I’m pro-life. I’m pro-choice. I’m pro-woman.

Can we do both?

I’m pro-choice.

Therefore, I am pro-life.

I’m pro-life.

Therefore, I am pro-choice.

I couldn’t be one without being the other and my support for each side strengthens the other.

Let me ‘splain….No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

I’ll start with this–even though the exact point at which human life begins cannot be pin-pointed by science, I still feel uncomfortable with the concept of abortion. I’d like to think that I, personally, would never get an abortion (though, the way I reacted to the pregnancy scare I had while I was dating my abusive ex-boyfriend is enough to remind me that life is not always that simple).

Basically, I believe even a fetus is a human who deserves the right to be born.

So, I’m pro-life.

And, if life were simple and if everything were black and white, I might be okay with voting for politicians who want to restrict abortions.


Life’s not simple and most of it is grey, and making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortion. It doesn’t save unborn babies. Making abortion illegal does, however, hurt women.

I can’t, in good conscious, leave those struggling single mothers, hurting rape victims, frightened teenagers, and other women with unplanned pregnancies to coat hangers and dangerous drugs. That’s not being pro-life. It’s just not.

So, I’m pro-choice.

And, if life were simple and if everything were black and white, I might be okay with fighting to legalize all abortion, and then calling it a day.

But, again, life doesn’t work like that. Legalizing abortion doesn’t necessarily protect choice.

Let’s just pretend for a moment that abortion restrictions have been lifted and abortions are affordable and accessible…

What if a woman who has been trying for months to escape an abusive relationship finds out she is pregnant?

What if a single mother, already struggling to make ends meet, barely able to afford to put her child in daycare, finds out she’s got another child on the way?

What if one of the one in four women who will be sexually assaulted in their lives finds herself pregnant due to the rape that she is already struggling to cope with?

Even assuming that these women are able to get abortions, that doesn’t sound like choice to me. In a world that is so hostile toward women, an unplanned pregnancy can put a woman in nearly impossible situation.

So, I’m pro-woman.

No matter your stance on the abortion issue, we all need to strive toward making the world a better place for women. I believe that, if both sides would put aside their picket signs and politics, and work together to free and empower women, I believe we’d see the abortion rates drop.

So let’s be pro-life.

Let’s be pro-choice.

And let’s be pro-woman!

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  • Hmm, good blog post. I’m in a similar place. On one hand, I HATE abortion. I would love to see the end of abortion one day. But on the other hand, I don’t feel comfortable with pro-life group tactics. Lost of truth-stretching and shock tactics. Plus, what if a woman is raped? Sure, she could give the baby to adoption, which I’ve heard some women do. But I can’t help but wonder what the woman must feel about her body, carrying something created out of such a terrible event.

    • So much happens that is “created out of such a terrible event!” I can’t believe you’d talk about a human being that way. It doesn’t matter how they are created – on accident or on purpose – a human life is created by God an in His image … I think that’s a pretty flippant thing to say about a person.

      Plus really – and I haven’t been a rape victim, but I’m just speculating – in the scheme of things, a whole life of 80 or 90 years, what is nine measly months to protect an innocent baby who is living inside you, depending on your for nourishment and safety … who is not at fault for a single traumatic event you experienced? Yes, s/he is a reminder, for nine little months, of what happened to you. But it’s not like you’re going to forget. And then you will have TWO traumatic events to haunt you – the rape, AND killing a child who, for some reason, was given life inside you.

      I know it’s hard for men to grasp since they can’t feel a pregnancy, but once you feel that baby, I mean really feel it growing, you pretty much realize in your heart that you have to protect that child, no matter what will happen once s/he is actually born.

      • I’m pretty sure the “terrible event” Travis mentioned was the rape itself, not the child. And, as someone who has been raped, twice, I can’t imagine having to carry that pregnancy to term. I would try, but it wouldn’t be easy at all, and I wouldn’t blame someone who couldn’t.

        • I was referring to calling the baby “something created out of a terrible event” and I quoted that in its entirety in my response. I understand rape being a horrible occurrence but I have also seen God use these events to create something beautiful, and what is more beautiful than a human life?

          My mother committed suicide, yet I have seen beautiful things born of this tragedy. I am simply saying that carrying an innocent human life in your womb for nine months is not the worst experience ever, nor is it a permanent thing. It’s a nine-month commitment to an innocent baby. It is a tough journey (many things that our lives hand to us are tough) and I agree with what you say that “it wouldn’t be easy.” I am not even “blam(ing) someone who couldn’t,” because I don’t blame anyone for their personal decisions, but I am firmly stating that it is not a good argument “for” killing an unborn child.

      • I know it’s hard for men to grasp since they can’t feel a pregnancy, but once you feel that baby, I mean really feel it growing, you pretty much realize in your heart that you have to protect that child, no matter what will happen once s/he is actually born.

        I don’t think you can generalize from your experience like that, imagining that all women share your same exact feelings. Because personally, once I “felt it growing,” my response was more along lines of “there’s something growing in me, ack, get it OUT!” I didn’t like feeling inhabited like that. I REALLY didn’t like being pregnant. And this was for a wanted and planned pregnancy with a beloved and supportive husband. So…I don’t even want to imagine what it could be like to be a pregnant rape victim. But again, just because this was my experience doesn’t mean it’s every woman’s experience. We can’t generalize like that. The best we can do is to trust women to make their own choices in their own circumstances.

  • I am giving you a standing ovation in my head.

    This. All of this. Exactly this.

  • Hmm. Very thought-provoking, interesting post. 🙂

    Honestly, I think science already shows when life begins – and I think it begins at conception. That is when the cells stop being just parts of the parents and become their own thing, however primitive.

    I really wish the world was arranged such that no woman ever felt she had to get an abortion. I wish there was physical, mental, emotional, and financial support for pregnant women so that even women who didn’t want to raise a child would go the route of adoption instead of abortion. I wish no woman would ever feel that she had to abort because she couldn’t afford a baby.

    In a way, I think abortion being legal has the potential to hurt women in hard circumstances who actually want their babies. Before, you didn’t have a choice. Now, since abortion is legal, staying pregnant becomes a choice…which means that it is even more the woman’s “fault” for having a baby. In other words, blaming the mother becomes more “legitimate”. 🙁

  • Nicely written, Sarah.

    I volunteered as a counselor at a pregnancy center for nearly three years. So many times, I talked to women in situations I’d never imagined — it’s not just economy, or selfishness, as some seem to believe. There’s sometimes fear of rejection or abuse (by the guy, or by the family of origin), and physical/mental health issues, and so very many other issues that come into play.

    It’s just never, ever simple. We have to do better than to give women simple platitudes and call them solutions.

  • This is nicely handled. I haven’t commented on it on my blog (which to some seems like a glaring omission) simply because the issue is so incredibly nuanced and becomes heated so quickly that I haven’t been willing to poke that bear yet.

    But I’m pro-choice for all the reasons you list here. And it took me YEARS to arrive at that position (growing up in the environment I did, it’s almost better to be gay than to be pro-choice), but I’m pretty solidly in the pro-choice camp. There’s harmful rhetoric on both sides (it doesn’t win pro-choicers any favors to refer to a fetus as parasite, though I understand the draw). And it doesn’t do pro-lifers any good to manipulate the facts to support their argument (pictures of ‘aborted’ fetuses that are actually full term stillborns? yeah, no).

    The thing that finally made me switch was finding out all the different narratives and reasons for why women get abortions, and I realized that a much more effective approach is to encourage education about sexuality, to encourage safe sex, and to promote access to birth control. And the only “side” that promotes that on a consistent basis are pro-choicers. In my mind, though my personal position is incredibly nuanced, politically, I have to say that we cannot outlaw abortions until we have solved the reasons that women get abortions. And we’re a LONG way from that.

    On a side note, this is one conversation in which is it particularly bothersome for men to voice their opinions (not that I have a problem with you speaking, Travis), but ultimately, this is an issue that concerns those who have uteruses and if you are not at risk for getting pregnant, you shouldn’t be giving me advice or rules on how I should handle one of my own. Men who understand and appreciate that get a big high five from me.

  • YES.

    This, more than anything else, has probably been my biggest turn-around. I was ADAMANTLY pro-life. I was the kid who would ENRAGE me now if they came in contact with my kids.

    But it was before I had kids. The first time I was pregnant I was just married a few months, I was working in a job that was unsafe and awful, I was far away from everyone I knew. I was in a good marriage, I had money, I had health insurance – everything was fine. And I was still terrified about actually being pregnant (I knew for probably 2 weeks before I took the test because I kept hoping that it would go away). If I, someone who was 100% pro-life to the point of not using chemical birth control because it might cause a fertilized egg not to implant, could have so many doubts, how could I possibly feel anger toward a woman in far less ideal circumstances?

    From there, seeing how “pro-life” has been co-opted to mean “pro-fetus,” while not giving a shit about women or babies AFTER their born (or soldiers, or poor people, or foreigners, etc.), I simply can’t use the phrase pro-life any more. I still hold to a pro-life ethic, and I think that life is the better choice almost always.

    I still think that one of the best conversations I’ve ever seen about this was between Jon Stewart & Mike Huckabee (I know!!!!). They handled it with more grace than I’ve ever seen in a discussion about abortion. It’s been probably 4 years since it aired, and it’s still my go-to example of how to talk about this rationally.

    Fantastic post. Really, really good stuff.

  • Pretty much sums up everything I would want to say on the topic. It’s not an easy one. I was a teen father, so I actually have faced that choice (and regardless of whose “choice” it supposedly is, it’s silly to pretend the father doesn’t often have significant influence). So a part of me has always felt that it was wrong. (My childhood was complex, but in my case at least the reasons didn’t really have much of anything to do with Christian belief.)

    And you’re right, legal and easily available abortion actually robs women of real choice. That’s the real irony. Everyone else is absolved of responsibility since the woman has an available option to take care of the “problem.” I like Frederica Mathewes-Green. I stumbled across her six or seven years ago (audio of an InterVarsity talk), and though she’s not particularly active any more, she was (and still is, for that matter) the only pro-life activist I’ve encountered who speaks in a way that makes sense to me. She talks about studying the reasons women have abortions and the one most they most often heard was that someone the woman loved and trusted told her it was the “right” or “necessary” thing to do. When asked what it would have taken for them to make a different choice, many of the women responded that if they had just had one person standing with them on whom they knew they could rely, that would have been enough. I remember as a teen all the people who thought abortion was the best course so we didn’t ruin our lives. The pressure was pretty rough even with two of us supporting each other. Was my life probably harder as a result than it would have been otherwise? Possibly. Who can tell what might have been? But was it ruined? Hardly.

    Frederica wrote this back in the 90s and I think it resonates.

    “There is tremendous sadness, loneliness in the cry, ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

    Rape and incest is another tough area, but the “obvious” answers are perhaps not as obvious as we think after all. The essay at the url below is a good one. I don’t necessarily agree with her conclusions, especially on rape victims, where I’m unconvinced there is anything one size fits all, but we usually treat it abstractly without listening to the actual stories. And one thing I particularly like about Frederica is that she tells the stories of real people.


    I’ve personally known quite a few people who have experienced abuse, including childhood sexual abuse by a family member. Some were horrifyingly violent as well. Others actually believed they “wanted” the sex (or at least enjoyed it). But one thing that is always true is that the victim is the powerless one. They don’t have the ability to choose anything, including abortion. Abortion is usually just more violence visited on the victim by the abuser as a way to hide the evidence. Unlike rape, that exception has never made much sense to me. I guess a lot of people don’t understand the real dynamics of abuse.

    But in the end, I don’t see any way to make it ‘illegal’ the way our justice system (based solely on punishment) works. Fr. Ernesto crystallized that discomfort I share in his post below.


    If abortion is made illegal, I have no problem imagining a DA in Texas somewhere, at some point, trying to prosecute a woman who had an “elective” abortion for murder. And that’s insane. So I’m not in favor of abortion. And it’s not just because “it’s a baby.” It’s because readily available abortion actually reduces and limits the real freedom of women in often difficult and painful situations while freeing everyone else from shared responsibility. But at the same time I still can’t envision any way that making it illegal will work in our country. And there I stick.

    Hannah, I will note that Sarah is right. Science can’t tell us at what point a fertilized ova becomes a human being. A lot of such ova never implant, nobody even knows it happens, and it shares no characteristics I can associate with a human being. Part of the problem is defining those characteristics. If there were a list we could all agree on, then science could possibly tell us when those qualities appear if they were measurable. The most we can say about the “moment of conception” is that the potential for a human being exists. With that said, most people would agree that by the time the woman knows she’s pregnant and during the period when most abortions occur, the fetus is recognizably human, though still very immature.

  • I know my first long comment is awaiting moderation because I included a couple of links, but I had a thought expanding on my comments on ‘incest’ cases. (I would actually call what most people mean by that term, child sexual abuse by a family member — the most common sort of such abuse. I think people use the label to distance themselves from the reality.

    Especially given the horrific rates of child abuse (sexual and otherwise) in our country, I think I would support a requirement that a minor seeking an abortion have a private session with a licensed counselor with training in how to detect the signs of abuse. Yes, it restricts the free access of minors who have not been abused, but we already restrict the rights of minors in a lot of ways to protect them. This would just be one more. It’s not a panacea, of course. Nothing is. But it might help detect more abuse cases. It would at least stop the abuser from easily getting rid of the evidence and avoiding exposure — which is the case now.

    Of course, we then have to deal with how to handle it if sexual abuse is indicated, which is a whole other can of worms. But if we’re going to do anything meaningful about child abuse, we have to be willing to get messy. Child abuse is ugly, messy, and rarely has nice neat resolutions.

  • I’m with you in the idea that outlawing abortions is not going to stop abortions. After all, abortion was happening long before Roe vs. Wade; it was just kept largely under wraps. And while I’m also sympathetic to a woman in a hard place, I noticed you left one thing out of your “pros.” Where’s the “pro-baby”? Where’s the baby’s right to live? Where’s the baby’s right to choose? It’s a really hard subject to draw a line on.

    Also, abortion hurts women. Perhaps even more than carrying a pregnancy to term. I’ve met a ton of people who’ve had abortions and I’ve yet to find one who isn’t suffering the sharp sting of regret. I’ve yet to meet one who doesn’t feel like she murdered her child. If you’re going to say that abortion is okay in certain cases for the sake of the mother, you also have to take that mother’s emotional welfare into consideration. Because she’s going to remember that abortion for the rest of her life and I doubt she’s going to be saying, “Am I ever glad I aborted that child!” A woman must ask herself which road is harder: nine months of carrying a child she didn’t ask for, or a lifetime of knowing her choice stopped a beating heart.

    I’m pro-woman.
    I’m pro-baby.
    I’m pro-making a difference in this fallen world.

    • “I believe even a fetus is a human who deserves the right to be born.” I did say this. Also, I feel like pro-life typically means pro-fetus. It isn’t usually referring to any other form of life, so by saying that I am pro-life, that’s what I meant.

    • Bethany

      Here’s my thing — if I take the mother’s emotional welfare into consideration, then I think it’s even more important that SHE — not the government or lawyers or a doctor — make a choice.

      I think it’s a noble example of grace and mercy to carry a child that was conceived in rape or dangerous circumstances, but it takes all the nobility out of that choice if it’s not a choice. I was touched by the story of Tim Tebow’s mother making a dangerous choice to carry the pregnancy to term that resulted in Tim’s birth. But her bravery is part of the story. It’s not brave when you have no other option, it just sucks.

      If a woman chooses abortion and regrets that choice, that’s sad, but we all make choices we regret that hurt others. We can supply women with the best resources we have, but for many situations, regret and emotional pain are unavoidable, and the woman is the best person to decide what outcome is the most tolerable to her. And you should consider whether the “ton of people” you’ve met are self-selecting to talk about it. It’s possible women who’ve aborted and don’t regret it don’t bring it up to you because they know your position.

  • Between you and Dianna, you’ve summed up my thoughts perfectly. Kudos and Amen. 🙂

  • Oh, and how could I resist a Princess Bride reference? 😉

  • Came her via Rachel Held Evan’s link.
    Excellent post.
    I’ve been struggling to put words to how I feel… and you just did.

    Thank you… I appreciate it!

  • You stated what I’ve been saying for years. I hate abortion and would love it if no woman ever had to or wanted to get one. But I know that not everyone in the US (world) agrees with me and that abortions will continue even if they were restricted again. They happened before they were legal, they would continue if they were illegal again.

    My great grandmother had an abortion. If I’m remembering the story right, her older daughter (my great aunt) did it for her. I can’t fathom the emotional trauma my great aunt endured and would not wish that on anyone … ever.

  • renee altson

    And yet, the pro-life conversation goes on. quality of life for women; and what about the death penalty? IMO, one cannot be “pro-life” and “pro-death-penalty” – with either factor being different.

    i speak as a woman who was impregnated by her father and chose to have an abortion.

    • Agreed that it’s strange hearing people call themselves pro-life while supporting the death penalty, and while dismissing the loss of innocent lives in the Middle East as “collateral damage.” Very sad.

  • kirstizoe

    You’ve just summed up exactly how I feel on this topic. Its great to know I’m not the only one out there who is torn between black and white ideas, and has seen beyond the rhetoric to what the issue is really about.

  • I have long wavered about whether I can call myself pro-life anymore, as the mainstream of the “pro-life” movement has been so successful in defining it as anti-feminist, anti-birth-control, abstinence-only, and all about legislation and electing Republicans.

    On the other hand, I can’t call myself pro-choice. I may feel ambivalent about what the law should be, but I’m not PRO unrestricted abortion. I don’t think it’s a good thing and I don’t buy into the pro-choice framing of abortion under any and all circumstances as a right. Needless to say, I also don’t buy into their framing of fetus-as-unperson.

    I feel that I can’t describe myself as either pro-life or pro-choice without communicating something that is not at all true about what I believe. I call myself pro-reproductive-peace; I believe that we need to put an end to all acts of violence, coercion, and dominance in our sexual and reproductive lives. I include abortion as an act of violence and dominance, but I also include things like denial of contraceptive options, sex education that lies or withholds important information, and discrimination against LGBTs as unjust dominance. I think it’s all linked.

    • Mira

      I really like that label, “pro-reproductive-peace.” And, perhaps, “pro-reproductive-support,” for not only the lack of dominance and violence, but the consistent extension of accurate information, available choices of all sorts, and help for expectant mothers during and after pregnancy…focusing just on abortion, on one particular moment of the much, much longer process of sexual education, activity, pregnancy, and parenthood, is clearly not helping solve the bigger issues you point to.

  • I just can’t get all that upset over killing a fetus. I is a complicated issue, I know. I think the reason is the whole pro-life thing is a tthree ring circus in most cases and I just stand in the middle going WTF.

    I just keep thinking. If life begins at conception, why are we not upset when 10-20% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage so just imagine how many end and the woman never even knew she was pregnant as most miscarriages, or spontanious abortions, occur in the first 20 days. So, you, or I could have been pregnant and not even known it. That is the confusion I have on the physical side and in the spiritual side I know that if that lump of cells had a soul it went to heaven with God. Also I beleave God is all powerful and if he really wants it to be born he will make it go to term regardless of any action we take. So I am just really confused why everyone makes such a big deal about it. It is a serious decision with far reaching reprocussion for the person making it yes but what does someone’s abortion have to do with me? It is not like it is hurting the fetus, even if we establish it is alive.

  • I’m a complete stranger who stumbled across your blog and I have to say this is an awesome post. What a lot of anti-abortion people don’t seem to realize is that no woman WANTS to have an abortion; she’d doing it because it’s the best in a series of bad options.

    Three years ago I was abducted, beaten, threatened with death and finally raped repeatedly by a stranger. I was not terribly worried about getting pregnant because he used a condom and I took the pills the people at the hospital gave me, but things happen, and I was so relieved to discover I had not conceived. Had I become pregnant I have no idea what I would have done, other than scream a lot and tear my hair out. I support a woman’s right to choose but no one wants to have to make that choice.

    I suppose I might have had the baby, but then what? I was in no position to parent a child. I had a boyfriend who would have supported me whatever I did, but I know people would have wondered when they saw us all together, because the rapist was of a difference race than me or my boyfriend, and inevitably they’d ask “Who is that baby’s father?” Or even if they didn’t ask, I’d know they were wondering it, and maybe that would have been worse.

    Adoption is problematic too. A lot of anti-abortion people make it seem like it’s the answer to everything, and after it’s done, birth mother and baby live happily ever after. But I have read studies of birth mothers and know they are deeply traumatized by adoption and never get over it. I read of one case where a woman had a baby, gave it up for adoption, married, had several other children, then one of those children died of an illness. She said the death of her child was actually less painful to her than the loss of her first baby through adoption. That spoke volumes to me.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on too long about this — I just wanted to let you know you spoke very well here.

    • Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts.

      And I agree about adoption. I can’t imagine carrying a child for that long and then giving it away to someone else. Maybe some people could do that, but I think it’d be extremely hard.

  • KellyMarie

    BUT what if allowing women that choice is suppressing to women. Let me explain, most women who “choose” abortion are in an emotionaly vulnerable state. They are ashamed, pressured by boyfriends/parents, anxious about external stresses and finances. Choosing abortion agrees with them. It says you should be ashamed. You should be pressured and anxious. I believe every woman is too good for abortion and its my feminist belief. A woman with an unplanned pregnancy should be told that no matter what choices she made yesterday, today is the day of empowerment. Even though she may have been a victim in the past, she doesnt have to be one today. I believe carrying a baby to full term is one of the most empowering things a woman can do. Its something a man can never do. It embodies one of our exclusive womanly traits. Abortions rob millions of women from the opportunity to nurish and protect another human life. No one is ever “proud” of their abortion. No one ever thinks of it as a fond memory and can strengthen their self-worth knowing they accomplished something beautiful. In addition, that baby deserves the same rights as every human being; life liberty and the persuit of happiness. Women need to be told that its an honor and something to be highly respected; no matter how the conception came about. There should never be shame or pressure. As for adoption, yes it can be very difficult for birth mother, but a birth mother always has the accomplishment of nurishing the most vital part of that human beings life. A birth mother can take pride that she provided opportunity to that life by giving the life to a couple who could continue to nurish and support to life until adultood. The birth mother can be the reason for so much joy in the life of a couple who cant conceive, or a gay couple, or a single women who has waited years and is beyond ready to become a mother. When women used coat hangers to perform there own abortions, having a baby out of wedlock was a severe scarlett letter. They could face being disowned by their own familys and communities. Thank goodness times have begun to change even in christian cultures BUT there is so much more to be done and abortion is not the answer. Abortion is masking the problem. Unplanned pregnancy needs to be excepted by our culture with grace, love, and respect. Women need to know they will be honored for what they do. Calling it a “choice” is saying we dont care either way. We think maybe you should be ashamed and pressured so were going to leave that as an option. Lets not forget to mention that its hard to be “pro-woman” if your supporting drs literally terminating the heart-beat of the weakest and voiceless women and men among us; the babies in the womb. Sometimes the voiceless are the ones that are truly oppressed and truly in need of equality.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEQR1-1OXK4

    • Amanda

      Hmmmmm. I truly love what you (kellymarie) wrote. It is so full of life and optimism. I think you are so right about how large a role unnecessary shame and fear and rejection play in the decision making processes prompted by unplanned pregnancies. I think it’s a perspective that could move our culture in a really good direction. The first thing I thought after reading your post was that a woman considering an abortion could really benefit from reading it… slowly. Slowly, because she would, like the rest of us, live in our current culture, and although women should feel rightfully empowered in the ways you described, and while individuals and this theoretical woman could just possibly be able to feel and then act in the ways you said they should, reality and all its present misgivings exist nonetheless. Not every woman is capable of feeling too good for an abortion. I am pro-choice. That doesn’t mean that I think that abortions are not serious and traumatic and life-altering. But I think that people forget there are many ways for lives to be lost, and physically dying is just one of them. There are two lives involved when abortions are being considered, and while each is very different, each is valuable. How much pain does a person have to be in to decide to push a dirty coat hanger into her body because she feels it’s her only option? We need to respect each woman’s own right to know what will kill her, what she can bare (pun intended!). I think it’s such an incredibly personal situation, and other people, and the government for goodness’ sake, shouldn’t have the power to decide the outcome. All we should do is offer support and encouragement (like in your post) and hope that it helps until things start getting better.

  • Ooooh… Such a sensitive topic. I fall on the side of life. Abortion hurts women. Makes me sad when smart people believe the lie we’ve been sold by old school feminists. Feminism to me is pro woman and utterly unapologetically anti abortion.