Wednesday, September 29, 2021

On Abortion

Texas has just enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the country and I am dumbfounded. Don't get me wrong, I am not a full-on pro-abortion person, though I have been accused of such. It is a spectrum, people, and I have friends all across the spectrum from pro-life/anti-abortion, those who believe that abortion for any reason at all as well as certain forms of birth control is pure unadulterated evil to those who believe that a woman should be able to make any choice she jolly well pleases with her own body. I actually think that a lot of us are somewhere in the middle and that is because the issue of unintended pregnancy is not a black and white issue. There is a lot of gray. A lot of complexity. A lot of messiness. 

For decades I was in a camp that pretty much believed that your views on abortion were the litmus test of your beliefs about God. The more you opposed abortion the closer you were to Jesus. A step over the line into the nuance of the issue meant a step onto the slippery slope of liberalism. Abortion was viewed as the selfish choice made by women who were too slutty to choose abstinence, too foolish to use birth control, too self-centered to carry a baby to term, too selfish to give it up for adoption, and too lazy to raise it as her own. 

I don't know if I ever believed all that but I do know at one point in my life things seemed a lot more clearly marked than they do now. I was much more naive to the complexities and I didn't have a frame of reference to understand why the abortion issue was so much more complicated than I had ever understood.

All that changed about ten years ago and I got a front row seat to what happens when a young woman gets pregnant out of wedlock. I will say that, for the most part, my daughter's pregnancy was embraced and supported and for those who came alongside us I am forever grateful. And yet I also saw the flip side. When a friend wanted to throw a baby shower for our daughter that friend was told by a church leader that "this is not something to celebrate." Another person said that the concern among many was that a baby shower would be a sign that they were "endorsing her sin." All of the sudden the rhetoric no longer matched the reality. Sure let's trumpet our pro-life stance everywhere we can, let's picket abortion clinics, let's villify any public official who isn't on the pro-life ticket (and chide those who voted for them) but when the rubber meets the road, we just can't go there. We who say that we "love babies" and want you to "choose life" don't mean that when it comes in the form of an unwed mother with a large belly. 

I've written way too much about the needs of single mothers to recount it again here. All this to say that you can't be pro-life and then wave away any responsibility to come alongside women who are doing exactly what you wanted them to do: bearing a child.

The problem is that the pursuit of abortion isn't just the pasttime of women who are too selfish and irresponsible to use birth control or have the baby. There are just so many situations that are so complex. Situations that are hard enough on their own and then you throw a pregnancy in the mix. 

The reason I cannot applaud the Texas ban on abortion starting at 6 weeks of pregnancy is because I cannot fathom how so many scenarios will be handled. There are too many questions. 

-Should a 14 year-old who has been impregnated by her abusive older brother (or father or grandfather or uncle) be forced to carry a baby to term? Is her body ready for this? Can she emotionally handle it? What does this do to the family dynamic? Will the abuser get prosectuted? Will the abuser get parental rights? Who raises the baby? What does enduring a pregnancy, especially one that is the result of incest, do to her social world? Will she bear the stigma forever?

-What about victims of rape or coercion? Is a woman (or girl) forced to carry the child of a rapist or the cool guy who sweet talked her into making out, only to not stop when she begged him to? Who raises this baby? Who has custody? Who pays child support? 

-What about the woman who desperately wants to find an escape from her abusive boyfriend or husband, only to discover that she is pregnant (and most likely pregnant due to coercion or rape). Any physical abuse almost always escalates during pregnancy. Will he beat her because she is pregnant? Or will he use the baby as a tool to control her for the next 18 years, a pawn in a custody battle. 

-What about the women who don't have the medical insurance to cover prenatal care? Many Christian medical sharing programs will not cover any expenses related to pregnancy or childbirth if the woman is not married. 

-What about the woman who knows that revealing a pregnancy will mean that her parents will disown her forever? Or she'll be excommunicated from her church? Or miss out on her only chance to go to college and get herself out of a cycle of generational poverty? Are we prepared to be her family? Her church? Her village who will help her raise her child while she pursues an education? Will we offer her childcare so she can get her feet under her? 

-What about the woman whose life is now threatened by the pregnancy and the very life growing inside her? Can she make the decision to terminate the pregnancy (assuming it can be done) without bearing the stigma for making a decision that nobody would ever want to be forced to make? Why does the only pro-life stance have to be choosing the possible life of the baby over the probable death of the mother? 

Please understand me. I am not saying that abortion is the answer. I am saying that this is an incredibly complex issue. Women have abortions for so many different reasons. I'm sure some are what we have always been taught they: choices of convenience. But there are so many that aren't and that is what concerns me. 

I think Texas is putting the cart before the horse. BEFORE abortion gets banned in such a broad stroke sort of way, be it in Texas or some other state, we need to deal with some serious issues and, quite frankly, we need to make abortion less wanted. Less needed. I'm afraid an abortion ban cannot be put out there as a neat-and-tidy-one-size-fits-all solution because it isn't a solution at all and it will likely only create a bigger problem. 

I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-support. I am pro-let's-find-a-path-forward. I am pro-changing-the -andscape-so-that-abortions-aren't-needed-or-wanted. If we don't want abortion, then we need to roll up our sleeves, come alongside the women and children, and do the hard work of putting our heart and soul into what we have professed to believe about the sanctity of every life. 

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