The governor of Ohio recently signed into law what has been described as the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the nation. A crowd around him cheered. I have mixed feelings.
On the one hand, I am pro-life. I’m personally opposed to abortion as a form of birth control. I’ve been around the medical field long enough to know that there are a fair number of gray area cases that involve the woman’s life and health, and I’m aware that there are pregnancies that are clearly not going to result in a live baby. So, I would make exceptions. But, still, I’m pretty strongly pro-life.
(BTW, pro-life also means being anti-war, anti-gun, anti-capital punishment, pro-environment, pro-social justice for the oppressed, and supportive of universal healthcare. I’m way more pro-life than most of the pro-life folks I know.)
The governor said that it is a fundamental duty of government to protect the innocent. That makes some sense to me. Our laws protect infants and children.
On the other hand, I’m male, so it is easy for me to have an opinion about a subject that can never directly affect me.
Moreover, I do not see how this issue can ever be solved politically. One view is entrenched in the Republican Party; the opposite view is entrenched in the Democratic Party.
The two sides are mutually exclusive – one side says we, as a society, must allow all abortions, all the time, for any reason; the other side says we must ban all abortions all the time.
Both sides fear a “slippery slope.” One side says, if we allow any abortions, we’ll slip into allowing all abortions. The other side says, if we agree to limit some abortions (virtually everyone hates partial birth abortion), then we’ll lose the right to any.
One side says they are defending innocent babies. The other side says they are defending a woman’s right to control her own body. There’s no room for compromise on either side.
Furthermore, pro-life that I am, I question the tactics of the pro-life movement. What will be accomplished by legislatively forcing the pro-life view on the populace? Sadly, the answer is that abortions will go underground; wealthy women will continue to have them at will somewhere; poor women will die in back-ally “clinics.”
I also struggle with the logic of both sides.
The pro-life side insists that human life begins at conception. There is no proof of that, either medically or scripturally. The pro-choice side says it’s a human being when she or he is viably born and takes her or his first breath. Again, there is no proof. No one knows, or can know, when a human “begins.” The fact that God saw you in your mother’s womb says something about God, not much about the human zygote.
The pro-life side insists that abortion is murder. That is the logical conclusion if humanity begins at conception. And, if that’s the case, do we seriously want to criminalize all women who have an abortion for whatever reason as murderers, and dole out the same criminal punishments we would for the person who guns down another in cold blood? Fear that that is where all this is headed is one big reason why pro-choice people are so dug in. And, it’s a real fear. There is a law being debated in the legislature of one of our southern states right now that would mandate the death penalty for anyone having an abortion. I’m told it has no chance of passing.
Our country is being ripped apart by culture wars. American society is changing rapidly and there are many people who hate that, especially the white males who have had a monopoly on power. America is becoming increasingly multiethnic, white people are losing power and clout, gay people are getting legally married, and abortion is still readily available. That is producing backlash in the form of nationalism, racism, homophobia, and strong anti-abortion views.
Donald trump is a man who’s entire life has been characterized by greed, cheating, lies, selfishness, coercion, racism, and gross ethical violations – indeed, he is a man whose character and behavior are diametrically opposite the teachings of Christianity. Yet, fundamentalists – both white Protestant evangelicals and white conservative Catholics – voted for, and continue to be his strongest base of support. They do so, at least in part, because they think he will appoint judges who will help them win the culture wars. Abortion is the primary issue fundamentalists feel very hopeful of winning. Trump’s Supreme Court appointees are on board.
But if the pro-life side “wins,” what have we won? We will have effectively alienated about half the population and convinced them to have nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus. And, are we even called to win? Are we not called to love, forgive, serve and be nonjudgmental? Are we not called to trust God to change hearts and minds so that, in this case, far fewer people will choose to have an abortion? And, if we are opposed to abortion, why are we not along side the poor pregnant woman or teen, giving her a place to live, walking with her, caring for her, and helping her for the next 20 years to raise her child? Or, alternatively, providing a good home for her child should that be her choice? We on the pro-life side demand an end to abortion, but we do little or nothing to alleviate the poverty that drives many women in that direction. In fact, many of the same people who oppose abortion, also oppose funding healthcare, job training, vocational guidance, daycare, and early childhood education.
We can’t win the culture war anyway. If the Supreme Court outlaws all abortions, the pro-choice folks (who, by the way, are not evil) will redouble their efforts until they have the political power, and the battle will continue.
For me, there is a third way. Not Republican. Not Democratic. It’s the way of Jesus. I refuse to be at war.