Congressman Tim Ryan always saw himself as pro-life, but the Ohio Democrat revealed this week that, after a long period of reflection, he has changed his mind on one of the nation's most contentious political issues.
Ryan detailed his journey toward embracing abortion rights for women in an op-ed published Tuesday by the Akron Beacon Journal, explaining that there "many factors involved when a woman decides to end a pregnancy" and that his perspective, after encountering and learning of these circumstances, has "evolved."
"Today, I am a 41-year-old father and husband whose feelings on this issue have changed," Ryan wrote. "I have come a long way since being a single, 26-year-old state senator, and I am not afraid to say that my position has evolved as my experiences have broadened, deepened and become more personal."
He continued, "And while I have deep respect for people on both sides of this conversation, I would be abandoning my own conscience and judgment if I held a position that I no longer believed appropriate."
Watch Ryan describe his change-of-heart, which he said has been in process for the past five or 10 years, below:
Ryan said that he believes it is best to allow women and families — and not politicians — to make pregnancy decisions for themselves, sharing the many conversations he has had with women about their reasons for seeking abortions in the first place.
While he said that his faith initially informed his pro-life stance, he said that hearing women speak of financial constraints, rape, incest and abuse, among other circumstances, has changed his outlook.
"I was elected to political office at a young age, and being raised in a Catholic household, always considered myself pro-life," Ryan wrote, calling for people not to judge women for their abortion choices. "My faith is important to me, and like many Catholics I strive to adhere to its principles, especially one of the essential and highest teachings of 'judge not, lest ye be judged.'"
In the end, Ryan concluded that "there is no easy answer" and that the circumstances surrounding abortion are often difficult and complex, but said that his perspective has led him to embrace the notion that the "heavy hand of government must not make this decision for women and families."
"Each and every American deserves the right to deal with these difficult situations in consultation with their families, close friends or religious advisers," he wrote. "No federal or state law banning abortion can honestly and fairly take into account the various circumstances that make each decision unique."
Ryan called for leaders on both sides of the aisle to come together in an effort to prevent unintended and unwanted pregnancies — an ideal he said would be most helpful to preventing abortion.
Read his op-ed here.