pro-life, pro-choice: a painful paradox

blog pro life pro choice a painful paradox“let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – john 8:7

i am pro-life.  i believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of human life, that each life is created by God, made in God’s image, and that there are no accidents.  i do not, have not, nor will ever support abortion as a good idea. i believe it is a short-cut out of a complicated situation that has long-term consequences.  it robs a life created by God of its possibility.  it strips dignity. it devastates.  when i was 17 i had one, and i can say without a doubt it was the worst decision of my life.  the tied-for-best decision of my life is when i finally decided to accept God’s forgiveness for it and then forgive myself, too (the other best decision of my life was marrying my husband who stood by me when he heard the story i had kept hidden for years, even after having two children with him, because i was so ashamed).

for the past 16 years or so i have told my story freely.  shame no longer has its power over me and who i was in my worst moment does not define me.  at the same time, the scars still remain and no matter how much healing i have experienced, there will always be remnants of this pain in my story.

just this past week a friend misunderstood my blog post on the word “biblical” to think that i was somehow supportive of abortion and that i didn’t believe the bible addressed it as a core issue. nothing could be further from the truth. to me, the bible is a story of God’s love for humanity, his beloved creation; it’s also a story of the constant desire for our own control instead of trusting God, and how complicated that is.

abortion is traumatic. i know so many women who have had them and not one made this decision easily or without deep pain and grief.  it jacks us up in all kinds of ways, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  but thankfully, there is life and hope and healing on the other side of any of our decisions.

since i entered into healing for abortion many years ago, i have journeyed alongside women in the same boat.  some have kept their babies.  others had their babies and gave them up for adoption.  others chose to abort their babies. others made this wrenchingly painful decision with their partners based on medical issues.  i love them all.  and i know this about the last two groups:  not one of those women wanted to make that decision.   not one of these women thought it was easy or simple.  not one of these women made this choice flippantly.  most all of us felt trapped, confused, overwhelmed, absolutely terrified.  and not one of us is off the hook on the emotional and physical ramifications of our choice.

but despite all the reasons i am pro-life, i am also pro-choice. i do not believe that the government can force a woman to keep her unborn baby.  i understand that life matters, that someone needs to defend it, that that little life needs an advocate, but i also firmly believe that you cannot make a mother carry her baby.  it’s just not possible.

yes, i am a Christ-follower and am pro-life and pro-choice at the same time.

i am living in the messy and painful paradox.  

and it’s hard, really hard.

this means i will always anger one side or the other.  many pro-choicers will be frustrated right now with some of my strong feelings against abortion, and passionate pro-lifers will be angry that i agree with a woman’s right to choose.

i can’t win. and that’s okay.

i cry out to God not for clarity on which way i should vote or in which camp i should land, but rather on what i can do to participate in bringing Christ’s love to this world.  

my hope is that we would be people of love & light & hope & justice & freedom that helped wipe out the need for abortions, so that even though women had the choice, they wouldn’t even go there because they weren’t in that situation in the first place or had the support and love they needed to walk through an unplanned pregnancy.

the way to start is to begin to bravely respect the issues far underneath abortion–issues of vulnerable women, unwise men, dysfunctional family systems, lack of proper birth control, horrible self-esteem, loneliness, violence against women, and the lack of healthy and honest education.  and yes, patriarchy and what it has done to disempower women in cultures across the world.

on one hand, i have dreaded writing this post (it’s been in my head for a while) and on another hand, it’s so important for me to continue to live in the tension of not feeling the need to please one group or another, to be okay with not aligning with certain groups’ doctrinal demands, to not be afraid to say “this is what i believe”.  you don’t have to agree, you don’t have to feel the same way.

but i do know this:  there are a lot of us out here-dedicated Jesus-lovers who are wrestling in deep places of our hearts with this difficult issue and trying as best we can to live in the painful paradox of being pro-life and pro-choice at the same time.

we’re not stupid or unbiblical.  we’re not blinded by the world or trapped in darkness.  we’re not uneducated or closed-minded.  we’re not just liberal or conservative.  we’re not caricatured bible-believing-Christians or anything-goes-hippie ones.

we’re flawed human beings living out a messy faith as best we can.  

God, give us tenderness, compassion, courage, strength and wisdom as we grapple with these painful realities.

 

 

 

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

143 Comments

  • Kathy –

    Thank you for your courage in sharing this. As a man, I sometimes feel like I don’t have a right to say anything on this issue, but that isn’t the truth.

    Back in the 80s I participated in some pro-life rallies and was a vocal pro-life supporter. But now, like you I am also pro-choice. We often pass over the fact that abortions occurred long before Row vs. Wade. And in many cases they were performed in unsanitary conditions which had debilitating affects on the women having them.

    I think the biggest eye-opener for me has been the fact that no woman wants to have to make that decision. No man does either. And as you mentioned, the bigger issue is what gets people into the place where they are considering abortion in the first place.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Todd Boring

    Reply
    • thanks, todd, and i am so glad you took time to comment. i think we need more diverse voices in the conversations and your perspectives as a man really matter. thank you for sharing. on a separate note, i would also like to highlight that there are many men out there who are completely dismissed from this process and that is a deep pain, too. there is little to no support for them and that’s not right.

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  • Thank you. You summed up my feelings exactly. I appreciate your courage in opening up and sharing. Someone today will need to read this!

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  • While I am certainly not going to jump down your throat about it, I respectfully disagree. I can appreciate the suffering you have experienced and am glad that you have been able to find the forgiveness you sought, I can’t agree that the life of one innocent human being should be ended through abortion. I’m sure I’ll catch some flack about it, but the little one’s lives have as much meaning and purpose as ours. They are created in God’s image too, and are not accidental. I hope I don’t offend you, for that is not my intent. However, keeping quiet just to keep peace is not optional on this topic. God bless you in your journey!

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  • Amen, Thank you sister! What the world needs is love, Gods Love, not our judgement.

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  • Thank you…there is a saying “every choice has a story.” Those choices are never made lightly and those stories are our own. I think you have spoken for many women who feel this way. Being pro-choice is not against pro-life and that can be difficult to understand unless you have been there. You are amazing and strong, thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  • There is no win when an unborn child’s life is ended. Even in the difficult cases of extreme medical conditions with a very damaged child, there are hospice services available to help with the experience. There is so much less guilt with letting things occur without forceful intervention that the healing from the terrible trauma can be improved. If it is clearly the case of a baby dying or a mother dying, I side with the mother, but that is not a common occurrence.

    I worked for 7 years as a “shepherding home”, providing a place to stay
    for women in crisis pregnancies who varied from 15 to 30 when they
    stayed with me. I walked beside every combination imaginable of
    abortion, abuse, adoption, and raising a child as a single mother. I
    listened and tried very hard to understand deep within myself the
    statement I heard repeatedly, “I just could not give a baby up for
    adoption, I have to have an abortion.” I just can’t understand.

    We need to focus on the conditions that cause crisis pregnancies in the first place; lack of community, support, and love for the mother. Can we love disenfranchised teenagers around us? Can we teach relationship skills and let every woman see that she is a unique, unrepeatable, miracle of God? And I have personally heard stories of mothers of babies born from a rape describe that bringing the child to life was an important part of their healing.

    The abortion industry is to a large extent driven by the profit motive. A human should not be subject to a sudden death because of its place of residence – the womb of another. It’s so simple to “vacuum out” a woman and let her do it again, leaving a broken woman behind. We need to choose to care for the whole woman. It does not help to carry signs around and bomb abortion clinics. We must reach out in love to those in difficult circumstances.

    I heard the story from the woman who had an abortion of a tough Army soldier crying because her girlfriend aborted his child. He had no say in the matter. I have talked to grieving grandparents. The pain does not even stop with the mother of the child.

    I have moved far from my Christian fundamentalist beginnings. But this is one issue on which, from experience, that I cannot see any good evidence for a change in values.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing this perspective. It is nice to see that someone who is totally opposed to abortion recognizes the bigger picture involved, and is working to do something about it.

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    • thanks for your thoughts and i would never propose a win in any of this. what you do to care for vulnerable women makes all the difference and saves lives and changes the course of history. that is what i hope for for many women who think there aren’t better options. i think your questions are the right ones to ask–can we love disenfranchised teenagers around us? can we teach relationship skills and let every woman see that she is a unique, unrepeatable, miracle of God? can we reach out in love to those in difficult circumstances? all of these things on a wider level could turn the tide. thanks rebecca for your heart.

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  • wow…thank you for the courage to say this–to admit tension, to point out all the shades of color in our stories, in a world where so many stubbornly say there is only black and white. When it becomes an “either-or” issue, the faces of the women affected by this are not seen.

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    • thanks for taking time to share. i love this line: “all the shades of color in our stories, ina world where so many stubbornly say there is only black and white…”

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  • Thank you so much Kathy, this resonates so deeply with so many of my own
    thoughts and really helps me feel less alone, less tormented and gives
    me hope for shifting our culture to love each other better. You show amazing courage and I love you so much!

    Reply
    • thanks dear gloria. i am so glad somehow it provides some peace and hope in the midst. so glad we’re somehow in the thick of all this together.

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  • Thanks Kathy! Your right, it’s always easier to just pick sides and vote accordingly. It’s a completely different thing altogether to live in the midst of the painful stories of women as Jesus’ ambassodor and be with them as they navigate their reality.

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    • thanks, jake. yeah, that’s definitely the easier path, but i keep remembering that Jesus embodied how hard this was all going to be, following him, living in real life, participating in bringing the kingdom of heaven here, now, in the midst of these painful realities.

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  • Yes, this is so, so true. It is such a complicated issue. We as the church need to find ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to empower women socially and economically. Often I see the church taking positions that would block access to affordable birth control (sometimes any birth control) and that prevent single mothers from providing for their children. And the church needs to remove the stigma it continues to put on single mothers. I had a pastor who insisted that every life was intended by God and in almost the same breath talk about the shame of a pregnant teenaged girl – but no mention of the father of the baby. These things defy logic – and do not show the love of Christ. We cannot understand what another woman will experience as the result of a pregnancy – planned or unplanned. All we can do is love her and let her make the right decision for her own life. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    • thanks cherie. i so appreciate your thoughts. i remember one time advocating for a young woman who had decided to keep her baby after an unplanned pregnancy. she got fired from the church she worked at on an immorality clause. yep. so if she would have had an abortion and never told them, she would have kept her job. instead, she did the right thing and ended up getting fired. we fought our butts off for her but lost. to this day i still can’t believe how nuts it all was but it points to how jacked up we are about walking through this stuff with love and in the light. shame is a powerful tool of destruction.

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  • Kathy, Can I ask a question with a truly gentle heart? If the government allowed killing a baby until they were 5 days old (for the same reason they allow abortions) would you then say – “no, i cannot be pro-choice?” Why or why not?

    The same reasons people get abortions would still apply – rape, poverty, abuse, etc and the same stories would still be there. I guess you would have to draw a distinction of what is a government sanctioned “life.”

    I just find it hard to fathom that you can believe that the government should not dictate to a woman about an abortion but once the baby draws it’s first breath then you believe it would be a crime to kill the baby and the government should intervene. There seems to be a disconnect that frankly I have never been able to understand in a position such as yours. I truly want to understand how you get to where you are at as so many of my friends are ending up there. I love them and want to understand them. I just wonder if evil has been called good for so long that we are now trying to figure out a way for us to believe it is true.

    Again, I don’t mean to be offensive or argumentative in the least. I have read what you have written above twice through and I still have the same question. From your perspective could you tell me where I am “missing it?”

    Thanks.

    Reply
          • Ok, so just to understand,- to believe that abortion is not an issue for the government to decide you have to land on the side that life does not begin until birth. Correct?

          • Why not say it this way: Life begins when it begins, but the government should never have the right to control a person’s body.

          • As I’m not a medical doctor nor a jurist, I don’t want to get into the semantics of when life begins. You said you wanted to know why so many of your friends are now pro-choice for others and wondered “if evil has been called good for so long that we are now trying to figure out a way for us to believe it is true.” I thought the article would help you understand that Evangelicals have not always held the anti-abortion position. As Kathy said, it is a very difficult and complex issue, not a black and white one. And as such, no one should make such a decision on behalf of another.

          • Cherie, I’m truly not asking you to be either. I guess I have never known anyone who loved God the way I have come to know Kathy does, hate abortion and yet remain pro-choice. I do understand that the church has not always held the same position but with the science we have at our disposal today and my lack of caring what the church thinks on any issue, I am still left wondering how you can be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time. You have to land on the side that there is truly not a baby in your womb in the same way that I believe there is one.

          • Barb, I have always argued that we do, in fact, treat a 9 week old foetus differently to a baby. I do not see names for them, nor do I see funerals. I do not mourn my 6 week miscarriage in the way that my mother in law mourns the death of her baby at hours old. Nobody really believes that an embryo or foetus is the same as a baby. If so, we would see death certificates and obituaries for miscarriages.

          • Actually, depending on the state you live in, this is not true. My daughter Madison was stillborn at 22wks in 2005 in Washington state. I don’t know if it was a state law, federal or whatever (I wasn’t focusing on that at that awful time in my life) but after 20 weeks gestation, the baby was considered a child who has died, she was sent to a funeral home where we were told different ways we could ‘dispose’ of her. My dad had already passed away so we were allowed to have her share his plot and we had a small, family-only funeral for her. I know this thread is discussing abortion, (which btw Kathy, I respect and appreciate your well-thought-out post in helping those who still feel pro-life understand your position) but am curious how you all feel about the distinction between 1st trimester abortions that are agonized over yet the family feels it is still the right decision, and 2nd trimester ones. The baby still could not survive outside the mother’s womb, but obviously is a fully-formed and functioning baby whose lungs in most cases are the main issue in not being able to survive if born at that time with medical intervention. Emergency situations such as violence and such don’t necessarily apply any more because they had the opportunity to get an abortion earlier. Thank you so much for your opinions

          • thanks barb, here’s how some of us are pro-choice and pro-life at the same time–we make peace with the realities of living in a broken world, we don’t try to diminish everything to black and white, and we keep asking ourselves the question–how i can i participate in bringing God’s love and healing and hope to a broken world in a tangible way instead of insisting on agreeing on the technicality of life that we can argue until we’re blue in the face and never actually get somewhere new. i don’t have any trouble with you believing passionately in your views even though i see them differently. i respect your right to believe what you believe. what would be so helpful is to respect–without understanding or agreeing every little detail–that some of us believe differently and hold pro-life and pro-choice in a painful tension. that is one of the hardest places for us to live–respecting and honoring our differences even though we disagree. i think that is true unity in Christ.

          • Thanks Kathy and others for keeping me in the conversation. I realize that I still have a long way to go to even be able to ask questions that are not offensive. This is the very first time I have even engaged in even beginning to question my own beliefs and until today have never discussed this with anyone who did not believe just like me. You all have taught me a lot about the discussion and the grace needed to dialogue about it. If I have offended during this process, please forgive me.

            Do know though that you have softened my heart towards the issue. It has not been for naught. Please be willing to engage someone like me who knows nothing or no one who believes differently and who has never heard (or tried to listen to) the arguments from the other side.

            My sister sent me to an article here that for the first time made me question where we get the whole “heartbeat is life” stance. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamara-mann/heartbeat-involuntary-miscarriage-and-voluntary-abortion-in-ohio_b_2050888.html, It has also helped me see it as not so black and white.

            Again, thanks for bringing such a hard subject to the foreground. I’m not sure I would have listened to anyone else.

          • barb, thank you so much for your sincerity. it is so brave to engage with these questions in an honest way. it is always so easy to be misunderstood and we need to work hard to listening to each other as best we can. i have personally not been offended by you in any way and sensed your sincere heart. at the same time there have been so many ugly remarks made and so much icky negative passion about that that honestly, it is going to take such a tenderness to redeem for so many in the wider scheme. much peace to you as you keep walking this out however that looks for you. again, thank you.

    • The obvious distinction is that it is outside the womb. The bodily autonomy of the person carrying the pregnancy trumps all arguments about “when life begins”. Nobody has a right to someone’s body without continuous consent.

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      • Kristen, But when you dispose of a “body” that is living in your womb aren’t you having a right to someone’s body without their consent? It can not more give it’s druthers before it is born than 4 days after it is born. I’m sorry I simply cannot see it.

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        • No, because I am not occupying the body of the fetus. If something is inside my body, and I don’t want it there, I have the right to release it from my body.

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    • Whether you are trying to be offensive or not, your hypothetical situation is offensive. If you can’t understand why I would say that, I have no way to explain it to you. And it is hard for me to believe that you wrote this comment in good faith of wanting to learn. There is a difference between being open to understanding the nuances and complixities of life, and just trolling.

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      • Please believe me I’m not trolling. I do understand my hypothetical situation is offensive. It should be. But equally as offensive to me is the thought of killing that very baby a few months before it is born.

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        • Barb – You state in your original post that you don’t mean to be offensive or argumentative in the least. And in your response to me you state that you know your hypothetical situation is offensive and that it should be. So you have just reinforced my understanding that you are not participating in this conversation in good faith. Viola – troll.

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          • So much gets left unsaid when we type in this way. I only can tell you what is in my own heart. I do not mean to be offensive but yes I did use an offensive situation. When I said, “It should be” I mean that I was agreeing with you. Death of a baby is offensive and therefore may not have been a good way to ask the question. But even if I have not asked my question perfectly I am looking for answers. If you wish to believe me to be a troll, then I’m sorry. I’m simply trying to reconcile two arguments that seem irreconcilable to me.

          • It’s so silly for me to try to comment on this because I’m trying to discern “hearts” just from reading words —- but I did not get the sense that Barb was trying to offend or be argumentative at all. If her comment was offensive, it is most likely because it includes hard questions that none of us like to face. Just because our knowledge/opinions are challenged & defense spurs up in us, does not mean that the person was trying to offend.

            My takeaway from Barb’s comment is this….
            Do we, the people (or the government, however you wanna say it) believe we have the power to define when life begins? Does breathing oxygen define life? Who gets to decide, God or us? What does God say?

            I appreciate Kathy being willing to post about this. Very courageous. This is such a hard topic.

      • thanks. so much gets loaded in these conversations. it reminds me that so much cannot be done online but how hard it is for us to get in the same room together, with such different views, in love and respect. that’s what we need more of, i think, but it’s so rare. i know of so many people who want to talk about this hard stuff and are wrestling with it but have no really in-real-life spaces.

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    • I see/ hear this argument alot. BUT, there is a huge difference between a baby at 9 weeks living inside a mother’s uterus and a 5 day old baby in a hospital. They’re not the same thing. IF you are a mother then you know the act of being pregnant is not just something you do lightly. You don’t just spend 9 months living your life normally. Pregnancy can kill you, make you more susceptible to infections, you get sick, you can vomit uncontrollably, needing IV fluids to stay hydrated, you can get gallstones, cardiomyopathy, pre-eclamspia, eclamspia, seizures. The act of birth is also dangerous, again, you can die, have severe complications, seizures, blood clots, I could go on and on. The condition or state of being pregnant is not the same as having a living baby outside the womb, for the mother or for the child. The child is dependent upon the Mother before it is born. After birth, yes, there’s a big difference, the child is now here and not dependent on that particular woman’s uterus and placenta to feed it/ nourish it/ provide for it. To say that the life of the child is the same before and after birth devalues everything the mother goes through to bring the child into the world. Pregnancy is an amazing miracle! So is birth! I’ve had to hold back tears during deliveries before. The birth and the pregnancy is the difference! It’s not a life until you finish that natural miracle that God created, Birth!

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  • Thank you so much, Kathy. I could never have said it so well, but I totally resonate with your post. This is a very difficult topic and one that will continue to hold mixed feelings for me.

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    • thanks ted. it has mixed feelings for so many of us, oh it’s tough stuff and i just hope for more safe spaces to feel like we can be honest.

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  • THANK YOU!!!!!!! One thing I have learned in all my years and from the Bible—God works with “what is”. .. .

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  • I appreciate your nuanced articulation of both sides of this issue. I can understand someone being pro-life and pro-choice. Or pro-life for themselves but willing to support the decisions of others. Can we just simplify and say that you are pro-choice without needing to qualify it? I do not appreciate the broad brush painting of abortion being a universally shameful, devastating thing. This is something I see a lot when abortion is discussed in Christian circles: our testimonies become universal imperatives. Abortion was a painful tragedy for you, but it won’t be like that for everyone. For some it’s a relief. Maybe they are in an abusive relationship and their partner is trying to impregnate them to gain more control of their life. Maybe they were raped. Maybe they just can’t handle being pregnant because of mental health reasons. You never know someone’s situation (which you have rightly acknowledged) so referring to it as a ‘shortcut’ is kind of offensive.

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    • Thank you Kristen. You speak my mind and heart. And thank you Kathy for being willing to be honest.

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    • thanks kristen, for sharing. i appreciate the perspective. i know there are so many kinds of nuances and situations and each person’s experience is different but for me it is important to hold them both in tension, pro-life and pro-choice. in the circle i have been in over the years i have yet to find a woman–with a faith background or not–that didn’t wrestle and struggle with the decision and have some kind of fallout. of course it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but that has just been what i have intersected with. i do think that shame factor is higher in christian circles because there’s so many strong feelings about it embedded into the culture.

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  • Thank you Kathy for being so honest and open. As a man who follows Jesus I can understand your views and support you as you work within them. Again thanks for the post and sorry that it took you so long to write it, but know that God has His reasons for that. God Bless

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  • Kathy, I am honored to know you. I applaud your willingness to expose your life story and your thoughts on abortion. I cry for the 17-year-old girl who had to face that decision and then continue to live her life carrying that burden. I celebrate the woman she has become: an advocate for people in difficult situations, a spiritual leader speaking to controversial topics, a Christ-follower who loves God above all else and shines His light, love, forgiveness, a mother who’s children mirror her unbelievable heart of compassion & faith, a friend who encourages without judgment, loves unconditionally, shares in everyday life in everyday ways. By showing your scar(s) I don’t love you less–I love you more.

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    • thank you dear sarah. your comment meant so much to me and i had no idea you were reading. thank you, my friend. grateful that our lives have intersected.

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  • I loved this. I sent you an Email of an old post I wrote saying similar thoughts. Thank you for sharing in vulnerability and grace;)

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  • Thank you so much for your courage kathy. i was a pre-abortion counsellor at a crisis pregnancy centre, and there i learned that loving someone through the pain, no matter what their decision, was what mattered most. i learned not to judge people. i learned that the world is not black and white. i remember the client whose story was so sad that i wanted to drive her to have the abortion. i learned the beautiful phrase that our centre used when a woman chose adoption. we told her that she was not giving her baby away, she was making a plan for her baby’s life, one that she was not in a position to fulfill. and so we believed she was making an adoption plan for her baby.

    Again, thank you for your honesty, for your courage to speak your heart.
    God bless you.
    You inspire me.

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    • thanks nicole and i had someone point out the importance of that nuance on language and i will really be more aware of it when i use it in the future. so important! thanks for taking time to share and yes, you know. when you’re in the trenches up close with these painful realities, it changes so much. peace.

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  • We’re all allowed our opinions. The tough part is honoring and loving those who do not see things as we do. It is so easy to sit in our armchairs or at our computer keyboards and decide what someone else should do when they find themselves in a bad situation.

    I hear those who are diametrically opposed to abortion loudly express their opinions on the topic. Then I notice that (only) a few of them get involved in those things that can help make it possible for fewer women to end up in a position where they are seriously considering abortion as an option. We’ve been involved in some of these things and have found them very worthwhile.

    Would you consider writing a follow-up post that lists some ideas for those kinds of things. (Such as supporting young women, access to birth control, supporting pregnant women in crisis with housing and food, supporting those who would like to keep their babies but don’t see how they could make that happen, etc.)

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    • thanks sam. yeah, it’s so weird how hard that has become for so many–to just honor and love those who see things differently than we do. yes, coming next week is that post and a few others, too. that’s what we need more of–actions that help extend the love of God and change the course of history for people.

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  • Thanks for writing this. My mom had an abortion her first year of marriage (in the 1950s); she never told me or anyone about it until the year before she died. I am alive today (as are my three siblings) solely because my father (a physician) performed it and knew how to do it safely. While we count the lives lost to abortion, we never count the lives saved because an abortion was able to be done safely. Hillary Clinton once said, “We want abortion to be legal, safe…and rare.” It cannot be safe unless it is legal. I wish we could focus our energies not on yelling at one another about it, but at how to make it rare without making it unsafe.

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  • Thanks so much for pointing to the necessity of addressing patriarchy in the midst of the “abortion debate.”

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    • thanks, michelle. yeah, the grooves are deep and often subtle but oh so important to consider in all of this as we look at it all more carefully.

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  • I appreciated the article, but I must admit that I still don’t understand how people can be both pro-life and pro-choice. For a person to believe wholeheartedly that, “each life is created by God, made in God’s image and there are no accidents” how then can they stand by a government that allows abortions?

    This is, no doubt, a tough topic and the issue of abortion effects real woman and real children. However, I simply don’t see how one can be truly pro-life…and truly pro-choice. These two things cannot co-exist. Too many innocent lives have been and continue to be taken because of our apathy and refusal to speak objectively on this topic. Convictions are not simply words…they are actions. I fully acknowledge that because I’m a man I therefore have very little room to comment on this subject (at least in some people’s opinion) but if life is sacred, then shouldn’t we do all we can to protect it…completely?

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    • Well I think of it this way. I am both. I don’t think it is right to have an abortion and wouldn’t do it myself unless medically necessary (if I had other children and was going to die what would that help?) However I don’t think I have the right to tell others what to do. If they are going to choose that option nothing is going to stop them from it and they have to deal with that choice the rest of their life. However the father should be involved in the choice as well. That is how you can be both. I respect life and don’t believe that you should make that choice but I do believe that I don’t have a say in what other people do with that choice. As the woman in the article says it isn’t an easy choice taken lightly. That is my thoughts.

      However (and this isn’t in response to you Jason) I don’t understand how these pro lifers can have this sacredness for life and judge and condemn people yet sit back and do nothing to help those once they are born. The children that are being starved, beaten, molested or are just unwanted to begin with. Most of those I know who are obsessive with being pro life do nothing to help those who are already here. If these people would help as much as they spout off about being pro life a lot more would be done for those. Also, most people who I know that are pro life say that people are shouldn’t get assistance either. How does that help the mother that was raped and can’t afford to raise a child, but has to anyhow because you forced the your belief on someone else. She can’t get help to raise that child that she wasn’t planning on having anyhow? Or a mentally unstable person that was taken advantage of and can’t handle mentally carry that child. I just don’t understand how people can be sympathetic to a life that isn’t even born yet but yet has no sympathy for those who are already here. Also I don’t understand why this is never brought up.

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    • Hi Jason,
      Your post is compelling, and I’d like to offer my .02.I am also a man, and I’m also pro-life and pro-choice. I started out as a one-sided liberal. My perspective has become much more pro-life in recent years. But I will remain both, and here is why. Here is part of your comment-“However, I simply don’t see how one can be truly pro-life…and truly pro-choice. These two things cannot co-exist.”
      I think that they co-exist the way that Matthew 25 and 26 co-exist. I believe that both are true. They have each been either selectively elevated or selectively ignored by various groups of people over the years, depending on their level of wealth. Yet I believe both. In each one- in both… in having them slammed up against each other in the good book, I believe that Jesus was teaching us in each one what love looks like. He taught in parables. His truth is contained in paradox. To insist upon an absolute polar yes or no to these real situations touched upon here is to act more like one devoted to neoplatonic rationalism than to act on the realization of our need for God, and to call on the Holy Spirit, and to follow Jesus into the most loving thing. Christianity is an eastern religion. Easy to forget that, I know.

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    • thanks jason, i appreciate your thoughts. i really agree with you, convictions need to be more than words, they need to be actions. that’s the best question, though, what are the right actions toward something different? if the energy spent on arguing about technicalities on this issue got channeled into action/practical solutions, so many things could be different and women wouldn’t have to make this choice in the first place. those actions could help honor the sacredness of lives, both women and children.

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  • thank you so much for your courage and honesty to share with us–I’m so sorry you had to go through such an experience. You have blessed many today. Thank you

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  • Thanks for writing this Kathy! There are so many of us who feel the same way. Being the caring arms of Jesus to the women in scary situations is the way to make sure fewer and fewer abortions happen. We have a long way to go, as the body of Christ, in reaching these women and loving them where they are.

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  • I cannot imagine how difficult this was for you to write. And clearly, there are many who disagree with you on this issue. But I find your approach to be one of the more loving ones available. Here is just one question that no one ever addresses on this issue: If we believe that human life begins at the moment of conception, then what do we do with the approximately 40% of implantations that end in miscarriage, often before the mother is even aware she is pregnant? Should we be sending all of our financial resources to the search for ways to end every single miscarriage, to the detriment of research to help extend the life of those already born? Just trying to wrestle through that question takes me back to the position of most early church writers – that human life as we understand it – an embodied soul – begins when life outside the womb is viable…sometime after the 1st trimester. That position makes room for early miscarriage as a part of our physicality, sad and difficult, to be sure, but perhaps slightly different than later losses and a markedly different thing than the loss of a child already born, no matter their age at death. And even trying to think through issues like these reminds me that this issue is not as black/white as those with the shrillest voices – on both sides – would like us to believe.

    This is a tough, tough issue and we haven’t yet been willing to consider all the possible options/ramifications of our various opinions and positions. Abortions should be difficult to get, very difficult. But to say that we should outlaw them completely will not stop them from happening. It will only increase the number of back-alley, botched jobs that occur. Generally speaking, I think abortion is a horrible choice to make with many layers of ramifications that will continue to surface over many, many years. That’s why I support organizations that offer hope to women with unplanned pregnancies – we need to offer comfort, hope and options to these women, most especially educating and streamlining adoption as a God-designed option that offers life to everyone involved. But should we outlaw abortion completely? I’m not sure. So…I will join you in the paradox, the fence-sitting, the attempt to extend a loving word and a helpful hand to people on both sides of the issue. It’s not a particularly comfortable place to be, is it?

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    • thanks dear diana. i choose to give my support that direction, too, because i have seen so many women get on their feet and find their way with the right love and support. it’s amazing. and yes, comfortable is not the word for it, that’s 100% certain. but glad to be in good company. it makes all the difference.

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  • Kathy…

    Thank you for this. I am sure it wasn’t easy to write, but I am glad you did. I am a little uncomfortable with saying every abortion must be horrendous because I know of a few women who made it when it was definitely the least wrong choice available, and while they were upset at the hard choice, they were not traumatized by it. Certainly not to the extent that a lot of pro-life advocates seem to think they would be. But these women’s situations were rare; I’m thinking of one rape victim who was so psychologically stable her doctor was concerned about suicide, and also someone whose child would have died within days of birth. It’s certainly not a decision anyone I’ve ever heard of has taken lightly.

    For those people who ask how you can believe human dignity begins at conception but that the government shouldn’t outlaw it… I am actually in that same position. For me, it comes from realizing that a pregnancy carries with it a pretty heavy burden for the woman. Unlike with murder (there’s no right to kill someone else), not having an abortion restricts the woman’s liberty. And in this particular case it’s almost always the right decision to make –people willingly give up their liberty all the time– but it still needs to be the woman’s decision, not one forced upon her. Also, there’s the practical side. If you took half the money you spend on overturning Roe and spent it on contraception and vocational training for young mothers + fathers so they can take care of their kid, that would be so much more effective than even making abortion illegal.

    Thanks for the great food for thought, Kathy!

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    • thanks so much marta for your thoughts and perspectives. such challenging thoughts and i am with you on the practical side all the way. if we could channel all the energy and resources in a better direction, things would change in a much more helpful direction in the end. that’s what i dream for.

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  • Kathy, I am so glad that I found you in my journey towards Jesus. I think you have stated your point with grace and eloquence. At this point, I just want to love people through the raw spots…and I am encouraged that others want to love the broken too!

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  • Thank you for giving words to the experience that so many of us cannot articulate. This is beautiful truth. It is obvious that you are deeply thoughtful and deeply faithful.

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    • thanks christine. i hope that it does give words to others or at least helps stir up what we might be wrestling with but are afraid to say.

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  • Yes, yes, yes! Thank you!
    ” the way to start is to begin to bravely respect the issues far underneath abortion–issues of vulnerable women, unwise men, dysfunctional family systems, lack of proper birth control, horrible self-esteem, loneliness, violence against women, and the lack of healthy and honest education. and yes, patriarchy and what it has done to disempower women in cultures across the world.”
    Yes! Let’s start, and figure out the rest as we go!

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  • Awesome, awesome words. I had no clue that anyone else felt the paradox of being pro-life and pro-choice at the same time.

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  • At 18, i had o be induced due to my daughter having the worst case of hydrcephalus the specialist in houston had ever seen. Had I gone full term I would have died with her. No matter what, she had no brain due to the disorder and was only alive because she was inside of me. What I had was considered a late term abortion, and I would have still done it to this day, because it stopped her suffering. I do not believe in abortion as a form of birth control, and in that way i am pro-life, but it can be medically necessary, so in that way I am pro-choice. I still mourn for my daughter daily, i am 24 now, but god has blessed me with my 2 yr old daughter to help me through this. I really relate to your braveness in posting, because it gives womn like me the courage to share our experiences. thank you so much.

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    • beenthere, thanks so much for taking time to share so honestly. you understand this paradox in a way so many can’t. peace and hope and courage to you, too.

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  • “I believe in the sanctity of life, but I also believe we shouldn’t be able to stop people from ending lives.” – A restatement of your position, which is also the position of many others. I get where it comes from, but anyone who is honest must admit that it is by far the WORST and most illogical of all positions on this issue. It may come from a positive desire, but the result is both overwhelmingly negative as well as straight-up ridiculous.

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    • thanks dan. it’s been hard, good, and i think we need to find ways to be more honest about what we believe without feeling like we’re going to get jumped on.

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  • As a man, only from a man’s limited point of view on this subject, I cannot agree more. When I was married, I made it crystal clear that her choice for any abortion would not be fought against. It would however, be my grounds for filing for divorce. Thank God I was not faced with that loss of a child. I am also pro-life and pro-choice.
    To believe in something strongly enough to make a stand may not be popular, but must be respected!

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    • thanks, neil. i appreciate your perspectives. it is always a risk to say what we really feel, we’ll gain some friends and lose some but in the end we will know we didn’t hide to try to make everyone like us. when it comes to these hard issues, i wish we had more places to be more honest.

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  • Count me in as one of those who thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post. I am not able to read through all the comments, but I can just about bet you’re getting some angry responses (as you predicted). You’re a brave woman, and it hurts to think of others anger directed towards you because I believe you are spot on in your philosophy. You gave words to something I’ve been struggling with for a long time. Thank you. I think it’s the only viewpoint we *can* settle in, although it will never be a viewpoint we can *rest* in. Thank you for your words of compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and gentleness. Those things are crucial in hard, confusing times such as ours.

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  • Lovely post.

    Too often people approach what is a very difficult, very grey area with a black and white view of what should be.

    With respect to abortion, have you read Numbers 5, in which there is mention of what a priest must do if a wife has sex with a man who is not her husband? He is to give her bitter herbs so her womb will empty (abort). This is a description of an abortion induced by a priest. Why don’t people read it as such? And if an abortion can be procured in such circumstances, why is all abortion necessarily bad?

    I thank God that I have never had to make the choice to have an abortion. I think many religious people have overstepped the mark by making the women who have chosen to have an abortion feel such shame for their choice.

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    • I just read Numbers 5 Helen. Thank you for posting this reference. And I love your last paragraph; I have often wondered how much of the shame that comes on a woman after an abortion is external, and how much is internal.

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    • thanks helen for taking time to share your perspective and that scripture. yes, i think the shame factor makes an already complicated and painful situation exponentially worse.

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    • What translation did you read of Numbers 5 because I just read the ESV and King James and I didn’t see where it talked about emptying her womb. Thank you!

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      • Hi ElenaB verses 27-28 NRSV read as follows:
        When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.

        This not only results in an abortion but also sterilization.

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  • Thank you! This describes many of my views. I hate when people view pro-choice as being pro-abortion. I don’t believe that many who are pro-choice are pro-abortion. I do wish that we could fight as hard for children after they are born, for access to birth control and sex/birth control education to help reduce the number of pregnancy that are unplanned. I’m not saying that it will eliminate the choice some make to have an abortion, but it would help reduce the need.

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  • The important difference is this. Your pro choice allows and supports your pro life side. But other people who are pro life do not support your rights or your choices. If I pick pro choice based on your article, I have both options. That is choice. And by the way, did anyone ever really, thing that pro choice ONLY ever meant pro abortion?

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    • thanks, jeffrey. it’s the most interesting thing, thinking that pro choice means pro abortion. those two things getting tied together like that is so unfair. thanks for sharing!

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  • Completely agree. I pray for a world/country/ state where we don’t NEED abortions… As a physician, I try my best to educate my patients and prevent unwanted pregnancies, but today’s young women have so much stacked against them. I’m honestly surprised that it’s not worse.
    Bravo for your eloquent, courageous, faith-centered essay. Makes me proud to be a Christian. 🙂

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    • rachel, thank you so much for your encouragement. means more than you know because after reading some facebook walls that had reposted this i was thinking i wasn’t too proud to be a christian 🙂 goodness gracious, people can be so mean. it’s easier to be mean over there than post a mean comment here. i am grateful for people like you, too, who are doing everything they can to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. peace and courage to you, too.

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  • thank you all for taking time to share today. i think all in all we did fairly decently here at being respectful and kind. since i started this blog at the beginning of 2008, i really honor each comment and appreciate you taking time to share from your heart in different ways. usually i don’t feel like i need to respond to comments right away because i am so busy with a lot of other things, but i always try to reply in the day or two after i post. on this one, though, after a long nutty day juggling refuge and kids and the emotion of this subject, i wanted to say this before i go to sleep: thank you. your perspectives and thoughts and feelings and stories matter. and i don’t take lightly what it takes to respond in a public space. good night. look forward to engaging with some of these comments tomorrow night when i have some space to focus. peace and hope, kathy

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  • So grateful that so many have been changed due to your unwavering bravery and your incredible authenticity. Your story has guided how I connect with people who disclose this part of theirs. Thank you for shedding light on a subject that is so dark. You are my hero in so many eays.

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  • Tough piece to write – took a lot of courage. I echo Kristen Fournier – I, too, appreciate your nuanced approach. You’ve wrestled with some of the tough questions in life and found that “truth” is in the tension between the opposing camps. Keep it up!

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  • hey jr, thanks for writing. yeah, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? i don’t have time to read this tonight as i’m making my way through these comments but i will in the next few days and will respond. i hope all is well with you.

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    • Glad you remember. I look forward to hearing from you. Oh, and please call me Joe. I just use J.R. as a penname for writing, but I am still Joe to my friends. 🙂

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  • i find myself in this tension, too. i am pro-choice, but i rarely qualify myself like that, because i don’t think it a choice without consequences or something value-neutral. i agree far more with president clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” ideology than the way most feminists talk of abortion.

    we need to show up for women who need listening ears and practical help, not more rhetoric. i admire you for walking that way and shining a light.

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  • Thank you for speaking from your personal experience on this, Kathy. As people who are pro-life, we really need to get the message out that there is way more to being “pro-life” than voting or picketing. By themselves, these are two of the worst activities we can be involved in to help the women who are facing the tough decisions about pregnancy. When all we do is vote and picket, we come across as uncaring and mean-spirited. I am glad you are seeking a different way – a way of love, care, and concern for those women who face this difficult decision.

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    • thanks, jeremy. it is hard because i know many who are picketing and speak out loudly against it have good hearts but i’d agree that the methods really put up a huge barrier. being in groups where people talk about “baby killers” and “murderers” is really rough and i think most of the time when people talk like that they have no idea that there are others sitting in the room feeling so much shame. i do hope for better conversations about how to provide love, care, and concern for vulnerable women and children.

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  • While I appreciate your sensitivity in this article, I don’t see a Biblical argument for being “pro-choice.” All governments have the authority to determine or decide what is and isn’t lawful. God puts governments in place to restrain the evil of man. In America, we have the added blessing (at least for now) of having a say in our laws. But by your reasoning, we would have no laws, since no one can be enforced to obey the law. For example- people still commit murder even though it is illlegal. Should we therefore be “pro-choice” in regards to murder since the government cannot prevent people from murdering- or as you put it- force people to allow others to continue to live. What about suicide. It is illegal to kill yourself in most states- that is why suicidal people can be forcibly held against their will if they are are determined to be a danger to self. Are you “pro-choice” on this issue as well?
    A government that will not protect its most innocent and defenseless is wicked. The Bible says a true Christian will take care of the widow and the orphan (IOW- the most defenseless of all people.) is an unborn baby not even in more need of protection?
    I frankly don’t understand the argument at all. It only makes sense if you believe that an hnborn baby is ONLY a tissue part of the mother, rather than being a unique individual created (wonderfully and fearfully by God- Ps.139) in the image of God.

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  • Thank you… thank you for your sharing your heart. I appreciate your courage in speaking out on topics that elicit so much debate. I too have been wrestling with this issue for a few years now. My husband and I were debating over it again these last last few weeks. I too am caught up in the (to use your words) a very “messy paradox”. Sometimes I just get so mired up in the debate with myself about what I believed/now don’t believe and what I believe/what I use to not believe. The best I can say about me is, I have learned to be more open to the conversation and to really listen. Sometimes I struggle with the scriptures and what they say…there really aren’t a lot of “black and whites” in the Bible to me. What I DO know and strive to do each day is to love God with all my heart, mind, strength and soul and to love others! Even then that can get messy…cuz life is messy and I am a messy flawed person. On this issue… I have to say…out loud(for the first time beyond my four walls) that I am Pro Life and Pro Choice and it just feels messy and uncomfortable.

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  • I totally agree with all you write. I too wrestle with this paradox, but believe that you just cannot make laws regarding a woman’s body. The decisions she makes are between her and God alone.

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