Abortion (Part four: LIFE)


To begin at part one of this series click here.

On April 23, 1991, I was born to two of the most loving and supportive parents a kid could hope for. My childhood was what I know most dream of. I was spoiled rotten. I got every toy I ever wanted. My parents would constantly take me on numerous adventures around the country. Feeding a young child’s sense for constant adventure.

I overheard my parents telling a story once and it seemed to trouble them greatly. It had a word I didn’t fully understand.

My mom shared that before I was born there were several times where she had babies in her belly, but she lost them.

“You mean I have brothers and sisters in heaven?”
The thought turned me into an emotional wreck that I don’t think my mother expected from her little child.

My mother told me I was her miracle baby. Which is all well and sweet but according to my parents, that statement was more than an endearing description.

My parents shared that before I was born my mother had multiple miscarriages. That it induced in my mother a crisis of faith. A crisis that led to questions any sensible person would ask.

If God loved her why was he doing this? Why wouldn’t he let her have a baby? Why would he take numerous children from her?

In a series of events that can only be called a mystical experience with the Living Christ my parents were called across the world to a Catholic Pilgrimage site famous for encounters with the Virgin Mary. While there, a pastor prayed over my skeptical dad and it sent him to the ground.

That day my dad shared his story of how he had a vision of Jesus when he was knocked to the ground. Jesus spoke to my dad about many things. He told him that he had known my father since the beginning of time. But what directly impacted my parents was that in this experience, Jesus told my father that everyone who traveled with him overseas would go home with a gift.

And that my mothers gift would be a son.

I was born less than a year later.

I share this story with you so that you know where I’m coming from, the gravity of my religious background and the tangibility of some of my beliefs. Beliefs that personally transcend whatever the Christian Scriptures may share about when life begins.

I believe in God. And I believe that He loves life.
I believe that my inclusion in the divine relationship calls me to be a steward of His creation.

I also believe my parents story.

So talking about something like abortion is tough.

If I believe that my life was known even before conception I must admit that raises some troubling questions for me. Were the lives of my brothers and sisters known before their death in the womb? How do I rationalize that? What does that say about God? And even more terrifying, what does that say about me? Why me? Why not any others?

These aren’t biblical speculations for me about some distant fake man-made God. This is my life. These are my families experiences.

I don’t know when a life begins. Neither do you. Neither does science. Neither does scripture. I can only believe that life is predetermined by our maker. I can’t explain why women have miscarriages or if God predestined abortions. I believe God desires the unborn to live. Even though scriptures imply it’s better off for some to never have been born. I admit my reasons for this are impossible to prove. Which is why I don’t expect my government to live according to my fathers experience. Even with the experience I cannot explain when a life begins. Only that God seemed to know that I would be born. Which would have to imply that he knew my brothers and sisters would not be born.

This is a philosophical issue. I don’t need the government to decide such a thing. Because they likely never will. It would be arbitrary for them to do so. Because if that’s the measure we are calling for, we are ultimately letting the government not so much decide when a life begins, but rather at what point do we begin to care?

We could look at late term abortion and likely many people (secular and religious) might say that should be illegal, but could any of us objectively answer why? What decides this? How do we measure it? What makes late term bad and early term permissible?

Many pro-life movements want to ban all abortion because of the idea that life begins at conception and that the possibility of human life is something that we should defend at all costs. It can’t be a woman’s choice because that overrides the child’s choice. And so we must defend that child’s life and that child’s voice.  Which is a wonderful argument and one that would make sense but we can’t defend that that is a child yet. It is a belief that it is a child even if it is a fact that it will become a child.

In part two we discussed how “life” isn’t the same as personhood. Bacteria is life. Sperms are living. Your skin is living and it dies every time you scratch your arm. Check your keyboard and you will see genocide hiding under each key. If we argue to defend the possibility of life in all circumstances then we have to understand it would be hypocritical to not harvest every sperm cell a man ever ejaculates.  Or not force every woman to make use of her monthly egg.

This is why the SCOTUS’s understanding of  “fetal viability”- or “the ability for the fetus to survive outside the uterus”- makes a lot of sense. It’s something that we can measure. And it’s something we can define. It’s not a belief. It’s an actual possibility. Therefore it makes sense to make a case around this point over others.

Maybe, just maybe the question for Christians should become less about deciding when a life begins and more about how do we curve the abortion rate. Which compels me to ask the most important pro-life question one could ask: “Why do women get abortions?”

As cited in the previous article, The reasons women gave for having an abortion underscored their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. The three most common reasons—each cited by three-fourths of patients—were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.

Forty-nine percent of abortion patients in 2014 had incomes of less than 100% of the federal poverty level ($11,670 for a single adult with no children).

Fifty-nine percent of abortions in 2014 were obtained by patients who had had at least one previous birth.

In the eight years that Barack Obama has been president, abortions have seen a forty year low. Now it is fair to note the number of clinics also decreased but…people studied this.

In 2011, an estimated 1.1 million abortions were performed in the United States; the abortion rate was 16.9 per 1,000 women aged 15–44, representing a drop of 13% since 2008. The number of abortion providers declined 4%; the number of clinics dropped 1%. In 2011, 89% of counties had no clinics, and 38% of women of reproductive age lived in those counties. Early medication abortions accounted for a greater proportion of nonhospital abortions in 2011 (23%) than in 2008 (17%). Of the 106 new abortion restrictions implemented during the study period, few or none appeared to be related to state-level patterns in abortion rates or number of providers. The national abortion rate has resumed its decline, and no evidence was found that the overall drop in abortion incidence was related to the decrease in providers or to restrictions implemented between 2008 and 2011.

Something has changed in the last 40 years. And many would argue things like the Affordable Care Act and Access to contraception impacts these results. However. What were the reasons women got abortions?

Hunger, income, inability to take off work.

What many people argue is the choice of a woman to decide really wasn’t a choice for these women. Women were left to feel so desperate in their circumstances that they feared what it would mean to bring a child into the world.

Which to be honest, I think the church carries a lot of this blame. Not only do we rarely consider the mother in arguments for being pro-life, we often condemn the single mother that has chosen life. We judge her in our chapels. We scream and picket their decision from the sidewalk of abortion clinics, but do we ever enter that desperation and hopelessness?

Perhaps the most Godly approach to this whole situation is not to put all of our energy into fighting for an illegal ban on abortions but rather put our energy towards developing our culture into a nation where women would feel as though they can bring a child into this world. Where unwanted pregnancy is the thing we try to decline. Isn’t that the gospel? Not forcing legalism on people but instead reconciling the darkness of creation back to the maker of light. Isn’t that the work of the church?

What Caesar decides isn’t our calling. The good news is about the new creation and sharing that glory to the whole world. So doing everything we can to bring hope to the hopeless…that’s the gospel. Bringing aid to the suffering, that’s the gospel.
Making people do the right thing. That’s not the gospel. Setting a model for the life we want to invite the children of the world into. Doing the work of heaven here on earth. That’s how you go after this.

I’ve shared this quote often: “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”-Sister  Joan Chittister

What data shows us is that even in countries where abortion is illegal, the abortion rate is is barely affected. It’s the same argument conservatives make about gun reform (but this has stats!). Banning guns won’t end gun-violence. Data shows that banning abortions in other nations has not had a significant decline in the number of abortions.

Can you see why your vote for a pro-life Republican barely impacts the issue?  And why things like contraception and dealing hands on with the poverty in our nation dramatically does?

Hobby Lobby is wrong in calling contraception an abortion device because in all technicality a pregnancy has not taken place. These contraceptives prevent implantation which is the technical definition of a pregnancy. And I would argue the technical “beginning” of human life (not necessarily personhood). Pregnancy is dependent on implantation. Just because the blastocyst (see video in part two) begins to make way towards the womb it is still possible that the blastocyst could naturally not implant and flush out with the next period.

As of April 1, 2016, at least half of the states have imposed excessive and unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics, mandated counseling designed to dissuade a woman from obtaining an abortion, required a waiting period before an abortion, required parental involvement before a minor obtains an abortion or prohibited the use of state Medicaid funds to pay for medically necessary abortions.

As Sister Chittester said, when we focus all of our energy and effort into making abortion illegal, we are wasting, and I think neglecting, a lot of energy we could use doing the work of the gospel. Work that would actually decrease what we are so passionate about ending.

We have proven in this 2016 election that we have candidates that can literally do anything they want, as long as they are “pro-birth.” We bow to the empire’s debauchery because we believe we can get that Empire to care about the unborn. I actually think this does a severe damage to our witness of Christ. Whenever we sacrifice the image of Christ for a political issue, we are committing idolatry. Even if the issue is the sanctity of human life. If we sacrifice the whole world for that power, if we’ve given up on everything else,  what kind of life are we leaving behind for these children? What kind of world have we invited a child into? It’s idolatry because this very issue has been represented by people who do not represent the wholeness of what it could mean to be pro-life. We cannot set aside a refugee and be pro-life. We cannot set aside an immigrant and be pro-life. And we certainly cannot set aside a woman and be pro-life. Yet this continues to happen.

I’ve come to see that pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion. It’s rather do we want the government involved in religious and philosophical decisions that are so hard to define. Do we acknowledge that some decisions aren’t black and white and that the need for nuance is often to ones benefit and even health?

When Christians are dependent on the state to help us be obedient to Christ we can miss that it is to our benefit that the church be separated  from the state (Mark 12:17). This is so important because when we attach the church so closely to the state or a political party, or a politician, we risk attaching something that will fail to the image of the eternal. The separation of church and state is to our benefit as Christians. When we allow the church and a political party to be seen as one, the church will be judged by the same measure of the state. When the state is revealed to be corrupt and immoral (as this election proves) the church will be seen as corrupt and immoral. This is what has long been happening for the sake of this conversation and we need to get real about it.

I’m not telling you not to vote or not to engage with politics. In fact, its important to vote. I’m not saying detach your religious convictions from why you vote either. Voting is an effective way to bring about important changes. I’m just saying if abortion is an issue you care about, then vote for things that have a positive impact on women and the culture that leads women to think abortion is their only choice.

I believe when you vote for healthcare, empowering women, aiding hunger, you’re actually voting to minimize abortions (not just the legal ones). These ideas also aren’t dependent on religious or philosophical belief that have a hard time being measured and backed up. This is just good for humanity. But also importantly you don’t need to vote for these things to live them out and make them real. Rather you are called to do so.  Because these things are directly attached to the teachings of Christ.

Because if God knows each of the children that will enter into this world, shouldn’t we prepare this world for their glorious entrance? Shouldn’t we prepare their mothers for a prosperous life with their child? Shouldn’t we help the schools their children will learn in?  Shouldn’t we get good meals for their bellies? Shouldn’t we put an end to the oppression of their mothers and demand equality for women? Shouldn’t we demand a society that is above reproach? Shouldn’t we elect leaders that care about women and children?

Why do we continue to sacrifice all of these things just for politicians who give empty promises to end legal abortions?

Shouldn’t we be pro-life? All the way through. Because that’s why Jesus came.

He came to bring life, and life abundantly. Abundantly being KEY.

May we prepare this place for our children.

And may we embody the good news He was delighted to offer them from the beginning of time.

The day you came
Naked, afraid

Your mother screaming pushes you
The day you came
Oh joy begin
Weak little thing
More precious there be nothing known
Oh joy begin

Let’s not forget these early days
Remember we begin the same
We lose our way on fear and pain
Oh joy begin

First just one step
One word and then
With laughter single life begins
First just one step

Let’s not forget these early days
Remember we begin the same
We lose our way, on fear and pain
Oh joy begin

Innocent kiss
Black magic bliss
First broken bones, sudden and swift
Oh innocent

Let’s not forget these early days
Remember we begin the same
We lose our way, oh fear and pain
Oh joy begin
Oh joy begin
Oh joy begin

I could not have written any of these without being steered by a few amazing people.
Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazing piece called So you’re thinking of voting for a pro-choice candidate. 

The band Gungor shared a great status the other day on the same discussion.

Each of them are featured on The Liturgist podcast, Pro-life, Pro-choice with Science Mike.

That group of people helped me make sense of some very difficult questions and allowed me to see that many of these things are not black and white. You’ll find many of their illuminations hijacked throughout this series.

The story featured at the beginning of this post can be purchased in book form at Amazon.com

One thought on “Abortion (Part four: LIFE)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s