Seven Recent Articles on Abortion Worth Reading

I have been impressed over the last week at the outpouring of interesting and thought-provoking articles being put out regarding the abortion issue. With the election approaching and the increasing role abortion has played in politics recently, I suppose this outpouring only makes sense. Below I post links to the seven articles I have found most interesting, and offer a representative quotation from each. I hope this sort of writing keeps up! Feel free to add additional articles you may have seen.

Let’s Get Real about Abortions, by David Frum on CNN

If you’re serious about reducing abortion, the most important issue is not which abortions to ban. The most important issue is how will you support women to have the babies they want.

As a general rule, societies that do the most to support mothers and child-bearing have the fewest abortions. Societies that do the least to support mothers and child-bearing have more abortions.

Germany, for example, operates perhaps the world’s plushest welfare state. Working women receive 14 weeks of maternity leave, during which time they receive pay from the state. The state pays a child allowance to the parents of every German child for potentially as many as 25 years, depending on how long as the child remains in school. Women who leave the work force after giving birth receive a replacement wage from the state for up to 14 months.

Maybe not coincidentally, Germany has one of the lowest abortion rates, about one-third that of the United States. Yet German abortion laws are not especially restrictive. Abortion is legal during the first trimester of pregnancy and available if medically or psychologically necessary in the later trimesters.

Politically Coerced by Faith, by Zach Lorentz

As a final appeal to pro-life Catholics in particular: I beg of you to reassess whether or not your dogma on this one issue is worth sacrificing every other issue you could have interest in. I remember being taught the concept of the unprotected and the preferential option for the poor in the Social Justice class I was required to take in my catholic high school. I beseech you to consider these values above the pro-life coercion, and I guarantee you that enacting better options for the less fortunate will lead to fewer of the “murders” you so desperately want to end. In any case, outlawing abortion would be a calamitous breach of this country’s secular principles. The only remaining argument against abortion is theological, and that is no good basis for legislation in the United States.

When Evangelicals Were Open to Differing Views on Abortion, on Christian Feminism Today

There was a time in the not too distant past when the majority of Protestant Christians, including those who called themselves evangelical, did not consider the point at which a fertilized ovum or developing embryo or fetus becomes a human being to be clearly defined, indisputable, and settled for all time.

There was a time when different viewpoints were accepted and respected and did not serve as a litmus test to determine who was a “real” Christian. A time when many evangelicals thought that the United States Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision might be considered a good and compassionate ruling as it overturned the varied restrictive abortion laws of the states that so often drove desperate women to seek out illegal, unsafe, “back-alley” abortions. Instead, declared the court, the constitutional guarantee of privacy leaves it up to a woman, her doctor, and her own moral agency to make decisions about terminating a pregnancy.

Barack Obama, Pro-Life Hero, on Religion Dispatches

On October 3, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine published a study with profound implications for policy making in the United States. According to Dr. Jeffery Peipert, the study’s lead author, abortion rates can be expected to decline significantly—perhaps up to 75 percent—when contraceptives are made available to women free of charge. Declaring himself “very surprised” at the results, Peipert requested expedient publication of the study, noting its relevance to the upcoming election.

As most observers surely know, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) requires insurance coverage for birth control, a provision staunchly opposed by most of the same religious conservatives who oppose legalized abortion. If Peipert is correct, however, the ACA may prove the single most effective piece of “pro-life” legislation in the past forty years.

When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice, by Jonathan Dudley on CNN

In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:

“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.

Why I Am Pro-Life, by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times

The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.

Respect for life has to include respect for how that life is lived, enhanced and protected — not only at the moment of conception but afterward, in the course of that life. That’s why, for me, the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.

Now that is what I call “pro-life.”

Using the Threat of Cancer to Promote Chastity Is Not Pro-Life, by Fred Clark of the Slacktivist

A lot of Christians were upset about and opposed to the HPV vaccine because they were sure that protecting young girls from one day getting the cancer-causing virus would make them slutty.

Maybe, just maybe, fear of disease isn’t the optimal core of good character or the optimal basis for good behavior.

And maybe, just maybe, preventing cancer might be more “pro-life” than scoring cheap tribal political points by anti-science fear-mongering over anything and everything having to do with ladyparts.


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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.