Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Open Letter to the Pro-Life Movement (Especially in Texas)

(I know that especially compared to my last post, this one probably feels like a sharp turn into hardass-ville.  A friend and mentor from my college years (whom I have written for frequently in the past) invited me to write about the recent reproductive legislation in Texas (and Wisconsin) from a progressive Christian perspective, which I was more than willing to do.  I do consider abortion to be one of the issues I am the most moderate on, and I wrestle and struggle with my feelings about it often.  I hope that dilemma comes through to you in this piece, which was originally published here. -E.A.)

Hi.  You likely have no idea who I am, and that’s fine.  I will simply say that I am just like you, really.  I share your deep belief in God as revealed through Jesus Christ, and I actively seek to do God’s will in my life and my work as a Christian pastor.  I believe in the inherent dignity and sacredness of life, and because of that, I oppose the death penalty and adhere to a very narrow interpretation of just war theory.

In other words, I am exactly the sort of person you should theoretically be able to persuade, to get on your side, to believe that abortion in all or most circumstances should be illegal, because the theological foundation is already there.

But instead, I honestly find myself repulsed by what your state legislatures are doing in your name, and believe me, it isn’t because I somehow skipped over Psalm 139 and what it says about being knitted in my mother’s womb, of being fearfully and wonderfully made by God.

It’s because I have read the entire Bible too, and I worry that in what your leaders are doing, they (and you who voted for them) have skipped over another part of Scripture: Exodus 20:16.

You shall not bear false testimony.

Yep, one of the Big Ten.  Commandments, that is.

For instance, if you take Scripture—and its commandment for truth-telling—so seriously, then why do you tolerate the use of pseudo-science to deceive women, like telling them that abortions somehow cause breast cancer, or by voting for candidates who claim that women’s bodies can somehow magically shut-down a rape-induced pregnancy?

If you take Scripture—and its commandment for truth-telling—so seriously, then why do you condone your political leaders claiming that they want to shut down womens’ health clinics for the sake of womens’ health, as opposed to the sake of limiting access to abortion?

If you take Scripture—and its commandment for truth-telling—so seriously, then why do you try to downplay the statistical reality that universal access to contraception is empirically proven to reduce the frequency of abortions?

If you take Scripture—and its commandment for truth-telling—so seriously, then why do you allow your leaders to actively shut down the voices of women (and their monopoly on the direct experience of child-bearing) to the point that Texas state senator Leticia Van de Putte has to ask what a woman has to do to be recognized in a debate about her womb?

I could go on and on.

See, this is what I don’t get about the pro-life movement, even if I sympathize tremendously with your end goal of dramatically reducing the number of abortions.  You are letting that end goal justify your means…which, in this case, is a combination of fakery and deception.  You are pursuing an ostensibly Christian goal through means that are not Christian in the slightest.

To be sure, Wendy Davis is a hero to millions of Americans right now (and a villain to others).  But in following this saga, I found myself identifying with another female Texas state senator during Sen. Davis’ epic filibuster as well: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who, despite her pro-life credentials, actively opposed SB5 because it would limit access to women’s health care.  And really, the word “despite” is inappropriate in that previous sentence.  I have to think Sen. Zaffirini opposed SB5 precisely because she was pro-life: life doesn’t just come from the womb, it continues outside the womb, and limiting access to care that upholds life outside the womb just does not seem to be on your leaders’ agenda at the moment.

And that might well be because of their beliefs about God and Scripture.  Perhaps sacrificing a woman’s well-being at the altar of protecting the unborn is just part and parcel of a Biblically-oriented politics.  After all, Scripture also says that a rape victim must marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), and that a wife being unwilling to be paraded around by her husband in front of his drunken friends is enough grounds for divorce (Esther 1:8-22).  For all I know, God actually approves of this use of half-truths and pseudo-science and denial of the realities of women’s health for the sake of preventing more abortions.

But I doubt it.  Because my own reading and study of Scripture tells me that God, too, is pro-life: for women as well as men, the born as well as the unborn.  And I have to think that more abortions would be prevented if we simply told the truth: about the science of pregnancy as well as of how to prevent it, and about how women’s health is a crucial and necessary component to an authentically pro-life religious ethos.

Thanks for reading.

Yours in Christ,

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