Sunday, October 12, 2008

Response: Obama/ Abortion Rights

The following is a response written to my mom's cousin, Gloria, with whom I have been corresponding on Pro-Life issues. It's in the same vein as the Borgmann-Family-List-serve-e-political-writing. I share it today, because of the feedback I've gotten from numerous friends who wrestle with this topic. How do we all struggle in our communication, in our discourse with family and friends over the complex topic of life and faith and legislation and love?

Hey Gloria,


Sunday greetings. This is where I'm at, after prayer and reading, and reflection....

1. I thank you for your information and for your emails and your passionate involvement in politics toward the reduction of abortions, asserting the sanctity of life for unborn babies. Amen.

2. While I respect and admire your work to support the unborn, I have come to this clarity around the issue: I do not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. This comes back to my own simple notion: I cannot ask to rule on a law that I myself would not be able to follow. I return to my own lived experience, trying to navigate a perceived unwanted pregnancy at 19, and my own discernment to seek an abortion. If I myself would have sought this, I cannot ask another to not choose this.

3. What I can do: is acknowledge the root failure in seeking an abortion. (For me, as a young adult/ teen: lack of imagination and deep fear.)

4. I can then continue to work to inspire the imaginations of other women, and teenagers, and support their bringing life forward.

5. Taking away abortion, doesn't prevent them sadly. Providing choices, doesn't prevent them.

6. I will continue to work for the common good platform, that in my understanding and prayer, and from the spiritually engaged and politically active community I belong to: recognizes the fullness and complexity of the many issues present to sustaining and honoring the sacredness of all life. (Unborn, born, all nature, the earth, those most vulnerable -- without a voice.)

According to Mr. Doerflinger, and the article below, I operate according to a myth, that working for the improvement of life and well-being for all people doesn't impact or reduce abortions.

Where does this get me? Us? People trying to lead or inspire change?

Reducing me to a sinful person, or grossly mislead one, based on my own lived experience is not helpful. Just like reducing you to a one-issue voter, is not helpful. Reducing Obama to a candidate whose "top priority" is the "killing of unborn babies" -- not helpful. These are simplistic judgments that are diminishing to our fuller capacities to dialogue and be about making change that is for the greatest good.

I can, in accordance with Mr. Doerflinger, request that public dollars not go toward abortion. I can ask for public dollars to fund health education and programs that inspire the imaginations the development of young men and women, toward their greatest gifts, so that they can have lives that sustain a child coming into being. This is pro-life legislation, in my understanding. I can ask that dollars for military spending, and war, also be redirected toward education and peace - preventing war and death. The fact that your pro-life candidate will fund war to the tune of seven times what he will spend in education, is the most-anti-life stance, and in my understanding: diminishes any legislative efforts around life.

I believe we both are about the greatest good, Gloria. And we differ here on the topic of legislation that is about trying to have our government legislate love vs. justice.

I'll cast my vote for Obama and Biden, as their candidacy, in my opinion is about the greatest good for ALL life, over the McCain and Palin ticket. I know you will cast yours for McCain and Palin.

We will both continue to be about helping to support all life, no matter who wins. I will go to Africa, and continue to try and live Love as I understand my call to do so. You will continue to be a rocking mom and grandmother and live your calling --working to decrease abortions, and increase life for all.

God Loves us, as we work to honor all.

Peacefully, Respectfully,


Good Morning, Melissa—No doubt you're aware that Barack Obama makes passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would seal abortion rights into our Constitution, a top priority? How can that possibly reduce abortions?--Gloria

What Reduces Abortions?
by Richard M. Doerflinger

Sometimes election years produce more policy myths than good ideas. This year one myth is about abortion. It goes like this: The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is here to stay, and that’s fine because laws against abortion don’t reduce abortions much anyway. Rather, “support for women and families” will greatly reduce abortions, without changing the law or continuing a “divisive” abortion debate.

Various false claims are used to bolster this myth. It is said that over three-quarters of women having abortions cite expense as the most important factor in their decision. Actually the figure is less than one-fourth, 23%. It is said that abortion rates declined dramatically (30%) during the Clinton years, but the decline stopped under the ostensibly pro-life Bush administration. Actually the abortion rate has dropped 30% from 1981 to 2005; the decline started 12 years before Clinton took office, and has continued fairly steadily to the present day.

The steepest decline is among minors. Is it plausible that economic factors reduced abortions for teens but not their older sisters, or their mothers who support them?

The reality is this: In 1980 the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde amendment, and federally funded abortions went from 200,000 a year to nearly zero. With its decisions in Webster (1989) and Casey (1992), the Court began to uphold other abortion laws previously invalidated under Roe. States passed hundreds of modest but effective laws: bans on use of public funds and facilities; informed consent laws; parental involvement when minors seek abortion; etc. Dr. Michael New’s rigorous research has shown that these laws significantly reduce abortions. In the 1990s, debate on partial-birth abortion – kept in the public eye, ironically, by President Clinton’s repeated vetoes of a ban on this grisly late-term procedure – alerted many Americans to the violence of abortion and shifted public attitudes in a pro-life direction, just as growing concern over AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases was giving new force to the abstinence message for teens. Now the Court has upheld a partial-birth abortion ban, and signaled that other laws to save unborn children and their mothers from the horrors of abortion may be valid. If Roe is reversed outright, that will allow more laws that can further reduce abortions.

By contrast, a pending federal “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) would knock down current laws reducing abortions, and require public programs for pregnant women to fund abortion. No one supporting that bill can claim to favor reducing abortions.

Many women are pressured toward abortion, and they need our help. The pressures are partly, but only partly, economic in nature. Women are influenced by husbands, boyfriends, parents and friends, and by a culture and legal system that tells them the child they carry has no rights and is of no consequence. Law cannot solve all problems, but it can tell us which solutions are unacceptable – and today Roe still teaches that killing the unborn child is an acceptable solution, even a “right.” Without ever forgetting the need to support pregnant women and their families, that tragic and unjust error must be corrected if we are to build a society that respects all human life.

Mr. Doerflinger is Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities. For more on FOCA see


Marian Borgmann Ingwersen said...

Nicely done Melissa. Disagreement with respect and a description of what you do agree on. I hope she finds it a compelling statement. Marian

Marian Borgmann Ingwersen, Ph.D.
Director, Wesleyan Honors Academy
Nebraska Wesleyan University

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sending this one! Most people would just let it go and avoid responding, but you take it as a challenge, very impressive, as was your response. I was just talking to a neighbor friend and she is trying to figure out how to respond to her conservative family, so I forwarded your message.

Love, is all you need...

"More good comes from evil, than evil from good." I don't know who said that but I like to think that evil is so abhorant to most people that they need to make things good, to make change, to help, .... Let us hope all of this hatred from the McCain - Palin camp backfires.

Lea said...


I applaud your bravery in sharing this! It had to be a very hard decision but I think that you made some really good points. You are my hero!!