On Being Both Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion

In response to a discussion about violence and capital punishment a while back (which you can find here – http://bit.ly/1OUdMgi), a friend asked me about my views on abortion. When another friend inquired earlier this week about a link to those comments, it occurred to me that these particular nuances might be worth posting here. I don’t think I can rework them in any way that would make them better, so I’ll just go with the original format.

This is an incredibly difficult and divisive issue. People are so polarized that I have a difficult time locating myself within the broader conversation. But I suppose that’s no excuse for not trying, particularly in light of the recent controversies around Planned Parenthood (and for the record, I appreciate Planned Parenthood’s role as a provider of women’s healthcare).

Here is the original question: “You’ve been very vocal about this particular case and others concerning peoples right to live. I appreciate your perspective and general feelings on valuing human life. However, I can’t seem to find any posts that state your feelings on abortion. Curious where you stand on that issue.”

And this is my response:

It’s a big issue to step into in the context of this [other] big issue, but I think it’s a fair question in that context.

I am both pro-choice and anti-abortion. I would prefer to live in a world where no one felt they needed to make the choice to have an abortion – and to achieve that we must change our culture, so that we do not stigmatize sexuality and varied patterns of human relationships. We must provide services that enable people to have a dignified life, even in the context of an economy that does not and, as far as I can tell, never again will offer enough living wage jobs.

We must offer comprehensive sex education to young people and make birth control readily available to all people – because people are going to have sex – and to do so in a manner that respects their bodies and their relationships, that’s most likely to happen in a context of having good information and good supports.

We must value all efforts to create and maintain loving families – whether that family is a single mom or single dad, a same-sex couple, a multigenerational family, or an opposite sex parent family. It does indeed take a village, so we need to foster institutions that emphasize our interdependence as people and as a planet – so that everyone has a community of choice that supports them in the effort of raising a child.

We need to make adoption a workable process rather than a for-profit industry (and I realize that there are good folks out there doing good work in this area, so I’m not making that a wholly blanket statement).

We need to value the bodies of women rather than objectify them (and of men as well).

We need to change the predominant (note: not all, but the loudest voices) anti-abortion culture from one of condemnation and anger and shouting and moralizing and even hatred to one of unconditional love, caring, and material support that lasts up until at least the age of 18.

We need to stress a consistent life ethic – that the lives of all, indeed of all of creation, have value. Thus in my opinion the logical tie-in to the death penalty.

And in the end, I do believe that a woman has the ultimate voice of control over her own body. We don’t place chastity belts on all men to prevent rape, so we apply one set of standards to women and another to men. I would hope and pray (and work – in my best social justice activism sense) that we could achieve the world I’m talking about in which no one felt the need to exercise that right. But I do believe it is a right, even if I am troubled by the outcome.

I also feel that if people want to prevent abortions they should – we should – work together for the sort of world I describe above, which is very much to me reaching for the enactment of God’s vision of justice and mercy and love here on this earth.

That is what I think and what I believe.

One final thought – you are correct that I do not often speak about abortion specifically. But if you take that last paragraph I wrote with its vision for God’s vision of justice and mercy and love, that is what I work for and it is an inclusive vision. I don’t know a lot of people – a few, but not a lot – who occupy the same ground that I do about this topic, so it’s ground that I tread with some particular care, given the violent noise that tends to come up around this issue.

I also tend to speak out most on topics that I feel I have some clarity about – and abortion has never been an area of easy clarity for me. There was a time when I would have simply labeled myself pro-choice, but my views have evolved over time – evolved, however, in spite of not because of the mainstream of the anti-abortion movement (which I think repels rather than attracts people who might be willing to explore the complexities of the issue).

I also would not consider most (not saying all – just saying the ones I’ve familiar with) anti-abortion conversations and work to be safe space for me as an out lesbian Christian woman and seminarian. I have enough to do – and have to take enough care on a daily basis to maintain safe spaces for myself and my family – that I will not seek out places that are likely to be harmful to me personally.

I appreciate the conversation – and you. That bit that I mentioned in the middle of that first long response comment – about a consistent life ethic. I understand that phrase and that movement to come from some parts of Catholic activism. I am always willing to be in dialogue with and to look for shared space with people who subscribe to that ethic (and with others too, but sometimes that gets more complicated).

We are all on this journey together and for me it is always a journey of learning. So I welcome connections with that conversation, provided that others involved can find it in their hearts to be respectful of me.

That’s all I’ve got on this subject at this time.