The Still, Small Voice that Doubts Roe v. Wade

Around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade last week, the New York Times‘ “Motherlode” column ran a piece by freelance writer Christina Loccke about how becoming a mother caused her to question her firmly-held belief in abortion rights. She believes in a woman’s right to choose but when one of her friends, also a mother, told her she was planning an abortion, part of Loccke wanted to say, “Don’t do this. Please.”

In describing her emotional turmoil, Loccke writes, “My choice was either to be true to myself and my politics supporting women, or give in to my emotions as my friends described their choice.”  She chooses to keep her reservations to herself and to be “supportive.” (Hopefully, she shared her concerns with those friends before mentioning them on the New York Times website!)

There is certainly a lot that could be said about Loccke’s essay, but it was this simple line describing the division between her head and heart that bothered me most. Somehow, Loccke believes that her true self is separate from her emotional responses. This kind of dualistic separation of the self into “rational” and “emotional,” and the prioritization of the rational, is at its heart an anti-feminist ethos.

In the foundational work Women’s Ways of Knowing, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986) suggest that the practice of prizing knowledge from an external authority over emotional or relational knowledge developed in concert with patriarchal societies. Other ways of “knowing,” such as listening to an “inner voice” and paying attention to what  “feels right”—ways that have typically been associated with women—have been undermined.

Loccke, if she’s a feminist, ought to be more willing to listen to that still, small voice in her soul.

And Christians, if we’re honest, need to acknowledge that God reveals himself through both reason and emotion. After all, when the resurrected Christ spoke with the men on the road to Emmaus, he reasoned with them, explained the Scriptures, and what happened?

Their hearts burned within them.

About Amy Lepine Peterson

Amy Lepine Peterson teaches ESL Writing and American Pop Culture at Taylor University, but spends most of her time making a home in the cornfields for her best-friend-husband and two (frankly adorable) children. Look for her with a french press of coffee and a book or a screen, plus a little one on her lap, thinking about education, mothering, theology, tv, movies, music, and sustainable habits of living.

  • Joe

    THIS is the problem with the debate.

    There is a huge difference between politely telling a friend you don’t agree with her decision, and attempting to pass or voting for legislation that would make her choice illegal.

    You realize that right?

    That the only two choices aren’t keep your thoughts to yourself and support something you don’t believe in, or make it ILLEGAL? You can NOT support the practice but still support the woman. I know that’s harder than flicking a pen in a private booth, but isn’t acceptance and forgiveness what being a Christian is about, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you?

    Just because you think abortion is wrong doesn’t mean Roe v. Wade was wrong. I dont agree with everything people say, but I believe in their right to free speech. You dont have to agree with everything a woman does with her body and still believe in her right to free medical choice.

    I shouldn’t be so riled up about this, i think you did this unwittingly which is entirely problem, but the fact that you directly associate a Supreme Court case with saying “i think you should consider something else” to a FRIEND is… angering to say the least. You completely misunderstood Locckes point.

    This is what you said: The Still Small Voice That Doubts The Right to Make a Choice
    This is what you should have said: The Still Small Voice That Doubts the Decision

    She was torn on whether or not she should support her friend, not whether her friend should have the choice to make the decision.

  • http://www.amylepinepeterson.com Amy Lepine Peterson

    Yes, it may be that the title here isn’t an accurate reflection of my argument in the piece (titles generally aren’t written by the authors of posts).

    I actually agree with you that overturning Roe v Wade is not the correct solution to this situation.

    The point I hoped to make is that both reason and emotion can rightly play into our decision making.

  • Joe

    I totally agree.

    No woman should ever feel as though she can’t get an abortion, but no woman should ever feel the need to personally support the practice. I think its entirely appropriate for a woman to say she does not agree with a friends choice. Being polite about it is obviously better, attempting to understand the pain they might be feeling is good.

    I guess i just view it as any other important decision your friends make. Their spouse, how to raise their kids, how to be healthy. I disagree with a lot of my friends. If i honestly think they are making a choice that is “bad’ for them, i tell them. If im not really in a position to comment, i dont.

    The issue arises from bringing religion into it. If a Christian wants to tell a woman they don’t agree with abortion, that’s one thing. To tell her God says its a sin/murder/whatever is unproductive and hurtful.

    Any heartfelt advice, coming from a friend from a place of perspective and experience is always welcome.

    If Loccke had said “I think in time you may find that you regret this decision more than you think you would” to her friend, she may have reconsidered, or in 10 years if she did regret it, she would have been converted. Instead, the other women Locckes friends talked to (based on how she described the encounter) took the fire and brimstone method, not the reason and emotion method.

    I’m rambling again because i don’t know how not to, but ill try to stop.

    Locckes friend let reason trump her emotion. The other women let emotion trump reason. Balance and honesty will usually do you best, if it was only that easy….

  • Amber

    “This kind of dualistic separation of the self into ‘rational’ and ‘emotional,’ and the prioritization of the rational, is at its heart an anti-feminist ethos.” Oh, I LIKE this.

    Joe, I believe the real problem pro-life advocates would have with abortion is not that it’s a “little worse” or “less than ideal” choice on the range of possible choices; it’s that they consider the baby the mother carries to be a complete, whole human life, and as such, there simply is no “choice” about whether or not its life should be terminated. It’s not like saying “Well, my friend feeds her kids chicken nuggets and Coke every meal, and I don’t agree with it, but it’s her choice;” it’s like saying, “My friend wants to kill someone, and I have to stop her because that’s murder” (I know that sounds terribly harsh, but if you equate a fetus with a viable life, then that’s exactly what you have). There are plenty of actions our society simply tells people they cannot do (they don’t get a “choice” about) because those actions are simply unacceptable (stealing, rape, murder, etc.). If abortion falls under this “murder” category for you, then it’s not an issue of telling your friend you simply “disagree with her choice;” it’s telling your friend she simply cannot commit this action, however difficult the circumstances might be. This is also why saying that you can personally disagree with the practice but still allow it to be an option for others is also not a logical answer to the issue (again, IF you agree that a fetus is a life).

    This debate (when life begins, when it’s viable, if a fetus is a fully developed human, etc.) is an old one, so if it’s something you’re not convinced of, I doubt I or anyone else could convince you or change your mind in a blog comment (and that’s not really my intention here anyway). I just wanted to point out the difference between your comments and what a pro-life advocates’ issues with abortion really are.


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