Can You Be Both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?
Before we talk about whether abortion is right or wrong, we need to ask two questions: “Why do women/girls get abortions?" and "What could we do to help them keep their babies?"
I firmly believe that one of the main reasons the church in North America is losing members on a daily basis is negative attitude many Christians (including leaders) have toward women.
One of the obvious ways they show this negative attitude is through their insistence on restricting the rights of women and girls to have an abortion.
It’s perfectly possible to be both Pro Life and Pro Choice, and if the church had accepted that in the first place, we would all be a lot better off.
Why We Should Be Pro Life.
In the big picture, we know that the little cell that’s been implanted will (provided there isn’t a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage) grow into a real, live baby, then into a child, and become an adult.
When there is an abortion, the person who would have lived, now won’t. And I feel sad when a baby is aborted, for whatever reason. I also feel sad when a woman who longed for a baby has a miscarriage.
But I also know that looking at abortion only from that perspective is like looking at a photograph instead of a video. You see a very small part of the picture.
Why We Should Be Pro choice.
Many people who want laws against abortion seem to be in the camp that says it’s the woman’s fault she got pregnant so she has to have the baby whether she wants to or not.
And too many of those people don’t seem to care what happens to either the mother or the baby after the birth.
And Therein Lies the Problem.
Why I Consider Myself Pro-Choice
And therein lies the problem. If the mother is only seen as a conduit for the baby's birth, and if no thought is given to what happens to the baby and its mother after the birth, that's not really Pro Life. That's what some people call "Pro Birth" or even "Forced Birth." And far too many people who call themselves Christian fall into this group.
Before even considering passing laws that make abortion illegal, we need to ask a simple question:
"Why do women get abortions?
- She’s a teenager, and her boyfriend has no money and no job. And she knows her parents will hit the roof. They’ve even told her they’ll kick her out of her home if she gets pregnant.
- Her boyfriend got her pregnant because he refuses to use a condom even though she has begged him to.
- She was feeling really depressed and vulnerable, and a casual friend at a party kept giving her drinks and sympathizing, and she let him seduce her.
- She and her partner were being responsible and using contraceptives, but she still got pregnant.
- Her partner has refused to support her if she chooses to keep the baby.
- Her physical health isn’t good and a pregnancy will seriously compromise it.
- Her emotional health was fragile even without having a baby. She’s afraid this would push her over the edge.
- They already have several kids and they love them, but they’re struggling financially to look after them. They can barely manage as it is.
- The baby is unlikely to survive, and even if it does, it has abnormalities that would require a great deal of care and expense.
- She’s in college and knows she’d have to drop out. But she desperately wants to finish her education so she can support herself and then have a child.
- She got pregnant and then the doctor discovered she had cancer and the cancer would kill her unless she had chemo. But the chemo would harm the baby.
- She was raped. By a family member. A friend. An intruder. A co-worker. A strange man in an alley… Is it okay to tell a woman who’s been raped to just deal with it?
- She’s only a child. Eleven or twelve. When is it too much to expect a young girl to go through the physical and emotional trauma of carrying an unwanted baby until its birth?
- Her partner is abusive and punched her in the stomach or threw her down the stairs to get rid of the baby. What if she’s terrified for her life if she doesn’t get an abortion?
- One of her parents is the abusive person.
There could be many more “What If’s?” But I’m hoping you get the picture.
So, tell me, which of the above scenarios would be solved by having a law that prevents girls and women from having abortions?
Right. The answer is "None."
Now tell me why should anyone else have the right to force a girl or woman to carry and give birth to a baby with no consideration for her circumstances and her physical and mental health?
Also, why should the burden of responsibility for pregnancy be placed solely on the shoulders of women and girls?
Babies come from two people: a father and a mother.
As was said so eloquently on the Big Bang Theory, Howard Wolowitz’s part in creating his daughter took less than five minutes.
Of course, some fathers’ roles might take more minutes, and they might be tremendously supportive, but even the best father doesn’t have to do what the mother does — take physiological and emotional responsibility for the baby for nine months, give birth, and care for the newborn.
Some other realities many women face:
- Fathers can leave and not pay child support and often get away with it.
- Women who are the single bread-winner may find they are paid less for doing exactly the same jobs as men. And women of colour may earn even less than white women.
- Women who work full-time jobs are still often expected to look after the home and children, too.
- Canada has 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, plus longer time if needed (for both parents). But that may not apply or be adequate in all cases. The US only offers only 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
- Few workplaces make accomodation for babies after the maternity leave is over. And women who breastfeed in public are still often looked down on or asked to leave.
- One in four women (probably higher) will be sexually assaulted. Some repeatedly.
- Many young girls and women are being trafficked in Canada. Of course, their abusers will force them to get abortions if the girls get pregnant.
- Girls and women are still often blamed for being assaulted or trafficked while the men or boys who rape or assault them all too often get a slap on the wrist.
- Many women are abused or murdered by their partners, spouses, abusers, and even parents.
- Every 2.5 days, a woman or girl is killed in Canada, usually by a spouse, a family member, or an intimate partner. In the US it’s up to 4 women per day.
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that one in four women will decide to have an abortion.
Yes, there are a small group of women who will treat abortion as birth control.
But the majority will agonize over their decision, usually choosing abortion only because they don't see any other realistic solution.
So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27 (NCV)
Abortion is the direct result of our propping up a society that doesn't take care of its women and mothers.
Abortion itself isn’t really the issue. Rather, abortion is the consequence of the circumstances in her life that make a girl or woman feel that abortion is her only way forward — the only way she can survive this challenge.
Placing all the blame for choosing to have an abortion on the mother, and creating laws that put all of the ownership of the baby on her, is the easiest way for the rest of society (not to mention the father) to ignore the circumstances that led her to need an abortion in the first place.
Is it as heart-breaking to you as it is to me that Christians are one of the most vocal groups against letting women and girls have ownership of their own bodies?
So if we hate the need for abortions, what can we do to lower the number of them?
When I discovered I was pregnant, and not merely sick because I’d eaten bouillabaise for the first (and last) time — I was thrilled. I hadn’t been trying to get pregnant, but neither had I been trying not to. And my husband was just as happy as I was to welcome our first child into the world.
But I can’t assume other women will share or even relate to my experience. Not every woman (or girl) is happy to realize she’s pregnant. Some are sick at heart; some devastated; and some terrified.
Passing laws against abortion will only harm women, because desperate women will be once again at the mercy of home remedies and back alley abortions.
Is there another way to lower the number of abortions? How about we leave the law as it is, where women have the choice to have an abortion or not, but at the same time we accept the responsiblity of looking for ways to make abortions unnecessary? Let's ask the question, "How can we help girls and women keep from getting pregnant unless they want to, and enable those who are pregnant to choose to have the baby instead of an abortion?"
I'm going to throw out 20 ideas and hopefully a few of them will get you thinking about what you or your church or community could do.
By the way, I know these are all big picture ideas, and the next step would be to work though each idea to determine how the national and provincial (state in the US) governments could do more to help, what schools could do, churches, individuals, you and me...
And I know that there are people already doing many of these things now. But we need more people helping. If each of us focused on one area of need, or on one girl or woman who needs help, we could make a difference.
1. End the stigma girls and women face of being pregnant without being married. Why are unmarried girls who get pregnant often treated like sluts while the boys who impregnated them are “just being boys?” And if the girl chooses to have a baby on her own, we need to support her in every way we can rather than treating her as an outcast. We need to do everything we can to build girls up, not tear them down. If the baby is precious, then the mother is precious, too.
2. Educate men and boys about how sex works, how both male and female bodies work, how to deal with sexual desires, and the consequences of unprotected sex. Also, we need to make sure they know that they do not have the right to have sex with anyone they want, whenever they want. And that unless she says, “Yes,” clearly and positively, and continues to say it, it’s not okay.
3. Educate girls about how sex works, how male and female bodies work, and about the consequences of unprotected sex. We can teach them that if they go ahead anyway, they need to use protection whether he protests or not. And if he doesn’t listen, it’s not consensual sex but rape.
4. Help both girls and boys understand that porn isn’t love. And no matter what they say, anyone who abuses you or asks you to do things you’re uncomfortable with isn’t showing love.
What is Love?
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NCB)
5. Listen to and believe women who say they’ve been raped or assaulted, and do something about it. Once is too often, but boys and men who get away with it will keep doing it, and keep causing unwanted pregnancies. It’s far too common for women to be abused or raped and for leaders, including pastors, politicians, bosses, and even parents, to ignore it or let the abuser go with a slap on the wrist.
6. Support Pregnancy Centres whose goal is to help girls and women make good decisions based on all available information, and help create more of them. Make them accessible, and encourage their use. Make them more widely available. Serve on the board, volunteer, donate… If “it takes a village to raise a child,” then we need to become that village.
7. Provide jobs, allowances, loans, or other ways for single women or families who need assistance to be able to care for their children. Some of this could be national, but some could be local, church-based, or even individual-based.
8. Elect government leaders who will see that there is good, non-judgemental health care for women and children.
9. Provide good, accessible childcare for parents who are attending school as well as working. And it should be available on evenings and weekends and not just during the day.
10. Provide homes for women who want to keep their babies but have no place to go. Maybe offering the spare room in your house to someone. Or getting local organizations to create group homes where they can take turns caring for each other’s babies. Or have a few older women who love kids come and in and care for the babies so the mothers can work and get themselves in a position to be on their own.
The Aerie Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre Maternity Home (below) is a great example of a group home.
11. Help birth parents who wish to have their babies raised by a loving adoptive family make wise decisions. Ideally, the birth mother and the father as well if he chooses can still be part of the child’s life. Adoption isn’t seen as an option by many girls/women, partly because of the terrible way it was handled back in the mid-twentieth century. But there are still childless couples who would love to have a baby, and who would keep the mother involved if she chooses. And the father as well, if he chooses.
12. Increase support for both children and adults with special needs. And never say their lives aren’t worth living. We should give extra support and empathy to parents of special needs babies.
13. Help mothers and expectant mothers have access to continuing education, whether high school, college, or university. Getting pregnant shouldn’t mean you have to stop attending classes. Even a daycare within the campus can make a huge difference. Or letting a mom bring a small baby to class.
14. Make our business, offices, restaurants, staff rooms, etc. more child-friendly. Provide in-house or near-by childcare whenever possible. Also, every washroom in an area where families will come should have a change table, and not just the ladies room.
15. Pass laws that make condoms, IUDs, and other forms of contraception readily available and affordable for both sexes. A $400 IUD is out of reach for many women, but it might be the best option.
16. Gabrielle Blair has a great thread on Twitter about abortion. One of her suggestions is that all boys past puberty could have vasectomies, which can usually (no, not always) be reversed when they and their partner want a child. While that could save a lot of women from the hassle of an unwanted pregnancy, it might also give some men an unintended license to feel safe to rape. We could support creating contraceptives for men.
17. Fight human trafficking. Too many girls who get abortions are being trafficked.
18. Remember the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31. And maybe change our attitude from judgemental to supportive. Who do we already know that we could help in some way?
19. Personally, I'm waiting for the day when scientists figure out how to transplant an unwanted foetus into the womb of a woman who longs for a baby. That would solve multiple problems!
20. Instead of trying to make abortion illegal, let’s put our energy into coming up with better ways to ensure that women/girls get pregnant only by choice. Whether you agree with abortion or not, only the woman or girl who is impacted by the pregnancy should be able to decide whether she has an abortion or not. And if she chooses to have an abortion, we should support her!
Obviously, there might be some instances where the girl is too young to understand what’s happening or unable to grasp the idea of pregnancy, but in those cases, she should be helped by compassionate medical and other caregivers as well as family members who have her best interests at heart and will listen to her and let her have the final say.
If each of us focused on one area of need, or on one girl or woman who needs help, we could make a difference.
E.g. My husband and I have been supporting our local pregnancy centre by buying and donating boxes of diapers. We’ve also donated to organizations that help people who have been trafficked. And I am choosing to write about this.