I was floored by the responses. Some of the responses came in as comments on the blog post itself, and some came in on a social network to which I had linked the post. Three things were clear: each person had given the subject a great deal of consideration, each person had a strong opinion, and each person's opinion was nuanced to account for a spectrum of circumstances in which abortion might be chosen.
I promised my own thoughts on the subject, so I offer the following, more as fodder for reflection than as a pronouncement of my beliefs.
1) According to the most recent data (2008) offered on the CDC website, the number of abortions that occurred in this country that were reported by states to the CDC numbered over 800,000. A number of states, like California, did not report the number of abortions that were performed. 800,000 divided by 50 states is 16,000 abortions. That's a lot of women. And that's just one year. What are the odds that anyone reading this blog does not know one or more of those women without realizing it?
If a woman in your life had an abortion, would she tell you? Would she tell anyone?
I know plenty of women, but I can count on one hand the number I know who've admitted to having an abortion. And I think part of the reason why is because the decision to have an abortion is so mightily demonized by so many people in this country. Women and their doctors are murdered because of abortion. How many women who have abortions do so with a sense of being utterly alone? Of being utterly unsupported? Is this lack of support and sense of isolation not part of the cause for abortions in the first place?
2) I have heard abortion described by many Roman Catholics and fundamentalist Christians, especially clergy, as murder of innocents. That view is based in part on the definition of human life (which is something that came up in a number of the responses to the last post). Is a fertilized egg the same as a human life? Is something that has the potential for human life the same as human life? Is a fetus that cannot sustain its own breathing or other human processes outside the womb the same as a human life? Some of you responded with a firm yes, and others said no. For me the issue isn't whether the pregnancy constitutes life--of course it does, unless it is no longer growing. "Human" life is harder to say, especially when fetuses start out with lizard-like tails. And of course this form of life will become a viable human baby in most cases.
For me the issue is one of continuity. Will there be support for this little creature and its mother and other parental figures when the creature is outside the womb? Will it have what it needs to survive and thrive? If it doesn't, does the mother not have the moral right to choose to end the pregnancy, especially early on? (And in a complementary way, if someone speaks out against or votes against or prioritizes their values in a way that diminishes the social services that might offer the only support a mother/parent will have, do they have the moral right to judge mothers for choosing abortion?)
In the end, what I'm willing to say about abortion is that 1) I don't regard it as murder if the little creature cannot survive more than a day, medically assisted or not, outside the womb, and 2) the decision to have an abortion is one made for many reasons, and it is morally wrong to pass universal judgment on a woman for making that choice. There are wrong and immoral reasons for choosing abortion, but there are also right and moral reasons for choosing it--a fact that we almost never hear from anyone, because the voices of those who would make universal condemnations drown out the voices of those who have been forever impacted by needing to choose abortion. In my considered opinion, the universal claim that abortion is always and everywhere wrong is simply, well, wrong. And I strongly believe that that needs to be said more by those who believe it, especially those who believe so despite what their religious leaders claim. Solidarity with those who would give life is far more important than remaining silent in order to avoid religious repercussions.
So I say it out loud: I stand with those who choose abortion for the right reasons, and I stand with those who choose not to have abortions for the right reasons. May women and their partners be empowered to choose what is best for their families, not what is demanded by religious or political officials.