Let’s Talk: Abortion and the Female Body

Let’s talk is a series dedicated to addressing tough issues civilly.  Comments will be moderated, and anything deemed hateful, a personal attack, or all around rude will be deleted.

Abortion is one of those things that people don’t talk about, like religion and politics.  Abortion is hush-hush business, especially among Christians.  Some studies estimate that 40% of abortions are obtained by Christian women, despite the violent rhetoric of the American church’s anti-abortion lobby.  40%!  That means nearly half of all abortions in America are obtained by self-proclaimed Christian women.

It’s important to note that there has never been a time in history with no abortions.  Abortions have always occurred.  Women have formulated many ways of terminating pregnancies, and will continue to do so, whether the practice is legal or not.  Making abortion illegal will never make it stop, though it may reduce the number. We can only attempt to change the hearts of women, and in doing so change minds as well.

1. Anti-abortion Does not Mean Pro-life.

It irritates me to no end when I see Christians picketing abortion clinics, while at the same time supporting war and the death penalty.  “Pro-life” means “Pro-ALL-Life.”  If we start adding stipulations to our principle of life, it becomes easier to judge one group that kills more than another.  If we are anti-abortion, but still support killing in other avenues, then we are not pro-life, but pro-birth.

“But soldiers are defending our freedom!”  But criminals deserve to die for their crimes!”  “But, but, BUT?!?!?!”

These sentiments are commonly held, but commonality does not inherently mean Christian.  What freedom are the soldiers defending?  Did God ordain this war?  Would we still say “God bless America” if we lost the war?  Does the criminal deserve to die more than you do?  Why?  Because his crime was worse?  In whose eyes?  Your eyes, or God’s eyes?  Do you believe in hell?  If you do, why would you support the death penalty for criminals?  Is it congruent with the Christian belief that all can be redeemed to kill someone, thereby taking away their ability to ever hear the gospel on earth?  We have to be careful to delineate which kind of life we support.

2. There are Many Reasons Women Chose to Have Abortions.

Please, let’s stop lumping all women who choose to terminate their pregnancies into one group.  The decision is different for every woman.  Are there some women who have no conflictions about ending their pregnancies?  Of course.  But for most women it is a difficult decision, influenced by many factors.  As a special note, the violent anti-abortion rhetoric put forward by the church actually serves to harm some expectant mothers.  I have personally spoken with several women who were more afraid of the judgement and ostracization they would face from their families and churches than they were of getting an abortion.  Like it or not, pregnancy out of wedlock still has a massive stigma attached to it.  Some girls are so afraid of how their parents would react that abortion seems like the only option.  Despite the fact that the man or boy plays an equal role in the inception of the baby, it is most often the female who is stigmatized.

4. The Unborn Child is Not Solely its Own Entity.

There are varying opinions on the level of rights an unborn baby should have.  Most Christians agree that the fetus is a human being, and therefore deserves a chance to live.  Christians also seem to disagree with the pro-abortion proclamation that “It’s the woman’s body!”  This is both true and not true simultaneously.  It is true that the fetus is an entity with the potential to develop into a full grown human baby.  In this sense, the fetus is not the woman’s body.  However, the fetus is not self-sustaining until 23 weeks.  The child cannot exist without the mother.  The mother’s dietary and lifestyle choices all affect the baby, because it is inextricably linked to the mother, or the female body.  If removed from the mother, the child will not survive.  In this sense, then, the baby is the woman’s body.  So we see that the two cannot be made into separate issues.

4. The Church Rarely Teaches Safe Sex.  Or, Making a Bad Situation Worse.

The Church has a long history of sticking its head in the sand when it comes to sex.  Should we teach teenagers and young adults to wait until marriage for sex?  Absolutely.  But teaching abstinence  has never stopped (or even slowed) the tide of relations among today’s youth.  Christian teenagers and young adults have sex at numbers comparable to non-Christians.  I cannot recall a single time in church or youth group gatherings that the actual process of sex was discussed. The process of a baby’s growth and development was also not ever discussed.  The typical conversation about sex in youth groups goes something like this:

Youth pastor holds up an oreo and asks who wants it.
Everyone wants it.
Youth pastor licks the oreo, or puts it in his mouth and spits it back out, then asks who wants it.
No one wants it.
Youth pastor makes comments about how a person who has had sex before marriage is like a slobbered on oreo.

This scenario is detrimental in two ways.  First, it teaches young people that they will be viewed as dirty and shameful if they have sex.  Second, it prevents any honesty from the youth who have already had sex.  Those who have “had their oreo licked,” so to speak, now know they are disgusting and they’ll never be good enough again.

As for discussing babies, it virtually never comes up.  There is no talk of how beautiful the gift of life is, the options for adoption, or the resources and support groups available for young mothers.  There are no trips to places where young single mothers congregate for the purpose of loving on them and helping them.  Despite the church’s promise that you can “Come as you are!” there is still a pervasive image of what a young female should be – read virginal, chaste, and definitely not pregnant.

5. Picketing Abortion Clinics is Not Going to Change Much.

Let’s think about this rationally.  A girl or woman is walking towards a clinic, most likely in an emotional state already, only to be screamed at by Christians holding a sign that tells her she’s a murderer.  Is she likely to turn around?  No.  If she does turn around, she will most likely come back later when things have quieted down.  What has happened, is that “Christian” has been cemented in her mind with the screaming people who made an already difficult day worse.

6. Love is All We Need.

How can we keep fetuses from being aborted?  Love.  How can we erase the stigma of pregnancy out of wedlock?  Love.  How can we make a person who has already had an abortion feel welcome in the church?  Love.

But what does this love look like?  It might be hard; we might have to work at it.  We might have to adopt the baby we told the mother not to abort.  We might have to drive mothers to their doctor’s appointments, and help pregnant teens study for school exams.  We might have to provide day care free of charge to single mothers who need to work.  We might have to pick up these children from school or cook dinner for them.  We might have to treat these mothers and children like they were our own family.  Because isn’t that what we are supposed to be, after all?  The Family of God?  I can’t picture Jesus snickering about a pregnant teenage girl, or picketing an abortion clinic, or telling someone sex outside of marriage turns her into a half-eaten oreo.

can picture Jesus being angry at those who pile shame on women, and ostracize them.  I can picture him bending down to pick up pieces of a broken life and put them back together.  I can picture him holding out his hand and saying “There’s room for you here, come inside.”  Shouldn’t we?