I have to admit, I thought twice about writing this. OK, that’s a lie. I thought about it least three or four times, and definitely more than two. Because I know abortion is a touchy issue, and I know I have friends with passionate feelings on both sides of it. I want to be a uniter, not a divider.
But the recent legislation in New York struck a chord in me. To recap, S2796 allows abortions for any reason up to 24 weeks — that’s six months — or at any time up to birth if there is an “absence of fetal viability” or “at any time when necessary to protect a patient’s life or health.” The word “health” is not defined — ostensibly, it could be interpreted loosely to mean any aspect of the woman’s mental or physical health related to the pregnancy. There’s also no mention of the degree to which health may be protected. Any birthing process involves at least some health risk, right?
There’s a whole argument surrounding when life begins and if the “bundle of cells” created at conception is actually a baby or not. But it’s hard to argue that a 24-week-old fetus is not a baby. At 24 weeks, the child weighs more than a pound and is about 8 inches long. His inner ear is fully developed, his lungs are formed. He has a heartbeat and fingerprints and responds to stimuli from the outside world. He can most certainly feel pain.
I’ve got a family friend who was born prematurely at 21 weeks. That’s right, 21. He’s now a college-age adult, smart and independent and without disability. According to New York’s law, he would not have been considered human in the moments preceding his birth.
I’m aware this is all well-trodden ground, covered in countless opinion pieces and blog posts over a period of decades. But I guess I just feel compelled to share my thoughts because it has me so upset and confused. I genuinely don’t understand how so much of our larger culture is able to not only condone abortion, but to celebrate it. I find it indescribably tragic and, to employ an admittedly overused word, offensive, that One World Trade Center — a tower that was erected to commemorate the innocent fallen of 9/11 — was lit pink in celebration of a law that will only increase the ranks of innocent victims felled in the State of New York.
In many ways, I see myself as a feminist. I grew up one of three daughters in a house with no sons. I was never taught to see my femaleness as a weakness or a disability. I always believed that I could do whatever I wanted to do, if I were willing to work for it.
I believe that women and men are creations of equal value, and I believe in a woman’s right to make her own choices about her life and her body. It’s a woman’s right to choose what career to pursue, or whether to pursue one at all, where to go to college, or whether to go to college. In the workplace, women should garner equal respect and equal pay to their male counterparts, and those male counterparts should understand that a woman’s body is, without question, her own to decide who touches it and how they touch it. It’s a woman’s right to decide who she dates, or if she dates; with whom, when, how or if she has sex; how she dresses or cuts her hair or whether she wants a tattoo or a piercing or any of a thousand other decisions.
Yet I know that my thoughts on abortion would make me unwelcome in most circles that describe themselves as feminist. It’s a strange middle ground to walk.
But I honestly don’t understand how abortion gets packaged in with this concept of a woman’s right to make choices for her own body, because at the point you’re pregnant — especially 24 weeks pregnant — you’re no longer making choices for your body alone. You’ve helped to create a second, brand new body. It’s from you, but it’s not you.
Please don’t misunderstand. I say this with all love and respect for women whose pasts include difficult decisions, who have dealt with life experiences that are not part of my story. I’m not writing this to judge or shame women who have had abortions. If you are one of those women, please know that my God bought you for a price and loves you unconditionally. The God I serve is a God of forgiveness and grace, and I’m so grateful that Scripture explicitly states that it’s not my job to judge, but only to love.
I’m simply writing this to express my view of the realities we need to accept if we’re to live in a world that values life and human dignity for all.
The pro-life movement often gets criticized for being solely pro-birth and leaving its support for life at the delivery room door. For some wings of the movement, that’s probably a correct characterization, but it’s not fair to judge an entire group by the attitudes of a few. If I were in a mood to cast stones, I could toss a few at the more radical wings of the pro-choice movement as well.
Speaking for myself, I know full well that the right to be born is only the first of many obstacles in the life of a child. We should all do more to support resources for children and families in crisis, to make it much less expensive for loving and willing families to adopt babies whose mothers can’t care for them, and to build one-on-one relationships with children who need some extra mentorship and guidance.
Abortion is just one way of devaluing human life, but in my view it’s also the most egregious. If we can’t all agree that human beings have a right to be alive, how then are we supposed to work toward building a better, fuller life for all those with whom we share this planet?