Many people presume that because I am a pastor, I must, therefore, be pro-life. It is presumed to be the “Christian” position on the subject, right?
And I want to be able to call myself “pro-life”. I am a big fan of life. I am thankful for it. I do my best to treasure it each day. I work hard in both my personal and professional life to try to make life better for the people I encounter on this journey through life.
Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is precious.
I want to declare myself “pro-life”.
But, somehow, that term has already been taken. And the people who have claimed it have told me I don’t belong. That I can’t be in the club because, as much as I love life, I also believe women should be able to make their own choices about pregnancies and abortion.
They invite me, instead to join the “baby killer” club. Or the “amoral abortions for everyone all the time” club. (Their comments and hate mail directed my way are an odd way of showing how they value my life).
I am a fan of keeping abortion legal, of allowing women to make their own best decisions about what to do with their own bodies. I recognize that when women are supported in their lives, when they have access to economic opportunities, early childhood education for children, access to health care, and won’t face moral judgment for their pregnancy, they are better able to make difficult choices.
Let’s improve the status and condition of women, giving them access to contraception and affordable healthcare, so every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy.
Let’s call ‘rape’ a crime and stop finding excuses for men’s horrible behavior.
Let’s acknowledge that childhood poverty is a real problem and some people can’t afford to raise children.
Let’s remember the women whose doctors recommend termination because the pregnancy is not viable. In addition to the pain they carry from the loss of a pregnancy, they also often bear the judgment of ‘pro-life’ people who seek to contravene the doctor’s life preserving medical knowledge.
Let’s affirm the physical health of the mother’s life matters, so the life of a fetus is not afforded more value than the life of the woman carries the fetus to term. (For an important testimony about this issue, read here.)
And as single mothers and unmarried pregnant women and girls still face stigmatization and judgment when they do ‘choose life’ and give birth, let’s take care of that judgment before we move on.
And how can we wrest the “pro-life” mantle from people that seem to believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth? I would like to expand the term beyond meaning “anti-choice” and make it a broader celebration of all of life. Bombing health clinics, murdering doctors, and enacting policies that make actual human lives more difficult to live all reveal that “life” is not a mantle they deserve to carry.
If we were pro-life, we’d be opposed to the death penalty.
If we, as a nation, were pro-life, we would be actively working to reduce the number of deaths in this country by gun violence.
If we were pro-life, we would be busily reminding our politicians that children (and their mothers and fathers) need access to health care, education, food, and safe living conditions in order to succeed in this world and to live good and healthy lives.
If we, as a nation, were truly pro-life, we’d deal with our racism that devalues the lives of black and brown bodies. Women of color will face a higher burden if abortion bans/restrictions become law.
Instead, we narrowly define our terms about only this one issue, as if our lives weren’t complicated and connected to each other, and as if we weren’t each doing the best we can do to get through the day.
I faced this choice once. I was young, unmarried (and not ready to be married), and not ready or able to raise a child. And when I considered my choices, I was thankful the choice was mine. I instantly had great compassion for my sisters who have chosen abortion.
I didn’t have to make the difficult choice of abortion. I was healthy. I had a family who wouldn’t disown me. I had access to healthcare and good food. I had friends who stood by me.
I placed my son for adoption. Without a doubt it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The most painful. And also the most beautiful. My son is now almost 33 years old (updated) and I have been a part of his life all the way along. I am so thankful for the gift of his life, for the blessing he and his family have been in my life.
And all these years later, as profoundly thankful as I am for his life, I remain firmly pro-choice in my pro-life-ness. Because one thing I have learned is that life is difficult. There are painful choices to make. And rather than take away those choices from people in difficult moments, why don’t we, instead, love the lives who are in the midst of the pain. We could seek to make their lives better, safer, stronger, and healthier so they may more easily believe that life is the best choice for them to make.
Stop the judging. Lay it down. The people who were the meanest and the nastiest to me when I was a publicly pregnant teenaged girl were the “pro-life” crowd who judged me to be a sinner and had no qualms in telling me how I had erred.
If they had truly cared for the life of my unborn child, shouldn’t that care have extended past the circumstances of his conception? Shouldn’t their pro-life-ness have extended far enough to offer me help in my life, especially as I made the choice they were seeking to mandate for everyone?
How sad is it when the most compelling reason I could think of to get an abortion was so “good” Christian, “pro-life” people wouldn’t judge and shame me?
Judgment was not what I needed. And thankfully, I was a part of a faith community who chose love and grace over judgment. They helped me through the difficult days once I had made my choice. I will forever be thankful for the grace of God I received from the people who mattered.
Let’s choose to care for the lives of women who choose to get abortions, trusting that they have made the best decisions for their own lives. Women often feel silenced around the topic of abortion, which keeps them from sharing their whole story with the people who matter to them. If you are one of the 25% of American women who have had abortions, I am sorry you have had to carry your story in silence. I am sorry for the way religion has contributed to your pain and tried to force shame into your story. You have done nothing wrong in seeking a medical procedure.
So let’s choose life without removing choice from the equation. Choose all of life. The messiness. The pain. The beauty. The joy. And let’s create a society where, no matter what choice women make, they are able to live into a better life each day, for themselves, and for the children they choose to have.
(Also, I acknowledge that there are transgender men who also get pregnant and are a part of our discussions about abortion and reproductive justice. Here’s an article that speaks to that).