This essay started life as a contribution to the Triple Nine Society e-mail list.
I tend to be prochoice. This affects considerably with whom I come into contact. Even in nonpolitical social circles, I know very few people who are strongly on the other side -- at least as far as I know. Here in Maryland I am active in Democratic Party politics. That also limits the opportunities for ongoing dialog with the "prolife" side. Why am I a Democrat? I tend to agree more with most of today's Democrats on most things. There is also the practical matter of the fact that the Democratic Party really does thoroughly dominate the state's politics. I do bring some interesting libertarian perspectives into discussion from time to time, though.
I am also what is currently called a cradle Episcopalian. It clearly fits my cultural background and has shaped my political and social views to some extent.
My family on my mother's side is working class English. My grandparents moved to the United States about a century ago. My maternal grandfather was a bricklayer. Both grandparents had some elementary school education -- but that was about it. My grandparents moved here shortly after they married. After awhile they had a son whom they truly loved -- just as they did their three later children and me, their grandson. That first son, though, caught some sort disease going around at the time. After only a few months of life, he died. While this was not an abortion, it was, in some ways, close to one. How did this affect my family? It was viewed as a great tragedy. Grandmom returned to England for awhile to recover among family and friends. The young couple was sorely tested by this tragedy. Grandmom did return to the United States. The young couple did have three more children, starting with my mother who just died at 93. My mom in her later years told me about this tragedy. My cousins in England wanted to know why grandmom returned to England for a period after she had been living in the United States. We all regard this early family death as a real tragedy. I can think of no one in my extended family who has ever contemplated having an abortion. I think we have all had sex outside of marriage, but we all know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies -- and we take such measures. I think even those of us who are married use contraception so that we can have a healthy sex life without bringing into this world children we can not practically care for.
My contact with Roman Catholics is generally positive and even friendly. We don't, though, discuss these controversial matters. My exposure to the Roman Catholic opposition to abortion therefore comes through the media. It comes off as cold and uncaring. A church that will not even allow married men to become priests is a church that is making a bad mistake in my view. I am unmarried. I do not regard this as a "gift" but a curse. When I am in love with a woman, it makes my life so much better even I have a hard time describing it. My friends see -- and welcome -- such women into my life. A few extremely conservative married Episcopal priests have switched to the Roman Catholic Church. That church has allowed them to stay married. Roman Catholics who have the good fortune to be part of congregations led by such priests recognize and truly value such men. Roman Catholic opposition to abortion and contraception comes across more as authoritarian control of their members and less as "prolife."
What about the Protestant groups that oppose abortion? There is a strain of puritanism in many Protestant groups. While an interesting case can be made for keeping sex within a healthy, loving marriage, it's hard to justify some other puritanical crusades. For instance, some Protestants also take a stand against alcohol consumption. Not public drunkenness etc., just merely consuming it at all. This tends to make an unfavorable impression as well -- and leads me to devalue their other moral stands.
What factors encourage people to view each other and children positively? My family has been open, supportive and reasonably democratic in its worldview and behaviors. Research seems to show that democratic cultures are stronger and produce people who are more moral than authoritarian cultures.
Summing up, I want "prolife" people to make a much stronger impression on me for actually doing things to help people have better lives. I and my friends actually do that. We're not perfect -- and do not claim to be. But we are good people who try to help humanity become as good as it can.