be able to have by being brought into the world by someone that can care for them until they are able to do it for themselves. It might be my medical background that makes me see abortion in a different light, or the fact that I am not yet a mother, but though the fetus is a “living thing,” it won’t have much of a life if it is born into a world where it is not wanted, cherished, and cared for.
I can understand where those of you that are now mothers are coming from–that your ideas of abortion have changed. And well they should–for your unborn children. You’re doing it! You’re raising your children and are able to take care of them. That doesn’t mean that other women are ready for that stage. Just another angle to look at…

Sundry
15 years ago

I think where I am fundamentally feeling the most confusion on this issue is over the fact that I don’t think I view a fetus’s life as having less value than an adult’s life. An unwanted pregnancy is usually not a healthy evironment for a child, and there are many considerations, as some of you have mentioned, but if I only look at the life of a fetus – only that and nothing else – I see a human being’s life. If that life is ended by the hands of someone else, is it not murder? Is it fair to decide that death is preferable to a life that may or may not be full of challenges and obstacles?

This is not my belief or my political choice at the moment. But I’m having trouble getting past those thoughts.

Thanks to everyone who has weighed in. I welcome all viewpoints.

Amanda
15 years ago

Amen, Linda. I agree on both points. I actually wish I could muster up some faith, since it seems like such a beautiful endeavor.

I think life begins at conception, but I will defend any woman’s right to have an abortion. It may be murder, but it’s merciful, which somehow makes it okay with me.

With every entry you write, I like you more and more. Maybe you can show me around WA when we move up there in a few months.

Sugar
15 years ago

Great post! I have been confused over the issue as well lately. Oregon has a measure on the November ballot regarding teenage abortion and parental notification. It has made me think. I also had an abortion and always have felt it was morally wrong but I did it and was glad for the option. It is a tough question.

Heidi
Heidi
15 years ago

I’ve always believed that the only people qualified to vote for or against laws related to abortion are those who have had to actually MAKE this decision. I have never been faced with such a decision, so I can only guess what I would actually decide to do, and can only guess how I would feel about the consequences of my decision. Isn’t it crazy that it is primarily men (in congress and on the Supreme Court) with the power to pass laws related to abortion?!

zu
zu
15 years ago

The bodies exhibit had the same influence on me…I couldn’t get over those perfect little bodies and I went through a phase of “yep, it’s a person inthere and abortion kills it” but it never changed my opinion on pro-choice. I liked what Heidi pointed out – let the women who HAD to make the choice – let them vote on the abortion law.

Thank you, Sundry, you wrote it so well.

Jem
Jem
15 years ago

I feel the same. I feel like I should be pro-life because of the actual baby but I can’t judge. It’s easy to say that if you can’t deal with what comes with sex you shouldn’t be having sex, but I know that’s easier said then done. I’m Christian and that book sounds interesting – very much like how I consider myself. I like the part of the Bible that says not to scream out prayers from the rooftop, do it in the privacy of your own bedroom so no one else hears. Most people don’t realise I’m Christian because I sing rock and I’m into metal and all that, and they’re always really surprised when I mention it. The only thing I can’t do is sing lyrics that are explicitly against religion.

jonniker
15 years ago

Linda, I don’t think there’s answer to that fetus/murder question, really, that I or anyone else can give for anyone, or even debate properly. I’ve gotten into this discussion so many times, with people at PP who think that the answer to that question may be the platform with which the Dems need to justify abortion issues (i.e., a fetus is not a viable life until XX date). But I really and truly, no matter what medical evidence is presented, don’t think that’s an answer anyone is qualified to give other than the individual who’s faced with the choice/consideration, because I guess it’s up to them to live with, along with reconciling it with whatever deity they choose.

There certainly is no clear medical answer to when life begins, no matter what both sides try to present. You know, it’s funny, part of the pro-choice argument – and why there are so many fractures within the movement – is that people can’t even agree what pro-choice really means. Is it without restriction? To a certain week of pregnancy? Is it partial birth abortions? Is it with or without extenuating medical circumstances? If I drove to my local Planned Parenthood right now, I would get eight different answers from eight different people.

Ah, such an interesting issue. And despite my personal beliefs and activism, I truly can understand all sides of the issue, and why people struggle with it so much. It’s not easy. (and I swore I was shutting up. I SWORE I WAS. And now I swear I’m going to bed.)

Lisa
Lisa
15 years ago

So I will be the big jerk who makes the joke about how life doesn’t begin at conception, it begins at 40. Because it’s there, man. Someone has to do it.

I was raised to believe that all life begins at conception and that every conception, regardless of circumstance (rape) or outcome (horrible medical conditions) was God’s will, so who were we to decide the value of a human life? Ours was to accept the miracle of pregnancy, even if it was a miracle rooted in violation or pruned by pain and suffering.

To spare you all my long and tedious I-grew-up-Catholic-and-then-I-questioned-everything-I-learned story: the only stance I can really say I have on abortion now is of the “Don’t want one? Don’t have one. Don’t want other people to have one? Then make sure they don’t have a reason to get one — give ’em better sex ed and access to birth control that works.” Everything else is still up for discussion.

Staci
15 years ago

This line you just wrote…

…but if I only look at the life of a fetus – only that and nothing else – I see a human being’s life. If that life is ended by the hands of someone else, is it not murder?…

that captures exactly how I feel.

I don’t want to make decisions about what anybody else can or cannot do. I don’t want to be called pro life or pro choice because frankly, some of the things done by each side of this issue scare me.

But for me, I can’t get past my belief that life begins at conception.

christen
15 years ago

Being a non-mom and having no desire to be a mom in the near future, I’d have to say that I am anti-the-use-of-the-word-murder to describe abortion. “Murder” is something that you see on television–bloody bodies lying on the street, killed out of pure hatred and anger. I highly doubt most women who are faced with an abortion are psychotically plotting to “murder” that small cluster of cells that has latched on to the side of their uterus. I think that “murder” in the CSI sense of the word isn’t quite accurate, because when you think of it that way, most folks would argue that anything is better than murder, right?

I would like to present an example just to illustrate that not every decision is better than abortion.

My father’s best friend has a daughter that is the same age as I am – 27 – and while we were never close, I knew her and thought she was so cool. We lived far away, so we didn’t spend much time together. Anyway, when I turned 16 I found out she had had twins. She had been drinking and doing drugs while pregnant (no one knew she was pregnant), and she had them at the term of four months. She hadn’t told anyone she was pregnant, because her dad was religious and of course, he would not have allowed an abortion, I’m sure. Not only that, in the towns we lived in, there weren’t exactly planned parenthoods on every corner (both small towns) and honestly, at 16 I probably didn’t even know what an abortion was, and barely had an idea what a condom was for. Her? I don’t know what she knew. Remember, this was a while ago… before the internet, eh?

Regardless, the boys were born almost 5 and a half months early. One had such severe water on the brain that he is basically a vegetable. As soon as he was old enough to sit then stand, word was that he just spent all day in his crib, banging his head on the wall for hours on end. Just banging his head, sometimes crying. The other one wasn’t much better off.

She of course got welfare money (and I am not knocking welfare–I grew up on it, and would have probably been severely malnourished if we hadn’t had food stamps and government cheese), which instead of spending on diapers and baby food, she saved up and spent on a babysitter and to go party on the weekends. She got the WIC food and the food stamps, which she bought food and diapers with. I’m not sure if she worked, but I imagine that she did to feed her drinking and drug habit. Keep in mind though, she was 16, and 16-year-olds can’t work full time in the state of Michigan.

Her dad had already declared bankruptcy and was working as a public school teacher. She didn’t have a good relationship with her mom, because she herself was a child of a rape. (Her dad was her adopted dad, technically–but had divorced mom a while back). So, mom and dad couldn’t pay her bills, and were in no place to adopt two twin boys. The foster care/child welfare system is so strapped for funding and workers in that state, that I’m not the least bit surprised that she still has those boys.

I’m not sure why she didn’t put them up for adoption. I don’t want kids, and obviously I was only 16–so what was I to do? Drop out of high school and move in and help her? I think not.

Of course, not getting pregnant would have been the best option–but that’s not always the way it works out.

So when you say murder, it seems so harsh–but really, is murder any worse than those boys living that life? Are those boys really lucky to be alive? They live in pain every day, and really, I don’t see that changing. They’ve got to be what, 11 years old now? I can’t imagine what their lives will be like for the next 50, 60 years. To say that unwanted children don’t always have happy family lives is a major understatement. It all depends on the degree of how unwanted they are, not to mention how screwed up their parents are, what resources they have available, and a million other factors. Unwanted with resources; that’s one thing. Unwanted and born to a drug addict/alcoholic girl with no parental support and no desire whatsoever to be a mother? Very different.

And I know all the moms there will say that once you have that baby, even if you didn’t want it, you will love it and it will be your whole life. I’ve got cousins and a father that are living proof that that doesn’t always happen. And it screws people up, in ways that aren’t always possible to reverse. I can see the damage that is done when the child KNOWS that he wasn’t wanted, and that his mom HATED him and RESENTED him from day one, because she believes he ruined her life. It’s not fun. The mothers that have unwanted babies and end up loving them and making happy homes for them are very, very lucky that they were emotionally able to have that reaction and physically able to provide for those children. VERY lucky.

I guess the point of that story is that some of the previous posters have hit the nail on the head. Whether abortion is right, or moral, or the best decision really truly cannot be a blanket decision–it completely depends on each individual person facing that decision, and what situation that person is in–there’s just no way to say yes it’s the way to go, or no it’s wrong unless the mother’s life is in danger.

There’s just too much gray area, and too many babies living lives like that to say it’s wrong all the time.

Sorry to go off, Sundry. (I think my comment is longer than your whole blog). I just gotta stick up for those of us who have seen the other side of things!!

Leslie
Leslie
15 years ago

I’m with Heidi in my dismay that the legalities of women’s rights usually lie in the hands of men. I get *infuriated* when I hear virulently pro-life men rant. Dudes, until you’ve sweated over a late period, held the hand of a friend whose boyfriend of five years broke up with her over the consequences of a broken condom, or feared rape from a date or stranger, SHUT UP.

As an adoptee, I should be less pro-choice than I am, I guess. Certainly, I’m grateful to the girl — she was 16 — who didn’t scrape me out. But I don’t think I’d do the same. The Morning After Pill seems the best solution … so don’t get me started on pharmacists who refuse to dispense it.

ivymae
15 years ago

All I can say is thank you for trusting us enough to be honest with us about things so very … fragile.

Nancy
Nancy
15 years ago

Thank you for again opening your life to us. I have always felt that abortion was murder but, oddly, should not be banned by the government. I won’t go into great detail, and I’m not looking to debate or argue. Kind of like you, after I gave birth to my first baby and was awed at the miracle of life, I don’t know how I could ever think about abortion the same way. (Those fingers…. those toes…. at only 8 weeks…)

Mama Ritchie
15 years ago

First let me say thanks for supporting my girl Anne Lamott – I suggested Traveling Mercies for a book club meeting (which you did NOT attend, I might add) and almost everyone hated it except me and Gael. She was the first evangelical I could relate to (the second being our homegirl Chiara, but she’s reformed so I don’t know if that counts) and I would recommend reading all of her books – including all of her fiction – because she’s awesome.

Abortion. Girl. Let me say this – my feelings on abortion did not change at all after having my baby. I firmly believe that it is not my business to tell another woman what choices she’s allowed to make. I hate when people try to tell me what to do. But my feelings about birth control DID change. As in, if you don’t want a baby, get some fucking birth control.. And I know that no birth control is 100% effective blase-blah, but it’s more effective than the number of unwanted babies out there – I don’t even know if that makes sense. I guess what I’m saying is the choice to have an abortion is one of the hardest choices a woman can make, but the choice to have protective sex is so fucking easy that there should only be 2-3% of unwanted pregnancies out there. What’s refreshing is how all of the commenters here have all put a lot of thought about if and when they wanted to have a child. We waited 7 years before we were ready. Not for our sake, but for the sake of our child. He’s better for it, and so are we.

I saw your title and I was all, oh she is NOT going there. But you did and you did it well.

Mama Ritchie
15 years ago

Let me clarify one thing – Children having children – well, I don’t blame them for messing up with the whole birth control thing. The group I’m most upset with are the pro-lifers who refuse to discuss birth control education, because HORROR! That might make these kids have SEX! The more education there is about birth control, the less unwanted pregnancies there will be, and the fewer choices regarding abortion will have to be made. Birth control is such an easy thing – young people should know about it and not be restricted in obtaining it. God it makes me crazy – thanks, Sundry. I’m gonna be awake for a few hours now.

G
G
15 years ago

One thing I never understood is why we have to wait 4-6 weeks into the pregnancy to have the abortion. I knew I was pregnant within a week. I always felt slightly punished because I had to stay pregnant for antother month before they would do my abortion.

TB
TB
15 years ago

Re: abortion, you and I seem to have had identical experiences. I have written and erased a post about my changing feelings at least ten times. Now that I’m pregnant, I feel conflicted in a way I never did before, not that I think I made a bad choice because I know I didn’t.

I totally understand where you’re coming from.

Emily
15 years ago

As far as abortion goes, I’m a bit torn. While I agree that a woman should have the right to choose, I can’t help but believe that there has got to be a better option. But then, I’ve never had to make a choice like that, my perspective is a little skewed, I guess.

The faith question, though, is even more difficult. I’ve always tended toward the “there is a higher power” school of thought; still, inner conflict about what exactly I should be having faith in has been a part of my life for years. I read a book by C.S. Lewis last year, though, that really helped me to get a better grasp on the whole situation — “Surprised By Joy.” I highly recommend it, if only because after I finished digesting it, my mind not only felt clearer, but I felt noticeably (and this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s true) … happier. Weird, huh?

Kaire
15 years ago

First off, I’m in total awe and admiration that there are 40+ posts here and not a fight! It’s a hot topic and I agree with so many of the points made here. On the Chicago stations now there is a political ad running and the subject is his view on abortion. They have him SAYING that it doesn’t matter if a woman is pregnant due to rape or incest, or even if the mother is in harm of dying from the pregnancy, the baby’s right is the one that matters. (ad done by his advisary I might add) That’s about the only thing I take a strong angry stance on, some GUY saying what a woman should endure.

I can’t fathom the strength it takes to want to be carrying a child! I know as a teen I would have probably killed myself had I ever been pregnant, I just couldn’t have fathomed going through with it (and I didn’t have that worry, thanks to being shy & fat!) The family drama would have been so hideous.

Abortion, adoption, keeping a baby … all have so much involved when making the choice. Sex education is the best route. In fact last weekend I had a talk with my boyfriend’s 18 year old. I explained to him all the ways a girl on the pill can screw up and get pregnant. I figured since we were talking sex any how, he should know that “I’m on the pill” doesn’t mean “I can’t get knocked up!” I really emphasised that it’s his responsibility too and if a girl gets pregnant, here’s what can happen. Know what? He thanked me for telling him and was rather in shock of how easily bc can fail. (antibiotics, throwing up after taking their pill, having the flu & diahhrea, forgetting a day or two of them)

Most people think I’m stepping over my bounds telling him this stuff. I’m *not* his mother. I say he trusts me, he confides in me (geeze HE was the one who brought up girls & what is happening on campus!) so I’d be irresponsible as someone who loves him to not educate him. There are too many kids born that were “mistakes” … there is no point in putting a woman in the situation of making these choices if you can prevent it. Plus I know he goes back to his friends and does the whole “dude, did you know …” so the education travels.

Whew! All this when I meant to say “kudos” to all participating in this discussion. I’ll leave religion alone :)

John
John
15 years ago

Abortion is tricky, but think about this: Could you have been the mother that child deserved? How many children are born to parents who simply do not want them? Yes, they act the part, yes, they may even love them… but there is a certain disconnect you can see. Go to a Wal-Mart some time (or any other sea-of-humanity type place) and look at the families. You can tell sometimes who really didn’t want to be a parent. Why should the children suffer because of this?

My wife and I have a friend who has had the proceedure twice. It is for the best, honestly. She is bi-polar and struggling with a great deal of emotional issues. As a mother, she would have been… amiss. Passing on the damage she hadn’t had time or ability to sort out, to an innocent child. Creating another, possibly more damaged life.

On the flipside, my wife and I had to terminate a pregnancy. There were medical issues. The child would have lived a short painful life, my wife may not have been able to carry another child and may have been at risk of her own life had the pregnancy continued. It was and is the toughest choice we have ever made. But I am glad we had the choice.

As for religion, if you are looking, I recommend a trip to http://www.uua.org

I am a Unitarian-Universalist (not as scary as it sounds), and one of the things we profess and encourage is a free and responsible search for meaning. Be it traditional Christian paths, Buddhist paths, Wicca, or whatever. You may not decide to be or associate yourself as a UU, but we are a good group for bouncing ideas about spirituality off of.

Other than that, read “The Tao Of Pooh?” A silly book, yes. But also quite profound.

Joanne
15 years ago

Wow, when I read the first line of your entry, I thought you were kidding! Aren’t you brave!

I am a religious person (although I do not think of myself as a member of the ‘religious right’, I don’t wave signs or have hate for others, thinly veiled or not) and I am morally opposed to abortion and mostly always have been. I really relate to what you say, though, about how differently you feel about such major things after Riley’s birth. It is so crazy what being a mother does to me – I feel responsible for not just my child, but all children that have been born to any mother just like me. As for faith, I think you’re smart to not just sit there and not believe, but to at least open your mind to what others that you respect and like have gone through with regard to their faith.

Jessie
15 years ago

Very brave entry. I guess my take on the whole issue is that I’m pro-life for myself, but don’t feel I can make that decision for anyone else, so mainly, I’m pro-choice.

Can I tell you how much I love Anne Lammott’s writing? Her words have gotten me through some tough times. Her books are incredible!

Whitters
15 years ago

I, too, had an abortion, and I’ve never regretted it. Since I’m an atheist, religion doesn’t come into play with my beliefs, but even if I were religious, I would believe that abortion should be safe and legal so that other women could choose for themselves.

For me, personally, I don’t see “potentiality” as a reason to criminalize abortion. I guess because I’m a hard-nosed, unsentimental realist (some might say cynic, heh), I just don’t put much stock into mere potential, what might be. My personal belief is actually quite in line with Judaism, in that I don’t believe life begins until the baby is actually born.

But again, that’s just me. I’m all for everyone having different views. What upsets me is when people want to enforce those views on everyone else. Most pro-choicers I know are NOT pro-abortion; many are actually morally opposed to it. But they fight to keep abortion legal so that it’s an option for women.

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