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.


Andrée Seu Peterson's Appalling Column on Bisexuality
The Real Travesty of the "Hero Mom" Story
A Letter from Hell, and Self-Reinforcing Beliefs
On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
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.

  • jose

    Yes yes, but how will all this make the sluts pay the consequences of their actions? That’s what’s at stake here. If sluts aren’t going to have to cope with an unwanted pregnancy and a lifetime of guilt and reduced quality of life for having sex, what other punishment would you propose?

    • Maria

      SLUTS?? What do you call the men then that contributed to those unwanted pregnancies, they aren’t exactly innocent.

      • Attackfish

        I think (hope) Jose was being facetious.

      • jose

        That was an impersonation, just what I think there is behind all the pretending in the pro life movement.

  • ScottInOH

    On the Catholic comment (Lorenz):

    I agree with Lorenz, although I think the formal Church position is that abortion kills so many babies that nothing can take second place. It is not lost on me just how politically useful that is for the US party that takes the strongest anti-abortion stance. In fact, that has been one of the biggest reasons for my questioning of the “pro-life” movement’s motivations, or at least the Republicans’ co-opting of the movement.

    On the Dudley (evangelicals) comment:

    I’ve seen many pro-choicers make this point, but I’ve never seen it from such a sources as the Dallas Theological Seminary. That’s a heck of a shift in less than 50 years!

  • Katherine

    LibbyAnn, I love your page and everything you’re doing for the pro choice movement. I just wanted to add something I thought was also worth reading. A testimony from a woman that was raped and had an abortion.

    This week, Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock argued in a debate that women who have been raped should not have access to abortion services because their pregnancies are a “gift from god.” As a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I disagree with him completely.

    My name is Dawn Hill. Though I am old now, there was a time when I was young and carefree as you perhaps are now or can remember being in your childhood. Childhood should be a happy and carefree time for all our children, but my mother found her new husband, my stepfather, much more important. He forever took the joy away from my life when I was just 11 years old: He began molesting me and continued until he began raping me when I was 13.

    Mr. Mourdock last night said: ”I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. It is something that God intended to happen.”

    I became pregnant, contrary to the “scientific theories” of many modern Republicans. Not only was the experience loathsome and painful, it was also impossible for me to deal with or talk about because of the times: in the fifties, abortion was illegal. Illegal in the same way the Republican Party platform states it wants to make abortion now by constitutional amendment and just as Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has suggested casually he would “be delighted” to return to.

    Please, take a moment to travel back to the fifties with me.

    My mother took me to Mexico, where anyone could get an abortion for a price. I have blocked out many memories associated with this entire experience, but I remember the pain. Illegal abortions are not the simple safe vacuum procedure used today by legal abortion providers. Oh, no: They were a “dilatation and curettage.”

    This means that my cervix was mechanically opened by insertion of larger and larger metal “dilators” until it was opened enough to get a sort of sharpened spoon inside my 13-year-old uterus, while strangers looked at my exposed parts that were theretofore called “private.”

    It was cold and dirty in the room, and then the true torture started. They shoved this curette into me and scraped away the entire lining of my uterus with the sharp side. I screamed the entire time even though no one had seen so much as a tear out of me before this moment because I had developed a stony stoicism to protect my mind from the molestation.

    This pain was, however, like nothing I’ve ever felt before or since. Can you imagine what happened to those women and girls who couldn’t even get this barbaric abortion? They stuck wire hangers into themselves and bled to death or suffered other horrible complications. Then, too, I also got a terrible infection from the filthy conditions.

    I can tell you, though, that I would have gotten a hundred illegal abortions before carrying that monster’s offspring and going through labor, even to give the child away. That would have been the unkindest cut of all.

    For women and girls, safe legal abortions are essential. While many will choose a different path than I with their pregnancies, having that choice is essential. Any encroachment on that right is an encroachment on the life, liberty, and safety of the women and girls of America.

  • Katherine

    Twenty -two years ago I gave birth to my lovely daughter who was conceived as a result of rape. This rape was a “legitimate rape,” just as all rapes are. It was a horrible, degrading experience. I did not report it because I did not want to have to go through being treated like I was somehow to blame for it, I didn’t want to hear that I was the one in the wrong and the rapist was the victim as often happens.

    As a victim and survivor of rape I am appalled and disgusted with the statements that have been made by members of the GOP and although it is a very difficult thing to talk about, especially to strangers, I decided that I could not, nor would I remain silent any longer.

    Today, I wonder what kind of world we live in. Richard Mourdock, a U.S Senate candidate in Indiana, this week said, “if a woman gets pregnant as a result of rape, well it is what God intended.”

    It is clear that these men have no clue what it is like to be assaulted in such a horrible disgusting way, to be raped. It is also clear that they have no idea what a woman struggles with after a rape, and then what she goes through if she becomes pregnant as a result of that rape.

    I knew it was not my baby’s fault but I struggled with how to raise a child without spewing the hate I felt for that man. I thought about how my child would feel, and as a mother I hurt so much for my child and what feelings she would have to live with her entire life. I can tell you it hurts a whole hell of a lot.

    There is nothing anyone can say that justifies the statements that have been made about sexual assault, rape, abortion, and women in the last month. I believe Richard Mourdock, Todd Aiken, and others like them who’ve spoken out against women in the last month do not belong in public office.

    For GOP leaders to continue to endorse Mourdock and for them to say that the Senate needs Mourdock in office shows that they agree with the disgusting statements that have been made. They have no clue what a woman who has been raped goes through, and now they are showing that they don’t care what she has gone through.

    These statements have set us back years, they are degrading to women, and they are part of the reason women do not report rape, and part of the reason I did not report my experience with rape. Women are sick of being treated like a criminal instead of a victim. We are sick of the shame and the blame.

    I chose not to abort my pregnancy but I can find no fault with any woman that chooses an abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of rape. That choice is essential.

    I am a rape survivor, I am a strong, and I am a woman with a voice and a vote and I will do what I need to do to be heard and to alert people that the GOP platform is one that cares nothing for women nor their feelings. I will stand up and be heard, and I need you to stand with me.

    I think the spotlight should also be put on women that have had abortions and don’t regret them, not the thoughts of politicians who don’t care either way.

  • Katherine

    I was raped during my freshman year of college.

    It was not the first time I had been sexually assaulted, and I was just beginning to heal from the prior assault when it happened. To add to the burden, I got pregnant.

    I reported my rape to the college and was forced to go to “mediation” with my assaulters. The college-appointed therapist sent me to a “crisis pregnancy center,” rather than Planned Parenthood. The center tried every tactic to get me to keep the child that I could not bear to have. They even argued that since the father (my rapist!) was also white, people would hurry to adopt my white baby. It was bizarre, obviously racist, and deeply traumatizing.

    I miscarried before actually having the abortion I had scheduled back home in Maryland, with the help and support of my family. After the trauma at my school with “mediation,” I dropped many of my classes and switched schools.

    The thing about my experience is that it was not an isolated incident. It was not the first time the system failed me personally, and it wasn’t the last. Being friends with and working in support groups with other survivors, I hear stories like mine all the time: college cover-ups and crisis pregnancy centers who specifically target women living in poverty.

    This has been my experience with the pro-life movement and with an institutional system that continually fails rape survivors.

    The fact that flailing lawmakers such as Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and by extension Mitt Romney—who continues to endorse Mourdock and has kept Ryan as his running mate—seek to hold onto or increase their legislative power despite their failings is part of this landscape of institutional failure, too.

    These are men who fundamentally believe in their own rhetoric over freedom of choice, human empathy, and support. Men who would further victimize someone who has suffered a terrible trauma than offer that person a choice they don’t agree with.

    This was what I got from the system I had to deal with as a teenager, alone and terrified, far from home—a system that had a pro-life agenda but that did not care at all about MY life, which I seriously thought about ending many times because I was in so much pain.

    When survivors come forward, we need support. Many of us need support in ORDER to come forward. We need to be listened to. We need to be trusted to make the choices that are right for us. We need space to heal.

    We do not need to hear judgment, that what happened to us was our fault, that a theoretical life is more important than our own lives.

    Consider how you would feel if you had been in my shoes: isolated after a violent attack, still a child in many ways, faced with carrying my rapist’s child to term instead of starting the young adult life I hoped for. Whether one chooses to carry on with a pregnancy or not, we need safe and fair access to all options so that we can make our own choices, rather than continual, intimidating, and terrifying pressure in one direction.

    Our voices and our stories need to be part of this debate, because we KNOW what it feels like. Mourdock, Akin, Ryan, Romney: they have never had to face these circumstances, yet they seek to legislate on our behalf. They would be well served to listen to us.

  • Tania
  • Unknown

    It breaks my heart to see all these comments about pregnancy in the case of rape. It really does. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to go through a traumatizing event like that. It truly is a despicable crime. But do you resolve one crime with another? Abortion is infanticide, which, last I checked, was illegal in this country. It had been proven that at 11 weeks after conception, the nervous system of the baby is fully formed, and therefore can feel the excruciating pain you are inflicting upon it during the course of an abortion. As a potential mother, you have no idea what your unborn child may live to acheive if you only give he/she that opportunity, if you grant them that one constitutional right: life. It’s not a Christian or a Catholic thing. It’s not a democratic thing or a republican thing. It’s not even a pro-life or a pro-choice thing. It’s a human thing, and I think that we should have the decency to respect that.

    • Anat

      Abortion does not kill an infant, so it can’t be infanticide. For a fetus to become an infant it has to be born first. Once it no longer depends exclusively on the woman’s body for survival we can talk about its rights. BTW quote from a reliable medical source for the fetus’ capacity to feel pain at 11 weeks requested.

      • Rilian

        I think the baby has rights while still attached to the mother. It’s just that its rights don’t trump the mother’s. Like, I think it would be immoral to inflict pain on an 8-month old baby in the womb just for the hell of it, or even for scientific research. I say 8-month, because I figure it can probably feel pain by that point.
        And instead of infanticide or fetucide or any specific term, you can just say babycide. Baby isn’t a technical term so it can apply to any “young” age.

      • josephina

        for you it might not be an infant but it is a life inside that women

      • M

        Yes, a fetus is a life. It’s even a human life. It’s just not a person yet.

        Let’s break this down even further. Life, even human life, isn’t what matters: most pro-lifers are also pro-death penalty, though I don’t know if you are or not, josephina. Many are pro-war, pro-drone strikes, pro-War on Terror. So if it’s not taking a life that matters, it’s what? Taking an “innocent” life? Or is it forcing a woman to “bear the natural consequences” of having sex? If it’s the latter, then we’re not talking about life anymore, we’re talking about punishing women.

        I do not argue that a fetus has no moral weight. It just has much less weight than the woman who has to nurture it to personhood. If a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, she shouldn’t have to be. Her bodily autonomy trumps a theoretical person’s right to (maybe, if nothing goes wrong) exist.

      • Anat

        Lots of things are ‘life’. Cancer is alive, and in humans it has human DNA, yet we do all we can to kill it. An embryo or a fetus are alive, but to continue living they need to acquire resources from the woman in whom they reside. Resources which cannot be provided by anyone else, and the provision of which places all kinds of burdens and restrictions on the woman – varying in degree as the case may be. Therefore it is up to the woman to decide whether or not she is willing to make these sacrifices for the sake of keeping the embryo or fetus alive.

      • Unknown

        My bad, it’s 20 weeks, actually. Well, SilentScream.Org says that at 11 weeks, all bodily systems are fully functioning, including the nervous system. My research has come up with a lot of different information, but Kanwaljeet J. S. Anand, MBBS, DPhil, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says that, “If the fetus is beyond 20 weeks of gestation, I would assume that there will be pain caused to the fetus. And I believe it will be severe and excruciating pain.” The same source also says (just since we’re citing sources) that a 2002 peer-reviewed study published by the Southern Medical Journal of more than 173,000 American women came up with the results that women who aborted their unwanted pregnancies were 154% more likely to commit suicide than women who carried to term. The husbands/partners were also affected: 51.6% of the men reported regret, 45.2% felt sadness, and 25.8% experienced depression. So, it IS also a health issue for the parents. You said, ” Once it no longer depends exclusively on the woman’s body for survival we can talk about its rights.” Don’t you think that it is a bigger issue when it only depends on the woman’s body for survival? People on here say things like “The fetus isn’t even a human yet.” So, what would you then classify as a human life? Anat, you also said “Abortion does not kill an infant, so it can’t be infanticide.” Semantics! You’re insinuating that inside the womb, it’s something foreign, like a puppy, but once it’s born, THEN it’s a human. The fetus is an infant, aside of the glossology used here. Because, according to your reasoning, it’s not a human yet, so would you support third trimester abortion, where the baby definitely can feel pain? And if abortion doesn’t kill an infant, then what, then, DOES it do?

      • Anat Notice where I said ‘reliable medical source’? Somewhere past 20 weeks is in accord with other sources I am familiar with, but the 11 weeks was so outrageously false.

        Your comparison of women who had abortions to women who carried to term is only relevant if it specifically compares women who carried an unplanned pregnancy to term. Obviously mental health would be better when the pregnancy is planned and wanted. But recently there was the turnaway study that addresses this question specifically – comparing women who had abortions with women who wanted abortions but were denied and forced to carry to term against their choice. The findings include higher rates of unemployment and poverty, no significant difference in drug abuse, more than double the risk of domestic violence.

        Regarding emotions, in the short term:

        “One week after seeking abortion, 97% of women who obtained an abortion felt that abortion was the right decision; 65% of turnaways still wished they had been able to obtain an abortion.” Also one week after being denied an abortion, turnaways told the researchers that they had more feelings of anxiety than the women who had abortions. Women who had abortions overwhelming reported feeling relieved (90%), though many also felt sad and guilty afterwards.

        But in the long term (a year later and after) there was no difference, except that the women who gave birth were more stressed.

        And of course women who gave birth suffered greater health risk, including severe complications from birth, whereas there were no severe health complications associated with abortion.

        Don’t you think that it is a bigger issue when it only depends on the woman’s body for survival?

        No. There is no situation where we force people to sustain others with their bodies against their wills and choices. Once a baby is born, if it needs a transfusion or a transplant, even if the mother is the only matching donor we do not take blood or a kidney or bone marrow from her against her will. Patients die waiting for transplants and all doctors can do is ask nicely for donations, it is illegal for them to harvest anything, even from relatives, even parents, even people who volunteered to be tested for a match – without the would-be donor’s explicit informed consent. So how dare anyone force a woman to donate the use of her body for months on end to sustain the life of some other entity against her choice?

        Abortion doesn’t kill an infant. Most often, it kills an embryo. Less often, it kills a fetus. An infant is a human between birth and a year of age, more or less.

        The third trimester abortion is a red herring. Women who don’t want to be pregnant try to end the pregnancy as soon as possible. It is people like you who try to put obstacles in their way who cause many unwanted pregnancies to last longer. The common reasons to decide on an abortion in the third trimester (that is in the case of a pregnancy that was wanted previously) are discovering fetal abnormalities and the occurrence of health complications for the woman that make continuing the pregnancy dangerous. Now, there may be other things that might cause a woman in the third trimester to choose to terminate a previously wanted pregnancy – perhaps her partner became abusive, maybe she lost her source of income and she can no longer expect to be able to support a child once it is born, and maybe somewhere there is a woman who decides to terminate in the third trimester on a whim. Even the latter cannot be forced to offer her body for the use of the fetus. She has the right to no longer be pregnant. Past viability this can be achieved by inducing birth rather than abortion, and this indeed is what happens where it makes sense (ie the fetus is healthy and the pregnancy is close enough to term).

    • Unknown

      And I’d just like to clarify: you are really comparing an unborn baby to a vicious, destructive virus which is in the process of actively killing thousands of people world-wide? I’m sorry to inform you that you argument may be the teeniest bit irrational. Your reasoning seems flawed, and you don’t seem to have any sources of your own to back up your stance, so I’m afraid this debate is no longer worth my time.

      • Sophie

        Are you referring to cancer here? If so cancer is not a virus, it’s a mutation of cells. And to be honest it’s your arguments that are irrational, you are the one using the emotive language of baby, infant, infanticide etc. And it was also you that was at first using incorrect information and then citing information from a particularly biased and disreputable source. Anat did in fact provide a link to the study she was quoting, as well as describe the premise of the study.

        This site is actually a really good place to find out about both sides of the story, Libby often links to good unbiased articles which I would recommend you read. I’d also like to point out that Libby and most probably the majority of the commenters are pro-choice which means that we are support whatever a women chooses to do with a pregnancy hence “the woman’s right to choose”. You are much more likely to get unbiased information here than you will from any pro-life source. But I’m sure you meant your parting comment sarcastically. Nice flounce off, though it’s more effective if you don’t come back 10 minutes later.

  • Unknown

    I can see now that I will never change your mind. That would require you to retract your drastically opposed views on an immense level. I leave you with this: As a 13-year-old girl, a product of an unwed mother whose partner at the time of my conception was pro-abortion to an extreme, I can say I’m grateful that there are sites like this so that women considering abortion as an option can see both sides of the story.

    • Anat

      Though some details are missing from your story, it looks like your mother made a choice she wanted. I am glad for both of you. That’s what being pro-choice is about: Leaving the choice to the person who is going to endure its effects.

      The women in my mother’s generation did not have a choice. Some women adjusted well to having ‘oops’ babies, some did not. A family I know was messed up because the parents had babies before they were ready for them. The mother loved her children, but also resented them at the same time.

      I was an ‘oops’ baby myself. As it turned out, my parents adjusted relatively well. But if they had a choice about it, and if they had chosen not to have me – so what? I wouldn’t have known – there wouldn’t have been a ‘me’ to know. They would have waited some more and had some other child a bit later. It would have been no different than if for some reason I wasn’t conceived.

      I will not respond to your previous post as Sophie already said much of what I would have. Look at that turnaway study that I referenced.

      • Unknown

        Thank you, I will. I apologize if the discussion got a little heated: this is part of an assignment for my English class, and we had to pick either pro or con on a topic, and I chose abortion, because as you can see, it’s a personal issue to me. This was very helpful, because in order to have a well-rounded argument, you have to be aware of the other side’s points as well, and this conversation did just that. Thank you for the source; I’ll be sure to cite it and everything :)

      • Anat

        Oh yes, there is benefit in having the weaknesses in one’s position pointed out.