Andrew Sullivan's Brave and Brilliant Abortion Blogging

Take some time today to visit Andrew Sullivan's blog over at the Atlantic, where one of the most capital-F fascinating discussions in recent blog history (which is pretty much all of blog history) is taking place.

After the murder of Kansas physician George Tiller, Sullivan—the deeply Catholic, economically-conservative pundit—did a great job of covering the political and sociological implications of the crime. But he also started posting first-person accounts of late-term abortion experiences, including some women who chose not to terminate and some who were under Tiller's care. (Tiller provided third-term abortions, one of only three doctors in the country to do so.) An excerpt:

The walls of the clinic reception and waiting room are literally covered with letters from patients thanking him. Some were heartbreaking - obviously young and/or poorly educated people thanking Dr. Tiller for being there when they had no other options, explaining their family, church etc. had abandoned them.

I remember my wife, foggy with sedation after the final procedure, being helped from the exam table. He had her sit up and put her arms around his neck, and then he lifted her into a wheelchair. "You give good hugs" she whispered. He paused just for a moment. "You're just fine," he told her.

After that, more families began providing their stories about the tough choices they had to make regarding a terminating a late pregnancy, all of which are, to paraphrase Sullivan's labels on these posts, "so personal," honest, and heartbreaking. (A round-up of the stories are here, though more have since been published)

That alone would constitute some highly-recommended reading. But the conversation hasn't stopped there. It has expanded to include the point of view of former abortion protesters, the arguments for and against abortion limits, and the debate over what role men should play in shaping abortion policies—basically, it's a smart, reasoned, respectful discussion about abortion, something which is sorely needed but exceedingly rare. (Today, as the discussion has expanded into some more general pro-life vs pro-choice arguments, some of the nuance is lost, and one can see signs of the familiar divisions and rhetoric.)

Throughout it all, Sullivan has been as transparent and honest with his readers as they have been with him, and as the posts continue, one can watch his personal beliefs regarding abortion evolve right there on screen. On Monday night, he said, "I still cannot in good conscience support these [late-term] abortions." By Wednesday morning, he was admitting that:

I am beginning to believe that these abortions, given their excruciating moral and personal choices, may be the most defensible in context of all abortions. And yet they seem to be taking life in a more viscerally distressing way. I need time to think and rethink these things. I would not have without reading these extraordinary accounts.

In order to keep another doctor from ever being murdered for his work treating women in need, in order to move towards that elusive "possibility of common ground" that President Obama called for in regards to abortion, we need more thinking and rethinking, more sharing of extraordinary accounts, and more discourse. Sullivan's work on this has been a very, very good start.

: On, writer Amanda Robb adds another powerful, personal voice to this discussion. Her uncle, Dr. Bart Slepian, a Buffalo obstratrician, was murdered by an anti-abortion terrorist in 1998, and the death of Dr. Tiller has brought back painful memories. Read her story here.