Letter to the editor: Respect all in abortion debate

We write in response to Senator Leahy’s guest editorial, Mary Mendoza’s Ways of Seeing column, and John and Amy Emerson’s letter in your 5/12/22 issue, not so much to advocate for our own perspective on the question of abortion law and rights as to suggest that we all do our best when we take a compassionate, thoughtful and respectful approach in discussing these issues.

Sen. Leahy and others rightly allude to a long and shameful history of subjugation of women, dismissal of their opinions and feelings, and denial of the equal rights. We do, however, disagree with his statement that a woman’s choice for abortion is simply a decision about her own body. It seems to us that the decision is also about the new life growing inside of her. It’s especially hard for us to consider the fetus just prior to delivery any less a person than the newborn infant shortly thereafter. (Senator Leahy himself voted, in the not too distant past against extremely late-term, so-called “partial birth” abortion.) Yet we also understand that others may find it a real stretch to see a newly formed embryo as a person meriting protective rights (as is the teaching position of our church). Ultimately, of course, this entire process is going on inside the woman’s own body and we can certainly understand her feeling that the final decision is rightfully hers and needs to be acknowledged as such.

We would also remind those coming from the “pro-life” side that the legal process is not the only possible approach to reducing the number of abortions. We can always work to make other options more available and attractive, both financially and otherwise, and I expect most people who consider themselves “pro-choice” would agree with this. We also, of course, will continue to discuss these things with each other, but we believe this is best done in a respectful way which genuinely seeks understanding, listens to stories (like Mary Mendoza’s), and avoids labels and accusations. People, after all, rarely change their minds in the face of belittlement or dismissal.

At a gathering some time ago, we saw a poster with a simple outline of a pregnant woman that asked “Can’t we love them both?” We come from a perspective of religious faith that asks us to do not only that, but also to love the person across the discussion table from us, the person coming from a different and perhaps challenging perspective. That may not always be easy, but we believe it’s worth working at and is more likely to lead to a good outcome for all than the current “culture war” atmosphere. John and Amy’s letter included this statement: “The speakers consistently expressed respect for those whose views may differ from their own — a refreshing stance in the present climate.” We applaud the speakers for making that clear and John and Amy for including the statement in their letter.

Alan and Wendy Covey


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