Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a ban on the controversial “partial birth abortion.” In a bitterly divided 5-4 decision, the nation’s highest court showed a disturbing willingness to revisit the constitutionality of a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wishes to carry her baby to term.
The abortion issue is one of the most hotly debated topics in our country’s political climate. The debate is as fiery as it is passionate; as bitter as it is emotional. In fact, I sincerely believe that one of the only other topics that has been anywhere near as divisive as the abortion debate is the debate over GLBT equality. The latest decision from the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts only makes this debate even more explosive.
As in any firestorm of conversation, the only way to deal with it effectively is to take a step back away from the emotional and religious hype and look at it objectively. People on both sides of the issue have a lot of important points that must be considered. But before I continue, there’s a few things I need to establish:
- I think abortion is murder. I believe that when a pregnancy is terminated, a life is snuffed out before ever has a chance to begin. I believe life begins at conception, and that all life is precious.
Now that I’ve completely angered one side, it’s only fair that I provide an equal opportunity offense for the other:
- As a gay man, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever cause an abortion and even less likely that I’ll ever have one. Because of this, I have absolutely no business telling women what they can do with their own body. Put simply, it would be the ultimate in hypocrisy.
Therefore, I fully support a woman’s right to choose, even though it grieves me to know that there have been so many children aborted.
There, now that I’ve completely offended nearly all of my readers at this point, I think I can continue.
This decision by the SCOTUS deals primarily with what conservatives call a “partial birth abortion” for which the medical term is “dilation and extraction.” Make no mistake about it. This case is built around a red herring. “Partial birth abortions” are so rare, that they make up less than 2 percent of the total number of pregnancies that have been terminated.
In most of those cases, the fetuses were unviable in the first place. Conservatives latched on to this procedure because of its apparent “brutality” in which they took great pleasure in printing explicit diagrams to show exactly how it’s performed. Several groups took out full page ads across the country to print these diagrams. It was the perfect poster boy for the “evils of abortion.”
There is one factor that has yet to be addressed in all this. With all of the “choose life” signs and “IM4IT” license plates out there, I have to ask whether or not our fundamentalist and conservative neighbors have ever once taken the time to actually provide any viable options for mothers who are in crisis pregnancy situations?
“Oh, but we have crisis pregnancy centers!” They’ll say. Big deal. I know how these pregnancy centers work. At the well-funded ones, they have an exam room complete with a volunteer nurse or doctor to do an ultrasound, free pregnancy tests, and lots of counseling which shows how bad abortion is.
They might point the women or girls to adoption agencies, but in the end, there’s little investment into the lives of the people involved. There are marches, t-shirts, newsletters, dinners, and lots of other nifty events. There is, however, little practicality.
The director of one center even went out of his way to adopt a baby… from China. He literally had hundreds of women and girls that went through his local ministry, and didn’t offer to take one of those babies as his own. He had to go halfway around the world.
Where are the ministries that actually help single women to raise their children? What about having direct relationships with adoption agencies? What about conversations about birth control? STDs? What about condoms, for crying out loud?
More to the point why aren’t we as Christians encouraging people to be responsible with their sexuality? We’ve taken an all-or-nothing approach which is as ineffective as it is irrelevant in our society. Ministries have spent millions of Federal grants to promote “abstinence-only” programs, which don’t even work! Further, when these kids do have sex, it’s in risky, promiscuous behavior that completely ignores safer sex practices.
We’re in an age when birth control, condoms, and frank discussions on sex is simply critical. We can’t be dancing around the issue any longer. Coming up with cutesy names for “penis” and “vagina” only confuses our kids and compounds the problem.
We simply must better prepare our congregations and our children for the reality that we are bombarded with sex at every turn. Sheltering people from it won’t work. Hiding our own disgrace doesn’t work. That means that all of those secret abortions that conservative parents force on their daughters so they can save face need to stop.
I heard one preacher say once, “You know why we have abortion in America? I’ll tell you why. It’s because a church said to a young, unwed mother, “you slut!” That’s why we have abortion in America.” I think he has a point.
The Church in America has become a master at judgment, and a novice at compassion. When we compound this to the reality that the early Roman Christians would roam the streets to look for exposed babies to raise as their own, the contrast becomes clear. What’s more, the emperor of the day even commented that “These Christians love our own more than we do.”
This was at a time when Christians were being killed in droves. Yet they still valued life so much that they would roam the streets at night to look for children or hide under bridges to wait as babies were discarded into the aqueducts.
My partner and I are not able to adopt at this stage in our lives. We know we can’t invest the time needed. Several friends of ours have, which is wonderful. These men and women have gone through the rigorous process to prepare their homes, and are at various stages of that journey.
Overall, it’s time for us as Christians to stop being comfortable in our mission and start putting our money where our mouth is. So if you’re going to complain about abortion, I expect to see your name on the rolls of adoptive parents for AMERICAN children. Until then, your voice will just be another fading cry of gnashing teeth in the darkness.
For the moment, Roe v. Wade is still very much intact. This decision is indeed a setback, but I really think the most important thing for us to do is to address the root of the problem which is ignorance. Its ignorance that says that “pro-choice” means “pro-abortion.” It’s ignorance that says that we can just point a finger at a young unwed mother and say, “don’t have an abortion” without providing a genuine, viable alternative.
So there’s a ban on one, extremely rare, procedure. Fine. It doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t put an end to abortion, nor does it end the debate. And no, it’s not the end of the world.
Thankfully, it doesn’t force women back into the back alleys. It does, however, let us know how deeply important this issue is, and how the only way to address it effectively is through relationships and commitment, not religious zeal, not legislation, and certainly not the Supreme Court.