Originally published in the Albany Student Press, 10/17/05

Have you ever noticed that often our character flaws can also be blessings?

For example, I can’t make a decision to save my life. The reason I often can’t make a decision, though, is because I see every side to the argument, and empathize with each point of view.

As well, once I do make a decision, it is often very hard to change my mind – usually it has to be some sort of life-altering event, or you have to show me that the information I’ve received is faulty.

Arguably, the most hot-button of issues for anyone to take a side on is the pro-choice/pro-life debate. For the record, I hate that terminology. It’s misleading. Pro-life implies that anyone who is the opposite – pro-choice – is anti-life. As well, people assume that pro-choice means “pro-abortion,” which is also completely untrue. And, even if it were true, being “pro-abortion” does not mean you are “anti-life.”

There are a number of Christians who would disagree with that analysis. However, as much as many have tried over the past 2000 years, you can’t force your beliefs on someone else, and while one may believe the soul enters the body at conception, there are others who believe that a fetus isn’t human until birth.

Does that mean all pro-choicers believe the latter? No. It just means they don’t feel that one person should inflict his beliefs on someone else. It’s also not uncommon to hear someone who identifies as pro-life say that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned.

This one issue in particular is one I grapple with daily. As a woman, as a Catholic, and as a feminist I find I contradict myself constantly with my viewpoints. I see where the pro-life faction is coming from. I see where the pro-choice faction is coming from. The only thing I can definitely decide is that I really can’t make a judgment call on this unless I actually become pregnant myself. Having said that, I can’t possibly make a judgment call on what another woman may decide.

More than anything, though, what I cannot stand is hypocrisy on the matter. The people who picket Planned Parenthood, throwing slurs out to the women who enter. Priests and other church leaders who chastise single mothers while baptizing their children. Extremists who shoot doctors and nurses and who bomb clinics.

If you are what you say you are – pro-life – you should realize respect for all human life does not end at birth. What about the babies born drunk, or addicted to crack or heroin? What about the babies born with birth defects or born mentally challenged? What about the children who lie awake crying at night because their parents beat them so badly they are in too much pain to sleep? What about the mother who suffers physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband and is given no aid to get out and is too scared to leave her children behind? Worse, what about the woman who suffers such abuse by a father or brother?

Pro-lifers do have a valid point – we, as human beings, should have respect for all human life. But that respect is not just whether or not we deem it appropriate to end a pregnancy. That respect goes much deeper. We should be doing everything we can to help those in our society who are less fortunate than us. Not out of obligation, but because we would want to be treated with the same respect if we were in their shoes.

If you believe abortion is wrong, that’s fine. Just as everyone else is, you are entitled to your beliefs and morals. But don’t scorn the women who are raising their children alone. Don’t look down on the mothers who leave their abusive husbands in the middle of the night. Don’t call a woman selfish if she chooses to give her child up for adoption, or even if she chooses to prevent pregnancy altogether.

And, for those of you who are Christian, just remember that it was Christ himself who told us that only he without sin may cast the first stone. None of us is perfect, and no one expects us to be. Don’t expect it of anyone else, either.