Life and Choice: Why Abortion Isn’t What I Thought It Was

I wrote this a while ago, and have been trying to pull together the time and energy to post it. Abortion is a very touchy topic, so let me just say here, I am not trying to tell anyone what to think about this issue. Also, I have never had an abortion myself, so I am not claiming to know what that experience entails.

When I first started seeing links for the Gosnell trial, my first reaction was disgust and anger that this sort of mistreatment was going on for so long without any intervention. The second was surprise that this trial had been in progress for almost a month and I hadn’t heard a peep about it.

Now granted, I don’t watch the news; I have enough stuff to worry about in my life without stressing about the latest murder or kidnapping. I do read the headlines when I am online, and I usually get a general idea of the big news stories. When the Newtown massacre happened I knew within hours. Pretty much every station/network/channel had endless coverage on the election of the newest pope. When Savita was denied her abortion in Ireland, there was coverage on the major news networks and many bloggers and chose to highlight the injustice from both sides. I saw liberal attacks on the “pro-life” crowd after Savita, and I read the “pro-life” responses and defense of their viewpoints. But things seemed pretty quiet on the Gosnell case, until I clicked on that first link and from there read accounts from liberal sites decrying not only this case but the countless other medicinal malpractice cases that have happened throughout the years, and I read the perspective of conservatives, who were basically saying “Ha! We told you abortion is horrifying!”

It reminded me of just how much my understanding of abortion has evolved over time, and I wanted to talk about it. Not my conclusions, because I am not sure I have that many, but my train of thought I guess.

I grew up in an extremely “pro-life” household. I remember hearing that some women did not want their babies, so they killed them. During elections my family always supported the “pro-life” candidate. I remember the little flyers describing “partial-birth” abortion that we passed out one election. I was 10 or 11 and my mom put a bag down on the stairs and told me not to look inside while she ran upstairs to get something. I peeked in anyways and ended up reading the flyer and was in tears when she came back down. She immediately knew I had looked in the bag, and I demanded to know if it was true that people killed babies like that, and she told me yes. I was committed to passing out those flyers that year, I even remember urging my dad to pass one to the lady in the burger king drive through as she handed us our bag of food.

That was my understanding of abortion for a long time. If I heard the term abortion, late term was what came to mind (and I had no knowledge that only 1.5% of abortions are ever performed so late.) I truly believed that some people hate babies so much, that they have come up with ways to kill them before they are technically born. I was anti- abortion, any abortion. I was anti-birth control too, partially because I believed that if someone had already decided they did not want a baby and became pregnant despite the measures they took to prevent pregnancy they would be that much more likely to get an abortion.  I actively argued against birth control of all kinds, refused to use it myself and preached at others who did.

As life continued, I began to question the glorification of fertility inherent in my worldview. Did infertility make someone less of a woman? Was a marriage without children not truly a marriage? Was every person truly called to have children? Even if they did not feel capable of caring for them, or had no desire to care for them? Was it really healthy for every couple to have as many children as would naturally occur with no intervention?

I began to see spacing or preventing children as acceptable, even commendable, because every child deserves love and care and attention, and a healthy parent who has enough time and energy and reserves to give to their child. Every child has value, and deserves to be desired and cared for. Given the amount of abused and neglected and abandoned children in the world, I have a hard time seeing Family planning as the problem.

I saw abortion as a separate issue now, instead of linking it with contraceptives. I still thought that abortion should be illegal in pretty much all circumstances, until I actually read the stats for the first time. Turns out that the countries that have legalized abortion have far less of them than countries that don’t. This was shocking to me. I had always seen abortion being legal as pretty much THE cause of abortion, now I started to question whether all the “stats” I had been fed were accurate. Thing is, it is hard to nail down actual truth when it comes to abortion, it’s has been highly politicized and a simple Google search on questions about abortion will get you thousands of hits from very biased and inaccurate sites.

For example, I have seen 2 different statistics regarding Planned Parenthood’s services. One, from Planned Parenthood says that only 3% of the services they provide are abortions. Within a few days I saw a religious group claiming that 97% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions. The only way these conflicting stats can make sense to me, is the fact that Planned Parenthood would be including every time they pass out contraceptives or provide education on STIs as part of their calculations, while the religious group would be counting every single “abortifacient” contraceptive or plan b distributed, as an abortion.

A pivotal moment for me was when I somehow ended up reading this link. This “pro-life” woman writes about how she denied her disabled daughter access to emergency contraceptive after she was raped. Basically she seemed to care more about the potential of a yet-to-be conceived grandchild, than she did the wellbeing of her daughter. I felt sick to my stomach after reading it. I was still “pro-life” and mostly anti-contraceptive at the time, but the whole scenario of a disabled person being raped and then being forced to let her rapists sperm possibly fertilize an egg because her mother was “pro-life,” just felt wrong to me.

This led me to read up on what hormonal birth control and plan B contraceptives actually do.

First I found out that a woman is not actually pregnant until implantation has occurred, as in your body does not consider itself pregnant, you will not get any pregnancy symptoms or a positive pregnancy test of any kind until sometime after implantation. The function of hormonal birth control is to prevent ovulation and fertilization, not preventing implantation of a fertilized egg, like I had always been told. Even the often attacked Plan B was designed to prevent any possible egg and sperm from meeting. This meant it didn’t cause abortion; it prevented it by preventing the pregnancy in the first place.

This led me to read up even more on the female body and pregnancy. The big question remaining for me was if a fertilized egg was a person or not. So even if there was occasional ovulation breakthrough and the birth control made it impossible for the fertilized egg to implant and begin a pregnancy, was that an abortion? Or not?  It didn’t make sense to call it an abortion; it didn’t fit the category of an ended pregnancy. In fact, a woman’s body naturally passes most of the eggs that become fertilized, without the woman herself ever being aware that fertilization occurred. If the life of a person truly started at conception, this would mean that every sexually active woman out there has unknowingly lost many children. The thought that I would someday meet more than 50 children in heaven someday simply because they had never implanted made me laugh. Why would the god I believed in at the time construct our bodies in such a way? And if he had, why would he condemn the people who occasionally passed a fertilized egg because of the medication they were on if he had designed their bodies to do so naturally already? A fertilized egg couldn’t possibly be considered a human if it wasn’t even a pregnancy yet. (For more on these numbers, this article is a more thorough breakdown.)

I couldn’t see contraceptives or “plan b” as abortions anymore.

I still considered myself personally against actual abortions that ended pregnancy, but I was no longer sure abortion should be illegal, since the stats seemed to show an increase in medical hack job abortions and abortion related deaths the harder it was to get a medically safe abortion. Abortion has been around for thousands of years, only recently has it become possible for women to get one without being forced to seek help from underground quacks. I was also stunned to find out that 1 in 3 women have had an abortion. This wasn’t the few and far between baby hating crazy lady, this was a real situation, a real choice that many women found themselves facing for one reason or another.

I’ve started to wonder why this dilemma is perpetually ignored by the “pro-life” crowd in every way except when it comes to trying to make sure every baby ever conceived is born. Why do so many women have abortions? The same crowd that fights to ban all abortion (which as I’ve already pointed out, doesn’t end abortion, but only drives it underground, where people like Gosnell can do whatever they want without regulations) doesn’t fight to help children or women in any other way. In fact, they fight legislatively against things like healthcare, food stamps, childcare, contraceptives, and even maternity leave. They make arguments that women belong in the home with their children, and then turn around and ridicule unemployed lower-class mothers as lazy freeloaders. I have truly started to wonder how these groups and politicians can consider themselves the “pro-life” movement just for trying to ban a particular medical procedure.

I met someone who was told that the medication her Doctor had mistakenly prescribed her while she was pregnant was one that would cause such major birth defects that her baby would not survive, and might not even be in one piece when it was born. She considers herself pro-life and is proud that she did not get the recommended early term abortion, even though it meant months of a very difficult life-threatening pregnancy and a stillborn malformed baby born late in her pregnancy. While I wonder if it would have been more merciful for everyone involved to have had an early abortion, I am glad she had the choice either way.

For a while I considered myself against all late-term abortions, but I met someone who had been heavily addicted to hard drugs when she got pregnant. She was always high, and didn’t even realize she was pregnant until she was past 20 weeks; she ended up being one of those rarer women who get a second trimester abortion. A family member helped to pay for it by giving the amount directly to the doctor, since she herself could not be trusted not to spend the money on drugs. I could not find it in myself to judge her. Presently she has been off of the drugs for several years, but if she had carried that baby to term, what effect would that amount of drug use have had on that baby’s life?

Women have been faced with these choices for centuries. Sometimes it’s an easy choice, relief to end an early pregnancy conceived with an abusive partner who would only use the pregnancy and the child as further means to abuse.  Sometimes it is a heartbreaking choice, based on medical circumstances beyond anyone’s control. (Something I was taught had been fabricated by “pro-abortion” crowds, when in fact pregnancy can be a very risky ordeal for some women.) Sometimes the choice is made because it just isn’t a good time for a child to be brought into that family, and sometimes the choice has to be similar to the desperation of the peasant woman in the novel “The Good Earth,” who killed her 4th child immediately after birth, rather than watch it slowly starve to death like the rest of her family.

Regardless, I believe it should still be a choice. Because every situation is different, and to say every sexual encounter that results in pregnancy must have the same outcome, isn’t even medically possible, much less legally enforceable.

Banning medically safe abortion isn’t going to increase the quality of life of the women faced with these choices, or the children their pregnancies could result in, but no one truly seems interested in the women or children involved. Maybe that’s why the Gosnell trial wasn’t plastered all over every news network. No one wants to see the desperation of women without access to legal, safe, supportive options, brought to the point where they will submit themselves to the likes of Gosnell. Those women aren’t important to America. The story is sensational enough to get the usual crowd of people who like to point fingers (despite the fact that the medical malpractice and late-late term “abortions” and infanticide Gosnell was doing wasn’t the reality of legal regulated abortion) and chant “baby-killers!” but not enough to grant actual attention to the struggle of women all over this country to raise the children they have. What does it take to get recognition of the real issues?  To get people to listen to the stories, and actually take steps to care for the people involved? In my mind, this is the only way to reduce abortions, but perhaps neither side is interested in doing that.


For more on this important issue, please read these posts as well:

Rachel Held Evans: Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion

Hännah Ettinger:  Performance Art Politics: When Good Christians Love Bad Abortion Laws

Libby Anne: How I Lost Faith In The Pro-Life Movement


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  • readiness

    Great article Melissa

  • Stefanie Sasinek-Roil

    I hate, hate, hate the term ‘pro-life’ because as someone who supports access to safe, affordable abortions, I often feel like I value ‘life’ far more than the people who have no qualms denying abortions to critically ill women, young girls, rape victims, mothers of other children who are at their limits. I have lost 18 pregnancies, and barely survived bringing my two younger children into the world thanks to HG. Ten years since my last pregnancy, I still live with constant pain, mobility issues, and need medications daily just to function.I can no longer work outside of the home. Another pregnancy WOULD either kill me or leave me bedridden or wheelchair-bound.

    No pregnancy is guaranteed to result in a live birth. Not one. ANY pregnancy can turn life-threatening on a dime. One of my dearest friends was sent home from a doctor’s appointment with slightly elevated blood pressure and instructions to take it easy and rest. She was admitted to hospital 24 hours later and even with 24 hour care and close monitoring, she went into eclamptic seizures, had a placental abruption and her daughter suffered a stroke during the CRASH c-section. A week before that, she had every intention of working until she went into labor and there were no indications of any problems at all. A normal, low risk, first pregnancy that nearly killed both mother and child with almost no warning. When I was in the hospital with recurring preterm labor with my eldest son, my roommate was recovering from a life threatening blood clot that originated in the placenta and traveled to her heart. She was 21 and she woke up from a nap with chest pains and difficulty breathing. She nearly died. She was 13 weeks pregnant and was facing the very real possibility that her heart was not strong enough to continue to function with the added strain of her wanted, planned pregnancy and that to save her life, she might NEED to abort. A week prior, she had joyfully announced the pregnancy with a breath of relief that she had gotten out of the ‘miscarriage zone’.

    No one, NO ONE has the right to force another person to take THAT risk with their own life, for the CHANCE of a live birth. Pro-LIFE? Sure, I’m pro-life: pro-quality of life for the living, breathing, thinking person whose body is the life support system for a potential child. Pro-LIFE means that THAT person, the pregnant person has value beyond the function of their uterus.

    Anti-abortion is anti-abortion. It isn’t pro-life. It is utterly lacking in any regard for the LIFE of one important component of the pregnancy- the person who is actually pregnant.

  • Scott Morizot

    I’m a teen parent twice over and had more kids with my youngest born when I was 31. I’ve always considered myself pro-life and pro-choice. Many of those who adopt a “pro-life” label actually have seemed to me more anti-choice and not particularly “pro-life” at all. (Most are pro-death penalty, pro-war, and against social policies that actually do save lives.)

    I also know the science. The medical definition of “conception” does not begin at fertilization, but at conception. And as you note, simple math explains why. Even so, there’s no actual evidence that birth control or plan B even prevent implantation. It’s just a possibility.

    But if you deny science in other areas, why not this one.


    • ockraz

      “I also know the science. The medical definition of “conception” does
      not begin at fertilization, but at conception.” – I think you meant to
      say the medical definition of “pregnancy” does not begin at
      fertilization, but at implantation. Even that would be a mistake,

      The scientific and medical definitions are ambiguous – it can be
      defined both in terms of beginning at fertilization and implantation.
      ACOG adopted the implantation definition to the exclusion of fertilization. However it did so for cultural and political (not scientific or medical) reasons. ACOG also redefined conception to exclusively mean implantation, but I’m not aware of any other authority which has done so.

      Articles in NEJM or JAMA don’t follow the same conventions as ACOG. Instead you’re likely to see ‘very early pregnancy’, or sometimes ‘chemical pregnancy’ as beginning at fertilization, and ‘established pregnancy’ or ‘clinical pregnancy’ as beginning at implantation.

      PS: ACOG is the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is the professional organization that represents all American abortion providers.

  • G.R.

    The concern you have for the mothers comes through loud and clear. What went on in the Gosnell clinic was just awful. Although I am for banning abortion, that still leaves the question of what then? The reasons women go through an abortion will still be there unless something is done. I can say I’m pro-life, but depending on what you have/had going on in your own life, that might bring some images and thoughts to your mind which have nothing to do with me. I am concerned with mother AND child, with all life from beginning to end. Trying to get that message out on a larger scale is so hard, though, and it’s a shame. As you said “What does it take to get recognition of the real issues? To get people to listen to the stories, and actually take steps to care for the people involved?” Is it because we don’t even see the people around us, far less those who are going through something we never did? I don’t know. Every single abortion decision was arrived at in a unique way, by a unique person. I’ve read stories of those who were happy about their decision and those who were completely broken. I am a tad leery of statistics and official stories because I have seen too many times how they can be manipulated depending on who is making an arguement with them (have you ever tried to get an entire story, all aspects of it, from one end of the spectrum to the other? especially on such a charged topic as abortion? oi vey!) Even scientic facts, sadly, can be twisted by someone with an agenda, which means tracking down the actual studies and trying to read the original work. I am Catholic (which may also bring up preconceived notions about me) and I prefer a nuanced view which allows for the reality of medical issues (like this but basically I do not agree we have the right to take innocent life. I do not agree with the death penalty. I think war is the answer to just about nothing. I support adoption. Disagree if you choose, but I do try to be consistent. I have individually helped those who found themselves in an unexpected/difficult pregnancy/homeless and just wish I could do more on a day in, day out basis. Right now I can only give money and supplies to those places that try to help women who find themselves in a dark place to bring both mother and child to a better life.

    • Timothy Griffy

      I’ve said elsewhere that I have more respect for Catholics who take the rest of their social justice teaching just as seriously as they take the stricture against abortion. Unfortunately, many, if not most of your nominal allies in the “pro-life” movement do not do the same. In fact, they would do just the opposite–note how many “pro-lifers” also oppose(d) Obamacare (let alone truly universal health care), want to dispose of social safety nets, and are all too willing to start wars. You would do much better for your case to work on cleaning up the “pro-life” house and making sure it truly is pro-life.

      • G.R.

        Thank you for that. I think there are those on both sides of this issue that do things we find embarrassing and disheartening. I don’t really “focus” on any one group; I just try to share my viewpoint with whoever is willing to hear it, in the hope of finding those who would like to discuss this rationally.

        • Timothy Griffy

          Well, you’ve found someone. Would you like to establish where we have common ground so that way we can have our discussion with our commonalities as a given?

          • G.R.

            Sure. I have laid out a few things I believe in in the above comment. What else did you have in mind?

          • Timothy Griffy

            My viewpoint is still in development. Morally speaking, I feel that an abortion should not be obtained other things being equal. However, I do feel it can be justified given a significant threat to the total well-being of the mother. Legally speaking, I feel that the violation of human rights cannot be justified, especially in the type of society we live in.

          • G.R.

            It seems we are not too far apart. Morally, I believe in the right to life, but I understand life is not that simple. I agree there are times where a pregnancy cannot continue. There is something called double effect; an example would be an etopic pregnancy. The intention in this case is not to destroy the child, but to save the mother. Unfortunately, in order to do so, the pregnancy must end or both lives are lost.
            Legally, I’m open to some solution that allows both mother and child to have legal protection. I am not sure when or if Roe/Wade could be overturned (some say yes, some no). But if abortion suddenly became illegal tomorrow, crisis pregnancies wouldn’t stop. So I would prefer a system which works from the front end, helping women overcome whatever it is that puts them in a place to consider abortion, instead of coming at the back end and forbidding it through law.

            I will be out of touch for the next 6 weeks, possibly longer. I did not want any one to think I had just taken off when I no longer post responses. I have enjoyed this conversation; thank you for having it with me.

          • Gehennah

            If abortion became illegal tomorrow, abortions would still occur. And if you look at countries where abortions are illegal, you see medically necessary abortions not happening and people die. And back alley abortions, guess what, people die.

            And while I wish abortions were not required, a woman’s right to her body overrides the rights of a parasite.

          • G.R.

            understand they would not stop right away. And I do know of cases
            where the mother’s life was not taken into consideration, which is
            entirely wrong. And women still die in this country from legal
            abortions. As for statistics on abortion deaths around the world, I
            have read lists from all sides of the issue and I find them
            contradictory, with each side highlighting the information they most
            want known. I’m not saying they are useless, just that it makes it a bit difficult to get the simple truth.

            I will be out of touch for the next 6 weeks, possibly longer. I did not want any one to think I had just taken off when I no longer post responses. I have enjoyed this conversation; thank you for having it with me.

          • Gehennah

            Same to you.

            It’s nice to have a fairly rational conversation with someone who is prolife that doesn’t resort to calling me a baby killer.

          • Feminerd

            The problem I have with “life of the mother” exceptions is, who decides?

            Why should any woman have to stand before a panel of (likely) men, sick and/or dying, and plead with them to allow her to live? Isn’t that more than just a little dehumanizing, patronizing, and condescending?

            I realize you won’t answer this or see it for quite some time. I look forward to your eventual answer, though.

          • Timothy Griffy

            Arguably, insofar as abortion is analogous to self-defense, double effect is in play. I think that in Catholicism, abortion would be considered using a bad means to a good end, even if the intention is not to destroy the fetus. I have no such compunctions. While abortion is a grave matter not to be undertaken lightly, it is not exactly murder and thus not an intrinsic evil.

            Short of inventing an artificial womb, I don’t see any way that both mother and fetus would have legal protection. You’ve already expressed the feeling that the artificial womb would cause more harm than good. I’d have to get your further thoughts before I can respond fully.

            The problem is bodily autonomy. This is recognized in every other context except pregnancy, even in Catholicism. So far as I know, Catholicism does not require anyone to so much as donate blood, let alone body organs like kidneys. And so far as I know, Catholicism does not normally require anyone to risk disability or death on behalf of someone else (extraordinary exceptions might apply, of course). Good Samaritans may do so, and the Church may encourage it, but it doesn’t require it. An artificial womb would take bodily autonomy out of the equation.

            I fully agree with you that we need to build a system that works from the front end. I believe we shouldn’t even think about forbidding abortion through law unless and until we do have such a system.

  • Michelle

    I only have the comment that the Gosnell debacle happened WITH legal abortion…not without. I have personally been inside an abortion clinic…the one I was in was not clean, and actually it made me sick to my stomach — so sick that I had to wait outside for the patient I had assisted to get there. I think the Gosnell thing is probably not a high percentage — but higher than anyone wants to know/admit — because seriously, the fact that it happened at all is beyond my imaginings of horror.

    I disagree that lots of women pass fertilized eggs all the time, but chances are there’s politi-speak on both sides we could both pull our stats from to support. I hate the politicization of such an important issue.

    My perspective on life and choice is so different since I lost my baby boy at 19 weeks last year. That experience gave me something in common with women who get 2nd trimester abortions — delivering a dead baby, perfectly formed, no longer alive. It was heartbreaking and I can’t imagine what extra emotions I’d have to deal with if it wasn’t the fact that my baby died from an in-utero infection as opposed to an alternative.

    This whole issue breaks my heart all the way.

    • Melissa_PermissionToLive

      I’m sorry Michelle, I remember your heartbreaking loss of baby Gregory. This is a very difficult and personal topic, I hope that I didn’t cause stress and pain for you by posting my questions and thoughts.

      • Michelle

        No apology necessary. The things you have endured and subjected to form you…it is only natural I think for you to explore what you can accept or believe.

  • Michelle

    That was a damn good article. I have always been pro choice. In fact ,despite being libertarian I think that only people who really want children and are really capable of taking care of them should be allowed to have them. When, if ever, will people figure out that they can’t legislate morality? My parents “had” to get married because of me back when abortion was illegal and very dangerous. It was a different time. They were too young. It was an unhappy marriage, and I was an abused, depressed, suicidal child. The primary driver of poverty and crime in our society is people having children before they are mature enough to handle the responsibility.

    • ockraz

      “I think that only people who really want children and are really capable of taking care of them should be allowed to have them.” – I agree with that. However, I’m pro-life and think that the bottleneck should be at contraception: preventing new life from being created except when it’s wanted, but never taking life because it’s unwanted.

      • fiona64

        All forms of contraception, including surgical sterilization, have known failure rates. Forcing someone to remain pregnant against her will is not acceptable.

        • ockraz

          Killing someone so that you can avoid negative consequences that are an accidental result of a choice you made is profoundly immoral.

          We have different perspectives.

          • fiona64

            That’s blatantly obvious. I take the clearly shocking position that a born, sapient, sentient woman’s rights should not be abrogated because she happens to be pregnant. I also take the clearly shocking position that, since I cannot know anyone’s circumstances but my own, other people’s medical decisions are none of my business.

            Horrible, isn’t it?

          • ockraz

            I agree, your position is horrible. You’re saying that (to borrow from this blog) when we’re youngest and most vulnerable we need someone else’s permission to live.

          • fiona64

            No, dear. What *you* are saying is that women should be enslaved to the contents of their uterii. I am saying that each woman knows her circumstances and should thus be left to decide for herself.

            You advocate slavery; I advocate freedom. Now, who again holds the horrible position?

            (I will never understand why the anti-choice are so incapable of empathy for actual *born* people and save all of their concern for an embryo that may or may not even be viable …)

          • G.R.

            I don’t want to start a fight with you, but I am curious about something. You say that “I take the clearly shocking position that a born, sapient, sentient woman’s rights should not be abrogated because she happens to be pregnant” and “anti-choice are so incapable of empathy for actual *born* people and save all of their concern for an embryo that may or may not even be viable”. At what stage of development does the child gain the same rights as the born people? Is it when they are actually born? I’m asking because I am genuinely confused about your position and am seeking clarity. (Melissa, if you’d rather this conversation take place elsewhere, you can delete this with no hard feelings from me :)

          • Timothy Griffy

            I won’t presume to speak for fiona64, but I will say that birth does mark the stage of development when the child gains the same rights.

          • fiona64

            At what stage of development does the child gain the same rights as the born people? Is it when they are actually born?

            Yes … because that is when personhood (which is a legal status) attaches. You might want to look up that pesky 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

          • G.R.

            Obviously, this is a huge and still-not-settled issue. so I apologize in advance for the length. I tried to summarize as much as possible.

            I don’t find it pesky; I am grateful for the Constitution. The
            14th amendment states “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the
            state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

            It states what can/cannot happen to those “persons”. It does not define who those “persons” are (indeed the Constitution is silent), and right now you can find definitions for the subsets of moral, legal, natural, and constitutional persons. For the basis of Roe/Wade, it was understood the unborn child would not be recognized as a person, therefore this amendment (a right to their lives) did not apply to those waiting to be born. However, fetal homicide laws go against this understanding and, so far, every challenge to them has been overturned on constitutional grounds. Therefore, we now have the legal situation where if a woman decides she wants her child and the baby is killed by another person without her consent, that person is prosecuted as having killed a legal person. But if she does not want the child and it is killed by another person with her consent, that person is not prosecuted because they have not killed a legal person. Am I the only one who finds this contradictory?

            Laws are good things, but they are not always correct. They are only as good as the people who draft and then pass them. Sometimes they need to be changed to reflex a better understanding of humanity.

          • Timothy Griffy

            I don’t think you are the only one who finds abortion and fetal homicide laws contradictory. The fact that fetal homicide laws remain controversial is a testament to that. To get an idea why they are controversial, see the stories listed at

            The difference may depend precisely on the wanted/unwanted distinction. It may also depend on how the law is constructed. For example, the Unborn Victims of Violence act specifically targets fetal injury or death sustained during the commission of another act of federally prohibited violence. So constructed (i.e., as an additional charge to violence against women), that makes a certain amount of sense. However, one can reasonably ask what these laws do that isn’t already covered by existing law.

            However, fetal homicide laws are more often used to prosecute women who have a miscarriage. This is what makes no sense to me. Moreover, fetal personhood laws are being used to push or justify draconian measures against women that certainly do violate their rights (or at least, we would recognize them as clear violations were she not pregnant). As an example, see this story at

          • G.R.

            I am still reading through your links and can’t comment with an informed opinion yet. But, from what I’ve gathered so far, the laws may be poorly written or simply unnecessary. If that is the case, they need to be struck down. It’s a hard line to walk, I readily agree, to not deprive the mother of her rights, while also not depriving the baby of his/hers and I will not claim to have the answer. The saying “My rights end where the other guys’ nose begins” gets more complicated in this situation and usually humans have to do a lot of trial and error before we get it right (or at least better.) I know that’s cold comfort to the ones caught up in the middle of it. Hopefully someone brilliant will come along who can
            show how we can apply justice to both mother and child.

            The wanted/unwanted distinction is troubling. It is allowing a single individual to decide whether another person lives or dies, since “person” is still defined inconsistently. We do not deprive even those accused of crimes a jury.

          • Timothy Griffy

            I don’t believe the fetus’ rights are being violated. Still, I would welcome the invention of something like an artificial womb. That would pretty well take any conflict of rights out of the equation. Short of that, I suspect that the fight will have no ultimate resolution.

            The wanted/unwanted distinction is troubling, but it is a guess on both our parts. Maybe we should look up the decisions upholding fetal homicide laws. Have any gone to the Supreme Court yet?

          • G.R.

            None that I have found so far. I found a listing here but it has not been updated since the middle of last year. However, while looking for cases, I found this which seems to explain a bit better the way the laws stand on
            the books today
            Fair warning: it’s a tad long. But I think I understand a bit better now. To date, fetal homicide laws find the unborn baby is a ‘legal’ person and multiple courts have ruled that this ‘legal’ designation does not conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision that the unborn baby is not a ‘constitutional’ person.

            Since we do not have artificial wombs, we can only imagine what impacts (good and bad) they would have. My gut feeling is they would cause more harm than good, but that’s just a guess.

          • Timothy Griffy

            All these cases assume a third party is involved. But it is clear that women are charged using these laws. See Especially noteworthy is South Carolina, which has prosecuted only one man and 300 women under fetal homicide laws. While it may be understandable that a third party could be prosecuted for the destruction of a fetus, prosecuting women for having a miscarriage goes far beyond the theory offered in “The Myth of Fetal Personhood.”

          • Mirable

            It is an issue of family planning. People have the right to decide if and when they will bring a new person into the world. We are not slaves to mindless biology. In a wanted pregnancy the fetus is not infringing on the woman’s rights. In an unwanted pregnancy it is there without consent. So far the only way to remove it results in it’s death, but that’s the way things are with current technology. As for the personhood of the fetus- it is a mindless body when the majority of abortions take place. Mindless bodies are not people, and they should not have the right to subjugate actual people.

            Regarding artificial wombs, we have to ask a question…does every baby need to be born? Must potential always be fulfilled? Would it be wise to have skyscrapers full of artificial wombs gestating millions of fetuses a year- just to make more people?

          • G.R.

            Yes, I agree people have the right to decide when or if they will bring a new life into the world before a pregnancy, without reservation. No one can make that decision for another. However, when another life (the unborn child), is in the picture, things are more complicated. The laws state this is not an unrestricted right, as evidenced by the Supreme Court allowing states to regulate abortion.

            Those who have died are mindless and no longer show brainwaves, yet we still refer to them as people. Approximately 88% of abortions take place by week 12 (I had trouble locating a break down more than this;
            i.e. how many by each week). By week 8, the baby’s heart is pumping, all other organs are present, they respond to touch, and brain waves are recorded. Instead of mindless, would it not be more accurate to
            say, at this point in fetal technology, we do not know what is going on in the baby’s mind?

            I believe each and every life is deserving of respect and must be cared for by reasonable and just means. I do not hold there is a right to take steps to end life without extremely serious reason. I can only speculate about artificial wombs, but my gut feeling is it would cause more harm than good.

          • Mirable

            However, when another life (the unborn child), is in the picture, things are more complicated.

            No children are unborn. It is a potential child, nothing more.

            Those who have died are mindless and no longer show brainwaves, yet we still refer to them as people.

            Yes, we do still refer to them as people. But they are former persons. Which is why be put them in the ground and harvest their organs and disconnect life support.

            By week 8, the baby’s heart is pumping, all other organs are present, they respond to touch, and brain waves are recorded. Instead of mindless, would it not be more accurate to say, at this point in fetal technology, we do not know what is going on in the baby’s mind?

            The pumping heart is pretty much meaningless. Not unless you think that the ‘soul’ resides in the heart. The heart at this point is still pretty much a narrow tube – and cardiac cells can ‘pump’ in a petri dish. Furthermore, the organs may be present – but it is all just a beginning – which is vastly different from the end. if these organs were actually able to function in a viable manner, the embryo/fetus would *not* need the woman’s body for nutrients or to process it’s waste – you could remove it by c-section and it should be able to function like a 40 week baby.

            Lastly, nothing is going on in it’s brain because it doesn’t have a mind. The brain is not yet far enough along in development to enable sentience. The fetus completely lacks the capacity for any type of awareness at this time.

            It has less of a brain than my pet cat. It is a mindless biological process at this point.

            Do you believe that zygotes = people?

          • G.R.

            No children are unborn. It is a potential child, nothing more.

            Many laws disagree with you, as they specifically state “unborn child”.

            Nothing is going on in it’s brain because it doesn’t have a mind. The brain is not yet far enough along in development to enable sentience. The fetus completely lacks the capacity for any type of awareness at this
            time. We are still learning what an unborn baby is capable of. This is from 2009, but it better explains
            what is going on (as far as we have learned) in the unborn baby

            Do you believe that zygotes = people?

            Legally, some laws state that the unborn baby is a legal person, regardless of viability. So, there is some precedent for that distinction, as long as you put the word ‘legal’ in front of person.

            Scientifically, I don’t think there is an answer yet (unless, possibly, you go by distinct DNA).

            Morally, yes.

            I will be out of touch for the next 6 weeks, possibly longer. I did not want any one to think I had just taken off when I no longer posted responses. I have enjoyed having this conversation. Thank you for having it with me.

          • Timothy Griffy

            My religious tradition has never taken a definitive stance on when personhood begins. I am inclined to think that it happens sometime after conception, and probably not until birth. That amounts to my moral stance.

            When the law defines an entity as a “legal” person, generally that means its personhood is a legal fiction. Basically it means that the entity is considered a person for the purpose of the given law that is about to follow. It by no means says that entity is a person the same way you and I are persons. I would be very cautious about using a legal fiction as proof of personhood, even under the law.

            Science really can’t answer the question of whether a zygote is a person. Personhood is a philosophical, religious, and legal concept. Science can answer whether a zygote has the properties of personhood depending on how the term is defined, but it can’t really answer the question of whether a zygote is a person.

            However, given the phenomena of twinning and chimerism, I would say that personhood doesn’t begin until the prenate is past the point where twinning and chimerism is possible.

            I look forward to continuing the conversation when you are able.

          • Timothy Griffy

            I still have to answer Defamante on artificial wombs, but why do you feel they would cause more harm than good?

          • Timothy Griffy

            Well, if we want to be able to remove the fetus without it resulting in its death, then it is either an artificial womb or person-to-person transfers.

            I would assume that even with an artificial womb, not every fetus would eventually be born. Nature aborts pregnancies for a number of reasons; likely a similar number will still fail. Potential isn’t always fulfilled anyway, the point would be to give it a chance.

            And I wouldn’t worry about skyscrapers full of artificial wombs. After all, the pro-life crowd keeps telling us there are millions of people wanting to adopt but can’t because those selfish women keep abortion. So there should be no problem, right? (What’s the smiley for sarcasm again?)

            Seriously, the logistics would certainly have to be worked out. But that is a bridge that can be crossed once there is something to work with.

          • fiona64

            Yeah, actually, it does define personhood … the minute it uses the word “born.” But rock on.

          • G.R.

            It says those “persons” born here are “citizens”, thus we
            have the definition of a “citizen”. The “not deprive of life,
            liberty, or property” is dealing with any “person”, citizen or
            not, within their borders (notice the word change from “citizen” to “person”). Therefore, a “person”, citizen or not, already has a right to life, liberty and property; it is not granted by this amendment. Again, it does not define “person” nor say anything about granting the “person” the right to life, liberty, and property. It simply says that the U.S. cannot deprive a “person” of these rights without due process of law. Theoretically, based on this amendment, an unborn child could be a “person” who is not a “citizen” of the United States, since the definition of citizen specifically states being born or being naturalized as a condition.
            On a related note, corporations have received the label of “person”, though clearly there is no birth going on when they are created. The definition of “person” is still under debate precisely because it is not spelled out here; we must look elsewhere for that definition. If it were clearly defined as excluding the unborn, fetal homicide laws wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on.

          • Timothy Griffy

            The decision of Roe v. Wade took great pains to establish that the unborn is not a person under the law. See the text of the decision at See especially section IX.

            The controversy over the Citizen’s United decision is, if anything, more heated. When the repercussions of that decision are worked out, it will almost certainly be overturned.

          • G.R.

            The point was to illustrate one cannot define “person” or “personhood” by reading the 14th amendment; you must look elsewhere for that definition (for example, the link you posted detailing Roe/Wade) and “personhood” remains undefined legally. The Supreme Court found that the unborn are not ‘constitutional’ persons for the purpose of the 14th amendment, but they did so by looking at the rest of the constitution (and past laws, attitudes, and court decisions) for an interpretation (not definition) of a person, precisely because it was not clearly defined by this amendment or in any other place. I disagree with this decision, but such is the law of the country today.

            I am going to have to do some reading on Citizen’s United. I briefly heard about it at one point, but have not taken time to investigate it further.

          • Mirable

            Even if fetuses were to be recognized as legal persons, abortion would still be legal in some states because they are not recognized as natural persons.

            This article will explain:


          • G.R.

            seems the website is using “judicial” persons in the same legal
            sense as “legal” persons. That is how the fetal homicide laws
            read, as distinct from “constitutional” persons. This is the
            distinction which allows both abortion and fetal homicide laws to be
            in force, which I freely admit I was confused about at the start of
            this conversation.

          • Timothy Griffy

            I’m still a bit confused. Setting aside fetal personhood laws, I’m still unclear what fetal homicide laws do that isn’t already covered by existing law. Add an another charge to violence against women? If so, why is that fetal homicide laws are used primarily against women who had miscarriages? What is the point of that, considering she could have just had a legal abortion to begin with?

          • Timothy Griffy

            OK, I think I see what you are saying. Defamate’s link does explain some things. You are correct that the Fourteenth Amendment does not define the “term” person; this is precisely why the Court had to look at the rest of the Constitution, past laws, etc. The Court resorted to doing this in order to find Justice Scalia’s much-vaunted “original intent,” And there was nothing in the Constitution, past laws, etc., that treated the unborn as persons, EXCEPT for abortion laws as they then existed. In rejecting Texas’ argument, the Court was simply trying to be consistent with the rest of the law. If the unborn had been treated as persons in every other context, the decision might have gone differently.

          • Gehennah

            I’m going to have to say that when you are born, you are granted those rights. It is when you are no longer 100% dependent on the nutrients and body of a person, no longer feeding directly off of it.

            Until then, a fetus isn’t much more than a parasite really.

          • G.R.

            “It is when you are no longer 100% dependent on the nutrients and body of a person” Just to be clear, would that be before or after the umbilical cord is cut?

            A parasite is defined as an organism of one species
            living in or on an organism of another species (a heterospecific relationship) and deriving its nourishment from the host (is metabolically dependent on the host). (See Cheng, T.C.General Parasitology,p. 7, 1973.)

            A human embryo or fetus is an organism of one species (Homo sapiens) living in the uterine cavity of an organism of the same species (Homo sapiens) and deriving its nourishment from the mother (is metabolically dependent on the mother). This homospecific relationship is an obligatory dependent relationship, but not a parasitic relationship.

          • Gehennah

            I don’t see a major distinction between a parasite feeding off of the nutrients of the body of its host and a fetus doing the same of its host. The only real difference is that that a fetus is within the same species.

            As far as the umbilical cord goes, I’d consider it once the baby is born. As far as I am aware, the cutting of the cord does not harm the woman (if I am mistaken here, please let me know).

          • Timothy Griffy

            Cutting the umbilical cord does not harm the woman. The cord, along with the placenta, is part of the fetus, not the mother.

          • G.R.

            The definition of parasite is above. To use the word parasite to describe an unborn baby is to misuse the word parasite.

            No, it does not hurt the mother when the cord is cut. But since the baby is still receiving nutrients from the cord after birth and is not completely separate until it is cut, I’m just wanted to be clear how independent the baby needed to be in your view.

          • Mirable

            it is not mis-using the word. It is not a parasite in the strictest sense, but it operates like one. Just like a parastic twin, though of the same species, acts like a parasite upon it’s host.

            Furthermore, through something called’ genomic imprinting’ the fetus is actually biologically programmed the extract the maximum amount of nutrients from the woman’s body in order to sustain it’s life – sugar and iron from her blood, and the dumping of toxic biowastes into her blood. (which can lead to diabetes, anemia and a host of other problems. also, constant high blood pressure which is not safe. these are health problems that we try to fix)

            In fact, it’s behaviour is a lot like that of a parasite:

            Here are some scientific findings:

            Further investigation revealed that placental NKB contained the molecule phosphocholine, which is used by the parasitic nematode worm to avoid attack by the immune system of the host in which it lives.

            During implantation, fetally derived cells (trophoblast) invade the maternal endometrium and remodel the endometrial spiral arteries into low-resistance vessels that are unable to constrict. This invasion has three consequences. First, the fetus gains direct access to its mother’s arterial blood. Therefore, a mother cannot reduce the nutrient content of blood reaching the placenta without reducing the nutrient supply to
            her own tissues. Second, the volume of blood reaching the placenta becomes largely independent of control by the local maternal vasculature. Third, the placenta is able to release hormones and other substances directly into the maternal circulation. Placental hormones, including human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and human placental lactogen (hPL), are predicted to manipulate maternal physiology for fetal benefit.

            The host-parasite relationship during pregnancy is a fascinating interaction and research in this area will improve understanding of disease pathogenesis and the various consequences of the host immune response, being host-protective, parasite protective and contributing to disease pathology. Pregnancy poses an interesting problem for the immune system of the dam as she is essentially carrying a semi-allogeneic tissue graft (the foetus) without immunological rejection taking place.

            Another role for foetal transferrin receptors on trophoblasts could be to bind maternal transferrin at the materno-foetal interface, thus frustrating maternal immunosurveillance. This is similar to a mechahism
            used by schistosomes in the host-parasite relation where host proteins are bound by the parasite to escape immunological recognition.






            Women are not ‘better off’ being pregnant. If they were, nuns and other women who remain abstinent their entire lives would be less healthy than women who give birth. In fact, too many births can wear out a woman’s body and kill her. Pregnancies actually leave scarring on a woman’s pelvic bone – you can tell how many time’s a woman has given birth by the scars.

          • G.R.

            I never said the unborn baby was not dependent on his/her mother; obviously that would be wrong. But that does not make him/her a parasite, as they do not meet the definition of a parasite. In none of your links did anyone (other than the headline) state that the
            unborn child was a parasite. The closest they came was to state the placenta had a molecule that enables a parasitic worm to fight off attack from its host.

            “The host-parasite relationship during pregnancy is a fascinatinginteraction and research in this area will improve understanding of disease pathogenesis and the various consequences of the host immune
            response, being host-protective, parasite protective and ontributing to disease pathology.” This was referring to cattle who were deliberately infected during pregnancy with a parasite, not the pregnancy itself.

            At no time did I state women were “better off” pregnant. Nor did I state that pregnancy automatically harms or helps a woman.

          • Timothy Griffy

            I need a another technical question answered before I can take a stab at your question. When does the placenta detach from the mother? That is the point where the baby stops receiving nutrients from the cord unless it is cut.

          • Feminerd

            The placenta usually detaches during labor, just after the baby is out. During most of labor, it’s still attached, because that’s how the term fetus is getting its oxygen. Fetuses and people both do need oxygen rather continuously in order to survive. Anyways, that’s why it’s also called the afterbirth.

            Retained placenta is an unfortunately common complication of pregnancy, though- it can cause hemorrhage (by preventing the uterus from contracting back down and clamping off the uterine arteries) and massive infection (by literally rotting away in the uterus).

          • King Rat

            Well, ‘abortion to save the life of the mother’ isn’t exactly going to help if she dies during/after childbirth now is it?

          • Feminerd

            No, but it was an honest question honestly asked, I thought, so I answered it pretty straight up.

            And yes, labor and just afterwards is indeed the most dangerous part of pregnancy. I think (hope!) everyone knows that. I mean, it’s a giant bloody gaping open wound, exposed to air and thus germs for hours, along with the possibility that the fetus might defecate and contaminate everything during labor, followed by a rather complicated process of closing down two major arteries that if not clamped off will exsanguinate a woman in less than 10 minutes. Not to mention dying of exhaustion if labor fails to progress, tearing such that one bleeds to death, retained placenta as discussed above, and other generally nasty ways to die. By the time of labor, it’s generally too late to do an abortion to save the life of the mother- we do crash c-sections instead!

          • King Rat

            A crash c-section sounds nice – especially in the absence of painkillers. A worthy ‘punishment’ for having sex, dontcha think?

            Oh, and don’t you love how pro-lifers routinely pretend that labour/birth aren’t a thing? Like, they literally don’t exist? They love to focus on the ‘morning sickness’ as being like, the ONLY downside to pregnancy, and labour, etc are just minor inconveniences to be brushed away with nary a thought!

          • Feminerd

            That is definitely a trend! Though I’ve found that it’s usually the pro-life men who do that, not the women who’ve had children. They usually will admit that pregnancy can suck but it’s worth it when you hold your new precious baby in your arms. And if it was a wanted baby, that’s probably true, but it’s still torture to force it on an unwilling woman.

          • Timothy Griffy

            So typically the placenta has already detached when the cord is cut?

          • Feminerd

            Pretty much always, yes. Most people actually wait until the placenta has come all the way out to cut the cord, though that’s certainly not always the case.

            That’s why it’s so important for a baby to breathe so soon. It’s not getting oxygen from the cord anymore once it’s out of the woman’s body.

          • Timothy Griffy

            Thank you.

          • Timothy Griffy

            Given the new information, I would say that technically the baby becomes 100% independent when the placenta detaches. At that point, any nutrients it is still receiving from the cord is residual and no longer being provided directly from the mother. Bodily autonomy no longer applies if the infant is fully outside the mother’s body.

          • Feminerd

            I tend to agree with this.

            I think you should be aware that this whole sub-thread is also entirely not to the point, though- no one chooses to get an abortion at 36 or 38 weeks just because she doesn’t want to be pregnant. If, for some reason, an abortion is necessary, the pregnancy is terminated through induced labor or c-section and ends with a live baby. This only happens for health reasons- pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, newly diagnosed cancer, low amniotic fluid levels, fetal distress such as failure to grow, etc.

            The point at which half of premature infants survive with modern medical care in a Class III NICU (just survive, no guarantees about mental or physical ability) is 28 weeks. Without modern medical care, an infant will not survive prior to about 36 weeks, and even that is very iffy. Only 1.5% of abortions happen after 20 weeks, most of those before 22 weeks, and those happen for only three reasons- health of the mother, fetal deformities incompatible with life, or women stopped from getting earlier abortions through anti-abortion measures such as waiting periods, the Hyde Amendment, and Crisis Pregnancy Centers. In many places, it is illegal to get abortions past 24 weeks, forcing women to go to butchers like Gosnell if they were forced to wait too long.

          • Timothy Griffy

            “I think you should be aware that this whole sub-thread is also entirely not to the point, though- no one chooses to get an abortion at 36 or 38 weeks just because she doesn’t want to be pregnant.”

            I guess that is going to depend on where the conversation is headed. G.R. hasn’t mentioned late-term abortions yet, and may or may not do so. I think at this point, G.R. is just testing the waters and establishing our parameters.

          • Mirable

            The fetus is a functional parasite. It doesn’t help the woman, it harms her.

          • G.R.

            “It doesn’t help the woman, it harms her.” Would
            you care to show some basis for that statement? I do not mean to downplay the serious consequences that at times arise during pregnancy, but to make a general statement like that usually requires substantial evidence. Can you show the majority of women are harmed by their babies during pregnancy? Can you also show the mother is never helped during the pregnancy?

            Parasite is a defined term. Parasitic fetus is also a defined term: it is the smaller, usually malformed member of conjoined, unequal, or asymmetric twins that is attached to and dependent on the more normal
            fetus for growth and development.

            Words have meanings; in order to have a conversation, definitions of those words must be understood. Otherwise we are simply talking past one another.

          • Mirable

            Pregnancy and health:

            “That means each year in the U.S., about 700 women die of pregnancy-related complications and 52,000 experience emergencies such as acute renal failure, shock, respiratory distress, aneurysms and heart surgery. An additional 34,000 barely avoid death.”

            Data modeling suggesting 21/100,000 US maternal mortality rate

            In 2004/2005, 1.7 million women per year suffered adverse health effects






            Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy:

            exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks)

            altered appetite and senses of taste and smell

            nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester)

            heartburn and indigestion


            weight gain

            dizziness and light-headedness

            bloating, swelling, fluid retention


            abdominal cramps

            yeast infections

            congested, bloody nose

            acne and mild skin disorders

            skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen)

            mild to severe backache and strain

            increased headaches

            difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping

            increased urination and incontinence

            bleeding gums


            breast pain and discharge

            swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain

            difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy

            inability to take regular medications

            shortness of breath

            higher blood pressure

            hair loss

            tendency to anemia

            curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities

            infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease

            (pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with
            non-pregnant women, and are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases)

            extreme pain on delivery

            hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression

            continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section — major surgery — is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover)

            Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy:

            stretch marks (worse in younger women)

            loose skin

            permanent weight gain or redistribution

            abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness

            pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal
            incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life — aka prolapsed utuerus, the malady sometimes badly fixed by the transvaginal mesh)

            changes to breasts

            varicose veins

            scarring from episiotomy
            or c-section

            other permanent
            aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed
            by women, because the culture values youth and beauty)

            increased proclivity
            for hemmorhoids

            loss of dental and
            bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis)

            higher lifetime risk of developing Altzheimer’s

            newer research indicates
            microchimeric cells, other bi-directional exchanges of DNA, chromosomes, and other bodily material between fetus and
            mother (including with “unrelated” gestational surrogates)

            Occasional complications
            and side effects:

            complications of episiotomy


            hyperemesis gravidarum

            temporary and permanent
            injury to back

            requiring later surgery
            (especially after additional pregnancies)

            dropped (prolapsed)
            uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other
            pelvic floor weaknesses — 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele,
            and enterocele)

            (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated
            with eclampsia, and affecting 7 – 10% of pregnancies)

            eclampsia (convulsions,
            coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death)

            gestational diabetes

            placenta previa

            anemia (which
            can be life-threatening)


            severe cramping

            (blood clots)

            medical disability
            requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of
            many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother
            or baby)

            diastasis recti,
            also torn abdominal muscles

            mitral valve stenosis
            (most common cardiac complication)

            serious infection
            and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis)

            hormonal imbalance

            ectopic pregnancy
            (risk of death)

            broken bones (ribcage,
            “tail bone”)


            numerous other complications
            of delivery

            refractory gastroesophageal
            reflux disease

            aggravation of pre-pregnancy
            diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5%
            of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment
            prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures)

            severe post-partum
            depression and psychosis

            research now indicates
            a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments,
            including “egg harvesting” from infertile women and donors

            research also now
            indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity
            in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy

            research also indicates
            a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary
            and cardiovascular disease

            Less common (but
            serious) complications:

            peripartum cardiomyopathy


            magnesium toxicity

            severe hypoxemia/acidosis

            massive embolism

            increased intracranial
            pressure, brainstem infarction

            molar pregnancy,
            gestational trophoblastic disease
            (like a pregnancy-induced

            malignant arrhythmia

            circulatory collapse

            placental abruption

            obstetric fistula

            permanent side effects:

            future infertility

            permanent disability


            Women have the right to self defense. If you think that fetuses are people, then treat them like people. The pain of childbirth, if induced by other means, would be considered TORTURE according to this:


            Every thing in the above list would be considered *assault* if it was inflicted on a person. Why does a fetus get a free pass to assault the woman? What makes it so special? Why give it a right that no born person has?

            Every pregnancy can end in death and disability for the woman. Even a so called ‘normal’ pregnancy can leave her dead at birth. Post Partum Hemorrhage can leave her bleeding to death and is the #2 killer of pregnant women. She can develop an auto-immune disease after birth – multiple sclerosis. She can develop post partum psychosis and depression. She can develop an obstetric fistula which can lead her to at the very least, incontinence, and the very worst, a colostomy bag for the rest of her life. Then we have diabetes…cancer…and that whole list up above.

            No one is required to risk their lives and health to save another. Why only pregnant women? Why do you de-value women so much that you privilege a mindless fetus above their right to their health and future?

          • G.R.

            I believe I stated there can be serious consequences to any pregnancy.What I asked was if you could show a consensus that most women are harmed during pregnancy; I would be interested in seeing this study,
            as I am not currently aware of one. There are about 208 million pregnancies each year and roughly 10 million women either die or suffer injury, infection, or disease during their pregnancies, most of these due to lack of
            proper access to good health care That is about 5%, nowhere near a majority, though obviously way too high. There are groups working to lower this number and I support and applaud them.

            And, though the science is in its early days, there is evidence an unborn baby can help the mother

            I also never said a woman is required to die in order save her baby. The principle of double effect explains that. However, the argument from self-defense doesn’t apply to pregnancy, because the child is neither an aggressor nor a trespasser.

          • Gehennah

            I’d argue that it is a trespasser. The fetus is in the woman’s body, and it is using the woman’s nutrients. A woman should have the right to determine what is being done with the nutrients of her body, as well as determine what risks that she wants to take with her pregnancy.

          • Timothy Griffy

            I have my own reservations about applying the argument from self-defense to pregnancy. This is true even given my stance that an abortion is morally justifiable given a significant threat to the mother’s total well-being, which does suggest a self-defense analogy.

            Nevertheless, I am curious as to why you think the child should not be considered either an aggressor or a trespasser.

          • Feminerd

            All pregnancies involve raised blood sugar (to pre-diabetic levels, known to be unhealthy even for brief spans of time), raise blood pressure (to levels that would be treated with drugs normally, known to be unhealthy even for brief spans of time), and suppressed immune systems (to levels considered immuno-suppressed, known to be quite unhealthy).

            All pregnancies involve an entity literally sucking nutrients out of a woman’s blood and bone, then expelling its waste directly into her bloodstream for her body to take care of. Women go blind from pregnancy. They get osteoporosis. They lose teeth.

            Furthermore, you’re ignoring something very important. No person is allowed, legally or ethically, to take blood or tissue from another person, even if they will die without it. I can’t take your kidney or liver lobe without your permission, should you be a match for me, even if I will die without it. Why, then, do you think a fetus should be allowed to take my blood, uterus, and nutrients without my permission? Why do you think it has more rights than people?

          • swbarnes2

            At what stage of development does the child gain the same rights as the born people?

            Maybe when it’s a born person? You know, not deeply infringing on a sapient’s person, like a fetus is?

            Here’s a quick test for you…Imagine some number of pregnancy hypothetical situations, and your answers to them. Now substitute “inexpensive stainless steel mechanical womb” for “pregnant woman”. For pro-choice people, that substitution radically alters the answers they would give, because they see the moral standing of a woman as being far, far different, in fact far, far higher than that of a machine. If your answers don’t change much, what does that say about where you think women stack up morally next to medcial appliances?

          • Mirable

            For anti-choicers, the fact that someone can make a baby means that making babies is what she is for. People mistake the term “objectification” to mean “looking at with lust,” but what it actually means is “reducing someone to an object to be used.” Sexual objectification is assuming that because women turn you on, they are for sex, instead of a person whose sexuality should be an expression of their agency. What anti-choicers engage in is reproductive objectification. Women are among an array of objects to be used. The refrigerator is for storing food. The bookshelf is for holding books. The woman is for making babies. You no more give her a choice in the matter than you would give your refrigerator veto power over what food it hold because it didn’t like your method of shopping.


          • Helix Luco

            we all have the same rights, regardless of age or development; among those is the right to bodily autonomy.

            hypothetically, we could harvest your tissue and organs for transplants and save a quite few lives, many of them children, even if we do it so that it probably doesn’t kill you, or leave you injured in ways that never quite heal. but we don’t, because we respect that nobody’s entitled to use your body without your permission, even if it means death for another person.

  • Jolie

    One experiment I’d love to do: just pass on this questionnaire to pro-lifers.

    Section 1: Here are a number of legislative measures that are likely to significantly reduce the rate of abortions in a population: which ones do you support? Which-ones does your ‘pro-life’ candidate support?

    1 Introduce paid maternal leave- at least 6 months.
    1a Make paid parental leave available for both parents.
    1b Make it mandatory for all employers to offer paid sick days to parents of ill small children.
    2. Heavily subsidize daycare for children under 2; make it available for free for families with an income under what it would realistically take for them to pay for daycare.
    2a Free, public or publicly-funded nursery school for children between the ages of 2 and 6.
    3. Very strict regulations and big fines for employers who don’t provide appropriate accommodation for pregnant employees and employees with small children effectively forcing them to choose between keeping a pregnancy and keeping a job.
    3a Overall, tighten regulations on all workplace discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or parent status.
    4. Increase child benefits for poor families.
    4a Offer food and childcare vouchers/free nursery to women who become mothers while in full-time education.
    5 Comprehensive sex-ed in school, with an emphasis on contraception.
    5a Free contraceptives available from school nurses or counsellors on confidential request.
    6. Free healthcare for anyone under the age of 18 or in full-time education.
    6a Socialised medicine for everyone.

    Section 2: Legislative measures are an important part in decreasing the rate of abortions, however, they are not everything: we need a culture that’s accommodating to parenting in all forms. Which of the following do you agree with?

    1. Single and teenage mothers deserve our respect as much as anyone else.
    2. With the right support from society, single and teenage mothers can be as good parents as anyone else.
    3. With the right support from society, single and teenage mothers can be as successful in their career as anyone else.
    4. It is our duty as a society to be supportive of single and teenage mothers in order to make sure they have a fair chance at realising themselves as human beings and raising their children to be confident, successful individuals.

    5. It is important for single and teenage mothers to receive positive, self-esteem promoting messages from the society at large.
    6. Workplaces and educational institutions have a moral duty to make themselves more accommodating to parents of small children (through providing safe spaces, on-site daycare, flexible work schedules etc.)
    6a A university campus needs to be a friendly, safe and accommodating space for the parents of a small child; ensuring this should be a major priority.

    Feel free to add anything that you can think of :)

    • SinginDiva721

      Jolie, I think this is an excellent list. I can’t think of anything else to add at this time. I really do think this would reduce the number of abortions significantly. I know a number of pro-life people who would probably agree with most of this list. Sadly, most of the pro-life people I seem to come across would have problems with this which is why I see them as anit-women more than anything else. They are into slut-shaming, thinking that this child is “punishment” for ya know, being all slutty slut and stuff. And it really, REALLY bothers me. I could go on but I think I’m preaching to the choir here…
      Also, great article, Melissa! :-) I’ve been bombarded with news about the Gosnell trial/arrest but I think that’s because I live right near Philly where it happened.

      • Jolie

        One more experiment I thought would be pretty damn interesting to do with pro-lifers:

        First question: Say there is this woman about to walk into the abortion clinic; she says she is doing this because she woud not afford to feed and care for a child. We’re collecting donations- if you give us 50$, it will go towards a fund for her to access in case that she decides to keep the baby, for childcare-related expenses; e have made her aware of that and she said she would seriously consider keeping the pregnancy and raising the child if she gets help from us; would you donate to that?

        Then, some time after, or some time before- the idea is that having questions one right after the other would cause bias:

        Second question: Say there is this woman about to walk into the abortion clinic; she says
        she is doing this because she woud not afford to feed and care for a
        child. We’re collecting donations- if you give us 50$, we will use it to pay Sturdy Billy Bob to physically prevent her from walking through that door; would you donate to that?

        I think this will quite eloquently show who is anti-abortion because they are pro-life and who is anti-abortion because they are anti-choice.

        • GeorgiaPeach23

          Another interesting experiment would be to call up Catholic-affiliated early-childcare centers. Tell them you’re considering having an abortion because day care is so expensive, and ask if they’d give you free childcare if you keep the pregnancy.

    • Saraquill

      I remember one anti-abortion person calling me distasteful for prioritizing the above. When I asked hir what was so awful about not wanting anyone to be cold and hungry, that person yelled at me. It was an odd exchange.

  • Anais

    I have never commented on your posts, but I have to say something here. I love what you wrote, everything that you wrote.
    was in a relationship with a Christian boy I was very much in love with
    until recently, and even though I never had anything against his
    religion I had to end the relationship when I realized how narrow-minded
    and miserable he was getting because of it. I love how you allow
    yourself to be human and to look at life with an open perspective,
    especially after the education you have received. I try to do the same
    and I like to think that most of the time I do, but I can never express
    it quite as well as you do. Your writing is truly beautiful, and the
    things you write are so forgiving, accepting and human, it always makes
    me feel hopeful and at peace to read you.
    Every life is different and
    things as complex as abortion, marriage, and life choices in general
    shouldn’t fall under a “one fits all” rule, ever (especially when that
    rule is rooted in religious beliefs). I believe in people making choices
    from themselves, and in society’s duty to bring a safe environment for
    all, instead of turning a blind eye on harsh truths like abortion
    (prostitution also comes to mind) because they are “wrong”. That never
    helps, because like you said, it forces people to stay in the shadow
    when they most desperately need help.
    Other people have put it much
    better than I could in previous comments, but I wanted to get out of the
    mass of anonymous readers and thank you for your work. I hope you keep
    writing, I sure will keep reading.

  • Little_Magpie

    Hi Melissa. First of all, great article. You may not post as prolifically as some bloggers, but they are always worth reading when you do. :)

    Just wanted to make a random comment… You talked about the flyers on partial-birth abortions, and handing them out at age 10-11ish. I sometimes wonder if I’m a bit strange because when I was young, my mother (she’s an MD) worked at at what we used to call a “VD Clinic” (although even back then, they were also dealing with other aspects of reproductive health – doing Paps, dispensing contraceptives, etc), back in the early 1980′s, which because of geography served our city’s gay “ghetto” – just as that community, and then the world at large, was waking up to the reality of AIDS*. Anyway, I think I was somewhat precociously aware of issues around sexuality because of my mom’s work. So I wonder if I’m a bit weird that way. But then I realize, on the subject of “that’s got to colour someone’s outlook on life when they grow up,” I probably have nothing on those kids (like you) who got made into foot soldiers for the pro-life movement, complete with seeing all those gory, graphic posters that they like to use.

    *It probably explains why I’m personally pretty non-promiscuous as an adult, compared to many of my friends; when AIDS hit the public awareness, in 1986, I was 7, and I think how I internalized it was “if you have sex you could DIE!!” – I mean, how sophisticated was I going to be at 7?… Whereas friends considerably older (say 6 or more years older than me) would have started developing sexual habits before AIDS, and those younger than me, or my age but without the precocity, came of age sexually when it was getting to be something that you could live with for a long time managed with medication – at least for the affluent in North America – and not an OMG-you’re-going-to-die-in-2-years sort of thing.. so they are more laid back about it.
    Just my theory anyway.

    Also, that link about the woman who refused plan B for her daughter… you know, I get that not everyone believes in Plan B (although it is NOT an abortifacient, darnit), and not everyone who is potentially impregnated by rape wants to end the pregnancy, what infuriates me is that the mother thinks she has any right to dictate that. It should have been up to the daughter, limited cognitive abilities and all. (I don’t see anywhere in that story how old the daughter was, but frankly, if she’s old enough for pregnancy to be an issue, she’s old enough to have a say about it.)

    Personally, I am pro-choice but not sure what I would do if it were me… I don’t want children but I’m also a big softie who doesn’t like causing harm. I couldn’t bring myself to get my cat euthanized when he was quite clearly dying, but not obviously suffering, because making that choice felt like killing him. Not trying to equate humans and cats – just illustrating that’s the kind of person I am.

    Sorry for the wall of text; hopeful some of this is interesting to you or the other readers! :)

  • Gehennah

    Well written, and I am glad that you did finally put it out.

    I honestly don’t like abortions, and I wish that they didn’t have to be done. But I do accept that in the real world, they are going to happen. So my goal would be to make them, legal, safe, and rare.

    I also understand that I have no right to tell another person that they should be forced to go through a full term pregnancy, that is a decision that directly affects their body, their health, and their life. It isn’t something that I have any right to decide for them.

  • Suburbint

    One important thing to remember is that abortion isn’t always a choice, per se. For many women, it truly feels like the only option. It’s not like ever pregnant woman has a 50/50 wheel in front of her, spins it, and if it lands on the side of abortion she blithely trots off to the doctor to have her pregnancy terminated.

    Pro-life rhetoric makes it sound like women who choose abortion make no effort to prevent pregnancy, and if they do fall pregnant, they gleefully end that pregnancy. None of the women I know who have terminated pregnancies with the same emotional abandon as, say, having a manicure. It is a choice, but it is generally a difficult one.

  • GeorgiaPeach23

    “What does it take to get recognition of the real issues? To get people to listen to the stories, and actually take steps to care for the people involved? In my mind, this is the only way to reduce abortions, but perhaps neither side is interested in doing that.”

    I would argue that the broader liberal pro-choice movement is quite concerned with the well-being of women and families. The ongoing legal battles over insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortion kind of stake out liberal vs conservative viewpoints on the intersection of wealth/poverty and family planning. Now that the author has left the pro-life movement behind her, she may wish to consider voting Democrat ;-)

    • Timothy Griffy

      I would agree that the broader liberal pro-choice movement is concerned with the well-being of women and families, though she should really be considering voting Socialist rather than for the fascist-lite Democratic Party.

      Be it as it may, Melissa may well have a valid point that neither side is really interested in doing that. Note this story taken form the comment section of the New York Magazine article “My Abortion” (

      “But as time went on I could not find support anywhere. Again the
      sentiment at the time was: Why would you want to have a baby? Of course
      have an abortion! No one ever seemed to really hear or care what my
      feelings were. I hoped for some support but my “feminist” friends turned
      out to be not so much Pro-Choice as just plain Pro-Abortion. Planned
      Parenthood just steered me towards abortion. Even my family was not
      supportive of my decision. But I stayed on course hoping to find a
      circle of support. But all I found were people pushing their own
      political agenda. At a Christian help center, they too did not listen to
      ME, they just pushed their ideas and make me one of their victories.” (Survivor2, 14 November 2013 comment)

      True, this is one anecdotal story. But it is an example of what Melissa seems to mean by the need to listen to the stories and take steps to care for the people involved.

      While I do think the anti-choice side is the guiltier party, it is easy for both sides to forget that there are real women involved in our discussions of fetal personhood, bodily autonomy, the right to life, self-defense analogies, and so forth. It is a personal weakness of mine that I tend to look at the forest as a whole without much consideration for the trees. Melissa is reminding me we still have to pay attention to the trees.

      • GeorgiaPeach23


        You know, that’s a really good point and an illustrative anecdote. Thanks for sharing. I recall reading the full article when it came out. It’s a tough practical situation — the economic realities make it so having a child you can’t afford really isn’t something I would advise. We don’t have transcripts, of course, of the conversations she had with her friends or counselors at PP. Was she asking for support? Or for advice? If she was my friend and she made it clear she was keeping it, I’d respect that. If she asked for my advice or seemed on the fence, I’d advise abortion. Was she asking her friends/family for moral support, or for childcare/monetary support? I could certainly understand if she heard a lot of people advocating abortion in her circumstance, or making it clear she’d be solely responsible, and felt distinctly unsupported in her choice. In a way, she would be.

        The reality is that babies are time consuming, expensive, etc. I will happily vote for subsidized childcare. I will not volunteer to watch someone else’s kid while they work. I personally think that’s a fine boundary to have. So I am wondering, now, what kind of support that person was seeking, and what kinds of “steps” Melissa is referring to. Color me cynical if I don’t think, “You go girl!” is really going to constitute the kind of support that would make having a baby any easier.

        I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts. This is clearly a difficult topic for me.

        • Timothy Griffy

          You have hit on the major problem of storytelling, particularly some thirty years after the fact: perception vs. reality. How much does subsequent events affect our perception of the original event (apparently Survivor2 had subsequent problems conceiving, possibly as a result of the abortion she finally had)? Absent transcripts, we can’t really know what her friends and PP actually said to her.

          The sense I get from her story is that neither side really grasped the most salient fact: Survivor2 wanted to have that baby. She may well have still had the abortion in the end; what matters is that she felt that nobody was listening to her. I would imagine most of her friends and family were talking to her about economics, social stigmas and whatnot, while the “Christian help center” talked about the right to life, the immorality of abortion, and whatnot. Perhaps what both sides had to say was important and relevant. I get the feeling Survivor2 would have been able to work it all out for herself if everyone else would have just shut up and listened. That was the support she really needed.

          So she went on to have the abortion, not because she felt it was the right choice but because of her feeling of isolation. And then spent the next five or six years trying to get pregnant again in order to “make thing[s] right again.” I don’t even want to think about what that might have meant, but the possibility of engaging in riskier and more dangerous behavior is not out of the question. Luckily she eventually turned to adoption to make things right in her view.

          Melissa will have to speak for herself about what steps she thinks need to be taken. I do agree with her that the obvious first step is to actually listen.

          • GeorgiaPeach23

            I suspect you are right, and I agree that listening should certainly happen. Unfortunately, communication is hard, and most people are not good at it. S2 did not communicate that she, potentially, just wanted somebody to talk to, while others did not effectively listen. Even by her own account, we aren’t sure what she wanted. I do not fault her friends and family for not being sure either.

            I don’t think we can assume she would have been able to “work it all out” had she had the child. We can infer from her own words that she was probably not in a position (financial, emotionally, relationship, who knows) to raise a child — presumably that’s why she made the choice she did. Would a silently listening friend have changed her mind? Hindsight is 20/20: her later experiences with infertility, though probably unrelated to her abortion, likely colored her perception of the abortion. If she had conceived without incident, she might have told a different story. It’s also worth noting that being able to adopt likely indicated a much improved fiscal situation that might have been a lot more difficult to achieve if she’d had a child earlier. This goes unmentioned in the retelling.

            I guess I agree with you but I don’t know that a kind friend would have changed the outcome in this particular story. It sucks that women feel coerced by economic circumstances. I don’t know if there’s any conversation a pregnant woman can have that will make a difference on that score.

          • Timothy Griffy

            Oh, no. What I meant was that if people had simply listened, she would have been able to work out what the best thing for her to do for herself, whether it meant abortion or carrying to term.

            I agree that by her own account we aren’t sure what she wanted; I actually get the impression she wasn’t sure at the time either. I can’t fault her friends and family for not knowing either, but we can (possibly) fault them for not getting her to clarify it for herself, if not anyone else.

            I don’t know if we can infer financial circumstances were part of the problem, but you are right she probably was not in a position to raise a child for whatever reasons. I’m not sure if a silently listening friend, asking the right questions about what she wanted/needed would have changed her mind. I think that if she still went through with the abortion, she would have had more confidence in that decision, however. At the very least, she would not have been so desperate to “make it right.”

  • argent

    I come across articles like this occasionally, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to me. “Pro-life”/”pro-choice” has become this sprawling monster, politically entangled with lots of other issues, when it should be such a simple thing: do you believe all human beings, regardless of their age or level of development, have human rights and deserve to be protected from violence? Or do you draw a line between the human beings who are “people” and those who aren’t?

    As a progressive atheist, I see all these well-meaning people who want to protect the rights of all from conservative anti-sex, anti-woman policies, who then end up anti-unborn in practice. I hear age-ist, able-ist rhetoric, arguing in all seriousness that some human beings aren’t “real human beings”, from people who I would have thought would never say such bigoted things.

    But I do understand why people end up thinking like that. I’m sorry for the mainstream “pro-life” movement. I’m sorry that upholding the human rights of the unborn has been so coupled with restricting access to nonviolent reproductive choices. By the way, that’s why country-by-country stats sometimes indicate that restricting abortion tends to lead to more of it, even though when you look at individual laws that’s clearly not the case.

    But there are people out there who aren’t anti-unborn who want to promote the rights of all. I recommend looking up the group All Our Lives, particularly their presentation “Family Planning Freedom Is Prolife”. And if you’re not comfortable supporting anti-abortion laws, you can still avoid perpetuating injustice against the unborn. Never refer to any human being as ‘it’. Destroy the roots of violence against born and unborn children by denouncing the insidious mentality that children are the property of their parents, without human rights of their own. Support sex education and access to nonviolent choices.

    I’m still a young adult, and I guess I’m one of those wide-eyed idealists who thinks injustice can be solved. Maybe injustice can’t be destroyed forever, but ways to reduce it are all around us. And we owe that to other human beings, to every single one.

    • Timothy Griffy

      To begin, I would give you the same advice I gave to G.R.: You would do much better for your case to work on cleaning up the “pro-life” house and making sure it truly is pro-life.

      Then I’d throw your own question back at you: Do you believe all human beings have human rights even when they are pregnant? If so, why are you so anxious to deny pregnant women the right to determine what happens in and to their bodies? Why are you so determined to violate her rights under Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18 and 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What gives the fetus special rights that allows it overrule the woman’s rights on a wholesale scale?

      One thing I do agree with you is that the pro-choice side needless arguments about fetal personhood. It is irrelevant anyway. The question is whether people have the right to control what happens in and to their bodies. If they do, then abortion is no more a violation of human rights than refusing to donate blood or an organ is.

      On a minor note, it is hard to refer to unborn humans as anything other than “it.” English simply doesn’t have a generally accepted common gender third person singular pronoun. It’s either he, she, or it, and “it” is the only generally accepted English usage whenever the gender is not known.

      • argent

        If by “clean up the pro-life house” you mean “go to LifeSiteNews and get shouted down because I’m not transphobic” then I guess I’m doing my part, idk. Or maybe “push pro-contraceptive views within the pro-life movement” or “help update sidewalk counselors’ pamphlets to make sure they’re not giving inaccurate information to abortion-minded women”, then sure.

        While I don’t believe that people generally have the right to decide what happens to another human being just because that other human being is partially or entirely inside/attached to their body, I actually feel like the bodily-rights question is a distraction. We can go back and forth about competing rights and the role of law until kingdom come, but we’re not going to come to accurate and unbiased conclusions.

        As I said on another article, any human rights advocate worth their salt will tell you that it’s impossible to make accurate assessments of what rights someone deserves if you can’t even respect them as a person. “But is the fetus really alive?” is still a mainstream pro-choice argument. Imagine if we were trying to discuss the constitutionality of affirmative-action laws while a large part of the anti-AA side was literally questioning whether people of all races were “real” people! It’d be unreasonable to expect that we’d come to just conclusions.

        In regard to your last paragraph, are you not aware that people exist who are neither men nor women? I have several friends with non-binary genders, so please do not give me that “there’s just no good pronoun” stuff. “They” used in the singular has been around for centuries. There are also modern gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze/zir”. For heaven’s sake, you could have decided to use “s/he” if you weren’t aware of any of this.

        Eliminating bigotry–against nonbinary people, against the unborn–is going to require some changes to the way people use language. Gender-neutral pronouns are only going to enter the language if people make the choice to use them. And having gender-neutral pronouns in common use also fights bigotry against women and trans* people, due to the fact that you no longer have to gender (and possibly misgender) someone in order to talk about them.

        The “abortion debate” is secondary to the goal of having both women and the unborn be treated justly, as full human beings. I really would prefer to debate competing rights only with people who demonstrate that this is actually their goal.

        • Timothy Griffy

          By “clean up the pro-life house,” I mean what you say and more. I mean advocating for just society where women need not worry about how they are going to raise a child. That means living wages; that means universal health care; that means a strong social safety net. You claim to be a progressive other than your stance on abortion. Act like it.

          I never see any pro-choice arguments asking whether the fetus is alive, except perhaps when the context indicates “alive” is being used as a synonym for “person.” It is certainly not a *mainstream* argument. *Mainstream* pro-choicers may argue about whether the fetus is a person, but no one is seriously arguing about whether they are alive.

          You may think the bodily-rights question is a distraction, but it really isn’t. We don’t force other people to use their bodies to keep other people alive. We don’t force anyone to donate blood, let alone risk their lives to give organs to people who need them. And we sure as h— don’t engage in a wholesale violation of a person’s rights for refusing to do so.

          This is precisely why fetal personhood is the real distraction. If the fetus is not a person, then it has no rights to be violated. If it is a person, then it is only due the same rights and claims as everyone else. And if I can refuse to have my body used to keep someone else alive, a pregnant woman can do the same. Yest strangely enough, I’ve only encountered one “pro-lifer” willing to force other people to have their bodies used to sustain someone else’s life even in theory.

          Now then, let us note what I actually said gender-neutral pronouns: “English simply doesn’t have a *generally accepted* common gender third person singular pronoun” (emphasis added). Yes, “they” in the singular use has been around for centuries. And yes, one could use “s/he.” The problem is that neither are generally accepted. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, discourages it.

          And “ze/zir” hasn’t caught on in general usage, even in the GLBTQ community. My sister and her wife never heard of it, and both of them are relatively active in that community (obviously). Meanwhile, a general audience would not have much an idea what you’re talking about if you use those terms. I’ve no objection to them, but I don’t use them precisely because I’m not certain enough about the proper usage. While I do agree with you that gender-neutral pronouns is a key to fighting bigotry, I would rather keep my language to what can be readily understood by the most readers.

          • argent

            So, you’re telling me to “act like a progressive” while putting the Chicago Manual of Style over the really basic needs of the LGBTQ community. Readers “won’t readily understand” the use of singular ‘they’? Really?

            You seem to have ignored the last paragraph of my previous post, so I’ll say it again: I’m not going to debate where the law should and shouldn’t intervene with someone who consistently demonstrates that they* would rather preserve the status quo than protect the vulnerable. Bye.

            *Alternately, “… consistently demonstrates that ze would rather preserve the status quo …”

          • Timothy Griffy

            Ah, spoiled brats. Gotta love them. … Well, no, we don’t have to love them, but I suppose they must be suffered.

            Just a suggestion, but if you want to be engaging in debate at all, you should brush up on your reading comprehension skills.

  • Apostate

    Excellent. This very well articulates where I’m at now.

    In typical fashion, right wing christians want everything to be a black and white issue. This is an easy one to spin as such. I didn’t really change opinions much on this until many years after leaving Christianity when I took the time to actually listen to stories and read facts.

  • LindaF

    One rather important correction – I followed that link about the “passed” fertilized eggs, and found that you mis-stated the information.

    The site said that approximately 50% of fertilized eggs either don’t implant, or don’t “take”. Your post implied that this was LIKELY 50 fertilized eggs in a woman’s lifetime, a considerably higher number. From their numbers, it MIGHT be 1 or 2 eggs that don’t implant in a lifetime.

    • Melissa_PermissionToLive

      If a sexually active woman would truly only have an egg fertilized 2 or 3 times in her entire life (which I find highly unlikely) than I guess you are correct. My number was purely a guess based off my own fertility rate.

  • G.R.

    Hi, again. I do apologize, but I can’t stay. Life came along and said, “Oh, you had plans for the rest of the year? HAHAHA….” If anyone would like to continue discussing this topic with me, I can be reached at I will answer as soon as I can.

    Melissa, again, I felt this was a very thought provoking post. Thank you for writing it and for allowing such diverse opinions in the comments.

    You all have a great day :)