Monica Snyder, the executive director of Secular Pro-Life, appeared with a pro-choice pastor, an abortion funder, and a Democrats for Life staffer for an “abortion roundtable” podcast. You can listen to their conversation for free on Audible, or read the transcript below.
Special thanks to our volunteer, Anna Zwergel, for the transcription. If you’d like to volunteer to transcribe, take our survey here.
Rob (Host): Hello everyone, welcome to Church Coffee: Christianity, Conservatism, and Culture. My name’s Rob. Tonight we’re doing an abortion roundtable part 2 and we’ll go around and everyone can say a little blurb about themselves. Monica, why don’t you start with you? So we’ll start with our pro-choice side, everyone’s gonna say their name and occupation and how they got into being pro-life or pro-choice, and these are individuals, they are not representing anyone or any organization specifically maybe, but at the same time just wondering how each of you got into this respective area. Monica?
Monica Snyder: So I’m pro-life and I am an Atheist. I am actually the Executive Director for Secular Pro-Life. We try to make space for people who aren’t religious and want to do pro-life work, but I’ve been pro-life my entire life. I wasn’t an activist for a long time and actually what got me into it was actually arguing on Facebook. I joined Facebook not long after it came into existence and they used to have discussion boards and I unthinkingly followed a bunch of groups of interest like Diet Coke and all sorts of things and one of them was a group just called “Pro-Life.” I thought back then – this is hilarious to me now – but I thought back then that it would be filled with only pro-lifers and I posted a couple photos and pro-choice people started arguing on them and I was very shocked and confused because that group is called “Pro-Life” and I started talking to them and the long and short of it is I ended up basically debating with the same like 3 dozen pro-life and pro-choice people together for like a year. I became really good friends with them. It got me very interested in the topic. It made me a lot more comfortable with my views and helped me have a much better understanding of the other side’s views and that was the beginning of just a much deeper interest [and being] much more involved on my part in the topic.
Megan Saucier: [I’m] Megan Saucier and I am a United Methodist pastor. I live in Norfolk. I’m currently not serving a church right now, but I have been in pastoral leadership in churches for about 12 years and I’ve also worked as a chaplain at a couple of different hospitals including a children’s hospital and I guess my interest in the topic really surrounds working with a lot of women in pastoral care and counseling and working with parents at the hospital. I don’t – I’m not an activist in the same way other people are in the group, but really just come from it more from a pastoral angle and I’ve talked to a lot of people, one-on-one, so that’s my viewpoint/perspective.
Rob: We’ll move on to Katherine Hobby Hoffman.
Katherine Hobby Hoffman: Yeah, please feel free to call me “Kobby.” That’s from my initials. My mom made it up so that’s pretty much how most people know me. I guess my first introduction to the subject was in college when a friend’s younger sister showed up who was 13 and it wasn’t spring break and when she was gone and I found out that she had been there for an abortion. So that’s my first introduction and I joined NOW for Equal Rights when it was coming to its time limit originally in 1982. [I’ve] been an officer; I currently serve on the national board and the state NOW and my local NOW. Most of my time has been at the local chapter level and at the county fair I found out with another woman that a woman needed money for an abortion and we went looking and we found a pickle jar and we put it out and that was the beginning of my starting an abortion fund. Women were constitutionally allowed, had the right to privacy and abortion and the only thing that was a barrier was finances and that didn’t seem fair to me so currently that has, from a number of years back, I was probably president for 20 out of the last 30 years. It has its own 501c3 and currently serves over 2000 women in the state per year.
Rob: And that’s the National Organization for Women?
Kobby: No, no, that’s the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund.
Rob: Oh okay.
Kobby: It serves anyone coming [into] Virginia. The other – yes – in terms of the boards that I’m on, it is the National Organization for Women, yeah. Sorry about that.
Rob: Okay and last but not least, we’ve got Jess.
Kobby: So I should say it’s multi. I should say we have 6 major goals and reproductive rights and justice is one.
Rob: But not everything of course, yes.
Kobby: So that’s what I really like about it. It’s everything having to deal with/for women.
Rob: Thank you so much, and our last panelist is Jess.
Jess Meeth: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be back for part 2. My name is Jess Meeth and currently I serve as the communications director for Democrats for Life of America and so I’ve been involved in activism, since the org is very involved in advocacy and lobbying and we represent the approximately 1 in 3 Democrats who identify as pro-life. And of course that is very broad. So it’s 1 in 3 Democrats who want regulations or limitations on abortion at least in some capacity. So we are a voice for them and that’s about 20 million people in America who are left-leaning and who identify as Democrat. So that’s 20 million pro-life Democrats and we represent them. We are a voice for them. Before Democrats for Life of America I was working with abortion-minded women one-on-one kinda like Megan had mentioned, in the pastoral sense. I didn’t work for a religious org, but I worked for a non-profit that financially assisted abortion-minded women, so kinda in a different way, as what Kobby was mentioning, we would financially assist and provide financial assistance to women who thought there was no other option than abortion due to economic hardship. So this org would step in and we would assist with rent, car payments, gas, groceries, utilities. So they felt like they could have the confidence, the emotional and financial support to carry and raise their children, and so that has really formed my, I would say…at Dems for Life, we call ourself pro-life Democrats, but we also say that we’re “whole-life” so we don’t just oppose abortion, we also oppose capital punishment and assisted suicide and euthanasia, but it’s more than simply opposing things. We advocate and lobby for affordable and accessible healthcare, childcare, daycare, housing, and the social safety nets that will especially give women, parents, children, and families, the support that they need during and after pregnancy. So I like to say that I’ve been whole-life for the last couple of years, but I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement since I was 15/16 years old, and I’m 27 now so a little more than a decade.
Rob: Thank you so much. Uh with this being a podcast titled “Church Coffee” I think we’ll go around in the same order and what is your favorite coffee and if for some reason you’re crazy and don’t drink coffee, what is your other hot drink or caffeine drink of choice? We’ll start with Monica.
Monica: Well I’m the same with coffee, wine, and cheese, I like all of it so don’t buy expensive versions for me cause it’s the same thing, but I do like anything with mocha, any mixture of coffee and chocolate and I’m golden.
Megan: I am a caramel latte fan.
Kobby: I must be crazy because I do not drink coffee and you are asking for a caffeinated drink and I do eat chocolate candy and occasionally have cocoa, but generally speaking my hot drink is an herbal tea.
Rob: Oh that works. And Jess?
Jess: Coffee is my addiction. I love the taste of it, to be honest, not a super fan of caffeine. I’ve been trying to cut it out so honestly decaf is the way to go, but it’s hard cause they don’t really make the fun-flavored coffee drinks with it, so I’ve just been going with – I love iced coffee more than coffee – so just an iced coffee with just cream.
Rob: There you go. That works. I’m a straight, black, guy, medium roast, straight black. I’m easy peasy. I’m like the quickest order Starbucks will ever get. So before we really get into the nitty gritty I wanted to first, since we are all just individuals here talking, I wanted to first….I laid it out pretty specifically in the first podcast, but I started pretty hard pro-life conservative, what you might find in a lot of evangelicals, but I’ve slowly over the years moved to probably a more whole-life position when trying to understand pro-choicers and that type of realm so I would probably adhere more closer to what Jess would say, like yes if we want less abortions overall there should be better healthcare, there should be better childcare, there should be more access to a lot of different stuff. So first, wanted to just lay that out on the table, but I also wanted everyone to kind of find what your side means, means for you. I think we might skip Jess because she laid that out pretty good in her into, but we’ll start with Monica, like what’s your rough definition of pro-life to you? So we’ll start, yeah, with Monica.
Monica: So our group is single-issue. Secular pro-life is single-issue. The people who run it, including myself are more complex than that. So I don’t mind being referred to as specifically anti-abortion as opposed to pro-life, because I do think pro-life can be confusing, covers lots of different things. For the debate about abortion, in my mind, the two sides mostly differ over the legality of it. I think there’s a lot of common ground when it comes to getting women more support, helping people prevent pregnancies, and things like that. In my mind, in the context of abortion, you’re saying pro-life and pro-choice, you’re mostly saying that you generally think it should be legally accessible or not. That’s how I understand it. And so our group thinks it should mostly not be legally accessible, with some exceptions, and so when I talk about pro-life that’s not the only relevant factor, I think decreasing the need, and increasing support for people, like what was mentioned earlier, people who feel like they might need to get an abortion, not necessarily because that would be their first choice, but because of other circumstances in their lives, I think there’s a lot of common ground there for trying to prevent that. The difference comes down to when it would be the choice, even if you had like infinite funds or something, should it be legal or not, and our group, when I say I’m pro-life, I mean it should generally be illegal.
Rob: We’re going to take a quick break and have a word from a sponsor.
Rob: Megan, what does pro-choice mean for you?
Megan: Pro-choice for me, means that women should have choices over their bodies and their healthcare and that encompasses everything from treatment for infertility or choices surrounding whether to adopt a child or not adopt a child, to abortions. So for me, it’s really about choices, and women being able to make the choices for their own lives.
Rob: Kobby, what does pro-choice mean for you?
Kobby: It’s my decisions over myself and so it’s more fundamental even then, you know, people talk about the right to vote, things like that. I think without that right, I don’t have equal rights. And considering all the responsibilities and benefits thereof, in terms of being a citizen, I am a second class citizen, we are all women here, second class citizens currently and Alito has reminded us of that, very strongly by going back to the 16th century. I don’t find it acceptable in a country that advocates freedom and independence to its core. So I think if you believe in individual rights, then you allow the individual to decide.
Rob: Thank you. Jess, was there anything else you wanted to add to your whole-life kinda stance?
Jess: No, I think I covered the gist of it between whole-life and pro-life.
Rob: Yeah, thank you. Something we did on the last podcast is hopefully trying to help frame this discussion in as amicable terms as possible and I will go first, as someone who,being a little bit more pro-life, whole-life area. Last kind of intro question we’ll do is please to find the other side in a positive and gracious way and I have quite a few pro-choice friends. It’s hard growing up in Charlottesville, VA and not making pro-choice friends and I will say….
Kobby: And anti-choice friends. Absolutely. I have a number of very close friends who volunteer at the pregnancy center here. Good people. We volunteer together on other things.
Rob: Yeah, there can be plenty of overlap.
Kobby: Our kids have grown up together and we respect each other. Yeah we care for each other, and help each other at times in bad times. Absolutely, good people.
Rob: And the way I would define pro-choice in a positive way is probably very similar to Kobby’s definition of her…of choices. If America is about individual freedom, then people should be able to – not only in legal terms, something that might still need to be hashed out – but pro-choice would generally mean then as much bodily autonomy rights for an individual over their own body as possible. But we’ll take it to Monica. Monica, what is a positive and gracious definition of pro-choice?
Monica: Yeah I have a lot of friends and family and people who I’m very close to, especially since I lived in California until very recently, so actually almost everyone I was friends with was pro-choice. And I see pro-choice people, especially pro-choice activists, or anyone who works with it, like you were saying Megan, as people who want to take care of women and children. I see them as people who are fighting for women’s equality, women’s rights to control their body. I think the motivations are very clear. I think our differences are in certain foundational premises, but not in motivations to take care of people.
Rob: Megan, how would you define pro-life?
Megan: I would define it as the point that life is precious, and life is important, and should be treated as such – special and important and a core good.
Rob: Kobby, how would you define pro-life in a positive and gracious way?
Kobby: I’m trying to think of conversations that I’ve had with friends. It’s gotten to, when do you define life? And so the caring that Monica was talking about, we definitely care very much for all people and take actions to help women and children, and the weighing of when life begins and how that is defined and how you value that, seems to just be weighed differently. It’s easier for me in some ways to respect their concern because I can say you can be what you want with yourself. When we have more difficulty is when they tell me that I can’t do what I want to do so we generally just know each other as good people and trying to do the best we can. And so most of the people that I know that are pro-life, I appreciate their care and concern.
Rob: Thank you, and Jess, how would you define pro-choice?
Jess: Yeah I touched on this in the part 1 podcast and I think there’s just a whole bunch of things that are just especially really heated right now especially in post-Roe America. I forget if the last podcast was before – I think it was after a post-Roe America too, but I think things are just really heavy and really heated between both sides and just everybody in between. I think there’s just a lot of name calling and just a lot of just unkind things occurring. I think, you know, I love that Kobby is involved in NOW because I actually just was on an interview with the president of NOW and it was really interesting for her to talk about, to hear everything else that she’s involved in and to really understand the root of why she’s pro choice, and touching on what Monica said of just women’s rights and woman’s equality and women’s freedom, I think that’s something that we can all that I, as a pro-life person, really admire. I think, of course, it just draws the line there’s a fundamental difference of human beings and personhood and human life. But I also touched on this in part 1 that I think it’s just a lot of…I think what pro-life people can kind of misunderstand is a lot of pro-choice people are, like, not coming from a place of not valuing life. I think it’s just sometimes in these really hard and heavy situations, they’re really concerned about quality of life and the suffering that we go through as human beings and just wanting the best for the mother and their baby. And that’s where I think I can find a lot of common ground and just really seeing those concerns and doing everything I can to hear them and to address them, not only hear them, but to address them with the social safety nets and making sure that there’s the resources and support for women and their children.
Rob: Excellent. Thank you so much, Jess. All right, I’ll jump in first to Monica. [She] already kind of touched on this in her own personal intro, but I’ll go through a few questions for each of you, and then we’ll jump in for kind of – not a free-for-all – but just let all of our guests be able to ask the other guests some questions. So I’ll go around [in a] pretty similar way and ask each of you some questions from me. So Monica, the pro-life position is largely characterized and sometimes can be even defined by religion. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you, as you said, a secularist, as an Atheist, arrived at a pro-life position?
Monica: Yeah, so my position is kind of in four parts, and I’ll try not to make it incredibly long, but the first part, so I majored in chem-bio at Berkeley and then forensics after that. And I take a particular interest in the bio side of things, not just with the abortion debate, just in general. And so the first part of my position is recognizing that as organisms, our life cycle begins with the zygote and goes on till death. And the reason I bring that up is I don’t think that’s the end of the question. I’m not saying, oh, that’s it, so now we know the answer. But to me, it defines the parameters within which we can talk about which human organisms are valuable and why you have to have a starting and ending point, and then you can debate in between. But the second premise, and I think this is probably…I think this is probably the biggest difference between the two sides is we see people say, “well yes, of course you have a human or a human organism or however you want to put it, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re talking about is a person,” meaning a morally valuable human that merits, like, legal protection or significant moral consideration beyond what people privately decide. And there are lots of different ideas about what would constitute a person as opposed to a human non-person. And this is very important for me and for the people I work with. We find those ideas to end up being pretty ad hoc and arbitrary because usually the people purporting them don’t want to apply them outside of the abortion debate. So some people will say heartbeat or viability or some people say birth. Not many people say that. I think the most popular one that we see is talking about cognitive ability or consciousness and how that’s not really in play until later. But the problem is, at least from like a neural anatomical standpoint, that leaves open the door for undermining the value of also newborns and other people that have certain disabilities. And you can talk about coma patients and things like that. To me, the big one is newborns. And if you are putting forth an argument for personhood that undermines the value and protection of newborns, I’m not doing it. It’s like a foundational premise for me. I can’t go there. So all that to say, there are lots of different ideas of personhood and I find them to be inconsistently applied and problematic. And that’s still not the end of it because you still have the issue – like even if we all agreed for the sake of argument that embryos and fetuses were morally valuable people and merited this consideration – it’s still a complicated situation because you have the issues of bodily rights and bodily autonomy. But part of our premise is, I think bodily rights are very important. I think it’s the strongest pro-choice argument, but I don’t think it rises to justifying all abortion, especially not as has been in the country before Dobbs and now it’s changing every day. But I think when you create properly analogous situations to pregnancy and you’re talking about humans we recognize as people, I think usually bodily rights ends up only working if you – like despite what pro-choice people say – it ends up only working if you think first that the fetus is not a valuable person, it’s not a person. And so from our perspective, bodily rights are important, but they’re not sufficient. And so we….I say “we” but I mean, me personally too, not just like the organization. We find abortion to be a human rights violation, [that] kills valuable human beings. And we think that we want to decrease the need, but we also want to decrease the supply, for lack of a better word, because there’s a ton of research to show that when you restrict abortion, it’s not just legal abortions that decrease. Abortion decreases overall. And that’s an important part also from our perspective of saying you have morally valuable humans and you want the law to reflect that they merit, at least the consideration to not be unjustly killed. So the law is a part of it on a practical level, but also a principled one. Anyway, I hope that makes sense…Rob, I think you’re still muted.
Rob: Man, my bad. Thanks, Monica. Kobby, this is a little bit longer one, and I can kind of decrease it if needed for you, but I’ll read it in full and then I can kind of do a sum. Liberals or pro-choicers sometimes look to Europe as a model for social democracy and general progressivism. Yet many laws throughout Europe, pro-choicers would find have a pro-life bent. Germany requires counseling. France needs two doctors to sign off for an abortion after a 14-week mark. The UK needs an ultrasound to determine when you can and cannot get an abortion. Denmark requires parental consent under 18. There’s also a number of other examples from other developed countries. Japan, for instance. If you’re not married, you have to have your father or a brother sign off on it, which for a developed nation, for highly economic and mobile developed nations, it’s just very much an outlier. Would you characterize these laws and restrictions as pro-life, or is it just simply unfair to compare the US. to other developed nations about abortion. So as a wrap up, there are lots of laws on the books in Europe and in other developed countries that many pro-choicers would call pro-life if they were enacted here in the states. Like, for example, in France, you need two doctors to sign.
Kobby. I heard you.
Kobyy: My first response to this is a barrier is a barrier is disrespecting a woman’s decision and creates hardships and time delays, which only makes this whole situation more complex and more difficult to deal with. And it’s especially awful for lower and middle income working women with children. And I can tell you from my experience over the last 30 years, I have answered the call and spoken with individual women in crisis. I would say roughly two-thirds of them already had children. They knew very well what pregnancy was. And they were, as has been mentioned here several times, trying to care for the children they had, given the situation they were in. So in that respect, go ahead, compare different states, compare the US. To me, they’re just all barriers that are making a life where a decision generally has already been made, difficult, more expensive, and time delaying, which is not good for this situation.
Rob: Thank you. Jess, pro-life Democrats are now fewer and farther between than ever before. It’s almost akin to an anti-Second Amendment Republican. Can Democrats still be moderate on abortion at all, and especially in a post-Dobbs, post-Roe, in a current post-Dobbs and post-Roe landscape? Or do we just simply need the political climate to cool off a bit before that could become somewhat viable?
Jess: I definitely would say that the political climate needs to cool off, period. Regardless. I think we can all find common ground in that, that it’s like everything is so…I think we can agree from both sides, not just Democrat, Republican, even independent, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum that things are way too politicized. I was just at the store the other day and a can of Pringles was politicized. I was like, what in the world is going on? But I think it’s important to educate and inform. I just think things are way too radical. And I especially think especially on the legality and the issue of abortion (sorry, my voice is a little raspy. I’m overcoming a cold.) But like I said in the intro, things are just so intense and heated. So I definitely think it needs to cool down regardless. But as far as being liberal, progressive, or more moderate, oh, gosh. Well, first, our Dems for Life stands ready to work with anybody. So it doesn’t matter where you are on the spectrum. I’m so glad that we’re having this conversation tonight because I think it’s going to lead to a larger discussion. But where does the line need to be drawn? I would love to understand and get the conversation going with pro-choice advocates, especially of okay, poverty is a huge barrier to pregnancy and parenting. No matter where one stands on the legality of abortion. Should we be concerned about lowering that rate, lowering the abortion rate, regardless of where you stand on legality of abortion? And so it got me thinking when Kobby was mentioning in Europe with the ultrasounds and the two doctors, I would think that there should be a barrier to abortion even if you’re pro-choice because it should really be a last resort. And then that’s what I would love to have a conversation going and seeing where people stand on that and what we can do to address it. And that’s what we’re even saying. That’s why we stand ready to work with people who identify as pro-choice, especially in a post-Roe America that we see a lot of extreme legislation. I’m in California and we have Prop One on the ballot, and it will essentially permit abortion, past-viability into the third trimester for any reason. We see that in Michigan with Prop Three and Vermont with Prop Five. So things are just so extreme and we’re ready to meet our fellow – anybody, but especially our fellow Democrats who are pro-choice and saying, hey, where can we find common ground? California abortion law right now is 24 weeks, so we say you could still be pro-choice and vote against Prop One. Actually, I was at the State building yesterday with the “No on Prop One” campaign, and they had speakers from all over. So there was a pro-choice Republican and a pro-choice Democrat who spoke about why they’re voting no. And it got me thinking about that. Even people who identify as pro-choice can meet us with this legislation, especially with the pregnancy support and the social safety nets, but also with making sure that a woman is making an informed and educated choice. When we put it in the pro-choice mindset of making sure that they have all the information they need. So an ultrasound, to make sure that they’re given full information about the procedure, about what the abortion actually is and what it will do. And so even we’ve seen legislation where non-physicians would be permitted to provide and perform abortion. So we see just essentially the abortion industry would be able to regulate itself. And so we think that even no matter where one stands, that we should really make sure that we’re looking at this legislation and making sure that, for lack of a better word, there are so many barriers to pregnancy and parenting, but really, there should be a barrier to abortion. That it should really be the last thing in the mindset of being pro-choice.
Megan: Can I ask a question?
Rob: Go for it.
Megan: What makes you think that it’s not the last choice or that it’s not a choice people don’t want to make? I’m not sure if that makes sense because I would think pretty much nobody wants to have an abortion.
Jess: Right, right, and I love that you’ve also worked with women one-on-one. I worked with women one-on-one for about a year. And I love that Kobby also mentioned the statistic that many of these women seeking abortion are already parents, already mothers. And from my experience of working with these women one-on-one they felt like the abortion industry was saying abortion was their best and only option due to a lack of resources and support. And when some of them -I would even get in touch with them while they were at the clinic right at their appointment, and sometimes they weren’t shown their ultrasound, they weren’t given the full information or education about the procedure or what it entailed. And to me, they were very hurt and it was really alarming to walk with them through that. And so that’s my experience of working with these women. And I certainly agree that no one wants to have the abortion, but I think that where I would love to find common ground with pro-choice people especially, is why not vote for a law that would permit a woman to see the ultrasound? Why not vote for a law that would require two doctors? Or why not vote against the legislation that would allow non-physicians to provide and perform abortion?
Rob: Well, I think that might be getting away from both my original question and also maybe getting into the weeds before we want to get into the weeds. So maybe we can address that a little bit later.
Kobby: I find it offensive.
Rob: Well, that’s why we’re here to talk. So Jess, it sounded like your answer is then the original question was that Democrats can still be moderate, but it probably just needs to wait for the political climate to cool down, whenever that will be, hopefully sooner than later. Is that probably about the gist of the answer?
Jess: Yeah. Sorry if I got sidetracked.
Rob: Understandable. Last question is for Megan. Do you think there’s a time in a pregnancy when the embryo/fetus/zygote/child, however we want to call what’s in there, that their right to life becomes equal to the mother’s bodily autonomy? Some pro-choicers would say maybe somewhat in the second trimester, maybe when you can see a heartbeat, maybe when there’s fetal pain. But is there a time for you when the fetus is at such an age where its bodily rights can become somewhat equal and therefore a barrier or laws can come in and start to protect its bodily rights, however we want to define that?
Megan: I don’t necessarily think that I do, and of course, I’ve never been asked this question in that way, but I did get to listen to the last podcast, and someone made the point. I’m not sure who it was. I don’t want to say. But this idea that the child’s dependent on the mother and that the child is not autonomous, and even if we take the child away from the mother at whatever week you want to pick, you’re still relying on modern technology to sustain that life. There’s no autonomy, really, because the child has to be taken care of in some sense or it will die. I think most of the weeks conversation, like this many weeks or that many weeks is almost always inherently problematic. I haven’t heard anybody make one that made really good sense to me, especially with the counting. And I love that, Monica, that your background is in biology because, you know, the way that we talk about the weeks in public society is really like two weeks off. And I feel like that’s really not helpful to…
Monica: It’s so confusing.
Megan: Yeah. And I just love that you have that perspective because you say six weeks. Okay, well, you say six weeks, you really mean four weeks. And having been in the infertility community, you can actually know the day that you conceived, and you can actually know more down to the moment of the conception part of it, or whatever you want to say. I think the only other thing that I wanted to bring up is it’s hard for me not to look at this question from a theological point of view because I think for me, if we are eternal, then death is not this enemy, I guess that it might be for some people. So death is not the worst thing that can happen. I’ve seen and been around a lot of death, even death of children, and not just babies, but other tragic circumstances and brain death, for instance, organ donation type situations in children. I guess I just see it, you know- just we’re eternal. And so whether it is before or after that death is not this and doesn’t have to be this horrible, horrible enemy that we always have to fight against.
Rob: Well, Revelation does say death is the final enemy. After Satan, well, it’s not Satan, it’s the great enemy, once the great enemy….
Megan: Well if you’re a Christian, then you believe that Jesus has conquered death. So that’s what I’m referring to. But yeah, there’s certainly plenty of other viewpoints out there, but I think from a theological perspective, from me, you’re eternal. The work on the Cross encompasses all of life, both directions, the past and the future.
Rob: That kind of ends my little
Kobby: Can I add to that one?
Rob: Sure, go ahead Kobby.
Kobby: When you ask that question, I am struck by the intention of the Supreme Court originally. Yes, I agree that the weeks are messy and we rely on the medical science to help us. I have a background in chemistry as well. So for me, in my limited view, I have been pregnant twice and you’re so concerned all the way through. And it was such a relief to know at some point, you know, I think it was like I don’t remember correctly, but I think it’s somewhere around 26-weeks the doctor told me, okay, chances are this if you give birth, that this child will have lung development to take a breath. So the capacity, the individual capacity to breathe, and some religions do relate it to the first breath. So I hope that helps.
Rob: Yeah, the lawsuit from a rabbi in Florida should be very interesting along those lines. Yeah so this kind of ends my portion and so the rest of the time will be our panelists asking the other side. Each panelist will get a question for the other two. So we’re going to start in the way we’ve kind of been asking questions. We’ll start from Monica. And then we’ll go to Megan’s, and then we’ll go to Kobby and then we’ll go to Jess. So Monica, why don’t you kick it off?
Monica: Okay so I’m reading the questions I have for other people. Okay, well, I’m glad you wrote them down. So first for Kobby, I think you basically already answered this, so if you feel like it’s redundant, I understand. But my question was if there were any circumstances where you do think abortion should be prohibited and why or why not?
Kobby: I think that abortion is a personal decision. So no, I think that most women are, at least all the women that I’ve spoken to, and it’s been a huge number of one-on-one conversations, considering I would probably take between 7 and 12 or 15 calls a week. [I] gave up a lot of weekends and evenings. They take it very seriously and basically my view is that your rights are don’t touch my nose or all the way down.
Monica: Can I follow up on that?
Monica: So one of the reasons I ask is because I’m trying not to be too long winded about this. I just read a study that came out a couple of months ago by Katrina Kimport. And she’s – sorry if you already know – but she’s an abortion rights proponent, and she did a qualitative interview of…
Kobby: I don’t know so you’ll have to explain
Monica: Well, it doesn’t really matter who she is. The point is just that she’s coming from the pro-choice perspective. And she did a qualitative interview of a couple dozen women who got abortions between 24 and 32 weeks. And some of them were because of fatal fetal anomalies, but some of them, it was because they didn’t have the resources to get one earlier. And some of them were because they didn’t know they were pregnant until, like, 26 weeks. And so she argued a couple of times – argue’s too strong of a word – but she mentioned, and I think this stuff deals with what you both are saying that she doesn’t think it’s helpful to think of it in terms of weeks or gestational levels because there will always, no matter what we do, even if we have perfect access earlier, there will always be some women, for a variety of reasons, who won’t realize they’re pregnant until, like, the third trimester. And so she thinks that that should still be an option. And the reason I ask about [this] is because by then you’re talking about fetuses, that if they were born, they could breathe on their own, that they could likely survive. So am I understanding you correctly? You still think that in those cases, if the woman thinks it’s best for her circumstances, that should still be a legal option, like a third trimester abortion?
Kobby: I personally do. I had a very good friend in my 20s. She went to her doctor three times before he finally figured out she was pregnant, and then she gave birth early. So she only knew for less than six weeks she was pregnant. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That can happen. I talk to women who are in that situation, and I cannot put my feet in their shoes. I cannot decide that kind of hard decision for them. And so I have just landed pretty much on where you all are coming from. You try to be as caring as you can be, and for me, that is respecting that another person makes a decision. And I think if we impose barriers and restrictions, then we have removed a woman from being an equal human being. And I did tell Rob that. I don’t know did you choose that one, Rob, or not?
Rob: Yeah, everyone sent me a variety of
Kobby: Yeah, you did choose the one about where I went to the doctor?
Rob: Yeah, so we’ll get there
Kobby: That helps? Does that answer?
Monica: Yeah. I really appreciate how straightforward you are.
Kobby: [I] try.
Monica: Is it still me to ask?
Monica: Okay, so for Megan, I didn’t know your background when I wrote these, but this is perfect because you have a lot of experience here. What do you say to women who feel they were pressured into abortion by their social circles because it was a legal option?
Rob: Because it was a legal option?
Monica: Because it was a legal option. We’ve had women in the circles I run in talk about abortions they’ve had and they’ve since become pro-life and start doing pro-life work. And we had somebody ask us one time, like, I totally get it for you personally. Maybe you regret it or maybe we shouldn’t do it, but are you saying you wish that you hadn’t even had the legal option? So I asked our followers on our group, and there were just a bunch of stories of women talking about how they believed that if it had not been a legal option, then their husband or their parents or whoever would not have pushed them to abort. Does that make sense?
Megan: It makes sense. It surprises me I guess [that] that’s the case. But I mean, the way that I’m kind of thinking about this question is that all of us have our social circles where we were raised, our cultural sensibilities. [It’s] very different for me, who was raised in the deep south of Louisiana, than it is looking at the propositions out in California. It’s a very different context. And so there are different cultures of shame around not only sexuality, but abortion. So I guess…What would I say? I would really just listen. I probably wouldn’t say much other than to be empathetic and to try to understand where the person is coming from. I think that our context does affect our decisions, but there’s no way to get around that. If all of us, we were born on the other side of the world, we would have a different viewpoint of certain things because of where we were born and because of the way our parents raised us, our religion, our cultural background. And so, yeah, I think all that affects our understanding of who we are and the decisions we make. And in a sense, one of the things that Jess was kind of talking about was we want women to have access to information, so we want women to have access to their options, whatever that means, but also not to be counseled one way or the other. I haven’t been in a situation – I haven’t been in a clinic where I’ve sat and listened to what the provider says to the person. I haven’t done that. So the information that I know is not first hand. It’s from other reports. So in that sense, I’m not sure I can really speak to that. But, yeah, I still think women should have choices and options and information, but there is no way to make those decisions completely without any cultural or family influence. I just don’t think that’s possible.
Rob: Thank you. Great place to end up because Megan, you’re up for questions.
Megan: Okay, first one is for Jess. Should pregnant women suffering from addiction be subject to child endangerment charges or abuse charges or have consequences of prison time. Obviously, I don’t want it to just be a yes or no.
Jess: Yeah, and I’m so glad that we’re talking about this because I think a lot of times we can forget about the nuances and the real complexities of abortion and pregnancy and parenting. First and foremost, I will just make it so known that me and DFLA do not support any measure that seeks to criminalize any pregnant woman who seeks abortion or has an abortion. So we don’t support any of those measures. But your question was specifically asking about pregnant women suffering from addiction. Right?
Megan: Right. It will harm the fetus; it will harm the child.
Jess: Yeah. I think first and foremost, we need to be doing everything we can to make sure that we’re giving this woman and her baby and in her womb whatever kind of treatment they need to become healthy. I think there is well, this might be off topic, but there’s also a really bad opioid crisis in our country, especially out in California. I see it and it breaks my heart. So that definitely needs to be addressed. And I would be interested personally to find out the statistics on this with pregnant women, just for my own knowledge, now that we’re talking about this. But I think that we can all find common ground in that we need to be doing something about the issue itself and the addiction itself. Actually, in California, there was a bill that was just passed that was signed into Law AB 2223, and it was a really hot button issue out here. Basically, there was some really vague language that caught the attention from both sides and it said postnatal death or perinatal death, which could be I forget what it was in the bill, but it was either 30 or 60 days after birth and basically that death would not need to be investigated. And so it left the door open of, okay, 30 to 60 days after birth, and that death wouldn’t need to be investigated. Now, the legislators made it clear that, at least to my understanding, that that’s not what they meant, and they did their best to clarify, but the bill was still signed into law. But regardless of that being signed into law, which is a discussion for another day, I think it leaves the question open of what about these circumstances, because the first thing I went through my mind was addiction or any other of these circumstances. Were you referring to just for clarification, if the baby were to die from the mother’s addiction?
Megan: I think the purpose of the question is really just to what you said earlier, which is to get at the nuances of not only reasons someone might choose abortion, but also thinking about it on the other side of, okay, so the child is born addicted, their brain is smaller. They won’t have kind of what Monica referred to with the quality of life questions, but also that maybe the child is then taken away from their family. They’re harder to adopt. I have some friends who have adopted children and gone through that. It is not for the faint of heart. It is so tough. I just don’t know that there’s any social program, government program, that is enough to adequately address it. So anyway, I’m just more musing about the nuances and then kind of thinking…I appreciate what you said about the prison time or some sort of conviction, I mean what’s going to be the consequence?
Jess: Right, yeah.
Megan: And which consequences are worse than other consequences? So what suffering is worse? Several people have mentioned suffering. So that’s something that I’m concerned about too.
Jess: Yeah. I’m really glad that we’re having this discussion because 1000% we need to improve the social safety programs that are already in place. I hear all the time, well, what are the pro-life people doing about foster care and adoption? And 100% agree, 100% agree that that’s something that we all need to be concerned about. And I would say too that pro-choice and pro-life people need to come together to advocate for a better system. Actually, at Dems for Life, we work with an advocate, well two, one who is pro-life and is really into improving foster care and one who’s pro-choice and is really interested in improving foster care. So really having them – I think they’ve been through the system themselves. And so having that perspective from both ends has been super helpful in understanding this issue. But yeah, I think it definitely opens the doors to these nuances and these complexities and especially, I guess, expanding social safety nets for women who are pregnant or not who are facing addiction. It’s definitely a whole-life issue, I would say.
Megan: Yeah. I think it’s interesting to think about the child’s inside the mother. Right? And so it could be something about thinking you’re abusing this child while it’s still inside you. Anyway, just kind of interesting to think about and how that could be on par legally with aborting the child. I think that’s where I was going with that.
Jess: Oh, I see. Okay. So if the baby dies from the substance abuse?
Megan: It doesn’t necessarily have to die. It would depend on whatever your legal consequence was going to be for abortion. Right? There are legal consequences for abuse, but when the baby is in the womb, we don’t necessarily do anything. You see what I’m saying?
Jess: Sorry, can you explain that again?
Megan: Okay, so if the baby’s in the womb, the mother’s actively using what are the consequences for the mother of the baby? But anyway, I guess I’m sorry, I’m not making much sense. It’s really late.
Rob: Could I try to rephrase the question?
Megan: I don’t know. Are you going to quote Revelation again? Because I’m just gonna be like, sorry, man.
Rob: Yeah, no, I’m not. I think kind of the aim Megan is getting at, hopefully, is instead of a yes or no. I mean, you might say yes, you might say no. But if a woman is pregnant and she is actively using opioids or methamphetamines or maybe even LSD, something that is going to be obviously negatively affecting the child, chronically addicted to alcohol, smoking five packs of cigarettes a day, and that woman is positively pregnant. She knows she’s pregnant, and she’s doing it anyway. Should that woman be charged with some sort of reckless child endangerment? Yes or no and why either way? Is that a good reframing?
Jess: Yeah. Okay. Honestly, that’s what I thought the question was, but I wasn’t sure if that’s what we were wanting to take the angle at, if we wanted to go [that] direction, but I’m happy [to] .
Rob: Is that a decent reframing, Megan?
Jess: Yeah, that’s what I thought she was [getting at].
Rob: Megan, is that a decent reframing?
Megan: That’s fine. Roughly.
Rob: Okay. Yeah. I guess your answer, Jess, was kind of like, this is hard, and it’s a whole-life issue and we maybe need to take it…
Jess: No, I mean, now I have a more direct answer.
Rob: Okay. Yeah, go for it.
Jess: Yes, absolutely. It would be so sad. But it’s still complex. But the way we see it is with the case of abortion, these women, again, like I mentioned, I’ve worked with them one-on-one. Again, I was not at that appointment when they were at the facility or the clinic. This is them recounting their experience to me of feeling victimized, of feeling like they weren’t given full consent or full information. Google told them more than their doctor. This is all what they recounted to me. I see that women are the victims here because they’re not given the information that they need to make a full choice. And so that’s why we don’t support any criminalization of women who seek abortion or have an abortion.
Rob: Do you want to ask any follow ups, Megan?
Megan: I don’t think so. I think we’ll let it lie. Okay. All right. Monica, should any procedures or treatments be done on fetuses in the womb or on pregnant women during pregnancy? Since there are often risks to the unborn child, what treatments do you consider experimental?
Monica: So I don’t know if I could point to specific treatments, but I think every one of those it would just be an issue of evaluating the risks if you don’t and the risks if you do. So I wasn’t clear if you’re talking about treatments like fetal surgery or if you’re talking about treatments..So it would just depend on the risks if you don’t do it. Like if you’re worried about a child who will not survive if they don’t have an open spine, like their spine is open if they don’t have it shut, or if they don’t have I forget the medical term for it. But when your organs are developing outside of your body cavity and there are surgeries you can do to put them back in, but they have risks. It depends on it would be like, I think, most other medical procedures when you’re talking about parents and children, where, like, if you had a born child who had severe medical issues and there were procedures or treatments that could help or could make it worse, you would have to evaluate the odds and make the best decision you could, I think. But I don’t think that it should just be a blanket. Don’t do any treatments because they involve risks? No, I don’t think that. I think it depends on the situation. Does that answer your question?
Megan: I think it does. I think that brings some nuance to the conversation, because even like you were saying, the parents decide. Right? The parents make the decision for the child. When your kid’s at the hospital, the parent has the final say. It’s not the doctor. There are limits and…
Monica: There are corner cases…
Megan: …but as a general rule you mean…say that again?
Monica: I said there will be corner cases. I can’t think of examples, but there’s been situations where the parents want to do something that’s really against medical advice, and there might be… sometimes there’s a corner case, but as a general rule [yes].
Megan: Yeah, right.
Kobby: I could add to that the New England Medical Journal. I don’t know how many years back, I gave it to a real life legislator. I had to get someone else to come with me because he would only accept things when he’s in the general public or from his own constituents. But it had, if I remember correctly, a woman decided that she did not want an abortion and she was going to carry to term and to allow the child to not be intervened, and her doctor agreed, but a hospital administrator intervened and they went to all medical procedures to keep that baby alive. And she wanted to carry to term because of religious reasons, I believe, but the administrator intervened, and so they now have a round-the-clock medical attention and their whole lives have changed. You never know with pregnancies where you’re going to end up. That’s why life insurance doesn’t give you life insurance until you’ve delivered.
Monica: Yeah. Reproduction is very messy. I’ll agree with you.
Kobby: Yeah. And it’s risky business. Takes women’s bodies to the edge.
Rob: That’s also a pretty decent segue for Kobby’s questions. So, Kobby, if you want to take it away with your assigned questions.
Kobby: Okay, let’s see. Where did you put it? You said we chose for Megan. No, for Monica. You chose for Monica. This is the one. I went and interviewed doctors when I was pregnant to decide who I wanted to be my physician, and I asked, if there was a crisis, what would the doctor do? One doctor told me that would save the fetus first, and me if [he] was able to do that. So I give that doctor a lot of credit for being honest to that question. My husband gave me a lot of credit for being polite and leaving quietly. Later on, this doctor actually became the physician for the pregnancy center and improved it greatly, very much like some of you have spoken. Jess in particular, I have talked to a number of women who went to crisis pregnancy centers that are not necessarily staffed by medical people. And we used to have a lot of problems long ago with the pregnancy center here because they would not give accurate reports to people, and they were misled and they were very hurt by it. But anyway, this gentleman was very honest to me, and I was appreciative of that. My question is, what basis do you use to decide which to value more, the woman or the fetus that can be applied universally to all people?
Monica: I don’t believe that we should value one more than the other, and therefore, I would also not use that doctor, same as you, when I was pregnant. I have four children, and if I had interviewed a physician who had said that, I also wouldn’t have gone with them. I think that in cases where there’s a threat to the mother’s life, hopefully there’s a way to save both. But if there’s not, I see that as tragic and self defense. But when I’m talking about abortion broadly, the vast majority of abortions are performed on healthy fetuses carried by healthy women. And in those cases, I don’t view the anti-abortion position as valuing the fetus more than the woman, because I don’t want either of them to die, if that makes sense. I think that they both have a right to live and to be protected. And I view most abortions not all, but most abortions not as like a triage between, well, will the child die or the woman, but as nobody was going to die. And then an abortion is an intervention that causes someone to die. So back to your question of how you – I’m trying to find it here to make sure I answer it correctly – What basis do you use to decide which to value more and how could it be applied universally? I want to try to create a system that values them equally. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to have a basis that says value one more than the other in general. And like we were talking about with Megan, there will always be hard cases where you’re going to have to make a call. But as much as it’s possible, I want to protect both.
Kobby: Thank you.
Rob: Kobby, do you have one more question for Jess?
Kobby: Okay. Jess, if women cannot decide what to do with themselves, what they do with their body, then how can they be full citizens in the United States? For example, no one tells a person, you have to give up their kidney to someone else or to have – did this get written right? One is to be able to keep their kidney. One is to be able to give up their kidney or to have it taken out. So I’m not sure the sentence reads right. For example, no one tells a person [they] have to give their kidney to someone else or to have a kidney. I guess we should say not remove when doctors recommend it. Anyway, how is this different? Is that understandable?
Jess: Yeah, it’s really interesting because I actually follow Monica and I think she has a really good response to this, too. So if she wants to hop in and give her response…but I think it’s a really intriguing and insightful way to bring up this issue. But for the first part, I know we might have to agree to disagree here, but I think that the fundamental difference of pro-life and pro-choice, a big one, is human life or human being and when personhood begins. And so for that, for the first part, I would say that bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are extremely important, but they should never come at the cost of a human life. And I’m not saying human person, I’m not saying human being. I’m saying human life. If it’s not a human, then what other species? It comes from the same species as us, homo sapiens and life…if it’s not a life, how is it growing? Sorry, I’m looking at the responses and so please feel free to step in, but like I said, we can agree to disagree. But that’s just me giving my explanation that they should never come at the cost of a human life. And an abortion is an ending of a human life. And as far as the kidney argument goes, I would say that it fails adequately to represent the case of abortion. If having one’s kidney inside another person is analogous to being pregnant, then donating the kidney is analogous to becoming pregnant. And for me, I feel like that all this would prove is that the government should not forcibly impregnate anyone. And I would most certainly agree with that statement.
Kobby: I don’t think I represented it properly. I’m trying to get to the point that Rob or any male is not going to be pregnant. And so how can I be a full citizen in the United States if I have these restrictions put on me? Whereas that is not happening for a male that I can think of. Can you think of where I’m thinking from?
Rob: I do. I think the only real analogy I could think of, and this isn’t a good counter, I’ll say that right now. I think there’s only one analogous way where you don’t feel like you have full citizenship if certain rights are taken away.
Kobby: You’re going to put me in jail?
Rob: No, I think the only male response would be that we are the only sex that in this country that will be forced at gunpoint to die for our country. We are the only ones that are drafted.
Kobby: That’s not true. Women are on the front lines [of] the military and the women can be installed overnight.
Rob: Women are not…as of 2022…
Kobby: You don’t sign up for the [selective] service, for just like the service.
Rob: I did admit this is not a good analogy, but within your citizenship analogy, that like if you don’t see yourself as a full citizen, if there’s any sort of barrier to contraception and there’s no analogous to my sex male, my only counter would be it’s not a good representation, but I’ve heard some men on the pro-life side, and I am not arguing this because I personally feel even on the pro life-side, this is why I invited four women on, because I think since there is obviously a direct result of pregnancy for women, that they should be talking about that more than the males taking a lead. But I have heard males on the pro-life side make kind of an almost opposite argument where women need to be in the Selective Service to be able to be full citizens. So if you want to be able to vote, you should have to be in Selective Service. Now that’s getting way off.
Kobby: No, but I actually would agree because as a mother, I don’t want to send my sons or my daughters. But if you’re going to have a country and you’re going to stand up for your country, then that is the duty of all citizens.
Rob: So I think your question then is getting at how can you be a full citizen if your rights are being infringed? Is that your question? More or less. Because you see a portion of…
Kobby: Yes, because historically women do not have full rights under the US constitution.
Rob: Historically, yeah, that is correct
Kobby:…and we still don’t even though the Equal Rights Amendment was fully ratified. So we’re hanging on a technicality right now and sooner or later the 28th Amendment will come through and some of these arguments will be much more difficult.
Rob: I think one of the main arguments against the ELA in the ‘70s was that if it was enacted that women would have to be immediately put in the Selective Service,
Kobby: They already have it. The Defense Department already has it set up, from what I’ve been told. Interesting…if they need it, I’ve been told that from people in the military, but I’m not an expert, so I can’t speak to it directly, just second hand information. But we do have women and they have tried very hard to be able to not be just support because actually they end up on the front lines. Even when they tried to have them be just support and then they weren’t able to also rise in the ranks because they didn’t have experience. So some of that has changed.
Rob: I think we’ve followed up. Unless, Jess, if you want to add any last bits to Kobby’s question for your answer. If not, you can just ask your questions.
Jess: Okay, I’ll go right to my questions. Sorry about that. Sorry, I have to pull them up. So these are my questions for Kobby and Megan, right?
Rob: Correct. Yes.
Jess: Okay. I have it right here. Okay, so my question is for Kobby. Sorry, we kind of already touched on these questions before, so I apologize if it’s really redundant. But for Kobby, how do you feel about the labels of pro-choice versus pro-abortion? Do you think the messaging is too radical? What would you like pro-choice people to do better? And I guess the follow up, to do better to find common ground with pro-life people?
Kobby: Okay, yeah, because I really didn’t understand the last part of your question.
Jess: What do you think pro-choice people or the movement as a whole can do better to find common ground with pro-life people?
Kobby: Okay. I actually am part of an organization that has for many decades used the word abortion when other people did not. I have on, actually, the iconic pin, “keep abortion legal.” I think some people are not as comfortable with that. But given where the majority of the Supreme Court has taken us this spring, a lot of people seem to now utilize that word and understand why it needs to be spoken. I really think that in general, our society, our culture, the unspoken things, the silences, are really dangerous to all of us. And those unspoken rules are actually stronger than the written laws and rules that we have. So from my perspective, it’s all about my reproductive rights and justice for reproduction. I think we have a lot of common ground there, and I can only personally speak to those kind friends who are strongly opinionated in a different way than I am and work at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. And I can say that I went there with my board and visited, and there were aspects of it that I found extremely uncomfortable. And there were aspects where you’re talking about caring for people, and you want to know how long you’re caring for people. Are you just caring for them when they have a little infant of a couple of months? Or how is this society going to value women and children better? So I think there is a lot of common ground there. I think the most difficult is really the difference where we come down on where you were talking about personhood or when life begins. And a lot of that I view personally, I can only speak for me as cultural and as a religious person. I know in my own church that there is a wide variety of opinion and we are very respectful of each other and it was my minister who went and asked me to please bring a request for my abortion fund that I’d been doing for probably a good 15 years at that point. And I was like, I’m not sure that would be a good thing because I don’t want to bring divisions to this church. And he said, no, that is part of our religion, to respect other people and where they are. I’m not sure that answers your question. So if you’d like to…
Jess: No, you answered it. I love how you’re really honest and you’re really transparent, and I just personally, I think especially now, it’s so important to find common ground. So I guess a follow up would be and for everyone watching, I think this is going to be important for a larger discussion, too. I think the fundamental difference is personhood and when life begins. And I love how Monica phrases it, of morally valuable human beings. So I guess, taking it a step further, tip of the iceberg, how can both people find common ground in that topic? Specifically, how do you think we should have these discussions? Where do you think we should start about human life and personhood?
Kobby: For me, I think that, and why I even agreed to do this last minute, not knowing what I was getting into, is I really think that just trying to talk and articulate. It’s kind of a messy business, but we all gain from that and learn from that and it expands our views and helps us clarify.
Jess: Yeah, no, I think yeah, definitely the conversations that we’re having now, too, they can be – I think it’s important that they’re supposed to be the only way that we’re going to be stretched from both sides is if they’re actually difficult and we have the hard conversations.
Kobby: Yeah. I mean, unfortunately, society does not take care of women and children very well. If you’re wealthy, you have all kinds of choices, but even then there’s racial biases and things. We have some people that are very famous that they’ve had trouble in pregnancies and almost died. Right?
Kobby: But the other side of it is I keep coming back in my head in this conversation to if I decided to have an abortion, knowing that there are individuals present who would try to restrict me from that. And whereas I would not try to restrict you from your situations if you chose to do any of a spectrum of things. And so how do we deal with that fact?
Jess: Yeah. Are you asking me?
Kobby: I’m just sort of stating this difficulty because especially with folks that I do other volunteer work with and we’ve known each other for so many years, we trust each other, we help each other out in bad times, but we have that – on this subject that is still there.
Rob: Do you have one more for Megan? Unless you want to do a follow up with Kobby?
Jess: No, I think Kobby really hit it home. I think that’s the question, right. That is at the core of the abortion issue that we need to have the conversations around. But yes, my question for Megan, we really kind of hit it at the beginning. We got into the weeds of it a little bit. I apologize if this is redundant, but I would love to hear further insight. So, according to a Forbes article, 59% of women who seek abortion are below the poverty line. And according to the Guttmacher Institute, 73% of women seek abortion due to economic hardship. As a pro-choice person, do you think our focus needs to be more on lowering the abortion rate?
Megan: I would say no, the focus would need to be on lowering the poverty rate.
Jess: Yeah, I really like how you stated that. Yeah.
Megan: I don’t know. Are there people who would answer that differently?
Jess: No, I think by…
Megan: I feel like that was a set up.
Jess: No, I was totally not meaning to set you up. I’m saying I actually like how you stated that because by lowering the poverty rate, we will be lowering abortions because that’s the main reason women seek them.
Rob: Yeah, I think that was one of the biggest surprises when I was diving into this issue a few years ago, was being so pro-life and pretty staunchly and rigidly pro-life, I didn’t know about the kind of economics background and whether not only poor, but most women who seek an abortion tend to already have a child. They tend to be older. It’s not this, like, teenage woman who didn’t know about contraceptives. Not that those don’t exist, but yeah, now I think part of educating oneself is hopefully your views will become, if not more nuanced than at least more understanding.
Kobby: Yeah. I really think that we probably all agree that if we care for folks and you give them a way to live and education and access to contraception, all those things lower abortion. Because, like Megan had said, some people are forced into abortion because they can’t use contraceptives. But I can tell you from one-to-one, there’s such a variety of situations that women come forward with. And I’m struck with the women who would call it 26 weeks, and they had just learned about anomalies, and the doctors were telling them for their own health and for future pregnancies that they needed to have an abortion. And all their dreams were blowing up and there was huge expenses to the mom on the line with a twelve year old who’s been raped by some family member. It’s just such a breadth of situations. To the person who paused and said, whoops, you know, I didn’t mean for this to happen, and just can’t do this right now. So variety and circumstances are, like you said, huge and complex.
Rob: Well, thank you to everyone for joining us tonight. Does anyone want to say one last thing if they really felt like they didn’t get to make some sort of statement or if they wanted to ask anyone one more clarifying question, I want to make sure that we had an open ending type thing.
Megan: I want to ask Jess what her definition of personhood is and how she defines that. ‘
Jess: Yeah, for me, I don’t see a difference between human life and human being. And the best way I can think of it is I don’t think we see people as people even outside of the womb. And what I mean by that is with these issues, especially after 2020 that was really a hard year with these issues of racism, with the issues of homelessness, with the issues of human trafficking. We see it even outside the womb that there is a lack of respect for the human person and human dignity. And so for me, looking at it, I firmly believe that when we see human life, when we see human life from the moment it begins as a human person and as a human being, that we will see a transformation and how we respect and protect human life from every moment after.
Megan: What are you defining, though, as the moment it begins? What is that?
Jess: Oh, fertilization. Fertilization.
Megan: Fertilization? Oh so you mean like an embryo?
Jess: A zygote, yes.
Megan: Or you mean like implanted?
Jess: A zygote, yes. When I explain it to other people, I totally get if I say, okay, well, a human person begins at fertilization. Right. There’s a lot of feedback. I say human life, and 96% of biologists agree that human life – human life not – I’m not saying human being or human person. Human life begins at the moment of fertilization. That the first cycle of human life is the zygote. And I did not study biology. I don’t have a background in it. But even just a simple Google search will tell you that human life begins at the moment of fertilization.
Monica: If I could interject for a second, because there’s always a lot of confusion around using these terms. It’s why I say if we’re talking about when an organism begins, like you and I, as biological organisms, we begin as the zygote and then the debate about personhood. I’m not trying to speak for Jess, but I’ve seen pro-lifers sort of have two different responses to that, and one of them is people who find the entire personhood discussion problematic in its very existence. They talk about how the idea of a human non-person has historically been used to justify really terrible human rights atrocities, and they just, like, reject the premise, or that’s one version. Or they say that I think what Jess is saying, which is that once you have a human organism present, then you have a person, then you have a morally valuable being, if that’s what you mean by person?
Monica: … for the duration of their life.
Megan: So what do we do with the embryos, the fertilized eggs, the embryos that are, like, frozen?
Monica: Yeah, there’s a lot of pro-lifers that think that’s really wrong and that shouldn’t be happening, or that there should be some kind of limitation on how many embryos you can create in IVF.
Megan: So where are you all on that, you and Jess? Because with the system, reproductive technology, again, it’s medicine, right? It’s again, this relying on the medical field like you’re talking about, it’s kind of interesting.
Monica: Yeah, I think that when we start, there’s a lot of interesting and complicated questions like that stuff to do with IVF and stuff to do with how common miscarriage is and things like that. But usually I find – I’m not saying you’re doing this, Megan – but usually I find what people are asking about, that they’re more trying to determine if we really mean what we’re saying or if we only apply it in the case of abortion and not with other zygotes or other embryos that aren’t specifically about…
Megan: Yeah, I want to know, do you think that the embryo – a frozen embryo – is a person?
Monica: Yeah, I think a frozen embryo is a frozen human being and that there’s a problem with the way IVF commodifies our children. Yeah, I do. I also think infertility is heartbreaking, and I think there are ways you could do IVF that would be fine. I don’t have a problem with using so-called artificial methods versus natural methods to reproduce. Like, this isn’t a natural versus artificial distinction. So theoretically, if you could do IVF, where you create embryos that you’re going to try to implant and the ones you don’t, they have – what is it called? “snowflake adoption” – where people who can’t afford to do that, you can let them adopt those embryos. I don’t see anything – like I can see where it’s strange – but I don’t think [there is anything] immoral about it.
Megan: But on the other end, do we allow natural death for all fetuses that can’t or all children who can’t live outside the womb without assistive technology?
Monica: What do you mean? Sorry.
Megan: Breathing tube. Trach vent.
Monica: I think that’s case by case, just like it is with children who are already born. And that’s something that would be hard to make a blanket statement on, because it depends on how much they would suffer with the interventions you’re doing and if it’s even going to work. I don’t think you could make one blanket statement on that for born or pre-born. I think it’s the same thing either way. But I don’t think the fact, like, if you say, do we allow natural death for five year olds? And we debate about when you would have interventions and when you wouldn’t, I don’t think either one of us would be saying, well, a five year old is not a morally valuable human being. We’re saying, well, they clearly are, but how do we make these decisions when we can’t fully control everything? But I don’t think that’s comparable to abortion, because the vast majority of abortions, you don’t have some triage situation. They will be fine if you leave them alone. And you are talking about a variety of other reasons…
Megan: Yeah I was just trying to….the personhood aspects that Jess brought up.
Monica: Yeah, I completely agree with what Kobby was saying earlier. And I think you guys mentioned too, I think reproduction is very messy and difficult, whether you’re dealing with infertility or you’re dealing with unintended and problematic pregnancies. I don’t try to deny that there’s some very serious situations. I also think that we talk a lot as we should about the difficulties that we create when we restrict abortion for people who would otherwise seek it. But I don’t think we talk as much as I also think we should about destigmatized abortion specifically. So getting a little bit away from the legal discussion one way or the other….But theoretically, like in the multiverse, you could have abortion that is legal at any stage for any reason, but the cultural generally kind of looks at it as like, yes, it’s legal, but it’s a necessary evil. Or you could have it legal at any stage for any reason and you’re like, well, it’s not evil, it’s not good, it’s just a medical option. Or you could have, I guess, people who think it’s really awesome if the multiverse could have everything, but the cultural response and destigmatizing abortion – it makes it easier for some people who would struggle to get abortions if it was really stigmatized, but it also makes it harder for some people who experience a lot of pressure because they may want to carry a pregnancy to term that’s going to be very, very difficult. And because abortion is considered a morally neutral option, the people in their circles and in the culture around them are kind of like, you’re making this really difficult. You’re taking up a lot of resources. And this is already true now, and it was true before Dobbs, especially when it comes to prenatally detectable life-compatible disabilities like down syndrome or spina bifida. We have a lot of parents that I have talked to and that we’ve worked with who did not want to abort in the case of a prenatally detectable, life-compatible disability. And this is kind of getting maybe into a tangent, but there’s a lot of ableism in the medical community not specific just to abortion, like, generally speaking. And it manifests in this situation where you have people really pressuring parents to hurry up and get an abortion when they don’t want to. They want resources. There was a woman I interviewed one time who she got pregnant by accident. It wasn’t a crisis, but it was unexpected, right? And they were carrying through the pregnancy and then they found out that they had a prenatal diagnosis of down syndrome and they weren’t really sure exactly how they felt or what they wanted. And the OB she had, he brought up the option. I think that’s like in a world where abortion is legal, you’re the OB, your job is to say, here are the things you can do. I personally am against abortion, but I get why an OB would bring up the option. But then when she said, I definitely don’t want to do that, he would not stop bringing up the option and at subsequent things and whatever, it was becoming a problem. And so then they switched over to a man whose sister had down syndrome and he said, “congratulations on your beautiful baby, here are all these resources for you in the community that we can connect you to” and all these things. And it was a world of difference that made her feel very reassured. She had her child, she loves her child and so on. I’ve had a lot of people tell me the opposite, where they ended up choosing abortion thinking that they had to or thinking it was going to be this really terrible, horrible thing if they didn’t, or thinking it was wrong for them not to because they’re child would suffer. And the reason I’m going on about this is not because I think this represents all abortions, I don’t. But because when we restrict abortion, we make it more difficult for people who would otherwise want to get them. And I don’t deny that. But when we make it destigmatized, we make it more difficult for people who don’t want to get it because there’s no way to uplift abortion as this morally neutral thing without saying, well, if it’s a morally neutral option, then why are you doing everything the hard way? This is true also, I’ve seen this with teenage parents, young teenagers who get pregnant and they maybe kind of want to go like have the kid and try and people are like, you’re putting your family in poverty, this kid is not going to have the resources they need to do well. And all these things and the people saying that, I don’t think that they are ill intentioned. I don’t think that they’re like, “yay abortion, push abortion.” That’s not what I’m saying. I think that they think these women are going to have children and it’s going to be really, really hard and children and women are going to suffer and they’re trying to give them good advice, you know what I mean? But part of that advice is born of destigmatizing abortion. And you see what I’m saying? I feel like there’s two sides to the coin and there’s no – I don’t pretend there’s any perfect solution. I just wanted to point out that there’s that part of it too.
Kobby: So it does not seem as draconian as where we are now.I don’t think it’s right for the OBG doctor to give you options and then kind of push an option on you. Sure, I think we all would agree on that.
Kobby: Yeah, hopefully.
Monica: I think everyone on this call would agree on that.
Kobby: Yeah. But if somebody doesn’t want to abort like you said for someone, I would say that’s their choice. Right?
Monica: Yeah. [That’s] the difference there. So everything I just said about increased pressure and destigmatization, I think those are concerns we need to be aware of. But they’re not why I think abortion should be illegal.
Kobby: And they’re hard. Because if somebody’s not self supporting yet, but they can certainly get pregnant and they can certainly give birth and they can certainly have a child
Monica: Yeah. And you can’t predict the future one way or the other.
Kobby: You don’t know the future. None of us do.
Monica: You’ve probably all heard of the Turnaway study that found that almost no women regretted choosing abortion. Like five years later, 99% of women said they did not regret that they got an abortion.
Kobby: But some did.
Monica: Some did. Yeah, of course, there’s always going to be some non-zero amount. But what I find interesting is the same study, and this wasn’t as publicized, I had to dig pretty hard to find it actually. The same study found that women who went to clinics to get abortions and were denied because they were just over the clinic’s gestational limit, five years later they no longer wish they’d gotten abortions. They had their children. They went through everything they went through, and they didn’t wish they had gotten abortions. And again, I don’t think that’s an argument for making it illegal. That’s not what I’m saying. I think it should be illegal because I think it’s wrong to kill the human in the womb. That’s a separate thing. But in terms of effects, I think people are more resilient on both sides of the coin. So our side, the pro-life side, talks about abortion regret, which I do think exists, and I think that people who talk about it, they shouldn’t be gas lit if that’s what they went through. But I also think our side doesn’t grapple as well with women who don’t regret it. They made that choice. They felt it was the right choice for them. They went on with their lives, and they’re not secretly this ticking time bomb where 25 years [later] they’ll have all this guilt and shame. Maybe some, but I believe there are women who don’t regret it. But the Turnaway study also found that women who weren’t able to get an abortion, who wanted one, they ended up not regretting it either. So I don’t think it’s as straightforward as one or the other. I think people are largely quite adaptable.
Kobby: I don’t know if this just popped in my brain. I can remember – might have been at the fair, but I can remember somebody saying, well, you don’t want to lose an Einstein.
Monica: Yeah. I don’t think that’s a good argument. You could also be losing a Hitler.
Kobby: Exactly. You don’t know what’s going to happen, and you hope that every parent will love their children. But I can tell you from being on the PTO and for middle school children, half the parents vanished…
Monica: Yeah. You hope that everyone will come around
Kobby: …and it was left to the rest of us to set up a before and after school [program] to make sure that they had the instruction and the care that we felt they deserved.
Monica: Yeah. And we have easy common ground there. Easy common ground there. We want every child to come into existence in a situation where they will be properly cared for, both logistically and emotionally. No notes. I agree.
Rob: Kobby or Jess, is there any question, last little bit that you might have thought of or maybe want to expand on before we do a little outro?
Kobby: I guess, the logistics of where we are now, where it’s illegal and I don’t know. I haven’t counted recently, but at least 15 states…
Rob: There were trigger laws on 17 states that more or less made it illegal.
Monica: I think some of them are in court right now, somewhere on hold in court.
Kobby: But the issue, the reality that doctors are confused and not sure what they can do for people, and withholding medications from people that aren’t even pregnant, that people are just… the whole complexities of pregnancies where they spontaneously abort and then people question whether they’ve had abortions. The reality is really messy and traumatic. And in a way, I would say everything we’ve talked about in terms of the opposite of not caring for all people and not thinking about the short and long-term consequences we’re having now as a society and a culture are having to face the realities of all those nuances, those difficult or exceptions, but they’re really real hard and tragic. It’s just tragic. For that reason, I just don’t think we should have barriers to abortion.
Rob: Jess, are there any last parting words or comments or questions you’d like [to make]?
Jess: No, I think that’s it. I guess what Kobby said too just breaks my heart from the other side of it. And I think there needs to just be – this could be for a whole other podcast, so I’ll keep it short. I think there just needs to be a larger discussion between legislation and the medical community to make sure that a doctor is treating miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy. Then they should not be afraid to give that life saving treatment. So I just think that there needs to just be a much larger discussion around that alone. It’s really important that no one should be denied that care, and it’s definitely a barrier that we need to tackle.
Rob: Thank you. Well, I’ll just do a little outro for us ladies. I’m very thankful and glad for your opinions, for your thoughts, for your views. Thank you for coming on late and coming on last minute and coming on from a parking lot and being able to talk and discuss and hopefully find some common ground or even if not find common ground, find some better understanding. Just thank you all and God bless and sleep well. Hopefully your kids won’t wake you up at 5:30 like they do me. So that’s Church Coffee for now. Thank you so much.
Monica: Thanks for this.
Rob: Our album art was done by my wife and our theme music was composed by TJ. Stokes.