A Paradigm Shift: My “Aha” Moment on Abortion

Some commenters on my pro-life movement post expressed skepticism that I could have so changed my mind so thoroughly over one lunch and one set of statistics. And so I asked myself: How did my perspective change so completely and so suddenly? What was it that so challenged how I had viewed the issue before, and exactly what changed and why? In this post I further hash out what went on in my mind that day, and explain the paradigm shift I underwent.

At that time I had been pro-life my entire life and had spent the previous year as president of my local Students for Life chapter. During the entire time my goal had been to see abortion banned. At pro-life banquets and in discussion with other pro-life individuals, there was always talk of overturning Roe. That was the goal. Overturn Roe, ban abortion, problem solved. Another thing I had always been told was that the number of illegal abortion performed before Roe was grossly exaggerated. I thus saw discussion of illegal abortions as a smokescreen, and felt sure that if we could overturn Roe and then ban abortion, we would solve the problem and abortion would virtually disappear overnight. And while we held overturning Roe as our ultimate goal, we saw restrictions like waiting periods and parental consent as legal steps we could take in the meantime.

And yes, we did other things besides talk of banning Roe. We donated to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, and participated in the annual Life Chain. I knew people who volunteered as counselors at our CPC (though I never did myself) and people who worked to reach women entering abortion clinics (though I never did that either), and we always knew that our CPC had a need for extra baby clothes or lightly-used cribs. In other words, in addition to the ultimate focus on banning Roe we also worked to talk women out of having abortions.

But I never, ever heard things like fighting poverty, working toward a comprehensive social safety net, advocating for comprehensive sex education, or working to make birth control more widely-used or effective put forward as strategies for reducing the number of abortions that took place. In contrast, every pro-lifer I knew was politically conservative and in opposition to things like welfare, mandated paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare, and even things like Head Start. In addition, the emphasis of the pro-life movement was on promoting abstinence. I remember being at one pro-life banquet where a group of abstinence educators gave a talk about their work. They talked about how they told the children in the schools they went to that contraception had an extremely high failure rate and that if they had sex with someone that would reduce their ability to bond with someone else in the future. We all clapped approvingly. And beyond this, I also was taught that hormonal birth control itself actually caused abortions by causing a woman’s body to expel fertilized eggs. In other words, birth control was discouraged, not encouraged.

During all my time in the pro-life movement I had never actually seen numbers on abortion rates in other countries. Never. The only times we discussed abortion globally was to condemn the World Health Organization for funding abortions in other countries and to support the Mexico City Policy prohibiting U.S. money from being used to fund overseas abortions, and also to condemn China’s policy of forced abortions. That was it. I had never seen numbers comparing rates in the various countries, had never seen a listing of the restrictiveness of the laws in each country, etc. In fact, because I had been led to believe that birth control increases the abortion rate by increasing the amount of sex that takes place and through its failure rate resulting in the conception of babies almost certain to be aborted, I assumed that sexually liberal Western Europe, with its legalization of abortion, would have a really high abortion rate (I knew Western Europe had legal abortion because that was on the list of evils about Western Europe that I heard as a political conservative, alongside socialism).

And then I saw the New York Times article reporting on global numbers of abortion, and discussing these numbers in tandem with each country’s restrictions on abortion. Remember that I had never seen these numbers or even heard them discussed. What these numbers told me was that the legality of abortion was not the primary factor effecting the rate of abortions. There were other factors at work. Why was it that sexually liberal Western Europe, where abortion was legal, had the lowest abortion rate in the world? And why was it that Africa and South America, where abortion was banned in nearly every country, had the highest abortion rates? I realized immediately that these questions were crucially important if one wanted to bring down the abortion rate. It was an epiphany moment. And yet, these were questions I had never heard asked in the pro-life movement.

The other thing I realized is that I had never really considered the reasons women have abortions. I had instead simply repeated the line that “women use abortion as birth control.” When I found that a full 75% of women getting abortions in the U.S. cite their inability to afford to raise a child as one reason they seek out abortions, I was surprised. I know it might seem strange, but I had never really looked at the reasons why women have abortions. My focus had been on restricting abortions and doing whatever possible to talk women out of having abortions. Now, I knew that women had abortions because they didn’t want to be pregnant or have a baby, but my response there – and the response I always saw made by the pro-life movement – was simply that people shouldn’t have sex if they didn’t want to get pregnant. The statistics on Western Europe suggested that if my goal was to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies I needed to put birth control back on the table.

That day I moved away from trying to stop people from having abortions and toward addressing the reasons women have abortions. Things like unintended pregnancies and poverty, for instance. You see, I realized that stopping women from having abortions might save unborn babies from murder but did very little to address the reasons why women would seek out abortions in the first place. I realized that if the focus could move toward decreasing unintended pregnancies and making sure that women could afford to raise children, well, I could both prevent the murders of unborn babies, and improve women’s circumstances and lives.

And yes, this change took place over one lunch on one day, though I of course went on processing the issue for days and weeks afterwards. It really was like a switch had been flipped. It was a paradigm shift. It was an “aha” moment that changed the entire way I approached the issue. And that was huge.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana Hope

    I agree that we should be focusing on how to help women. But I am wondering at what point the women would claim they have enough money to raise a child?

    • KarenH

      Speaking for myself,having had an abortion, it would, at a bare minimum, be sufficient to cover the increased costs to the household, such as the hundreds of dollars extra every month for daycare, not to mention the high one-time costs for the birth and supplying a baby room. Ideally, it would also include the increase in savings to provide for edcation and other incidentals over the years.

    • chervil

      This sounds kind of like you’re just about to say “freeloaders” or “welfare queens” here. Raising kids is incredibly expensive, there is never enough money.

      • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana Hope

        I’ve never raised kids in the US, so not a fair comparison, but in Asia, I did felt like we had enough to meet basic needs of the kids at home. I wasn’t asking what is enough to travel the whole world or put your kids through professional gymnastics, but what is enough for a young mom to get her/their needs taken care of, still get the education she might want, and go on to get the job she might want while not living on beans and rice only. I think with enough help getting a good education and later a good job, then later she might be able to afford the other dreams. The problem is when a mom who is broke has a child she may never financially catch up. But correct me if I’m wrong.

    • abra1

      Really?

      This question is just a way of rephrasing the idea that women use abortion as birth control. And, frankly, is asked in the same spirit as people make the assertion that rape and health of the mother exceptions result respectively in more women claiming rape (and thus the need to establish if it was a “legitimate rape”) or claiming “bogus” health threats like threats to mental health (and thus the need to limit it to *life* of the mother). It reflects a profound mistrust of women.

      It really doesn’t matter how much money but it is worth asserting that women are for more likely to be poverty than men, women with children even more likely. A substantial proportion of these women already have children and thus know exactly how much more money they’ll need.

      And it isn’t whether you can afford 1 or 2 weeks of soccer camp or extra lessons. This is meeting basic needs — can you afford childcare for when you go to work (can easily exceed the cost of public university tuition and there are far fewer scholarships), if you are out of work, in 47 states, TANF has a cap that denies benefits to additional children in the misguided effort to keep moms on welfare from having more children (because it you’d come out ahead if you had more children while on TANF /sarcasm/). Can you afford food because SNAP and school lunches are not cutting it for many families. Can you afford decent education for this child — because the reality of US education is that it isn’t failing, you have middle class school that are doing just fine and you poor schools that are struggling — or are you condemning him/her to a life of poverty because you have to live in a poor neighborhood with a bad school.

      • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana Hope

        abra1, I was genuinely asking what ways women would like help. Believe it or not, I want to help.

        I a

      • abra1

        Lana –

        Then ask that question because it isn’t a dollar amount. It is knowing that you have resources available to take care of a child for the foreseeable future, it is knowing that even if something bad happens (lost job, birth defect, complication), you will have access to what you need to manage it. No one but the 1% can be certain of being able to provide that without assistance.

        I remember when we were of the age when everyone was getting married and a few friends had stipulations like we need to have $X before we get married/buy a house/have children. While I appreciate the desire to pin down what you think you need to be comfortable, it doesn’t always work out the way you think — there are accidents, unforeseen complications, good deals that you can’t pass up, etc. And it is depends on circumstances.

        For me, for a purely resource standpoint, in order to consider another child, I would want:
        - Affordable, quality childcare. $10k+/yr/child is a big resource constraint for even comfortably middle class families and kind of locks you in, making it harder to consider moves, career changes, etc. because what happens if you suddenly can’t afford $10K/yr?
        - Quality public education. In order to live close to our jobs in an affordable neighborhood, we have to settle for terrible public schools. One demographer in our region said living in the city was the equivalent of a $14k/child tax because (at the time) the schools were unaccredited. We have been lucky enough to get our kids into a good magnet school but it shouldn’t come down to luck. The alternatives were move away from our jobs ($ and time) to a less affordable suburb ($) or come up with tuition ($) and those aren’t available to everyone.
        - Affordable, consistent access to health care. Hopefully ACA goes a long way to insuring this but I made semi-permanent decision to not have any more children when we got stranded with 2 children without insurance because my husband’s company decided they couldn’t afford to continue their group plan with a week’s notice. We had to come up with $6000 to get our kids covered on my plan (have to pay premiums in advance as a grad student) or go with a private plan and pay out of pocket to treat my son’s chronic ear infections because they were a “pre-existing condition.” And I’d gone down that road before and had a TERRIBLE experience.
        If I were not middle class, I would also be concerned with:
        - Housing. There are some schools in our district that have 100% turnover in their students in a school district because poverty requires that families be mobile as their are evicted or aunt so-and-so runs out of room, etc. We have terrible renter protection laws in this state and, while I sympathize with landlords, all kids suffer with that much turbulence in the class roaster. Better quality housing (lead poisoning is a BIG problem here) and more financial support would go a long way.
        - Food. It is simply shameful that any child go to bed hungry in this country and that anyone would ever think that it would be a good idea to cut WIC, SNAP, or Free/Reduce Lunch programs. I had a high school friend recently post on facebook a very moving account of her experience as SNAP/free lunch recipient — I remember that she ate breakfast and lunch everyday at school even though the rest of our group opted to bring ours. I didn’t appreciate at the time that she was doing this because often there was no food at home. Her mom was an alcoholic — a caring woman who just couldn’t manage to keep a job because of her disease.

        But for me, the decision to not have more children wasn’t just about resources. I know that I am not, from a health or emotion or life plan standpoint, in a good place to have more. It is not a situation that more money is likely to change. That’s why affordable, reliable birth control is necessary.

      • abra1

        Sorry, I didn’t catch a type. It was $1200, not $6000 (I have no idea what sort of brain fart that was) but in any case, it was a lot for a young family to have to come up with in a week.

    • thalwen

      At what point is up to the woman to decide. The problem with antis is they want a clear line and the decision to bring a child into the world has so many variables involved that it is impossible to make a line that will be fair unless you want to delve into the realm of the ridiculous. What’s enough money? That’s different for different families. Some women may be ok with being able to just meet basic needs, some want their child to have the opportunity to have a good education and not to live in poverty. Women are perfectly capable of understanding finances and are perfectly capable of understanding what financial impact a pregnancy and child will bring. So at what point? At whatever point the pregnant woman decides it is.

    • Noelle

      At what point would one have enough money to feel ready to raise a child?

      For me, it was when we could pay monthly rent and utility bills, eat every week, and still have enough left over to feel comfortable we could throw another person into the mix without starving. I also needed to be physically available to actually see my infant on a regular basis, so it couldn’t be while I was in school and every waking moment was devoted to study. So for me, it was age 29, after 5 years of marriage, and I was probably making $30,000 a year. It was just enough for the husband to stay home full time and take care of baby while I financially supported all 3 of us in an absolutely horrendous job. Thankfully, that only lasted 3 years and these days I can much more comfortably support my now family of 4.

      Thanks for asking. Good question.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      I’d say when I could consistently afford decent housing (not some fallen-down moldy rat trap that will slowly kill me and the baby or at least contribute to lifelong health problems), nutritious food for all members of the household including the baby, childcare if all parents in the household need to be working, either disposable diapers or cloth diapers and a laundry service, baby clothes at the rate the baby outgrows them, and access to healthcare (including preventive healthcare, not just life-or-death ER stuff) for all members of the household including the baby.

      • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

        P.S. Not to mention the costs involved in birthing the baby. Whether you do it with an OB/GYN or a midwife, it isn’t going to be free.

        I went ahead and looked up a baby cost calculator because Lana’s question was a very thought-provoking one, and because I believe it was asked out of a genuine desire for information. If you look at her blog, you can see that she’s done a lot of work with children in East Asia, so that’s her frame of reference for cost-of-living. Since I don’t have kids myself I can’t attest to this calculator’s accuracy, but it looks like a good starting point.

        http://www.babycenter.com/baby-cost-calculator

    • Emmers

      I remember, very clearly, the way I felt when I realized my husband and I had enough money and job stability to feel comfortable raising a child. Had we gotten pregnant before that, we probably would have kept the baby anyway, because we have strong family support, but it would have been pretty stressful. If we didn’t have the families we do, yes, we probably would have aborted an early pregnancy.

      Everyone defines this point differently – and not all abortions are because of bad *financial* circumstances – but it’s definitely a real thing.

    • Sarah

      Speaking for my home country, where the rate is almost half the US rate and the numbers of adoptions per year is miniscule (equivalent to 1000 or so in the US per year), enough money means subsidised childcare, rent assistance, free health care, plus cash equivalent to about $300 a week.

    • Nathanael

      Several governments and many universities have made very good estimates on the cost of feeding, clothing, housing, and providing medical care for a child. It’s been studied for decades. There’s even a gag about it in the opening credits of _The Simpsons_, for goodness sakes.

      And yes, there are also estimates on how much it costs to live in a reasonably healthy fashion, either alone or as a couple. It’s called the “cost of living”. It varies somewhat by location.

      Why not do some research and find out these numbers, Lana Hope? They’re readily available. Then perhaps you could research how many people are scraping by with less than the cost of living (and suffering because of it) and how many can afford to keep themselves healthy but not to take care of a child. This has been studied for decades, at least since LBJ’s “War on Poverty”.

    • Jadehawk

      Ask the French; they managed to raise their fertility rate from below replacement rate to above it (with Teh Ebil Soshulizm, AKA healthcare, daycare, etc.). So apparently, at some point French women decided that they had “enough” to raise a family on.

    • Rosa

      With our health care system in such a shambles, the answer is “there is never enough money”. Every pregnancy is a huge gamble with your family’s entire future. My son’s birth cost nearly $200,000. Nobody has that. And he’s physically fine, very little ongoing healthcare needed, but we didn’t know that when he and I nearly died and he had to be induced early.

    • victoria

      For me the absolute minimums would be:

      * a safe place to live with adequate space for every member of the family. Not necessarily one bedroom per kid, but enough room that people can eat, sleep, and just “be.” For two parents and a kid I’d say something around 750 sq. ft. would be a reasonable minimum — I know people make do with less, but that would be awfully cramped.
      * enough money for food that everyone can get adequate protein, produce, and calories. $30/wk. per adult and $15/wk. per young kid is probably a bare minimum there, and that’s a lot of rice and beans. It also means cooking every meal, which may or may not be doable if the sole parent/both parents are working full-time.
      * if you live somewhere where you need a car to get to your job, then it needs to be a reasonably reliable vehicle and you need enough income to cover insurance, gas, and maintenance; if a car isn’t necessary, then a public transit pass may be a necessity depending on work and what you can walk to (most of my jobs have included this as a perk).
      * either health insurance sufficient to cover pregnancy, birth, pediatric care, and emergencies comprehensively, or a very high-deductible insurance plan plus at least $15k in the bank to cover birth and prenatal care.
      * enough money to cover a basic phone (probably a cell phone) and utilities
      * money in the bank to cover a cheap replacement car (if a car is necessary), either a major home repair like a new roof (if you own a home) or first & last month’s rent on a comparable apartment to the one you’re in (because you never know if something’s going to happen to your place to make it an untenable living situation), and a few months of income for one parent. More savings is always better, but if you don’t have at least that much then you’re asking for trouble. This also presupposes no debt.
      * and all this needs to be done either on one partner’s income with the other partner staying home for childcare (or a willing extended family member providing care), or there needs to be another $400 per week (at least) to cover daycare.

      I’d never begrudge someone saying they needed more than this to feel like they had enough to raise a kid; the expert on this is the parents! (I know our income is a lot more than this and I am acutely aware that a second kid would really impact our standard of living — but mostly because quitting my job would be the only financial move that would make sense, and we’d probably have to pull our daughter out of her school that she loves.) But for a single parent needing childcare this is very close to $40,000 with a decent amount of money in the bank — maybe more, depending on where you live. Some of that could be made up for with government assistance, and there are ways to economize if a kid is what you really want (live with roommates/parents, work opposite shifts, bike everywhere).

  • jose

    “When I found that a full 75% of women getting abortions in the U.S. cite their inability to afford to raise a child as one reason they seek out abortions, I was surprised. I know it might seem strange, but I had never really looked at the reasons why women have abortions. My focus had been on restricting abortions and doing whatever possible to talk women out of having abortions.”

    This is key. The moment you included women in your analysis was the moment you became pro choice. When you consider women human you necessarily, automatically think about circumstances besides sex.

    Indeed, even when we talk about animals we’re always thinking about why they do this or that, because that’s the way we see all beings with a will of their own. But abortion? That’s a woman thing so evidently sex must be the problem. Economic circumstances or any other problem are men’s stuff. For conservatives, “woman” and “sex” are synonyms, aren’t they? It all clicks into place that way: that’s why they think men and women can’t be friends; that’s why they think women can’t be funny; that’s why cosnervative areas consume more porn than liberal areas, etc.

    • machintelligence

      The moment you included women in your analysis was the moment you became pro choice

      I think there is yet another factor here: you were willing to accept new facts that disagreed with what you had been taught, and you were open to rational analysis. Both of these are antithetical to the conservative/authoritarian mind set. Claims of biblical inerrancy still exist for the same reason.

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  • Martin

    It may be in an upcoming post, but I’m wondering what happened next. Did you try to get others in Students for Life and elsewhere in the pro-life movement to see things this way, or did you know right away that they would never accept it? How long did you try changing things ‘from the inside’?

  • Chervil

    I’ve had these types of moments too. It happens when you’re kind of going about your business, like you said. It’s not a kind of momentous pondering thing, it’s like suddenly having a polar bear appear in your living room, a completely unanticipated, unsought onslaught of an idea that is all of a sudden there. You never forget that moment, it’s so overpowering, and you never go back.

  • abra1

    This is what comes of reading stuff in the main stream liberal media.

    In all seriousness, I was flabbergasted when earlier this year a virulently anti-choice candidate was asked why women got abortions and he said he had never considered the question. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how, if this is a defining part of you career/life, you could not seek an answer to this question (supported by data). I had never appreciated how the anti-choice crowd didn’t even ask the question in a meaningful way, a question that seems to obviously necessarily if you want actually affect abortion rates.

    It isn’t entirely true that the question is never asked but that the answer reflects a view of women as depraved creature — they have abortions because it is available. I have challenged that answer a number of times without realizing that was it – that was all they had (not that they give it up easily). I have asked if they genuinely thought the process of getting an abortion was so easy that it would be preferable to using some form of birth control (make an appointment, sit in the waiting room, have one of those oh-so-pleasant pelvic exams — a particularly enjoyable experience for women who have experienced sexual assault and trauma — and then have a period of cramps and bleeding — that sounds much better to me that a daily pill or a condom let alone something more effective).

  • Doe

    My trek toward pro-choice started in high school, where I knew a couple girls who got pregnant and how they were treated by the community. One was ill enough to be put on bed rest for several months, and her boyfriend/baby’s father was the darling of the county because every week he was out there leading a high school sports team to success. People made jokes about him fathering a child but no one thought any less of him for it. I watched him go off to college and her essentially becoming a single mom. If an accidental pregnancy means you become deathly ill and pause your education maybe forever while your baby’s father prances around the football field, abortion needs to be an option.

    When I was about a semester away from finishing college and moving into an excellent graduate program, my long-term partner gave me a lecture about how if I were to become pregnant we must be married straightaway and not even a thought of abortion. He wasn’t even particularly religious, just very interested in keeping me in my place. I felt that I couldn’t give up the graduate program and so I got up my courage and didn’t take him with me when I left college.

  • kristen

    A big factor in my “aha” moment was reading the book “The Girls who went away” which gave a very chilling picture of what it was like being a young, unwed, pregnant person before Roe. But there were a lot of other factors that mainly included randomly stumbling upon things on the internet through blogs, forums, tumblr, etc. that shed light on the reasons why people get abortions. I guess the internet made me pro-choice.

  • Janet

    For me, my movement away from the pro-life crowd began with the Iraq War. I was amazed at how easily they could justify killing and maiming live Iraqi children and still maintain they were against the taking of innocent life.

  • “Rebecca”

    “The other thing I realized is that I had never really considered the reasons women have abortions.”

    This is so, so important. I was indoctrinated in Pro-lifery for my whole childhood and it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I finally read–from a pro-life organization–a chart that laid out the actual surveyed reasons women get abortions, and their feelings after the procedure. I was astonished at what I read: that most women feel relief after an abortion, financial concerns are the #1 reason women get abortions, etc. The thing that began to weird me out about this was that none of the facts pointed to abortion being a phenomenon like a typical murder, which is how pro-lifers are used to perceiving it. Spite is not a factor, greed is not a factor, substance abuse is not a factor, jealousy is not a factor. It’s not like crips and bloods murdering each other, or a jealous lover killing her rival. Abortion is a class all its own and if your goal is to end abortion, it cannot be dealt with in the same way murder is dealt with.

    Strangely, the rest of the pro-life literature I read completely ignored what these surveys revealed and continued to insist that the cause of abortions was some nebulous “culture of death” that needed to be fought and prayed against. Pro-lifers are good at drumming up emotional outrage, but as a group their perception of reality is so warped that they can’t understand around how to attack abortion in a meaningful way.

  • Rilian

    I had one of those.
    I was just reading harry potter, and then all of a sudden I was an anarchist.

    • L

      Hehehehehe. THIS!^ is more believable than what the author has published here. I’m not really concerned with the REASONS abortion is chosen, because that’s irrelevant to whether or not a parent choosing to have their child killed in utero should be legal. It’s not legal to kill your child AFTER they are born, and it shouldn’t be legal to do so BEFORE they are born, either.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        But by current legal definitions, to be a “person” something must be “born alive.” So terminating a pregnancy does not involve “killing your child.” If you want to make the argument you are making, you have to prove why a fetus in utero should be consider a “person” with rights equivalent to those of you or me.

        And besides that, the point of looking at the reasons for abortion is that you can cut the abortion rate most effectively that way. What is your goal, to punish women who have abortions, or to cut down on the number of abortions?

    • L

      Yes. We should really be asking people who rob liquor stores WHY they are robbing the liquor store instead of incarcerating them. And yes, I DO think women who abort should be prosecuted for doing so.

      • plch

        Maybe if we asked why we could prevent (at least some of the) robbing.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Actually, I DO think we should be asking why people rob liquor stores, and why people commit murder, and why some soldiers desert, etc. Finding out why people commit crimes is key to working to cut down on the rate at which those crimes are committed. And really, I don’t think you care as little about why people steal as you suggest. Would you punish the teen who steals an iPod in the same way you would the father who steals bread because his kids are starving? I think not.

      • chervil

        Oh good, courts clogged up and jails full of women and girls. Your persecution needs always come with a big pricetag. Why can’t you people ever find the money to do anything FOR someone? It’s always gotta be TO someone and we’re always stuck with the bill.

  • Jadehawk

    “sexually liberal Western Europe, where abortion was legal, had the lowest abortion rate in the world”

    In before the claims that abortion is actually more restricted in Western Europe than in the US:
    1)Everywhere it says “for the mental health of the mother”, it’s actually unrestricted unless you have the incredibly bad luck to have a fundie OB-GYN.
    2)even in Ireland, where abortion is illegal, it’s easier to obtain than in large parts of the US, for the simple reason that even traveling from the ass-end of Ireland to the UK is a smaller distance than from, for example, the ass-end of North Dakota to Fargo. Plus, paid days off work instead of losing income.
    3)everywhere where abortion can be had, it can be had for free if you’re poor enough
    4)medical abortions are available, because our doctors who perform them don’t tend to get murdered, and our medical schools teach how to perform them (and you don’t get to get out of learning it if you want to become a surgeon, since in many countries medical staff are considered public servants and as such their own religious beliefs aren’t allowed to interfere with their provision of services)

  • http://heresyintheheartland.blogspot.com Jeri

    I became pro-choice the week after Dr. George Tiller was asassinated in his church during a Sunday service, a mile from my home. I read the stories of women who were grateful for his compassion during difficult times in their lives. Far from being a greedy fiend, he turned out to be a devoted husband, dad, grandpa, and uncle. A man who’d hoped to be a dermatologist but answered pleas for help instead, who’d opened his home to pregnant girls and helped arrange adoptions. Who had the inner strength to keep going after being shot, threatened daily, and vilified. He wasn’t even godless as I’d assumed, but had a chaplain at his clinic that would even baptize the fetuses if it would bring comfort.

    • Nea

      I had been pro-choice before the assassination. After the assassination, I became a clinic escort. Quite a lot of people were in the training session, every one of them citing him as their inspiration for deciding to do it.

  • RG

    I think this changes one half-way approach for another.

    You should be doing both. Trying to ban it, and trying to make it obsolete.

    Right now what you are telling me is basically “you can kill as long as I find out why”

    • “Rebecca”

      Do you think women who have abortions should be imprisoned?

    • abra1

      You know, you can disagree with someone but still understand their logic. Deliberately misunderstanding Libby Anne’s point does not help your cause.

      There is a whole string of people here who are representative of a much large group who are saying that they want(ed) to “save babies” and that is what they thought they were doing until they did some deeper research and found that if they really wanted to “save babies” they were going about it all wrong. The conclusion to be reached at that point is either the “pro-life” movement is being ineptly run or their stated goal and actual goal are not the same — which leads to further questioning and distrust, which may ultimately lead to the rejection of the whole paradigm because it is internally inconsistent.

  • Ratfelix

    Love your Aha moment! The bottom line is that you cannot be pro-life and thrust your abstinence attitude on the rest if the world. We have become so paranoid about cheap, low cost birth control. Condoms are though of as evil in some circles, when they are truly life savers. In the US we foolishly think that natural human development can be held back with group think. The difference is that in Western Europe, human development is respected at a much earlier age and kids (yes kids!) are more open to healthy sexual relations and condom use. The best way to prevent an abortion, is to make sure birth control is accepted and available! ( because guess what, not everyone goes to your church!!!)

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  • Roxy

    I have been following the conversation (also in your pro-life movement post) with a great deal of interest. My home country is South Africa, where as you mentioned in your previous post, abortions have been legalised. In many ways, the country is very progressive, but at the same time, there are a huge number of factors that make women come out on the losing end.

    Aside from the high level of poverty (and I am not even talking ‘clinging to the bread line’ here – I am talking about informal settlements, life on the streets and rural areas that do not even have basic facilities such as toilets), the cultural aspect also comes into play. In many cultures, both Christianity and traditional beliefs are practised. Men have all of the power, and all too often, women have none. Rape, domestic abuse and even polygamy in some cultures are frequent, and access to contraception is not always available. There are many free clinics, but they are hopelessly understaffed, and in rural areas, they are hard to get to (especially when women are working far away in menial jobs). Recently, a woman that I know who’s firstborn is being sponsored by her employer mentioned that she must have another child with her new boyfriend, as that is just what is done. Her husband died, and she is by no means a “hedonistic slut” – that is just what her culture dictates.

    Even for the middle-classes, abortion is not always a clear-cut financial issue. From my own personal experience, I had a medical abortion a few years ago. Rather than an op done in a clinical environment, a series of pills are taken. I was already struggling to get by, with my parents still helping me out with rent on a regular basis, but even aside from that, having that baby would have destroyed my family. The circumstances were very complex – I took full responsibility and paid the price, but my former partner (who was the one who played a very big role in making that bad decision) got to walk away without a second thought. Yes, I was stupid. Yes, there will ALWAYS be days where I wish I could turn back time to make the RIGHT decision. But at the same time, that is life. If there had not been a way for me to get help, things would have been far, far worse. Not only would the child have grown up poor and struggling, it would have had to deal with a father that didn’t want it, family who were unable to understand the circumstances, and a mother who was torn apart.

    As it has been mentioned before in this discussion, abortion is not an easy thing to decide. It is a desperate, final resort – a ‘burden’ that is taken on almost entirely by the woman. It was not an easy choice, but it was still MY choice. My body that had to go through that, my life that was on the line, my future, my family… my soul. Maybe it makes me selfish to put my life above the ‘life’ of a zygote, but I don’t believe that it was. Far more lives would have been ruined in the process, and even adoption would have had major consequences and life-ruining reactions.

    As a final note, abortion in poorer communities is a far, far more humane option than mothers being so desperate that they kill or dump their newborn babies. This happens far more than one likes to think, even with more specialist clinics that offer a safe place for women to leave their unwanted babies.

    Men take away our right to choose in so many ways – we live by their rules, their choices and their control. It’s all very well for pro-lifers to preach about abstaining, but try telling that to a typical South African man that believes that a woman is his property. It’s not just of-age women who get pregnant either – girls as young as 12 are raped/sold/married off in some areas.

    I guess there is still a very broad definition of what ‘life’ really means across various religions, cultures and mindsets. Does a lentil sized group of living cells have more right to physical life than a fully grown woman who has to live with her decision for ever? Do we as women have the right to decide to grow a potential life inside ourselves even if we had limited choice on it getting there in the first place?

    I vote for value of life – living a safe, nurturing and healthy life is not the same as simply living in the barest of senses. Especially when the living thing in question is still essentially something that has a relatively reasonable chance of naturally aborting on its own.

    • Beth C.

      Beautifully written, and from a viewpoint that too many don’t bother to take into account…

    • puzzled_one

      Your decision was wrong.

      “it would have had to deal with a father that didn’t want it.. ”

      If you had the child, your ex-partner may have stayed. Or may have left. We will not know now. But we do know you would have made the right decision instead of the wrong one.

      “As a final note, abortion in poorer communities is a far, far more humane option than mothers being so desperate that they kill or dump their newborn babies”

      There’s a subtle racism in that statement. They’re the same as you. They have the same pressures, the same relationship problems… And like we do not know what may have been for you, we do not know what may be for these women.

      There’s nothing humane in being dismembered in the womb, being killed before you draw your first breath. Everyone, even – rather especially – children, prefers life over death. For us to presumptuously take this right away from them, to delegate certain lives to death because a parent is poor, is arrogant in the extreme.

      • red_zone

        The arrogant one is you.

        One cannot simply operate on what ‘might be’ in such circumstances. Are you suggesting that it would have been better if her partner stayed even if-from all indications- he made her life miserable?

        Poverty in South Africa is not the same as poverty here in the states. In places like S.A. and Kenya, it’s incomprehensibly worse. Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya and the largest urban slum in Africa. It is filled with people living in circumstances beyond rational.

        Go ahead and do more research, if you dare. it will make you SICK to see what human beings are forced to endure. Would you want a child born into that kind of world?

  • Sid

    My “aha” moment was during my sophomore year in high school. We had to write an essay on a subject and correctly research and source it. I chose abortion, and as a non-Christian, it shocked me that I could not find -any- sources that were pro-life and secular, and almost none that were non-Christian. I knew from growing up Southern Baptist what that probably meant, but I kept my head down and tried to finish my paper without thinking about it too much. But even the bare “facts” were obviously twisted, and some were just blatantly made up out of thin air.

    I finished my paper, but it wasn’t long after that it kind of hit me: if the only way I could support my position was to shut off my empathy completely and accept figures I knew weren’t accurate from sources I wouldn’t trust even the tiniest bit on any other subject, -maybe- that position isn’t for me. I wish it had been some other way, as I now have far less patience with anti-choicers than I feel I should, but I’m glad I came around.

  • Niemand

    I’ve “always” been pro-choice. That is, as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that a woman should have the right to choose whether to be pregnant or not. I’ve also always been anti-slavery in other matters as well. But seeing one person dying gasping for breath as her lungs filled with fluid because her heart no longer pumped adequately after a pregnancy she did not want and could not support physically left her in severe heart failure really sealed it for me. Other deaths and near deaths…have made me even more uncompromising in my beliefs*. The “pro-life” movement kills real people. More frequently than they’d have you believe.

    *And I haven’t even yet seen a death due to illegal abortion. But I expect to if things continue the way they have been going.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    It costs approximately $100,000 to raise a child with a decent standard of living. I think that’s the level of help that may persuade one woman not to have an abortion. Now multiply that by the number of abortions per years, and think of what you really want to do.

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  • Leslie

    “I assumed that sexually liberal Western Europe, with its legalization of abortion, would have a really high abortion rate (I knew Western Europe had legal abortion because that was on the list of evils about Western Europe that I heard as a political conservative, alongside socialism).”

    As I mentioned under another post, every European country has stricter abortion laws than the United States. Many only allow it in the first trimester. The U.S. , Canada, China, and North Korea are the only countries that allow abortion throughout the entire nine months of a woman’s pregnancy.

    With regard to skin cells v. the zygote: When a person sheds some skin cells, that person is still there. When a person is first conceived, that person is only one cell–if you take that away, you take away that person. It isn’t the mother; the mother has a different genetic structure. In other words, a zygote has its own DNA.

    Really, your argument boils down to this: until the zygote/embryo is able to exist outside of the mother’s body, it is just another part of her. Since that part carries a different genetic structure–the onus is on you to justify your argument that abortion is not the taking of a life. Thus far, you have done nothing to convince me. Plus, the whole “parasite” argument, which you alluded to in another post on this subject, was effectively argued against long ago by Doris Gordon, who is also an atheist.

    • M

      Leslie, I have a few questions for you. My niece needs a new liver or she will die. Her uncle said he would donate if he was a match, and did go through the testing to find out he was a match. The thing about liver transplants is that livers grow back. He’d only have to donate one or two lobes, and his liver function would return to normal quickly. However, he looked at the risks of the surgery and the time it would take from his job and his responsibilities to his wife and kids and decided he couldn’t do it after all. Here’s my questions to you: is my uncle ethically obligated to donate part of his liver to my niece? Should he be legally obligated to donate part of his liver to my niece?

      Now, let me change it up a bit. My sister is pregnant. She consented to the sex that led to her pregnancy; she was being responsible but the condom broke. Her uterus would only be used for nine months if she decided to go the adoption route, but she really can’t afford to miss work. Her husband and kids depend on her salary too much. She also doesn’t want to deal with morning sickness and labor and recovery, let alone if something went horribly wrong. So what ethical obligations does she have to her fetus? What legal obligations should she have to her fetus? If your answers to both sets of questions are different, why is that so?

      P.S. Neither story is true. Look at them as teaching parables :)

      • puzzled_one

        i am not Leslie, but …

        a. About your uncle… What does this say?
        http://bible.cc/james/4-17.htm

        b. About your sister … its the same, except more so .. your niece is still alive… she may recover, may obtain alternative therapy, another donor. If your sister aborts, she has killed the unborn

        To teach, lets first learn diligently. (the same applies to me, so I await your reply :D)

      • jhlee

        What if the uncle is not Christian and is unmoved by your appeal to Christian morality? Do you think the government should be in the business of enforcing your religious views?

  • http://www.porntubemoviez.com/ Yang Jefferds

    “Child pornography is a despicable crime that seriously harms all those involved, including the viewer. The viewing of child pornography first requires the production of child pornography, which causes untold suffering and abuse towards children.”

  • Tamar

    Okay, so I get where you’re coming from with the idea that banning abortion doesn’t necessarily stop it and that the most effective ways to prevent abortion is by helping women to avoid getting into the situations that move them to have abortions. What I don’t see in this post–or the other ones I’ve read–is where you came to the conclusion that abortion is morally okay.

    It’s one thing to say “There are more effective ways to prevent abortion than the way’s the pro-life movement focuses on.” and an entirely different thing to say, “The pro-life movement’s ultimate premise is wrong. Fetuses are not people; therefore they can be killed at will without moral consequences.” Have you explained how you came to that conclusion?

    • jhlee

      Where does she say abortion is morally okay? In fact,if abortion is morally wrong and the pro-choice position is more effective at reducing abortions than the pro-life position (which is what the OP argued, quite convincingly I think), then anyone who believes in the wrongness of abortion is in fact morally obligated to be pro-choice.

  • bunsofaluminum

    thank you for these articles. The article on losing faith in the pro-life movement, along with an overheard conversation about illegal abortion in the 40′s and 50′s in the US, combined to create in me a very similar phenomenon to what you describe in yourself: In one 24 hour period, I turned around my thinking about abortion being “banned” … I no longer believe it should be illegal. Astounding, considering how adamantly pro-life I have been througout my adulthood. A very recent turnaround, so I’m still researching all of it.

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