Monday, March 15, 2010

Pro-Choice or Anti-Choice?

Susan Wicklund is a sensitive and compassionate woman. She is also an abortion doctor. Last week the Vital Conversations group of which June and I are a part discussed Dr. Wicklund’s book, This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor (2007).
Dr. Wicklund (b. 1954) closes the third chapter of her book with these striking words: “Abortion is about life: quality of life for infants, children, and adults. Everywhere and in every sense of the word. Life, not death (p. 33).
There was nothing I read in the remainder of the book that seemed to contradict that statement. Thus, I have concluded that I will never again refer to the battle over abortion rights to be a battle between “pro-life” people and those who are “pro-choice.” The conflict is between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice.
For a long time I have opposed the use of the term “pro-abortion,” for no one is really for abortion. It is always seen as the lesser of two evils, not something that is in any sense good in and of itself. That, it seems, is clearly the position of Dr. Wicklund.
As many of my Thinking Friends know, a section of my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism is on “The Issue of Abortion” (pp. 226-235). In those pages, I rejected the absolutist position that condemns all abortions, which tends to be the position of most Christian fundamentalists. But I don’t clearly state there that I am a pro-choice advocate. After reading and thinking about Dr. Wicklund’s book, if were I to write that section on abortion now, I would  advocate the pro-choice position more explicitly.
For me, one painful aspect of This Common Secret was that Dr. Wicklund has nothing but unfavorable things to say about Christians or Christianity. People identified as Lambs of Christ are mentioned at least four times in the book—and always in a negative way: they were among the most vociferous of the protesters who constantly harassed Dr. Wicklund. (The Lambs of Christ is an anti-choice organization, founded in 1988 by Rev. Norman Weslin, a Roman Catholic priest and retired U.S. Army officer. Some refer to them as a Christian terrorist organization.)
Whether you are pro- or anti-choice, I would recommend the reading of Dr. Wicklund’s book. It helped me greatly to understand the pathos surrounding the performing of abortions as well as the importance of having a doctor who does those procedures in a safe and supportive environment. And it caused me to feel great admiration for Dr. Susan Wicklund, a sensitive and compassionate person.


  1. Leroy, you are definitely willing to walk into "minefields" with most issues including this one. While I consider abortion to be heinous, your nuanced perspective is where I have been heading with great reluctance.

    In the book, 'Freakonomics', the authors using the tools of economics try to answer the question of which programs were most directly correlated with the decline of violent crimes in the United States in the 1990's. The cause most highly correlated with this reduction in serious crime was abortion, not greater police enforcement, more money for schools, etc.

    While I still can not condone abortion, one of the unintended consequences of legalized abortion in the United States has been the reduction in violent crimes. Is this a case of the ends (desired) justifying the means (undesired as a means of birth control)?

  2. The sister of a dear friend (I know her as well, having dined with the family regularly over the years) was nearly forced into recently by her boyfriend and the local Planned Parenthood staff - no choice in it. The anger wells immensely. (Her sister, a teen mother, managed to find out and go help her actually think through the choice.) After that, I guess I must never phrase the argument as pro-choice vs pro-life, but rather as pro-life vs anti-life. But actually I see it differently.

    The issue is about life-style and wealth most of the time. Politics and money. Follow the money. This seems to be the "choice" most of the time. The biological (life) issues, and philosophical (choice) issues are secondary issues the majority of the time.

    This is flip side of Glenn Beck. It is still about wealth and politics.

  3. In response to the comments of "1sojourner," let me just say that Dr. Wicklund will not perform an abortion unless she thinks it is certain that the woman is making that choice herself and not being forced to get an abortion by anyone else.

  4. In response to LKS's rebuttal I would say that anecdotal evidence is a weak argument, for there are usually anecdotes which strongly argue the other side. (I would point to Bernard Nathanson, MD, co-founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).) But in the end we must each weigh the evidence. What drives people's views making something a priority on one side or the other, or even a non-issue?

    Anecdotally, my wife and daughter were recently in to see their female physicians. Both were given "information" to help them make a decision. It was not complete information for either of them, but did promote an outcome desired by the physician, which would increase the income received. Fortunately, with a second opinion and more complete information, both were able to make a more informed decision - the opposite of that recommended. (I could give a similar recent story of my son's male physician, with whom we attend church.)

    Follow the money and the politics - Yes I am a cynic.

  5. One reason I was so impressed with Dr. Wicklund is that she tells how time and time again she counseled women not to get an abortion. She refused to perform abortions for people who were being coerced by others, who were not sure about their decision, and who were past thirteen weeks of pregnancy. And she always talked about other options with the women who came to see her.

  6. In Matthew 5:29 Jesus says, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away, it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." Now some will object that this verse has nothing to do with abortion. True. Check a concordance, "abort," "aborting" and "abortion" never appear in the Bible. The popular practice of abortion happened widely in the ancient world, but the Bible never touches on the subject. All the so-called abortion proof-texts are repositioned uses, just like mine.

    What this verse does to the abortion debate is to first, frame it as a very serious issue, and second, as the woman's responsibility and choice. Will this prevent "buyer's remorse?" Of course not. Any major decision in life comes weighted down with rejected options. Choosing a college major, a house, a job, a spouse, all of these can lead to buyer's remorse. Not having an a abortion can lead to buyer's remorse as well.

    Do economic considerations weigh in an abortion decision? Of course. Economics is involved in almost everything. Informed consent is important, too, within limits. There is no such thing as perfect informed consent. It is completely unfair to a woman seeking an abortion to wield the perfect as an enemy of the good. Just as it is unfair to force a woman into an abortion against her will.

    Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote a lengthy description of one abortion procedure. Yet the New Testament ignores abortion. And if push comes to shove, the Old Testament may actually endorse abortion. So why do we wander off in modern America to politicize one of the most intensely personal decisions a woman can make? Perhaps we should spend more time feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the afflicted. The Bible actually discusses those issues.

    Which brings us to the final irony of the abortion debate. Abortion may abort health care reform. Only a tiny fraction of the health care dollars in America are spent on abortion, but that tiny wedge issue may undo the entire effort to reform our floundering health care system. So what are we really debating in abortion? Why does it arouse such passion that doctors are murdered, clinics are bombed, and rational discussion is reduced to a shouting match?

  7. If you are wrong about your "pro choice" positon you are complicit in murder.

    Thats a terrible responsibility.

    It can lead to a lifetime of remorse.

    God Damn those who allowed it.