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Just a Woman’s Choice? I’m O.K. with That

Father Tyler grumbles on his thirtieth birthday that to NARAL and other defenders of women's personal autonomy, "I was just a choice." Father Tyler seems to think that "choice" isn't a terribly thrilling thing.

Permit me to muck about in Father Tyler's worldview for a moment to remind him that we are all the result of a choice. We all exist at the whim of a higher power who can choose to take us out at any moment.

But that's different, says the Fr. Tyler homunculus I draft for myself this morning. You can't equate the choice of the Holy Father with the choice of a mere human being.

True, I reply. The choice of the human being—ah, but let's be specific, the choice of the woman bearing the child—requires more sacrifice. I don't have any omnipotent, supernatural friends to check this with, but my guess is that we don't burden God all that much with our existence. If we do, a million more or a million less of us don't really affect His/Her/Its daily workload of worry, forgiveness, prayer response, and whatever else occupies a deity's time (assuming time is a relevant concept to the Almighty).

But for one woman, choosing whether to carry one child, that choice is monumental. She faces changes in her body, an excruciating delivery, and life-changing responsibility. She faces questions, moral criticism, and her conscience. If she chooses to have a child, she exercises and sacrifices her personal autonomy in a way that has no parallel among deities.

Yes, Father Tyler, you and I and all our parishioners (I use the term colloquially on my end) are the result of choices. That does not diminish our worth. You might even argue that it increases our worth to originate from the free and intentional decisions of women unfettered by legal restrictions on their personal autonomy.


  1. Thad Wasson 2011.01.22

    Due to the recent arrest of an abortion doctor in Philadelphia and the horror that took place in his clinic, I believe it is time we take a second look at the abortion-on-demand mentality of our country.

  2. larry kurtz 2011.01.22

    Religion is a substitute for truth for too many, Thad. It's important to remember that red states host many, many more instances of domestic terrorism than states where there is adequate access to free mental health care.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.22

    Careful, Thad: that's like saying the recent arrest of the assassin in Tucson and the horror that took place at the grocery store means we should take a second look at the guns-and-ammo-on-demand mentality of our country.

  4. Tony Amert 2011.01.23

    "He mattered" is his justification. Bull. He has no idea how things would have progressed with him. Also, his religion tells him there is a plan for everything. He has no idea whether abortion has a part in his god's plan or not. This is a common religious fallacy where they use conflicting religious doctrines to justify whatever position they want to take.

  5. Timothy Fountain 2011.01.23

    Not trying to be a King-James-Bible-term-for-donkey about it, but my quibble with the choice argument is that you really do step away from your basic world view of human interconnectedness and responsibility to embrace what is essentially the libertarian position.

    It seems to me that human reproduction is one of the strongest testimonies, whether one takes it from a metaphysical or simply natural point of view, that we are interconnected and interdependent. The human offspring has one of the longest dependency periods of just about anything on earth. I think this sets up a stronger case for arguing that justice must be social than the "personal choice" position.

    There's plenty to criticize about abortion in this country. The stereotype continues to be that it is something practiced rationally by women in good emotional, social and financial position. Little is said about how often the "choice" to abort involves pressure from the inseminator, "friends" or even parents. Little is opined about how some abortion is an abysmal form of "birth control" for poor women who don't have access to preventive medicine and contraception.

    I'm not a "100% abortion ban" person. I admit that some pro-life thinking can get sloppy, especially when we are into the traditional "hard cases," and that there is a medical place for what should be a rare but safe abortion.

    But really, standing by the junk science of Roe v. Wade and its arbitrary "trimesters" and its junk law of Constitutional "penumbras" just cedes a libertarian point to an assertive political faction, just as single issue from some on the "choice" side as it is for some on the "life" side.

  6. larry kurtz 2011.01.23

    Allahu akbar, padre; you're a credit to your gender. The pulpit is a powerful place to exorcise those "human reproduction testimonies" to an aging congregation of red state voters.

    Grab a box of condoms and hand them out as people come into the sanctuary.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.01.24

    (Father Tim: some knots take me longer to straighten out!)

    I am most intrigued, Tim, by the conundrum you see between extreme individual-libertarian choice and the view of "human interconnectedness and responsibility." Indeed, my worldview has over the past 20 years evolved toward greater recognition of interdependence and community responsibility. Oddly, my view on abortion has moved somewhat in the other direction. Conversing deeply with my wife and witnessing pregnancy and birth have persuaded me that reproduction is very much a personal choice not to be subjected to social pressures.

    I do agree that no one should force a woman to have an abortion. However, I also oppose letting anyone force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term. Pregnancy is a unique burden. No one else, not even the father, can carry and deliver that child. No one else makes the bodily sacrifice the woman does. No matter how much I embrace the idea of our mutual obligations to each other, I cannot embrace obliging a woman to put her body at the service of another human being. Even within the social contract, we retain autonomy over our bodies.

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