Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Definition of Pro-Life

I did a semi-stupid thing yesterday. I read a somewhat controversial Facebook post, then decided to read the comments. Of course, there was that one person (there's always that one person) who decided they wanted to pick on one detail of the post and start something. The stupid thing I did was that I responded. I engaged. I couldn't help myself. He (in this case) was berating my friends, refusing to approach the discussion from a place of trying to understand, and pulling archaic arguments out of his butt and attaching my God's name to them.

I can deal with people having opinions I do not understand. I can deal with people using logic I don't get. I can even deal with people being complete jerks, and not take it personally because that is their issue, not mine. What I do take personally, what I do not deal well is with people being outright mean and nasty and attaching Jesus's name to it. I don't handle that well.

So I engaged. (I said it was stupid.) I didn't reply to all of his comments. It would have taken me hours and others had already stepped up to that battle. But there was this one claim he made that just made every ounce of rage monster in me step up and roar.

For context, the conversation was about Planned Parenthood, and more specifically the way we as Christians and as a culture should treat women who have either had an abortion or are thinking about having an abortion. His original comment was that he was never going to help a woman get to Planned Parenthood to take the life of her child because that was accessory to murder in his eyes. This is a fairly common Christian pro-life sentiment.

I feel that it's important to state for the record here that I am pro-life, and have been my entire life. I believe deeply that babies are people from conception. I believe that abortion is one of the most tragic occurrences in this world. I take no issue with the idea that abortion is murder.

However, I really, really, REALLY take issue with some of the rhetoric and hate that has sprung from these beliefs. This guy was full of it. Saying that anyone who had an abortion was lost for good, could never be redeemed, they had committed the ultimate sin. He posted a graphic video that is basically a scare tactic, and said that he's shown it to multiple women who have canceled their abortions after that. He also said that we should show ABSOLUTELY NO COMPASSION or have any sort of empathy for women who have had abortions, or who are thinking about having an abortion.

All of these are things that I have heard before, often from very devout Christians. This is one of those issues that people outside of the Church often roll their eyes about and tune us out on. Why? Because on so many levels we have either missed the point or hold very strongly to one piece of the puzzle without considering all the other pieces it is connected with.

Let me start with the point I jumped in at. He put forth the argument that the real issue was that, and I quote, "girls just needed to keep their panties on and legs crossed," and that would solve the whole problem. I'm going to start here because it's the part that makes me rage the most, particularly when it is a man making that point. I want to be perfectly clear here, in case anyone is shaky on the biology of babymaking.

Babies are made by two people. A man and a woman.

Do people forget this? I feel like they forget this. Because I hear so often, "oh, she got herself pregnant." Unless "she" is the Virgin Mary, she did not (and for the record, Mary had some Divine help with that, and it was kinda a one-time deal). There was a guy involved, and guess what, that guy has as much responsibility as the woman for the health and well-being of that child. Just because they don't physically grow the child within them does not absolve them of that.

Following that argument, at no point should Christians EVER, EVER refuse to show compassion to a woman who is single and pregnant, because you do not know. You don't know her story. If that child is the product of an abusive relationship, a man forcing himself on a woman, or an assault, or she just made a choice that didn't end up like she thought it would. None of us ever do that, I'm sure. We just don't all end up with the sole responsibility of a kid when we make those choices. Does that mean that we get to judge those who cannot hide the evidence?

The simple answer is, absolutely not. For the love of God, why do any Christians think it is appropriate to stand outside a Planned Parenthood and picket, harassing people who are in one of the most significant crises of their (often young) lives? In what way is this showing the compassion and unconditional love that we are called to show all people as Christians? Please, explain it to me. I don't understand how this follows.

How about we take a step outside of our theology for a second, and actually look at the person. That wonderful, beautiful creation of God, who made a choice, because we are free to make choices, for better or for worse. Or maybe she didn't, she was the victim of someone else's choice. Maybe she is being left with the sole responsibility for another life that she had help creating. Maybe she desperately wants to be able to care for that child but doesn't have any way of making the money to support herself or another small human who needs everything provided for them. What if she is scared to death about the process and has no one to tell her that it will all be okay, and no one to help her figure out what steps to take to care of a child? What if she is still a child herself, as so many are when they find themselves in this situation.

What if all of these women that you are screaming at, calling murderers, are precious children of God who He loves and wants you to love as well?

I want to stress this, very strongly. Being pro-life is not just being anti-abortion. When I call myself pro-life, I am pro-everyone's life. I am pro-life for the mother as well as her child. I want to be all in with helping mothers, no matter their situation, be taken care of, and safe.

It doesn't matter to me if they're mothers who have chosen to keep their children, mothers who are feeling the pressures of culture and responsibility that they don't feel ready for, mothers who are deeply scared of their situations, mothers who don't feel safe in the place they're in and don't want to bring a child into that environment, or mothers who have already made the choice and are mourning the loss of their child. They're all mothers. They're all people I have been called to show God's love to, to be compassionate towards, to show empathy for the situations they find themselves in.

I've thought a lot about my definition of pro-life, what calling myself pro-life means to me as a Christian first, as a woman second, and as a friend to many who have made choices like this and faced hardships either way. I realized I couldn't call myself pro-life if I was not concerned with quality of life across the board, for all parties involved. That quality of life includes health, emotional well-being, and the ability to financially support any and all children you bring into the world.

I'm pro-life because I believe that addressing women's health concerns and providing comprehensive birth control has been shown to be the most effective way to prevent unfortunately timed pregnancies. Not having access to prevention, counseling on health choices specific to women, and education on how to take care of themselves is a huge part of this issue. It needs to be addressed at every level of government and society.

I'm pro-life because I believe that abstinence-only sex education is both ineffective and damaging to the everyone involved. Yes, abstinence is the most effective way to prevent pregnancies. And yes, if you tell a teenager not to do something without giving them a REALLY good reason, they will 99% of the time do it just because. Even if you give them the best reason in the world, they will probably still do it, just because that is how humans are. If you're teaching abstinence only, and nothing else, the only thing it increases is the likelihood that those people are having sex without using any sort of protection or birth control methods. Not a health outcome that is great, for either side.

I'm pro-life because I believe that educating men and women about the physical and emotional (and spiritual, if you are in that realm) results of sexual activity is a necessity. You cannot make a good choice until you have information about that choice. It's logically impossible. Critical thinking requires knowing the arguments of both sides, and reasoning it out for yourself.

I am pro-life because I believe in teaching everyone about the responsibility of childbearing, not just women. This is not something that men get to absolve themselves from. In a culture that so often features father-less families, someone has got to step up and teach young boys and men about being fathers. About how to take responsibility for your actions, just as much as the woman has to because of her biological role in the process. If the Church believes that we have the ultimate Father, why aren't we taking care of this? Though, for the record, I fully support any and all efforts to address this issue, from a religious perspective or not. Women have the responsibility to advocate for themselves, as all people do, but we do need help. We especially need men to step up and take some the responsibility for their attitudes and actions, unconscious or not.

I am pro-life because I believe that a woman deserves compassion and love no matter what choice she makes now, or has made in the past. One of the main arguments that pro-lifers make in their quest to end abortion is the emotional impact on the mothers. That is absolutely spot on. It is a devastating act, whether the women realize it at the time or not. The question is then, why do pro-lifers think that it is okay to berate the women in that emotional state? To direct hate to someone hurting? To make that person feel like it is not safe to come into a place where they could have a conversation with Jesus, who gives us perfect love, and is the only person who could possibly heal their hearts? Hate interrupts healing.

So here is my challenge to you, if you call yourself a Christian and a pro-lifer. Please, do not go around trying to convince women to not have an abortion by trying to scare them. Listen to them, find out their situation, love them, advise them, help them find services, open your heart. Open your home, if you have the resources.

Invest in programs that offer real solutions to these women. Invest in improving the health care system to provide women with the help they need.

Planned Parenthood gets a bad rap, but they provide highly necessary health services to high-risk communities, including preventative measures. They provide education that Christians often refuse to provide. Please do not hinder their work. If you don't like how they do it, do it better, or find an organization that provides the same preventative measures without the abortion option.

Whatever you do, please do not call yourself pro-life and spew hate in the same sentence. Do not associate your hate with my God.

My God is the God who has saved my life with His perfect, unfailing Love.

My God is the one who told me to love the widows, the orphans, the outcasts, and the aliens.

My God is the one who loves His children equally, no matter what they believe about Him, no matter what they do, no matter what choices they make.

He loves you so perfectly. Please communicate that love to those around you. Please communicate that love to His children who have found themselves in the place of feeling like they need to make a choice about whether or not they can sustain another life. Please realize that perfect love casts out fear, and that is what we are called to show these women. Please be fully pro-life.