Sunday, August 26, 2012

This Ambiguous Abortion

capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways 

abor·tion: \ə-ˈbȯr-shən\ 
the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus: as

a : spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation — compare miscarriageb : induced expulsion of a human fetusc : expulsion of a fetus by a domestic animal often due to infection at any time before completion of pregnancy 

There are few things more ambiguous in this life than abortion.  And yet so many Americans want to make it a black and white issue.   Are you pro-choice or pro-life?  I'm both.  Do you believe women should have complete control over their own bodies, or do you think society has some say in what happens to an unborn child?  Um, yes.

These are incredibly difficult questions with no easy answers.  That's why abortion is such a polarizing issue in our country.  Just as we like our wheatberries ground down, stripped of nutrients and fiber and texture and taste to make bread that fits a certain mold of what we've come to expect of something that holds our sandwich together, we like our philosophical truths to be easily digested.  But abortion is not white bread.  Unless you're willing to lift a handful of wheatberries, raw, to your mouth, gnashing them with your omnivorous teeth, your opinion about abortion is weak.  When arguing over the legal and moral issues surrounding abortion, let's eliminate the overly processed thoughts heard on the campaign trail among politicians and constituents alike and do some critical thinking on our own. 

The two toughest questions we are challenged with trying to answer are these:

When does life begin?


Does the government have a right to control what an individual does with her own body?

The first question about when life begins is scientifically unanswerable.  No one knows.  Because I love words, let's start with the dictionary definition:  

life: \ˈlīf\
1   a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body
b : a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beingsc : an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
a : the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual

Wow, that's heavy.  So we still don't know when life begins.

The second question about whether or not a government controls an individual's body or if an individual controls her own body is at least debatable because the answer is yes and yes and no and no.

I am pro-choice and pro-life.  I am not pro-abortion, but I think abortion should be legal.  Lets find ways to teach people how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies.  Let's show our sons and daughters that we are confident about our own bodies so they learn to be confident about their bodies, so they are less inclined to experiment with sex when they are not physically, emotionally, and spiritually ready for it.  Let's teach our sons and daughters about reproduction so that when they are ready to share their bodies with another they fully understand the consequences, physical, emotional, and spiritual that come from having sex.  Lets find ways to treat people to overcome their violent sexual compulsions so that, contrary to what some people running for public office believe, pregnancies resulting from rape actually are reduced to zero instead of about five percent.

But understand that sometimes, no matter how much education a person has or how much therapy a potential rapist has, sometimes there is a glitch in the system.  And that's why no matter how hard we try to stop unwanted pregnancies from happening, they will continue to happen.  Whether we make abortion legal or not.

Just because I think politicians and bureaucrats are ill-equipped to force their laws on an individual's body does not mean I am pro-abortion.  I am all for working to stop as many abortions from happening as possible.  Not by criminalizing it.  Before Roe vs. Wade abortions were still occurring, just not always on clean hospital sheets.  Our government prohibiting alcohol did not make people stop drinking the stuff, just not always in clean bottles distilled in clean bathtubs.  

People are always going to do things we find morally reprehensible.  If we want to change people's minds and help them find healthier alternatives to the complex, morally ambiguous problems they face, is the best way to help them to criminalize them or to hold out our hands to them?  

Christians who say they think abortion should be illegal because of their religious faith are being ethically lazy.  What would Jesus do if he happened upon a terrified, crying woman along a road and she confided in him that she was pregnant but she could not have the baby?  Would he lash out at her, accuse her of murderous thoughts, and threaten her with a jail cell?  Or would he hold out his hand to her and say something like he always did, so beautiful and simple and kind, something like, "Follow me child.  I will help you.  I will make sure you get medical attention (God, wouldn't Jesus be the best doula ever?) and when the child is born I will help you feed and clothe and care for it or find someone else who can care for it.  Do not be afraid.  We are here to love each other and I intend to love you through this difficult time."  Or would Jesus' reaction resemble that of many modern day so-called Christians who do not want to pay for social services and education to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they occur, and who also don't want to pay to ensure the child has access to medical care, food, housing, and education after the child is born?  

What would Jesus do?  I think he would remind us, once again, so simply, that the answer to all life's questions, complex and ambiguous and horrifying, is this: love.

So, as a Christian who is commanded to love others, how do you best love a woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy?  Show her alternative ways out of a bad situation, or chastise and criminalize her?  Even Christian politicians who are also physicians have unclear answers about when and if abortion should be allowed to take place.  Here in this video clip, Dr. Ron Paul states that he believes life begins at conception, and yet if a rape victim showed up early enough into the pregnancy in his office he'd give her a shot of estrogen, thus ending a potential life.  And yet he thinks it's OK for states to decide if abortion should be illegal and not the woman and her doctor.  Well isn't administering a shot of estrogen to a woman shortly after she had intercourse a form of abortion if it means ending a product of conception? 

If the abortion issue is too sticky for politicians who actually understand reproduction, like Ron Paul, then it's certainly too unclear for politicians like Todd Akin and Mitt Romney who have shown they understand reproduction far less than Ron Paul.  I say keep the bureaucrats and politicians out of the abortion debate.  They are not the best leaders in the fight to make this world the happiest, healthiest place for all living beings.  I am.  You are.  With the help of spiritual guides and family and friends, not people whose job seems to be to raise campaign contributions more than it is to govern our nation effectively.  

Abortion is a moral issue, not a legal one.  Individuals already have control over their moral actions.  Individuals should have legal control over their own bodies as well.