For Life

For Life August 21, 2012

I mean… way to say it out loud, Mr. Akin. Your ignorance may be astounding–horrific, even–but you are teaching us a valuable lesson. The moral of the story is–this is what single-issue voting will get you.

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 here. 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. That said—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 dissuade 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 nature of intercourse.

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.

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 approach. You are either sending women back to the dark ages, or you are killing babies.  No other options.

Well, until now. Did Todd Akin–in his bone-chilling moment of ignorance–just do something productive? I think so. What he managed to do, in one short statement, was to shine light on what comes of extreme ideologies and rigid party lines (in either direction). If I were going to look for something nice to say about the man, that would probably be it: that he has shown us the grim national future awaiting us, if we don’t change our ways. He’s like the Ghost of Christmas future–a fearsome orb, cloaked in death and darkness; a skeletal hand pointing to a day when THIS man—the Todd Akins of the world– is the face and voice of our country. (I fear you more than any spectre I have seen!)

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 (which Akin implied by qualifying some rape as ‘legitimate.) Akin’s 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 constantly 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.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

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  • Lisa Davison

    I consider myself to be “pro-choice” and “pro-humanity.” I dream of a world in which all pregnancies are planned and bring forth a new life that is healthy and loved, and culminate with a birth mother who experiences a sense of true wholeness. Unfortunately, this is not our reality. Plus, I trust women (and their doctors and partners, if involved) to make healthy decisions, and I would never take away that human right. Am I wrong for thinking this is a definition of being “pro-life”?

    • i mean, that is pro-life as far as i’m concerned…but hey, preaching to the choir.

  • Hopie

    A well written statement Erin. The Disciples of Christ Church is lucky to have you.

  • Debra Gawne

    I am “Pro-Life” and also “Pro-Choice”. While I would never have an abortion myself and would encourage others to look for a different alternative, I would never go back to the dark ages of my teenage years when women were dying from back alley butchers and had no real alternatives. That said, I am discouraged by the number of older, educated, informed women out there who use abortion as their choice of birth control. I find that inexcusable. Apparently education, the availability of birth control and not being impoverished doesn’t affect their mindset. Good article Erin. I’ve been wishing for years that there could be some sort of middle ground on this issue.

  • Johnny Wray

    Thanks, Erin. You certainly captured my sentiments well and that of many, many more
    I’m sure.

  • Abrams Annabel

    Very well written, thoughtful article. The black/white mindset in our country today is infuriating – there seems to be no way to talk and discuss politics – no more do we have respect for the opinions of others, as in: honorable people can disagree.

  • David Larson

    Excellent article Erin. After the spouse of one of my brothers had to have an abortion, I started using the term PRO-COMPASSION. I believe that ALL life is sacred but I do not believe I have the right to tell another person how they should be. Therefore, I believe we are all called to show compassion, hence PRO-COMPASSION.

  • Erin, I love all your writings, but this one REALLY captures my views on the issue as well. There isn’t much about life that is ‘either’ – ‘or’. Thank you!

  • Marilyn Bowers

    Thank you! that is exactly where I stand and you said so very well what is in my mind but didn’t have the words to express it.

  • I agree with what you said–except for one thing, and that is asserting that there are “extreme ideologies and rigid party lines (in either direction).” There is simply no equivalent on the pro-choice side to the extreme anti-abortion side. To have that, you would have to have pro-choicers calling for *mandatory* abortions–and there is no such call.

    One side says “Make all abortions illegal.” The other side says “Let women decide.” For the life of me, I can’t find anything extreme in that latter statement–and the starkness of the choice has been driven entirely by those who want to make abortion illegal in all cases. I think it is important to remember where the extremism lies–and not to try to paint with a broad brush in order to designate ourselves as somehow more moderate, thoughtful, and “above the fray.”

    Women have had abortions from the beginning of time. They will continue to have them, no matter what. The question is simply whether or not those abortions will be safe and legal–and whether or not women will be treated as fully autonomous, moral human beings with the right to make their own choices on this most intimate of matters.


  • I have always resented the fact that “pro-life” is the label. I too am “pro-life”, I just care as much about a person after they are born, as I do before they are born. Extremist views and extraordinary ignorance (about women’s bodies, lives, and choices), cannot be covered up by the innocuous sounding “pro-life” stance. I care about ALL life– to value an unborn one above a living, breathing, decision-making person is not really valuing the “unborn”, it’s a way of sneakily de-valuing the living. When we value compassion, education, and community we help those most likely to choose to end a pregnancy, and do our best/most to prevent that action– not by passing laws that have no regard for the realities some face. And the insinuation that “pro-choice” folks want people to have abortions is deplorable. We just don’t want a law without empathy or distinction to make that choice for someone. Statistics show that 2/3 of rape victims who conceive CHOOSE to carry the pregnancy to term. What does that demonstrate? That women are capable, even under extreme circumstances, to make the choice that is best for them. To tell them what to choose is to attempt to say you understand what they have endured better than they do, and there is nothing more callous.

    Great post. Single-issue voting is the very successful result of many years of propagandizing, and something we should be discussing more….

    • preach! course, i don’t know if that is better as a sermon, or a pageant speech…but I tell you what–that would win over “we have no time for eat!,” any day of the week. unless you happened to be in southeastern kentucky 🙂

  • shannon t

    Erin, this was lovely. I’m one of those who is pro-life (after assisting on a D&E for an in utero fetal death), but understand and have extreme sympathy for those who are pro-choice. I also dream of a day when contraception is easy, cheap/free, and plentiful, and when any woman who is pregnant gets all the support (emotional, financial) she needs during pregnancy and afterwards to make abortion unnecessary. I wish other people who label themselves pro-life would feel the same way. Most of us share the same goals as those who are pro-choice, and denounce the insensitive and hateful words of Akin! For those who lean pro-life, there is an excellent organization called Feminists for Life that has a track record of working with pro-choice groups to address the obstacles women face with unplanned pregnancies.

    • agreed. i wish more people knew about those kinds of connections, and that more people were willing to have open conversation about this–the real people involved, not just as a ‘big ticket’ issue. thanks for reading, and for the feedback!

  • janemp

    Thank you! I hate abortion. I’d never force a person to have one but I believe I don’t have a right to make a decision–either for or against abortion–for another person.