I hesitate to do these kind of posts on specific, hot button issues sometimes because you’re always gonna make somebody mad. In fact, the position I’m going to take here is largely going to put me outside the general views of even some of the most “progressive” Christians. But hey, I guess that’s the issue with labeling people.
The issue I want to write about today is abortion. Now, I was a kid in the late 80s into the 90s, and for awhile it seemed like that was the political heyday of the issue. I remember when we had to write a position paper in Honors English class in high school, probably 2/3 of my class did abortion. Since it was Utah, 1994, you can guess what those positions were. However, when issues surrounding national security and the economy came into focus in the early 2000s, abortion seemed to move to the back burner in importance.
Well, it’s back. As you probably know, the issue has been thrust back into the spotlight courtesy of some videos where a radical “pro-life” group sat down with various Planned Parenthood officials and secretly recorded the conversations. These tapes seemed to indicate that Planned Parenthood was harvesting fetal tissues from abortions and selling them for profit. Now this, if true, would be disgusting and illegal. We conjure images of evil Planned Parenthood abortion doctors, probably wearing devil horns, enticing women into clinics, murdering unborn children, and selling the tissue, then taking the money and jetting off to some Caribbean paradise or something.
Whether these accusations were true or not was immaterial. The red meat was thrown to the wolves, and we now sit at the threshold of shutting down the US Government over funding of Planned Parenthood.
Let me state my position before we continue. I am what you would describe as “Pro-Choice.” For some of you, you’ll go ahead write me off as a “baby-killer” and stop reading, and if you do, I’m sorry. I will explain my position shortly.
But first, let’s look at some facts in evidence here:
- Planned Parenthood provides many other services besides abortion including cervical cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, contraceptives, and vasectomies. Their annual report shows 3% of their services go to abortion, and you can take that statistic or leave it. Statistics are easily manipulated by anyone, but it is rather clear that actual abortion procedures make up a small fraction of Planned Parenthood’s services.
2. The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or medical necessity.
3. An independent analysis of the videos shows that they were edited and altered, which makes them useless in terms of evidence in any criminal proceeding.
4. Six different states have now conducted criminal inquires into the allegations raised in these videos and all six have cleared Planned Parenthood from any wrong doing.
So, what tree is our government barking up here? After all, ending federal funding of Planned Parenthood will not end unwanted pregnancy and as long as there is unwanted pregnancy there will be abortion of some kind, legal or not. As long as people have sex there will be unwanted pregnancy, and I don’t think people are going to stop having sex anytime soon, regardless of how much various organizations try to shame them.
But maybe none of this matters to you. Maybe you think that abortion should just be illegal period. If you hold that position, I respect that, unless you’re one of these people threatening women, bombing clinics, or walking into churches and murdering doctors.
I do disagree with you however, and here’s why. Maybe we can act like reasonable adults and clear up some misconceptions about the “pro-choice” position.
First off, I don’t like abortion. I don’t root for women to go have abortions. I don’t get up every morning and think “Wow, I wonder how many unborn babies we can kill today!” If I fathered a child and my partner wanted to have an abortion I would be devastated.
I suppose there might be people who think like that out there, but if there are, I doubt there are that many. However, when people like me try to engage in conversation about the issue, especially in the Christian community, we’re tossed out on our heads and labeled as “baby killers.”
As an aside, it’s interesting that calling your opponent a baby killer or even a baby eater is a classic tactic of demeaning propaganda:
But if I don’t hate babies, why am I pro-choice?
Well, I have a higher view of women then some folks do. It seems that in so much discussion on the issue the life and concerns of the mother are relegated to back burner in favor of the interests of the unborn child. A woman is an independent, sentient being and I just can’t view her as merely an incubator once she becomes pregnant.
The issues are thorny, indeed. When does life begin? When should a fetus, or unborn child if you prefer, attain status as a legal person with rights provided to all of us? At what point does the child become viable outside of the womb?
I don’t really have answers to any of that, and you probably don’t either. It’s not as black and white as we try and make it. A lengthy ethical discussion of these issues would take more space than I have here. If you’re curious as to my opinion on these drop me an email and we’ll talk.
Next, I don’t think that most women who look into the possibility of an abortion are looking to ditch the unborn just for convenience sake. Again, that’s what the propaganda would have you believe, that women are lined up at Planned Parenthood yelling “Get it out of me so I can go sleep with more guys” but I really don’t think that’s the case. Over the years I’ve met three women that have talked to me about the experience of having an abortion. None of the three were happy about it, none of the three of them were excited to do it. One of them was a medical emergency, and she was probably not able to have anymore children after the procedure.
When are we going to start looking past the propaganda and start looking at the actual people?
Also, I do not believe that a woman should be forced to carry a child that is a result of incest, rape, or one that threatens her own life. To me this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable position. If carrying a child to term poses a substantial risk to the life and health of the mother, doesn’t the woman, who is already somebody’s daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, or mother take precedence over the potential life of an unborn child? I should hope it would. If you make abortion totally illegal, as it is in many Catholic countries, you risk the lives of these women, and I cannot get on board with that.
What about rape or incest? We know the genetics of incest, and the probability that there will be problems. It’s not guaranteed, and I would never advocate the deliberate abortion of children with disabilities, but our law seems to think that it’s enough of a risk to allow it. And rape? I am absolutely against forcing a woman to carry the child of a rapist to term. I can’t imagine the hell that that must be. If a woman chooses to carry the child, then wow, what a strong person. If she doesn’t, than I can’t blame her. It’s true that it’s not the child’s fault, but I choose to fall on a particular side of that ethical debate that results in less emotional trauma for the victim of a rape. If God judges me for that, so be it.
So I believe that a woman should have a choice, that makes me pro-choice. It does not make me pro-abortion. With the exception of some of the extreme cases that I have discussed, I really wish that women would not make that choice. My sister is adopted and I look at her, her husband, and their four beautiful kids and I know that there are loving homes out there for kids through adoption. However, I also recognize that it is not my right or place to force that decision on another human being.
Despite the fantasies of some extremist elements, Planned Parenthood isn’t going to be defunded, and abortion isn’t going to be made illegal. So as Christians, how should we act in a world where this is the reality? I guess if that’s your crusade, you’re more than welcome to keep tilting at that particular windmill, but there will still be women out there facing tough choices that need our help. Some of them might be in our churches or *gasp* in our own families!
Is it our place to advocate for one choice or another for a woman in a position like this? I really don’t think it is unless our opinion is solicited. You know what is our place though? Standing by these women and modeling the love and grace of Jesus Christ to them no matter what choice they make. There will certainly be support needed if a woman decides to carry a child to term, and we must not forget that women who do decide to have an abortion are often ostracized and degraded in some communities, and viewed as “damaged goods” in others. This should not be acceptable in any kind of a Christian setting, where the love of Christ is meant for all who seek it.
In the end, we must remember that by far most women do not choose to have an abortion, and our society really needs to step up in how we help these women, especially working women or women in low income settings. We should also recognize that abortion rates are down in the United States, 12% in 2015 alone. Also the teen pregnancy rate is lower than it has been in decades. It seems our young people are making better choices than we give them credit for. Of course, this is also part and parcel with the availability of solid sexual education and the availability of contraceptives that prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place.
It seems like those things are things that all of us should be happy about.
However, as the issue continues to heat up during election season, my prayer is that we do not lose sight of the fact that we are called be to minsters of Christ’s love and mercy. This post probably won’t change your mind, but it might give you some insight into why some folks feel like I do.
May the peace of Christ be with us all.