It’s NOT A Partisan Issue

There was a book published in 2004 by Thomas Frank – What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. It was in Kansas in 2009 that Dr George Tiller, who performed abortions, was murdered by anti-abortion activists. Yesterday in a hopeful, surprising outcome – Kansas voted to continue to protect abortion in the state constitution. It was the first state to put this issue to the people since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the federal protection of abortion rights for women. You and I have to do our job out there at the polls to save this country from itself.

Kansas is a deeply conservative and usually reliably Republican state. President Joe Biden said, “This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions.” Kansas state senator Dinah Sikes, who is a Democrat, said “It’s breathtaking that women’s voices were heard and we care about women’s health,” The $3 million dollars spent by the Catholic church trying to eradicate abortion rights in Kansas failed.

The referendum was instigated by the Kansas Republican legislature. Their effort was criticized for being misleading, fraught with misinformation and voter suppression tactics. They scheduled this vote in August, when voter turnout is historically low, particularly among independents and Democrats. It was a tense and bitterly fought campaign.

The campaign manager for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, Rachel Sweet, noted “We knocked tens of thousands of doors and had hundreds of thousands of phone calls … We countered millions of dollars in misinformation. We will not tolerate extreme bans on abortion in our state.” The key to this was driving voter turnout to not seeing abortion as a partisan issue in Kansas. Everyone – from Republicans, to unaffiliated voters, to hardcore libertarians – came out to say: “No, we don’t want the government involved in what we do with our bodies”.

Information for this blog came from an article in LINK> The Guardian. Abortion and Adoption are often linked, although one really does not relate to the other, still some people often try to make that association. Many adoption activists trying to reduce the prevalence of adoption in the US are pro-Choice. Many people who managed to get born are thankful that they were not aborted. Surprisingly, due to the trauma involved in all adoptions (whether acknowledged or not), many adoptees will say they wish they had been aborted.

Fertilization or Implantation

It didn’t take long for the concerns over the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade to leap over into In-Vitro Fertilization. Some states, including Louisiana, are already contemplating laws that would define a fertilized egg as having the same rights as a live child which will definitely have the same chilling effect on IVF clinics as the escalation of anti-abortion laws at the state level has had on clinics that perform abortions.

The Catholic Churches inconsistency regarding when life begins hasn’t helped matters. Among Catholics it is NOT clear – does life begin at fertilization or at implantation ? One Catholic said, “It’s actually not disputed. For example: the official stance of the Catholic Church is that life begins at IMPLANTATION, not fertilization. Additionally, you can’t turn a pregnancy test positive without implantation. So again, many would consider ‘conception’ to mean successful implantation.”

In 2006, under Pope Benedict (before the current Pope Francis), it was affirmed during an international congress on scientific aspects and bioethical considerations of The Human Embryo Before Implantation that embryos are “sacred and inviolable” even before they become implanted in a mother’s uterus. The Pope said the Church had always proclaimed the “sacred and inviolable character of every human life, from its conception to its natural end.” adding, “This moral judgment is valid from the start of the life of an embryo, even before it is implanted in the maternal womb.”

In 2021, Washington’s Cardinal Wilton Gregory spoke at the National Press Club, during which he fielded questions about President Joe Biden’s support for abortion. “The Catholic Church teaches and has taught that life — human life — begins at conception. So the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching in that,” Gregory said. “Catholics should take care not to believe the myths and lies that are produced by those influential individuals and institutions that want to confuse people about the true nature of abortion or who wish to exploit the bodies and lives of unborn children. For example, the myth that ‘pregnancy begins at implantation’ is a deception that has caused misunderstandings for decades.”

Another Catholic noted – Our vicar general was very confident that when the church says “conception” they are referring to implantation, per his actual priesthood teachings. But, that most Catholics assume conception means fertilization, but that isn’t correct. My discussions on this topic with him were in 2010 for reference. I know the pope said prior to that that it’s before implantation, but the actual documented definition in church literature is apparently implantation.

At the end of the day, this is splitting hairs and I’m pro-choice. But, it’s clear even the church can’t figure out a cohesive stance, and none of this is dogma anyway. Also, just because “life” begins at conception it’s doesn’t address the bodily autonomy issue (the Church doesn’t support forced organ donation to save another adults life, but they are ok with a pregnant person being forced to give up their body?).

I don’t know anyone who would say they are trying to “conceive” and mean that they are just trying to fertilize an egg. For all practical purposes, fertilization alone just isn’t conception. And these old white men can believe otherwise, but if my egg is fertilized but doesn’t implant, I would never say I conceived because I wouldn’t even know the egg was fertilized, unless I went through IVF anyway.

Leaving aside religious arguments, Wired had an article by Sarah Zhang in 2015 titled – Why Science Can’t Say When a Baby’s Life Begins with a subtitle – If anything, science has only complicated the personhood debate. The article notes – When life begins is, of course, the central disagreement that fuels the controversy over abortion. 

In the 19th century, abortion in Britain was legal—until the quickening. The “quickening” was the first time a woman felt her baby’s kick, it was the moment the baby came alive, the moment it got a soul. Ultrasound imaging made quickening, a concept that had been around since at least Aristotle, a relic. In a 2012 vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan explained that after seeing their unborn daughter on ultrasound, they nicknamed her “Bean.” My husband jokes about our youngest son being “LumpT” before he was born. Ryan actually sponsored a bill for fetal personhood, giving full legal rights to a zygote after fertilization.

After fertilization, must come implantation. The fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and attaches to the mother’s uterus. “There’s an incredibly high rate of fertilized eggs that don’t implant,” says Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN in Washington, DC. Estimates run from 50 to 80 percent, and even some implanted embryos spontaneously abort later on. The woman might never know she was pregnant.

Clearly, the controversies and debates are not going away any time soon. It is going to be very messy for some time to come.