If I were prudent, I would stay away from this topic. The opposing sides are so intractable, I’m unlikely to have any impact. And, because my views don’t fall neatly into either camp, I’m also certain to anger both sides.
But, I feel compelled to outline my stance on abortion, if only to assure my conscience I haven’t cowered behind “prudence” to avoid the expected backlash that always attends any view on this issue.
There is no neat summation of my beliefs on abortion. If I had to label myself, I would say I am personally pro-life (but probably not in the way you understand it) and in the realm of public policy-making I am pro-choice (but probably not in the way you understand it).
If you just cried “Cop out!,” I understand, because I have fought with myself over this issue for years. I say I am pro-life because I believe in the sanctity of life, from conception to death. That means I believe life is sacred for the yet-to-be-born, and for their mothers. It is sacred for children living in starvation and poverty in our community. It is sacred for the men, women and children who die in the wars we fund, foment and fight. It is sacred for prisoners waiting to be killed by the state.
Life is sacred, and when it is cut short, that always is cause for mourning and for meaningful reflection on our society’s values.
But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, our society — not least of all the segment pushing to overturn Roe v. Wade — does not value life. The issue of abortion gets lots of attention, and it should. But, for children born into this world, we seem to have little care if they are left to starve, to wallow in poverty, to be cut down in gun violence or war, caged in warehouses while fleeing war and famine, raped and sold into slavery, and left helpless in the face of generational cycles of abuse, addiction and crime. And, if they become pregnant in the midst of this miserable state of affairs we call a society — well, then we care about them least of all.
Our society is masterful at turning blind eyes to poverty and famine, as if we didn’t have the resources to resolve these scourges in a generation — which we do. We argue away the deaths of school children as somehow necessary to preserve gun rights. We cage and rape children in the name of law and national security. And, we’re morally numb to children in Yemen and dozens of other places around the globe being killed for the sake of our national interests and corporate profits. We make all manner of excuses to wrap the death and suffering of God’s children in the shade of legitimacy. But, when it comes to a woman facing the terrifying prospect of bringing a child into a society that cares little for her child and less for her, we suddenly fall mute, and completely devoid of compassion.
And this issue of compassion, or our lack of it, is why my beliefs don’t fall neatly in line, either pro-life or pro-choice. I wish we lived in a society in which no mother felt so hopeless that she saw abortion as the only option. I wish we lived in a society where maternal health and risks related to pregnancy weren’t degrading toward Third World levels. I wish we lived in a society that didn’t systematically devalue women outside their ability to bear children and sexually gratify men. I wish we lived in a society in which girls weren’t impregnated by rapists. I wish we lived in a society in which no mother, or father, ever had to face the choice between the health of a mother and her baby, or between abortion and the physical, emotional and spiritual torture of carrying to term a child that is certain to not survive after birth.
But, we don’t live in that society. And I am in no position to understand what mothers are going through when they face any of those circumstances.
I will never face those impossible choices, or have to bear the emotional and physical scars that come with them, and I have absolutely zero business trying to impose my personal choices in between any of those women and their loved ones, their doctors, their conscience, God and the free will God saw fit to give them. So, I pray for them, without condition, and for the grace to console, to understand and to love them in the manner I feel called to in my own faith. And, I pray for a society that sincerely loves life, both before and after birth.
It does not, and must not, end there, though. It is not enough to simply say we support these women and their children, any more than it is enough to blindly sling hatred and invective from either side of an ideological spectrum that loves to use this issue, and the women and children it affects, for political capital.
If we truly value life, and sincerely want to protect and honor both the born and unborn, we must work to create a society that doesn’t stop loving its children after birth. We will never get there by coercion and criminalization of suffering.
Only when we elevate our society to truly love, value and provide for all children and all mothers, will we create a society that is truly pro-life, and in which abortion is safe, but chosen dramatically less.