Abortion as a Blessing, Grace, or Gift—Changing the Conversation about Reproductive Rights and Moral Values

How can we reclaim the moral high ground in the debate about abortion as a part of thoughtful, wise loving and living?
Abortion - paths diverging in woods

Most Americans think of childbearing as a deeply personal or even sacred decision. So do most reproductive rights advocates. That is why we don’t think anybody’s boss or any institution should have a say in it. But for almost three decades, those of us who hold this view have failed to create a resonant conversation about why, sometimes, it is morally or spiritually imperative that a woman can stop a pregnancy that is underway.

Abortion - Toes heldMy friend Patricia offers a single reason for her passionate defense of reproductive care that includes abortion: Every baby should have its toes kissed. If life is precious and helping our children to flourish is one of the most precious obligations we take on in life, then being able to stop an ill-conceived gestation is a sacred gift. Whether or not we are religious, deciding whether to keep or terminate a pregnancy is a process steeped in spiritual values: responsibility, stewardship, love, honesty, compassion, freedom, balance, discernment. But how often do we hear words like these coming from pro-choice advocates?

The High Human Cost of Ceding Moral and Spiritual Language

Our inability to talk in morally resonant terms about abortion has clouded the broader conversation about mindful childbearing. The cost in recent decades has been devastating. In developing countries millions of real women and children have died because abortion-obsessed American Christians banned family planning conversations as a part of HIV prevention efforts. Those lost lives reveal the callous immorality of the anti-choice movement.

Back home, here in the U.S., our inability to claim the moral high ground about abortion has brought us one of the most regressive culture shifts of a generation. We are, incredibly, faced with “personhood rights” for fertilized eggs, pregnancies that begin legally before we even have sex, politicians with “Rape Tourette’s,” and a stunningly antagonistic debate about contraceptive technologies that could make as many as ninety percent of unintended pregnancies along with consequent suffering and abortions simply obsolete.

Focus on “Privacy” Obsolete and Weak

The voices that are strongest on reproductive rights often falter when it comes to cultural dialogue. At least in part, this is because so many of the pro-choice movement’s leaders and funders are secular and civic in their orientation, awkwardly uncomfortable with the moral and spiritual dimension of the conversation, or, for that matter, even with words like moral and spiritual. From language that seems moderately wise–Who decides?–we fall back on “safe, legal and rare” (a questionable effort to please everyone) or even the legal jargon of the “right to privacy.”

The other side rants about murder and then melds images of ultrasounds and Gerber babies with faded photos of late term abortions. And we respond by talking about privacy. Is that like the right to commit murder in the privacy of your own home or doctor’s office? Even apart from the dubious moral equivalence, let’s be real: In the age of Facebook and Twitter, is there a female under twenty-five who thinks of privacy as a core value?

The right to privacy may have worked in court in the 1970’s. But it always was a proxy for much deeper values at play. Privacy simply carves out space for individual men and women to wrestle with those values. In the court of public opinion, it is the underlying values that carry the conversation.

Far too often those who care most about the lives of women and children and the fabric of life on this planet limit themselves to legal and policy fights. Fifty years ago, reproductive rights activists took the abortion fight to the courts and won, and they have kept that focus ever since. But the legal fight has drawn energy away from the broader conversation. And the emphasis on “privacy” has meant that even the most powerful stories that best illustrate our sacred values are too often kept quiet.

Judeo-Christian Values and Leaders Helped Drive Reproductive Rights

Legal codes are never independent of cultural sensibilities. Abortion rights were secured legally because of a culture shift that was aided by anguished stories and statements by compassion-driven Christian theologians during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The brutal deaths of American women every year, at a peak of thousands in the 1930’s, was, beyond question or doubt, a profound immorality that many Americans were desperate to stop. Protestant leaders across the theological spectrum took a moral stand in support of legal abortion. In contrast to the Vatican, they had long agreed that thoughtful decision-making about whether to bring a child into the world serves compassion and wellbeing—the very heart of humanity’s shared moral core. By the 1970’s, many denominations recognized that abortion access is one of the tools that helps prospective parents to time or limit childbearing so that their families can flourish.

At this point it should be clear that the tide has turned. Opponents, having lost in court, instead took their fight to conservative churches, where they have been refining their appeals for forty years. The last few years have seen a systematic erosion of legal rights driven by a culture shift that had been building long before. It has also seen a complete reversal of the once-stalwart moral support for reproductive rights among American Protestants, which in the 1950s was seen as a moral good by almost every denomination from the most liberal to the most conservative. Unless this shift is challenged and stopped, there is every reason to fear that abortion will once again become inaccessible for most women in the U.S.

Can pro-choice advocates reclaim the moral and spiritual high ground? Yes. But to do so will require a challenge to the status quo. Rather than ignoring the right’s moral claims, we must confront their arguments. We must also express our pro-choice position in clear, resonant moral and spiritual terms. In other words, in combination, we must show why ours is the more moral, more spiritual position.

Anti-Choice Position is Factually and Morally Weak and Vulnerable to Challenge

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Most “pro-life” positions aren’t really pro-life; they are no-choice. They are designed to protect traditional gender roles and patriarchal institutions and, specifically, institutional religion. The Catholic Bishops and Southern Baptist Convention—both leaders in the charge against reproductive rights— represent traditions in which male “headship” and control of female fertility have long been tools of competition for money and power. They use moral language to advance goals that have little to do with the wellbeing of women or children or the sacred web of life that sustains us all.

The arguments they make to attain these ends are powerful emotionally but not rationally. They appeal to antiquated and brittle conceptions of God. They appeal to the crumbling illusion of biblical and ecclesiastical perfection—the crumbling authority of authority itself. They corrupt the civil rights tradition and turn religious freedom on its head. They play games with our protective instinct and cheapen what it means to be a person. They lie.

That adds up to a lot of vulnerability in what should be the stronghold of the priesthood: their claim to speak for what is good and right.

A Lesson From Karl Rove

Republican Strategist Karl Rove will go down in history for his strategy of attacking enemies on their perceived strength — for example, by attacking John Kerry on his war record. In the recent election, we saw this strategy in play on both sides. Obama proved to be less vulnerable than his opponents hoped on his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. But by the time the election was over, Romney’s strongest credential, his background in business, was seen by many as parasitic “vulture capitalism.” If we want Americans to understand and distance from the moral emptiness of the “pro-life” movement, we will have to challenge the patriarchs in on their home turf, in their position as moral guides.

Moving Forward

Here, for openers, are a few ways we might change the conversation.

1. Talk about the whole moral continuum. A moral continuum ranges from actions that are forbidden, to those that are allowed, to those that are obligatory. When it comes to abortion, we talk only about one half of this continuum—Is it forbidden or is it allowed?—when, in actuality, a women faced with an ill-conceived pregnancy often experiences herself at the other end of the continuum, wrestling with a set of competing duties or obligations. What is my responsibility to my other children? To society? To my partner? To myself? (To cite a personal example, my husband and I chose an abortion under circumstances where it would have felt like a violation of our core values to do otherwise.) The current conversation doesn’t reflect the real quandaries women face, one in which moral imperatives can and do compete with other moral imperatives. Nor does it reflect the wide range of spiritual values and god concepts that enter into the decision making process.

  • No-choice advocates say: Abortion is immoral. God hates abortion.
  • We can say: For me, bringing a child into the world under bad circumstances is immoral. It violates my moral and spiritual values. / Whose god decides?

2. Challenge the personhood/fetus-as-baby concept both philosophically and visually. The history of humanity’s evolving ethical consciousness has focused on the question of who counts as a person, and if the arc bends toward justice it is because it is an arc of inclusion. Non-land-owning men, slaves, women, poor workers, children—our ancestors have fought and won personhood rights for each of these, and abortion foes are smart to invoke this tradition. But their ploy involves a sleight of hand. The civil rights tradition is built on what a “person” can think and feel. By contrast, the anti-choice move is about DNA, and it seeks to trigger visual instincts that make us feel protective toward anything that looks remotely like a baby, even a stuffed animal. In reality, the tissue removed during most abortions is a minute gestational sac the size of a dime or quarter, which is surprising to people who have been exposed to anti-abortion propaganda. It strikes almost no-one as being the substance of “personhood.”

  • They say: Abortion is murder. Abortion kills little babies.
  • We can say: A person can think and feel. My cat can feel hungry or hurt or curious or content; an embryo cannot. / Over 60 percent of abortions occur before 9 weeks of gestation. Want to see what they actually look like?

3. Admit that the qualities of personhood begin to emerge during gestation. Pregnancy is no longer the black box it was at the time of Roe v. Wade. Ultrasound and photography have made fetal development visible, and research is beginning to offer a glimpse into the developing nervous system, with the potential to answer an important question: What, if anything, is a fetus capable of experiencing at different stages of development? Although this isn’t the only question in the ethics of abortion, it undeniably relevant. How we treat other living beings has long been guided by our knowledge of what they can experience and want. By implication, ethics change over the course of pregnancy. A fertilized egg may not be a person except by religious definitions, but by broad human agreement a healthy newborn is, and in between is a continuum of becoming. Most Americans understand this argument morally and emotionally. The Roe trimester framework also codified it legally. Ethical credibility requires that we acknowledge and address the ethical complexities at stake.

  • They say: A fetus is a baby. A baby is a living soul from the moment of conception.
  • We can say: Most fertilized eggs never become babies. A fetus is becoming a baby, grows into a baby, is a potential person, or is becoming a person.

4. Pin blame for high abortion rates where it belongs – on those who oppose contraception—and call out the immorality of their position because it causes expense and suffering. Unintended pregnancy is the main cause of abortion. Right now half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. For unmarried women under 30, that’s almost 70%. A third of those pregnancies end in abortion. The reality is that abortion is an expensive invasive medical procedure. For the price of one abortion, we can provide a woman with the best contraceptive protection available, something that will be over 99% effective for up to twelve years. If every woman had information and access to state-of-the-art long acting contraceptives, half of abortions could go away before Barack Obama gets out of office.

  • They say: Liberals are to blame for abortion. Planned Parenthood is an abortion mill.
  • We can say: Denying information and access to family planning causes abortion and unwanted babies. That’s what’s immoral. Religious and cultural conservatives force women to choose between abortion and unwise childbearing. Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood have done more to prevent abortions in America than all of the choice opponents combined. The no-choice position is anti-life. It kills women. It puts  blind faith over life.

5. Acknowledge and address the powerful mixed feelings surrounding abortion. The most common emotional reaction to abortion is relief. That said, women react physically and emotionally in a variety of ways to terminating a pregnancy. Sometimes, even those who are clear that they have made the best decision feel a surprising intensity of loss. Women should be given the support they need to process whatever their experience may be. We also need to understand that some abortion opponents actively induce guilt and trauma in women who have had abortions.

  • They Say: Abortion is psychologically scarring. Women end up haunted by guilt and permanently traumatized after having an abortion.
  • We can say: No one should do something that violates her own values. Violating your values is wounding; that is why each woman should be supported in following her own moral, spiritual and life values when making decisions about pregnancy.

6. OWN religious freedom. Religious freedom is for individuals, not institutions. If the women and men who work for religious institutions all perceived the will of God in the same way, their employers wouldn’t be trying to control them by controlling their benefits package. Religious institutions have always tried to override the spiritual freedom of individuals, and they use the arm of the law as a lever whenever they can, and that is what they are doing now.

  • They say: Employers shouldn’t be forced to provide contraceptive or abortion coverage.
  • We Can Say: The freedom to choose how your employees spend their hard earned benefits and the freedom to choose whether to have a child are two very different things. No institution—and nobody’s boss–should have a say in one of the most personal and sacred decisions we can make: whether to have child. That is why all women, regardless of who they work for, should have access to the full range of contraceptives and reproductive care.

7. Talk about children and parenting, not just women. Responsible and loving parents do what they can to give their kids a good life. We take our kids to doctors, get them the best schooling we can afford, love them up, and pour years of our lives into helping them acquire the skills that will let them be happy, kind, generous, hard-working adults. But parenting starts before we even try to get pregnant. We consider our own education and finances and whether we have the kind of partnership or social support that would help a child to thrive. We may quit smoking or drinking to be as healthy as possible during pregnancy. More often than not, the decision to stop a given pregnancy is a part of this much bigger process of mindful, responsible parenting.

  • They say: Abortion is selfish. Women just want to have sex without consequences.
  • We can say: Parenting starts before conception. Good parents stack the odds in favor of their kids being healthy and happy. A loving mother makes hard decisions to bring her kids the best life possible. A responsible woman takes care of herself. A caring father wants the best life possible for his children. Wise people know their limits.

8. Embrace abortion as a sacred gift or blessing. For years we have talked as if abortion were a lesser evil, rather than a remarkable gift. In reality, no medical procedure is pleasant and yet the option to have the treatments and surgeries we need is an unmitigated good. The term “safe, legal and rare” confuses things because it implies that what should be rare is the treatment rather than the problem, unintended pregnancy. An abortion should be exactly as safe, legal and rare as a surgery to remove swollen tonsils or an infected appendix. If we think about abortion like we think about other medical services, then the attitude is one not of shame or ambivalence but of gratitude.

  • They say: Abortion is bad. An abortion is regrettable.
  • We can say: An ill-conceived pregnancy is bad. An unintended pregnancy is regrettable. An unwanted child is a tragedy.  An abortion when needed is a blessing. It is a gift, a grace, a mercy, a new lease on life. Being able to choose when and whether to bring a child into the world enables us and our children to flourish.

9. Honor doctors who provide abortion services as we honor other healers. The human body fends off most infections and cancers, but not all. It spontaneously heals most broken bones and closes many wounds but not all. Similarly, it spontaneously aborts most problem pregnancies, but not all. Nature tends to abort pregnancies where there are problems with cell division or fetal development, where there is little chance for a fetus to become a healthy, thriving person. Through medical or surgical abortion, as through every other medical procedure, doctors and healers extend the work of nature—of God, if you will—to promote health and wellbeing. By ending pregnancies that don’t have a good chance to turn into thriving children and adults, they are—literally or metaphorically–doing God’s work.

  • They say: Abortionists are murderers.
  • We can say: God (or Nature) aborts most fertilized eggs. Abortion doctors are compassionate healers who devote their lives to helping women and men ensure that they have strong, well-planned, wanted families. Their work is as sacred as any in the field of medicine.

10. Honor women who decide to terminate pregnancies just as we honor motherhood. Sometimes the decision to end a problem pregnancy is clear and simple. Other times not. Either way, a woman often has to fight off a sense of shame and blame that she has internalized from religious and social conservatives — too often, including other women. She may feel bad even when her own values are clear and the decision has been thoughtful. How often do we affirm and honor the wisdom of women who make difficult childbearing choices (abortion, adoption, waiting) so as to best manage their lives and their parenting?

Most women chose an abortion so that they can later choose a well-timed pregnancy; or so they can take good care of the kids they have, ensuring those kids have the best possible chance in life. Sometimes a woman ends a pregnancy because she is choosing to put her life energy elsewhere. Even then, she is accepting that to embrace life fully she must choose among the kinds of good available to her and take responsibility for avoiding harm. She may or may not put it in these terms, but those are moral and spiritual questions, the kind that religion has long sought to guide. That is why many religious traditions support a woman or couple in weighing their own deepest values when it comes to reproductive decisions.

As individual stories show, the decision to end a pregnancy may be based in humility, responsibility, nurturing, prudence, forethought, vision, aspiration, stewardship, love, courage. . . . or some combination of these qualities. Mere tolerance fails to affirm the many strengths that go into reproductive decisions including the decision to end a pregnancy. These are virtues worthy of honor.

  • They say: An abortion is shameful. An abortion should be kept secret. An abortion needs to be forgiven by God.
  • We can say: Choosing abortion can be wise and brave. It can be loving and generous. It can be responsible and self-sacrificing. Telling our abortion stories and honoring each other promotes healing, growth, and healthy families.

Abortion - Toe KissingIn the end the real morality of our position lies in the birthright of children to be truly loved and wanted and in the right of parents to bring babies into this world when they’re fully ready to welcome them with open arms. As my friend Patricia said, every baby should have its toes kissed. Her simple message speaks volumes. Parents who get to plan and choose are more likely to eagerly await that toe kissing. Abortion - exhuberant parentingThey are more likely to have the emotional energy that makes those little toes irresistible even after sleepless nights and days of work. They are more likely to have a supporting community that can kiss toes when they are busy. They are more likely to have what it takes when a baby turns into a kid, and toe kissing turns into play dates and homework and I-think-we-need-to-talk. And they are more likely to still be kissing when they have to stand on their own toes to plant a peck on the cheek of a kid who’s on the way out the door with the car keys.

Toe kissing is a small, spontaneous celebration of love and life, the same values that are at the heart of our spiritual traditions. They are the values that no-choice, anti-abortion leaders claim to represent, but represent so poorly. We would do well to say so.


Thank you to Brian Arbogast and Sara Robinson for their input on early drafts of this article.

More by this author:
The Difference Between a Dying Fetus and a Dying Woman
When God Was Pro-Choice and Why He Changed His Mind
Dramatic Drop in Teen Pregnancy Really a Technology Tipping Point
My Abortion was Different:  Why Women Shame and Blame Each Other
What the Right Gets Right About Abortion and the Left Doesn’t Get
The Big Lie About Plan B — What You Really Should Be Telling Your Friends
Righteous Abortion:  How Conservative Christianity Promotes What it Claims to Hate
Picture a Techology Revolution.  In Contraception.  It’s Here!
What is a Person?
My Abortion Baby

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com

About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
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47 Responses to Abortion as a Blessing, Grace, or Gift—Changing the Conversation about Reproductive Rights and Moral Values

  1. valerie levey (co-facilitator Recovering from Religion) says:

    You have such a readable and also gentle style of writing. Thanks for this article. It’s considered, informing, thought provoking and measured. We don’t have the same public dialogue about abortion in Britain as in the U.S.A. On a personal level, though, your suggestions are viewpoints for me to further think on. Having been coerced into feeling abortion is wrong by church oppression (I believed abortion was an individual womans choice prior to being involved in the christian born-again religion) this article is a liberating, sensative argument to help me in forming my own opinions, now I’ve broken free of religion. Thank you for your refreshing opinions.


  2. windotoucher says:

    Thank you for the thoroughness and intelligence of this argument for the morality of choosing abortion and supporting those choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jsegor23 says:

    This is the best article on the morality of abortion that I have read. I have shared it on Facebook and sent it to others by e-mail. It should be read by everyone who has an opinion on abortion without regard to their position.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ferdi Businger says:

    One of the problems we have in countering the ideology of the right is their penchant for reducing complex issues into simple catchy slogans, and their willingness to stay on message in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, like pit bulls guarding a bone. That being said, there are so many effective ways to counter the bigotry, the hypocrisy, and the demagoguery of conservative Christians, I’m sometimes dumbfounded by the inability of the left to mount an effective response.

    I think your approach, Valerie, to the abortion issue is exactly what is needed.


  5. Anissa says:

    perfect, thank you!


  6. irascibleexaminator says:

    I’m not sure which is the greatest tragedy all electrons that have been forcebly displaced or #$#&*! Old age and my computer (wrong button) just swallowed my Pulitzer, perhaps Nobel prize winning response …. well that’s my story anyway ;-) Like the politician said if you’re gonna tell a exaggeration it might as well be a beauty!
    Anyway, it went something like this:-
    You article was an interesting read in which you touched on many truths (as I see them).
    Sadly I am one of those people you mentioned who is disquieted by conversations that in essence run along the lines of my fluffy (lacking unique specifics) definition of ‘spiritualism’ is better than yours.
    I have no doubt that the religious right and their emotional travelling companions would claim exactly the same definition as you. Where objective justification failed they’d simply use the even fluffier coverall, self referential religious dogma.
    Unlike Ferdi I don’t think it is that they are ‘on message’ rather they are unable to emotionally cope with the infinite contextual complexities that is life… which makes it functionally unpredictable, full of Unknowns. They are unable to accept that in the final analysis we aren’t special beyond our self perception. Not the peak of some (non existent) greater plan. Simply the product of our genetic and epigenetic evolution and that our emotions are the expression of our residual instincts. Amongst the most important of there instincts is SELF preservation and that of the species. Consequently evolution has given us and other animals the fight or flight instinct (fear and response). Clearly we are most comfortable with that we are most accustomed too. and fearful of the unknown (e.g. How would you *feel* if a alien space ship landed end its occupants were smelly (to us) large slime dripping amphibians whose greeting was a big hug?)
    Since time immemorial our species have sought to explain and thereby grant us some control over our circumstance, albeit to placate/entreat favour from gods, spirits etc.
    Anthropology, ethnology and culture are largely outward manifestations of the above over time.
    Part of culture are the ritualised codified practices and standards we call mores and morals.
    Hang in there it all makes sense in a minute.
    Let’s consider the example of two very remote civilizations whose forebears are from the same Polynesian stock and compare how they developed.
    The Moriori of the Chatham Islands and the Rapanui from Easter Island.
    The Rapanui ,true to their Polynesian origins remained aggressive and exploitive …eventually they overexploited their island to the point whereby their civilization collapsed into internecine tribal /religious warfare.
    Just prior to British colonisation of New Zealand the Maori (also Polynesian ) culture due to their profligate destruction of NZ mega fauna ( flightless birds) and were suffering a long drought. Their culture had also degenerated into the internecine clan warfare and cannibalism .
    Conversely the smaller civilization of the Moriori lived in a peaceful thriving culture in comparative harmony with their islands for over 500 years. This culture of peace was their ultimate downfall once the whites told the New Zealand Maori where they were. The Maoris set sail and conquered the Moriori killing most eating many and enslaving some.
    We’re here …..Why the difference i.e war like V peaceful ? Well the Moriori practised Infanticide as a means of population control!
    The big question is who is to say who is right ? do we have an aggressive society like the USA right wing extremist religious who are happy to have an underclass (just so long as it’s not them) who justifies killing on a horrific scale through firearm chaos, violent self defence , executions, wars of hegemony apart from spreading weapons like Japanese cherry blossoms in late spring . You tell me which fluffy version of ‘spirituality’ is the correct one. Or why should we sink to their emotional belligerences.
    Frankly I think we as humans should consider the implications of epigenetics and consider controlling our evolution instead of letting it control us.
    PS I claim no expertise my motto is ‘the more I know, the more I know I don’t know !
    well it was something like that but the first draft was brilliant ;-)


    • My own definition of spirituality is simply that issues of meaning and morality and our capacity to transcend both the moment and the demands of the individual self are a rich part of what it means to be human. No supernaturalism, no interest in faith–meaning believing things on insufficient evidence, no interest in soft-headed woo. Hey, did you by any chance post recently on FB about Epigenetic Revolution, and if so, can you remind me of the evolution book you recommended.


      • irascibleexaminator says:

        Before I sign off I would comment that it is one thing to disagree with a POV (refer my deleted missive without comment) but it is another to apparently dismiss a larger if less emotionally centric perspective. Believe it or not the events I mentioned actually happened. I learned from the experience and subsequent events. I was clearly left with the notion that replacing one emotional self indulgent escapist rationalisation is counter to acceptance. Consider the treatment for PTSD.
        I genuinely believe that the root of many problems facing the Western Cultures are that they are are based on (mis)assumptions of righteousness and therefore the right to impose that on others. This sets up , furthers an underling combative undercurrent for supremacy. This is further based on the nonsense that life is emotional and therefore all solutions are likewise… I’m not advocating ignoring emotions rather that we keep them in perspective.
        That perspective acknowledges emotions are subjective and unique in their origin and intensity etc to the INDIVIDUAL and cultural norms based on a group basis are in fact one size fits no body. It set up for both emotional manipulation and abuse (see advertising, disequity between the very rich and the poor and virtual disenfranchisement of the less or non powerful.
        Neither am I suggesting asocial chaos as is the one sided US Libertarian philosophy.
        What I am suggesting is that emotional fixes are simply replacing one bias with another..
        I am in no way trivialising the violence of rape nor the lack of Equity (as opposed to Equality) between the sexes. Equality i.e. all the same is absurd.
        Feminism while originally appropriate to draw attention to the general malaise it has now become institutionalised and dare I say it partisan more focused on Women’s emotions than the entire Humanity …rape is one such example males being raped are treated if at all as violence which they are. Because they’re male they are not public emotional triggers. It is equally a nonsense to suggest that a male doesn’t suffer equally as a consequence. Beyond the violence much of the emotional trauma is culturally learned. There are several cultures that view the two as abhorrent violence and the individuals recover better because there is no word for ‘rape’ it is minus the ‘cultural learned emotional baggage’. the perpetrators are treated as violent criminals and suffer accordingly.
        We as a culture have been manipulated into a culture where violence is accepted and encouraged (as entertainment! not the spate of reality [emotional violence] and ‘revenge’ even one where a psychopath is the hero(?)..
        I indicated that abortion and infanticide are simply procedures and their efficacy is dependent on the circumstances NOT some predetermined ritualised more.
        I agree with you that it shouldn’t be a means of contraception but in the in the reality of the real world where attitudes towards birth has become a matter of parenting origin rather than raising the child. Do I love my adopted child or that of my partner from a previous relationship any less because I ‘m not the sperm donor ? Absurd concept. The truth is anyone who views the means of conception as paramount is missing the Flipping point. Sex/ coitus is not the same thing if it were then one nooky + one baby. Sex and Birth aren’t emotional they are physical events…sharing love (making [?]) , bonding is ‘spiritual’ aka intensely emotional. The reality is that Birth control is a Human right … The need for abortion as birth control is a procedure one that SHOULDN’T BE but IS a necessary one . As a means of eliminating ‘natures’ hiccups it is also necessary not every one is able to cope with disabled children.
        These are physical issues not to be decided by emotional stimulus or jockeying over ‘subjective morals’ emotional ‘fixes’.
        Frankly I yet to see a physical issue fixed by an emotional fix.
        late 60’searly 70’s love gen ultimately changed deck chairs on the Titanic but left the fatally flawed ship and the arrogance of the owners and those running it still in tact.
        In the absence Of direct contact
        I wish you and your readers Every contentment you would wish for yourselves.
        examinator ant


  7. Lowell Bushey says:

    I did a presentation on abortion for my Humanist group a couple of months ago, and was appalled by the amount of the anti-abortion movement’s propaganda that even Humanists had internalized! I agree that we need to take back the moral high ground; thanks for taking a giant step in that direction!


  8. Oblio says:

    Brilliant analysis of the naturaly flawed human condition when it comes to the issue of abortion, reproductive rights and societal shifts in perception. This should be required reading for any ‘pro-life’ stalwart whose blindered viewpoints are a shield to the reasoning you have put forth in this essay. Thank you!!!!


  9. JeninCanada says:

    Thank you so much for this. As a Pagan, when I had my abortion back in 2008 (I’m Wiccan now), so much of the religious based controversy around abortion didn’t touch me. It was a real blessing to know that for me, my sacred duty was, as always, to guard the Gates between the world. It’s my job to decide who is born, or not, my responsibility to myself, my family, and the world. When my IUD failed at an exceptionally bad time for me and my family, the right choice was to not allow this child to come to be. With Planned Parenthood dropping the ‘prochoice’ label, I hope we can become more inclusive and start using ‘provoice’ and start hearing more diverse voices from different spiritual communities on this.

    I have to note, however, that some in Pagan circles do not agree with abortion either, seeing as how many follow the “An It Harm None” rule, and to them, ‘none’ includes a fetus. Thankfully, Pagans are nothing but rugged individualists so while some may not look favourablly on abortion, very very few would try to stick their nose in another’s businesss.


  10. kim says:

    You can not be serious! Oh my gosh. I can’t believe you have such twisted ideas on truth. I fully agree with the last paragraph that was posted about your article. http://www.unmaskingchoice.ca/blog/2013/01/15/pro-choice-movement-finds-religion.

    You are held accountable to God. Can you honestly say that this is Biblically sound?


    • RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

      So, Kim, as a self-proclaimed “pro-lifer,” you can tell us how much more you care for human life than does Valerie and her ilk. How many children are you raising that you never wanted? Are you a public school classroom volunteer, a Big Sister, a family court guardian ad litem, a foster parent? Do you expend 600 unpaid volunteer hours and 8% of your gross annual income directly on the needs of children whose parents can’t or won’t care for them properly? Or are you totally focused on abortion as the quintessential evil?

      If Ted Bundy had been aborted, 35-61 women would still be alive today. If he’d been properly cared for, he would have led a different life. What are you doing to prevent the next Ted Bundy from growing up the same way? Or are you too busy fixating on abortion?


  11. Skulander says:

    Thank you for this article! Indeed, the pro-choice movement really does have the moral high ground when it comes to protecting women’s lives and we shouldn’t shy away from mentioning this, every time we have the opportunity to do so.

    At the end of the day, this is a private matter and only the woman can make such a decision. There are a wide array of reasons as to why a woman, at some point in her life, might chose to have an abortion. Heck, even anti-choice women do! Have you read that superb article by Joyce Arthur, “The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion”? http://mypage.direct.ca/w/writer/anti-tales.html It provides a nice account of anti-choice women deciding to chose to end a pregnancy.

    I’m not in her shoes. I am not qualified to decide such matters for a woman, and even though antichoice folks might disagree with a woman’s choice, we must be very clear: they do NOT have the right to make such a choice for another person.


  12. RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

    We have to take into account the wiring of the Conservative Brain (read the book). There are two general types opposed to abortion: those who are wired to be rigid and paternalistic, and those whom they persuade by an effective PR campaign. The fact is, that those who call themselves “pro-life” are satisfying an emotional need in their life rather than “protecting” any fetus. This can be confirmed by their average to below-average disregard for real children. When you consider the abyss between what they say they are versus what they actually do to protect humans, you realized they are in the grip of dysfunction– they focus so strongly on abortion that they cannot expend the energy necessary to care for someone else’s unwanted child.

    Aborticentrism is the term used to describe this pathology: A focus on abortion so strong as to preclude care for human life. The theory for their strange behavior is that they are engaged in an allegorical battle against their own death– abortion represents Death, the fetus represents them and they represent God. Surely, goes the story line for this battle, if I can save an “unborn child,” then God will save me. Since rescuing someone from death makes the rescuer a “hero,” they claim for themselves that title, knowing that heroes transcend death (q.v., Horatius at the bridge, Caesar, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, etc.).

    The only solution to dealing with them is to attach a provision to every anti-abortion bill that will raise taxes to pay in full the upbringing of every child whose mother says she never intended to bear him/her. At $240,000 a pop, a lot of taxpayers will see the light….

    Liked by 1 person

  13. David MacKenzie says:

    This article is a great argument for keeping the term “blasphemy” firmly fixed in the English language. I have seldom read such well-articulated, toxic drivel. It’s as riddled with anti-God, anti-Christian bias as the most obnoxious outpourings of Professor Mary Daly. At the same time, I welcome the challenge of addressing such “spirituality” as devoid of life, as it is antithetical to the whole concept, itself. When you quote that 60% of all abortions occur before 9 weeks, does it not occur to you that this means that 40% of all babies are hacked, “water-boarded”, or crushed to death, feeling every blow? That’s a half million brutally dismembered, slaughtered children in your country alone. And yet you dismiss their numbers as a mere statistic!

    This is a disgraceful, hellish, yet “solid” example of the futility of your cause; you shall not win the moral high ground ever, because there is no pro-abortion high ground! May God have mercy on those who would support this ridiculously blasphemous rationalization.


    • Jose says:

      I can´t agree more with you. This is one of the most twisted reasoning I´ve ever read. Only a satanic mind could argue like this.


    • RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

      So, David, as a self-proclaimed “pro-lifer,” you can tell us how much more you care for human life than does Valerie and her ilk. How many children are you raising that you never wanted? Are you a public school classroom volunteer, a Big Brother, a family court guardian ad litem, a foster parent? Do you expend 600 unpaid volunteer hours and 8% of your gross annual income directly on the needs of children whose parents can’t or won’t care for them properly? Or are you totally focused on abortion as the quintessential evil?

      If Ted Bundy had been aborted, 35-61 women would still be alive today. If he’d been properly cared for, he would have led a different life. What are you doing to prevent the next Ted Bundy from growing up the same way? Or are you too busy fixating on abortion?


      • Jacob says:

        You’re correct in saying that all of these things should be done in order to help those mother’s and children who need it, but you fail to miss the point. You have basically said that someone cannot comment on the morality of an action without being a saint themselves.

        Whether or not these people are hypocrites (as you are clearly trying to pin them for) doesn’t change the fact that abortions happen and the discussion on this forum is about abortion and the morality of it. Your random exhortation for all pro-lifer posters to reevaluate their lives is out of place and beside the point. The question here is whether or not abortion is “loving and brave” as the author believes and states.

        I’m not even going to leave an opinion; a behavior I hope that you will emulate rather than continuing to detract from the possibility for intelligent debate. Write your own blog if you want a call to arms, a forum for accusation or whatever it is you’re doing.

        PS I am sorry that you have received the blunt of my frustration. I admit that a few other articles I have read recently have had people using red herrings and ad hominem attacks or assumptions like yours. It’s nothing personal. Just don’t change the subject.


    • Enuma says:

      Fetuses cannot feel pain until 26 weeks. It is simply impossible. Until the thalamocortical tract closes, noxious stimuli has no pathway to the brain for pain processing to occur. It is not certain that pain processing occurs after 26 weeks (the placenta may not provide enough oxygen and the brain may not be developed enough) but it is certain that pain perception before this point simply cannot happen.

      Abortions at 26 weeks are INCREDIBLY rare and almost always due to a threat to the pregnant woman’s life or severe malformation of the fetus that is incompatible with life. Often those malformations are severe defects of the brain (like anencephaly-where the forebrain fails to develop and the baby will be born legally brain dead), which cannot be detected earlier in the pregnancy because the brain does not develop until late in the pregnancy.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Jose says:

    This article is pure charlatanry. Childish reasoning.


    • RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

      Jose, what I ask David, above, is what I ask you.


      • David MacKenzie says:

        Don’t bother answering Jose. I agree with Jacob’s reasoning. One’s moral condition would probably never suffice for someone like “Responsible Right…” no matter what we said or did. Uninformed accusations of hypocrisy are like shots in the dark. They seldom find their target.
        No. The real tragedy here is still the attempted “spiritual” justification for the wanton destruction of millions, and the hubris implicit in this Machiavellian response to the (accurate) perception of pro-abortion’s loss of political capital and moral credibility. You are losing traction. Thank God!


  15. In exploring responses to this article, I ran across a thoughtful and courageous sermon along the same lines by Anglican Kathrine Ragsdale. She is quoted in part here: ““I suppose it’s possible for an intelligent, faithful person to still believe that there’s no moral difference between a zygote and a baby,” Ragsdale allows. “But there’s no reason for most of us to believe that. And I don’t.”

    …”If you want a baby,” says Ragsdale, “and you’ve decorated the nursery, and bought the toys, and named the baby — and then they discover the baby’s organs are growing outside the body, and not only will the baby not survive, but the woman will be torn up trying to deliver it — there’s a tragedy. But the tragedy isn’t the abortion — the tragedy is that you needed one.”


    Liked by 1 person

  16. RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

    David and Jose, Jacob is off the mark. One’s stand on someone else’s morality is based on one’s own morality. Hitler’s praise of others’ willingness to trample on human and civil rights of others was quite consistent with his own record of doing so. Eisenhower’s warning of the danger of the military-industrial complex was consistent with his refusal to supplant the French in Indochina. Had Hitler claimed that he was protecting the Romany and the Jews or Eisenhower decided to intervene in Indochina, the words of the former and action of the latter would have indicated hypocrisy.

    This is why the gulf between what self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” say and what they do is so damaging to them: quite simply, they cannot expend the energy, time and resources on caring for real human life that they spend on fetal life.

    When you look further into it, it becomes even more disturbing. While they claim to “protect” it, they can actually do nothing for fetal life. They cannot protect it from the pregnant woman’s alcoholism, substance abuse, smoking, malnutrition, exposure to domestic violence or poverty-induced stresses. Unlike any subject of a rescue effort– e.g., flood victims or doper teens– their reward is not actually rescuing them, but being seen as heroes. And the question arises “Why do they engage in an effort that requires so little of themselves and so much in public relations?”

    It comes down to their attitude toward death– Ernest Becker wondered why concentration camp inmates clung so tenaciously to life even in the face of certain death and concluded that our will to live is so strong that if we were to face the fact of our inevitable demise, it would paralyze us. In his book, “Denial of Death.” he examines how we avoid this paralysis. One is to adopt or create a philosophical or religious framework which says death is not that big a deal; the other is to become a hero and thus transcend it by being remembered and honored by posterity.

    That self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” consider themselves to be heroes is unquestionable. That they arrogate for their work the one subject for which even if they wanted to they can do nothing is also unquestionable. That they consider themselves to be rescuers of something they simply cannot rescue passes strange on its way into the land of incredulous. When you look at their whole field, it becomes clear that it is an allegorical battle, a therapeutic exercise in which the fetus represents them, abortion represents their death, and they represent God. If they win the allegorical battle, they derive comfort from the confirmation of their hope that a God will rescue them from death. And they congratulate themselves on having again acted like a hero.

    Becker states, “A hero is one who pays the price specified by society,” and rather than risk their life running into a burning building or stepping between the killer and his victim, the self-proclaimed “pro-life” movement work to change the nature the price society specifies.This is why they go to such great lengths to portray the fetus as innocent, unblemished, human in every respect. After all, who would really want to meet an adult-sized fetus in a dark alley?

    Finally, because they are so focused on abortion as a reminder of their own death, they have little or no time, energy or resources left to care for real children– which is why David, Jose and Jacob can’t answer the question well enough to justify their claim to a moral stand.


  17. Abortions are for wimps. REAL WOMEN go the distance. Women get abortions because childbirth will mess up their hair, and don’t try to claim that’s NOT the reason, what else could possibly be more important? What on earth are you doing that’s so important you can’t give up one day of your life to give birth?


    • RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

      Well, Anne Gross Beal, it’s the next 18 years that’s problematic. Ted Bundy’s mother bore a child who grew up to kill at least three dozen and possibly as many as five dozen women. There was quite a lot went wrong in her next 18 years after childbirth. Why is it that self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” abandon the subject of their highly publicized attempts at “rescue” as soon as the woman reaches the door of the delivery room?

      How many children have you adopted that you don’t want to raise? Are you a Big Sister, a court-appointed and unpaid guardian ad litem for children, a public school classroom volunteer, a foster parent? A good rule of thumb to identify a true “pro-lifer” is that he or she expends at least 8% of gross income and 600 hours a year as an unpaid volunteer one-on-one with a child whose parents won’t or can’t care well enough for it. How’s your track record?

      Other than that, your comment is great snark!


    • Enuma says:

      There’s no such thing as an abortion of convenience. Pregnancy, giving birth, raising a child, or giving up a child for adoption are not matters of convenience. They are each in their own right major, permanently life-altering (and in case of pregnancy and birth potentially life-ending) events.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. english teacher says:

    All these anti-choicers are amazing. Their in-depth knowledge of the life of each and every woman who has an abortion and thus their ability to be absolutely sure that the abortion is only being done for the woman’s convenience is truly amazing. They know the precise family, economic, educational, home, and health situation of every single woman who has or will have an abortion and know that the woman is just being frivolous. Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • metalnun says:

      Well yes, but it goes beyond that. First they assert, as you said, that it’s simply a matter of “convenience” on the woman’s part. However, upon further analysis, when presented with examples of serious socioeconomic, medical, psychological or other conditions which might warrant an abortion, they will finally say that there is NO situation that could possible justify abortion, including the woman’s health, whether she was a victim of rape, or even severe fetal deformities. They believe that the fetus has an absolute “right to life” which supersedes any other possible considerations including, ironically, what quality of life the child would have if born.


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  21. David MacKenzie says:

    Once again, to go back to the central thesis: the initial article wants to establish a moral and spiritual high ground (I claim that’s not possible). If the initial writer’s cheek weren’t enough, we have folks like Responsible Right to Life (there is an Orwellian misnomer if there ever were one!) , defending this thesis by denying it— citing works that fundamentally question (ultimately) whether there is even a God, and quoting books that look for psychological answers to all religious motivation. Well, if there’s no such thing as “the spiritual” (or the “moral”, or God) then why even defend (or write) an article like this? And why engage in the denial of moralizing religiousness, by presenting (of all things) moralizing arguments— questioning the character of those who don’t meet with your prescribed formula for charity and voluntary service? I love the delicious irony of those who deny God, deny morality, deny the “invasion” of their “liberty” by social conservatives, and then do so by moralizing in a more pedantic way than even the very people they criticize. It’s positively hysterical!

    Let’s return to basics, shall we? The Bible denies the validity of “forced miscarriage” in Exodus 21:22-25. It considers damage to the unborn child as requiring equal damage to the perpetrator, even if no malice were intended. No harm to the child or mother means just a financial penalty to the perpetrator. Harm to either means the same punishments as would be rendered in the case of an adult being injured. Now, even if we merely see these through the eyes of historical judicial development, and through the lens of Christ, no one is arguing here that mothers or abortionists die for the deaths of their children. But we do “die” when we kill. We cheapen all of life when we destroy the vulnerable in our haste, our guilt, or our fear. There are real reasons why people should be ashamed about what they do.

    If the “pro-abortion” camp, therefore, wishes to recapture the moral high-ground, it can. It need only capitulate to God’s wisdom. But there can NEVER be a moral high ground, for those who have no sense of heaven.


    • RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

      Actually, David, there is a moral high ground, and it is Caring for Human Life. As shown by their decades of focus on abortion rather than caring for the circumstances of children and families, the self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” have never been on the high ground.

      God Himself justifies abortion in Ecclesiastes IV, i-iii.

      RESPONSIBLE Right to Life was started back in 1983 when it was pointed out by a so-called “pro-lifer” that all we had to do was adopt. At that time, my town’s annual so-called “pro-life” demonstration consisted of 160 people, of whom exactly two couples had adopted. RRTL was launched to get them and all of their ilk to adopt. Research indicated that if every so-called “pro-life” couple in America adopted only four children per year, abortion would become unnecessary. As my parents had had eleven children, I knew how easy it would be to manage a family of twelve in only three years time. Unfortunately, the first year attracted no converts.

      However, RESPONSIBLE Right to Life persists, and you are welcome to join. It is an association of “pro-lifers” who pledge to raise to adulthood every “unborn human” they want “rescued.” That was why I asked you what your commitment is to real human life; I thought you might want to join and show those immoral people a good example of what you’re talking about.


  22. Greetings – You make a number of faulty assumptions here that I would like to clarify. One is that those who don’t believe in an alpha primate in the sky lack moral reasoning and spirituality–that these concepts are the exclusive domain of theists. I would argue that the opposite is often true. The second may be that I, the writer, am in any way making an argument from god-belief, which I am not. The third is that rational people are in broad agreement with your claim of moral equivalence for embryos and persons; they are not. The fourth is that people choose abortions for a set of reasons that you list, which in actuality is incomplete. Lastly, you might be interested to know that the Exodus verse you quote only makes your point in recent translations that were revised to solidify the nochoice position. Earlier translations –and a long tradition of biblical exegesis across many translations–actually support the fetus not being treated as a person. In the understanding of Jewish theologians of the past, the fetus was a person when it was half-way out the birth canal, which I think is as irrelevant to the qualities of personhood as when egg fuses with sperm.


  23. PicuNurse says:

    One of the most ludicrous arguments for abortion I have ever heard ! Disgusting ! Saying that choosing abortion is loving , thoughtful? Really ? For WHO ? Certainly not the aborted child ! Call it what it is , for starters , murder …..and your reasons point to pure selfishness ! Comparing Ted Bundy ? GET REAL , when you give birth , NO ONE can predict how that child will turn out . I was adopted , my Mother chose LIFE ! I in turn gave birth to 3 beautiful children …..and have Grandchildren . I do what I can to support pro life organizations . My adoptive Mother already had children when she adopted me …..my birth mother giving me up so I could have a better life was one of the most UNSELFISH things she will ever do in her life. My birth has affected MANY lives over the years , for the better . There is no choice in ” pro choice ” ……it’s murder , plain and simple. This is an argument you will never win! It takes a very sick twisted mind to write the garbage you did ! You must have had one very *ucked up childhood !


    • RESPONSIBLE Right to Life says:

      PicuNurse, you are quite simply wrong– Children who are nurtured well almost always turn out well. And while children who are not nurtured well will in about 30% of the cases turn out well, there is a 70% probability that they will not– which is precisely what happened to Ted Bundy. I will not go into the details, but you can learn a lot by reading “Bundy: The Complete Stranger” and “Defending the Devil,” written respectively by the cop who pursued him and the lawyer who defended him on Death Row.

      What this means is, EVERY child has the potential to be the next Ted Bundy, but only some 16% are truly at risk for it– and YOU can be the one to save those children by raising them well. You CAN prevent the next Ted Bundy!!

      Unfortunately, self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” simply don’t have the time, resources and emotional energy to do that; they expend their greatest effort fighting an allegorical battle against their own death– as you can see from your own experience of caring (or not caring) for children you don’t want to raise.

      RESPONSIBLE Right to Life is an association of self-proclaimed “pro-lifers” who pledge to raise to adulthood every “unborn human” they want “rescued.” You sound like a prime candidate for it. There are no dues, so why not sign up today? You’ll be the first self-proclaimed “pro-lifer” to do so!


    • Lynn Palermo says:

      I was born because my mother aborted a previous pregnancy. Had she not done that, there wouldn’t have been time for my gestation. There are lots of people born thanks to abortion, as well. It goes one way, it goes the other. If she had chosen to carry that pregnancy to term, I wouldn’t be here today. And nobody would have missed me because I never would have come to be. My mother has never regretted her decision – she didn’t regret it even before getting pregnant with me because she had made a decision that she could live with. That’s what we do in life: we try to make decisions we can live with. Giving people room to make those decisions is all pro-choice people want. BTW, my mother had an unexpected pregnancy after my birth. She had not intended to have anymore children. My father had not intended to have anymore children. But even so, my mother decided to carry it to term. No regrets there, either.


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  26. Anne says:

    Really wonderful. What you said resonates very closely with how I’ve felt since I was a young girl (for what it’s worth I’m not Christian but nevertheless). I cringe every time we say how awful abortion is but we need it anyway… it’s like giving the anti-choice side half their argument before we even start. “We need to have the choice to do terrible, heartbreaking things” is not a great talking point nor true in every woman’s case. For me it was a necessary, ethical and kind thing to do. Your article is really thoughtful and compassionate, I hope it represents a change in how we approach the issue. I was linked to here on facebook, I hope many women follow the link.

    Liked by 1 person

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