I’m against war, the death penalty–and abortion I am a political enigma. On most issues I am far to the left of the Democratic Party. “Bleeding heart liberal” doesn’t even come close to describing me. Forced to choose, I suppose the Green Party would come closest to representing most of my views. Like many progressives, I usually end up holding my nose and voting Democrat, or I choose some obscure write-in candidate who more closely shares my views. I long to vote for a presidential candidate like Dennis Kucinich was before he did his abortion flip-flop.

Here’s the rub: I’m against war. I’m for justice and jobs for the poor. I work to abolish the death penalty … and I oppose abortion.

While I could never bring myself to vote for former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms or any member of the Bush family, I do agree with them that abortion is a bad choice.

Obviously, abortion is not good for babies. But what is just as clear, but less well known, is how bad abortion is for women.

In my own life I’ve seen friends choose abortion only to find themselves living with regret for the rest of their lives. That’s only the beginning, however. Clinical studies show all kinds of health risks for women who have abortions. Pro-choice groups generally disclaim these risks, but they are real nonetheless.

I am a feminist. I just don’t see abortion as the solution to women’s problems.

How does abortion provide women with equal pay for equal work, or with the opportunity to break through the glass ceilings in the business or political world? If abortion really does improve women’s lives, then why don’t we have more women in positions of power since abortion on demand has been our national norm for more than 30 years now?

I have plenty of friends who describe themselves as “personally opposed to abortion” but “pro-choice” politically. While I don’t know what the best political solution is when it comes to abortion, I can unequivocally say that some choices are just not good ones.

It was a bad choice for President Bush to bomb and occupy Iraq. It’s a bad choice for Gov. Mike Easley to continue to support the death penalty. And it’s a bad choice when a pregnant woman decides to end the life of her unborn child.

Do I think a woman who chooses abortion should end up in prison? Of course not. Very few people would ascribe to such a philosophy.

Do I think that both men and women have to take responsibility for their actions? Yes, I do. And I think that responsibility goes beyond using contraception. Most people who have sex know that a consequence could be pregnancy, even if they are using contraception.

Let’s set aside the hard cases of rape and incest, which actually constitute a very small percentage of U.S. abortions. I’m talking about two consenting adults taking responsibility for their actions.

I certainly know, from firsthand experiences in my family, how inconvenient, embarrassing and even agonizing an unplanned pregnancy can be. But I also know that I wouldn’t trade the lives of my daughter or my nieces for anything.

Beyond that, however, I know that “abortion on demand” like we have in the United States is simply wrong. It hurts women and kills babies.

Among liberals such a statement is often met with opposition, if not disgust, but I am far from alone in my beliefs. Quite a few religious leaders oppose abortion, people like His Holiness the Dalai Lama; the Right Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Rev. Daniel Berrigan; Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman; Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire; Duke professor of Christian ethics Stanley Hauerwaus; and Sister Helen Prejean, death penalty opponent and author. We can even count The Village Voice‘s Nat Hentoff, an avowed atheist, as a fellow believer. The late Sister Evelyn Mattern, a renowned poet and North Carolina activist, also saw the truth in valuing all life.

That is really the bottom line for me: All life is sacred. I’d like to make a bumper sticker that says, “Respect Life. Practice Nonviolence.”

I believe we are all woven together in a web of life, and what hurts one hurts us all. For that reason I work to abolish war, capital punishment, poverty, racism and abortion and euthanasia. I know my views are not popular with many progressives–or conservatives–but I can only hope that holding a consistent ethic of life philosophy will help to bring about the kind of world where we can all live in peace, “with liberty and justice for all.”

Mary Rider is executive director of Consistent Life (formerly Seamless Garment Network), an international network for peace, justice and life. She lives in Garner.