Pro-Both      Preserving Life by Promoting Choice


This page contains a selection of reader comments on the ideas presented by this web site.

Critical Comments | Positive Comments | Links

Click below to submit your own comments. Selected comments will, with the author's permission, be published on this page.

Critical Comments

Rev. Ray Dubuque (May 7, 2005)
What you call "Pro-Both" isn't new, it's just a reincarnation of the search for a "middle ground" between what people imagine are "opposite" positions, i.e. pro-choice and pro-life. But the true opposites of these positions is "anti-choice" and "pro-death".

When the "pro-choice" side characterises itself as favoring choice and the other as being anti-choice, that is perfectly accurate and honest.

When, on the other hand, the "pro-life" characterises itself as favoring life and the other as being anti-life (or pro-death), that is NOT accurate and honest, either about themselves (because they are not consistent about loving and defending life, as they claim, in ALL circumstances, such as capital punishment, war, and death by neglect, poverty, etc.) or about their opponents, who are NOT against life or for death.

There already IS a consensus or MIDDLE GROUND in the U.S.A. It's called "Roe v. Wade", the position established by the U.S. Supreme Court and espoused by the Liberal Democrats of this country. To promote the idea that the "Pro-Choice" side should abandon THAT position, in order to "meet the pro-lifers half-way, is to presure it to ABANDON the MIDDLE GROUND in order to embrace an EXTREME position. See http://LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/ChristianChoice.

Jan Wolter's Response:
I don't really think of pro-both as a search for middle ground between the pro-choice and pro-life movements. I don't think that taking the opinions of two different groups of people and averaging them is a very fruitful way to find moral truth.

I see pro-both as a search for my ground. The idea that society should discourage abortion is one that feels fundamentally right to me. So does the feeling that women control of their own reproductive destiny. So I look at the options and evaluate them in the light of all my values. Moral people do that every day. Any particular policy is likely to have good consequences and bad ones. We seek policies whose consequences are overwhelmingly good. I end up with the pro-both agenda. Not a middle ground between different people's beleifs, but a balancing of my own beleifs.

I'm not really concerned so much whether pro-both is a middle ground or an extreme position on one side or the other. I'm really tired of viewing the abortion debate as a battleground and evaluating every argument in terms of its tactical utility in the war between pro-life and pro-choice. I wish we could forget all that, and just ask, "what's right?"

Chuck Watts (Apr 30, 2005)
Jan. . . I'm new to the framing process. I've talked about pro-both all my life, although I never coined the term. I'm 56, married with one daughter. It's been a weak argument. How does this frame address giving women full autonomy over your own body. Take a minute and check out this site:

Yuck. What next? Will we start putting men in jail for murder for committing the sin of Onan?

The pro-life person doesn't seem to be interested in middle ground. I think this framing of free will needs to be turned on it's head some how. For example, Jesus said NOTHING about abortion or homosexuality. The pro-life person enjoys calling himself Christian, but always quotes mostly Hebrew scriptures, or Paul who had personal problems about sexuality, too.

Jesus trumps the scriptures. They can't have it both ways. If they're going to say they follow Jesus, then they need to start talking about Jesus and what Jesus said about abortion or homosexuality.

These people are quite often the people who have the Ten Commandments stuck on their bumper or on a yard sign. But Jesus gave us TWO commandments, i.e. Love God & Love Neighbor. Check out Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 22:37-40; and Luke 10:27. Jesus trumps the Ten Commandments!

Do we really want to take on this argument with THEIR frame? For me, Pro-Both is extremely WEAK.

Aren't people of faith really trying to say to the world that a faithful person in the 21st century doesn't have to quit thinking.

Check out The Center for Progressive Christianity at

Jan Wolter's Response:
The argument presented here is mostly about how to pursue a particular set of values in the world. I've stated the values I believe in and argued from them, but I haven't said why abortion is bad or why self-determination for women is good. I haven't asked people to change their values to match mine, I've only suggested a sound course of action for people whose values do match mine.

Why are these the right values? That's a deep question, and for those with religious convictions, fundamentally a question of faith. I think we draw our values from many different wells, and if I wanted to convince people of these things, I'd need a hundred different arguments. But the only argument that I could honestly state would be the one that draws from my personal system of belief, which would resonate with only a limited range of people. As long as I'm functioning as spokesman for the whole pro-both idea, maybe it is wiser to leave arguing the roots of the values to others.

As you say, there are people who believe that not only is abortion wrong, but any separation of sex from reproduction is equally wrong. For those who believe that, the pro-both agenda is clearly a non-starter. It is in clear opposition to that viewpoint. However, I think you are wrong in characterizing this as the typical pro-life viewpoint. I think most of the people voting pro-life consider contraceptives to be either no problem at all, or a vastly smaller one than abortion.

Positive Comments

Sander W. Bellman (Apr 30, 2005)
You have made an excellent case for pro-both. You have thought outside the box on this and have come up some very workable solutions to this very polarizing issue.

I plan to put a link to this on my web site ( and will promote your site on Interent discussion groups wherever I can.

I encourage all of your readers to begin discussing pro-both in letters to editors, politicians, and among their neighbors.

Thank you for this very important insight to the "third option," pro-both.

Tonya Grimmke (May 3, 2005)
I love this idea. It gives me the real option of being truly Pro-life and Pro-choice. Abortions should be safe, legal and RARE and the only way to insure this is to talk openly and frankly about contraception and make it second nature. I have a friend that told me that because my husband and I chose to only have two children and I have an IUD to prevent any unwanted children that I don't love life. WHAT A CROCK!! I have the right to decide how many kids if any that I want to bring into this world. What about over population?? Isn't the huge IGNORED problem of hunger and homelessness in this country anti-life?? Not everyone can be breeders...
Karen Baily (May 5, 2005)
Thank you for this site. I have been Pro-both for sometime yet had no way to label my beliefs. I find your ideas to be important ones.

I think you should take some time to address the concerns of those who do not want information on sex and contraception to be available to their children. These parents have a ligitamate concern and it should not be taken lightly.

I also believe that parent support is extremly important. Women who are pregnant need to know that having a child can be a wonderful thing and that society will support their choice to become parents in very specific concrete ways.

I loved your section on the lessor of two evils problem. It is important that we stay in the reality that both abortion and the situation of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy are serious.

We must work at understanding the issues clearly and work towards the best and most effective solutions available. Good luck with your work "preserving life by promoting choice".

Jan Wolter's Response:
Thanks for your support.

I think you've put your finger on one of the most difficult questions here, one that I've scratched my head about quite a bit. As you say, many parents don't want information about sex and contraception to be available to their children. Certainly, as a parent myself, I cringe a bit at the idea of widely disseminating such information.

But information about sex and contraception is available to our children. If our teenagers have friends (or Internet access) then they will hear about sex. Much of what they will hear will be inaccurate and bereft of any positive moral framework. If we don't give them good information, bad information just pours in to fill the void we leave.

I think that our society's reluctance to talk clearly and openly about sex and contraception contributes substantially to our high abortion rate. There can be no solution without starting to talk more openly about it, and that means children will hear things. Hopefully accurate and morally sound things. I wouldn't advocate forcing parents to let their children participate in sexual education programs, but I think it would be a mistake to dilute the message in deference to them. The fight to reduce abortion is not one we can win by being shy.

"Hades Antoinette" (May 27, 2005)
I find myself really attracted to your idea. I've felt that while abortion is not something that should be frequent, it should be the woman's choice.

However, I don't feel that most pro-lifers would be willing to reach this middle ground. Most pro-lifers will want abortion banned, end of story. How many will be willing to keep abortion legal? Not that many.

But, as I said before, I really like your idea. Something needs to be done about the millions of abortions. Better sex education, etc. is a great idea, and no, not new. But one can only wonder why something like this is not being done already.

I was wondering, if you have the time, if you could provide me with some alternatives to abortion, that could keep the woman happy. You said on one page that pro-both works with women to help them acheive what they want, but can be done about that?

Thank you for your time,

Hades Antoinette

Jan Wolter's Response:
Thanks. For a woman who is pregnant with an unwanted baby, the pro-both platform has little to offer in the way of new alternatives. It's an unhappy, no-win situation. You can't just turn the clock back and make the pregnancy never happen. However, as authors of public policy, we can win in no-win situations by doing exactly that: pursue policies to try to prevent the situation from occuring. That's what we're all about here. Working to prevent unwanted pregnancies means more women get what they want (control over their reproductive destiny) while reducing abortions. A win-win solution to a no-win situation.

I think most pro-choicers don't really understand most pro-lifers. The distance between the groups is frequently less than it appears to be. All pro-lifers believe strongly that abortion is wrong, and they all want society to take a strong stance in opposition to abortion. Pro-both is 100% with them on those points. The point where pro-both deviates from the traditional pro-life stance is in exactly how society should express its disapproval of abortion. This also turns out to be the point where pro-life advocates really deviate from each other to a huge degree.

Pro-life traditionally advocates bans on abortion, but in my conversations with pro-life advocates, I've found huge differences of opinion in what kind of ban they exactly have in mind. Some would like to ban all abortions, and punish violations as strictly as we punish murderers. But many have much more mild bans in mind. I've met some pro-life people who only want to ban abortion in the third trimester (except when necessary to save the life of the mother). That hardly differs from a classic pro-choice stance. Here's a interesting page of abortion polls. Note, for example, the 2005 Gallup poll where 44% say they are pro-life, but only 22% think abortion should always be illegal.

I believe that many people are really looking for a way to take a strong stance against abortion without having the state crush individual rights. Many are conflicted about how to do that. It's hard to choose between strong regulations that send a strong message and have a real impact on the abortion rate, and milder regulations that intrude less on personal freedom. If offered a way to effectively reduce abortions, while sending a strong moral message against abortion, without illegalizing it, I think many people would find that an attractive alterative.

Part of the reason pro-choice people tend to misunderstand the pro-life position is that pro-life leaders often stake out more extreme positions than the majority of their followers hold. Fire and brimstone sound good in a political speech. I think many of those leaders may prove reluctant to take a pro-both stance, which seems more conciliatory (though paradoxically, more likely to actually prevent abortions). But I think if enough people get behind this idea, politicians will catch up.

Kayla Sawyer (Oct 12, 2005)
Hello, I'm a freshmen at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania and I'm writing an editorial for my Newswriting class about pro-both. It's not going to be published or anything. I've paraphrased a lot from your website and quoted you a few times. I hope you don't mind.

I'm so happy to have discovered your site. I never could pick a side and hated having to choose between life and choice. Thank you for coming up with this idea! You're an inspiration to alternative thinkers everywhere!

Thanks again,

Kayla Sawyer
Bud (Oct 22, 2005)
I have struggled with the issue of abortion for some time now, flipping back and forth between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice many times trying to decide what was the right stance to take in this controversial matter. On one side, I have always thought that abortion is immoral and should be as rare as possible. But on the other hand, I have never been able to justify making abortion illegal or unjust (it was the "violinist" article that really persuaded me here). I have always felt uncomfortable taking a middle-of-the-road approach, as logic has always dictated that this is an inadequate position. Perhaps this is my solution. To keep abortion legal, but take measures to make it as rare as possible. Let's hope this catches on.


The following is an incomplete collection of links to comments and discussions of pro-both on other sites.

Copyright April 2005 - Jan D. Wolter