By Frances Kissling for WOMEN = BOOKS

Posted on September 14, 2009

I love blogging. It’s a social activity akin to sitting around the kitchen table with friends arguing about the day’s news. Writing, on the other hand, is a lonely occupation. You spend days, weeks, years, thinking; depending on how your brain and fingers connect, you might spend the same or more time in front of the computer and blank pages. Sometimes it gets published; as often as not, it gets rejected.

I’ve been working for two years on a book of essays about abortion, tackling the tough issues: responsibility; who is the fetus and what, if anything, do we owe it; the meaning of being pregnant; late-term abortions; men’s rights. Every so often, I lose interest. I am so over abortion. Is there anything that could be said that has not already been said? I’m on to other things, like organ transplants (I need a kidney and have blogged about that on Salon) or ending global poverty (the root of every injustice).

But abortion is the issue that never goes away, and the 2004 rout of Democrats brought it back with a vengeance. A whole new crew of anti-abortionists seized the moral high ground and whispered in candidates’ ears that the way to deal with abortion was to talk about reducing it. Democrats used the approach in 2006 and 2008, and won. For pro-choice feminists, it was time to go back to the kitchen table and fine-tune the ethical arguments against “abortion reduction.”

Nothing is more useful for such an enterprise than the Blogosphere. Contrary to the high-culture belief that what gets published by bloggers is indulgent and superficial, it can be the best place for a writer who wants to communicate complex ideas to figure out how to do it.

I started blogging seriously this year. I get paid, as one editor put it, “in bottle caps and coupons.” I have no worry that I will write stuff that doesn’t get published. I write because I want to have a voice on issues that are important to me, so it’s a great deal.

The best thing about it is the feedback. I’m hooked—addicted to it. If I write for a site where the reader comments are low, I’m outta there. On , where I write once a week about things related to either Catholicism or abortion, reader feedback is high –several hundred comments for each piece. Thick skin required. One person called me a “smug, curt character-assassinating cunt” when I wrote about Mel Gibson’s divorce; others correct grammar, comment on your writing style, and let people know exactly what they think of you.

Interspersed with such comments are suggestions, points you hadn’t thought of and insights that will transform the early ideas floated in a blog into more serious arguments and commentary on the issues. Readers who comment sometimes write more wisely than the blogger. I love the democracy of it all. Everyone does have something to say, and the Blogosphere provides more space to say it than the New York Times. Use it.


Frances Kissling is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania. She is a regular contributor to, Religion Dispatches, and RH Reality Check .


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