The exchange in the April 5-11 issue between Italo Savella and Ms. Towler, regarding abortion (The Mail, April 5) aired good arguments for both sides. Here's my take, for what it's worth.
A friend once characterized human conception as akin to boarding the 10 a.m. bus in Rochester, bound for Chicago. At 10:30 you're obviously not in Chicago yet, but it's equally obvious that, barring something unforeseen, you will be in several hours. Similarly, barring something unforeseen, that embryo will eventually be a baby, and it's as pointless to object that it isn't one yet as that Buffalo or Cleveland or Gary isn't Chicago. I find that analogy persuasive.
The rhetorical questions Ms. Towler raises, especially about the role of men in abortion decisions, are also persuasive. There's no getting around the fact that it's the woman who carries the embryo and bears the child, that a teen with cruel or abusive parents has reason to fear revealing anything to them. Still, no man, no baby: the prospective father has a stake in the issue. And that justly frightened teen should have recourse to protective services in the community. But neither of these observations implies a solution.
Far too many abortions occur because, wanting no stake in the issue, the father is either long gone or unwilling to participate in his parenthood. Just as disturbing, abortion is too often nothing more than a particularly violent and dehumanizing birth-control option. Worst and least excusable of all, partial-birth abortion is only a few minutes away from premeditated murder, no matter when you think life begins.
Ms. Towler's remark that abortion is "a women's health issue" seems to see pregnancy as a disease and, I believe, insults women right down the line. Most child-carrying women are perfectly healthy; when they aren't, when pregnancy seriously threatens a woman's health, then most would agree that an abortion may be justified.
My solution? I have none beyond this: absent a change in the law, getting an abortion should be made complicated, at least somewhat difficult. Significant obstacles should confront a woman seeking one, buffers that would force her to stop and seriously consider what she is about to do. Interviews should be required, forms completed, etc. At least then the young (usually) lady would not be doing a repulsive thing impulsively, something she may regret forever.
Peter Dzwonkoski, Westmoreland Drive, Rochester
Mary Anna Towlers' response: As the mother of three children, I certainly don't believe that pregnancy is a disease. My comment about abortion being a women's health issue was related to the health risks --- documented numerous times --- associated with back-room abortions.
I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-life, pro-choice, and attend a catholic (not Roman Catholic) church. A Roman Catholic priest spoke about abortion to hundreds of his church's parishioners recently in ways that left me fearing for the wellbeing of young people affected by his information. I want to share my perspective --- formed through personal experience, spiritual study and practice, and scientific research by others.
Everything --- an unfertilized egg, a plant, a piece of paper --- is life, in my opinion. Each moment, humans must respect/use/end/start life. When I eat, kill a bug, recycle paper, or use birth control, I try to choose carefully.
I had an abortion 22 years ago due to birth-control failure. This decision, so hard to make, was preceded by soul-searching as well as conversations with my partner (the father), deeply spiritual friends, and a Buddhist teacher. My partner and I made our choice with sensitivity to each other, the life we created, and broader impacts.
• My belief that life was within me even before conception.
• My partner's belief that the final choice was mine; he would respect and support it even though he preferred not to have a child.
• The distress I had seen in children and hard-working, caring adults within one-parent families, when I shared houses with them.
• The impact giving a baby up for adoption would have on many.
I had moved to Rochester a year earlier, leaving behind dependable spiritual support, employment, and friendship. To give birth meant leaving my new job, secured after a long search. It would strain the organization I was helping to create, and the relationship my partner and I were developing with an eye to marriage. We believed abortion was the best choice in our circumstances.
I was grateful for the compassion and skill of medical professionals involved at all stages of my abortion. Afterwards, I felt relief and sadness; no enduring physical or emotional problems followed.
The priest's presentation angered me, because it suggested that women undergoing abortion often receive poor professional care, and experience serious, long-lasting, physical and emotional aftereffects. While I'm sure these problems occur at times, I didn't experience them, nor did many others I know. I was distressed that listeners didn't receive an accurate picture.
To deepen my knowledge, I read studies on both sides of the issue and discovered varied findings (often related to reviewers' beliefs). Among them: women whose religion prohibits abortion are more likely to have negative post-abortion responses, and Roman Catholic women experience more guilt than others.
While I respect those whose choice differs from mine, I feel deep gratitude that my partner and I --- not a church, a priest, a lawyer, a judge, a jury, or others with different beliefs than ours --- were able to choose.
Additionally, while Planned Parenthood had no role in my abortion, I appreciate and support its work to provide sound information, prevent unplanned pregnancy, and decrease the need for abortions so that fewer people face this tough choice.
Finally, my thanks to Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ (co-creators of "Our Whole Lives" sex education curriculum) and others who provide comprehensive information.Our world is painted in highly complex, multi-colored shades, not in black and white. Knowledge helps promote responsible decisions about sex and parenthood.
Jane Ellen Bleeg, Brighton
I heard a television journalist say that Donald Rumsfeld takes a "long view of history" and therefore, his feeling that we might continue in Iraq for another 20 years should be easily understood.
Rummy can probably see an Iraq 20 years from now prospering under a quasi-democracy, inspiring young Saudis and Iranians to overthrow their governments, pumping out cheap oil, making life easier for Israel, etc. I can only see some of the hurdles we would have to leap to get there --- like borrowing more billions from China, convincing Americans to send fresh troops, crushing an insurgency that renews itself at will, and so on and so on.
Smells like a really big job to me.
Meanwhile, back in the present, the New York Times reports that Sunni bodies are showing up in Iraqi gutters with unusual wounds. Seems that Shiite vigilantes have taken to boring holes in their neighbors' faces with electric drills before shooting them dead. Ah, those goshdarned playful Shia and their power tools....
Oh, well, I guess every atrocity has a silver lining; every failure invites new opportunity. Maybe soon we'll see Home Depot stores opening up in Baghdad.
Why not? According to Rummy, it would be best if we stayed there another 20 years. That should be time enough for Walmart, McDonald's, and the others to get in on the act, too.
Gary Gray, Highland Drive, Penfield
We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester14607.
Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.