Pro-Choice and Pro-life

He's a character-all personality

What can a progressive Christian who is Pro-Life and Pro-Choice possibly say about abortion?

To say I am Pro-life and Pro-choice seems contradictory; even to say I am a Progressive Christian seems like an oxymoron in these times. The fact is, it is possible to hold apparently contradictory ideas on complex issues simultaneously if you refuse to succumb to knee-jerk reactions. This skill would greatly benefit the nation right now.

Not only am I Pro-life and Pro-choice, but  I have street creds: my young, unmarried daughter got pregnant last year, so it got real personal. When I was an atheist I was Pro-choice, period. I did not believe a fetus was a human being, and that is the dividing line. I sincerely doubt that any Pro-choice person would kill an infant; they just don’t believe they are talking about an infant in relation to abortion. They think they are talking about about “the products of conception,” an interesting euphemism. Another euphemism is “women’s health,” as if pregnancy is some kind of disease. It is not.

In the bad old days, when a girl got pregnant out of wedlock, we said she was “in trouble.” That euphemism is valid. She has some choices and none of them are great. She can choose abortion, but may always wonder if she did the right thing. She can carry the baby and try to raise it, often without the help of the father. Single moms are the poorest demographic in the nation. She may have to take a dead end job, forgo her education, and struggle raising a child alone. She can carry the baby and put it up for adoption and she will wonder about that child for the rest of her life; a piece of herself is somehow missing.

Christians who vehemently oppose abortion do so because they believe that’s a living baby in there, and babies are the most defenseless of humans. They cannot speak for themselves, yet we can assume that if they could choose, they would choose life. This is a deep moral issue and it’s not going to go away. This cannot be tossed off as people wanting to chain women to the kitchen sink by their fallopian tubes. Progressives who mock Christians’ convictions, who trample them underfoot as if they were not significant, have driven many Christians to support politicians who otherwise do not represent their views; because abortion hits them so hard smack in the belief system.

Thought experiment for progressives: imagine that conservatives came up with a law to euthanize infants born with birth defects as an austerity measure, reasoning that these babies would consume extra educational and medical benefits. The left would raise a howl heard ’round the world, and rightly so. Hitler had this idea and started his racial purification by killing mentally ill and mentally retarded adults, referring to them as “useless eaters.” Outrageous and horrifying. This is how Christians regard abortion. Can you feel it now?

The real question is: is that a baby in there? If it is a baby, it should be protected. With advances in medicine, very young babies can live. Amilla Taylor was born at 22 weeks in Miami in 2007, about the size of a pen, and she not only lived, but is doing just fine, thank you. When Amilla was born she was a tiny BABY, yes? Then the day before she was born, she was a baby in her mother’s uterus.

Another moral question is: Do women have the right to do with their body what they wish? They do and they will, because one thing that cannot be taken away is the right to choose. Christians need to remind themselves that even God, who has the power to do so, does not take away our power to choose. Any half-way honest Christian will admit that they have chosen to do wrong and God did not stop them-God is very Pro-Choice. That’s why he can hold us responsible for our choices-we are free to make them. Desperate women obtained abortions before they were legal, often under dangerous conditions. This nation has reached a consensus that women can obtain abortions legally, under better conditions. It is the law of the land, and if Christians want to change that, they need to change the consensus by persuasion.

Christians also need to help single moms-to-be  if they aren’t going to be hypocrites. What does the single mom need to keep her child? Friends, the basic necessities of life, free babysitting so maybe she won’t lose her job when the baby is sick, or when she needs to go to class. No half-way measures-you aren’t off the hook because you had a baby shower for her. Raising a child is not a half-way kind of thing. Pro-life churches should have programs and volunteers in place to help the moms or shut up about abortion. Christianity is a nitty-gritty thing;  it’s where the rubber meets the road or it’s a bunch of hot air.

My daughter chose to carry the child and allow her older sister, who was looking into adoption, to adopt her baby. This may seem like the best possible situation. The baby gets a wonderful home with all the advantages, even siblings, while the mom gets to finish school, and see the child whenever she wants. If this is the best, it was still extremely difficult, so the other alternatives must be very rough. My younger daughter is very glad she chose to have him; my older daughter is delighted with him. Indeed, he is a beautiful little character, all personality, and we can’t imagine life without him.

Strangely, while Christians praised my daughter’s decision to do the adoption while she was pregnant, after he was born they put her down. “Oh how could you? I could never give up my child.” This is not helpful; she made a heroic decision based on what was best for the baby, not for herself, and this kind of unselfishness is rare even among the best of us. I want Christians to know that calling girls who choose abortion “murderers” goes beyond “not helpful” all the way to barbaric cruelty. For example, I have a friend who had an abortion at sixteen. She is the most loving person I know and the most motherly. This is a horribly painful subject for her and as she attends church regularly, I dread the sermons on abortion on her behalf.

When Jerry Falwell flippantly said that a pregnant girl had all the choice she needed when she chose to get pregnant, a woman from the audience threw a pie at him. My inner woman cheered for her-but no, not a whipped cream pie a manure pie,” my inner woman suggested. But what I would tell these religious leaders is that unless they NEVER tried to get in some girls drawers before marriage, they have nothing to say. It would get so, so very quiet.

As for preventing conception with birth control, the Catholic Church, in which I was raised and which does many good things, is slap wrong. An egg or a sperm cell is no more sacred than a cheek cell. Note: When I was a senior in Catholic High School, the Vatican Council suddenly decided that eating meat on Friday was no longer a sin. After all those years of fish on Friday, now it was O.K. to grab a burger. Someday they will do the same with birth control.

We need to talk about abortion in plain language, without euphemisms, without knee-jerk slogans, and without accusations. No one is in favor of killing infants, which all agree is morally wrong. No one wants to hurt women. But we know that Amelia was a baby born at 22 weeks, and the day before she was born she was a baby in her mother’s womb. Maybe that’s a starting point.


4 responses to “Pro-Choice and Pro-life

  1. You asked many important real-life questions we all confront as an individual human being and also as a nation – in a thoughtful and honest narrative. We all should acknowledge first that abortion is a “hard” ethical, social, economic, and political issue which will not grant us an easy, clear-cut answer. We should remain humble about our position – even when we (have to) take one.

    Unlike other “civilized” but vastly secular Europe, abortion is a much more controversial and politically divisive issue in America, because, as you pointed out here, it is intimately linked to many people’s religious values, which they also feel are under increasing attack. With some sense of tragedy, I agree with you on that many Christians are voting for the conservative politicians because progressives “mock” their religious convictions.

    It is also an irony to see those conservative politicians who chant “pro-life” slogans are often the first ones who want to cut less than minimal communal support we have for the most vulnerable and defenseless; among them is a young, single mom who might have preferred to keep her baby given our social and economic support plus less stigma.

    When one cannot afford a pro-life, one’s choice for abortion is not a real choice based on one’s freedom and conscience. It is as much of a social, economic issue as an ethical.

  2. “People who vehemently oppose abortion do so because they understand that’s a living baby in there.”

    Abortion isn’t a religious issue. Killing children is rude. It’s like picking your nose. I know you would never defend that. Yet you will rationalize the killing of children.

  3. You are SO right! Christians need to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. If we encourage life we need to support the life. So many turn away once the baby is born forcing a scared, confused, sometimes alone new mother to face her decision alone. Then how does that make Christians as a whole look? Like hypocrites! Supporting mothers after baby is born is soooo important and the other part, I believe, to pro-life! Great perspective and post! Thank you.

  4. Krista Tippet’s program, OnBeing, interviewed Frances Kissling about her involvement with the pro-choice movement. More than talking about abortion, however, she spoke about the dire need we all have to learn how to have a discussion about all issues – not just abortion.

    I agree with you – we need to stop seeing each other as the enemy. We need to stop assuming things about one another and just be open to the conversation – BOTH sides of this issue. And it would be helpful if we each assumed that while each of us might *appear* to be staunchly one-sided about it, in truth, very few of us are. When asked questions about specific scenarios, for example, it seems that people tend to get real rational and pragmatic about things. What if we extended that pragmatism to our discussions?

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