National Abortion Federation v. Ashcroft and the Strange Career of Partial-Birth Abortion Bans

August 28, 2004 | 71 comments
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By now, most everyone has probably seen the district court decision invalidating the partial-birth abortion ban. It’s no surprise that the judge in that case invalidated the law. The law did not include an exception for cases where the health of the mother was threatened, and was thus (under pretty clear Supreme Court precedent) unconstitutional.

There has been some interesting internet commentary about the propriety of the decision. Rob Vischer at the Mirror of Justice comments on Judge Casey’s role, as a Catholic judge, in the case. Vischer suggests that Judge Casey’s findings of fact may be helpful for pro-life advocates, despite the fact that the judge was bound by legal precedents. A similar, and surprisingly deferential, analysis was offered at the National Review.

I wasn’t surprised to see the law invalidated. To me, the issue of partial-birth abortion has always been a good illustration of a characteristic of the pro-life movement, which depending on one’s political perspective may be viewed as muleheadedness, hypocrisy, or steadfastness. Despite overwhelming public support for a ban on partial-birth abortion, pro-life politicians have been unable or unwilling to enact viable legislation against it. The law was struck down, just like the last one, because it didn’t have a health exception. The solution isn’t so difficult, guys: Add a health exception. How hard is that? And viola, a constitutional partial-birth abortion ban. Why can’t people get that through their heads?

As indicated above, the answer may be, depending on one’s political perspective may be viewed as muleheadedness, hypocrisy, or steadfastness.

Pro-life advocates probably see it as steadfastness. They won’t bend to the law — they will make the law change for them. (Perhaps some of our pro-life advocates around here can elaborate).

Their opponents probably see this as evidence of hypocrisy. Despite repeated claims about caring for life, pro-life advocates are unwilling to make realistic moves to end partial birth abortion. Instead, they keep trying to leverage the popular opinion against partial-birth abortion, in order to try to milk greater gains from it.

The third possibility is that many pro-life politicians are not cynically trying to leverage an issue, but they are simply too stubborn to see that they have an easy victory within their grasp, and that they only delay passage of a viable partial-birth abortion ban when they try to overreach.

These seem to be the most convincing potential explanations for the fact that, despite strong public opinion against partial-birth abortion, a clear constitutional path to a ban, and a political majority in favor of such a ban — all of which have existed for years — Congress has somehow failed to enact a viable ban, yet again.

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71 Responses to National Abortion Federation v. Ashcroft and the Strange Career of Partial-Birth Abortion Bans

  1. Measure on August 28, 2004 at 1:31 pm

    You say “The solution isn’t so difficult, guys: Add a health exception. How hard is that? And viola, a constitutional partial-birth abortion ban. Why can’t people get that through their heads?”

    The problem with such an exemption is that it has been shown on the state level that such a rule allows for anyone to still get an abortion, as there are doctors willing to interperet “Health” to mean a variety of things that allow most or all women who want an abortion to recieve one anyway.

    So if this law was put into effect with the wording you suggest, it would have little to no impact on the number of partial-birth abortions performed.

    In any case, the law did provide for taking into consideration the “Life” of the mother and child.

  2. Eric James Stone on August 28, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    Measure’s right: a “health” exception is a loophole so big you can drive a Mack truck through it.

  3. lyle on August 28, 2004 at 7:16 pm

    I enjoyed CNN’s coverage of the judge’s decision…

    “Judge strikes down so-called ‘Partial Birth Abortion’ Ban Act”

    Seemingly, it is more important to be liberal & PC than to simply report the news. The law was officially called and passed as the Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003.

    Go figure. Of course, why even get into the continued sickness of the judicial system and its propensity to strike down democratically passed laws…(which of course means nothing to more ‘enlightened’ folks like judges)

  4. Ashleigh on August 28, 2004 at 7:18 pm

    All of my adult life I’ve agonized over abortion. Between a pro-life extreme and a pro-choice extreme, neither of which seemed honest to me.

    It should comfort you both to know that it is exactly comments like yours that have pushed me to finally declare myself pro-choice.

    Between protecting the health and life of living mother, or protecting the health and life of an unborn baby, I have to side with the mother. Every time.

  5. Kaimi on August 28, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Lyle,

    I know we’ve been over this ground before, but,

    (1) Umm, of course the courts invalidate democratically passed laws. There aren’t any other kind of laws on the books.

    Any system of judicial review will result in courts invalidating democratically passed laws. That goes all the way back to John Marshall and Marbury v. Madison.

    (2) I’m not aware of any commentators who think that the power of judicial review relies on the enlightenment of the judges. It depends on the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the precedents created by our common law system.

  6. Jeff Lindsay on August 28, 2004 at 7:30 pm

    From http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/PBAall110403.html:

    The bill bans “partial-birth abortion,” and it legally defines a partial-birth abortion as any abortion in which the baby is delivered “past the [baby’s] navel . . . outside the body of the mother,” OR “in the case of head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother,” BEFORE being killed. The complete official text of the bill being signed by President Bush, in a searchable format, is here:
    http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/partial-birth%20abortion%20Ban%20act%20final%20language.htm.

    The bill would allow the method if it was ever necessary to save a mother’s life. Such an exception has been part of the legislation since it was first introduced in 1995. Nevertheless, it is still not uncommon to see news reports that the bill would “never” allow the procedure, or to say flat out that it does not contain an exception to save a mother’s life.

    Given the nature of partial birth abortion, is there any real situation where it is needed for the physical health of the mother? Isn’t the baby on its way out, still alive, and it is then killed while part of it remains in the mother in order to say it is an abortion and not simply a cold-blooded murder of viable human being?

    I also believe that using a vague and indefinite term like “health” of the mother would totally undermine any law against partial birth abortion. If the mother wants the baby dead, she could claim to suffer emotional distress and thus adverse mental health if it lived. As long as some doctor signs a note saying that it was for “health” reasons, what could be done to stop partial birth abortion under such a law?

  7. lyle on August 28, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Kaimi:

    Thanks for the reminder. Hopefully we will all remember that when discussing the Rehnquist Court & any liberal cries of angst over conservative judges striking down laws that conservatives don’t like.

  8. Adam Greenwood on August 28, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    Welcome to the dark side, Ashleigh. Since most pro-lifers favor a genuine health-of-the-mother exception, I hardly see why the partial birth abortion ban puts you over the edge.
    Partial birth abortion, as opposed to other kinds, is simply never necessary to preserve the mother’s life or avoid serious health complications for her. That’s why the drafters of the PBA didn’t include a health exception. The kind of health exception Kaimi wants is the kind where you can get an abortion because the changes in your figure are affecting your self-esteem.

    Kaimi,
    It would be easier for you to assume that most prolifers are playing political games. It would help reconcile your divergent political and religious views. But before assuming that our actions are motivated by cynicism you ought to ask a pro-lifer, of whom there not a few in mormon circles.

  9. Kaimi on August 28, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    A number of commenters have suggested that there is no legitimate health-related reason for a partial-birth abortion.

    I’m no expert, but the decision itself suggests otherwise. In a lengthy (and not-for-the-queasy) segment, the court discusses testimony from several physicians supporting the idea that women with some health conditions were less likely to suffer complications from a partial-birth, or D & X, abortion, than from other methods. The court is clear the Congressional record itself demonstrates that sometimes a D & X abortion is best for the health of the mother.

    A number of commenters so far have themselves expressed a cynicism, suggesting that a health exception is a mere loophole to allow any kind of abortion. But the opinion suggests that there may be a genuine need for a health exception.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t look like anything that intelligent statutory drafting can’t resolve.

    For example, people have expressed a sarcastic idea that a health exception will be based on changes in a woman’s figure or vague mental issues. I don’t know if these ideas have been advanced by pro-choice advocates, but I personally haven’t suggested anything of the sort (thanks for putting words into my mouth, Adam). Aren’t there ways to craft a statute to avoid that. Come on, people craft statutes all the time to avoid particular outcomes. Would an exception to preserve “the physical health” of the mother pass Stenberg scrutinty? (I’m not sure). How about an exception for some of the conditions which, according to the opinion, some doctors believe make a partial-birth abortion more desirable? E.g., fetal anomalies, women with bleeding disorders, sepsis, and so forth.

  10. Adam Greenwood on August 28, 2004 at 8:33 pm

    I looked through Kaimi’s helpful links (where does he find the time) and thought the following excerpts might be helpful:

    From the PBA Act:
    “This [law] does not apply to a partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”

    From the Judge’s decision:
    “[PBA] is a gruesome, brutal, barbaric, and uncivilized medical procedure.”
    “[PBAs] subject fetuses to severe pain.”
    “some [abortionists] testified that fetal pain does not concern them . . . and do not convey to their patients that their fetuses may undergo severe pain . . . .”
    “Plaintiffs [could not] point to a specific patient or actual circumstance in which [PBA] was necessary to protect a woman’s health.”

  11. Adam Greenwood on August 28, 2004 at 8:38 pm

    I just finished reading the court’s opinion, Kaimi, and I disagree that the court acknowledged *any* health necessity for partial-birth abortions. The court thought all the reasons proffered were theoretical and speculative, partaking of post-hoc rationalizations.

  12. lyle on August 28, 2004 at 10:03 pm

    Let’s just keep one thing strait folks, we are talking about third trimester abortions here, i.e.:

    if the babies were put in an ICU instead of “Dilated & Extracted”…they would survive outside of the womb & grow up to become like you and me instead of being thrown into a garbage can.

    Sorry’ I’m not as eloquent as that Judge, Adam.

  13. Kristine on August 28, 2004 at 10:16 pm

    Guys, do any of you have good information on how many times a year intact D&X is performed, what percentage of those cases involve a fetus without severe abnormalities, etc.? It’s hard not to conclude that there are cynical political motivations behind pro-lifers efforts to pass overbroad legislation about a gruesome and easy-to-sensationalize procedure that is performed so rarely. Why not focus on the 99% of abortions that are performed before 20 weeks?

  14. Ivan Wolfe on August 28, 2004 at 10:20 pm

    Kristine:

    perhaps not cynical – perhaps practical. Pro-lifers want to win what battles they can (since legally, they win so few), and this seemed like an easy one.

    Guess not.

  15. lyle on August 28, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    Yup…Ivan is correct. It is called a little by little strategy.

    Slowly, more and more Americans are coming to believe that Abortion is murder. We are winning the war, battle by battle.

    Regardless, evil is evil…whether it is performed once a year, or 100, or more…or whether only 1 or all 100 of those are due to fetal ‘abnormalities’ (perhaps you had cystic fibrosis in mind?).

    Why do Saints go out of their way to defend evil?

  16. Kristine on August 28, 2004 at 10:29 pm

    But if it’s merely practical, then why not just try to outlaw third trimester or post-viability abortions? It seems like the terminology used in most of the state bills is deliberately confusing.

  17. Jack on August 28, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    Kristine: the tables can be turned right around. As has already been noted above, the argument that PBA is viable based solely on the merits of protecting the mother from severe health difficulties is just as sensationalized.

    “Plaintiffs [could not] point to a specific patient or actual circumstance in which [PBA] was necessary to protect a woman’s health.”

  18. Eric James Stone on August 28, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    Ashleigh,

    > Between protecting the health and life of
    > living mother, or protecting the health and
    > life of an unborn baby, I have to side with the
    > mother. Every time.

    NOBODY is disputing the exception to protect the life of the mother, so the mere fact that you include the life of the mother in your formula is rather strange. The correct formulation for the position you have now decided to take is:

    > Between protecting the health of a mother from
    > any possible perceived problem no matter how
    > minor, or protecting the life of an unborn baby
    > who is past the point of viability (and is
    > therefore capable of surviving outside the
    > womb) from being ended in a brutal manner, I
    > have to side with the mother. Every time.

  19. Chris M on August 29, 2004 at 3:05 am

    Eric: I’m not sure what set of people you’re taking as the universal set when you say “NOBODY is disputing the exception to protect the life of the mother,” so I can’t say you’re wrong. Perhaps you mean “NOBODY among the commenters to this post.” In that case, I must stand up to be counted among those who dispute such an exception, at least as a matter of morality.

    One may not intentionally take the life of an innocent, even to preserve one’s own life. To hold that a mother is morally justified in aborting her child to save her own life, then, depends on characterizing the unborn child as an aggressor, a sort of kidnapper of one’s body. Some have tried that tack. I can’t accept the characterization. If an unborn child is not the quintessence of innocence, it is hard to imagine who is.

    It’s a hard teaching, and I can’t imagine the heartbreak of finding oneself in such a situation. It’s a separate question whether the law should punish people who can’t live up to this demanding maxim. I’m inclined to think not.

    Perhaps we can at least agree that those mothers who do refuse abortion, even at the risk or cost of their own lives, are heroines and imagines dei among us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

  20. Ashleigh on August 29, 2004 at 4:50 am

    Eric, I’m pretty sure your comment was not meant to persuade me, but to condemn me. If you feel comfortable with that so be it. That was not “the correct formulation” for my position. It seems to me the only thing that paragraph demonstrated was that you feel comfortable demonizing anyone who disagrees with you.

    Adam, it isn’t the PB Abortion Ban that “pushed me over the edge”. I will tell you what did affect my opinion but first I want to address your framing.

    I wasn’t “pushed”, and I don’t think there is an “edge”. It would be quite comfortable if there was simply a light side and a dark side. But sadly life is fully of messy grays and difficult questions with no clear answers.

    There is no cliff with the righteous pro-life at the pure-white top and the evil pro-choice in the dirty-black pit. In my opinion, what we have here is a continuum, and somewhere in the moderate middle (and we’re both relatively near it I’d presume) are the best *mortal* answers we can patch together to face this complex moral dilemma that is abortion. We both agree that abortion should be a choice in cases of incest, rape, health and life of the mother. We probably also agree that unborn babies are sacred, innocent, and important, and deserve to be considered with a very high level of respect. That is fairly large patch of common ground. I’m sure there’re more, but I don’t know enough about your specific beliefs to say.

    I wasn’t “pushed” because I made a very careful and very informed and very prayerful moral decision.

    It wasn’t the PBA ban itself that solidified my decision, but the rhetoric such as yours that dismisses a health exception as unnecessary. Or that dismisses a “woman’s health” as too broad a loophole. I would support a PB Abortion ban with a health exception. I would even support it if the health exception was *reasonably* narrowed to exclude such things as have been mentioned here as unworthy, waistlines et al. (by the third trimester it’s too late for that anyway). I would bet a lot of average pro-choice people would also be comfortable with this.

    And if as the result of such a law, no PBA was ever performed again, I would be happy with that result. BUT in the event that a PBA is *really* necessary to preserve a woman’s health, I do not think it the place of government to interfere in a doctor’s decision to protect that women.

    And a PBA law with a “reasonably narrow” health exception might actually do some good rather than simply be overturned because it is unconstitutional under present Supreme Court rulings. Like Kristine, I doubt it would do much good, but it might do some and I would support that.

    I agree that PBA is an ugly subject on which pro-choice advocates are vulnerable, and we are vulnerable for good reason, because PBA it is an extreme procedure on the very teetering edge of grey to black. Everybody but the most hardened pro-choice extremist feels uncomfortable talking about this subject because it is ugly and morally shaky at best. This is the point at which most moderate pro-choice people would agree that “choice” undeniably brushes up with “murder”. Personally I would agree with most pro-life people that choice brushes up with or becomes murder before that point.

    But even PBA is not all black and white. I read an interview with a couple who decided on PBA because they discovered their unborn child had a rare degenerative bone disease so severe that the baby’s wafer-thin bones were all broken simply from moving around in the womb. The baby was probably in severe pain, and the very act of childbirth, even the most gentle cesarean delivery, would kill the baby instantly. Tell me what good choice this couple had? Condemn them if you will.

    Obviously there are a lot of issues that I do not agree with in pro-choice circles. But I feel a heavy obligation to protect women. You can argue with me until you turn blue that the government should interfere with a doctor’s decision to protect the health of a woman and I will not change my mind.

    To me it comes down to encouraging the government to err on the side of protecting women here on Earth, and trusting the Lord to protect unborn babies when we fail them. And yes, I think we could and should do more to protect them. I don’t doubt that many abortions are murder or something very “like unto it”. And I would support wise and moderate attempts to move away from the present system of absolute permissiveness. But both sides shy from moderation. So I choose and I trust the Lord to judge and resolve where our human systems can not.

    I know this may be the longest comment in the history of the T&S universe, and I really should be in bed right now since Church is at 8:30.

    But there is one more issue that disturbs me. Please think twice about condemning and demonizing those with whom you disagree. I don’t think it solves anything nor moves us closer to an answer. Characterizing all women who choose elective abortions as evil murderers is a very harsh thing, a judgment I am not prepared to make. Saying “evil is evil” is easy, but could you look in her eyes, walk in her shoes, truly listen to her reasons and then tell her that? In most cases I think that would be more difficult.

    Yes, we need to stand for righteousness, yes we need to protect the innocent, yes we sometimes have to make judgments. And you don’t have to agree with me. I simply ask that you be careful in your rhetoric, strive for empathy, and whenever possible leave condemnation to the Lord.

    Or not. Choose your own path.

  21. Jeff Lindsay on August 29, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    Please note that PBA is not necessarily performed on viable fetuses. It is most commonly peformed in months five and six, according to information from NRLC.org at http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/pba/PBAall110403.html. A large percentage of these fetuses probably would have survived – but not all – if only given the chance (the medical progress in neonatology in recent years has been incredible, including major contributions by LDS physicians such as J. Devn Cornish).

    Here is one interesting excerpt from the NRLC.org page I cite above:

    What new evidence has come to light since 1997 only reinforces the conclusion that some practitioners use the method routinely during the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, and even later, and that the vast majority of partial-birth abortions do not involve any acute medical circumstances. For example, Kansas became the only state to enact a law that requires reporting of partial-birth abortions separately from other abortion methods. The first full year the law was in effect (1999), Kansas abortionists reported that they performed 182 partial-birth abortions on babies who were defined by the abortionists themselves as “viable,” and they also reported that all 182 of these were performed for “mental” (as opposed to “physical”) health reasons. See pages 10-11 of the Kansas Health Department report.
    See page 11 of http://www.kdhe.state.ks.us/hci/99itop1.pdf.

    Nevertheless, in recent months, NRLC has witnessed attempts to revive erroneous claims about partial-birth abortion that were thoroughly discredited in 1996 and 1997. Articles and broadcasts in major media outlets, including the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal, have adopted the premise the partial-birth abortions are nearly always performed to deal with serious physical disorders of mother and/or baby.

    Again I’d like to know if there is ever a legitimate reason based on physical health for destroying a baby that is already mostly born, rather than simply removing the baby all the way and giving it a chance to live.

    Isn’t PBA just a modern version of the ancient Molech Reproductive Rights Clinic? How long before we provide Retroactive Abortion Rights for those whose unwanted fetuses became children without the chance for an abortion?

  22. Eric James Stone on August 29, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Chris M,

    Well, I meant among those whose comments supposedly pushed Ashleigh over the edge, but I guess I was being more general than that. The life of the mother exception is obviously necessary as a political matter.

    > One may not intentionally take the life of an
    > innocent, even to preserve one’s own life.

    OK, here we get into semantics. There is a difference between intentionally taking the life of an innocent and taking action which has the effect of taking the life of an innocent.

    If I’m driving along a cliffside road, and suddenly see a child in the road, I am not morally obligated to drive off the cliff and kill myself rather than take the life of an innocent.

    I would not be intentionally taking the life of the child, I would be choosing a course of action to save my own life. The taking of the child’s life is an unfortunate consequence of that choice.

    By the same logic, if I choose to drive off the cliff instead of hitting the child, I am not intentionally taking my own life. I have chosen a course of action to save the life of the child, and the loss of my own life is an unfortunate consequence of that choice.

    But in neither case am I intentionally choosing to take a life. If there were a choice under which both lives would be spared, I would take it.

    Ashleigh,

    Frankly, I didn’t believe that the comments here pushed you over the edge, because the way you formulated your statement showed a clear pro-choice bias. It seemed to me you were playing games; trying to get us to feel blame for pushing you into becoming pro-choice.

    In looking back at your original comment, I see now that I misread what you said: you didn’t say it was the comments here that pushed you over the edge, but that it was comments like those here. So the extreme pro-choice position of your comment is more understandable. I apologize for misreading what you said.

    But it is comments like yours — saying that you back the health of the mother over the life of the fetus every time — that make pro-lifers suspicious of health exemptions.

    In your recent elaboration of your comment, you back off from that extreme by saying that you would support a narrowing of the health exception, which certainly makes you sound a lot more reasonable than you did originally.

  23. Kaimi on August 29, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    Adam,

    I don’t agree with your reading of the opinion. The court makes clear that there is a division of medical opinion on this issue.

    To quote, from page 75:

    Although the Court finds that the Government’s experts offered testimony that was highly credible and reasons, the Court cannot ignore that the evidence indicates a division of medical opinion exists about the necessity of D & X to preserve women’s health. There is no consensus that D & X is never medically necessary, but there is a signifiant body of medical opinion that holds the contrary.

    From page 84:

    The ultimate conclusion reached by Congress is that there exists a “moral, medical and ethical consensus” that D & X “is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.” The congressional record itself undermines this finding. [the court then discusses the Congressional record]

    From 85:

    In light of the opposing statements within the congressional record, it was unreasonable to conclude that a consensus within the medical community believes that D & X is never medically necessary. Testimony adduced at trial bolsters this conclusion.

  24. john fowles on August 29, 2004 at 4:57 pm

    Jeff, that spoof of yours on Planned Unparenthood and the Retroactive Civil Rights for Mothers Act of 1997 was great. The reason that I think it is so great is that it encapsulates the callousness that has enveloped this issue from the pro-choice side, as evidenced by pro-choice advocate Amy Richards’s “choice” to eliminate two pefectly healthy of three triplets because she didn’t want to move out of the city or shop at Costco (see links at my comment on another thread).

    I thought your take on viability was particularly poignant when you wrote, “In fact, it’s your Constitutional right: as long as your unwanted post-natal fetuses can’t cook, clean their own room, or earn good money, they are not viable on their own and can be terminated when you wish because of your Constitutional right to privacy.

    I am a fan of hyperbole (although I think Kaimi doesn’t appreciate it much when I use it) and your hyperbole in the spoof accomplishes its intended effect very well by highlighting the incomprehensible cruelty and callousness of a society unphased by the gruesome procedure of partial birth abortion.

    As has been noted already on this thread:

    (1) most PBA victims would be viable outside the womb;
    (2) the baby is partially delivered (i.e. head fully or nearly completely out) before the potassium is administered and the skull crushed; and
    (3) in the language of the opinion, “[PBAs] subject fetuses to severe pain.”

    My question is this: what is the difference between the PBA of a viable fetus and full delivery + killing the kid later (like so many distressed women have done in their post-natal depression throughout the centuries, as so movingly depicted in Goethe’s Faust)? It seems to me that support of PBA invalidates any otherwise persuasive arguments from the pro-choice camp that abortion is not murder b/c a fetus is not a human being, or that the fetus is not viable and could not survive on its own outside the womb. How can this reasoning, which is the only way that abortion escapes definition as the murder or killing of a human being, stand in the face of the partial delivery of a viable fetus? The baby is alive when its head is delivered, and then the baby is killed by an excrutiatingly painful (according to the judge) medical procedure. This seems like a major disconnect in the pro-choice side to me.

  25. Jack on August 29, 2004 at 5:34 pm

    Ashleigh, I’m amazed that you would allow the rantings of a few hecklers to determine your moral stance on so sensitive an issue.

  26. Kristine on August 29, 2004 at 6:09 pm

    Guys, not to be too graphic, but you keep talking about PBA as though the head were outside the woman’s body–it’s only outside the cervical opening, and, as any woman who has birthed a baby knows, it’s a long way from there to, uh, Tipperary.

    /end technical quibble

    What you guys aren’t mentioning is that the alternative to PBA, *which most current and proposed legislation does nothing to address*, involves dismembering the fetus while it’s in the mother’s uterus. “Partial birth abortions” were invented as a way to reduce the trauma to the mother’s cervix as a result of sharp instruments being introduced into the uterus repeatedly and the danger of infection from fetal tissue left behind. They also allow for more complete autopsies in cases of fetal defects (so that the family could know, for instance, in a case of a severe malformation, whether future children would be likely to inherit similar problems). Late term abortions are horrible, no matter how they’re performed, and a woman who would have one for trivial reasons is indeed monstrous.

    However, I submit that there are very few such women–fewer than 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and only approximately .02% of abortions are performed by intact dilation and extraction. The “mental health” exception to which pro-lifers so strenuously object is invoked, for instance, when anencephaly is discovered late, and the mother chooses to terminate the development of the baby a few weeks early, rather than wait until the body is full grown (all the while having to smile at strangers who ask “when’s the big day?”), go through a painful labor and delivery, and then watch the baby die in her arms. Isn’t reducing that woman’s suffering a worthy aim? Or should we increase it, by making her plead her case before a judge?

    If there really are women who callously and uncaringly terminate pregnancies at 25,30, 35 weeks, I don’t think a law is going to save their souls, and it surely won’t do much to help their children have happy lives.

    Given that the currently proposed laws would not, in fact, outlaw late abortions, but only make them more difficult and painful for the women who choose to have them, it’s hard *not* to read a subtext of misogyny in the efforts of pro-life groups on this one. I’m with you in abhorring the idea that women would have abortions at such a late stage for any but the most extreme reasons, but I think the failure to weigh the pain of women who confront terrible decisions when birth defects or other complications are discovered late is a serious moral failure on the part of the pro-life movement. Anybody who looks at a severe case of hydrocephaly discovered at 30 weeks and doesn’t see an extremely complex ethical problem, to which simple legal solutions have questionable application, has very dull moral sensibilities.

  27. Jeff Lindsay on August 29, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    In February 1997, Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, admitted to the New York Times: “In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along.”

    Also see also the survey results from Kansas that I provided earlier, showing that none of the nearly 200 partial-birth abortions tracked were done for the physical health of the mother.

    Do we have any stats regarding hydrocephaly discovered at 30 weeks? Is it a genuine factor in this debate?

    As for the reasonable statement that a law is not likely to save the souls of people who would commit a crime so calloused as killing a healthy infant, that may be true (but I see many of the mothers as victims of deception and circumstances, with the really calloused souls being the people in the abortion industry and their truly vile partners). On the other hand, good enforceable laws can motivate people to avoid committing heinous acts in a moment of temptation, or make the heinous act less easy to commit. (That’s the point of Alma 42:18-20 — the law helps discourage people from sinning.) Certainly there are many more abortions being performed because of Roe v. Wade than there would have been in a society that condemned abortion.

    But the primary reason for laws against the slaughter of the innocent is not so much for the souls of the aggressors as for the safety of the innocent. A PBA ban will not necessarily make the life of the spared infants happy, but the first step in having any hope of a happy life is having a life. Let’s begin with that, and then encourage the mother to put the child up for adoption instead.

  28. Kristine on August 29, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    “Do we have any stats regarding hydrocephaly discovered at 30 weeks? Is it a genuine factor in this debate?”

    It is. It’s rare, but so are intact dilation and extraction procedures. When you’re talking about a small number of cases, then even a few dozen cases of hydrocephaly (in which the fetus’s head can be extremely large and impossible to deliver vaginally without collapsing the skull) are enough to offer a counter to the claim that there is *never* a legitimate reason to perform this particular medical procedure. My point is only that this law will not significantly impact the number of abortions performed in this country, and it probably will significantly increase the suffering of families who face the awful discovery, late in pregnancy, that there is something badly wrong with their baby. I think that their suffering has to go into the debate, even if they are a minority of cases.

  29. Jack on August 29, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    “…fewer than 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and only approximately .02% of abortions are performed by intact dilation and extraction.”

    1 million abortions (per year) equaling 100%?

  30. Jack on August 29, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    “…fewer than 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and only approximately .02% of abortions are performed by intact dilation and extraction.”

    1 million abortions (per year) equaling 100%?

  31. john fowles on August 29, 2004 at 7:46 pm

    Kristine wrote Given that the currently proposed laws would not, in fact, outlaw late abortions, but only make them more difficult and painful for the women who choose to have them, it’s hard *not* to read a subtext of misogyny in the efforts of pro-life groups on this one.

    I understand why you wrote this–it is inconceivable to you (and many others) that people are opposing abortion on the principle of it even though laws prohibiting abortion would make abortions much messier and hard to obtain (even illegal and thus unregulated as far as the health aspects of it go). But Kristine, alleging misogynism out of such opposition really goes too far. It is also a tired recourse of the pro-choice camp. I personally do not know a single male opposer of abortion that has any interest in controlling or oppressing women. For these conservatives, the tired old issue is whether a human baby deserves the same human dignity (that liberals so enthusiastically tout) that any other human, including convicted murderers, deserve. Sure, there probably are a few good ol’ boys in the country somewhere who are legitimate misogynists and who care less about babies than controlling women’s reproductive processes. I don’t know any of them and I certainly am not advocating their cause in my sincere disgust that our society accepts PBA and any other abortion of “choice” that does not fall into one of the very narrow categories of incest, rape, and serious risk of death to the mother.

    It has nothing to do with keeping women down; rather, the heart of the dispute revolves around human dignity and who deserves it.

  32. Kristine on August 29, 2004 at 8:13 pm

    John, I understand perfectly why you oppose abortion on principle. I do too, though we disagree slightly on the scope of potential exceptions.

    What I don’t understand is why the specific procedure that pro-lifers have chosen to focus on is one that is quite rare, and is done to reduce the trauma to the mother. I think it’s no more barbaric than dismembering the fetus in utero, and so the two reasons I can think of for trying to outlaw intact D&X are
    1) a cynical desire to take advantage of an ambiguity in medical terminology (D&X is also sometimes used to refer to a 1st-trimester procedure)
    2) a desire to punish women who have late term abortions, by making sure they have to have the procedure that wlll hurt them the most–“misogyny” may be too generalized a term to apply to that, but coupled with a willingness to disregard the suffering of some small subset of women who choose late term abortions because of their own medical emergencies or a serious defect in the fetus, it doesn’t seem completely out of line. But is a “serious risk of death” is the only reason you see to allow a woman to terminate a pregnancy, there is some failure to fully appreciate the suffering of pregnant women or women who have to have major abdominal surgery to deliver a deformed fetus. Until we have a culture where men could, for instance, be legally required to donate a kidney to their offspring, I think there is a species of misogyny, however mild, in such differential expectations for pregnant women.

  33. Eric James Stone on August 29, 2004 at 8:59 pm

    Kristine,

    It’s fairly clear to me why pro-lifers have focused on partial birth abortion, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the procedure is designed to reduce trauma to the mother. It has everything to do with the fact that it was a fight they could win.

    If they thought they could ban all late-term abortion procedures (with the same exceptions as the PBA ban), do you think they wouldn’t do it?

    PBA is mostly a post-viability procedure. Since viability is a major tipping point for people’s feelings about the morality of having an abortion, that is significant.

    The dismemberment of the fetus that you describe is indeed gruesome, but since banning such dismemberment would prohibit a substantial number of abortions that are routinely done pre-viability, the political reality is that the ban would never pass.

    PBA has another public relations problem that other abortion methods do not: the baby is partially born before it’s killed. So you’re talking about killing half-born babies who might live if they were allowed to be fully born, and that just seems wrong to a lot of people.

    You see? It has everything to do with political realities and public relations, and nothing to do with punishing women who have abortions or mysogynist ideas.

  34. Kristine on August 29, 2004 at 9:31 pm

    Eric, fair enough, but I still think that unwillingness to grant a health exemption suggests a certain callousness about women’s suffering. We don’t have to call it misogyny if that makes everyone feel better.

    Re: viability: aren’t most PBA’s also performed pre-viability, or at least when viability is still questionable? How many abortions are done post-26/28 weeks? It may be true that’s a fight people can win, but it seems like the wrong end of the problem to be attacking.

    I guess I’m too dumb for all the political gaming–why not spend some money and effort figuring out why abortion rates and teen pregnancy rates declined steadily through the 90s, and see if policies could be crafted to amplify those effects? The PBA-banning seems like a lot of sound and fury that won’t ultimately make a big difference. After all, there are lots of places where abortion is legal and still much rarer than in the US. I’m skeptical of efforts to reduce abortion by legislation, and especially by legislation that *even if it ever passes constitutional muster and can be enforced* (both big ifs), won’t reduce the number of abortions in the US by even 1%/year.

    I should say, and maybe this is as good a place as any to say it, that I really value the discussion on this topic. Even though I’ve vehemently disagreed with some of you, I’ve realized that there were questions around this issue that I hadn’t thought very deeply or very well about. I had adopted a version of the Mitt Romney stance in college–personally opposed in almost every circumstance, but fairly sure that making abortion illegal wouldn’t solve very many problems. You’ll recognize that my position is largely unchanged, but I think it’s better thought out, and I would support some restrictions that I don’t think I would have if you’d asked me a year ago. Anyway, as mad as I’ve been sometimes about things that Matt and Adam and other passionate pro-lifers have said here, I’m glad to have engaged in the debate with you.

  35. Chris M on August 29, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    Eric — your hypothetical about suddenly seeing a child in the middle of the road is a different case. You’re right that you don’t have an obligation to swerve and kill yourself, but that’s because you’re not acting to bring about the child’s death as the means to saving your life. In other words, in your hypothetical the child’s death truly is an unfortunate side effect — his death per se contributes nothing to the good end of saving your own life.

    Now, in the case of an abortion to save the life of the mother, things are different: the death of the child is precisely what saves the mother’s life, because having a living child inside her is somehow killing her.

    Still, it’s true that there are imaginable cases where that isn’t true — for example, in the case of a hysterectomy performed on a pregnant woman to remove a cancerous uterus, where the hysterectomy inevitably but unintentionally results in the child’s death — and in those cases something that looks like “abortion” could be morally legitimate. But the point is that such a procedure really isn’t abortion in the relevant sense of a direct killing of an unborn child.

  36. Chris M on August 29, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    Eric — by the way, none of this is by way of provoking a substantive debate about the life-of-the-mother exception — I’m just a papist interloper here anyway. I just piped in to point out that there are some (quasi-)reasonable people who do take the no-exception position.

  37. john fowles on August 29, 2004 at 10:21 pm

    Kristine, the idea is not to punish women with late term abortions but to prevent those abortions from happening. I agree that there should be a health exception (narrowly tailored) to the PBA ban. But other than that, there is no cynical motive that I can perceive. It is just purely the old issue of pro-life people believing that abortion kills an innocent human.

    What I don’t understand is why the specific procedure that pro-lifers have chosen to focus on is one that is quite rare, and is done to reduce the trauma to the mother.

    As Eric noted, it is a case of fighting the battles that can be won at the present time to lay the groundwork for winning bigger battles to protect innocent human life later on.

    You have mentioned cynicism or implied ulterior motives in a couple of previous comments now, so I want to ask if there isn’t cynicism present in your comment when you casually mentioned that the baby to be protected probably won’t really have a great life anyway. That seemed downright cynical and practically eugenic in the old nineteenth-century sense of social engineering. I am not accusing you of pushing an agenda of social engineering–I sense that you have a pretty moderate position on abortion and would like to see it done less. But you still engage rhetoric from the abortion industry and their partners (as Jeff noted above) when you discuss these issues. That combined with this cynicism that shone through in your last couple of posts provokes incredulity sometimes in me.

    But as to the cynicism, I can only reiterate Jeff’s comment above that “A PBA ban will not necessarily make the life of the spared infants happy, but the first step in having any hope of a happy life is having a life.”

  38. Kristine on August 29, 2004 at 11:03 pm

    I don’t mean to be cynical–I sincerely worry about what children’s lives will be like after they’re born. It is hard enough to mother my own (fervently) wanted children that I wonder what it would be like to try to care for one I wanted less or was less equipped to care for. I think our society is, in very many ways, hostile to children–it’s hard for me to be optimistic about what it is we’re asking these spirits to take on. I wish that some of the energy and money and passion that goes into pro-life activism could be poured into helping poor children and their mothers in this country and elsewhere. I despair when I think how many children there are who are beaten and abused, and I wonder if there would be more of them if we forced their overburdened parents to suffer the full consequences of their sexual mistakes. I suppose that may be cynicism of a sort, in that it betrays my lack of faith, but it’s not the detached or calculated. It’s frustrated utopianism and lack of practical compromising sensibility, more than anything, I think. (Maybe I’m being too kind to myself–you can judge)

  39. john fowles on August 29, 2004 at 11:08 pm

    Kristine, I actually agree with you fully as to the despair attendant to the abuse our children are subjected to. It is horrible and the suffering involved is enough to question anyone’s faith. I just don’t see abortion as a constructive solution to the problem.

  40. Nathan Tolman on August 30, 2004 at 12:52 am

    Kristine

    My wife was born into a home similar to what you describe. I find it offensive you think it would have been better for her parents to abort her than to have kept her. What makes you think you can judge who should be born and who should die, just because their parents are troubled?

  41. Ashleigh on August 30, 2004 at 3:47 am

    Jack, I think you misread my statements. If you reread my post(s) carefully I hope that will be clear.

    Thank you for the apology Eric, a very civil thing to do amidst a heated topic. But I do think you might consider looking at your biases in this statement. . . .

    “In your recent elaboration of your comment, you back off from that extreme by saying that you would support a narrowing of the health exception, which certainly makes you sound a lot more reasonable than you did originally.”

    IMO, I didn’t back off from anything. (I’m not saying I don’t sometimes back off from positions, I do.) You read my first statement as “extreme” and “unreasonable”, I could be wrong, don’t think it *has* to be read that way. My opinion in this matter has not changed.

    Well, it has a little maybe, but not in your direction

    Kristine wrote: “pro-lifers have chosen to focus on is one that is quite rare, and is done to reduce the trauma to the mother.”

    I hadn’t realized this. Cases of such sever fetal deformity would probably not be covered by a “mother’s health” exemption, am I wrong? And I would agree that increasing pain and suffering to a woman in this circumstance would be an unnecessary injustice. So maybe I’m shifting back to opposing the PBA ban, I don’t know.

    Eric wrote: “It has everything to do with the fact that it was a fight they could win.”

    If this is true, I still don’t understand why they did not attempt to include a reasonable health exemption. Then the PBA ban win would have a chance to stick and mean something. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just really don’t get it.

    Kristine wrote: “Why not spend some money and effort figuring out why abortion rates and teen pregnancy rates declined steadily through the 90s, and see if policies could be crafted to amplify those effects?”

    I think that one major contributor to this decline is emergency contraception. Which many (most) pro-life groups also oppose. Along with meaningful sex education and often birth control as well.

    Here’s something I wish pro-life groups would acknowledge: If we outlaw birth control, leave sex education up to parents (which sounds good until you meet some of these kid’s parents), prohibit emergency contraception, and ban abortion who will bear the heavy burden of all theses decisions? Let me give you a hint, it’s not men.

    John wrote: “I personally do not know a single male opposer of abortion that has any interest in controlling or oppressing women.”

    Maybe not, but neither do I see any meaningful discussion among these same men about how to mitigate the seriously harmful affects on women of the policies they advocate. Lauding nuclear families is not a practical solution, btw, not when men run off at the rates they do, while women stick around and do the best they can.

    Nathan wrote: “I find it offensive you think it would have been better for her parents to abort her.”

    First, Kristine never said this. Second, I know this is a common refrain from pro-life advocates but I find the logic iffy. There are plenty of logical reasons to be pro-choice, but I honestly don’t understand this one. Your wife wouldn’t have been born if her parents had used birth control, does that make birth control evil? Your wife wouldn’t have been born if her parents hadn’t had sex, does that make not having sex evil? Am I missing something here? Probably, enlighten me.

  42. Kristine on August 30, 2004 at 9:08 am

    Nathan, I thought that I was tentative enough in my wording not to cause the kind of offense you felt. *Of course* I would never want to judge which parents are fit, or suggest that abortion is a good solution in a particular case. I think it’s amazing how many parents rise to the occasion, and also how resilient kids are and how many come from terrible homes and are absolutely wonderful. I was only confessing my own frequent (and, as I said, faithless) sense that the world is so irredeemably bad we shouldn’t have kids, and my concern that we ought to be working harder for kids both before and *after* they’re born.

    I’m sorry I offended you.

  43. Eric James Stone on August 30, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    Ashleigh,

    Compare these two statements:

    > Between protecting the health and life of
    > living mother, or protecting the health and
    > life of an unborn baby, I have to side with the
    > mother. Every time.

    > I would support a PB Abortion ban with a
    > health exception. I would even support it if
    > the health exception was *reasonably* narrowed
    > to exclude such things as have been mentioned
    > here as unworthy, waistlines et al.

    In the first, you say that the health of the mother would cause you to side with her every time. In the second, you agree that there might be some circumstances in which the health of the mother would not have to take precedence. To me, that looks like you’ve backed off from the position that you would support the mother’s health every time.

    > Eric wrote: “It has everything to do with the
    > fact that it was a fight they could win.”
    > If this is true, I still don’t understand why
    > they did not attempt to include a reasonable
    > health exemption. Then the PBA ban win would
    > have a chance to stick and mean something. I’m
    > not saying you’re wrong, I just really don’t
    > get it.

    A good question. This was a fight they could win in Congress without the health exception, so they passed the strongest law they could. The chances that it would pass Supreme Court scrutiny are probably less than even, but not zero. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, I think you’ll see a version passed with a health exemption (unless the Court makes it clear that it won’t pass scrutiny even with a health exception.)

    If I’m wrong about that (i.e., the Supreme Court strikes the law down for lack of a health exemption and then pro-lifers don’t bother to pass a ban with a health exemption) then I’ll be forced to admit that the politicians involved were acting out of cynical political motives rather than actually wanting to do anything about PBA.

  44. Nathan Tolman on August 30, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    Kristine

    Thanks for the nice response

    Ashleigh

    Because abortion would have removed her after she was in existence. Sperm and egg have no existence as a human but a embryo is human, %100 homo sapien DNA with all the chromosomes necessary to make a person, where as sex cells only have half the chromosomes to make a person.

    Abortion kills people, if my wife’s parents would of had an abortion when my mother-in-law was pregnant, my wife would not exist. I remember s solder I knew that said when you kill someone you take away all he will ever be. When a human fetus is aborted you take away all that it is.

    But why just stick to science or abstract ethics? The Church is fairly clear about abortions being preformed only in the case of rape or the life (or heath?) of the mother.

    As Elder Oaks said in the Jan 2001 Ensign:

    “Pro-choice slogans have been particularly seductive to Latter-day Saints because we know that moral agency, which can be described as the power of choice, is a fundamental necessity in the gospel plan. All Latter-day Saints are pro-choice according to that theological definition. But being pro-choice on the need for moral agency does not end the matter for us. Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal. We are accountable for our choices, and only righteous choices will move us toward our eternal goals.

    In this effort, Latter-day Saints follow the teachings of the prophets. On this subject our prophetic guidance is clear. The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience. Our members are taught that, subject only to some very rare exceptions, they must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. That direction tells us what we need to do on the weightier matters of the law, the choices that will move us toward eternal life.”

    What are these rare circumstances? True to the Faith: A Gospel Guide states :

    “Church leaders have said that some exceptional circumstances may justify an abortion, such as when pregnancy is the result of incest or rape, when the life or health of the mother is judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy, or when the fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. But even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion. Those who face such circumstances should consider abortion only after consulting with their local Church leaders and receiving a confirmation through earnest prayer.”

    Moreover it states:

    “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. If you encourage an abortion in any way, you may be subject to Church discipline.”

    Having an abortion because you might think you will be a bad parent does not seem to fit into the Church’s formula. Go against them if you want to. It is your choice.

  45. john fowles on August 30, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    Ashleigh wrote And I would agree that increasing pain and suffering to a woman in this circumstance would be an unnecessary injustice.

    But the PBA ban camp has no interest in increasing pain and suffering, and they are indeed interested in doing justice to (and honoring the human dignity of) the victim of the PBA. The PBA ban is not an injustice to women who want to have one. If their case does not fall into a narrowly tailored health exception, then they can give birth and then give the baby up for adoption. They never have to see the wretched thing again but the baby still gets to live (and maybe find the cure to cancer). It is a win-win situation.

    Your recent posts make it seem that you don’t believe that any in the PBA ban camp’s motives are really what they claim them to be: to spare babies from this procedure precisely in the interest of justice and humanity. Rather, you seem to take for granted that it is only a pretense and that some sinister, illiberal motive lies beneath.

  46. Jack on August 30, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    Ashleigh said: It wasn’t the PBA ban itself that solidified my decision, but the rhetoric such as yours that dismisses a health exception as unnecessary.

    Jack said: Ashleigh, I’m amazed that you would allow the rantings of a few hecklers to determine your moral stance on so sensitive an issue.

    Ashleigh said: Jack, I think you misread my statements. If you reread my post(s) carefully I hope that will be clear.

    Maybe this is a little knit-picky, but it seems clear to me that your concerns with the PBA ban have less to do with the rhetoric employed by the pro-life gang, and more to do with the principle of the matter. Otherwise, one is left to assume that your position on the issue stems from an irrational bias toward women.

    If you are going to allow yourself to get worked up over a little rhetoric, why aren’t you doing backflips as a response to the phrase “pro-choice”? Those one and a half words are the most hellish rhetoric ever invented.

  47. Ashleigh on August 30, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    Nathan, I was not arguing the case for elective abortions. I agree with you that elective abortions are wrong. No debate needed.

    I was simply saying, that while there are many logical reasons to be pro-life, your particular argument seemed illogical to me. It still does. Freezers are full of fertilized eggs that have all the chromosomes necessary to make a person, but most will never become a person. Is that evil? I don’t think so, but maybe you disagree. Which is fine.

    I also agree with your larger point that it is not for me to decide whose life is worth living and whose life is not worth living. You are absolutely right about that as well.

  48. Ashleigh on August 30, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    Jack, you may be right that it is more the substance than the rhetoric of the matter. I do think the rhetoric “there is no need for a health exemption” and “you can drive a Mac truck through a health exemption” are indicative of what I see as a lack of concern for women on the part of *some* pro-life activists. “No abortions, no exceptions, no apologies” is another slogan that disturbs me.

    And that isn’t to say that I’m not also disturbed by rhetoric in the pro-choice camp, because I am. But that’s a subject for a different time.

    Eric, we could argue all day about what “health of the mother” means, but I don’t think it would accomplish anything. I still think you read much more into “health” than I implied, but it is perfectly natural for all of us to do that. It’s impossible to read things as a blank slate, we have too much baggage. I just think it’s good to be aware that we do it.

    Ashleigh wrote: “And I would agree that increasing pain and suffering to a woman in this circumstance would be an unnecessary injustice”.

    John wrote: “If their case does not fall into a narrowly tailored health exception, then they can give birth and then give the baby up for adoption.”

    I guess I should have put more of context with that post. “this circumstance” I was speaking of was cases in which women find out, late second, third trimester that their baby has severe defects that would not allow it to survive beyond birth (no brain for instance). So giving the baby up for adoption is obviously not an option. What I was unsure of, and am still unsure of, is if a ‘mother’s health’ exception *could* allow for such abortions.

    John wrote: “Rather, you seem to take for granted that it is only a pretense and that some sinister, illiberal motive lies beneath.”

    I think it depends. I think most pro-life people are sincerely trying to save babies, a very noble goal. But I also think many pro-life people have very little regard for mothers, or women in general. And when I say ‘regard’, I mean “regard” in the same sense that faith without works is dead. I don’t think it’s sinister, but I do think it is unbalanced, and it disturbs me. This is of course true of the pro-choice camp as well. Too much protection of women’s rights and not enough protection of unborn babies. I view both sides as unbalanced. And I guess I am cynical, but I don’t necessarily view that as a bad thing.

  49. Jack on August 30, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    Ashleigh, I appreciate your graceful responses. This is a very sensitive issue and it’s easy to get worked up over it. Sorry for my harsh tone.

  50. Susan F Peterson on August 31, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    First of all, a health exception, if it includes mental health, can and will be used as a loophole. I experience myself how this worked, back in Maryland in 1970. (This was before I became a Christian and then a Catholic Christian. I didn’t want to have an abortion -my second, to be honest-but it was what I was brought up to do and my husband of a few months wanted me to. My mother told me I made ‘a very mature decision.’)
    In Maryland at that time abortion could be permitted only if continuing a pregnancy would be harmful to the life or health of the mother, and health was interpreted as including mental health (or perhaps the law said so specifically, I don’t know.) What medicaid clients were told is that medicaid wouldn’t pay for the psych consult;they had to scrape together fifty bucks to pay the psychiatrist. The man had an office full of women ready for their ten minute consultations with him.
    I told him I had no mental problems, it was just a money issue, my husband and I would both have to drop out of college if I had a baby. He tried several ways to get me to say I had some mental issues and finally gave up and said “We believe
    anyone should be able to have an abortion who wants one.” and signed the paper. (Actually, I WAS worried about my husband’s mental health as he
    had only been discharged from a six weeks stay in a mental hospital a few months earlier and was clearly not stable at that point.) But this sort of thing is why people say this exception is a hole you can drive a mack truck through. While there may be a very few women with genuine mental health issues, I can’t see how having an abortion like this at 5 or 6 months along could do anything but make them worse. For instance if a person had documentation of post partum psychosis after several previous babies, one could say from a medical standpoint that an early abortion would prevent this happening again. (maybe) But at 5 or 6 months the woman would go through the same hormonal withdrawal, with the addition of the knowledge that she had her baby killed. I am afraid that these very late term procedures are mostly used for young girls who hid their pregnancies for a long time, or even denied to themselves that they could be pregnant, until someone noticed…which could easily be at about 6 months. Someone mentioned above the situation of the unborn baby with bones so fragile that they fractured even in the womb, and suggested that the baby must have been in pain. Not proven, but even if so, we don’t kill human beings because they are in pain, we provide pain relief.
    If killing this unborn baby is to be allowed,it could be done the way that awful woman killed the other two of her triplets, with a shot of potassium to the heart.
    There is a difference between what is moral and what one would ideally put in a law, and again, between that and what is practical in a law. Morally, it is wrong to take an innocent life for any reason whatsoever. I think the most one would expect of a law is that there would be an exception only for cases in which continuing a pregnancy posed an absolutely clear threat to the life of the mother, and one would require some sort of procedure to demonstrate that, not just the scribble of an MD signature on a piece of paper. The unborn should perhaps have someone like a law guardian to argue for its interests.
    Other than that I can’t see that we want to allow the killing of innocents because of the sins of their parents. (rape or incest). What women need in these cases is not the quick killing of the unborn child, but something much more difficult-lots and lots of support, counseling, and encouragement. We don’t allow disabled or retarded or deformed born human beings to be killed, so why would we allow unborn ones to be killed? I will admit that here is the place where I myself would be tempted to do wrong, as I was brought up with the idea that the severely retarded and deformed weren’t fully human; my parents had no problem, at least theoretically and in arguments, with saying that they should be killed AFTER they were born. Therefore although I believe that the life of a retarded person has value and that taking care of a retarded child might provide just the sort of growth God wants for me…my habitual attitudes would make this an area of temptation for me. But I can’t see that the law should make this exception either. Now what is practical is yet
    another thing…right now, it seems even the prevention of a procedure so cruel one can hardly bear to describe it.

    Susan F. Peterson

  51. Susan F Peterson on August 31, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    I just read a comment above which blew my mind.(to talk like the former 60’s chick I was.) Someone was saying that PBA is to spare women “major abdominal surgery” ie, a C section, to deliver a deformed child. You mean, one with hydrcephalus or some other condition preventing vaginal delivery. We are supposed to deliberately kill a baby because it is a “person with a disability” -to spare a woman having a C section? I am not a fan of C sections, far too many of them done and all that, fought hard to have vaginal deliveries after my C section, BUT,
    actually HAVING a C section was no big deal (not being able to give birth was a big deal to me.)
    I had pain for about 12 hours afterwards and then needed no further pain medication. They kept me in the hospital until day 5 as that was standard in 1973, and on day 6 I was carrying a basket of laundry down the stairs. Compared to a normal birth, when I could walk upstairs in my own house and take a shower 15 minutes after giving birth, that is significantly more temporary disability …but compared to killing a baby by sucking out its brains?????? Any decent human being would undergo something as minor as a C section to spare a human being dependent on them that kind of pain.

    Why is this being presented as “mother” vs “baby” anyway? Babies are not the enemies of mothers; mothers are not the enemies of babies; mothers love and want to protect their babies.

    I saw women in the ward at John’s Hopkin’s Hospital in 1970 who were having saline injection abortions. The staff was cruel and heartless to them, considering them ignorant and irresponsible-it showed in every word and gesture, and in their being mostly absent while these women labored. The women often did not understand why they were in labor…maybe they were going to have a baby after all? or how advanced their unborn babies were, that they looked like babies. In my two days there, two women delivered dead babies-newly dead from being burned by saline solution-right there in the ward bed, with no help at all-the staff came in afterwards and wheeled them away.
    I heard one woman say when she was in labor “Well, I really wanted to have a baby, I’m glad I am having labor pains…” When the baby was born, dead, she was saying, as the staff rolled her away, “Oh, my little girl, my little girl…” I am not making this up. Before I had this experience I thought that people who were for abortion were compassionate towards women, and those who were against it were cruel. But really what I saw was that working in that environment had hardened the hearts of these nurses and doctors to an incredible degree.

    Susan F. Peterson

  52. Jack on August 31, 2004 at 7:41 pm

    Susan, thanks for the reality check. I hope people are still reading this thread.

  53. Adam Greenwood on August 31, 2004 at 9:12 pm

    Ditto.

  54. john fowles on September 1, 2004 at 1:11 am

    And Susan, I was sorry to hear about your two abortions. What caused the change between those decisions and your current apparently pro-life stance?

  55. Jeff Lindsay on September 2, 2004 at 12:37 am

    An important news story from the New England Journal of Medicine, carried by many other sources as well, is the fact that the world’s has grown up to become a healthy teenage girl. A few links are on my Sanity Defense post on the topic. She was born at 27 weeks – about 13 weeks premature – and weighed only 9 ounces – less than a can of soda.

    She could have been a partial birth abortion.

  56. Susan F. Peterson on September 2, 2004 at 2:27 am

    Those decisions….were not ever the decisions I wanted to make. The first time I did what my parents had taught me to do according to their values…if I didn’t graduate from college I would be some sort of lesser human being…and that was when a pregnant girl couldn’t even continue in high school. The second time I did what my husband wanted me to do..and what I thought he needed me to do, given his mental instability at that point. Despite all the “a woman’s decision” rhetoric, I think men make these decisions in a large percentage of cases, because women, especially young women, will usually do what the father of the baby wants, since the thought of trying to have the baby without his support…mostly emotional is what counts at that point…is too frightening…and she doesn’t want to lose his love.

    So, me. Well that experience gave me a lot of material which should have led me to change my mind. (my emotions were already all for having babies and in my heart I wanted both of them.) But it didn’t happen in any direct kind of way. After that my new marriage seemed to fall apart and all my feelings were dead. Previous to that I had had my first encounter with Christianity and read the gospels and some St. Augustine…was drawn but couldn’t believe, was intellectualizing all over the place, writing stuff about the use of “logos” in John and Genesis. After that I went into a morally and intellectually dark time. I had a paper conference on the “logos” paper and actually couldn’t understand what I had written, although the tutor (professor) seemed to think it made some sense. I experienced all sorts of temptations out of my premarried life, about things that I actually had not enjoyed much while they were happening, and deliberately tried to throw myself back into that world. I came to a low point, when finding that I was emotionally dead and had not even an ounce of tenderness and affection to offer a sweet and lonely young man with whom I had just had sex…and I said to myself…I don’t know what the right way to live is, but THIS is not the right way. I went back to my college and a few days later, a fellow student came to class dressed in a suit. People were ribbing him about it and he said he was going to church after class. One guy sneeringly asked him why and he said “The son of man was crucified on this day.” (Although I hadn’t known it, it was Good Friday.) I nearly fell out of my chair with the impact that had on me. I wanted to follow him when he left class but I didn’t have the nerve. I wound up leaving class with someone with whom I was having a not very fun, sordid affair, going to his room…but I was still thinking about what the other guy had said. I suddenly put down the lighted hash pipe and said…I have to go, and fled..and went to the Episcopal church I knew the young man had gone to.
    The adult service was over, but some kind of children’s service was going on. I stood by the door…they were singing “Were you there?” I decided I would go to church on Sunday..but I wasn’t converted yet. My parents visited on Saturday, and were a little worried about the subjects of some of the papers they saw lying around, and I assured them that Christianity was “an historically important system of thought.” That Sunday, I went first up to the Catholic church, since someone I had been talking to the previous summer when I first read the gospels and Augustine, had been Catholic..but the place looked as alien to me as a Hindu temple full of goddesses with six arms would look to you. It was a Redemptorist church with a huge altarpiece in white,gold, and blue, with life sized pastel statues in every niche…and there were more of these statues all over the place it seemed to me-it was so weird to me. I walked up the street to the Episcopal church, in dark wood and stained glass but no statues, and went in. The minster said, instead of a sermon,why didn’t we sing more of those wonderful Easter hymns…a good choice. When people went up to take communion, I felt an impulse to go with them, although I really didn’t know very much about what it was. I walked half way up, and saw that a tutor (professor) from my school was one of the priests giving out communion. I had been in his extracurricular New Testament class ( he did it year after year, John one year, Roman’s the next, working from the Greek, which everyone at that school had to take.)
    and had expressed my unbelief pretty definitively ( “well I can see saying the soul doesn’t die, hypothetically at least—but bodies? Bodies ROT!”) So I went and sat down. Then I though…but he might think I was baptized in some kind of Protestant church when I was a baby..and was just going through a questioning phase…..and with this rationalization, unbaptized, and with that history of sin, I went up to take communion. I don’t remember receiving the host, but I remember receiving the wine…in the Episcopal church, at that time (and still at this time, in one rite) the priest said while giving communion “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.”
    Something happened to me which is really undescribable. It was as if everlasting life opened up in front of me. It was all golden, is all that I remember. At the same time, it was utterly clear that every word of that was true, that Jesus was present in the wine, that he had died for me, that there was everlasting life. From that moment on, I was never able to say it wasn’t true. I tried. I still thought I must be insane to believe all that stuff. I realized that as much as I had played with Christianity intellectually and emotionally, (and had genuinely been drawn to it and longed to have it be true), still I didn’t really expect that I could possibly ever believe it. In the next few days, I tried to say, or write, that it wasn’t true, but could not. A few months later, that Episcopal priest who was also a tutor at my school, who had held the cup that Sunday, baptized me by the old book of Common Prayer rite. I had hesitated about “the Devil and all his works” and he had offered me the new “green book” version in which I could renounce “evil in all its forms” but I told him I could have said that as a Unitarian, and chose to use the formulation used by Christians through the years, even though it sounded strange to my ears and I didn’t yet grasp its truth. One of my godparents was an “Anglo-Catholic” and undertook to teach me as I knew nothing really. He gave me a very Catholic understanding of the Church and the Sacraments, which sank in deep and became part of me. I read some Cardinal Newman. I tentatively visited the Catholic church on a Saturday evening…all sorts of people there, white,black, and Phillipino, well to do and obviously poor..lighting candles…and standing in line, believe in or not, to go to confession before mass…It hit me as another revelation (new Christians get lots of them)”This is the Church Jim has been telling me about.” It took me months to become a Catholic. I loved the Book of Common Prayer. I was very culturally comfortable as an Anglican. The music was better. The church was in better taste. And being baptized in one denomination and running off within a few months to join another…how flighty and frivolous is that? and it would be disloyal and hurt the wonderful Episcopal priest who baptized me..whom I was now serving as an acolyte at the daily Eucharist we young college student Anglicans had gotten started, a beautifully reverent service in the quiet early mornings…. it killed me to leave. But, nine months later I renounced heresy and schism, and said I believed in seven sacraments, and some more pretty heavy stuff …and became a Roman Catholic. My husband remained an unbeliever for 30+ more years, while we had 9 children. At his father’s funeral-Episcopalian and full of glorious Book of Common Prayer language, something happened…and he wound up being baptized Episcopalian. So now, I go to the Catholic church six days a week, M-F daily mass, Saturday evening mass for Sunday..and go to the Episcopal church with him on Sunday. It still has a much more beautiful church and much much better music…

    So,you only asked me about my beliefs about abortion..and I gave you my whole convert story. The awful things I saw at John’s Hopkins affected my feelings, but I couldn’t have turned that into a conviction without becoming a Christian and a Catholic. The next time I became pregnant, I thought “Hah! Now no one is going to be able to make me have an abortion. I have the whole Catholic Church behind me!” For a while after that, I still didn’t think it should be illegal. I was aware that I was very lucky to have had two relatively safe abortions in medical surroundings. For the first one, my parents paid for me to fly to Japan and have it done in a clinic there. Before they said they would do that, I had been hearing “..wear a pink dress and sit on such and such a bench in Central Park, and someone will come up to you wearing a yellow shirt and say…and you will go with them…there won’t be any anesthesia because they want to get you out of the office fast….” It was scary. I didn’t want anyone to go through that. I wanted anyone who had made that sad decision, to have the chance I had to have children later. I thought that Christians just had to act different from the pagan world, but I didn’t see them changing it. What changed my mind? Well, first, at college we were reading all the writers who were the background for democracy..and then reading American documents, the Federalist papers and all that, and I started to think about this as my country instead of something like pagan Rome,and about myself as a citizen, and I started to want my country to value and protect life. I also had another experience-a woman in the apartment upstairs from me didn’t seem to get thinner after she had her baby…it turned out she got pregnant very soon afterwards. She and her husband had a fight one day about it and the next day she went to the clinic and they sent her up to John’s Hopkins and she had one of those second trimester abortions. When she came back, I heard her and her husband fighting, and she said “You made me kill my baby, and I saw it, it was a little girl, I wanted a little girl.” I thought, if abortion were illegal, this married woman would never have gone and had an abortion she didn’t really want as a result of a fight with her husband, and just because the two children were going to be only 16 months apart. I decided that by being legal these people were taught that abortion was allright. So, I decided that it should be illegal. I still didn’t want women to have to be hurt having illegal abortions and I struggled with that..but I saw that they were also being hurt having legal ones. I joined birthright,to do what I could to help.

    So, thats my story. I had many reasons besides Christian belief, to change my beliefs about abortion, but without it I wouldn’t have been able to turn those experiences and feelings into any conviction.

    Well, you asked…
    Susan F. Peterson

  57. Susan F. Peterson on September 2, 2004 at 2:32 am

    Those decisions….were not ever the decisions I wanted to make. The first time I did what my parents had taught me to do according to their values…if I didn’t graduate from college I would be some sort of lesser human being…and that was when a pregnant girl couldn’t even continue in high school. The second time I did what my husband wanted me to do..and what I thought he needed me to do, given his mental instability at that point. Despite all the “a woman’s decision” rhetoric, I think men make these decisions in a large percentage of cases, because women, especially young women, will usually do what the father of the baby wants, since the thought of trying to have the baby without his support…mostly emotional is what counts at that point…is too frightening…and she doesn’t want to lose his love.

    So, me. Well that experience gave me a lot of material which should have led me to change my mind. (my emotions were already all for having babies and in my heart I wanted both of them.) But it didn’t happen in any direct kind of way. After that my new marriage seemed to fall apart and all my feelings were dead. Previous to that I had had my first encounter with Christianity and read the gospels and some St. Augustine…was drawn but couldn’t believe, was intellectualizing all over the place, writing stuff about the use of “logos” in John and Genesis. After that I went into a morally and intellectually dark time. I had a paper conference on the “logos” paper and actually couldn’t understand what I had written, although the tutor (professor) seemed to think it made some sense. I experienced all sorts of temptations out of my premarried life, about things that I actually had not enjoyed much while they were happening, and deliberately tried to throw myself back into that world. I came to a low point, when finding that I was emotionally dead and had not even an ounce of tenderness and affection to offer a sweet and lonely young man with whom I had just had sex…and I said to myself…I don’t know what the right way to live is, but THIS is not the right way. I went back to my college and a few days later, a fellow student came to class dressed in a suit. People were ribbing him about it and he said he was going to church after class. One guy sneeringly asked him why and he said “The son of man was crucified on this day.” (Although I hadn’t known it, it was Good Friday.) I nearly fell out of my chair with the impact that had on me. I wanted to follow him when he left class but I didn’t have the nerve. I wound up leaving class with someone with whom I was having a not very fun, sordid affair, going to his room…but I was still thinking about what the other guy had said. I suddenly put down the lighted hash pipe and said…I have to go, and fled..and went to the Episcopal church I knew the young man had gone to.
    The adult service was over, but some kind of children’s service was going on. I stood by the door…they were singing “Were you there?” I decided I would go to church on Sunday..but I wasn’t converted yet. My parents visited on Saturday, and were a little worried about the subjects of some of the papers they saw lying around, and I assured them that Christianity was “an historically important system of thought.” That Sunday, I went first up to the Catholic church, since someone I had been talking to the previous summer when I first read the gospels and Augustine, had been Catholic..but the place looked as alien to me as a Hindu temple full of goddesses with six arms would look to you. It was a Redemptorist church with a huge altarpiece in white,gold, and blue, with life sized pastel statues in every niche…and there were more of these statues all over the place it seemed to me-it was so weird to me. I walked up the street to the Episcopal church, in dark wood and stained glass but no statues, and went in. The minster said, instead of a sermon,why didn’t we sing more of those wonderful Easter hymns…a good choice. When people went up to take communion, I felt an impulse to go with them, although I really didn’t know very much about what it was. I walked half way up, and saw that a tutor (professor) from my school was one of the priests giving out communion. I had been in his extracurricular New Testament class ( he did it year after year, John one year, Roman’s the next, working from the Greek, which everyone at that school had to take.)
    and had expressed my unbelief pretty definitively ( “well I can see saying the soul doesn’t die, hypothetically at least—but bodies? Bodies ROT!”) So I went and sat down. Then I though…but he might think I was baptized in some kind of Protestant church when I was a baby..and was just going through a questioning phase…..and with this rationalization, unbaptized, and with that history of sin, I went up to take communion. I don’t remember receiving the host, but I remember receiving the wine…in the Episcopal church, at that time (and still at this time, in one rite) the priest said while giving communion “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.”
    Something happened to me which is really undescribable. It was as if everlasting life opened up in front of me. It was all golden, is all that I remember. At the same time, it was utterly clear that every word of that was true, that Jesus was present in the wine, that he had died for me, that there was everlasting life. From that moment on, I was never able to say it wasn’t true. I tried. I still thought I must be insane to believe all that stuff. I realized that as much as I had played with Christianity intellectually and emotionally, (and had genuinely been drawn to it and longed to have it be true), still I didn’t really expect that I could possibly ever believe it. In the next few days, I tried to say, or write, that it wasn’t true, but could not. A few months later, that Episcopal priest who was also a tutor at my school, who had held the cup that Sunday, baptized me by the old book of Common Prayer rite. I had hesitated about “the Devil and all his works” and he had offered me the new “green book” version in which I could renounce “evil in all its forms” but I told him I could have said that as a Unitarian, and chose to use the formulation used by Christians through the years, even though it sounded strange to my ears and I didn’t yet grasp its truth. One of my godparents was an “Anglo-Catholic” and undertook to teach me as I knew nothing really. He gave me a very Catholic understanding of the Church and the Sacraments, which sank in deep and became part of me. I read some Cardinal Newman. I tentatively visited the Catholic church on a Saturday evening…all sorts of people there, white,black, and Phillipino, well to do and obviously poor..lighting candles…and standing in line, believe in or not, to go to confession before mass…It hit me as another revelation (new Christians get lots of them)”This is the Church Jim has been telling me about.” It took me months to become a Catholic. I loved the Book of Common Prayer. I was very culturally comfortable as an Anglican. The music was better. The church was in better taste. And being baptized in one denomination and running off within a few months to join another…how flighty and frivolous is that? and it would be disloyal and hurt the wonderful Episcopal priest who baptized me..whom I was now serving as an acolyte at the daily Eucharist we young college student Anglicans had gotten started, a beautifully reverent service in the quiet early mornings…. it killed me to leave. But, nine months later I renounced heresy and schism, and said I believed in seven sacraments, and some more pretty heavy stuff …and became a Roman Catholic. My husband remained an unbeliever for 30+ more years, while we had 9 children. At his father’s funeral-Episcopalian and full of glorious Book of Common Prayer language, something happened…and he wound up being baptized Episcopalian. So now, I go to the Catholic church six days a week, M-F daily mass, Saturday evening mass for Sunday..and go to the Episcopal church with him on Sunday. It still has a much more beautiful church and much much better music…

    So,you only asked me about my beliefs about abortion..and I gave you my whole convert story. The awful things I saw at John’s Hopkins affected my feelings, but I couldn’t have turned that into a conviction without becoming a Christian and a Catholic. The next time I became pregnant, I thought “Hah! Now no one is going to be able to make me have an abortion. I have the whole Catholic Church behind me!” For a while after that, I still didn’t think it should be illegal. I was aware that I was very lucky to have had two relatively safe abortions in medical surroundings. For the first one, my parents paid for me to fly to Japan and have it done in a clinic there. Before they said they would do that, I had been hearing “..wear a pink dress and sit on such and such a bench in Central Park, and someone will come up to you wearing a yellow shirt and say…and you will go with them…there won’t be any anesthesia because they want to get you out of the office fast….” It was scary. I didn’t want anyone to go through that. I wanted anyone who had made that sad decision, to have the chance I had to have children later. I thought that Christians just had to act different from the pagan world, but I didn’t see them changing it. What changed my mind? Well, first, at college we were reading all the writers who were the background for democracy..and then reading American documents, the Federalist papers and all that, and I started to think about this as my country instead of something like pagan Rome,and about myself as a citizen, and I started to want my country to value and protect life. I also had another experience-a woman in the apartment upstairs from me didn’t seem to get thinner after she had her baby…it turned out she got pregnant very soon afterwards. She and her husband had a fight one day about it and the next day she went to the clinic and they sent her up to John’s Hopkins and she had one of those second trimester abortions. When she came back, I heard her and her husband fighting, and she said “You made me kill my baby, and I saw it, it was a little girl, I wanted a little girl.” I thought, if abortion were illegal, this married woman would never have gone and had an abortion she didn’t really want as a result of a fight with her husband, and just because the two children were going to be only 16 months apart. I decided that by being legal these people were taught that abortion was allright. So, I decided that it should be illegal. I still didn’t want women to have to be hurt having illegal abortions and I struggled with that..but I saw that they were also being hurt having legal ones. I joined birthright,to do what I could to help.

    So, thats my story. I had many reasons besides Christian belief, to change my beliefs about abortion, but without it I wouldn’t have been able to turn those experiences and feelings into any conviction.

    Well, you asked…
    Susan F. Peterson

  58. Susan F. Peterson on September 2, 2004 at 2:58 am

    Sorry I did that twice,especially since it was so long. The first time it TOLD me there had been an error and it had not posted; I wasn’t just being impatient. But sorry.

    Somebody above said he was a Papist interloper…I don’t know anything about this site. I guess I am a Papist interloper also. I made some in-group type remarks that I might not have phrased the way I did if I knew that I wasn’t chiefly among other Papists.

    The profession of faith I had to make to become a Catholic was an abbreviation of the Tridentine profession of faith…(from the Council of Trent). It was aimed at those areas where Protestants and Catholics differ. People who become Catholics now no longer make a profession designed to make them Catholics-rather-than-Protestants, but rather one which emphasizes professing Christianity within the Catholic community…there is a sentence in there about acknowledging what the Catholic church teaches is true, but it isn’t conceived of true compared to the falsity of the teachings of this or that other group. By quoting what I did I was invoking the atmosphere of “the old days” for those who would recognize it and giving some hint of the struggle I had to get to and through those words…
    Susan Peterson

  59. Susan F. Peterson on September 2, 2004 at 3:04 am

    Sorry I did that twice,especially since it was so long. The first time it TOLD me there had been an error and it had not posted; I wasn’t just being impatient. But sorry.

    Somebody above said he was a Papist interloper…I don’t know anything about this site. I guess I am a Papist interloper also. I made some in-group type remarks that I might not have phrased the way I did if I knew that I wasn’t chiefly among other Papists.

    The profession of faith I had to make to become a Catholic was an abbreviation of the Tridentine profession of faith…(from the Council of Trent). It was aimed at those areas where Protestants and Catholics differ. People who become Catholics now no longer make a profession designed to make them Catholics-rather-than-Protestants, but rather one which emphasizes professing Christianity within the Catholic community…there is a sentence in there about acknowledging what the Catholic church teaches is true, but it isn’t conceived of true compared to the falsity of the teachings of this or that other group. By quoting what I did I was invoking the atmosphere of “the old days” for those who would recognize it and giving some hint of the struggle I had to get to and through those words…
    Susan Peterson

    I just got the same “internal server error” If I don’t hit post again, it won’t post. If I do, it will post twice…I just waited a while longer but nothing else is happening. If this comes through twice, you will just have to shoot me; I won’t apologize again, sending another double post…

  60. Susan Peterson on September 2, 2004 at 10:22 am

    I find that I owe yet another apology, not for my posts appearing twice, as I tried not to make that happen and somehow it still did, but for not finding out where I was first. After I said I had no idea what sort of site this was, I went and looked, and found out it was a Mormon site. When I had read someone calling himself a Papist interloper I immediately thought it must be an Evangelical Protestant site as that is the group I think of as mostly sharing Catholic beliefs about abortion. Now I find that I owe a further apology.
    It was really inappropriate for me to tell my Catholic “convert story” here. For me that story IS part of the answer to the question I was asked about how I changed my mind about abortion, but I could have simply said that without telling the story with details involving specific relgious beliefs. I think it would probably make me uncomfortable if a Mormon did that on a Catholic site. And I haven’t known one to do so. So I apologize for coming into YOUR space and doing that. In the future I will find out where I am before I talk. I am glad to know, though, that we have enough common ground that we could discuss this most important issue without my noticing.

    Again, my apologies,
    Susan Peterson

  61. Ivan Wolfe on September 2, 2004 at 11:27 am

    Susan –

    that was an absolutely beautiful story.

    No need to apologize at all.

    (On my own track – my wife is my best argument against abortion – she was adopted by LDS parents, but her biological mother could have easily had an abortion. With seven year waiting lists on adoption in some areas, I find abortions selfish).

  62. Ivan Wolfe on September 2, 2004 at 11:28 am

    Susan –

    that was an absolutely beautiful story.

    No need to apologize at all.

    (On my own track – my wife is my best argument against abortion – she was adopted by LDS parents, but her biological mother could have easily had an abortion. With seven year waiting lists on adoption in some areas, I find abortions selfish).

  63. Mark B on September 2, 2004 at 11:38 am

    Ditto to Ivan Wolfe’s comments (which already appear twice.

    No need to apologize at all Susan.

    A wonderful story.

  64. Jack on September 3, 2004 at 2:13 pm

    Susan,

    Three cheers(!) for an account of conversion to christianity and aversion to abortion rolled togther in one. We need a good thump on the head (hello McFly!) to remind us that atheism and abortion go hand in hand as fundimental tenets of the post-sixties “enlightenment”.

    Thanks Susan!

  65. Ashleigh on September 7, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    I’ve been gone for a week, I know that this topic is dead as a doornail, but there are a couple things I’d like to add.

    First, Susan’s story was lovely and very touching.

    Second, it really made me think about how little anger pro-life activists direct toward men who run out on their responsibilities and how much anger they direct toward “selfish� women who are often in very vulnerable and frightening situations.

    Third, I see a clear bias in the way Susan’s post was handled and I think we should at least think about. Susan espoused some “politically conservative� beliefs about abortion that are unsupported by LDS doctrine and practice, and yet no one questioned or debated these beliefs. If Susan had espoused some “politically liberal� beliefs about abortion that were unsupported by LDS doctrine, do you think she would have had the same reception?

  66. Jack on September 7, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    Ashleigh: Part of the “reception” had to do with Susan’s embarasment at sharing so sensitive a conversion story with strangers. We wanted her to know that she is welcome here. And yes, the other part of the “reception” has to do with the fact that there is, in my estimation, a very large common ground of beliefs with regard to abortion between Catholics and Mormons.

  67. Jack on September 7, 2004 at 5:12 pm

    Ashleigh: Part of the “reception” had to do with Susan’s embarasment at sharing so sensitive a conversion story with strangers. We wanted her to know that she is welcome here. And yes, the other part of the “reception” has to do with the fact that there is, in my estimation, a very large common ground of beliefs with regard to abortion between Catholics and Mormons.

  68. Jack on September 7, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    Ashleigh: Part of the “reception” had to do with Susan’s embarasment at sharing so sensitive a conversion story with strangers. We wanted her to know that she is welcome here. And yes, the other part of the “reception” has to do with the fact that there is, in my estimation, a very large common ground of beliefs with regard to abortion between Catholics and Mormons.

  69. Jack on September 7, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    Sorry folks. I got a strange screen about “not able to post header info…”. What ever that is.

  70. Ashleigh on September 7, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I can appreciate trying to be nice to embarrassed outsiders, but if the outsider had been a pro-choice liberal protestant, I doubt her pro-choice opinions would have been left unchallenged.

    And nice try on the Mormon/Catholic common ground argument, but I don’t have the energy (nor perhaps the knowledge base) to launch into a list of the vast differences between the Mormon/Catholic view of women/sex/marriage/birth control/fertility treatments/abortion. But I am quite confident that the differences are large and significant.

  71. Adam Greenwood on September 7, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    Susan,
    Don’t feel the least abashed. Your conversion story contains very little to upset us: it only seems natural that the Father would want you to believe in the Son, and would choose whatever means were at hand to convince you. Your substantive beliefs are probably somewhat different from those of liberal Mormons (as I’m sure they are from those of liberal Catholics), but many of us here share most of your beliefs on fetal life and so forth.

    Please realize that the papist interloper comment was made tongue-in-cheek, on the assumption that you knew that this was primarily a Mormon site.