Reviews | An anti-abortion victory, but “at what cost”?

For the editor:

Re “I Prayed and Protested to Ban Abortion. What Now?”, by Karen Swallow Prior (Opinion guest essay, June 25) and “Roe’s End Just the Beginning,” by Ross Douthat (column, June 26 ):

My message to my children is that there is always room for a baby. I consider life sacred and a blessing; the decision to abort is tragic. But I found the pro-life movement alienating because of the reasoning of opinion pieces by Karen Swallow Prior and Ross Douthat: First ban abortion and then make it unthinkable. Shouldn’t making abortion unthinkable be the first step?

If the pro-life movement had gone to such lengths to support programs and candidates that promote child care, public education, and aid for the poor and disabled, perhaps abortion would have been reduced because people would see life as a gift. But the majority of the movement stands behind regressive and hypocritical politicians and candidates. The same pro-life supporters who rejoice at the end of Roe v. Wade are generally fine with capital punishment and guns at the ready.

Many people now see bringing life to this irresponsible world given the dystopian future that seems to await a child born today.

Both of these opinion pieces strike me as dishonest.

Maria Gardner
Santa Cruz, California.

For the editor:

In April 1963, my mother died of peritonitis, the result of a clandestine abortion. She was 40 years old. I had just turned 15. My brother was 9 years old. We were poor, barely surviving from week to week, and his choices were limited and dire.

According to Karen Swallow Prior, “Roe elevated radical autonomy above moral agency.” Perhaps she should say her moral agency, the one she will impose on others or that she would have imposed on my mother, if she had lived. But she did not live, because the moral agency of the time denied her access to a safe and legal abortion.

My mother was a moral, kind-hearted, generous and forgiving person, Roman Catholic, but not particularly religious. Dr Prior says legalized abortion “was the consolation prize given to women in 1973 for the centuries of inequality and oppression that stemmed from their sin of not being men”. I find this remark cynical and dismissive. Legal abortions are about safety, about giving women the consolation prize of not dying, of not giving birth after rape, of not having to suffer the possible outcome of incest.

I guess Dr. Prior and his ilk can claim victory. But I wonder at what price. I also wonder, when a moral concept is valued more than real life, is that really moral? And I wonder when, from now on, we’ll hear about the first needless death of a young woman, and the first sad child to lose a mother. And then the next and then the next.

Anthony Motzenbacker
Los Angeles

For the editor:

Karen Swallow Prior begins a key sentence of her opinion piece with “If you believe, as I do, that abortion unjustly ends the life of a fully human being” and goes on to argue for her position against the ‘abortion. But I don’t believe like her. A microscopic mass of cells, still undifferentiated, without a brain or nervous system and looking nothing like a baby, just doesn’t seem like human life to me. I’m neither Catholic nor Evangelical, so I’m not informed by the same religious teachings she subscribes to, and I deeply hate current attempts to make us live by the religious tenets of others.

I agree that the question of when life begins is a murky one that ultimately cannot be decided by objective inquiry—all the more reason to separate your church from my state and leave that to individual conscience.

Lee Griffin
Haslet, Mich.

For the editor:

I commend the Times for publishing a diversity of opinions and appreciate reading Dr. Karen Swallow Prior’s perspective on Roe and abortion. Nevertheless, his essay is fundamentally one-sided and flawed. Not in the sense that it is pro-life, but in that it reduces abortion decisions to wanted or unwanted pregnancies. This myopic perspective fails to address the health imperative that some women face when confronted with conditions for which termination of pregnancy may be the only life-saving medical treatment.

As a surgeon, I have sadly seen women die because they did not have access to safe and timely abortion care, even for pregnancies they would otherwise have wanted to keep. In health care and in life, we have to make tough decisions. Women should not have to risk death for lack of a safe medical procedure so that we can proclaim that we have not terminated an unborn child. In these difficult cases, the fetus will also die, and the blood of two lives will be on our common hands.

Alexander W. Peters
Riverside, Conn.

For the editor:

Now that Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health has decided researchers will be able to test whether “pro-lifers” are truly pro-lifers. Will states that ban abortion really enact more supportive laws to support infants and children from conception through childhood? Will they provide sound obstetric care, family leave and quality child care? Will they work to relieve hunger and strengthen low-income families? Will they invest in public education?

I can’t wait to see the data. Let’s hold pro-lifers to their word. Maybe this will show us the true values ​​of the pro-life movement.

Marsha Weinraub
philadelphia cream
The author is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Temple University.

For the editor:

When I started reading Karen Swallow Prior’s guest essay, I expected a thoughtful reflection on ways to address the humanity of women and prevent unwanted pregnancies in a changed America. Oops.

It was the same old talk about ensuring (unlikely) a good life for unplanned children (not so much about mothers’ lives) – with no discussion of family planning or contraception. She laments the high abortion rate in the United States and blames “individualistic cultural and economic ethics” instead of our cultural fear of meaningful sex education.

The lack of birth control and sex education in this room is either an appalling oversight or perhaps a signal that the next “pro-life” step is to demonize family planning.

Brian Williams
Columbus, Ohio

For the editor:

Ross Douthat suggests a future in which conservative, anti-abortion states become “more serious about family policy and public health” in the wake of Roe’s disappearance. Mississippi, the state whose law was the basis for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, has the highest infant mortality rate among the 50 states, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the 10 worst infant mortality states are dark red states.

The worst places for life expectancy and the percentage of citizens without health insurance also skew heavily toward red states. Roe did not stop these conservative states from taking care of their residents. Why would his absence reverse their neglect?

Jeffrey Goldberg
Rockville, Maryland

For the editor:

Ross Douthat calls the success of the anti-abortion movement “popular mobilization in defiance of elite consensus.” What is the place of the Federalist Society, founded by students from Yale Law School, Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago Law School in this formula?

Alan Gotthelf
New York

For the editor:

I wish I was in the room when Ross Douthat lectures a terrified 12-year-old rape victim on “the dignity of motherhood, even when it comes unexpectedly or in the midst of great hardship.”

Susan Allen Toth
La Jolla, California.

Richard L. Militello