It’s So Personal: When Principle Meets Reality

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 2 2009 @ 12:05pm

A reader writes:

 About a year ago, my cousin went into have an abdominal hernia fixed.  She was born with kidney problems that required multiple abdomen surgeries, which led to scarring and fibrous growths on her uterus that resulted in three complicated pregnancies. Just hours before she Views_of_a_Foetus_in_the_Womb_detail was scheduled for the operating room, the surgeon realized he had not conducted a pregnancy test. Despite using birth control, my cousin had somehow gotten pregnant. Considering her history and condition, the surgeon did not believe it was wise to bring the child to term. He believed she would probably miscarry without at least six months of bed rest, and that she would risk not only her health but possibly her life. She got a second opinion from another doctor who believed that he could safely help her bring the child to term, though it would be a very complicated pregnancy.

My Catholic, Republican, generally "pro-life" sister and mother related this to me at the time. My cousin had not yet decided what she would do, but my sister was certain: if she were my cousin, with three children under five years old who needed a mother to raise them (and a father who traveled often and for long periods for work), she would have terminated the pregnancy. I, on the other hand – a gay liberal pro-choice Democratic male – sensed I wouldn't have been able to go through with an abortion. I would have felt devastated thinking about having ended the possible life of my own child.

It turned out my cousin felt the same way. My aunt and uncle flew from New Jersey to Seattle and took care of their three grandchildren while my cousin remained in bed. She gave birth to another beautiful girl. Having learned to temper my tendency to engage in political arguments with my Republican family, I never revisited with my sister what she said she would have done in that situation. Nevertheless, I doubt she would ever admit that despite her professed pro-life Catholicism, she actually believes in the right to an abortion.