Here’s a thought experiment: If you cleared evangelical churches of all the women who have had abortions (even after becoming Christians), or would be getting one in the future, and all the men who were complicit in those actions, how many seats would be empty?
My guess is a hell of a lot of them. Because even as they talk about the “evils” of abortion, and even as pastors call it an immoral act, and even as evangelical political leaders do everything they can to limit access to it, plenty of Christian women make full use of birth control, Plan B, and Planned Parenthood.
Laura Kasinof, writing for Marie Claire, notes that actual numbers are hard to come by (since it’s not like patients have to broadcast their faith when getting an abortion), but the numbers we do have aren’t insignificant.
Data doesn’t exist on just how many women who were raised in this faith actually patronize Planned Parenthood in private, which is a result of the very reason many of them go there: It provides anonymity. We do know that 13 percent of abortions conducted in this country are for women who identify as evangelical protestants, in addition to the 17 percent for more mainline protestants like Lutherans or Methodists, according to a 2014 study by the Guttmacher Institute. When you add in Catholics, that number rises to more than half.
Much like with atheists in demographic studies, I would guess those are underestimates. When you’re answering questions about abortion, some women may not be honest about their evangelical background, even when guaranteed anonymity.
Kasinof’s article features the stories of a number of evangelical women who were taught to hate Planned Parenthood and everything it stood for, only to rely on it later on.
Rachel*, a pastor’s wife, felt that pressure fiercely. “I grew up in a strict religious community. Planned Parenthood was the devil,” Rachel says. “Our church talked about Planned Parenthood as a gas chamber and part of the new Holocaust.”
But when she and her husband, whose job didn’t provide health insurance, needed birth control, Planned Parenthood was the only option they could afford.
“During my exam, the doctor talked with me about all the different birth control options and referred me to a really detailed chart that showed the advantages and disadvantages of each. It was the most education I’d ever received on the subject,” Rachel explains. “And she was the first doctor who didn’t flinch or act judgmental when I told her I was a virgin until I got married.”
The entire (excellent) article is infuriating because it shows just how hypocritical these Christians are. By remaining in and supporting their churches and the beliefs they hold, they’re making life worse for women who need access to Planned Parenthood, for abortions and other needs, despite using the very same services themselves when it’s convenient.
One thing you see over and over in the piece is that Planned Parenthood gave them an honest education, like on the pros and cons of various types of birth control. We know they’re fed a steady stream of lies by the evangelical world. Abstinence-only sex education routinely misinforms young people. Birth control isn’t a form of abortion. Condoms really are effective.
“We were all going there,” Heather, now 27, says of her [private Christian high school classmates], who used Planned Parenthood as teens. “I can think of six, seven, ten girls off the top of my head who were going there for birth control or pregnancy tests.”
“You’d go to Planned Parenthood and they’d give you real information,” she recalls. “They’d ask, ‘Are you sexually active?’ and tell you that you need to have a pap smear and should be tested for STDs. They would give us brown paper bags of condoms that we would giggle about. It was a vital resource.“
Heather is obviously a pseudonym.
And the piece ends with a conclusion we’ve talked about repeatedly given the Republican Party’s hypocritical goals of blocking access to Planned Parenthood while also claiming the “pro-life” position. Reducing access to birth control makes it more like that women will need abortions. And when they don’t have a safe way of getting one, they may have to resort to more drastic, unsafe methods.
Megan has come to the decision that Christian condemnation of Planned Parenthood is tainted by hypocrisy. “I think it’s really silly. They characterize Planned Parenthood by one service, when really, what I think is most important is that the group provides preventive women’s health services that are affordable,” she says. “If you’re really pro-life, then you should help people prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.”
Megan is… well, you get the idea. None of them would use their real names presumably because — gasp — they wouldn’t want the people in church knowing their real views on Planned Parenthood. But tell their stories, at least, is one way to shine a light on how the evangelical position on this topic makes it more likely that women will suffer.
Meanwhile, pro-choice liberals will continue to fight for their right to access comprehensive health care.
(Image via Shutterstock)