Abortion is Hundreds of Shades of Grey

Abortion is not a cut and dried, black and white issue, which is how it seems to be being debated in the US. It’s hundreds of shades of grey. It’s about more than religion and women’s rights. It’s about a baby’s right to happiness.

When does an unwanted child become a happy child? Does a woman already worn out with childbearing, want another baby when she already has a houseful, courtesy of a husband? Does a thirteen year old, raped and pregnant, really want that child? Does she know how to be a mother? Does she or her family want a child who is bearing half the genes of the rapist?

Does a solo mother who made a mistake, and trying to make ends meet, really want to carry another child and bring it up, when she can’t afford the ones she already has? Does the college student, pregnant after an encounter in which the boy has disappeared in panic, really want a child who is going to blight her chances in college, and who she can’t afford?

Unwanted babies rarely become happy children. In Sweden where they’ve had a liberal policy for years, they carried out a study on the children whose mothers were refused abortion. They started the study with the children who had actually survived to their fifth birthday! The findings were heart-breaking. Most of these children did badly at school, had a range of emotional and physical problems, found it hard to make friends, and when it came to military service, most of them were rejected because they weren’t physically fit enough.

Which tells us about the lot of unwanted children. Worse still, the latest research has shown that if a mother is depressed in pregnancy – and carrying an unwanted child would surely make you depressed – it damages the development of the baby’s emotional centres of the brain, which in follow-up  studies showed that these babies were depressed for most of their lives, and prone to depressive illnesses.

Brain research has also shown us that when a baby is loved, and his or her mother spends time cuddling, talking, singing, playing, making eye contact – feel-good hormones feed into the connections of the brain in which emotional development takes place. When a baby is deprived of these’ hormones of loving connection’, as they’re called, and left to cry, feeling unloved and alone, then cortisone builds up in the brain, damaging the emotional centres. Child psychologists are now sheeting back most childhood problems like AHD, depression, anti –social behaviour, anxiety, panic attacks, to the first months of the child’s life when she was deprived of the emotional food for the brain that makes a happy child.

Obviously not all unwanted children end up as delinquent, but there are many more child suicides than we hear of – of children as young as eight or ten – there are many unhappy depressed children who grow into unhappy miserable adults, who make unhappy miserable parents, and there are also children who overcome the handicaps of their parenting and past, and grow into decent kind, even enlightened adults who have much to give the world.

It’s easy to recognise an unwanted child. They often have bad posture, they often look anxiously sideways, as though ready for the harsh word or even blow. They are always gauging the atmosphere – are the adults ok, or is it a bad day? They find it hard to look you in the eye, because they have no trust.  They have lots of accidents, sometimes caused by the adults, sometimes because accident-prone children have emotional problems… and this is just a short list of how to recognise unhappy children..

So before trying to make hard and fast rules which control women’s sexuality, perhaps we should be looking with real insight and compassion into the needs of children.

If the people – usually men- who advocate that all women should bear all babies, are they also offering support, both emotional, material, and financial to help women to bring up these unwanted babies? But how do you make a woman want a baby, if she doesn’t want the child of her rapist? I can’t imagine what it must be like to carry a child you don’t want, it was tough enough being pregnant with children I did want.

And of course a mother carrying an unwanted child is going to feel hostile and resentful, unless the miracle of bonding occurs at birth. But as any farmer will tell you, that vital connection, which ensures the life of his lambs or calves, can easily be broken.

The magic hormones that flow through the body of a woman during pregnancy and afterwards, that ensure the safe and happy birth of a baby, don’t operate automatically in all circumstances – women’s emotions are also part of the equation – they are not  child bearing machines any more than an animal is.

So to impose on all women, regardless of their age or circumstances or beliefs, a one size fits all rule is not only an infringement of women’s rights and their ability to conduct their own life, but also complete insensitivity to the needs of a baby, and complete ignorance about the miracle of birth, life and the growth of the human spirit .

If the no- abortion rule is applied to women, I feel that a compulsory sterilisation or vasectomy programme should also apply to any man who begets an unwanted child. This would probably solve the problem satisfactorily. Women would know that they were not being unfairly discriminated against if men were also subject to the same draconian principles being  promised to women, and men would know that they had to be responsible for their actions too.

If this meant a shortage of children with so many men unable to have children, then the unwanted children could be adopted into homes where a child was really, truly, wanted. Imagine a world where all children were happy – now that’s a vision to aim for – both in the US and all over the world.


Food for Threadbare Gourmets

I was desperate for some chocolate the other day, and only had dark chocolate in the house which doesn’t do it for me. So I decided to make a chocolate cake. By the time it was cooked and iced several hours later, the craving had left me, but we were also left with a lovely chocolate almond cake!

I melted four ounces of butter with four ounces of black chocolate and left it to cool. In a large bowl whisk four eggs with six ounces of castor sugar until thick and white – it does take a bit of time. When they’re ready, fold in the chocolate mixture in several batches, alternating with six ounces of ground almonds. Add a teasp of vanilla, and pour into a greased tin lined with greaseproof paper.

Bake for about three-quarters of an hour at 200 degrees or just under. The cake should be slightly undercooked, and should be left to cool and shrink a little in the pan.

When it’s ready to turn out, let it cool completely before icing it. I use three ounces of butter to about eight ounce of icing sugar, and a few teasp of water or freshly squeezed orange juice, and whisk them altogether, adding a bit more liquid if I need it. It’s an incredibly rich cake, and though it’s delicious the first day, I think it improves with keeping -if you can!

Food for Thought

It is harder for us today to feel near to God among the streets and houses of the city than it is for country folk. For them the harvested fields bathed in the autumn mists speak of God and his goodness far more vividly than any human lips.

Albert Schwietzer  1875 – 1965   Humanitarian, medical missionary,  Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Music, Nobel prize-winner and philosopher.






Filed under babies, cookery/recipes, family, food, great days, happiness, life and death, love, philosophy, politics, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

73 responses to “Abortion is Hundreds of Shades of Grey

  1. Thank you Valerie, personally from me, and on behalf of all the women everywhere who struggle with this difficult issue. I thank you for them as well! Much love, Penny


    • Penny thank you so much for your response. I was very nervous about tackling this subject and my husband was just saying I’d have an avalanche of responses which would upset me, when I saw the little yellow light come on. I said, well here’s the first, and it was your truly heaven-sent message. So thank you, I had a few tears when I read it,
      with love too, Valerie


  2. So many wonderful and insightful points here. I have always wanted to walk up to the protesters at Planned Parenthood and hand them a baby. I knew I wanted to be a certain kind of mom and provide a number of things and I knew when I could and when I couldn’t. Very well said. Yes this IS a human life. Why do you want to bring it into a resentful, angry, sad, unwanted home? You said this all so WELL. Thank you!!


  3. So good to hear from you, I had been so nervous about writing this post, wondering what I would get myself into… after years of journalism, I know it’s quite easy to get clobbered for your opinions!
    So thank you for your perceptive comments, I really appreciated them, valerie


  4. This is a very difficult subject, always has been and always I think will be. My story is written so I make no bones of my position. I am Pro-Choice, but choice is always about being able to say Yes or No. As a teenager and before Roe v. Wade was passed I was pregnant, my second mother determined not to be embarrassed forced me to abort, it wasn’t an easy abortion as it was an induction. This experience set my heart and mind to a single path, that is to protect all women in their right to full agency over their choices.

    Oddly, my first mother bore me and was forced to give me up for adoption. I met her many years later and we shared our stories. Her story causes me to believe even more strongly that the right to say Yes or No must always be firmly with the woman.

    Abortion is never an easy decision, not something women take on lightly. Whatever our beliefs, whatever our faith women consider all the consequences of our choice, including future children current children and how we will care for them. If forbend, we are pregnant from a rape there is usually no choice we have already been violated once, the thought of being violated further is so deeply disturbing most women would say no.

    Thank you Valerie you did an excellent job of this. Marvelous to look at the impact on children.

    The chocolate, oh my.


    • Hello Valentine – thank you for your thoughtful response. It is a huge topic, and I didn’t even dare mention the word “soul” !
      And I know that what I believe is not necessarily the answer for other women, and what I believe, would it crack under the duress of all the circumstances that some women have to cope with? So we can only make the decision for ourselves, based on that moment in time… and maybe it would change in other circumstances… so yes, we need choice…. and no judgement ,


      • I think the problem is and always will be is not what we individually believe for ourselves, it is how we apply those beliefs. What those beliefs mean in real terms and in the real world.

        I believe abortion must remain safe and legal.
        I believe women must have agency over their decisions without interference or judgment.

        I would not personally choose abortion in the case of an unplanned pregnancy. This decision is based on my personal ethical stance. I do not know if I would maintain this stance in the case of a pregnancy due to rape.

        My personal beliefs, ethics and morals are mine alone. They have nothing to do with another woman’s decisions and choices. That is how it must remain. This is why it must not be legislated and certainly not based on any theological standard. We have medical and scientific standards to base these issues on and these are the only standards that should apply. If we want to apply a Christian theological argument, it should be this one:

        Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.


      • Yes, I agree with you 100 per cent, and was trying to say what you have said so clearly. Yes, I too wouldn’t choose abortion for me, based like you on your beliefs, but don’t feel I have the right to impose my choice on any one else… and as I said, would this change if my circumstances were different? I can’t say… I think it’s only with compassion and love that we can approach the hundreds of shades of grey! And I love your quotation from Genesis…


  5. Anonymous

    I agree with you 1000% Valerie. Thanks for tackling this subject. It makes me crazy… the denial in this country. One of the most common reasons for unplanned pregnancies is sexual abuse. Girls/women grow up to act out the abuse not even knowing why, with their own bodies. And what about the thousands of older unwanted foster children in our country? Why isn’t the Christian right stepping up with adoption? It is disturbing how foreign adoptions are encouraged exclusively now by many churches, even providing funds, when there is so much need in their own back yard. It’s the elephant in our living room and you are right this is a very complex issue that should be looked at with compassion and understanding. Something we see very little of in this country.


  6. Valerie,I believe you have received a positive response from your readers on this sensitive subject. On behalf of women I would hate to see this decision taken from them.


  7. Michele Seminara

    You explore this topic with wisdom and compassion Valerie, and bring up important points that may not have been thought of. Well done.


  8. Valerie,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. This is a sensitive subject, but I thank you for tackling it in such a way that all can understand the impact this issue has on people, women and babies. I am pro-choice and believe the decision should always be the woman’s – to say yes or no to abortion or giving up for adoption – to decide what is best in the current circumstances for her and the baby.

    We have far too many children here in the US that could be adopted by parents who want children and can’t have any. This all gets very complicated, especially when you get the government involved.

    I do agree also with your thoughts of men taking more responsibilities for their actions. After all without them, there would be no decision to make in the first place.



    • Thank you Sunni, obviously all we bloggers feel alike – and if you’re like me, you think it’s so obvious, why would anyone think any different !!!!! But life ain’t that simple of course!


  9. Here is a thought from Margaret Sanger who challenged the status quo in the early 1900’s by opening the first birth control clinic in the U.S. “When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a new race.”


  10. Hi Valerie

    A sensitive subject, an interesting post.

    In the UK perhaps abortion, in some of its forms, morning after pill, 5 mornings after pill, for instance, have led to it being viewed as an alternative to contraception, and that in turn has led to an increasing irresponsibility amongst youngsters in particular. That can’t be a good thing.

    On the other hand, a move to restrict abortion for a woman who genuinely for whatever reason, and I think they must be her reasons, wants one, I think would be wrong.

    In later stages, abortion is never an easy decision, but I do agree it should be the woman’s decision. I didn’t know about the research findings for unwanted children. They make chilling reading don’t they? I have a beautiful two year old grandson who is much loved and you can see the confidence growing in him because of that love. It is heartbreaking to know that unloved children grow up struggling against the odds to develop that confidence and positive self regard.

    Much food for thought here.


    • Hello Corinne – thank you for your thoughtful reply.
      Only today in the NZ newspapers there was a report about the high rate of child suicides in a certain group of people – many of them teenagers – who seem to have lost all knowledge of child rearing and see pregnancy as a means to being supported… and they have no idea how to care for a baby. You can imagine the chain of inter-generational misery which results in these child suicides, These things make me feel that if young girls are as irresponsible as you describe, then having a baby would not be good for the baby!
      I think if we put our focus on the well-being of children, a lot of things would be arranged differently in our societies!
      Having grand children is one of the greatest joys in life, I feel – maybe our first experience of giving and receiving unconditional love! Enjoy it!
      I envy you your little one – mine are all grownup.- and they’re still darlings!


  11. A very insightful post Valerie, and I also agree that women should have that choice. How difficult must it be to give love to a child who is the result of a violent rape? I Can’t imagine.
    But I also agree with Corinne that there is a possibility that the ease of the morning after pill and abortion can lead to irresponsibility, so education also has to be on the agenda there somewhere.
    And, if a pregnancy is the result of an accident or one-night stand and the woman chooses to have, bring up and love that child against the wishes of the man who would prefer her to have an abortion, is it right that man be made to pay for the upbringing of that child? Especially given that I believe if the woman opted for abortion, she should be allowed to do so with or without the consent of the man involved.
    There can be no cut and dried rules here. Each person’s situation and circumstance is different and there is unlikely ever to be one rule that fits all cases.


    • Thank you for your perceptive and thought provoking comments Dory… the points you raise are so tricky, and there is, as you say, no rule that could fit the hundreds of shades of grey. My first thought is always what will be the long term result, and if it means a life of misery for a child, I find that hard to bear. Too often decisions are made both to have a child or not to, without any regard for the well-being of the child….


  12. Thank you for showing your own character, bravery and merit by discussing such a controversial topic. You opened every door that I wished and some that I had not thought of…well, because You are so wonderfully You! So right to bring in the man more seriously more creatively; excellent work there! And the more work done to demystify the original “choice”, the better, along with highlighing the many circumstances of choice that people do not “see” and perhaps need to broaden Perspective of! Over all there did not seem to be one “party” with the exception of the dear baby, that did not need more broadening and opening of Perspective….more listening, more seeing each for their uniqueness, more Heart for the courage that it takes Lisen to Ones’s Hearts…then Step Towards it……More letting in and less blocking out…seems to be the message, I I heartily Thank you for it! Love to you for This Beautiful Post and Your Own Courage which feels Endless, Love, Linda!


  13. I too applaud your willingness to tackle this subject and your abundant talent in raising it with such eloquence. I share your views and feel confident that I could not articulate this position with the same balance and delicacy. Great post Valerie – thank you


  14. So the cake. At first I thought it sounded like a brownie but then I realized what it was. Flour less. My favorite! As for the other thing. It is a highly personal decision for the woman and not an easy one. But she is the one who needs to make it.


  15. Yaz

    Brilliant article Valerie. Its just unbelievable that in this ‘modern’ world we are still debating the issue, and that people like you have to point out the practical life implications of having unwanted children. My mum didn’t want any of her children, and lucky for her, she miscarried one. The three of us had to deal with an angry repressed person during our childhoods. Thank you Valerie. Your stats were really informative.


  16. Thank you Yaz, so good to hear from you.Yes, I sometimes wonder if you have to go through it to really understand it… when my father was away at war, when my mother disappeared. I was six, the eldest of three.. but the war created so many problems that included shattered families.. life is hundreds of shades of grey too!!


  17. Amy

    Thank you for your insights, Valerie! It takes audacity to post this topic. The argument is always about religion and women’s rights. But, you brought up the key point — a baby’s right to happiness.


  18. Wonderful post! Thank you.


  19. I am going to keep this short. Please join a team to represent woman, their rights and their values Valerie. The world needs people like you. Intelligent, resourceful, honest, caring, daring … (blushing yet? 😉
    Sincerely, Lesley


    • Lesley, thank you so much for re-blogging my post… i hope it reaches someone who needs to hear another point of view! Yes, I would love to join a team if you know of one! I thought your delicious compliments were lovely, and thought the one I liked best was ‘daring’!


      • Hi Valerie, I couldn’t have said it better and so I didn’t! As for teams, I would think your best bet is to submit this* essay via online (feminest) magazines or apply for a guest post on a blogs like these – http://www.blogsbywomen.org/blog-search/?category=fem
        Posts like these have a snowball effect without the need to ‘go viral’.

        I have shared this on my FB page and via Twitter as well. It is something that needs to grow forward, not backward where it must be re-fought again and again. One woman, somewhere is unknowingly waiting for facts to back up likely the most painful decision in the world to make.

        Hugs xx


  20. susanscottsa

    Thanks Valerie, an insightful and compassionate view on it all .. I have FB’d it and I hope it reaches a wide audience. Here in South Africa rape is heart-breakingly endemic and so is abortion. Education is key – the right to say yes or no is key. Women’s’ rights are key and so are children’s right – i.e. the right to grow up in a loving environment with mother and father present, a roof over their heads, food to eat, school to attend. How we fail them! We should hang our heads in shame.
    Thank you again.


  21. I agree with you, Valerie. It’s not a decision women take lightly. Turning it into a political issue is cruel and doesn’t help anyone.


  22. What a thoughtful and well-stated approach to this issue. Seldom is the full impact of bringing into the world unwanted children–upon the child, society and the mother–considered in this never-ending debate. It is strange to hear people (often people who don’t have the same challenges in providing quality of life) demand life for “the unborn” and then not seem to care at all about the actual quality of that life.
    Keep writing.


  23. thoughtsfromanamericanwoman

    I have struggled with replying to this because it is a sensitive issue. As a woman and a mother I hear both sides of the issues but only see a baby – a child – who is denied life. I speak for the child’s rights. When a woman is raped or violently abused and a pregnancy occurs, it is a difficult situation that I cannot begin to know what the woman is going through. My heart goes out to the abused woman but also to the baby. Yes, as women we have the right to control our own bodies, the unborn child has no say in what happens to its life. As women we have the right to say no to premarital sex, we have the right to not have children and then do something to ensure we do not get pregnant. There is no easy solution when it involves rape or incest and in the long run the woman nor the child wins. I have seen the effects of women who had abortions years later go through depression, go through post traumatic issues and have trouble forgiving themselves. And yes, I have seen children who were unwanted and neglected and only wanted in order to collect welfare benefits, they in turn complete the cycle by growing up and having children for the same reason. I have also met women who adopted unwanted children giving them homes and love. So there are many issues to this subject – like you said it is hundreds shades of grey, but that said, I am pro life – I speak for the children who have rights but are denied them because the children have no voice. I do respect what you wrote, you are a very caring and compassionate person and I understand what you are stating. My humble opinion is that as women we need to take control of our bodies before we get pregnant not after and be fully informed on abortion and the after affects on our lives if tragedy strikes and through violence a pregnancy occurs. In the end it is the woman’s choice, I pray it is an informed choice from deep within us – in our hearts and not a choice to be politically correct.


    • Yes, indeed , you’ve stated some of the many shades of grey that this situation encompasses, and I respect your viewpoint, as you respect mine.
      It’s not a perfect world, and I think each person can only make own their decisions. I can only be thankful that there, but for the grace of God go I, because I don’t know how I would feel if I was caught between a rock and a hard place. It might change my personal belief that I wouldn’t choose an abortion. But I haven’t been locked into any of the situations that women who have to decide so often are.
      I do know what it is like to feel unloved or unwanted. It isn’t something I would want any child to experience, but too many do.. and my heart aches for them..
      Thank you for writing such a long and deeply felt comment. I appreciate it.


      • thoughtsfromanamericanwoman

        You have such a wonderful way with words, and it is through words that will bring healing. This is such a difficult situation with no easy solution, in a perfect there is no pain and suffering, but sadly we do not live a perfect world, right now the thing to do is to love those who are hurting no matter what choice they make. Thank you for your input, it opened up a new view for me to see things in a different light.


      • Thank you so much for your generous reply, I really appreciate your thoughts, and it’s so good that women can listen to each other and actually hear what the other is saying – warm wishes


  24. It is really refreshing to hear such an understanding perspective from an older community. As a 22 year old “kid” at a liberal college, I am surrounded by people who think exactly as I do and everyone is pro-choice, or hiding their pro-life status for fear of coming off as “judgmental” but when I poke my nose out into the real world off campus, away from the tiny coastal college town, I realize I am living in a bubble. The collegiate youth of today are almost spitefully liberal, sticking it to the man, but sometimes this anarchic attitude waters it down for me, are they really that leftist or are they running as far down the sliding scale as they can from the previous generation? Am I just in limbo, waiting to “grow up” into someone who will find a reason to swing back over to the political right? When I hear a confident adult like yourself speaking so intellectually on a topic like this, it really restores my ability to have faith in my own future, and sheds a positive light on how I can view generations that have preceded me. Thank you.


    • Thank you so much for your really perceptive and interesting reply.
      What a shame that common sense and compassion is given labels like leftist and liberal – labels cause so much trouble! People can’t see the wood for the trees when we start using labels.
      I’m glad you felt validated by reading this blog, and hope you go on thinking for yourself, knowing that your truth is what matters to you.
      If you are interested in ‘viewing generations that have preceded you’, you may be interested in reading my blog ‘; Were you there’ which is about the sixties and how we all changed. There were some wonderful comments from people ‘who were there’
      So good to hear from you
      Best wishes


  25. Val, this is such a delicate issue and you tackled it perfectly! Just look at all the wonderful comments received. . .Not just anyone could have written so insightfully on such a touchy subject! Outstanding!


  26. Pat

    Very delicate issue dealt with very delicately.
    I do wish people wouldn’t make categorical statements over such issues. There are so many things at stake and so many things that are affected by feelings. And prospective mothers do have feelings, long before the baby is viable, and those feelings do affect the child.
    I don’t know how I feel about abortion laws. I’m glad it isn’t up to me to make them. This subject has many facets – religion and women’s rights are just two. In the end, I don’t think this should be a community/church issue. It is deeply personal and whatever choices a mother makes, she and the child are the ones who end up having to live (or die) with.
    And women who want abortions will find a way. When abortion was illegal, it didn’t mean it didn’t exist.
    It was just grubbier, more dangerous and even more miserable than it is now.


    • You’re so right, Pat… banning things only makes them go underground, and as you say, it’s much worse then, with all the ramifications that go with knowing you’re breaking the law as well as coping with all the other anguish…


  27. This is exactly how I feel only you expressed it so much better. I will miss reading your blogs. Good luck to you and yours.


  28. Very wise post Valerie. I think the whole discussion around the issue of abortion needs to be taken out of the hands of the lunatic fringe of the religious right, which in some parts of the world think it’s OK to murder a doctor who has administered an abortion (regardless of the reasons for that abortion).

    It seems that abortion is a very convenient stick for those that crave power to beat women around the head with and. As you say, it’s a very complex issue which should not be used as a tool of opression in the way that it is by certain churches, right wing politicians and others of a megalomaniacal bent.

    And the consequences for the innocent offspring are so often devastating. I really like your suggestion that those who deny women the responsibility of managing their own reproductive biology should subsequently take on the responsibility for providing all the support a child needs. But I suspect those that preach that absurd dogma have neither the wit nor the will to accept the inevitable consequences.

    Did you see the story from Ireland this week of Savita Halappanavar, the lady who died beacuse she was refused an abortion? She was apparently refused one because in the words of her doctor ‘Ireland is a Catholic country’. It seems that this tragedy has ignited a fierce debate in Ireland, which will hopefully spread to other countries.


    • Hello,
      gradually working my way through your wonderful comments!
      I love these conversations…
      Yes, I’d seen that dreadful incident in Ireland… I think it may be the catalyst for some deep re-thinking…
      I sometimes think that people who hang in with the “all abortion is wrong” as mentally lazy, – it’s so easy just to say that BIg Daddy in Rome says it’s wrong, and then you don’t have to think any more but just hold the line, knowing you’re Right !
      A sweeping generalisation I know but sometimes its satisfying to make a sweeping generalisation when you know you’re safe !!!


  29. Fantastic post. Thank you Valerie!


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