Discussion between Pro-Choice Catholic and Pro-Life Protestant
The following is from one of my readers and is posted with her blessing. While I disagree with most of her assumptions, I appreciate the opportunity to present an alternative view along with my comments. I want to encourage people with differing views to participate at our roundtable, so I am posting her entire message before I discuss my disagreements with it.
My name is Dina and I found your site very interesting and informative. I read about your views on abortion and while I admire and respect your consideration for the lives of the unborn, but would like to suggest a different point of view if I may. Given I am 18 and female and live in California my views will be different than your own.

I think the difference between pro-lifers and pro-choicers is who each group has sympathy for. Pro-lifers like yourself sympathize with the unborn, while pro-choicers like myself sympathize the mothers. While I firmly believe that abortion should not be used as birth control, but I also believe that it is not a disgusting practice. Something that gives a woman another chance is a not disgusting at all. Often abortions are performed out of concern for the mother's well being either emotionally or physically. I am Catholic and it was hard for me to decide where I was going to stand on this issue. I just know that if abortion is outlawed young girls will be going at themselves with coat hangers and that is not the way to address the problem.

Abortion clinics are clean and offer counseling services. Please reconsider your stance and if I can't change your mind I at least hope I gave you something to think about!

Thank you, Dina

Thank you, Dina, for politely providing an alternative view on this sensitive issue. You have given me food for thought and I hope I can do likewise by responding to your input. Let me respond to each of your points.
I think the difference between pro-lifers and pro-choicers is who each group has sympathy for. Pro-lifers like yourself sympathize with the unborn, while pro-choicers like myself sympathize the mothers.
I agree that the unborn have my strong sympathy -- if anything, this understates the case. However, the mothers also have my sympathy. I do not think mothers take pleasure in killing their offspring and that they believe their particular circumstances justifies a difficult decision. However, I think most pro-choicers do women a grave disservice by not painting a clear picture of the potential consequences of abortion. Legal abortion occasionally results in two deaths; the mother sometimes also dies of complications. I do not claim this is the norm, but it certainly happens. No one keeps statistics on these deaths because of both privacy issues and because pro-choice advocates fight regulations that would protect women. A WSJ article discusses the problem. If pro-choice advocates truly had the best interest of women in mind, the same abortionist would not be allowed to keep killing women along with their unborn children. Nor would pro-choicers in the media downplay stories about women killed by RU-486 if they truly had sympathy for women. I have tremendous sympathy for Holly Patterson, her family, and those in similar circumstances. You should read the letter from Holly's family.

And while the risk of two deaths may be the most severe consequence to an abortion, no one knows how many women suffer other affects of abortion. According to multiple medical studies, women who undergo abortions have a high risk of becoming sterile (5% to 25% for just one abortion). Some studies show a link between abortion and breast cancer, although a few studies disagree with this finding. You should read the studies and draw your own conclusions. Researchers at Vanderbilt have studied the strong link between abortion and mental illness (suicide, depression, psychological complications) and I strongly suggest anyone considering an abortion be aware of the risks.

People with sympathy toward women share these facts. People who hide these facts do not have the best interests of women at heart. So I disagree that pro-choicers have more sympathy for the women than pro-lifers. Pro-lifers want both women and their offspring to live and Pro-choicers are either ignorant of the risks of abortion (as I expect most of them are) or deliberately hide the risks despite the threat to women.

While I firmly believe that abortion should not be used as birth control, but I also believe that it is not a disgusting practice. Something that gives a woman another chance is a not disgusting at all.
You raise two issues here. Are abortions disgusting? And do they give a woman another chance? I will address each of these questions.

I can understand your perspective on many of your points, but I do not understand your claim that abortion is not disgusting. Abortionists kill unborn babies in many ways, including poisoning them (it takes a baby over an hour to die in agony from a saline abortion), by dissecting them, and by stabbing them as they are born (partial-birth abortions). Please review one of the milder abortion picture sites, and perhaps even a video, and then tell me if you still doubt abortions are disgusting.

Not only do I find abortions disgusting, I think the practice is barbaric and unnecessarily cruel. Even if you decide that the baby must die for the convenience of his or her mother, at least apply anesthetic before killing the unborn as they do in some parts of Europe. Scientists have shown that the unborn feel pain, starting at 8 weeks. From twenty to thirty weeks of age, the unborn actually feel more pain that adults would feel. I wouldn't kill an old dog the way American abortionists routinely kill our unborn. These unborn die, alone, in intense pain and suffering.

I am also puzzled by your comment that abortion may give woman another chance since you also oppose using abortion as birth control. Other than the opportunity to not deal with a pregnancy now (e.g., birth control), what additional chance does a woman receive by an abortion? (Note: I do recognize it provides some benefits to woman who use abortion as birth control, but I am really puzzled by alternative benefits). On the other hand, woman who have abortions are, usually unknowingly, taking a chance on dying (slight), sterility (significant), breast cancer (unknown), and mental problems (significant). I am concerned for these women as well as their slaughtered offspring.

After seeing my wife experience three difficult pregnancies, I have some understanding of the problems women undergo during pregnancy. However, the risks of abortion are far higher and kill a minimum of one person even if the woman manages to remain emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy.

Often abortions are performed out of concern for the mother's well being either emotionally or physically.
I have heard these rationalizations, but I have never seen any medical studies to back them up. I have heard some neonatal specialists say there are absolutely zero circumstances where an abortion helps the physical health of the mother. There are a few cases where the baby causes life-threatening complications, but at that point the baby is viable outside the womb. Doctors should be allowed to try to save both patients. I support placing the life of the mother ahead of that of the child, but the goal should be to save both.

Do you really believe abortions should be performed because of the emotional well being of the mother? This is problematic for a host of reasons. One, as I linked earlier, studies show that abortion is likely to cause emotional, mental, and physical problems for women. I am not aware of a single scientific study that shows women are emotionally better off for having an abortion. Two, if you assume for the sake of argument that an abortion could emotionally help women, it probably holds true for men as well. Should fathers then be able to demand that women have abortions if they say (or if a psychologist says) it is important to their mental and emotional health? Or what if a psychologist says the father will suffer immense emotional and psychological problems if the woman has an abortion? Three, again assuming for the sake of argument that an abortion could emotionally help a woman, you are valuing the emotionally well being of one individual over the life of another individual.

I am Catholic and it was hard for me to decide where I was going to stand on this issue.
Given my limited understanding of Catholicism, take my comments here with a grain of salt. That said, my understanding is that Catholics look to three sources: the Scriptures, the Pope (see section 8), and their individual consciences. I believe the first two sources are fairly clear in their pro-life stance; only you can judge your own conscience. From an outsider perspective, I would not want to someday explain to God that I overruled both His Word and His Pope unless I was absolutely positive that I was right (from a Protestant perspective, I would never think I had the right to overrule His Word, but that is a Protestant perspective, not necessarily a Catholic one.).
I just know that if abortion is outlawed young girls will be going at themselves with coat hangers and that is not the way to address the problem.
Please do not take offense, but I do not accept this as a logical way to argue. If something is wrong, the mere fact that some percentage of the population will continue to do wrong, even at some risk to themselves, is not an argument for legalizing what is wrong. Assume five members of the Supreme Court arbitrarily said it was legal to kill born children before they become adults just because approximately 200 women a year risk capital punishment by killing their own kids. By the standard pro-choice reasoning, this would be logically consistent with the reasons for keeping abortion legal. The point of this admittedly extreme example is that the rightness or wrongness of an act is not dependent upon the risks of the act itself.

However, many pro-choicers use the same reasoning as yourself so I will also respond to it even it I find it illogical. If the concern is the strictly the safety of women, we should evaluate which philosophy, pro-life or pro-choice, best protects women. Given the actual risks of a legal abortion, I expect American women, as a whole, would be healthier if abortion were made illegal again. In other words, while some percentage of women would somehow obtain illegal abortions and a subset of these would suffer severe negative consequences (even higher than the percentage of women who currently suffer under legal abortions), the total number of woman who suffer abortion related health problems should decrease as the number of abortions would dramatically decrease. Pro-lifers care about the lives of both the women and their offspring.

Abortion clinics are clean and offer counseling services.
The claim to being clean is more an article of faith than anything else, since pro-choicers have successfully prevented most states from placing sufficient regulations on abortion clinics. The average veterinary clinic is much more regulated than the typical abortion clinic.

However, I agree that abortion clinics offer counseling services. They mostly counsel women to have an abortion. In the case of Planned Parenthood, they also encourage young women to engage in sexual behavior that may result in future abortion business for the clinic. When evaluating a counselor, you have to ask if their firm will financially benefit from one of their options. Abortion clinics make vast amounts of money from performing abortions. Obviously they have a vested interest in promoting abortion. But don't take my word for it. Here are some quotes from some abortion counselors themselves.

I have never yet counseled anybody to have the baby. I'm also doing women's counseling on campus at Albany State, and there I am expected to present alternatives. Whereas at the abortion clinic you aren't really expected to. --abortion counselor
I was trained by a professional marketing director in how to sell abortions over the telephone. He took every one of our receptionists, nurses, and anyone else who would deal with people over the phone through an extensive training period. The object was, when the girl called, to hook the sale so that she wouldn't get an abortion somewhere else, or adopt out her baby, or change her mind. We were doing it for the money. --Nina Whitten, chief secretary at a Dallas abortion clinic under Dr. Curtis Boyd
If a woman we were counseling expressed doubts about having an abortion, we would say whatever was necessary to persuade her to abort immediately. --Judy W., former office manager of the second largest abortion clinic in El Paso, Texas
Abortion clinics are a business and businesses exists to make money. When you reach the point in life where you have money to invest, you should not take advice from an investment counselor who works for a mutual fund company. He has a vested interest in selling his own funds. Reasonable investors consult financial analysts who have no vested interest in their advice. Surely you do not expect a merchant of death to put the self-interest of a client ahead of his own financial interest? I do not expect most bankers to do this, let alone the type of people who make a living by literally killing babies.

To highlight the unethical behavior of these counselors, a pro-life group launched a sting that received national attention. They had a young lady call over 800 abortion clinics and pretend to be 13-years old. She told the telephone counselors that she was impregnated by her 22-year-old boyfriend. This is legally statutory rape in all 50 states and the clinics are ethically and legally obliged to report all cases of statutory rape. However, this would be bad for business so more than 90 percent of the counselors said they would conceal this information and some even conspired against the law by telling the caller to hide this information.

Pro-lifers are the ones who push to make abortion safer. This is partly because we know that eliminating the unsafe clinics will reduce the total number of abortions in America. But it is also because we also care about the women. Both pro-choicers and pro-lifers should be pushing for careful oversight of abortion clinics. This should be the one place where both perspectives should agree. But the pro-choicers fight regulation with all of their political might and women suffer because of it.

Please reconsider your stance and if I can't change your mind I at least hope I gave you something to think about!.
You did give me something to think about and I greatly appreciate the chance to civilly discuss this important issue. I think it important enough that I made the time to look up the linked references instead of simply giving you my opinion. I hope you will return my courtesy and consider the points I raised. Feel free to comment and/or write anytime.

Best regards,



Big subject. I am a "limited pro-choice Catholic."

The furor about abortion seems odd to me. There are lots of other issues with similar or the identical ethical dilemma: euthanasia for example, or the ethics of medical experimentation on children (you can only do experiments on some childhood disease on children, the only ones with those diseases, but those children can't give consent).

But Abortion is the hot issue. It reminds me of slavery in the 1850s. There seems to be, for most people, no middle ground.

For me, though, there is an obvious middle ground. Whose stated view do I like? Why, Bill Clinton's. It is easy to agree with one of Clinton's stated positions. He has so many.

"Abortion should be safe, legal and rare" (Clinton's statement) covers it for me. I can see places where it is reasonable (health of mother in some combination of sure-thing this pregnancy will not result in a person who will live beyond a day or two) and places where it is unreasonable ("I want to know the sex of this pregnancy because I already have one of such-and-such sex and now want one of the other sex.

Anyhow, I see a reasonable middle ground but that seems a rare postion on this very emotional issue.

Posted by: Drew | 11/08/2004 - 05:42 PM

I follow demographics and all sort of surveys about what Americans think. If you ask about a blanket ban on abortion, a thin majority of Americans oppose this (however, if recent trends continue, the majority will go the other way soon). If you ask about a ban on all abortions except for the one percent case (rape, incest, genetic damage, physical danger to the mother's life), the overwhelming majority of Americans support such a ban. This would be the reasonable middle ground. However, I firmly believe the same pro-choicers who fight standards for abortion clinics would also fight any restriction on abortion at all. Hopefully some day I will be proven wrong.

I fully expect to see Roe v. Wade overturned in my lifetime. And then each state will have to make their own laws (as was the case before 5 unelected tyrants imposed their will). The political debates at that time will make our current political climate seem tame.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/08/2004 - 06:23 PM

Well, being a seriously lapsed Catholic (to the point of being areligious - Check out Steven den Beste's article on Mechanism to see a good description of where I stand), I am tepidly pro-life.
However, under current US law, abortion IS
legal and I will support a woman's right to do whatever the law allows.

All the while hoping for the law to be changed.

Posted by: Khobrah | 11/09/2004 - 09:43 AM

Actually, there is a lot of ambivalence on aboriton. Most Amercians seem to be ant-abortion, but pro-choice. They do not approve of the practice, but at the same time do not believe it should be illegal.

Posted by: Szdfan | 11/09/2004 - 11:49 AM

I was careful in how I stated my sentence. A lot depends upon the poll and upon how it is asked. As a professional marketer, I know I can influence the results by at least 15% simply by how I present the question. This is why I try to be general when reading the attitudes behind the polls.

For example, in general, a majority of people do not want a complete ban on abortion. In general, a majority of people want much tighter legal restrictions on when an abortion may be performed.

If you want to see a summary of the mainstream polls, click here. These polls suffer from the same failings as most media polls, but they do show the general trends that I claimed.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/09/2004 - 12:01 PM

Then what did Dina say?

(Sidenote: Its so nice not to see spittle-n-foaming, even on a controversial topic)

Posted by: Lucy | 11/10/2004 - 07:22 AM

She sent me a nice note. I'll paste it here.

Hi Don,

This is Dina again I want to thank you for your, while critical, very insightful response. I will be researching this topic for my Bioethics semester project and will have a lot of my own stats for you. With your permission I want to use our correspondence as part of the project.

Again thank you so much
for the time you have spent on all of this, it is greatly apreciated. It is a true rarity to find some one who listens to my thoughts with such a degree of respect.

Thank you,


I hope and expect we'll hear back from Dina when her project is complete.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/10/2004 - 09:42 AM

As one of those "dumb evangelicals", the issue for me is never whether abortion is wrong or a sin. While there is no Biblical "absolute right to life", (there is a right to self defense which may involve the taking of a human life), in general, abortion for any other reason than to preserve the life of the mother is murder. The issue (for me) is whether we, as a society are ready or willing to criminalize the act. I do not see us sentencing desperate young women to prison, and I can't see how we can effectively criminalize the act without legal sanctions against women who kill their babies.
Were we to actually make abortion a serious legal offense,(and I am not totally sure it should not remain in the uncriminalized realm of human behavior, like adultery), I believe we should also provide a safety net so that a woman has the means to carry a baby to term. We should also increase the cost to young men of random and irresponsible coupling. Until we are ready to jail women who abort, we are not really ready to criminalize abortion.
While Christians necessarily judge social trends by Biblical standards, there is another standard which is also useful, and that is utility. How does a custom or practice work out in terms of the long term survival and well being of the society? If demographic trends in Europe, Russia and Japan are to be believed, the current sexual mores are a short term recipe for long term disaster. At some point I would suspect that we will begin to see that most Biblical injunctions are not just someone's idea about how God wants us to behave, but also very wise prescriptions for a healthy social order where children are nurtured and cared for, women are not abused, and the weak are not exploited. Perhaps when we are down to 50% population (check out birthrates in Spain, or Japan) we will be ready to imprison women who abort.

Posted by: lilolvintner | 11/10/2004 - 09:43 AM

Yes, if abortion were again illegal, there would again be penalties for breaking the law. Laws that are not enforced merely make other laws weaker.

One of the many reasons for the decline in abortions is that less and less people are willing to perform them. Punishing the abortionists would also decrease the number of abortions simply by reducing the potential supply of abortionists.

The birthrates you mention are indeed low and are causing problems for these countries. Social Security is going to be bad enough here when the Baby Boomers are all retired and we have a growing population. Some tough decisions will have to be made in these other countries.

The imprisonment issue is a tough one - not because of the abortion issue, but because I have problems with our current prison "solution" in general. Sure, it does reduce crime in society and any alternative solution must do this as well. Instead of sending criminals to jail, at our expense and to their loss, I'd like the US to buy a huge chunck of land (maybe Siberia) and use it as a penal colony.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/10/2004 - 04:30 PM

Regarding 'punishment' for abortion as crime, imprisonment (for the mothers) certainly seems counterproductive. Prisons protect potential victims from the criminals, but the only potential future victims of an abortion-seeker are the products of her own womb, which is always with her anyway (I'm picturing judges enacting no-contact orders between a woman & her own ovaries!)

How about some kind of long-term fine (garnishing of wages until the child would have been 18?) with the funds directed toward adoption, crisis pregnancy, & abstinence programs? That would avoid a somewhat irrelevant prison term, while reminding the perpetrator of the long-term consequences of her actions and allowing them to (financially) atone for their actions. I am not entirely comfortable with the way that approach treats the murder of a baby more like a traffic fine, but it still seems like a just yet compassionate approach.

For the record, I am a pro-life Catholic who doesn't quite understand how a Catholic can hold a pro-abortion position without feeling some dissonance in their faith. My strongest reaction to the original correspondence was noticing that the writer did not even attempt to reason away the human life of the unborn. Is the unborn baby's life that unimportant relative to the mother in all cases?

My second reaction was that the writer seems to think that the big problem is pregnancy, when pregnancy is merely the natural outcome of sexual relations. Wouldn't that mean that the real problem is the act that naturally leads to the unwanted pregnancy? If I play Russian Roulette and find the chamber with a bullet in it, the bullet in my brain is still merely the natural result of my hand holding the gun to my head and pulling the trigger.

Posted by: Mark H | 11/11/2004 - 10:47 AM

I think your suggestion has merit and deserves further consideration once Roe v. Wade is overturned. At first thought, I like your idea for punishing mothers who kill their unborn. I confess I am not as charitable toward professional abortionists. I'd still press for hard labor for people who abort kids for pay.

I also agree with your other points, but our worldviews are much different than pro-choicers. Of course this is self-evident or we'd all be pro-lifers...

Posted by: Don Quixote | 11/11/2004 - 04:07 PM

When you say 'pro-life', do you include a stance against the death penalty? ...against free market economic policies that leave millions of people without health care, hungry, and dying (including mostly children)?

Posted by: Eli Sasaran | 12/11/2004 - 12:08 AM


My pro-life convictions are based on both religious and secular reasons. And yes, like many pro-lifers, I also support capital punishment. We tend to protect innocent life and, in general, we believe that one of the ways to protect the innocent is to punish the guilty.

However, I think you have a point about how free market capitalism has ethical drawbacks. One of the many reasons why I am a political independent instead of a Republican is because I support a social safety net. So we appear to have some common ground here (I say appear because you have not explicitly stated your beliefs). Of course, some of the Socialist countries that are usually held up as examples of having great social safety nets are the ones that are not only killing their unborn, but their sickly children and their elderly (e.g., the Netherlands). There are no perfect societies, at least none ruled by mankind, but some are definitely better than others. Right now, I believe that the weak and poor are better off in the more capitalistic countries (such as the US) than in the more socialistic countries (such as Holland). That does not mean that we should not continue to improve, because we should. However, it does mean we should be careful about how to improve we have no desire to duplicate Europe's mistakes.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 12/15/2004 - 11:55 AM
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