A few times when I was in elementary school, my mom took me out of school to go to the annual pro-life march at the Minnesota state capitol. I remember waiting for a shuttle from Colonial Square in Wayzata, standing in Rexall Drug’s entrance next to a woman with a sign that read, “Real Feminists are Pro-Life.” At that age, I didn’t know what a feminist was and remember asking my mom, but I don’t think her answer made it any clearer for me. Isn’t everybody for women’s rights?

One particular year we were at the capitol and I remember signs that had pictures of aborted fetuses pasted to foamcore; another striking display was a grim reaper effigy being toted around by a cross made of 2x4s, which the strong winds made even more terrifying. My memory tells me that each time it was a gray, overcast January day, with exhaust-covered snow heaped upon the banks of the streets. I don’t know what I was thinking of it at the time, but my recollection is that we were doing what was needed.

I remember screenings of The Silent Scream were offered in my church’s basement. My parents never let me watch it. I guess I was too young to witness that strong a message. But I went to the capitol each year because it was what my mom asked of me. I would do it for her then, and I would like to say I would support her today, a little over a year since she passed away, but I cannot be sure.

My mom always called me her “Jesus-baby,” a moniker my siblings still give me grief about (and perhaps now my colleagues), and an affection my mom expressed to me as late as her death bed. I’m not sure I know the entire story behind this nickname, but I do know that mom quit smoking and drinking two years before I was born and also had a born-again experience during the time when charismatic Christianity was firing up Roman Catholic parishes in the early 70’s. I also know that her doctor tried to persuade her to have a hysterectomy around this time — my mother had had 5 children already. I don’t know how much of this, or all of it, is what shaped my mom’s views on abortion, but they do represent some of the circumstances.

I am very conflicted on where I stand on abortion. I can’t say I would abide by the pro-life position if my wife and I found ourselves in a place which would be too challenging for us at some stage in our lives. I do, however, wish that there were fewer abortions, as I think it is a choice and commitment of such anguish for a woman that no one ever wants to undertake, if possible.

And so this contentious struggle continues, without much progress. Maybe I have softened due to the inevitability of maturing, though doubtful. But I can point to something Rod Dreher said on a recent SOF program that was revealing to me.

“If I were pro-choice, I would feel very strongly about it and I would find it very difficult to compromise.”

What’s there to do when you can’t compromise and are unwilling to see the opposite perspective?  When I say that I am passionate about my beliefs, I guess I am speaking theoretically. My problem is that I see both perspectives as valid, a convenient strategy my dad and I argue about that he calls situational ethics. He feels that there are absolutes in one’s faith and you need to abide by those, no matter the scenario. I feel as though no decision is free from the circumstances, and it is the very apt approach to regarding hindsight or looking back on previous decisions that allow us to progress.

Perhaps that’s what I am, pro-gress. But I am sure we all are.

[Editor’s note: Out of the hundreds of responses we’ve received about abortion, many people are wrestling with same personal and societal conundrums of legalization. I encourage you to visit our map and read some, and submit you’re own perspectives.]


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7Reflections

Reflections

Your mother's story is touching and it was interesting to read about your annual journeys to the pro-life marches. Though I was raised so that we would have met on opposite sides of the protest lines, we both meet in the middle with pro-gress. There are many countries to learn lessons from; those who have legal abortion, but who have also reduced drastically the number of abortions over the last decades. It is my belief that if both sides of the issue would stop expending so much of their energy and resources in the argument of right and wrong, and just invest it all in solving this complex issue, many women and children would be served.

Absolutely! As a society, we need to begin looking for solutions. The tired rhetoric of condemning the other has proven ineffective and painful.

Thank you for reading. It was something that I haven't thought about for some time.

-MItch

Mitch, I am would, if I judged others, be Pro-life because of the following Psalm; "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." (Psalm 127:3) It is sad that people believe, but don't understand why they believe what they do. One day they will wish they had taken the time to learn why they think in the manner they do, and that is closer than many think. However, I judge not those things others do, I am not a judge. I know what is right and what is wrong, Biblically speaking, but can condemn no one, that is God's Job. Ironically, it boils down to choice, Pro-life, or Pro-death. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" (Deuteronomy 30:19) And how do you do that? "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (I Corinthians 11:31) Think about that, I think you are smart enough to see what God says. The fate of us all rest in God, not in what we believe.

I guess it comes from where you receive your moral authority - is there room for the recognition that there are no absolutes in this world?

I don't know how many people read this, but I'll put in my thoughts. This article was honest. I, too, once stood in a pro-life group holding signs. I chose to hold a sign that said, "God Heals and Forgives," scattered here and there among others that said "Abortion Kills." For a year I spent a few hours each week at a crisis pregancy center, offering encouragement and options to women who found themselves pregnant. It so transcended anyone's thoughts about abortion, this experience of offering hope and help to women at a vulnerable time of life. Maybe it was the small-town community, but very few were even interested in abortion...they just needed encouragement and some practical help at a very vulnerable time. And they were filled with sadness because in so many cases they had been emotionally and physically abandoned by the fathers of the new lives they now carried. I have a friend who continues this kind of volunteer work. She says now teenage girls "hook up" for sport and often have never loved or been emotionally close to the ones who fathered their children. I think we need to shelter our children from such callousness...teach them to link sex with love and commitment. Many of my friends refuse to vote for Obama because he is not opposed to abortion. At this point there is not much we can do to change the laws...we need to just look at the facts of science and the social needs around us. From conception it is a live human, by DNA definition, and it is growing, a miracle of life--but people have needs and problems and challenges related to bringing new life into the world. We need to help anyone who is pregnant. I just wish those who are impoverished in so many ways, and so young, would consider releasing for adoption as a choice more often.

Mitch, I really enjoyed reading this. I, too, went to the pro-life marches with my parents as a child. When I started taking Women's Studies classes in college, balancing this deeply held belief in the sacredness of all life - even that of an unborn child, with my budding feminism was the cause of much anguish. I struggled to find pro-life feminists. It hadn't really occured to me as a youngster that abortion was a women's rights issue, it was just never presented to me that way. It was clear cut - should we, or should we not allow the killing of babies. With that still resonating in my head it is still hard for me to identify as pro-choice, although that is what I am. I like what Obama has said about creating a culture where abortions are less neccessary. A culture that values motherhood - even single motherhood.

I am a Baha'i and was raised listening to that old Seals and Crofts song, Oh Unborn Child (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v..., but when my late uncle, Dr. George Tiller, opened his abortion practice, I gradually learned that few issues are as complicated or intimate. In my 20's I worked as an options counselor at an abortion clinic. I heard girls and women tell me about their abusive husbands and boyfriends, about being pressured to have sex by much older boys and men, and pressured to have abortions by parents and the fathers of the babies. Here's what I learned: sometimes life is too messed up to bring a baby into it.

I still believe very deeply in the sanctity of life beginning at conception. I was told my own daughter would not live outside the womb, and I was encouraged to terminate my pregnancy, but I didn't. I knew I would never exercise that option, though going through that with her increased my compassion for others who do.

And I also know that women are going to have abortions sometimes, no matter what anybody else says about it. If abortion is not safe and legal, many of these women will die from that choice. I do not categorically support every woman's possible reason for getting an abortion, but I also know that I am not empowered to be the judge of other people's lives. In my personal efforts I try to empower women to take themselves and their sexuality seriously, not throw it away. I encourage them to educate themselves throughout life, and choose their relationships carefully. This is a big issue, I feel I could write more, but that daughter I was told I should terminate in utero? She's hungry for dinner and harassing her younger brother.

apples