Sunday, February 12, 2012

On being Pro-life and Pro-choice

I am an ordained minister and I advocate for women's rights. I consider myself both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.

Allow me to explain this seeming paradox:

I believe in a woman's right to exercise control over her own body, and to determine for herself and her unborn child if the pregnancy should proceed or not. I believe -- no, I know -- that such a decision is not an easy one... I know this not only from conversations with women who have wrestled with this, but from my own personal experiences these past couple of months.

Finding myself unexpectedly pregnant in my 40s was very difficult. It felt like a mixed-blessing. My background in genetics made me all too aware of the higher risks of genetic abnormalities in the fetus: 40 year old eggs just don't recombine and transcribe DNA as well as 20 year old eggs do.  Additionally, I'm not economically self-supporting right now. I've given up trying to find work in my previous profession while trying to build up an e-commerce business and a web content development consultancy. I'm not married to the father of the baby, and he's much younger than I am. The planet is full of wars and too many people and inhumanity and hypocrisy and indifference and environmental degradation and I really had to consider whether or not it was responsible of me to bring a child into such a heavily-burdened world.

I'm grateful I had the choice whether or not to proceed with the pregnancy if the genetic testing came back with bad news, or the baby's father didn't want the child, or I was completely destitute, or the world seemed poised on the edge of catastrophic meltdown. I'm grateful that people who think I shouldn't have that choice -- a choice exercised by women for tens of thousands of years, by the way -- don't have the power to enforce their personal preferences on me. At least for now.

I believe that life is a wondrous thing, be it a single-celled bacterium, a seedling, or a fetus. I cherish it. I see God in it. I understand that even as this planet seems to be teeming with life, life as we recognize it is incredibly rare in this universe. I believe that if a pregnant woman has the ability and resources to raise a child in a safe, healthy environment, that she should proceed with the pregnancy. But in contrast with most people who self-identify as Pro-Life, my advocacy doesn't begin at conception and end at birth.

The born need Pro-Life advocacy as well, and it is my belief that if we focus on seeing that the basic needs of all born persons are met from birth forward, we'll have a world in which women won't see abortion as a necessary evil. I believe it is near-sighted and irresponsible to focus on preventing women from being able to choose whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy while ignoring the reasons why so many women see abortion as a necessity.

Simply put, I believe that people who are truly Pro-Life dedicate themselves to finding solutions to the reasons behind the perceived need for abortion instead of targeting the procedure and the women who consider it. Otherwise we're at best treating the symptoms of social ills while perpetuating the cycle we're trying to break. We need to get off our self-righteous soapboxes and hold out our hands to those in need of hope, means, and improved circumstances. We must not only recognize the need to change the world for the better, but to actually work at making it a better place to live and raise children. Anyone who does less isn't really Pro-Life -- he or she is just a small-souled hypocrite looking for a way to feel better about himself and his inaction by making others 'wrong.' And that isn't going to win anyone points Heaven -- In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against such hypocrisy, stating there would be no reward from the Father who is in Heaven for self-righteous posturing (Matthew 6:1-6).

To my Evangelical Pro-Life counterparts
We live in a world in which women are routinely raped, abused, condescended to, economically disadvantaged, and politically disempowered. Telling women they're going to burn in hell for aborting a pregnancy when they're already living in difficult -- if not hellish -- circumstances is not the way to inspire unfortunate women to bring a new life into the world.

Jesus was a radical advocate in the fair treatment of women, especially for his time. He trusted women. He accepted women into his inner circle, he taught women (even prostitutes!), he treated them as equals, and perhaps most importantly, the first people he revealed himself to after the Resurrection were women (Matthew 28:9-10). Do you think he forgot that when most of his male followers had fled the scene, it was women who held steadfast to bear witness to his crucifixion? Be careful in your thoughts and attitudes and actions towards women, pregnant or not. I've a feeling come Judgement Day many millions of Christians are in for an unpleasant surprise.

If you are truly Christian, you will be loving toward those who are poor or troubled in spirit, and even those whom you consider your enemies and evil-doers. For even as Christ's blood washed away the sins of humanity, he passed down a new and very simple law: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." (Luke 6:35)

Christians do not condemn nor judge. It is not our place. We are told this time and again in the scriptures. ("He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her." John 8:7) We are told to forgive, lest we be denied forgiveness ourselves. "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:15) How can we condemn others (ie abortionists) and expect that we will be forgiven for that when Jesus unequivocally states that he will not do so?

And lastly, ignore Matthew 25:31-46 at your peril. Remember, Jesus proclaimed that how you treat the unfortunate is how you treat Jesus himself, and if you fail to help the least of these, he promises to send you to the place of eternal fire where the devil dwells. We can interpret "the least of these" to include the unborn (though Jesus never explicitly spoke of children not born) but to exclude the born in your powerful concern is a willful denial of Jesus instruction that does lead straight to Hell. The Bible tells us so.

A final bit of food for thought: When it comes to reproductive organs, there are equivalencies between men and women: penis and clitoris, testicles and ovaries. But with regards to the uterus, God entrusted only women with wombs. He must have had His reasons for this trust in women, and I do not think that what women do with their wombs or His Trust should be questioned. It is between Woman and God.

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