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Why I lost my faith in the pro-choice movement -- a very thoughtful argument.

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Initial post: 6 Nov 2012 15:42:43 GMT
Tom M says:
Why I lost faith in the pro-choice movement

by Jennifer Fulwiler

Thu Nov 01, 2012 13:58 EST
Comments (79)

November 1, 2012 ( - I was sitting on a bean bag in my dorm room when I got the call. It was a friend of mine-let's call her "Sara"-and she was sobbing so hard it took me a moment to know who it was.

Finally, she pulled herself together enough to speak. With a voice that sounded as weary as if she had aged 100 years since the last time we talked, she said, "I'm pregnant."

My heart sunk on her behalf. I was completely pro-choice and didn't find the idea of abortion to be troubling, but I knew that she was not comfortable with it. She had always said that she respected other women's rights to choose, but that she could never do that. Yet I also knew that she was not entirely thrilled with this guy she was dating, a young man named Rob. He was handsome and charismatic, but he had a serious drinking problem, and didn't treat her with the respect she deserved.

I listened while she explained through tears that it would ruin her life to have a child, especially with Rob. She had recently decided that she would break up with him soon, and even looked forward to doing so; the thought of having an inextricable, lifelong connection to him made her physically ill. Then there were the facts that parenting a child would derail her college career, and that she didn't even want to be a mother-not to mention the fact that she was pretty sure her parents would disown her if she came home from school pregnant. "I knew this would be my worst nightmare. That's why I'm always so serious about contraception!" she said. But, despite her best efforts, something had gone wrong. Her contraception had failed.

I tried to turn the conversation in a constructive direction, employing the word that was supposedly so empowering to women of our generation. "Let's talk about your choices," I suggested.

"Choices?" She let out a hard, bitter laugh as she spat the word back at me. "I don't have any."

Sara went to an abortion facility and had the pregnancy "taken care of." We never spoke of it again. She became distant from me and many of her other friends in the months that followed, and we eventually lost touch.

I still think of Sara now and then, especially when I come across pieces like this one at Patheos that's making the rounds, in which Libby Anne writes of why she lost faith in the pro-life movement. Her story felt oddly familiar, as it reminds me a lot of my own. Though my conversion went the opposite direction, mine, like hers, hinged on the issues of contraception and personhood, and the question of what really liberates women. I've been thinking about it all ever since I read her post, and thought I would share my own story.

Who's afraid of information?

My first tipoff that something was wrong in the pro-choice movement was when I realized that there was a great fear of information. A year or two after Sara's situation, another friend found herself in a crisis pregnancy (also due to failed contraception), and was wrestling with the issue of abortion. She had asked me to find out how far her baby would have developed at this point, so I did some research online.

I found some images and descriptions of fetal development, and was amazed by how much I hadn't known. For all the time I'd spent talking about abortion rights, I'd never bothered to learn the details about what, exactly, happens within a woman's womb when she's pregnant, and no one had encouraged me to do so. I had never heard that fetuses have arms and legs and tastebuds at eight weeks gestation, or that they began practicing breathing at 11 weeks. I paused and thought about that for a long time. It didn't make me question my pro-choice stance, but for the first time I could understand how someone could be uncomfortable with abortion.

The biggest thing I noticed, however, was that pro-life sites had this information in abundance. The pro-lifers encouraged women to educate themselves about the details of pregnancy, suggested that they view ultrasounds to know what was happening within their bodies, and offered resources to educate women about all aspects of the female reproductive system.

On the pro-choice side, it was a totally different story.

I had started my research on websites for abortion providers and various feminist organizations, which I had assumed would equip women to make informed choices by providing them with full information. To my concern and surprise, I could not find one shred of information about fetal development on any websites associated with the pro-choice movement. When I read their literature about the details of abortion procedures, they were full of insulting euphemisms. Even when describing second trimester abortions, they would use eerily vague terms talking about "emptying the uterus" of its "contents." I felt like I had been transported back to Victorian England, where women weren't supposed to be told hard facts, even about their own bodies, because they might get all flustered.

Personhood: The other elephant in the room

Nowhere was the fear of information more obvious than on the issue of personhood. We had always gotten a good laugh out of anti-choicers and their love of zygotes, and would feel triumphant when we would point out the elephant in the room that they must not really value these lives as fully human since they didn't hold full funerals for, say, early miscarriages. But as my questions about the pro-choice worldview festered, I began to notice that we were tripping all over our own elephants.

We may have snickered at the idea of a three-day-old conceptus being completely human, but I began to notice a startling lack of interest in nailing down the question of when unborn life did become human. Folks within the pro-choice movement would scoff at the idea of a seven-week-old fetus being a person, and would nod in unquestioning agreement that a baby is fully human the day before her due date. So that must mean that there is some point at which we're no longer talking about a sub-human "fetus" and we're now talking about a fully human baby. Yet I could not get a single answer about when that might happen, not from individuals, not from official organizational statements. There was absolutely zero interest in the question of when we should start protecting unborn human life.

I'll never forgot the first time I read the documents to the Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart. Intelligent, educated people-some of them leaders of our country-coolly debated the most effective way to kill babies who were close to or beyond the age of viability. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote an amici brief in which they advocated for D&X, a procedure in which babies are delivered and then killed outside of the womb. Their reasoning?

D&X presents a variety of potential safety advantages over other abortion procedures used during the same gestational period. Compared to D&E's involving dismemberment, D&X involves less risk of uterine perforation or cervical laceration because it requires the physician to make fewer passes into the uterus with sharp instruments and reduces the presence of sharp fetal bone fragments that can injure the uterus and cervix. There is also considerable evidence that D&X reduces the risk of retained fetal tissue, a serious abortion complication that can cause maternal death, and that D&X reduces the incidence of a `free floating' fetal head that can be difficult for a physician to grasp and remove and can thus cause maternal injury. [emphasis mine]

The ACOG had recently made statements condemning homebirth, in part because they were concerned about the health of babies. And yet here they were, coolly saying that it's better to kill babies outside of the womb because their decapitated heads can injure their mothers.
I was left speechless by the level of disconnect I was seeing-not just among fringe extremists, but by the average pro-choice person. I had recently visited a friend's baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital, and I recalled that the baby in the incubator next to us was born the week before at 24 weeks gestation, and so was now 25 weeks old. This baby was the same age as the babies whose method of extermination was debated in Stenberg v. Carhart. If he were to be murdered in his incubator it would be a headline-generating tragedy. But if the same thing were to happen to him-at the exact same age-in which he was murdered as part of an induced delivery, it would be an ACOG-approved medical procedure.

Posted on 18 Nov 2012 17:22:42 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2012 17:53:31 GMT
This is a powerful one, I think you have posted elsewhere. Shame you did not get any responses but hardly suprising given the general stance of most posters on here. Must admit I was pro choice but now I just take comfort in the fact I won't ever have to make that descision, being male and all.

Charlie started another thread. This was another particularly grusome read, but worth it if there ever was a good counter argument.

Would you say, that given the circumstances, abortion was the only solution to this problem? Or at least that it should have been attempted?

Posted on 18 Nov 2012 17:30:54 GMT
Sadly this debate will never be solved on the same level vs anti....useless...try rising...

Posted on 18 Nov 2012 18:37:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2012 18:40:23 GMT
There is no debate: for only the woman concerned can and should have the final say about having a termination; not the state, and certainly not a foaming rabble of power-mad religious control freaks like Tom and his cronies.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2012 19:01:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2012 19:17:09 GMT
Tom M says:
Hi PS. Thanks for the post. I certainly don' t know any of the facts but Catholic moral law is based upon natural law which is fully consistent with reason. In fact she offers the only possible ontological foundation for ANY personal rights and duties predicted upon the person.

Protestant theologians did a great deal to advance human dignity in the political realm as well.

In some rare circumstances such as entopic pregnancies, the pregnancy itself can cause life-threatening circumstances and the common sense approach of Catholic teaching which in principle cannot ever be opposed to good reasoning allows for operations that will as the unintended effect result in the death of the innocent child.

Diane posted a very good reponse.

This international story speaks volumes about what is really going on here. They really will insist upon killing these babies. Odd that so many fail to relate to their Nazi correlates of recent history. There is nothing more fascist than abortion.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2012 19:11:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2012 20:41:57 GMT
Drew Jones says:
"I certainly don' t know any of the facts but Catholic moral law is based upon natural law which is fully consistent with reason."
That's the great thing about theology - you don't need to bother with facts, data or even arguments to arrive at a conclusion. You know it's reasonable by virtue of being your belief and anyone who doubts or questions it can be readily dismissed.

"In fact she offers the only possible ontological foundation for ANY personal rights and duties predicted upon the person."
Back in the real world, your inability to seriously consider anything but your preconcieved ideas shouldn't be assumed to be the sum total of all possibilities.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2012 19:14:32 GMT
Tom M says:
I think Ryan presents a good illustration of what the abortion crowd is really like.

Posted on 18 Nov 2012 19:26:24 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 18 Nov 2012 19:54:34 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2012 19:31:02 GMT
K. Hoyles says:
Ectopic pregnancy, Tom. When the foetus attaches itself to organs outside of the womb, and is life-threatening.

Posted on 18 Nov 2012 20:39:55 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 18 Nov 2012 20:43:44 GMT]

Posted on 19 Nov 2012 10:55:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2012 11:59:34 GMT
P says:
You say, "In some rare circumstances such as [ectopic] pregnancies, the pregnancy itself can cause life-threatening circumstances and the common sense approach of Catholic teaching which in principle cannot ever be opposed to good reasoning allows for operations that will as the unintended effect result in the death of the innocent child."

It will have as its result the death of the embryo - yes. That is the desired effect - the removal of something which, if it were implanted within the womb might have turned into a child. Implanted in the fallopian tubes the embryo will never develop into anything which could be called a human being, innocent or otherwise. The removal is the whole point of the operation and the moral contortion of declaring it "unintended" has absolutely no effect on how dead that embryo is supposed to be after the operation. The intention, or lack of it, is only a useful factor if we are considering the state of the souls of those requesting, performing or permitting the abortion.

For me the question of the ectopic pregnancy and the pregnancy of the unfortunate lady in Ireland are identical. The embryo/foetus is already doomed - it cannot survive. The only question is whether the woman is going to survive or not. In the case of the ectopic pregnancy Catholic hospitals have managed to find a form of words to allow them to perform an abortion. In the case of Savita Halappanavar the form of worlds probably killed her - all for the sake of a 17-week old foetus which was dying anyway. All because, "this is a Catholic country." Tom M, you say, "This international story speaks volumes about what is really going on here. They really will insist upon killing these babies." I'm not quite sure what you think "this international story" is saying. To me it is saying that a doctor's understanding of Catholic dogma dictated that a mother's life should be risked, and ultimately lost, because the foetus inside her was not quite dead - yet.

I would go further and suggest that whenever the baby is not going to survive outside of the womb, then an abortion should be an option allowed to a woman - whatever the age of the foetus and whether or not the woman life's is at risk. My mother used to tell a tale from her experience when in hospital to give birth. This was in the days before ultrasound, when no one knew that the baby that was going to be delivered did not have a head. Does that "innocent child" deserve a "chance of life". I say that what was developing in that woman's womb was not a child, and - these days, when ultrasound would have shown the headless foetus - I would say that she should certainly have been permitted an abortion - even if there was a heartbeat and even if she was in "a Catholic country."

So now we have two situations - one where the "baby" is dying or going to die - and the life of the mother is at risk and where I think that any humane institution, Catholic or otherwise should perform an abortion. The second is where the life of the woman is not endangered, but the foetus cannot survive outside the womb - here too it seems to me to be cruel and pointless to force the woman to carry the foetus to term only for it to die. The old-fashioned Catholic justification for this used to be that if the child is born alive then there is enough time to baptise it before it dies.

I am not sure where Catholic theology and popular Catholic sentiment stand on this one today. Only a few years ago I heard a Catholic priest re-assuring a woman who had lost her baby, at something like 16 weeks, that the "child" was now an angel in heaven looking after her. The woman was so clearly in need of all the comfort she could get (there were additional tragic circumstances) that I did not challenge the priest on this one. I don't know whether a 16-week old foetus has a soul, but I am fairly sure that it had not been baptised. If it was accounted fully human, and had not been baptised, then I presume the stain of original sin would have kept that "child" out of heaven. I am not sure either what Catholic doctrine is on the dead turning into angels.

As I recollect, however, it used to be standard Catholic doctrine that if a situation arose where a choice arose between the life of the mother and the life of the unborn child, then that of the child should always be favoured, because the child could then be baptised and the woman given final unction and so both souls would be saved.

Incidentally, your claim that, "Catholic teaching ... in principle cannot ever be opposed to good reasoning," also seems to me to be absurd. Catholic teaching is based on a belief in God and a belief in souls and a belief in an afterlife and a belief in the accuracy of a sacred text. None of these is self-evident or all the world would have developed Catholicism by a process of natural reasoning without any need for missionaries.

These days I more usually hear the argument that no man or woman should make the choice to kill the mother or the child, but that it should be left to God. This despite doctrine that acts of omission are as culpable as acts of commission - failing to act is itself a moral choice. The end result can be, as in Savita Halappanavar's case, that a "refusal to choose" meant that 2 lives were lost rather than one.

Of course, the souls of those who would have to have performed the operation do not have the stain of abortion on them, so perhaps that justifies the decision to let Savita die. Perhaps they thought that, since she was a Hindu, she was going to Hell anyway, so her suffering here was just the start.

"Natural law?" No.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 11:15:34 GMT
And yet as we both know Tom, High ranking priests in the Catholic church aided and abetted Senior SS officers in WW2 to escape punishment.

I did say every time you mentioned Hitler to suppport one of your claims id roll this out.

so just stop.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 11:16:38 GMT
K. Hoyles says:
Excellent post P, thank you.

Posted on 19 Nov 2012 12:46:07 GMT
P says:
Jenifer Fulwiler tells a story within an American context. I am not competent to say whether or not there is, "absolutely zero interest in the question of when we should start protecting unborn human life."

That is certainly not the case in the UK. There is debate over whether the time limit for abortions should be changed - based on arguments about how developed the foetus has to be to survive outside the womb. This focuses on a time between 20 and 24 weeks gestation.

There are those who passionately want to lower the abortion limit from the "viability" line to 12 weeks. This lobby (including the currently high-profile Nadine Dorries) does not argue that a 12-week old foetus is viable, but that at 12 weeks it is developed enough to be accounted human and deserving of protection under most circumstances.

There are those who feel that even 12 weeks is too high a limit, but would not want to take the limit so far down as to stop pre-implantation measures which prevent a potential pregnancy being established.

And there are those who want to declare that the minute there is unique DNA, then you have a "human person" which must be protected as much as you would protect a 3-month old child.

I'm too tired to provide links to all these discussions, but it's not difficult if you try Google. "Nadine Dorries" and "abortion" will get the 12-weeks argument. The rest is pretty predictable.

Maybe the pro-choice lobby in America are all bung-ho pro-abortion, gleefully killing babies without a thought to what is and is not a baby. Those of us who are pro-choice over here have come across a great deal of debate both about HOW you draw the lines ("viability", "developmental stage", "DNA") and WHERE that means you draw the line.

Most of us here are also of the opinion that proper sex education and the proper use of contraception is a much better answer than abortion. Many of us do not like abortion, but think it preferable in some circumstances to the alternatives. I stand by the position that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

Unfortunately one of the most vocal anti-abortion voices over here is the Roman Catholic Church, which is also loudly anti-contraception. This, to my mind, fatally compromises their stance on abortion.

I note with some grim amusement, that one of England's more prominent Catholics - Iain Duncan Smith - has been "preaching" that poor families should limit the number of children they produce, preferably to 2. Presumably he is of the belief that the poor should give up sex, as the only way to limit families which is both reliable and morally acceptable to the One True Church.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 12:52:37 GMT
AJ Murray says:
What is that you think is powerful?

Her first complaint is that the pro-life websites don't have enough information (pictures actually) about the stages of development in the fetus, which is untrue as you can find information aplenty if that's what you want to know. Then she disparages the lack of agreement over when exactly a fetus becomes a person. Not sure why, this is very much an area of debate worldwide but the fact is that if you go down the absolutist route of declaring life/personhood at conception you must necessarly instigate charges of manslaughter, even murder, against any woman who has a miscarriage. In the UK at least there is a recogniotion that that is an absurd proposition so that the life of the fetus is considered as being part of the mother and the dividing point is when the infant can survive without the mother. She finishes on a complaint about the seemingly unfeeling attitude displayed by surgeons debating a procedure which only points to her naivety.

What is actually missing from this piece is two things; an actual argument against advocating a choice for women and the real reason why Jennifer Fulwiler is opposed to any choice, her conversion to Catholicism.

Posted on 19 Nov 2012 13:02:49 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2012 13:04:00 GMT
In case anyone was wondering, the deleted posts pointed out the fact that Tom has been kicked off at least one amazon site already.

Fact, not opinion.

I find the gnomes' response rather bizarre.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:06:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2012 14:13:48 GMT
Tom M says:

You have not grasped the point. The objective for the surgery when a fertilized ovum is in the fallopian tube is NOT ... to kill an unwanted baby, or murder.

The point is to end a medical condition that will end the life of the mother and child for that matter. The INTENTION is to save the mother, not to kill her child.

As I continue in your post you appear to be laughing at the distinction this distinction that is made. You seem seriously to be claiming that intention is not very often the most salient consideration when examining actions.

A man who innocently tosses a lit match after lighting a cigarette and causes the death of a person sitting in a car nearby due to an unintendend gas leak, is quite different in most people's view from the man who tosses a match into some gasoline leaking from a car to murder his spouse.

The point of intention is so basic to ordinary human affairs that it is rather difficult to imagine anyone having a rational difficulty with it.

I see one of the stars does not think this clarification 'adds to the discussion'.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:16:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2012 14:17:11 GMT
Spin says:
Tom: Indeed. The question concerns life, not lifestyle. If the intention is to save a life, abortion is not an issue for debate. Indeed, a number of years ago there was a case in the UK where the mother chose to die to save the life of her child. An abortion would have saved her life, but she chose the life of her child as being of more value than her own. I remember that case because when I heard it, my heart broke...

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:18:18 GMT
Tom M says:

I contacted Amazon concerning this ongoing business with Maxwell, his .."You're Paul Davidson stage, his you''re "cheating with the buttons" phase and his later ventures into cyberstalking and his accusations for which our vaunted intellect and pals appear to be overlooking something rather obvious.

I am glad Amazon is responding.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:28:04 GMT
Tom M says:
Clark, shame on you.

Hitler was the first modern leader of note to recommend abortion, admittedly only for his enemies. There is nothing more fascistic than abortion.

That you slander the church of the flimsiest of pretexts while she had an astonishing record , which she continues in service to mankind, just tells us things about you.

The parallels with the murder of the Jews is paralleled with the attack on the youngerst human beings. The parallels are just that. The difference in the victims is age and religion.

I am not surprised that someone who supports abortion also seeks the death of truth. Its the salient feature of the utterly irrational 'new' atheist movement. It's about access to women's bodies without the trouble of raising your little boy or girl. Easier to find a like-minded sort to simply kill the baby.

There's no great mystery or secret here. Everybody knows exactly what's going on.

Posted on 19 Nov 2012 14:28:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 19 Nov 2012 15:01:01 GMT
To slightly paraphrase Isaac Babel, 'No force can pierce the heart with such force as a fact put at just the right place.' Though Tom may make pad out his his posts with as much wilful nonsense as he can cut and paste, watching a fact skewer them straight through is a undisguised pleasure.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:35:08 GMT
How they responding Tom?


In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:37:04 GMT
Tom M says:
P . You also take.. out of context .. which is not known.. Did either parent ask why abortion would not just be done?

There is NO issue here either with abortion law in Ireland which protects all human beings and particularly protects the young from young girls in distress and murderers as well as safeguarding ACTUAL medical reasons for "THERAPEUTIC" abortions as these murders are called.

What are you going on about. As I point out, there MAY be a study of medical malpractice here. Media around the world, who really want get at the Irish little boys and girls are lying and distorting and exploiting this tragedy simply to get the abortion mills turning.

Imagine if people had to expect the natural consequences of their actions! What if no one would agree to murder your baby?

Ever seen a third triimester abortion where the live birth baby is murdered by thrusting surgical scissors up threw the small hole where the skull meeets the spinal column? The scissors are rammed up into the middle of the brain and if the baby doesn't stop squirming instantly , the scissors are opened.

Posted on 19 Nov 2012 14:37:31 GMT
Dan Fante says:
I haven't been posting on here long but I've never been on forum that invokes Godwin's law without a hint of irony as often as this place does.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2012 14:39:59 GMT
Tom M says:
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