Consistently Pro-Life: A Challenge to the Church (Part One: Beginnings)

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I have considered myself pro-life for pretty much my whole adult life. Ever since I was a teenager, I have believed that human life begins at conception; and also that those who are weak or vulnerable deserve to be protected.

I feel that abortion can only be justified when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. I have never wavered in my belief on this point, though my views on how this plays out politically have changed over time (and continue to do so.)

As a young adult, I felt that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life. The Roe vs. Wade decision, which made first and second-trimester abortions legal in all circumstances (and third-trimester abortions legal in a lot of cases) seemed to give far too much license to those who sought to end a life they had created. The unborn should be protected, I reasoned, and this law undermined that.

As I got older, I became more skeptical about the government’s ability (or even its interest in) protecting life. I came to see that the powers of government caused at least as much violence as they restrained; and I found the “back alley” argument for legal abortion (that making it illegal would only drive the practice underground, making it more dangerous for women) fairly convincing.

Thus I drifted toward more of a pro-choice position politically, holding that even if abortion was immoral (which I still believed it is in most cases), the government should stay out of it. We needed to find a way to reduce the number of abortions without putting too many legal restraints on it. I continued to hold this view for many years. I thought I had figured out a stance that worked for me, and also thought that I wouldn’t have to mention the subject much after this.

In February of 2016, however, something happened which once again challenged me with regard to abortion. I was at home watching a movie one night. The plot of this movie centered around a young woman whose boyfriend had gotten her pregnant, and who was trying to raise enough money to have an abortion.

As I was watching the movie, I felt a profound sense of anxiety that wouldn’t go away. Why am I so worked up? I wondered. There’s nothing for me to be anxious about. I’m just sitting at home, watching a movie. But the anxiety wouldn’t go away, even after I had prayed about it several times. (Usually my prayers of this sort are very effective).

Finally, the source of the anxiety became clear to me. “It’s the goddamn abortion!” I exclaimed aloud. “That’s why I’m all worked up!”

Thinking I had just taken the Lord’s name in vain, I immediately apologized to God and asked for forgiveness. You don’t have to apologize for anything, God said to me. You said it right! My judgment is on abortion! If there’s anything I condemn, it’s violence against those who are helpless!

In that moment, I felt Sophia (the Holy Spirit) wrapping her arms around me tightly; and Christina (my girlfriend in heaven, who during her earthly life was fiercely anti-abortion) seemed to be holding me as well. We were in solidarity in our opposition to abortion, and to a hedonistic, self-centered part of our culture that sees it as nothing more than a second-rate form of birth control.

Ever since that night, I have felt obliged to carry on Christina’s pro-life legacy (she was not just opposed to abortion, but also to capital punishment, environmental destruction, racism, sexism, persecution of LGBT people, poverty, and all forms of war; and she was an activist for many of these causes).

Thus I feel I must speak out, once again, on behalf of those who have no voice; and I am compelled to say some things that aren’t very popular or “politically correct.”

I will make my views very clear at this point. I think that the typical “conservative” approach to the issue of abortion (making it illegal, shutting down Planned Parenthood, etc) is doomed to fail, and won’t do a thing to reduce the number of abortions in this country. It will just drive them underground.

But I also think the typical “liberal” approach (easier access to birth control, better sex education programs, and so forth) is equally short-sighted. Most people know how babies are made; and the effectiveness of birth control is often over-rated. Furthermore, those who are determined not to have a child will make sure they don’t; and if the birth control fails, this often means abortion.

 The number one reason people have abortions is because they have chosen to have sex, and are not prepared for the responsibilities that come with raising a child.

Now many women will say that as a man, I shouldn’t say much on this subject because I will never have to make that choice, and can never know what it’s like to be in a situation where abortion seems necessary.

They make a good point. For this reason, I won’t spend much time theorizing on what a woman should or shouldn’t do if she has an unwanted pregnancy. But I will speak to the men, and here I won’t mince any words.

Men, if you aren’t willing to help raise a child (should one be conceived), I don’t think you should be having intercourse with a woman! Either wait until you’re ready for that level of commitment, or find another way to give and receive pleasure. But please don’t go around spreading your seed wherever you want and then push it all off on the woman! If she gets pregnant because of something you’ve done, that’s just as much your responsibility as it is hers.

Yes, I know this isn’t easy; and I’m willing to admit I’ve made mistakes in this area of my life. But we can do better. It just comes down to loving people enough not to put them in a bad place.

I also feel that God is calling me to speak to the church; and my main message is this: We need to come together on issues of human life, and we need to be consistent. Otherwise, our witness will not be very effective.

With regard to abortion, we may not all agree on when it’s justified (if ever), or to what degree it should be legal. That’s fine. But we must stand together in our commitment to reducing the total number of abortions; and we must stand unified in our support of those who have no voice.

From a Christian perspective, abortion can never be simply a matter of “reproductive choice”; for as Jesus has said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).

This applies to how we treat women with unwanted pregnancies, too. If we are to speak out against abortion, we must do so lovingly; and we must also speak out against all the ways that women are harassed and belittled.

Thankfully, the church has been more or less unified through history in her opposition to abortion. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been as consistent with regard to other “sanctity of life” issues such as war, capital punishment, and various forms of bigotry (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc).

Those who are truly and consistently pro-life are fairly small in number; but these are the true church. These are the ones who have been “called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). By the grace of God, this is what we all can become.

 

(Coming Next: Consistently Pro-Life, Part Two: Who Would Jesus Bomb?)

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6 thoughts on “Consistently Pro-Life: A Challenge to the Church (Part One: Beginnings)

  1. Lots to agree with here. I want to add that many women are in a position where they feel they have no choice. Also, for the handful of women who have confided in me that they have had one, abortion has not been easy…there are often long-term emotional consequences.

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  2. Thank you, Rob. Looking forward to Part 2. I came to the consistent life ethic movement through a series of involvements. I was a peace activist from a very young age. Then I became a civil rights activist. The abortion piece came later. I was in a 24/7 Quaker peace vigil in front of the White House. One of our number left on an errand and was a long time coming back. It turned out he had walked past the Papal Legation and there were people there protesting the Church’s opposition to killing the unborn. So he felt called to counter-protest, and found a piece of cardboard and made a sign. That made me think about that issue, and see that it was the same thing as the issue against war. (For a much lengthier account of my discernment on abortion prepared as a paper when I was in the Spiritual Nurture Program, see http://www.seamless-garment.org/discabor1.shtml.) So I added together my opposition to killing in war, my opposition to the dehumanization of racism, opposition to killing the innocent unborn and some other anti-violence issues (like the death penalty) that I had spent less time on, and I became an advocate of a consistent life ethic, and eventually President of Consistent Life (http://www.consistentlife.org/).

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  3. Its refreshing to see a ‘pro-life’ blog post calling on the men to stand and act if they believe in pro-life rather than judging women. Its also nice to see a non-judgmental perspective as well as calling on the church’s hypocritical stances.

    But I still feel the need to remind everyone that many people have different reasons to having abortions. You’re right- we need to be urging Christians to not be judgmental, to uphold men to a higher standard, and challenge Christians on their hypocrisy.

    But if Christians really want to end abortion more than anything, if they really believe its the holocaust of their time, then why aren’t they doing everything they can to provide more affordable birth control and sex education (you claim people know enough about sex but take it from a young person in deep south MS, people are very VERY ignorant about sex! it is SHOCKING!) plus doing what they can to help with affordable childcare (diapers, food, DAYCARE) as well as voting for whatever is going to help families/economic/job growth (hello raising minimum wage, better maternity/paternity leave…) so lower income families can afford surprise pregnancies. We NEED a holistic approach rather than harassing women walking into a Planned Parenthood for a pap smear.

    It is not an easy decision but I feel so strongly in having this right. I have a very personal reason for being pro choice. I’m a married woman but fear I may never have children because of how horrible my health has been from birth to even 25 years later. I have a 50/50 chance to handing my health condition down.

    If I were to get pregnant, as a married woman, I need this choice. I don’t know what I would choose but I need this choice. I have suffered tremendously from my health. From a permanent tracheostomy, chronic debilitating neck pain, deafness, medical trauma PTSD, life-long social isolation, complication after complication- including loosing most of my teeth. This is all from childhood to present. Imagine an 8 year old having PTSD flashbacks at school. No one is in any position to judge me or the despair I feel over my circumstances.

    I’d love to be a mother but I could never put another person through what I’ve been through- especially my own child. So fine, the church claims my marriage is invalid because I use birth control. Damn right I use birth control instead of “natural family planning” with a 25% failure rate. I am nearly obsessive in my preventive measures. So is my husband. I have never felt so misunderstood by religion than on this issue and it hurts. My voice is not welcome.

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    1. Thanks for your input! I agree with pretty much all of what you have said, as much as I can being a man and never having had a pregnant wife or girlfriend. There are better ways to reduce the abortion rate than making it illegal. I am open to any ideas that might help in that regard, while also realizing that there will always be difficult situations where abortion may seem to be the lesser of the evils.

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