Motherhood & Words

a long and controversial post

I’ve been thinking about this post for some time. I was going to write it last January, on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but then I was busy being pregnant and tired and sick with a series of debilitating colds. I was going to do it in February, when I wrote a review of Kathryn Trueblood’s The Baby Lottery for mamazine, but I was still pregnant and sick. And then sweet Zoë was born and I was just too busy. It was easy to put off because I didn’t actually want to write the post. I knew it would cause controversy, and I was worried about alienating readers.

I can’t put it off any longer. I wouldn’t feel right. I can’t put it off any longer because it’s not only a personal issue, it’s a political one, and it’s an election year. And I can’t put it off any longer because McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Palin, like McCain, is anti-choice. This doesn’t surprise me—he wouldn’t have chosen her otherwise. Why does it bother me so much, then, that she is what she is? Is it because she doesn’t think abortion should be legal even in the case of rape? Is it because she went so far to say that she would not allow her own daughter to get an abortion if she had been raped? Is it that she says abortion is wrong in every case (except when a woman’s life is in danger), but opposes comprehensive sex education for young people, upholding that abstinence-only is the only sex education that kids should get? (Perhaps her own daughter would not be pregnant if she had received fact-based sex ed. Just a thought.) Is it because she failed to pass legislation that would support single parents by cutting funding for teen mothers in her state?

All of the above. All of these things bother me. And it bothers me that she claims some sort of moral high ground on abortion and everything else because she calls herself a Christian.

I hate to break it to her, but most religious Americans believe in treating woman as responsible moral decision makers. They believe in supporting women and families. They believe that abortion is a decision between a woman and her God. Indeed, the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Judaism all have official statements in support of reproductive choice.

Clergy even fought for a woman’s right to choose abortion before abortion was legal. Prior to Roe v. Wade, a group of clergy in New York established what was called the Clergy Counseling Service on Abortion, helping women find safe abortions. The counseling service expanded to include over 2,000 clergy nationwide, and after Roe v. Wade, became what is known today as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. If you have never seen From Danger to Dignity, a documentary film about the Clergy Consultation Service and the struggle to legalize abortion in this country, watch it. Watch it. Watch it—especially if you born after 1973.

Abortion, you see, is not a black and white issue. We like to say it is because in America things have to be bad or good, right or wrong. But that’s not really how we live. We live complicated, muddy, very gray lives. And the decisions we make about reproduction are also complicated, muddy, and very gray.

There are two books I’ve been thinking about in relation to this issue: Kathryn Trueblood’s The Baby Lottery and Penny Wolfson’s Moonrise. Trueblood’s novel is about five women, college friends in their late thirties, who find their relationships strained when one of them, Charlotte, decides to have a second-trimester abortion after delaying the decision in the hope that her husband will change his mind.

I like what Kathryn Trueblood said last winter, when I spoke to her on the phone about the book:

“Most people have some ambivalence about abortion, and are at least a little conflicted about it, but we never talk about those feelings, and it was important to me to present some of those feelings here. I think we, as a country, have not progressed in our discussion of abortion.”

The novel records the voices of Charlotte’s four friends as they struggle to bridge the gap between what they should feel and what they do feel about Charlotte’s decision. Charlotte is an alcoholic and wouldn’t make a very good mother. She’s in a sad, lonely marriage. But she could have terminated earlier, no? I went back and forth, disliking her and feeling sorry for her. It’s complicated. It’s muddy. There is no black and white in this story, just gray, and that’s why I respect it. It felt real to me.

Penny Wolfson’s book is a memoir about her son, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The book is about watching him grow up and deteriorate at the same time. It’s about genetics and what it means to know oneself on a molecular level. I have posted about her essay of the same title, which is one of my very favorite essays. The memoir is very good, as well, though I didn’t love it the way I love the essay. (I think this has to do with the longer form, and what happens when you turn an essay into a memoir.) I do think it is an important memoir, however. One of my favorite parts is the chapter in which Wolfson is pregnant with her third child. Girls are carriers of the disease, but it only affects boys. If prenatal testing shows the fetus is a boy and has Duchenne—a fifty percent chance if it’s a boy—she will terminate.

In this chapter, Wolfson responds to a column by Anna Quindlen in which Quindlen states her opposition to amniocentesis, saying, “The only compelling argument anyone had made to us for amnio, which is not entirely without risk, was made by my doctor, who asked us to consider the possibility that we could not devote sufficient time to the needs of the children we have now if we were looking after those of someone so much needier. We considered that argument, and let it go. Having more than one child always means a willingness either to give less to the others or to stretch yourself more.”

Wolfson responds:

“I don’t completely disagree. But I am still, somehow, furious. If she’d had a child with a genetic disease, I think, she might not have felt the way she did. She might have known more about stretching herself, about how there are limits. How easy to think in black and white ways when the gray things haven’t occurred yet! If the gray stuff hasn’t happened, you can feel free to have that third baby or fourth or as many as you like. The future seems open.”

When she contemplates an abortion, she says, “Whatever pain, physical and otherwise, I can imagine from such a procedure pales beside the vision of another boy with muscular dystrophy, another boy genetically programmed to degenerate.”

(She did not end up terminating. The CVS showed her son would not have Duchenne.)

Wolfson is very brave, and I dare anyone to judge her. How can we judge something we have not lived? Unfortunately, we do it all the time. (I’m guilty of it, as well.) But this is part of the problem: we lack empathy. We lack understanding. We seem unable to move beyond our own narrow experiences in the world and imagine being in someone else’s shoes. This is a dangerous way to be.

Back to Palin: Another thing I dislike about her is how she uses her son (if, indeed, he is her son), who has Down syndrome, as part of her pro-life platform. I know hundreds of pro-choice women who would choose not to terminate a pregnancy because of Down syndrome. Pro-choice women and pro-choice families make this decision every day. It is the decision D and I would have made, and while I was pregnant with Zoë, we decided against the testing because we knew we would not terminate our pregnancy because of Down syndrome. This does not make me any less pro-choice. (Know that I would have terminated, however, if our twenty-week ultrasound had showed fetal anomalies incompatible with life.)

I like what Kate Trump O’Connor says at the end of her Brain, Child essay “Not One of Those Mothers,” which is about being the mother to a son who has Down syndrome:

“Since Thomas’ birth, I have struggled with the moral and ethical issues surrounding the increasingly early prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. I do not want to impose on the personal choices of other, and yet I do not want fear—the fear of difference and the fear of our own inadequacy—to make life and death decisions for us. We are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. That’s something Thomas, with his determination and persistence, shows me every day.”

Abortion is never an easy choice. I don’t know anyone who takes it lightly. I don’t know any pro-choice person who is pro-abortion. I think, as a nation, we need to do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions, and there are ways of doing this: by making contraception, family planning services, and emergency contraception available and affordable; by providing people living wage jobs and the resources they need to start a family if they choose; by providing holistic, comprehensive sex education to all of our young people.

It’s a muddy, complicated issue, so let’s address it as such. Let’s not force it into one-line slogans. Let’s not make it about religious people versus secular people. Let’s give the real lived experiences of women and families space. Let’s listen to their stories. Let’s try to understand each other and be empathetic. Let’s support common-sense public policies that will give women and families real choices. And as we do all of the above, let us not forget that making abortion illegal won’t reduce the number of abortions; it will simply kill women.

Posted in ,


I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. kristenspina on September 4, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you, Kate, for putting this out there, for saying what needs to be said, and for saying it in such an articulate and balanced manner.

  2. Lisa on September 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Thank you for this brave and honest post. Those of us who are pro-choice don’t generally talk much about what is a very private matter, but to your point, we probably should.

    I believe the Palin nomination is clearly a tactic to raise this wedge issue. I don’t want to minimize the importance of this issue in deference to those who oppose the right we’ve had in this country for 35 years now, but it angers me that the current strategy seems to be placing an issue as divisive and irreconcilable as this one ahead of the national priorities that affect all of us — American men and women and civilians dying and being maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan, millions without healthcare, the economy, rising unemployment, the environment — to detract from that national discussion to go back to this again is irresponsible and selfish in my opinion.

  3. Eve on September 4, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    You know, it seems like such a low blow to say something like, “who calls herself a Christian.” Guess what? Many Christians are against abortion because they are Christians. Sarah Palin is trying to live out her convictions, just as you are. And yet you belittle and attack her for it. I guess only women who agree with you are allowed to live by their convictions, no?

    For every woman who aborts her statistically rare child conceived by rape, there is a couple who adopts a baby conceived by rape. Yes. Imagine that. Those children, if left to live, become human beings who live lives. I know: I am raising one, and I know many other adoptive parents who can say likewise.

    I buried a daughter eight years ago who was born with multiple handicaps. Her life was difficult but it was not a waste. Neither her birth mother nor I ever regretted, for one minute, that our daughter was not aborted. But we each had friends who said, “Why didn’t someone just let that child die?”

    For every story you can tell, I have a counterpoint that is just as moving and beautiful. The difference between us is that women like me, in spite of our advanced degrees and achievements, are considered stupid and backward, self-righteous and judgmental, if we value the rights of the unborn. You, on the other hand, view yourself as progressive and intelligent, judging by what you’ve written here.

    I judge only myself and what I’m willing to stand before God on. But oh… yes, I do consider myself to be a Christian. How hopelessly archaic.

  4. Lisa on September 5, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Eve, With respect to your choices, there is a big difference between a personal belief and imposing that belief on others who don’t share it. Sarah Palin is politically opposed to abortion and clearly has an agenda to see that Roe vs. Wade is overturned. I’m not a Christian. I am grateful that I’ve never been faced with a situation where abortion has been a possibility, but if I had, I don’t believe that anyone has the right to tell me that I no longer have that choice, particularly if that mandate is based on religious dogma that I don’t subscribe to.

    I can’t speak for Kate, but I think her point was that all women should be allowed to live their lives and make their own choices based on their own convictions and that beneath the broad umbrella of the term, Christianity, for some that can include the choice to terminate a pregnancy.

    Islamic fundamentalists believe I should be wearing a burka. I find the idea of those who’d take away my right to decide whether or not to continue or terminate a pregnancy, based on their religious beliefs to be equally wrong and oppressive.

    Kate, I apologize for responding to a comment meant for you, but while I try to respect the right of others to believe in what they will, I can’t remain silent when those whose beliefs I don’t agree with would deny me the same respect.

  5. kate hopper on September 5, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Thanks for these comments. I know there will be more, and I know some will be angry. I do hope people will see this as a chance to dialogue, though, and not to fight. I think one of the big things that we’re lacking in this country is an open dialogue about abortion and choice and religion. I hope this can be a place for that.

    I think Lisa said it well. I *DO* respect all women’s choices. I respect people with religious convictions, even if they are different from my own. But, and this is really the point, I do not respect someone who is trying to impose his or her religious convictions on me and others. Keeping abortion safe and legal is as much about religious freedom as it is about reproductive justice.

    And Eve, I see what you’re saying about the way I said Palin “who calls herself a Christian” is disrespectful. I guess I said it that way because so much of what she stands for seems so very un-Christian to me. But you’re right; I didn’t need to phrase it that way.

  6. Wendy on September 5, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I, personally, struggle with this issue constantly. I hate the thought of my government taking away this choice. I hate it. Government shouldn’t legislate morality – or should they? Isn’t morality one of the reasons we HAVE laws? Criminals don’t have the same sense of morality as the rest of us. Aren’t we already trying to legislate morality?

    At the same time I do believe it’s a life, a child in that uterus, from the moment of conception. And abortion is ending that life, that possibility – even if it isn’t going to be an easy or comfortable life to live. Even if it would be difficult for me, the parent.

    Calling it a fetus and making it acceptable to terminate one is to me simply finding a way to pretend that it’s not taking a life; not killing a child.

    Then I think about rape. My mother was raped, got pregnant and got an abortion. I understand her decision and I don’t condemn her for it, but at the same time feel the loss of my little brother or sister, and sad that they never had a chance at life – even if it would have been lived with another family.

    I think about incest.

    I think about seriously ill babes-in-vitro. Should they be spared a life of suffering? Isn’t that G-d’s decision? Or did He give us abortion to give us a choice?

    It’s too much. There is too much grayness. It it were but black and white I’d rest easier, secure on my position.

    Instead I straddle.

  7. Kiely on September 5, 2008 at 10:29 am

    This is a difficult issue to discuss respectfully. Thank you, Kate, for providing space for that to happen. I am a pro-choice Christian. But, no one likes abortion or wants to have one. Whenever anyone has an unintended pregnancy or a problem pregnancy, it is a difficult situation, and one that deserves compassion.

    The thing that is most challenging to me personally is how anti-abortion policies are made. For many conservatives, being against abortion (having the right thoughts and beliefs) serves as a litmus test for political candidates. Anti-abortion policies usually involve trying to make abortion illegal or make abortions more difficult to obtain (with waiting periods or parental notification). These policies may prevent some women from obtaining an abortion. Some women may place their child for adoption. But, most women if they carry their pregnancy to term will raise the child. And some of these women are equipped financially and emotionally to raise their children. But, many know they are not—and then they will have children that they did not want. I do not think it is a moral good for society to push women to have children that do not want—either by law or through shame.

    Anti-abortion policy should be anti-poverty policy. One of the big reasons women say they have abortions is because they cannot afford to raise the child. Banning legal abortions and protesting in front of clinics doesn’t really do anything to prevent abortions. If it is illegal, many women get illegal abortions. Protesting in front of clinics doesn’t usually stop an abortion either; women just may feel embarrassed or irritated going into a clinic. I wish that anti-abortion policy would instead become policies to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place. All the energy that is spent protesting clinics and trying to change laws could really be used to promote access to information and health care.

    We have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy of any industrialized country in the world, partly because of inadequate access to health care and partly because we have a schizophrenic culture about sex. We are bombarded with media images of young thin people have sex or looking sex. But, frank conversation—especially for young people is really lacking. Sexuality education should stress that sex is beautiful and sacred (and therefore best with a loving partner) rather than sinful and a cause of disease. And young people deserve honest information so they can be safe and healthy. I taught faith-based comprehensive sex ed as a youth minister for 4 years with 7th-11th graders. I wrongly assumed that young people would get more information in school. The young women did not know how their reproductive parts worked. Young people did not know that you could buy condoms if you were under 18. All of these young people had been through sex ed. Some of them had only one health class. We have to do better as a culture—as parents, in schools, and in religious communities—in helping our young people get the information and support they need.

  8. kate hopper on September 5, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Thanks, Wendy, for the way you thoughtfully laid out your struggle with abortion. I really appreciate that. And thank you Kiely, for putting into words so many of my thoughts about how we could reduce unintended pregnancies…I’ll continue to read and respond as people post.

  9. Ines on September 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Oh! Kate, I love your post. It resonates exactly with my feelings and thoughts about it. And, I completely agree with what Kiely and Lisa wrote. We need more conversation. We desperately need more conversation. And, one that doesn’t include mis-interpreting first or paying attention only to what we said and was misunderstood to begin the battle. I think it is fine for Sarah Palin to live what Sarah Palin believes in. I don’t think it is right for her to make me want to live that way.

  10. Andria on September 5, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    WOW. Kate, this was really well-written. Thanks for taking the time to write something like this!

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about ways we should try, as a society, to reduce abortions without banning other women (whose circumstances we can not know and perhaps can not imagine) from having abortions. The particular failure of abstinence education in keeping women abstinent is of interest to me. Sarah Palin’s daughter went to a school where abstinence only “sex education” was taught. While she herself may not have opted for an abortion, she obviously also did not opt for abstinence. Would all other girls in her shoes choose to keep their baby? Certainly not. Therefore, should those opposed to abortion consider educating high schoolers in ways that have been proven to reduce the numbers of teen pregnancies? I say yes.

    As for Palin’s “family values,” I have some questions. Is it really wise to run for vice-president (campaigns being infamous for their time on the road, the toll they take) when one has a 4-month-old baby with developmental disabilities? Is it really motherly of her to be away from her children when one of them, a teenager, is pregnant and could probably use her mom more than ever? Some circumstances call for mothers taking extra discretion. Being a mother is not just about HAVING babies, but raising them.

  11. Miranda on September 5, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    An excellent dialog here, Kate. Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent post, and for creating a safe place to discuss this issue.

    I have five children. When I was pregnant with my fourth child, I was 35 and had amnio. The results showed a normally developing baby. But I was alarmed by how very far along I was when those results arrived. I could feel the baby moving; I was already deeply attached. How would I have been able to end the pregnancy then, regardless of the results? While I had always been adamantly pro-choice, my perspective softened just a little bit. I caught a glimpse of the anti-choice vantage point.

    When I became pregnant with my fifth child at 38, I elected not to have amnio. I knew that I wouldn’t be interested in using that information to end the pregnancy, so the risk of the procedure outweighed the benefit of advance warning. We had the non-invasive quad screen and my numbers were excellent, so we just hoped for the best—and were blessed to have give birth to another healthy child. My husband had been adamant that he would not have wanted us to “keep” a child with Down syndrome. If my quad screen had indicated further testing via amnio, I think we would have had a very rocky road in coming to a consensus, because I would not have been able to have an abortion at that point.

    This is a difficult and deeply personal issue, which is why I remain firmly pro-choice, and why I am so perplexed by the crusade to make government the decision maker. While I seek to understand, I am irritated by the suggestion that adoption is the answer to abortion. Truly, it takes a special kind of woman to gestate a baby and give it up for adoption—and thankfully, those women do exist. In the event that abortion were outlawed, however, many women who would be unable or too frightened to obtain an illegal abortion would end up having and keeping those children, even though they might be unable to afford those children materially or emotionally. The news is already full of the horrible things that “parents” do to their children. Do we want to increase the numbers of ill-equipped people having children—people who KNOW they don’t want to bear those kids in the first place?

    The assumption that women with unwanted pregnancies will simply march on over to the adoption agency is simply ridiculous. Many women, even those who can’t fathom becoming a mother, will chose to keep their unwanted children simply because the pain of keeping them is easier to live with than the pain of bearing a child and giving it to someone else. My mother was adopted. She did not have a positive childhood. Not everyone who adopts a child provides an idyllic childhood. This reality can create enough doubt in the mind of a pregnant woman that she might well chose to keep and raise a child that she would otherwise have elected to abort. (Is this selfish? Perhaps. But not any more selfish than those who want to force their personal choices on other people via legislation.)

    I suppose that this is all good news to the pro-life camp. To those like Sarah Palin who would like to make abortion criminal, I say instead of focusing on forcing women to have children that they don’t want, without consideration for the lives that those children might be born into, why don’t you focus on improving the lives of children who are ALREADY living and breathing outside the womb? Why not do more to help the 13 million American children who live in families with incomes below the national poverty level? Why not do more to help improve the utterly destitute children in undeveloped countries across the globe?

    There seems to be this dire focus on life at all cost. Quality of life doesn’t seem to be important, except when Republicans are protecting their own tax shelters and defending moving their companies offshore. I don’t understand this dogmatic fixation on abortion. If you don’t want to have an abortion, DON’T HAVE ONE. If you want to “save” the lives of others, there are a whole lot of needy people out there who could use your help. Pro-life activists could change the world by focusing their efforts on the lives of the impoverished and underprivileged, instead of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade and thereby CREATE EVEN MORE CHILDREN IN NEED, who will struggle through without help from a Republican government. It’s all about personal accountability, right? Except when you get pregnant. Then you’re accountable to the government.

    Oh, and if you really want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country, for God’s sake, give up on abstinence-only education. The statistics are clear: it just doesn’t work. You can’t have it both ways.

    I am trying to stay even-keeled about this. The day after Palin’s speech, a group popped up on Facebook called “I hate Sarah Palin.” To me, this is totally unnecessary. I don’t hate Sarah Palin, even if I may abhor some of the things she stands for. I do think it is wrong to insist that a girl who is impregnated by her father, for example, be forced to carry that child for nine months and give birth. Who is served here? The unborn child? Even if life does begin at conception—and none of us can ever know—to me, quality of life MUST be considered. That doesn’t mean that a child with severe physical problems should be aborted. If the parents are equipped to give birth to that child and care for it, even if that child will only have a short and bittersweet life, than that may be a painful yet beautiful choice for those parents to make. I fully support that intensely personal decision, although I would hope that someone would not choose to give birth to a child who would experience extreme pain—physical or emotional—simply to ease their own consciousnesses. But my opinion would be irrelevant, as it should be. It is not up to ME to tell those parents how to handle their pregnancy—and it is not up to them to tell me how to handle mine.

  12. meredithwinn on September 6, 2008 at 1:29 am

    amen to all of it. and thank you for putting this out there with such grace and eloquence on such a hard topic to cover.

    and i will repeat this quote from a commenter: “With respect to your choices, there is a big difference between a personal belief and imposing that belief on others who don’t share it. “

    everyone has a story. i wish the government would let everyone have their own choice. their own story to write.

    my body. my choice.

  13. claire on September 6, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you Kate for opening up this much-needed dialogue. The polarization around abortion has been disheartening to me since it tends to distortion and villianizing. Yet the lived experiences of individual women I know are, as you say, quite muddy, quite grey, and their choices on all fronts tend to be full of multiple considerations and struggles.

    However, I am confused as to how abortion has become the Christian issue, when there are so many tenets of Christianity (care for the sick, eradication of poverty, social justice) that seem equally important, but somehow get short-shrift in our political discourse. My mother and
    father-in-law are both quite religious and have been voting on a single issue – abortion – for the past decade or so, even when they oppose most everything else of the candidate’s platform.

  14. Elizabeth on September 6, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you for this careful articulation. I have been mulling all of this over the last week and have to say that my anger has gotten the better of me. I am particularly offended by Sarah Palin saying anything at all in reference to us, “Special needs families” — I have a thirteen year old daughter who is severely disabled and I say, with humor, she has no f’ing idea what is in store for her. Anyway, thanks again for the post. Let’s hope and believe that women all over the country come to their senses and vote AGAINST Sarah Palin

  15. Rhena on September 9, 2008 at 9:48 am

    This was a great post. It must be tricky to decide to post about something as controversial. I know that in my own blog I totally avoid controversy and as a result I have a lot of milquetoast entries about the State Fair and food.

    My two cents.

    I was pro-life until I was about 14 (as much as any teenager can have fully formed opinions). The reason I was was because when the issue came up, all I could picture was a baby and a life.

    In high school and college I became pro-choice in part because of some vague sense that it was just the right thing to do as a young, progressive woman. Still, the image of a baby, a life that could be lead stuck with me and I was internally conflicted. It was this act of imagination that made the whole idea of abortion difficult to stomach.

    Finally, it was another act of imagination that made me feel fully pro-choice. In spite of the fact that I could never see or touch or hold a blastula or an embryo or a fetus, I finally realized that at such early stages of development, that “being” is not separate from the mother. It cannot survive without her. Everything it needs to live — oxygen, nutrition, space — it gets from her. It is entirely dependent on her. It IS her.

    When I realised that, it finally made sense to me what it was to be pro-choice.

    At the same time, it is obvious that having an abortion is not an easy decision. It is not something that women don’t continue to remember and think about for the rest of their lives. Women who have had abortions continue to imagine the life that could have been.

    On the other hand, when others like Eve imagine that fetus or embryo or blastula, they see it as a life, a baby, a child, a being totally separate from the mother.

    I don’t want to privilege one act of imagination over the other.

    So the default becomes — let each woman decide what she believes and what is right for her. Offer her all of the tools and information she needs and then let her make the choice. As Kiely pointed out, even with all of this information and thought, an abortion is not and easy decision and it is not one that most women easily forget. I agree with Kiely, women in this position deserve compassion. Unfortunately, the debate often paints women who have abortions as callous and thoughtless. It paints these women as unable to imagine the life that could have been.

    Of course, problems come in all of these grey areas that you talk about, Kate. I might have the choice and be able to make the choice, but what happens in a public school? How do we use taxpayer money to teach kids when some parents don’t want their kids to learn about abortion or, on the other hand, to hear that each pregnancy is a life? Can we ask a pro-life woman to pay taxes into a health care system that offers abortions? So I do think it’s more than just an individual, moral issue. It is an issue of policy and government.

    At the same time, I agree with those like Lisa who see the selection of Palin as political “smoke and mirrors.” She solidified the republican base by being divisive, but suggesting that her view is right and everything else is wrong. This is not leadership. She is seemingly intentionally creating an environment that is partisan and manipulative and that is framing the conflict as “us versus them.”

    We don’t need Palin. What we really need are more discussions like these.

  16. American_in_Cairo on September 10, 2008 at 5:19 am

    I love Rhena’s response: “We don’t need Palin. What we really need are more discussions like these.” Even though I’m not a mother, I’m listening, too. Thanks for posting this entry, Kate.

  17. Anonymous on September 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm


  18. Anonymous on September 11, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Due to certain circumstances in my young adulthood, it became a necessary choice for me to have an abortion. I don’t need to go into the whys, but if I was unable, I would have had to go the old dangerous and illegal route that killed so many young women prior to Roe v Wade. This was not a decision I came to lightly.

    Now I am older. I am a mother. I am a mother to a special needs child. Even if I had a pre-natal test, this disability would not have appeared. I waited through many years and many life trials before having another child at a technically advanced age. I did not have an amnio again. We decided that we were ready for whatever the great divine would give us as our challenge. So far so good.

    Every pregnacy I have had, I have made my choice. Thank you Kate and everyone here for speaking so eloquently about the very personal decision I have made and stand by to this day – the one that many young women, under difficult circumstances, still need to make every day, and constitutionally have the right to do so.

  19. Kara on September 13, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Kate–what a great post, and I’ve enjoyed the discussion just as much. I will be forwarding, linking, etc. because you said it all so well, I want others to read it too!

  20. Anonymous on September 16, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Wonder website! Be sure to check out:

    I was especially touched by the Grandmother who discusses her horrible experience related to an illegal abortion.

    Best to all.

  21. ~Denise~ on September 17, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Kate, thank you for writing this. Your courage is to be admired. It’s soemthing I am always fearful to write about myself, same fears as you shared, but this is an issue that is high on my list. I am pro-choice. I would love to see less abortions in this country, however by making it illegal, that will not stop it. I know women who have made this heartbreaking choice, all of them with a heavy heart and for differing reasons, and I am thankful they all had a choice.

    This is such a hot button issue, one that always seems to be faught more with emotion than true, open-minded conversation. I thank you for your dialogue.

  22. Anonymous on October 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I appreciate this thoughtful discussion. As an adoptive mother I am so concerned when I hear anyone Suggesting adoption is a positive alternative to abortion. And honestly, I’ve heard both Obama and Palin do this.
    Adoption works out well in many cases of course. It may be the best and/or only option for kids who have been neglected, abused or abandoned. But particularly in situations where the mother feels she has no real choice but to relinquish her infant, the emotional toll for that woman is almost beyond measure. Read “The Girls Who Went Away” by Anne Fessler. My own daughter’s mother never recovered from her loss in 1971, and lives today with crippling physical nad emotional disability.
    There are many studies that document the multiple challenges that adoptive children face. I used to fight it – but the evidence – and my personal experience – is overwhelming. I’m not sure we really understand yet what the mechanism is, but that there is some critical emotional damage is clear. My child, placed at ten days of age, has many classic characteristics of an adult adoptee, issues that disrupt every relationship including that with her own children.
    I hope there will be thoughtful dialog about the very grey issue of adoption, as well as abortion.

  23. kate hopper on October 7, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks to everyone who continues to read and comment. I am continually impressed by what can happen when we decide to be thoughtful and try to have a discussion. You’ve given me courage to try to do this with other issues close to my heart.

  24. Emmie (Better Make It A Double) on October 8, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Great post and discussion, Kate – I’ve been meaning to contribute and am just now getting around to it. I’m one of those pro-choice-pro-baby types who strongly believes that choice is just and necessary. I also think reducing abortions is just and necessary, and I don’t think that you have to deny the life within a woman as a “life” in order to acknowledge that choice is preferable to the alternative. I will confess, though, that I have never given money to a pro-choice group or been involved in any type of pro-choice campaign. Someone from NARAL once came to my door and solicited me, but I was very put off by their literature, which claimed, among other things, that it will be a fine day when abortion is just another medical procedure. When I asked what that meant, the canvasser said that abortion should be thought of as no more controversial or complicated than any other outpatient procedure. I don’t agree. I have met too many women, a couple of them close friends, who have had real remorse or emotional pain after an abortion. it’s easy to say that the pain comes from others’ judgment, but I no longer believe that’s always the case. One of the aforementioned friends went to a pro-choice therapist who did her damnedest to talk her out of her belief that the abortion had been the wrong choice for her. It was the most convenient choice, and the most invisible and therefore seemly, but it wasn’t the right one. She’ll never stop regretting her “choice” not to stand up to her pro-choice family and boyfriend and parent that baby. I grew up with a mother who did and does believe that part of abortion’s role is to get rid of “nature’s mistakes”. There is a quasi-eugenic approach to her thinking that informs some people’s pro-choice views, and it doesn’t get talked about much. And there ARE teens who get coerced into abortion, even if they “consent”– parental pressure is like that. A girl has already let down her parents once, and doesn’t want to do it twice, and she “consents”. This also doesn’t get talked about much. The people who call me on the phone or come to my door don’t think we have time to talk about all that though, because we need to focus on demonizing the other side and protecting our turf. The Democrats (whom, incidentally, I am to the left of on many, if not most issues, platform-wise) cannot even agree to have “reducing abortions” be a worthy goal. I’m rambling, and none of this is meant at you, or your thoughtful post, but I just wanted to give a clear portrait of why some of us pro-choice people are utterly disengaged from the pro-choice movement. i wish it was different -that people like me could be trusted to be part of that movement without being seen to automatically undermine it. Thanks for cracking that open a bit wider – we need it desperately!