On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when emotions run high, it seems an important time to re-post this piece i wrote awhile ago. What has happened to the elusive ‘middle road,’ that place from which people of differing views can see another side, and engage in valuable discussion and discernment to approach difficult topics? If you’ve already read this, talk amongst yourselves.
Come to think of it–talk amongst yourselves, anyway. It’s important. Find somebody with whom you do not agree today, and try to remember that they are a whole person, too.
A slight re-framing: instead of posting this on the heels of Rep. Akin’s appalling remarks about rape (and how, sometimes, it is pretty much ok), i’m sharing this reflection as New Mexico discusses a bill that would force pregnant rape victims to keep the baby “as evidence” in sexual assault trials.
To begin, I would like to say that which goes without saying, but somehow does not: to be pro-choice does not mean one is necessarily pro-abortion. In fact, i don’t know anyone who is FOR abortion. Like, yay, let’s all go get one, then we’ll get a mani-pedi and hit happy hour for margaritas. For far too long, this is the image of ‘pro-choice’ that has been adopted and promoted in the public realm of discourse.
But I’m one of many, many people of faith in this country: who are pro-choice, but anti-abortion. If you think that is an oxymoron, stick with me. I think that abortion is sad and awful, and should not be used as an alternative to birth control, or as a matter of convenience. At the same time, I do not think that the government is equipped to make any sort of decision about women’s bodies. Furthermore, if abortion were to be criminalized, who would go to jail, exactly? I am pretty sure it would be women. Every. Single. Time. Where is the father? Somewhere getting another girl knocked up, maybe, but definitely not in jail.
I’m one of many people of faith in this country: who think that the best way to prevent abortion is through education, good healthcare, accessible contraception, and healthy conversations at home, school, and church–not just about abstinence, but about sexuality, respecting our bodies (ours, and those of others) and the sacred intent of sexual relationships.
I’m one of many people of faith: who believe that the most proactive way to reduce abortion is to address matters of poverty, racial and gender inequality, and other factors that leave women feeling trapped, alone, and desperate. Making childcare, health care, and education more accessible for single mothers, for instance…that would be a good start. Making it easy for single parents, same-sex couples and non-traditional families to adopt a child…that would open up some new avenues of conversation as well.
All this makes me one of many, many people of faith in this country: who feel we have nowhere to stand in the ‘pro-life/ pro-choice’ debate. It has become such a polarized, black/white, wrong/right sort of thing that there is no middle ground. There is no whole-person, big-picture voice. You are either sending women back to the dark ages, or you are killing babies. No other options.
Well, until now. We are beginning to see, in our age of polarized partisan politics, the ugly results of single-issue voting. Powerful men, leaders of this country, revealing their shocking ignorance of women’s bodies and their callous regard of violence toward women. Again and again, their voices shine light on what comes of extreme ideologies and rigid party lines (in either direction).
There’s a better way, people, and we know it. Whether you would classify yourself as ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice,’ we can all agree that no kind of rape is sort of ok. That brand of harmful rhetoric is what comes of dissolving important human issues to a tiny box on the ballot. Check or don’t check. No other option. This is what happens when we elect our leaders based on one belief, one hollow promise, one stump speech or sound bite. We find ourselves represented by people who are for anything BUT life, anything but progress, anything but human dignity and intelligent discourse.
I’m pro-choice, but I get why many people are not. I really do. I respect the other side of this discussion, and I struggle with it myself. But voting for one man (or woman) based on this issue alone—or ANY one issue, for that matter–diminishes us all as human beings. It reduces us to something the size of a ballot box, and from that miniscule frame, no life can grow.
If we truly value life, then we value life at every stage. Not just at conception, but beyond the womb, and into the needs of childhood; into the realms of justice and mercy and adequate nutrition; into questions of education and healthcare and equal rights; into protection for victims of rape and abuse, and for the whole journey of a human life. Until this conversation encompasses the whole picture of humanity and global well-being, then it is doubtful that any of us can claim God as being entirely on our side.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.