I haven’t made a secret of it, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. She’s not my first choice (I caucused for Bernie, and honestly I wish the DNC hadn’t pre-crowned Hillary to be their de facto choice for 2016) but for me she’s the best candidate running in the general. In discussing politics and votes with family and friends about the nightmare of the 2016 election, the one question I come across most is how I reconcile my views on abortion and voting for a candidate that is all in on abortion rights.
First, I send whoever is asking the link to Rachel Held Evans’ essay on voting pro-choice while being anti-abortion, she makes an incredibly thorough argument of what being Pro-Life means and how many programs on the left statistically lower abortions by much larger margins than the right’s approach of blocking it legally and restricting access.
In addition to this I had a personal experience twelve years ago that informed how I see this issue. When diagnosed with unexplained infertility, my husband and I were told we have a less than 1/1000 chance of ever being able to conceive on our own, and if we were to use IVF our chances went up to around 30-50% for our age and health. After a lot of thought and prayer we decided to go ahead with the procedure.
IVF was developed via experimentation with embryos. They had to mess up on a lot of them to figure it out in the first place. When the first successful pregnancy was announced concern was expressed from conservative religious representatives around the world. The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Gordon Gray said: “I have grave misgivings about the possible implications and consequences for the future.” Even to this day many, many organizations have very restrictive teachings on assisted reproductive technologies (ART), ours doesn’t.
Right before we began IVF I was handed a form that we had to designate our long-term plan for any extra embryos we might have at the end. After all of our IVF(s?) were done, what were we going to do with the extra embryos? Have them destroyed and thrown away? Donate them to another couple? Pay to have them frozen indefinitely? Donate them to science?? In the end we marked the form to donate them to science, whatever helped possibly give us a new life could help bring others life in another form. It wasn’t an easy choice.
It ended up that we had complications during our cycle and after a freeze and thaw only 1 of our 31 embryos survived. I’m still not sure how I feel about those 30 extra embryos that became collateral damage to bringing my one into existence. I do know that God was in the details and because of Him we have the gift of a beautiful miraculous daughter.
When she was born we were living in Iowa during an election cycle (when is it ever NOT a political cycle in Iowa, eh?) and I had my own political blog (Confessions of a Moderate Conservative). As I interacted with fellow religious conservatives in the joint fight against abortion online, I found I was an outsider. Many believed in Personhood from the moment an embryo is created and I was called a baby killer (repeatedly). I tried (repeatedly) to explain that God is the God of science and medical miracles and it may be a gray area for many ethically, but God gave me my baby. I was demonized for my choice and called to repentance.
Many of my fellow conservatives were disgusted by my behavior and justifications. They didn’t believe I should legally even have the option to make those reproductive choices for myself. I was grateful for my agency to make reproductive decisions regarding my life and body. I was grateful that I took on my own shoulders the consequences for any choices I made. I alone will stand accountable for them (ha, with my husband!) in the next life. At that moment I felt a kinship with women who agonize over their own reproductive choices that others might not agree with; including taking birth control, choosing sterilization, the plan-B pill, and yes, even abortion.
I’m proud to support policies that lower the numbers of abortions (source). Abortions should never be used flippantly as birth control. I can’t think of a single person that wants to increase the number of abortions; but that doesn’t mean we don’t support legal access to them. In a way, yes, that is even the official position of the church (pro-choice).
You may choose a different place to draw the line on when it is appropriate to give women the right to choose reproductive decisions on their own. I’m glad for myself that I wasn’t restricted from doing so. I hope that we create circumstances that an ever decreasing number of women will ever be placed in the position of whether or not to have an abortion. I’m against abortion and I support policies and programs that decrease their numbers, but I don’t support legally taking the choice away from others. I grant them the same agency I was given.
and really if you still haven’t read RHE’s essay on being anti-abortion and pro-choice, please do so. it’s great.
Religious institutions and government have no business interfering in personal, intimate decisions made by women and families. In my opinion, if a woman wants to have an abortion for *any* reason and at any point in her pregnancy, and she has it done safely by a trained professional, then it’s her business and nobody else’s.
Personally, I have always believed that religious views on abortion have *nothing* to do with the sacredness of life and everything to do with increasing the number of adherents to a particular religion. People have been parroting the sacredness of life argument for so long that it’s become the de facto argument against abortion. Now we have ignorant people running around shouting “baby killer” who’ve forgotten all about the original issues–if they ever understood them in the first place.
One reason I think the religious anti-abortion/pro-life argument is contrived is the silliness of the “moment of conception” argument–that an embryo becomes a human being at the moment of conception. One ought have *no* qualms about the fate of human embryos. The human body naturally discards them all the time. Some fertilized, some unfertilized.
In my view, it’s a sin to cause people so much anxiety and sorrow just to shore up a disingenuous policy designed to increase numbers and gain power and money.
Correction… technically, I should have distinguished egg cell (unfertilized), zygote (fertilized), and embryo (5 to 11 weeks). But my point is unchanged.
I support the right of societies to make rules to govern themselves, and I support the right of religious citizens of those societies to participate in their governance processes. This means I’m okay with one society choosing to allow abortions and another society to prohibit or restrict abortions. Each society will bear the consequences of its decision.
“I support the right of societies to make rules to govern themselves… I’m okay with one society choosing to allow abortions and another society to prohibit or restrict abortions.”
The United States, as a society, has laws protecting a woman’s right to have an abortion for any reason at any time during her pregnancy. Individual states, as societies, have various exclusions and restrictions around the federal laws. Any church or religious body (say, the LDS church), as a society, can make rules saying that abortion is OK or not OK, but these are just rules which any member can choose to follow or not follow. If you read the 1973 LDS church position on abortion, all it says is that the LDS church opposes abortion, except under certain circumstances, and that those considering abortion *should* consult LDS church authorities. It’s worded as an advisory, because that’s all the LDS church can do–advise. The decision to have an abortion is up to the individual and subject to the law of the land.
Anon, “I have always believed that religious views on abortion have *nothing* to do with the sacredness of life and everything to do with increasing the number of adherents to a particular religion.” To me, that sounds about as plausible as the conservative argument that people legalized abortion in order to “clean up” society’s gene pool.
As for the sacredness of life, I know a woman whose been unsuccessful at having children because of constant miscarriages. The farthest she got was 11 weeks, when the doctors had to assist in pulling the dead 11-week-old fetus from her body. The fetus had clear fingers and toes, and testing revealed it was a little boy who had down syndrome. Could you understand how she might look at first-trimester abortions in a different light?
In my mind, abortion arguments often parallel disagreements over c-sections (even though abortion is much more serious). The one side sees c-sections as convenience techniques, a desecration of a natural birth process via medical interference. Women are villified for supporting them. For me, c-sections made it possible for me to have children. I see incredible value in them. Other women will say that I just didn’t try enough other techniques, and, when I explain the details of my situation, they’ll say with an exasperated sigh, “Well, you are an obvious exception, not the norm.”
In an abortion argument, people on one side often assume women have them for convenience reasons. *Those* women just want to be promiscuous and get irritated when pregnancy interrupts their plans. When you explain people having abortions for other reasons (like that Utah woman did about her late-term abortion after the presidential debate), they’ll be irritated and declare, “Well that was an exception, not the norm.”
My position is similar to Kristine’s. I don’t *want* abortions happening for any reason, but I understand the reasoning for why they should be legally available. Better contraceptive access, better education, and better healthcare will do more to decrease the number of abortions than just restricting access to legal abortions.
“Could you understand how she might look at first-trimester abortions in a different light?”
I would not presume to say how a woman might feel about abortions. I think that drives my position. Subject to the laws of the land, a individual has the right to decide if/when to have sex, whether to use contraception, whether to have an abortion for any reason, and whether to deliver a baby via C-section. I have no moral position on any of these decisions and I don’t believe religious bodies or larger society ought to view these decisions within a moral framework.
I’m a citizen of the United States, and I view that as a great privilege. One tacit agreement is that I abide by the laws here. I might not like all of the laws. I might not agree with them. I might think some are immoral. Abiding by the law, though, is the price of admission.
A woman’s choice to have sex, to use contraception, or to have an abortion is up to her. Presumably, she is following her own will and thinking it through. I don’t see any individual nor any religious body having the right to pass moral judgement on her individual decisions. Particularly in the difficult situations you give as examples–aborting a baby because the mom doesn’t think she can care for it, aborting a baby late term for medical reasons, delivering a baby via C-section–I think finger-pointing, guilting, and moralizing magnifies the pain needlessly.
The thought of the courts or church getting involved in the sorts of horrific cases that rolled through the doors of an inner city tertiery care OB unit makes me cringe. Everyone does the very best that they can with the situation that they are in. Every day. There is no time for legal or religious courts. A medical ethics board is enough.
Parents come in bawling. They have just had the worst news of their lives. Their unborn child’s ultrasound shows the child has some condition incompatible with life and the mother’s life is now in danger. They cannot just wait and deliver.
Ignorant people call it Late Term Abortion. Most people call it a horrible tragedy for a young couple who will need love and support. No stones will be needed.
Kristine I thank you for sharing this. My thoughts very closely mirror what you’ve shared here. I am especially grateful to you for sharing at this time. I was part of a painful exchange this week when a male family member chose to call me out for voting for a pro-choice candidate and tell me that no situation could ever justify ending a pregnancy and asserted that God was on his side. Unbeknownst to him, one of the female family members present had an abortion several years ago because her life was severely jeopardized by the pregnancy and she had four living children she felt she needed to be able to care for. Her story was not mine to share, but my heart ached for the pain his words were surely causing. I support laws on many issues that allow individuals the opportunity to exercise their own agency.
I stopped believing those who call themselves “anti-abortion” really care about the unborn since they oppose comprehensive sex education and access to birth control, both of which help reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. Really what conservative’s want is to limit sex outside of marriage and abstinence. Conservatives don’t want to provide aid for single mothers and their children, else (they belive)women will have babies just so they can get assistance.
While I don’t think abortion should be used as a means of birth control (pro-choice, not pro-abortion) I strongly believe women need to be in charge of their own healthcare decisions.
You can bet if men carried and gave birth there is no way they would allow legislators to dictate their healthcare choices.
This is a very fraught subject. My wife and I have done a number of unsuccessful IVFs. Most Mormons I know have been enthusiastic about IVF because the ultimate goal is the creation of life, not its destruction. Those who disapprove tend to have very categorical interpretations about when personhood begins (at conception) or about the Handbook, which apparently has some equivocation regarding egg and sperm donation. Abortion is a very grey area of morality, in the sense that half the population sees it as black, and half as white, so collectively, we’ve got grey. But I think Mormons can aspire to a bit more nuance because we aren’t against IVF and we make some exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother.
I wonder why my earlier comment has drawn so many dislikes. Was it,
I support the right of societies to make rules to govern themselves
I support the right of religious citizens of those societies to participate in their governance processes?
My two statements allow for a society to adopt pro-choice laws, and they allow all citizens in a society to participate in the discussion that arrives at that outcome. Every poster here seems to support the first proposition (support for pro-choice laws), so they must be offended by the second proposition (all citizens, including those with religious views, should be allowed to participate in the law-making process). It is troubling to me when advocates for one outcome seek to deny a seat at the table in our civil law-making processes for advocates of another outcome.
Oh stop it, ji. No one’s denying you a seat at the table. Your comments were posted, weren’t they? You sound like the religious right who claim their religious liberty is impinged when people disagree with their bigoted rhetoric. Your liberty is not under attack because people disagree with you. I’m as free to dislike your comments as you are to make them.
JI I’m not quite sure why you are getting dislikes either, because I agree with you – each society/government should be able to make laws on decisions about what is morally acceptable to them. And I agree that religious people have every right to participate in that process.
I have a different opinion of what many religious conservatives believe and I think what is happening in Texas is a shame and is unconstitutional. So if they participate in the governing decisions should learn the stats and facts of what IS happening (instead of trying to reverse a 40 year old law) and support the methods that actually reduce abortion. As one example this post is a great explanation of how late term abortions just aren’t happening (https://www.facebook.com/haley.peach/posts/1292986130753111).
But I can’t force them to make that choice. They live with the consequences of their own actions, too.
Ji, I think it’s more the “each society will bear the consequences” line. If my passive-aggressive mom were to say your same comment and end on that note, the message she’d want me to receive is “if you don’t agree with my moral position, the consequence I’m talking about is you going to hell.” I think it’s more people reading into what they think you *mean* as opposed to what you actually said.
I’d agree with Mary Ann ji. Church culture is notoriously passive aggressive in places – I believe hawkgrrrl has a blog post on that – and people can become very sensitised to it, come to expect it.
While I didn’t click the dislike button on y our comment, I will explain to you why it rubbed me the wrong way when I read it. It was not your first two claims at all that bothered me. It was what followed.
“This means I’m okay with one society choosing to allow abortions and another society to prohibit or restrict abortions. Each society will bear the consequences of its decision.”
While I don’t think that anything you’ve said is untrue or immoral, I’m still uncomfortable with this statement because in almost every society it is mostly males making the decision and mostly females bearing the consequence of that decision. It is easy for men to say that society bears the consequences, when they bear an extremely small portion of the consequences.
I love this post Kristine. I have often described myself as anti abortion and pro choice. I think the best way to stop abortions is to continue medical research that can save both mother and child in difficult circumstances, to teach comprehensive sex ed, and to make contraception available to all women. Also, women who have support and options are less likely to opt for an abortion. Every woman I’ve ever known who had an abortion did so because she felt there was literally no other option available to her.
Also I just wanted to point out that our discourse on abortion can cause problems for women who want their pregnancies but end up losing them. I did medical billing during my college days. Anytime a woman who had a miscarriage came into have the remaining tissue removed (which if not done can cause serious harm to the woman) it was labeled and abortion. That is just the medical term for what was happening (the medical codes have changed since then so I don’t know if this is still true). I can’t count the number of times a woman’s insurance would refuse to pay for this medically necessary procedure because they don’t cover abortions. So on top of losing the child they most likely wanted, these women have to fight with their insurance companies. I’ve been on conference calls where the customer service representatives belittle these women for having abortions. It is horrible.
Women and men have all manner of “medical” “rights” denied to them in our society.
Abortion is wrong in the vast majority of circumstances. Where it’s to be used it should have a resistively high threshold that’s measurable. Obviously in times of urgency that threshold is waived, but equally there should be a formal accounting after the fact. A military pilot faces an inquiry to verify they made the right decision in abandoning a plane. Aborting a life should be a high threshold.
It’s a tragedy it’s politicized and we argue over this. Life is sacred. Children deserve our sacrifices. We don’t sacrifice them for us.
The techinical definition of abortion is “the termination of a pregnancy before the stage of viability (around 24th week).” A miscarriage would be called a “spontaneus” abortion. Therapeutic or artificial abortion generally refers to those performed under certain medical conditions . Induced or elective abortion refers to an abortion brought on intentionally for elective reasons.
I would agree with your explanation to Ji. I don’t believe legislatures–govt bodies–should be determining the choices and consequences for women’s healthcare. For example, say UT makes abortion illegal, women of a certain economic class could still obtain safe, legal abortions by seeking one out of state.. However, poor women will not have that option and may put their own health/life at risk to obtain an illegal abortion. (I also think few of us can appreciate the physical and emotional toll of carrying an infant to term and then giving that baby up for adoption).
Want to decrease abortion? Then focus on prevention and creating an economy that works for everybody.
Hmmm… Some are troubled by the thought that a society bears the consequences of its decisions? I see that as a simple fact of life. I regret that some perceived my comment as an attack.
In our pluralistic society, we need to be able to discuss public policy matters in a rational frame of mind. It seems to me that this is what the original posting tried to do.
Within our society, laws have to be made or changed within the structural institutions of our society. EVERYTHING can be challenged and debated. We cannot and should not want to deny the people in our society the right to discuss any public policy matter. We might not want the other side to prevail in a particular public policy matter proposal, and that’s where public discussion and reason and persuasion come into play, along with voting and judges and so forth. That’s how it works. The practice of medicine is rightly within the reach of public policy.
The original posting was an eloquent effort towards a reasoned discussion — so well done, I think, that it might have a persuasive impact on some readers. That’s what we need more of.
“Church culture is notoriously passive aggressive in places”
I think the LDS use of “offended” is passive aggressive code for “wrong”. So, for example, “I’m sorry you were offended by my post.” really means “I’m right and you are wrong.” or “You left the LDS church because you were offended.” really means “You left the LDS church because you were wrong.”
I had never heard the word used this way until I came in contact with Mormon culture. Normally, when I’m offended by something there’s a problem with the *source* of my offense, not me. For example, “I’m offended by that racist joke you just told.”
I would not characterize the LDS church position as pro-choice in the existing political climate. They favor significantly more restrictions on abortion than those currently in place in most parts of the US. They are very far away from the Hillary position of elective (for any reason) partial birth abortion. Although the rhetoric is different, it is far more likely that we will get the abortion position advocated by the post with Trump as president.
I live in a state, that like Utah, has few abortion clinics. People in rural areas have a long way to go if they want to go to a specialized abortion clinic. This is biggest way that elective abortions are reduced in the state.
There are frequent pro-life rallies here, but I have never heard the no-IVF position advocated. I am sure that the some of the religious supporters of the local pro-life movement are against IVF and other procedures that ‘artificially’ produce a fertilized egg, but this is not the consensus position and is not discussed frequently. There is a good support system from the local pro-life movement for the women who are the likely candidates for elective abortion.
Three arguments which leave political correctness behind, , .
1. Men are jealous that women have the power to bring forth life. Therefore, they try (with traditionally male institutions- male clergy, courts, etc.) to assert power over women, the very sex that God himself empowered with the responsibility.
2. Frankly, this abortion is such a litmus test for voters, but the fact of the matter is that this issue has stalemated. It usually doesn’t matter whether a candidate is pro choice or life. Even Supreme Court justices who are pro choice or life are duty-bound to assess cases based on the facts of constitutional law. Their own beliefs weigh in, but are tempered with their decades of training in objective interpretation. There seems to be a belief that no judge is objective-that they all harbor some conspiratorial bias and all want to “legislate from the bench”. So untrue! Talk to a judge sometime! You will see they frequently rule on people or issues that run against their own personal opinions. Their hands (should be at least) tied by the law. The important thing is to put in place judges who strive to set aside bias and interpret objectively. why is it that we can acknowledge a country doctor’s lifelong commitment to saving lives, but don’t acknowledge a lifelong commitment of a hard-working judge? Both such persons are plentiful on our communities. I’ve seen many honest, logical, and impartial judges in our country. I believe we have ample pool to choose from in selecting our next Supreme Court justices as well as most other benches. Sheesh, look at the other issues that are flying by, and stop fixating on this one.
3. How many times have you heard someone-a family member, neighbor, friend, describe their completely unusual or miraculous health condition? If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “the doctors said I wouldn’t live”, or “the doctors had never seen a case like mine before”, I would be a rich person. Trying to legislate for every potentiality in a mother’ or baby’s health is an impossible task. Nature and people are simply too diverse. Like many things in medicine, decisions require best judgement on a case-by-case basis. everyone wants to create rules on abortion, but there will never be a rule that isn’t challenged with some unthinkable exception.
One of the things I learned listening to a heart-wrenching Mormon stories podcast with a trial lawyer who prosecuted cases of pedophilia in church communities-specifically in lds wards, was that victims don’t see themselves as victims. The abusers psychologically manipulate children and youth in such ways as to allow them access and keep silence. That often means entrapping victims in guilt and shame with the fallacy that they were complacent in the acts. It can take years of counseling for a victim to finally understand that he/she was in fact victimized and not a sinner. So, although the church allows for abortion in cases of rape and incest, the victims don’t understand that they qualify. Even a probing bishop would likely find the act to be consensual. I doubt that many of these cases are accurately diagnosed by a bishop (especially if the victim is filled with guilt and acknowledges consent.) It’s therefore highly unlikely that the bishop would endorse or recommend an abortion, even when these are the very cases church leaders have carved out exceptions. Yet, in these tragic instances, which are a heckuvalot more common than we would like to think, pregnant women (often teens) may still opt for an abortion, lessening the impact from the abuser. Couldn’t we remove barriers and cease adding to the context of guilt and shame?
GSO- the problem is, when you say there should be an accounting, who are you proposing these women be held accountable to? There’s no good answer to that question. In the analogy of a military jet, it’s clear that the pilot is accountable to those who directed the mission and the persons or agency that purchased the place in the first place. In the case of abortion, that leaves the woman accountable to herself (which I think is correct). As soon as you try to create a prohibitive threshold or a committee of accountability, you insert a politicized group into this woman’s life and health that somehow has more right to decisions over her body than she does. That, to me, is morally indefensible. I, too, am against abortion personally, but I cannot morally or ethically support legislation that robs a woman of her own bodily sovereignty. This is even more the case when we recognize the political reality that most lawmakers in the US are male, so now the creation of any accountability committee is an active extension of the patriarchal belief in the right of male decision over female bodies. I can’t prop up rape culture that way. So instead, I focus my pro life energies on the following pro -life issues: adequate welfare and support for families with children, ending the death penalty, lobbying for the lives, rights, and families of refugees and other immigrants, comprehensive sex education, access to birth control, prison reform, and yes Black Lives Matter. There are many post-natal lives that need my love, support, and protection at least as much as prenatal lives.
ji “Hmmm… Some are troubled by the thought that a society bears the consequences of its decisions? I see that as a simple fact of life. I regret that some perceived my comment as an attack. ”
You would appear to have completely missed the points I and others were trying to make, which at this point could look deliberately obtuse on your part, though I’m prepared to give the benefit of the doubt.
No-one is troubled that there are consequences. There are always consequences whatever one chooses, born by individuals as well as society as a whole.
anon, you might enjoy hawkgrrrl’s posts on the topic:
https://wheatandtares.org/2013/05/14/mormon-passive-aggression/ and https://wheatandtares.org/2014/01/07/my-brief-foray-into-mormon-passive-aggression/
It’s a minefield.
On the OP, from my vantage point here in the UK, I am baffled that of all the many issues over which elections are fought, this one is apparently a make or break issue for some in the US.
El Oso, the no-IVF position is the official church teaching of the Catholic Church. Islam used to have a fatwa against it but now has a middle of the road stance like the Mormons where it’s okay if you are only using the bio-parents egg/sperm, etc. There’s a range of responses from protestant and jewish faiths, depending on congregation. The conservative Personhood movement is big enough that it was able to get an amendment on the ballot in 2010 that would have restricted abortion and made IVF impossible to perform in state boundaries. Again remember that political activists tend to have the most extreme stances, it’s not the moderates and centrists hanging around a lot of right wing political blogs.
Hedge, for most conservative Mormons I see talking about voting it really does come down to abortion and the possible scotus appointees. sigh.