As we approach Roe v. Wade Day once again, we know that many anti-abortion elected officials will opine about the sacredness of every pregnancy. But women know that, political rhetoric notwithstanding, matters of faith and reproductive health are complex.
This came home to me a few years ago when I was recently in a march to keep abortion legal. The friend I was marching beside had just, that very morning, watched a stick turn pink. The pregnancy could not have been more wanted. Said stick had been tested the very first day it could possibly reveal a tiny speck of protoplasm beginning to congeal inside of her.
We were jubilant as we marched. Of course we knew that our jubilation was not about a present biological reality, but a possibility for the future, hope sharpened by several past miscarriages. But to us, and her husband at home, this speck was the precious beginning of a new life. The choice my friend was making, on that day celebrating women's choice, was to bring a longed-for child into the world. That protoplasm is now a flesh and blood human being, someone I have giggled with and talked to and played with.
And. I have also wept with a couple who learned that their six-month pregnancy, a baby they had not only named but were creating a nursery for, had a brain growing outside of her head and had no chance at all of surviving the pregnancy much less birth. I wept with them for the loss of their dreams, as the mother prepared to undergo the horrific surgery now outlawed by the Supreme Court of the United States, so that she need not spend an additional three months birthing a corpse. The medical procedure was recommended by her doctor as the best means of preserving her health during a time of unspeakable loss. Not a choice, but a medical emergency.
And. I am the mother of an adopted child. A nameless woman in China, whose life struggles and circumstances I shall never know, chose to bring her/my beloved child into the world in a country where abortion is safe and legal. I don't know at what personal cost she did this. I don't know her reasons or motivations—was she hoping for a boy instead of a girl? A marriage? Financial circumstances to change? I only know that her choice to bring this baby into the world has made my life rich in ways I could not even have imagined. I will offer her prayers of gratitude every day of my life. The birthmother's choice and my choice, this child.
And. I am the friend of a woman who learned she was pregnant, at age 21, right after she had finally summoned the courage to come out as a lesbian. She could not imagine the pain involved in bringing this child into the world, with an ex-boyfriend whom she had tried to love but could not. She chose to have an abortion. She chose with regret and grief, but also certainty that this was the right path for her to take. It was her choice; it was her life.
Who is the God big enough to hold each of these women in their joys and struggles? Some would declare that only the first woman is truly living out God's intentions for women as expressed in the Book of Genesis, to "be fruitful and multiply." But the God I know is big enough to hold all of these life stories and millions more, stories of beginnings and endings that intertwine to make the world in which we live. Stars, animals, plants, humans, are born and die around us each day of our lives.
It angers me when people use God's name to try to simplify all of the chaos that is life, to close the book on creation as if this is what God wanted. No Supreme Court ruling or ideologically based Congress will change the biological, emotional, and spiritual complexities of any of our lives. No posturing with moral platitudes will diminish the grief or jubilation any family experiences because of wanted or unwanted pregnancies.
The God I love is not a God who stands, armed with judgment, at the doors of life's complexities. Rather, I believe that the God of pregnant women is the God who, in the words of novelist Alice Walker, "loves everything you love and a mess of stuff you don't." The God I love holds us all.