Last month we saw the seminal and grave decision made by the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn Roe v. Wade. Human rights activists, from politicians to the religious (inter-faith as well as liberal and conservative Christians a like), raised their voices to express their passionate opinions on the matter. And for good reason. One of the main questions that has emerged is, “Is the Bible pro-abortion?”
I’ve sat back this last month and read through news media, instagram posts, and activists at work on various platforms. I’ve seen the rapacious celebrating and the devouring and merciless words from those who call themselves pro-life. There have been all accounts of virtue signalling and people genuinely passionate about what is categorized as unborn life. I’ve seen the rebuttals from those who identify as pro-choice, challenging religious tropes and reasoning* with the real life issues and dangers that might imperil to those possessing ‘born life,’ their life; the lives of women and birthing people everywhere. And it is all just so much. I’m sure you are feeling it too.
I am thoughtfully, faithfully, and humanely pro-choice. I am proud and solid in this. But I wasn’t always. As a young girl and teenager I was dutifully and unapologetically pro-life. Growing up Catholic turned Pentecostal Evangelical how would I have a chance to be anything else? I was spun the story of brutally dying babies. Beautiful little souls never to be born and painfully expiring within the womb that did not want them, yet caused them by a reckless decision involving sexual immorality and promiscuous living. That was/is the story, isn’t?
As a teenager in my public school I would debate my pro-life stance in my social studies classes when abortion came up and I even remember sparing with a democratic candidate for New York Senator when he came for a visit to our classroom. I said, ‘but we look to you as our leaders and you are letting us down.’ Most of my friends were pro-choice, as much as a 15 or 16 year old could be in the 90’s because what did we really know about any of it anyway? But everyone was impressed by my willingness to stand up to a real politician on any issue. The confidence I found to do such a thing came from my understanding that this is what my God wanted from me. To be strong and fight for (his) causes and stand up to the face of evil, in this case evil was the laws that allowed babies to be murdered.
At one point, I remember praying outside an abortion clinic with some youth group friends. I thought the harder I prayed and perhaps the bigger display I made the more God might act and maybe, even more importantly, God would see how willing I was to do (his) work and bidding.
As I write this, I am not sure whether I regret those acts or not. I am certainly embarrassed that I did such a thing, but it also gives me an appreciation for the pro-life position because while I adamantly and vehemently disagree…I understand it because I have been on the inside.
There are so many reasons abortion occurs. So many life saving reasons-both medically, mentally, emotionally, familiarly or otherwise. And it is simply no one’s choice but that woman and her doctor’s. These are private and delicate conversations. This is hard and emotional labor to toil through medical options that are best for one’s body, life and future. And I simply can’t believe that it has been taken away. In America. In 2022.
In some sense you could say I am pro-life. Because I am all for life. I am all for the life you want to live. Your own design without infringement from a child who is not wanted or planned for. All for life that sometimes those in poverty stricken situations have to survive through in enough difficulty without adding another person into it. (TW-sexual assault) All for the life someone needs to heal unto and into after r*pe or an incestuous relationship without having even more traces of the brokenness, assault and abuse. Can women and children survive these situations? Yes, of course. But it should be a personal choice. Not mandated from the government or a religion that not everyone shares.
I have been on a particular form of birth control for almost 16 years that could easily cause an ectopic pregnancy. My only choice would be an abortion or I would die. If I live in America in, now, one of the many states where abortion has been made illegal and no longer federally protected I would not be able to have the life saving medical care I would need. But this isn’t about me. It is just one of the many examples of diverse situations in which abortion is the only option.
I am so grieved by those who say they want to be a voice for the voiceless, aka the unborn, but sit in blatant silence in the face of all the injustice, suppression and oppression of born life? This I just don’t understand. At all.
I have seen the religious right weaponize the bible and take all sorts of verses out of context to talk about why abortion is wrong. I have also seen the Christian left equally engage in warfare employing scripture and all the ways we see the God of the Bible as pro-choice. I have read the daggers coming right off the page as those with knowledge of the Old Testament highlight the murderous and genocidal whims of old school Yahweh in service of proving that the Judeo-Christian God is not a pro-life one. I could go on and on because I have seen so much, I have seen it all. Not just in this last month, but in my life. Making the bible mean what we want it to mean or what we think it should mean or even what we think it actually means is totally irrelevant. And this coming from someone who has a deep love and respect for Scripture, its narrative power, and all the text has had for us and has for us still.
This is not about god or the bible or religion. This isn’t about what is or isn’t in the Bible. This is about human rights. Born ones. Citizen ones. Public ones. This is about body autonomy. It’s about healthcare. That each person is allowed their decision for family planning, for their life, for their mental, physical, and emotional well being. This is about government supposing to be in public service, but really only in service to themselves and their own interests and what it has just taken away from all of us.
I couldn’t be more grieved.
From knowing my story you could imagine that I have had many conversations with those who are pro-life (although I would argue pro-birth). I have had conversations with those who are pro-life as someone who is pro-life and again as someone who is now pro-choice. And I just wonder why we can’t make love the order of the day? I know that might sound idealistic and naive, but it is still a good question to ask.
Why instead of battling over what bible verses mean, what and whose god thinks this or that about unborn babies, why can’t we just trust someone when they say they know what is best for their bodies? Even if one is pro-life (pro-birth) what if the most loving (or Christlike if you want to be religious about it) thing to do is drive someone who has made the difficult decision to have an abortion to the abortion clinic, sit with them while they wait for their procedure and then make them chicken soup and tuck them into bed while they heal at home? What does it matter what ‘we’ think about ‘their’ choice? It isn’t up to anyone but the person whose body it is. I mean this seems simple enough. For those who are pro-choice, I prefer to be pro-choice because I am a humanitarian and not because I have somehow recognized a biblical mandate for such laws, activity and autonomy.
So, is the Bible pro-abortion? Does the Bible speak to abortion rights in 21st century America? No, it is absolutely does not. Do we find life and death and women and children and autonomy and rights and customs and law in a million different contexts throughout the texts we call Scripture? Yes, we do. So, that means we get to tread lightly, with theological and hermeneutical humanity. It means we get to quit weaponizing Scripture even when we feel we are fighting for noble causes. This is how we respect it. Do we have a god who has condemned people to death. Yes. Do we have a god who gives life. Yes. We find all this and more in the colorful, contextual and chaotic stories that are our Christian Scriptures. Abortion is a human rights issue. It is a healthcare issue. And that should be enough.