It is time to change the conversation.
Yesterday, as I watched my Facebook feed explode with posts from friends attending marches across the country as well as friends criticizing the abortion rights focus of the various marches, I sat and contemplated. I stewed. I struggled. I mourned. Like many women around the country, I spent the last week on a roller coaster of emotions, emotions I have been trying to sort through for weeks, months, and if I’m being honest, years.
I’m a lifelong Lutheran and I’ve been pro-life my whole life. I remember seeing pictures of aborted babies when I was young, reading articles about late-term abortion survivor Gianna Jessen in Brio (Focus on the Family’s teen girl publication) when I was a teenager, and hearing over and over again the message that abortion killed an innocent life. As a child and a teenager, I couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly want to kill their baby. Then again, I also couldn’t understand how hard it could possibly be for men and women to resist the temptation to have sex. After all, God said marital sex was best so people should just not “do it,” right?
But the abortion issue got more complex as I got older. I sat with friends through pregnancy scares, I watched other friends get pregnant out of wedlock, some choosing adoption, some choosing marriage, some choosing single parenthood, and I’m going to guess that I even had friends who quietly chose abortion, but I would never know. I listened as one of my favorite professors at my Christian university confessed to our freshman seminar class that she had taken a friend to get an abortion when she was in college. I got a boyfriend, and while we waited until we were married, I discovered that my young childhood belief that “abstaining from sex is easy” was incredibly naive. I got married and relied on birth control to keep from getting pregnant and then, when it took two and a half years to get pregnant, I began to wonder if that “miracle pill” was what was causing my infertility. I sat and listened with an achingly empty womb as the mother of one of my senior boys (a boy who had been an academic and behavioral problem for two years) lamented that her son was struggling because his girlfriend was pregnant and he was dealing with the reality of graduation and impending fatherhood. Admittedly, I was less than sympathetic and I bitterly asked God why it was so easy for this boy’s girlfriend to get pregnant by mistake while I sat in doctors’ offices trying to figure out what was wrong with my uterus.
Over the years of reading and listening and observing, I came to understand just how complicated the issue of abortion really is. And I came to lament the way we discussed abortion from both sides. So much fighting. So much talking past each other. So much hand wringing and marching and rhetoric. And all this time the laws haven’t changed and we have become more and more divided and more and more extreme in both views and approach. And millions die while we keep fighting.
We need to change the conversation.
I’m tired of misguided Christians voting for unqualified politicians because of a singularly focused hope that laws will be passed and Roe V. Wade will be overturned. I’m tired of being midjudged because I am pro-life and I’m tired of seeing my pro-choice friends misjudged because they believe women should have the option, not because they believe women should take the option. And I’m tired of watching my fellow Christians fight so hard to save the life in the womb and then ignoring all the problems outside of the womb.
We need to change the conversation.
Pro-choice or pro-life, I believe there are very few women who see abortion as a good choice and many pro-choice women would never pick it for themselves but they want women to have that option. Pro-life women don’t want them to make that choice. But what if all women fought to make sure that all women have access to safe, effective, affordable birth control to prevent unwanted pregnacies? What if we made adoption easier for birth mothers and adoptive families? What if we made sure that young mothers have access to quality, affordable child care that allows them to work and finish their schooling? What if we insisted on overhauling the prison and justice system so that we keep non-violent offenders out of prison so that young men can be with their families and away from a system that will turn them into felons? What if we taught our daughters how to really understand their bodies, their cycles, to take charge of their own fertility? What if we improved housing to take away the biggest hurdle for poor families in bettering their own lives? What if our churches decided to open their arms to young, unwed mothers to help them instead of vilifying them? What if our churches opened their doors to victims of sexual assault to offer them judgement free help? What if we worked to improve nutrition in our nation’s poorest neighborhoods so kids could focus in school and be successful? What if we insisted that businesses take care of mothers and give them the necessary paid maternity leave to give them a chance to heal and learn how to properly care for their children? What if we insisted that businesses give their fathers paid paternity leave so they could help mothers heal while also allowing them to bond with their families? What if we encouraged a more flexible work environment that allowed families to care for sick children? What if women doctors and scientists worked to develop effective birth control methods that would help prevent pregnancy without crazy mood swings, depression, and potential long-term physical effects?
What if we did all of the above? I believe if we did all of the above, abortion would go away. Why? Because most pregnancies would be planned, most families would be in a financial position to care for a child, and because young women would be putting off sexual activity because they would feel safe and secure and be focused on their futures.
We need to change the conversation. We need to come to the table. We need to listen to each other’s stories and learn from each other. And we need to stop putting each other down. My pro-choice sisters, I do not want to invade your privacy. I do not want to take away your rights. Just understand that I believe that abortion ends a beating heart and I want to do everything possible to avoid it. My pro-life sisters, we need to stop saying that we are pro-life if we don’t want to take action to help women after they have made the decision to keep their babies. We need to make sure they are loved, they are cared for, and that their children have a real future. We need to stop judging each other.
All life is precious, but it needs to be precious from womb to the tomb. And if we are willing to change the conversation, more people will see it that way.