Head of Catholics for a Free Choice steps down

But pro-choice advocate Frances Kissling isn't leaving the abortion debate just yet.

Published February 27, 2007 8:29PM (EST)

After 25 years of leading Catholics for a Free Choice, Frances Kissling is stepping down from her post as president. Kissling, who's a devoted Catholic, has spent over 35 years trying to find common ground between Catholicism and the pro-choice movement, including leading the Condoms4Life campaign (tag line: "Good Catholics Use Condoms"), which criticized the Vatican for discouraging condoms, even in AIDS-ravaged countries. One of her more famous contributions to the abortion debate is an essay published in a 2004 issue of the Catholics for a Free Choice, called "How to Think About the Fetus," defending a woman's right to choose. In it, she points out nuances in the abortion debate and hypocrisies exhibited on both sides -- including the idea that many pro-lifers would oppose a hypothetical compromise: the development of a technique in which a fetus could be removed from the mother's uterus and either implanted in another person or developed outside a womb. As she puts it:

"The reaction of antiabortionists to the idea that a fetus could be removed from the body of an unwilling woman is as troubling. Again, one rarely hears cries of joy that fetal lives would be saved. The focus also is on the woman. But here, the view that women are, by their nature, made for childbearing dominates. Women have an obligation to continue pregnancies, to suffer the consequences of their sexuality. It is unnatural to even think that fetuses could become healthy and happy people if they did not spend nine months in the womb of a woman. One is led to believe that, for those opposed to abortion, it is not saving fetuses that matters but preserving a social construct in which women breed."

According to the New York Times, Kissling decided to step down because she worried she was on the "verge of becoming boring or predictable." But luckily for everyone looking for a more nuanced voice in the abortion debate, she hopes to either teach or write a book. We hope that whichever path she chooses, she continues to make her voice heard.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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