The Christian response to abortion: clear cut? Probably, not as a much as you might think.
"Because blacks have not been able to distinguish between white Christians and white non-Christians when it comes to racial issues and separation, major issues like abortion, which should be cut and dried for us, become confused"
At the surface, it may be a fairly straight forward issue: if God forms us while we are still in the womb, He clearly cares about the unborn child as a fully spiritual and physical entity. There are plenty of verses that address His concerns on the matter. Clearly, it is not a trifling issue and, on its own, killing an unborn child is not what God would have for us. But when is it ever 'on its own'?
The life of a fetus is intimately associated with that of the mother carrying it. If it is true that life is sacred, then surely we also hold sacred the life of the mother? It is how we, as Christians, treat this mother that I want to address here.
Demonetization and Difficult Choices
The tendency for Christians to demonize women for the tough choices they have to make is unholy and hypocritical. Take for example the recent rash of racially-targeted billboards that made appearances around the country (shown throughout this post). Rather than offering compassion for mothers placed in difficult situations, these billboards take aim at a vulnerable demographic to further 'otherize,' isolate, and condemn. In addition portraying the reductionist view that a woman is merely a womb (unemotional, unaffected, and unintelligent), these ads ignore the tremendous social and economic factors at play in decisions about abortion.
Undeniably, the rates of abortion are higher among low-income mothers. Does this trend result from some morbid psychological dysfunction of the lower class that causes impoverished mothers to act against thousands of years of maternal instinct? Certainly not!
How heart-breaking to ponder the mother who feels she must abort a baby she wants and loves, but whom she cannot afford to keep. How callus of us, as of society, to demand she take the baby to term, yet provide her no access to affordable health care, wretched housing conditions, a failing educational system, and a broken foster care system that would make any mother despair of her "choices" (I have previously touched on some of the barriers facing the poor).
If you force a woman to carry the child to term, will you also be there to support the child once it is born? Will you take responsibility for making sure it is well nourished, that is has access a doctor and medication when it gets the chicken pox, that it may attend a safe and productive educational environment? Or will you force the issue of this child's sanctity, only to abandon it once it reaches this side of the cervix?
To show contempt for one of these mothers is to punish her for the greater societal shortcomings for which we are all responsible. We speak in terms of 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice,' but we know the world is more complicated than that. By claiming a 'pro-life' stance, we semantically condemn thousands of struggling women as being 'pro-death.' Have we no compassion?
Along these lines, hear what Lise Wade at Sociological Images has to say:
Many women have abortions because they cannot afford to raise a(nother) child. They would bring the fetus to term if only they weren’t all-but-crushed under the burdens of under-served neighborhoods, shitty public education, a dearth of jobs that pay a living wage, a criminal justice system that strips inner cities of husbands and fathers, a lack of health care, and stingy, penalizing, and humiliating social services (when they can get them). So telling black women that they are bad; telling them that they are killing their race alongside their babies, is twisting a knife that already penetrates deep in the black community...
...And no they cannot “wait until they’re in a better place financially” or “not have sex until they can afford to raise a child” because many, many women will never be in such a place in their entire lives. And they can’t just “practice responsible contraception” because half of all pregnancies are unintended, at least a third among even the most well-educated and resource-rich women. So pregnancies will and do happen, even to people who don’t want or can’t have a child.
If pro-life groups want to stop abortion, they need to stop accusing black women of moral bankruptcy and start putting those billboards up across from the Capital Building. What black women need isn’t an ethics lesson, they need resources. They need those very same people who tsk tsk them to stand up for them, to fight for a living wage, investments in their schools and communities, protection instead of criminalization, more available and better subsidized child care, and guaranteed parental leave benefits for all...If black women had those things, then they might feel like that had a choice to keep their baby, just as they have a choice to abort their fetus. It’s not the parents who fail to care-about-the-children in America, it’s a government and it’s citizens that allow 1 in 5 to languish in poverty.
|Pander and exploit, much??|
Furthermore, the Christian community must understand the dangers in which we place women (and men) when we insist that sex-education and condom-usage are abominations. Do not praise the Hispanic community, for example, for a conservative catholic stance against contraception, but then be surprised when women cry out for the right to have a say in what inevitably comes next.
It's Never 'Black and White'
We, as Christians, should also examine the shame that we heap on a woman even when she does choose to keep her baby. Who among us would be comfortable church-shopping as an unwed pregnant mother? Would the church you currently attend truly be a welcoming environment? Or would there be stares and snickers? Yet we expect women to brave our derision to in order to circumvent our damnation.
The rates of unintended pregnancies themselves vary with economic status, and are often a function of health care access, education access, family stability. Rather than blaming the victim and sanctimoniously deriding 'irresponsible and naive women,' perhaps we should work as partners to improve the circumstances under which these pregnancies occur. Even in the best of situations, we know every contraceptive has a known 'failure rate'--surely, then, we know it isn't the woman that has failed. Let us stop treating her that way.
|Created in response the billboards shown above|