Walking Your Good Christian Talk
Good Catholic girl that I was, I was raised to be pro-life. I would still describe that as my general philosophy – but I’ve changed my political position a bit, in that I don’t think being pro-life and being pro-choice are antithetical. I believe to my core that abortion is a heinous act that should be a last resort; I’m not convinced that it always is, at least in America. However, the barn door is open and the carriage long gone – so making abortion illegal again is not the answer. Whom do you charge, and with what crime? Pro-lifers are trying to give personhood status to fetuses – something I don’t necessarily disagree with, except that it would mean charging a woman, who likely has already undergone some serious trauma, with murder. Whom does that benefit? You could charge the doctors – but what about the nurses, anesthesiologists, and other assistants? Are they to be charged as well? Where does it all end?
Having experienced a first-hand understanding of why women choose abortion, if anyone were to ask my personal opinion, I’d tell them I think abortion is a seriously flawed idea. But, then again, I’m not in anybody else’s shoes. I’ve heard and read heart-rending stories of women who experienced miscarriage after miscarriage – only to end up deciding to abort the one pregnancy they would carry to term because the baby would be so sick it would not survive. There’s always a bigger picture. So yes – let’s reduce the need for abortions. Let’s educate women – young and not so young – about where babies come from and how to avoid getting pregnant.
I remember reading a question from a woman in an adoption chat room – do you remember chat rooms at the dawn of the Internet age? She was pregnant with her fourth child, and her question went something like this: I had my first baby at 17, had an abortion at 18, placed my next baby for adoption. Now I’m 20 and pregnant again and I don’t know what to do. Really? Stop having sex! Or use some goddamned protection, for crying out loud! The problem is that so many of the people who oppose abortion also oppose birth control. Listen folks, you can’t have it both ways. We could make abortion a lot less necessary, but I don’t think either side really wants that. It’s like the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s efforts to “end” breast cancer. What would they do with themselves – and where would the money come from – if they ever actually succeeded?
So it was back in my high school days that I used to picket abortion clinics. You know the signs with the mangled fetuses? That was us. I honestly thought I was saving babies and doing a good thing. Then three things happened in short succession to bring an end to my picketing days.
First, I began to notice that I was often the only woman on the picket line. While I’m glad men feel compelled to get involved, unless a man is the father of an unborn child whose mother is contemplating abortion, he doesn’t really have a voice in this argument. And even then, it is the woman who carries the baby, gives birth, and – usually – takes on the bulk of the responsibility for raising that kid, should she choose to parent. So at its core, it’s a woman’s issue – and there really weren’t many women involved in the picketing, at least at the time and in the place I was doing it.
Second, we would begin each picketing session with a prayer. Imagine my dismay when my fellow “Christians” started to pray for the destruction of abortion clinics and the people who worked inside of them. Um – no! My God did not respond to prayers for the destruction of anything.
Third – and the issue that made me permanently hang up my picket sign – was the fact that the teenage daughter of one of the local right-to-life bigwigs suddenly found herself pregnant. Did that family walk their talk? Give that life a chance? Encourage the girl to carry her pregnancy to term? No, they did not. They marched her right down to the local Planned Parenthood and paid for an abortion so no shame could come to their good Christian family name. This wasn’t for public knowledge, of course – I overheard a conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear.
I remember pestering my dad, right about the same time, about what we would do to help the babies who needed our assistance. He didn’t really understand my question. “Well, if we’re pro-life and we want these girls to have their babies, why aren’t we inviting them to come and live with us until the babies are born?” In short, why aren’t we doing the very thing Jesus would have us do? That didn’t go over so well. I kept at him for a while, but soon I knew that enough was enough. I’d probably made my point – but we were a Christian family who was going to leave the heavy lifting to someone else.
Sister Joan Chittister has made headlines with her “scandalous” position on the meaning of pro-life. This quote is from her famous 2004 interview with Bill Moyers on PBS’s Now With Bill Moyers:
It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also so superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, delimiting approach to the very essence of life. As in, “I go to church every Sunday but I don’t believe in welfare. I’m not going to support slackers. If people worked as hard as I do, they could take care of themselves, too.” Or even worse, “There’s no such thing as equal.”
As we prepare to cut one-third of the social services of this country, as we intend to balance the US budget on the backs of women and children for the sake of the affluent and the privileged and ignore the effect budget cuts will make on the lives around us, we have no right to call ourselves pro-life.*
Sister Joan hit the nail on the head. I don’t care what your position is on abortion, or any issue – when the time comes to put up or stand up, we recognize those who stand by their words because they not only mean what they say, but they also do what they say.