Coming out as a Pro-Choice Christian
I didn’t know how pro-choice I was until the Supreme Court made the decision to overturn Roe v Wade.
It didn’t have any immediate consequences for me specifically, obviously – I still live in Canada and have no plans to emigrate. But it happened too close to me – geographically – for comfort. A lot of Americans don’t really understand this, but to an extent, everything that happens in the States does happen in Canada. Are we nothing more than a vessel for the emotions & trials of our southern neighbours? Perhaps. When Trump got elected, that was motivation enough for the Canadian racists and incels, and I really didn’t enjoy that. It reminded me of childhood, when the kid next door got chicken pox and then afflicted all the other neighbourhood kids with chicken pox and then I couldn’t go out to play because everyone had chicken pox.
Previous to now, I had very happily occupied the no-mans land of “I don’t know what the fuck is going on out there with all these people with uteruses, but I’m happy just doing my thing and not thinking about it too much.” I’m one of those terminally single, independent, strange girls – domestic life was never quite my style, as Aaron Burr once said. Plus I’ve always viewed men in a rather askance sort of way. When I did get asked out, my response was invariably along the lines of, “Ew, but why?”
Zero percent chance of getting pregnant. Zero percent chance of any pregnancy scares. Not when I was a teenager, not when I was in my 20s, and not even now. My family reads this blog, so I will not be taking any follow-up questions at this time.
So this is something I haven’t really had to think about. And I didn’t particularly care to jump into the quagmire of pro-life vs. pro-choice. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Everyone just seemed to really care about it, and I just…..didn’t. Get an abortion, don’t get an abortion; either way, it’s not my call.
Don’t get me wrong, I felt uncomfortable with the idea of abortions. But my thoughts were along the same lines of harm reduction. Look, this thing – whatever it is – might not be something that I do, but there are always people who are going to need to do it, so I just would really hope that as a hallmark of a civilized society, that they are able to do so in a safe environment. And I vote along those lines : Safety first. Danger second. I guess you could say I’m neither pro-life or pro-choice, I’m just pro-safety. (Enneagram Six alert.)
And we all heard the horror stories. Coat hangers in back alleys, etc. Even as a super-fundamentalist right-wing 14-year-old bible-thumping Christian who was staunchly against abortions, there was a part of my brain that went, “but I don’t want that to be the thing that we’re doing, either.”
ON THE OTHER HAND. There was always one thing that stuck in my mind, regarding the lives of unborn fetuses – one day when Steph and I were lying on the couch underneath blankets and reading books (that’s our favourite activity) – I looked up from the book I was reading and asked her if she would ever get an abortion.
“No way, man,” she said. “Just think of all the naps it could have.”
I was actually flabbergasted. First of all, at a) the promptness and b) the succinctness of her reply. She didn’t even have to think about it. I stared, dumbfounded, into space for what seemed like hours but probably was only twenty seconds. And I thought, she’s right. It COULD have so many naps. Just like I’m about to do right now, in this little sunspot on the couch with my best friend tucked around me like a lil security blanket. Who am I to say, “No, you actually don’t get to experience this, because it will be a huge inconvenience for nine months and my mom will be mad at me.”
Then I thought about a 13 year old girl getting raped and being forced to carry that baby to term against her will and I realized – for the first time, but certainly not for the last – that there just isn’t any way to make this issue less complicated just because I want it to be less complicated.
Multiple things seemed to be true, all at once : Some women feel guilty and haunted for getting an abortion. Some women never think twice about the abortions they’ve gotten. Very early-term abortions don’t make me squeamish, but very late-term abortions definitely do. God protects and creates life and so should I. 98% of the people who say they are pro-life seem like giant assholes. Abortions are traumatic. Abortions are life-giving. Abortions are an area of complete indifference. As a Christian, everyone expects me to be against abortions, and it’s starting to feel like my dirty little secret that I’m not technically against abortions wholesale.
As Lizzo once said, all the rumors are true.
Two main things stuck out : that this was an easy issue for the religious right to care about because it required nothing further of them, and that the religious right seemed to be absolutely horny for comparing abortions to the holocaust. (NOTE : If you are thinking of comparing something to the Holocaust that is not the actual Holocaust, just don’t.)
I guess if I really had to boil it down, I would have said, “Women should always have the right to choose but I don’t love the idea of abortions in general, it makes me feel uncomfortable, also I don’t know what’s going on, ever, at any time, can someone please explain everything very gently to me.”
Since then, this is just one of the issues Steph and I have both done a full 360 on. There’s simply no way either of us would ever carry a baby to term. Can you even for one second imagine me – a woman with physical & mental diagnoses up the wazoo, a woman who is exhausted by the act of eating soup – carrying a baby to term and then giving it up for adoption? It is not an exaggeration to say that I would die.
Here is what I think now. Not only is it not pro-life to be against abortions, but it is also not Christ-like. In other words, being against abortions is unchristian. (Whew. Feels good to get that off my chest.)
But let’s zoom out for a second.
What, exactly, is the problem here that evangelicals are wanting to fix? And some of them really want to fix it. And it’s actually not because they’re shitty people. It’s because they really want to preserve and protect life. (Some of them. Don’t come for me in the comments section, I am too busy and too old.)
There seems to be three main complaints that I am going to devote my time to. Fair warning, I am going to get down and dirty in the weeds on this one, because I do want to talk about these issues. I want to talk about them because maybe someone will read this and go, “Oh, I didn’t know that!” And then the issue will become less polarized. If I can contribute to that – even a little bit – then my life has reached its pinnacle and I can finally let the earth reclaim me in peace.
#1 : Abortions cause innocent babies/fetuses to feel brutal and unspeakable pain.
Someone hold me back, I’m about to get all science-y.
The Supreme Court has been making a lot of statements about babies feeling pain. And I’ve heard it multiple times, as well, from my pro-life friends – the babies can feel it and it is fucking brutal. We shouldn’t be allowed to commit such a heinous act against such an innocent life. And I believed that, too, up until yesterday, when my sister-in-law (who is a real slut for facts and logic) sent me a podcast episode on this very topic.
In the podcast Science Vs, assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Dr. Amita Murthy says that – best as science can tell – there are two things everyone needs to feel pain. One, you need to have pain receptors. (Which fetuses have!) Two, you need to have the nerve fibers in the pre-frontal cortex that communicate to the brain (via the spinal cord) that yes, that is pain and it feels bad and you don’t like it and want it to stop. So the first part – the nerve fibers – develop around six weeks. Okay. Heard and acknowledged. But the thing you need to actually feel pain doesn’t develop until 26-28 weeks. That’s six months in.
So if you’re getting an abortion before 26 weeks (in other words, an early term abortion, which *most* abortions are) – yes, the fetus has reflexes towards pain, but it cannot that pain in the way that we do when we talk about pain. They don’t know that it feels bad. Before 26 weeks, we actually aren’t making innocent souls feel physical pain by not welcoming them into this world. It isn’t true.
#2 : Abortion is murder.
Most pro-choicers in response to this will say, well, that’s not a real life, it’s a fetus. Truth be told, I don’t know how much water that statement holds for me. Can’t…it be both? It’s just a fetus, trying to live its real fetus life? I don’t know. It’s not not a real life.
In the indigenous tradition (which, I would argue, is another source of information about God/the divine and needs to be respected and upheld by Christians just as much as the bible,) childbearing is revered as a sacred and holy privilege – probably even more so than in the evangelical community. Louise Bear, an indigenous elder, shared her thoughts on this topic in a facebook post that I read a few days ago. Louise Bear does not feel the need to argue against or for Roe v Wade being overturned. The argument, to her, simply does not exist. In her words :
“Inside Indigenous women’s worldview…no MAN or MAN MADE law can determine the outcome of a pregnancy. It is the Mother who stands at the threshold of life and death. She is the canoe, the vessel, the river from which all life flows or not. Mother is creation and she is the law over her own body. No argument needed.”
In Louise’s words, if a woman finds herself unable to uphold the responsibility of Motherhood, through belief and prayer she can turn the canoe around and safely row it back to the spirit world. In the indigenous world, this is not murder. She has not taken a life. She has seen that life home.
That was always how I felt about it, too. While I am not saying that belief and prayer should exclude a medical procedure or vice versa, I am saying that abortion – to me – wasn’t murder. Not in that way that we see depicted on movies and on the news. That life was perhaps no longer with us, but that didn’t necessarily mean that a crime had been committed. It just meant that it wasn’t the right time or space for that life. Sometimes it’s not.
This isn’t something that can be regulated by old, white men. They do not speak for us. They cannot grow a life. Only we can do that. And only we can decide. That ability was given to us by God. The men of the Supreme Court cannot step in and speak over God. Which isn’t to say that men don’t assist in creating life and that men don’t deserve a chance to have their feelings and thoughts heard, but ultimately they don’t have the final say. In that sense, this whole thing is a joke. The Supreme Court ruling is a joke. It’s pathetic.
#3 Abortion is damaging (physically/mentally/emotionally) to women.
I didn’t know this, but a huge concern that people have about abortions is that it causes infertility. But (and I’m referencing the Science Vs podcast again), according to the UK Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that is not something that happens. If you have an abortion in a safe and legal setting, there is no link between getting an abortion and being infertile. There was also no conclusive evidence that abortions were linked to breast cancer (one study of 83 000 women showed that abortion did not increase chances of getting breast cancer), and the possibility of needing to be hospitalized due to extreme bleeding happens very rarely – in less than 0% of abortions.
You are way more likely to die from childbirth than from abortion, according to an analysis of CDC data. You’re more likely to die from a dental procedure. You’re more likely to die from plastic surgery. The physical risk of getting an abortion (vs. NOT getting one) is very, very low.
But what about emotional/mental effects on women after getting an abortion?
I’ve heard stories on both sides of the spectrum. Likely you have, too. Some women were absolutely haunted and regretted it every single day of their life. Some women never thought about it again. Some women were beyond grateful. It seemed like there was no hard and fast rule.
What the data says is this : in 2008, there was a study done where scientists followed several hundred women from 30 clinics around the US. It was called the Turnaway Study, and it was led by Dr. Diana Greene Foster. All of the women in the study wanted an abortion, but the study was split up in two groups : Women who received an abortion, and women who did not receive an abortion (due to being turned away because their pregnancies were too far along.) They studied these two groups of women for five years, asking them questions about depression, anxiety, their partner, domestic violence, etc.
The findings from this study were that over the five years, these two groups had similar levels of depression, PTSD, and anxiety. So as far as the belief that many people regret their abortions and feel guilty about getting them, that simply was not in the data – the leader of the study, Diana Ross Green, found that this statement was, quote, unfounded.
Let me be clear – this is not to say that nobody ever regrets getting an abortion. The pain of women who have gotten abortions and regretted it is very real. Abortions are not a good time, even very early abortions. It is not fun for any woman to go out and get an abortion.
But what the data shows is that after three years, the typical participant in Dr. Greene Foster’s study had more than a 95% chance of reporting that the abortion was right for her and that she felt relieved in getting one. That feeling did not change over the five years that these women were studied. They didn’t find any adverse mental health effects.
However, in the group that were not able to get an abortion, the research showed that they had less money, less education, and less job opportunities. And for the group of women who were in an abusive relationship with the father, if they were able to get an abortion, they had no contact with their abuser. Every woman who had a child by an abusive partner and didn’t receive an abortion was still in contact with their abuser.
In summary? No abortion equals less money, less education, less job opportunities, and more abuse.
But let’s back up a second talk about intractable poverty and disparity of wealth (I swear that I’m like, *super fun* at parties).
This is how this works. The people that are rich want to remain rich. But because of finite resources, they can’t remain rich unless they keep all the poor people at the same level of poverty. Keeping poor people poor is in their best interests. Trickle-down economics is a lie sold to the working poor to keep them docile.
So how are the wealthy going to keep those poor people where they belong?
Why, babies, of course. Babies are forking expensive. Babies are so forking expensive that it actually hurts my feelings. Also consider that, in America, giving birth in and of itself is a costly ordeal – the hospital stay alone is likely to cost at least $30 000. I’m sorry, but that’s too much money. If I was American and pregnant, I’d be like, “Thanks, but I’ll risk death and stay at home.”
If poor people are getting pregnant and are not able to get abortions, they will remain in poverty, and the rich people will stay rich. It doesn’t matter how hard they work. We’ve all heard tale after tale of “single mom working two jobs just to put food on the table.” And that’s to the direct benefit of the upper class. And don’t kid yourself – the Supreme Court is ALL upper class.
So don’t act like they’re not doing this out of their own blatant self-interest. Don’t act like this is isn’t in direct opposition to what the scriptures say. Blessed are the poor. The Lord will execute justice for the needy. I come to proclaim good news to the poor. The Lord saves the needy from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. (Can I get an Amen.)
Those issues aside, the heart wants what it wants – and it seems like what the heart wants, at least in the case of the evangelical community, is less abortions. Okay. That I can work with. We want less abortions.
So why are women getting abortions?
Most women getting abortions are in their 20-30s and already have kids. That’s the demographic. A study from 2013 that surveyed 1000 women found that 40% wanted abortions for financial reasons. That was the most common. Another common reason was that the timing wasn’t right and that they weren’t ready to care for a child. And the third most common reason was that the man who got them pregnant was abusive.
One woman from this study who had been raised in the church – taught to not believe in abortion, that only God can take a life – was a single mom of two children, and she didn’t know if she could comfortably provide for three children. She didn’t think she could make it alone with three small kids. (Lord bless her, I couldn’t even make it alone with one.) In her journal, she wrote,
“I will walk out of here and no longer be pregnant and go home and love my two babies just as much as I did before I walked into this place. I just hope that I’m still able to walk in to heaven one day. May God see my pain and my struggle and may God be with me and you.”
So let’s boil it down : Leaving out the people who aren’t ready, the two biggest reasons that abortions are happening is because we’re poor and because men are shitty. (Look, guys, I’m sorry. It’s not me, it’s the data.)
These are pervasive problems. However, the United States government *could* mitigate these issues by funding more social security programs for single parents and having harsher crime sentences for abusers. Then maybe not as many women would feel abortion was their only choice.
But this will never happen.
Because this was never actually about less abortions. That’s the lie that we were sold, and that’s a lie a lot of people bought, but it isn’t the truth. What this is about is control of women. It’s about control of womens’ bodies. It’s about punishing the whores. It’s about power and monopolization of wealth. It’s about keeping a boot on the neck of every person who has the misfortune to own a uterus. It’s about caring for a child until they’re out of the womb and then leaving that child to die from poverty, neglect, abuse, and school shootings. And if that child isn’t white? Well, then we care even less about the death of that child.
If it sounds bleak, that’s because it fucking is.
But the Supreme Court has made their decision, so here we are. What is going to happen now? What is going to happen when women are not able to get abortions safely and legally?
In the past, when abortion was illegal – and there’s a bunch of studies on this – the number of abortions stayed the same, but just got riskier. Drinking bleach or turpentine, inserting needles and pins and coathangers into vaginas, etc. Injuries were so common in those days that in some hospitals, special boards were set up just for botched abortions.
There are only two conclusions I can make from all this.
1. As a Christian, I must always fight to preserve and protect life.
2. The data says that abortions preserve and protect life more than being forced to carry.
Therefore, as Christians, who must defend the poor and the needy, who must dismantle systems of oppression and injustice, who must defend freedom and truth and justice, it seems to me that there is no other answer. We have to be pro-choice. We have to march and rally and cry out that reproductive rights are returned. We have to. There are two kinds of evil people in this world, Cady – people who do evil things, and people who see evil things being done and don’t do anything to stop it. (Yes. I just quoted Mean Girls.)
I will no longer turn a blind eye to pro-life rhetoric within churches and Christian communities. Because it isn’t pro-life. I will turn my care and attention to those who need it, and I will not budge, and I will not back down, and I will not be quiet just so that everyone can get along. I won’t.
I’m fiercely pro-choice now, and it’s all thanks to the Supreme Court.