So initially, I had considered writing something on this, but it immediately became clear that my place in this conversation is to signal-boost the voices of women, rather than embracing the paternalistic standard operating procedure men have followed in the past. Maybe in a future post I’ll add some thoughts, but for now, please enjoy this thoughtful post from my brilliant wife, Mikala, who is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work from Indiana University.
“Abortion Is Wrong”
About 14 years ago I was a freshman at the University of Central Arkansas. This was a new and exciting time of freedom and independence, a place where I was without my parents for the first time. That year would have many firsts: I was going to experience my first gay coming out party in the middle of campus, I would hear a man yelling on the freedom patio about how awful abortion is and that “the gays” were going to corrupt our country. This was also the place I would first walk by a Pro-Life van. A van with graphic images of an unborn baby (or one they claimed had been aborted). The image were gruesome and really unnecessary.
Now at the time did I think abortion should be illegal? Yes. Did I have an experience with an unwanted pregnancy or personally know someone? Nope. But did I actually understand what the term “pro-life” could mean? No. In all honesty, this became a topic I never talked about, I knew nothing about, and I thought that a woman could always just go to full term and allow a sweet young family adopt her child.
But come to find out I was wrong. Or I just didn’t take in the whole picture, wasn’t taught the whole picture. What if Pro-life incompasses ALL lives? What if we zoomed out and took in the entirety of a woman’s story and why she is in her current unwanted pregnancy state, what would we find?
Intellect is Good
According to the CDC, 23% of abortions happened because the woman couldn’t afford a baby and 8% didn’t want to be a single mom. This is where we must begin in thinking about pro-life. How do we support a single woman as a mother? Recently the state of Alabama passed a “heartbeat law,” which puts major restrictions on having access to an abortion. But in the same week, Alabama also turned down free healthcare for children three and under. Do you see where I am going with this?
With one breath we say an unborn child is of utmost importance, but in the other we aren’t willing to take care of them once they are born full term. The bill for expanding Medicaid was brought out to help women have free healthcare for their child, one less expense for them and also one less worry. But in the same week this was denied, because we are “pro-life.”
When the courts heard Roe v. Wade in 1973 it was the beginning of pro-life v. pro-choice. The war on unborn baby v. a woman’s body. The extreme right v. the extreme left. Intellect v. moral righteousness. It has become a political catch phrase that can decide who you will vote for.
Many of you are reading this and are wanting to throw Scripture. I get that but I am not going to use scripture in this blog. Many of you think I have wandered far from the faith of my parents. In fact this is slightly true as it is my faith, and I am ok with that. Many of you may be just disappointed and think I am some “left wing pro-choice liberal” and this may also be true. But I do want to want to explain why I call myself “politically pro-choice” and “spiritually pro-life.”
It has everything to do with what I have said above. To be able to call myself “Pro-life” I want to be holistically for ALL LIVES. I believe the life of the man on death row matters. I believe the life of the elderly person in hospice matters. I believe that Syrian refugees and families crossing the American/Mexican border lives matter. I believe the lives lost by a drone strike matter. I believe that the life of the woman who is carrying an unwanted child matters. Do you see how I believe that from conception to death all lives matter and I am called to protect all of those?
I am called to the Beatitudes and also the Social Work Code of Ethics: I am called to “love all like Christ” and also to “believe that everyone deserves dignity and has the right of self-determination.” When we decide to restrict women and what they can do with their bodies, we decide they are incapable of self-determination and decide their only value as a woman is to be an incubator. When we allow only white religious men to make the decisions on reproductive rights, then we are saying that there is no dignity or self-determination in womanhood.
I want a woman to have all the options she needs to decide to have a child. The support she may need to bring a rapist to justice, medical care to go full term, or the intellectual support of how an abortion may save her own life. I want to see an expansion of programs like SNAP, WIC, and universal healthcare. I want to see free Pre-K so mothers can continue to expand their own career or educational dreams. I want to see scripture and politics left out and instead see ethics and science involved.
My challenge is…. Be gentle. Be kind. Every woman has her own story and she doesn’t have to tell us, but we do have to believe her. When we call a woman a murderer for having an abortion we are saying 1 in 4 women in America are heartless, evil, and no longer deserve to make decisions that are best for her own body. And that goes against everything Christ would say and represents. It also goes against any type of ethics or self-determination. It goes against being a decent human being. Be gentle. Be kind.