Yeah, this post is about abortion. Go ahead and get your polemic gear on.
My birthday is Sunday, which also happens to be "Sanctity of Life Sunday" in a lot of churches. It's also the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Normally, I would never write about this. It's too touchy. Anytime someone brings the topic of abortion up in normal conversation, things tend to go downhill. Pro-life. Pro-choice. Murder. Reproductive rights. Moral decline. Intrusive government. Pretty soon, you're throwing little smokies cocktail weiners at someone else and calling them ugly names.
So let me be upfront: I think abortion is morally wrong. I think life begins at conception. I think that abortion is therefore taking a human life. I wish abortion wasn't allowed as a legal, elective procedure, if for no other reason than the fact that my wife and I had been through three pregnancies, one of which was terminated against our will: our first child was stillborn at 41 weeks. It ripped our souls out and left me profoundly shaken. But the entire pregancy opened my eyes to how miraculous life is - from conception to birth and beyond - and left me solidly in the camp that no child should go unborn.
I know the arguments about rape and incest, so to keep things on one level, my comments are going to be targeted to elective abortions - cases where there is no rape or incest. When a woman had no choice in getting pregnant, it's inhumane to leave her no choice in the aftermath. That may make me unpopular with some folks, but so be it.
But regarding elective procedures, I also think that it's up to the woman to decide. Not because the baby isn't worth saving - he/she is - but because it's always been the woman's choice. By nature, the baby doesn't really get a say so. Whatever mom chooses, the baby just has to go along for the ride. And that's true not just in the case of life, but in the case of diet and other life habits including smoking, drinking, recreational drug use, and seat belt use.
Mothers always have a choice.
Legally, we have a system in place that allows a woman to schedule an appoitment with a clinic, pay a hefty fee, and have a pregnancy aborted. That beats a system in which woman have to find other, more dangerous ways to do the same thing.
And if you doubt that, I will tell you this: talking about the topic with my wife last night, I mentioned someone I knew who'd had an abortion. Rachel said, "I don't know anyone who's had an abortion, but I know of people who either got someone to hit them in the stomach or found a way to end their pregancy by themselves."
But having a system in place that allows for safe procedures doesn't mean that those procedures should be easy to obtain. Personally, I think our state's laws regarding this procedure strike a good balance, especially with regards to minors (unemancipated females under the age of 18). I like the fact that women should be given all of the options and information available to them, including the fact that the father of the child has legal obligation to help take care of that child. Far too many dudes feel like they can just walk away from their responsibility, and all too often we let them.
Which means the options available to the mothers can really suck.
This hit home for me yesterday when a young woman came to visit me for counseling. I won't go into details, but she was pregnant, scared, and facing crappy alternatives no matter what she chose. In her heart she felt abortion was wrong, but as she looked at her life, she couldn't see a better alternative. So she came to me at a friend's suggestion, just to talk.
Now, talk about "rubber-meets-the-road" moments.
I counseled her. I was honest with her about my thoughts on the issue - both theological and non-theological - and about the situation she is facing. I told her I thought an abortion would be murder. I also told her the choice was hers.
I also took her to some people who could offer her far more counseling that I could, as well as some free medical treatments (ultrasounds and screenings) that would give her more information about where she stood.
Look, I don't know what she'll choose. To be honest with you, her options seem to suck either way. The non-compassionate among us would chime in here and say that's what she gets for choosing to have sex outside of marriage, and while there's truth to that - our choices always lead to other, sometimes more difficult choices - people who would say that don't have much of a heart. And they probably haven't sat across from many people broken by their bad choices and equally afraid of making another one.
As human beings, we are given/evolved/whatever the ability to make choices for ourselves, choices that begin as soon as we are born but increase exponentially as we age. It might be a miracle that so many of our choices actually work out for us as well as they do; one need only watch a Road Runner/Coyote cartoon to know that even the best laid plans can blow up in your face. So it stands to reason that choice should be available to us all the time.
It also stands to reason that there should be plenty of people available to help us see the pros and cons of our choices. Sometimes there are. Sometimes there aren't. That's life. And if we're talking about shoes or shirts or car purchases or home purchases, well...we can survive pretty well even if we don't make the best choice.
But when it comes to human life, both of the mother and the child in her womb, having someone there along the way should be required. Parents, we need to be there for our kids. Churches, we need to be there for the young women of our community - and not by picketing clinics and calling women such encouraging things like "slut" or "whore."
And people also need to quit by denying that life begins at conception, or by refusing to call a baby in the womb a baby. The issue is difficult; try actually dealing with it instead of wimping out through terminology.
Honestly, I wish I'd been born in July. Feel free to turn the comments section in a war zone.