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Istar Holliday: When personal religious beliefs collide with others' rights
Guest Commentary

Istar Holliday: When personal religious beliefs collide with others' rights

Kathryn Jean Lopez, a guest commentator, is an anti-abortionist who expresses her religious convictions in almost every one of her columns, which is her right, under our Constitution. However, it is also my right to present my pro-abortion stance and hope to have it, too, published.

As a hospital-trained RN for years before my own child-rearing years, I practiced in large teaching hospitals in New York. I spent those years on the wards, in the O.R., in neonatal, in out-patient (when I was pregnant and transferred to a service that did not require heavy lifting). I also served the public health department for the year of the Salk Polio vaccine trials (1953), when we served in the community clinics and visited homes of the uninsured while also visiting elementary schools, injecting 100,000 school children in a “double blind” vaccine study that led to an effective vaccine to prevent Polio. I saw and heard and learned a lot.

What I learned is that all pregnant women are not alike. I learned that effective contraception was either not religiously (or medically) permitted or universally available to all women. I learned that there were children raped and impregnated by adults who were, sometimes, close relatives, like fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and who dreaded having to bear and raise the babies that resulted.

I learned that there were married mothers who were already unable to afford feeding and clothing and sheltering the children they had and were overwhelmed at the prospect of yet another baby they would have to bear for nine months, learn to love, and have to give away.

I also learned that any wealthy woman would have access to abortion. Our ORs were busy with the abortions started “spontaneously“ in a friendly doctor's office and completed in our OR as a D&C. It was only the poor who had to seek out the back-alley abortionists who often maimed or killed them. Unfortunately, those societal and financial gaps between the rich and poor still exist, as do the personal impacts of poverty, mental illness and over-crowded housing.

For all these reasons, I came to the belief that every woman has the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion, just as Ms. Lopez has the right to her religious freedom to take, or even recommend to others, her own path in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. However, I also know I have a right to object to her presenting her religious beliefs to other women as the only moral path.

Istar Holliday is a resident of Arroyo Grande.

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