A couple of days ago, I posted “Pro-birth, Pro-choice, Pro-life, Part One.” I know you’ve been waiting for the sequel. Wait no longer! Let’s pretend it’s easy for Christians to talk about contraceptives (and all that jazz). (BTW have you subscribed to Grace Colored Glasses yet?)
Many Christians I know are gearing up to vote Donald Trump 4 more years, because of one issue: ABORTION.
I see it every day on social media: “I don’t care for Trump, but I can’t vote for a baby-killer.”
As I began to distance myself from conservative Christianity a few years ago, I assumed I’d always have a foot in the Republican party because of the abortion issue.
But one day, instead of thoughtlessly toeing the party line, I did some research, and discovered that the issue is not what it seems. Never assume. It’s complicated, nuanced. And Christians need to stop oversimplifying. Let’s jump in.
Who aborts and why?
For starters, 69 percent of women who have abortions are economically disadvantaged. Their poverty explains both why they got pregnant (can’t afford contraceptives) and why they don’t want to stay pregnant (can’t afford a child).
Let me say it another way:
the women who have abortions are not more promiscuous than others, just poorer.
The average cost of raising one child to age seventeen is estimated at $284,000. Low income families manage it for around $175,000. That’s still over $10k per year. Women don’t need to know this grand total – just a trip down the diaper aisle at WalMart is enough to tell them that babies are expensive. It isn’t rocket science.
To the poor, abortion may understandably look like a good option. Let’s acknowledge that, un-judgmentally.
There are those among us who would consider it scandalous to make contraceptives readily available. I used to be one of those people. But I asked myself,
Do we want to stop the murder of unborn babies, or don’t we?
The best way to reduce the number of abortions is by reducing the number of pregnancies. We need to stop attacking abortion clinics and chasing at-risk pregnant women, and start providing accessible, affordable contraception. It’s simple and logical. And preemptive. And effective. And perhaps even loving.
Let’s acknowledge, un-judgmentally, that contraception is a good thing.
Revisiting the arguments
Many well-worn arguments used to ring true for me, but no longer do. This doesn’t mean I condone abortion. It’s not all-or-nothing. I’m just acknowledging that the issue isn’t as simple as these arguments make them out to be.
Argument 1: ”We should protect women from the lifelong trauma she would carry with her if she aborts.” Okay. What about the lifelong trauma of watching her child grow up in poverty? What about the trauma to the child as he grows up in poverty? What about the multigenerational trauma as the poverty cycle continues?
Let’s acknowledge that having a baby can be traumatic too.
Argument 2: “It’s bad enough to sin by conceiving a child out of wedlock. Why add another sin on top of that by aborting?” Let me play devil’s advocate here. If a poor woman brings a child into the world, and has to turn tricks or sell drugs to put food on the table, is that problematic? Or if she has to work three jobs and doesn’t have time to help her child with his homework, and he becomes a dropout and then a criminal, is that problematic? It’s shortsighted to say “conceiving a child out of wedlock is one sin, abortion is the other.”
Let’s acknowledge that raising a child in poverty is extremely difficult.
Argument 3: “Abortion does not solve the deeper problems that the woman faces—such as low self-esteem, unchaste sexual behavior, and absence of moral guidance.” This statement singles out the pregnant woman as having character flaws—but what about the woman who used contraceptives and didn’t get pregnant? Unchastity is widespread, but generally only the poor end up pregnant. The abortion problem can not be solved without addressing poverty.
Let’s acknowledge that women seeking abortions are not greater sinners than others.
Argument 4: “We must learn to accept the responsibilities that follow our choices.”
Following this line of reasoning, if I choose to be careless and back my car into a pond, I should stay in the car as it sinks; if I get lung cancer as a result of smoking, I should not seek treatment; if my friend wants to drive drunk, I should let him. Obviously this is absurd.
The idea of “accepting responsibility for our actions” only applies to those women (usually black and poor) who could not afford contraception—whose choices led to pregnancy. Middle class, white women who made the same choice did not end up pregnant.
Let’s acknowledge that we are judging these women by outcomes, not behaviors.
These anti-abortion arguments are simplistic and unrealistic, and they conveniently ignore many critical facts. We need to recognize the complexities of an unwanted pregnancy. Note: that is not the same as green-lighting abortion.
The facts of life in the Church
The Church is in a difficult spot. Understandably, we do not want to turn a blind eye to any and all sex; but neither do we want to have our heads in the sand. Sex happens. To pretend that it doesn’t is dangerous, and has actually put us into a position of having to defend an untenable position (and an indefensible President).
We can tell ourselves and our children to “just wait” – but it’s an unrealistic formula to impose on society.
Salvation (as we define it) does not fix this issue: “ask Jesus into your heart and he will help you resist temptation.” Single Christian women are engaging in sex at almost the same rate as the general population, and I personally know of oodles of good girls who have had babies out of wedlock because they didn’t have contraceptives. Several studies even indicate that more than half of abortions are performed on Christians.
Let that sink in: more than half of abortions are performed on Christians.
I haven’t given up on the ideal of celibacy and fidelity—not by any means! It’s possible for anyone to be sexually pure, but it’s not possible for everyone to be sexually pure.
We still need to grapple with “Thou shalt not kill.” This was a clear command from God, and not to be broken (well, except when God wanted an evil nation to be wiped out, or when a child disobeyed his parents, or a couple got caught in adultery).
In spite of God’s commands to commit genocide and stonings, Christians believe that He is compassionate and abounding in grace. He wants babies (wedlock-born or otherwise) to live and thrive. What does this mean to us?
Bottom line: contraceptives and hope
If the life of every fetus is sacred, then we should do all we can to stop abortion. We don’t just wait for Roe to go away (or vote for a candidate just because he promises to take it away).
All means ALL: we agree to free or inexpensive contraceptives, as much as it hurts our righteous sensibilities.
Stop abortion means STOP abortion—not il-legalize it, but offer a reasonable alternative to poor, pregnant women. Give them the means and the hope to sustain life.
Pro-life means pro-LIFE, not pro-BIRTH. We must reach out our hands to the poor, not judge them as undeserving or irresponsible. Let’s avert suffering and hunger for those babies and their mothers. (More about this another time.)
We all long for a world in which every child is wanted, loved, and cared for. Life is sacred, but life is given to individual women, and we can’t force our will on them. Abortion is a moral issue, and should be decided by individuals based on their individual convictions.
We can make their decision easier by creating an environment in which women who want to avoid pregnancy can acquire contraceptives, and those who become pregnant can offer a decent life to their children—this is an environment in which abortion is not the most attractive option. Let’s repeat that:
We can create an environment in which abortion is not the most attractive option.
Being pro-life also means we should try to bring an end to the slaughter of ALL innocents—whether they be unborn babies, Syrian men, Iraqi women, Palestinian youth, Israeli settlers, Afghan rebels, Vietnamese Buddhists, Russians, communists, Mexicans, Muslims, criminals, drug addicts, welfare recipients, LGBTQ people—all lives are equally precious and sacred.
Being pro-life means welcoming refugees, raising our voices for peace instead of war, resisting bigotry, and caring for those in need.
And actually, that is something you can vote on. The candidate who promises to deliver Roe v. Wade on a silver platter will not put a dent in the abortion statistics.
So if you really want to stop the murder of babies, you are hereby released from your allegiance to That Candidate.