Please Don’t Call Me Pro-Life

Please don’t call me pro-life.

Let me put it another way.  Everyone I know is pro-life, so I don’t find the label to be helpful.

The people I know who would call themselves pro-choice are deeply committed to life in many ways.  They are adopting children, and serving prisoners and fighting for adequate health care for poor children.  They vote for candidates who are against the death penalty and who want to limit civilian death by limiting the reach of war.  They support clean water efforts around the globe so that fewer children die from lack of clean water, and when the choice is available they refuse to buy products grown or sewn by slaves.  I can think of no other way to describe them than to say that they love and support life.

So I don’t call myself pro-life because I think it’s offensive to my friends who call themselves pro-choice.  Instead, I try to honor the term they use for themselves by saying that I am against choice when it comes to abortion.

I wrote yesterday that I had an abortion in college, so you might wonder if I came to my anti-choice stance because of the horrors of abortion that I experienced first hand.  But that’s not how I experienced it.  I have heard and read the stories of many women who have had abortions, women who were physically, emotionally and/or spiritually traumatized by the experience.  Their anti-choice position was borne from their experience.  Mine wasn’t.

I didn’t experience the abortion as traumatic.  Perhaps you think I should have.  Maybe you think I’m cold, or emotionally cut off from the horror of what I did.  And perhaps you are right.  But that simply wasn’t my experience.  I was nineteen and I didn’t want to be pregnant.  I had no sense that the decision was anyone but my own.  I had no desire to be a mother at that point, didn’t want to disappoint my parents, and didn’t want to take a semester off to have a baby and give it up for adoption.  So I had an abortion.  I missed a day of class, went home, had dinner, went to bed, and got up the next day like nothing happened.  And I never had another moment’s regret about it.  That’s my story.

Years later, though, I found myself weeping.  Not because I missed my baby.  I didn’t.  And not because I felt bad that I had robbed a child of life or a family of a child to adopt.  I didn’t.  I was weeping because I felt for the first time the deep selfishness that controlled my life.  I had been a Christian for two years, and was in my room praying, when out of nowhere I felt a deep sense of remorse.  I was aware, for the first time, that I had never once asked God what he might have wanted of that child.  I had never once considered that my body was not mine to do with as I pleased.  That the zygote/fetus/baby (call it what you will) living and growing inside my body might not be mine to dispose of as I chose was utterly shocking.  I was weeping because I became aware for the first time that my life had a claim on it, a claim I had not acknowledged.

It’s as though I realized that I had killed not my child, because the truth is that I felt no connection to that child, but God’s child – and I had a deep connection to God.  What if I had stolen one of God’s children?  How would I feel if I had accidentally run over and killed a friend’s child?  Of course I would feel sad about the child who died.  But I would also feel awful that I taken my friend’s baby away.  How would I feel if I had gotten drunk and hit a pregnant woman while driving my car, after which she miscarried?  That’s how I felt about having killed God’s baby.

Now that might sound like sentimental crap to you.  Especially if you don’t believe in God.  Or if your understanding of God is less personal than mine.  But that experience started me down a path that led me to decide that, in general, women should not be able to choose to end their pregnancies.  I understand that there are times when an abortion may in fact be permitted by a loving God, and I don’t come by my anti-choice position lightly.  I understand, at least a little bit anyway, the cost of bringing a child into the world.  But I do believe that there is no ontological difference between a five-month-old fetus and a five-month-old child.  I always believed that, as do most of the people I know who are pro-choice. What changed is that I no longer think I should be allowed to choose to end the life of either of them.

So it’s that simple.  I live in a culture that wants me to put my ability to choose on a pedestal.  I should always be able to choose the kinds of guns I want because I have a right to choose, even if my choice makes life less safe overall for others.  I should be able to choose whether or not I want to carry a girl to term when I already have two girls because it’s my right to choose how many and what kind of children I want.  I should be able to choose the kind of toilet paper I find most pleasing among twenty options because I have a right to choice, regardless of the cost of so many choices to the planet and people who live here.  You might find the comparisons offensive or trivial, but the fact is that our culture exalts the right to choose to the exclusion of what’s loving, just, or sustainable.  Choice is making us sick.  In fact, it’s killing some of us.

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  • Tara, well said. I appreciate how you put this one political stance in a wider context and also the honest and helpful perspective in telling bluntly of your own experience.

  • Jo

    Much food for thought.

    I tend to lean pro-choice from the Constitution perspective, in order to protect us from *mandated* abortion–which I fear to be more near rather than a paranoia. For me–my childbearing years are behind me–there would have been no reason to choose abortion. But I often wonder if there might not be a horrific reason I might choose one for my daughter. I acknowledge that God’s desire for that unborn child might not be part of that thought process with my daughter my only concern–thus the much food for thought.

    My question to you is this: Would being anti/no-choice by force make us a righteous nation, which is how I summarize your post. I don’t see how. That’s like being forced into the baptismal pool and expecting it to mean something, isn’t it?

    • Tara Edelschick

      Thanks for this thought response, Jo.

      I want to answer your question in two parts. First, let me say that I have no interest in creating a righteous nation. For the sake of Love, I do pray that everyone would live the way we were created to live. But I have no desire to legislate that. So I am torn about legislating abortion. I understand that legislation is unlikely to reduce the abortion rate more than other measures we might all agree upon. So, no, my goal is not to force some version of a Christian state.

      On the other hand – and here I want to push on your argument a bit – I don’t want to be pushed out of the public square simply because I am a person of faith. For instance, I want to pass a law that would make capital punishment illegal. I won’t go into all of the arguments for that position, but I come to it through my faith. Would I be forcing my religion on others if I advocated for the law? Is so, than as a Christian I can advocate for no laws. All of my positions, you see, are filtered through the lens of my faith.

      To push it a bit further, no one is against making murder illegal. If you believe that abortion, always or in some cases, is murder, than you would think it only logical to make abortion illegal. You wouldn’t see that as pushing a religious agenda any more than you would see making murder illegal. Does that make sense?

      Do write back. I’d love to hear what you think.

  • Liane

    You’re very brave and considerate of your audience to share your personal experience. But I can’t get over feeling as if your stance is hypocritical. While through your emerging faith you came to believe that, “in general, women shouldn’t be able to chose to end their pregnancies,” the bottom line is that you did. And perhaps because you found a safe, clean place to have your procedure, you’re here today to tell about it.

    There are women all over the world who live in poverty, have no access to prenatal care, and choose to have unsafe, illegal abortions because they feel that they have little choice. And who’s to say that this seemingly drastic example doesn’t describe the situation some American women find themselves in? Women chose abortion even when it was illegal. Women will continue to do so, many of whom will decide to deal with the spiritual repercussions later.

    I agree that you should not be “pushed out of the public square” because your faith informs your principles. But in my ideal world, any vote you would cast to make abortion illegal would be nullified by the fact that you’ve had an abortion. YOUR faith informs YOUR perspective, not any everyone else’s.

    That’s not a smack at you, please understand. Let me explain, using a personal example: consider our soldiers returning from war. A husband is hailed as a hero upon his return and showered with praise for “fighting for our freedoms.” But he doesn’t feel like a hero. In fact, he cries at night, is depressed by day, and has nightmares about the lives he took on the battlefield. America excuses the deaths he caused, but he can’t excuse himself. More than that, he felt as if he had to leave his faith behind in order to be hardened enough to kill, so he thinks he is now damned. He doesn’t care what the rest of America thinks; he asserts that he’s no hero. If we allowed only men and women who had firsthand experience on the battlefield to decide whether or not the US should declare war, we’d be the most neutral nation on the planet. But that’s not what happens. Politicians who claim to see the big picture declare war to defend a larger ideal.

    Same for abortion, in my view. We cannot know the repercussions of every abortion. If we asked many women who chose to have one, I’ll bet they’d say, “Let’s not expand abortion rights, but let’s do better as a nation to provide resources for young single mothers so that they feel as if there are other options. How about childcare services for that inner city mother? How about free birth control for that small-town teen who lives so far away from the nearest free clinic?” But that’s not what we’re doing. Because of faith, we’re trying to close down Planned Parenthood clinics (where I got my birth control while in college, by the way), because we’d rather not see one more abortion take place, even if it means that other well-woman resources are no longer accessible. We’re trying to slash “entitlements,” rather than see one crooked freeloader get one, thin, unearned dime. And while I recognize that some women will choose abortion out of convenience, not all will.

    Until we start asking these women to share their stories, brave women like you, and learn from them, then the very least we can do as a nation is to keep abortion safe and legal for those who will choose it.

    • Tara Edelschick


      Thanks for writing. I did not read your response as a “smack at” me, so thank you for your respectful tone.

      I would like to note that I never mentioned anything about making abortion illegal. I have very mixed feelings about that. Both you and the previous commenter are interested in whether or not my legal preferences make me a hypocrite or zealot, but I’m not talking here about legal positions. Our highly politicized discourse, though, seems to crowd out discussions of abortion that don’t focus on the legality of it.

      And before anyone says anything, yes, I understand that the legality of abortion is at the precisely the point for many people. They can’t stop fighting for or against it because it is a matter of life and death. And, no, I don’t take life and death – those of fetuses or pregnant women – lightly. I’m simply suggesting that we might have more productive, loving discussions about abortion – discussions where we both learn from each other and change as a result of that learning – if we take its legality off the table for a bit.

    • M. Grant

      if you’re writing about your husband (or even if you aren’t) the example you give of the soldier – who can’t excuse in himself that which his / her country excuses, and for its causes demands – is beautiful, and truly moving. thank you. It may be the most unrecognized and unheralded aspect of what a soldier goes through to recover a sense of self and soul, that after the faithful discharge of one’s duties may come the pats on the back and yet deeper concerns looking into the mirror.

  • CG

    Thanks, Tara, for modeling the capacity to be honest and to be responsive to others’ dissenting honesty. That seems to be increasingly difficult in our country at this time, and I think lots of well-meaning people (left, right & centrists included) are increasing the polarity every day which makes communication such as this nearly impossible. I continue to believe in the impossible, though I may have to stop my FB binge right now in order to keep the faith.

  • Seth Deam

    Tara, I really appreciate your thoughtful approach to this issue. It really spoke to me. You create the space for those who disagree with you to enter into a conversation with you.

    I sense a trigger for some of the concern is taking on the label of anti-choice. That at least caused a visceral reaction for me. That carries with it the baggage of an agenda to make abortions illegal, but it seems that that is not your focus. I have a hard time being against choice but not a hard time being against abortion. Not sure if that leads to a coherent position, but it leads to a focus on policy that reduces the number of abortions in ways other than those designed to make it more difficult to have an abortion.

  • Are you aware that Planned Parenthood is moving away from the word “CHOICE?”

    If you are pro “choice” on abortion you are proabortion.

    As a fellow post abortive mom I will pray for your continued healing.

  • I love this post. I felt that you did a good job acknowledging that we do need to remember that many pro-choice people are trying to bring down abortions and not equate those people as murderers.
    I grew up pro-life, and I still feel it is not right to have an abortion; though in practical terms, I’m not sure how the state could safely outlaw abortions. For example, there is times when abortions are medically necessary. How can the state regulate when its okay, and when not? I also know that abortions go down when we address poverty and other issues, not when we pass laws. Where I live, where abortion is illegal, abortions is still higher than in the US.

  • Joe H.

    Abortion. Hoo-boy. The vast majority of the time, no one is happy with what I have to say about it, so here goes anyway: Abortion is murder, pure and simple. And God gave us the right to choose between good and evil. I’m not about to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term that she doesn’t want. She has the right to do what she wants with her own body. The unborn child loses out, and that is unfortunate. The world is a cold, cruel place. But you pro-life people are just going to have to take comfort in the fact that the aborted child is in heaven and that the woman who had her unborn child aborted is going to have to face the LORD and answer for it eventually.

  • Susan Elaine

    Three points:
    1. I am pro-life or anti-choice, if you prefer. As with many labels, I am not particularly fond of calling myself “anti-choice” either for similar reasons that you stated concerning the label “pro-life”.

    2. It might seem simplistic or trite or… something, but when one imagines possible discussions taking place back in slavery days about the exceptions/compromises/justifications people had for one human being owning another and compare it to the discussions we have today concerning the plight of the unborn, it is uncomfortably similar. People cannot imagine nor do they want to accept that good people would or could have agreed with slavery, much less own a slave themselves. By and large, people believe that to have been a slave owner meant you were evil. The overwhelming consensus in America is that slavery was/is abhorrent and immoral in every way. No exceptions, no justifications, no compromises. Just plain wrong. The mere suggestion that we should consider revisiting the right for one to own another would be preposterous. Yet we try to have intellectual and dispassionate discussions about the right of the mother to, in essence, “own” her unborn child and determine his or her continuance as if we are discussing the merits of recycling. Thirty years ago we didn’t know what we know today about the developing baby inside of a mother’s womb. With that ever expanding knowledge, it is no wonder that there has been a definitive shift in people’s personal stance on the abortion issue. As in slavery, we’re moving closer to a time where our personal convictions will need to be reflected in effective legislation that will give protection to the most vulnerable among us.

    3. Having said that, I am a pragmatic pro-life individual who, for starters, would love not to have one cent of tax payer monies going for abortions or anything else having to do with abortions. Seemingly, we are worlds away from any meaningful compromise that would serve to lessen the number of abortions. The “abortion on demand” zealots seem to have a stranglehold on, in particular, liberal politicians to the point that it keeps legislators from responding to the emerging conscience of our culture that abortion is… just. plain. wrong.

  • Amazing post. I feel that your experience, your humble telling of being repentant toward God because of the abortion, is honest and absolutely the way we should all look at our choices. King David sinned, slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant and had her husband killed. When it was all said and done the baby they had conceived died and his response to God was “against You and You only have I sinned.” Our choices must be weighed in the balance of God’s love for His people, not in our own concept of right and wrong.

    I could talk/type for hours on the ideas of choice/life/freedom and what God intends for our country and all mankind, but I won’t. I wrestle myself with the idea of legislating something that is better brought to submission in the heart. If I could snap my fingers and make abortion illegal…I think I would, based on my belief that abortion is taking a life that didn’t have a choice…but I would rather see people use their own freedom to make abortion unheard of. My dream for my community, however small or large, is that Christ in me will make a difference to draw more and more hearts to the conclusion you came to. I will pray for the healing of our nation through repentant hearts and legislation that follows it, not legislation that forces it.

  • Mary Jo

    Tara, None of this is “sentimental crap”, it is God speaking to your heart. May God bless you. I’m so sorry for the agony that you went through at nineteen, and the deep pain this choice has obviously inflicted on you–people don’t weep uncontrollably, or feel the need to blog twenty years later, about having made the choice to remove their appendix. I feel terrible for babies killed by abortion, but I feel much worse for the girls and women who are wounded for life by the lie that it’s “just a procedure”. The good news is that God forgives all, if we ask. He is wildly in love with every human being at every moment of our existence–but He is waiting for us to turn back to Him. The ironic thing is that most women who have abortions say that they didn’t feel that they “didn’t have a choice” because they are pressured to abort simply because it is a legal option. Pray & work to end abortion, and God will surely accept this penance for ignoring His choice: Be Pro-Life.