By Kristen Johnson
Elections in the U.S. always bring about the inevitable discussion surrounding pro-choice/pro-abortion, pro-life, life beginning at conception (or not), the right to privacy (or not), and so on. Unfortunately, the majority of these discussions do not include affected women. In an effort to better understand women who need to make these choices, how they make their choices, etc. I’ve spent the past 20+ years actively seeking to listen to women who have had abortions (and those who decided against it), to read about the subject from both points of view, and to generally educate myself on the subject, rather than listening only to the rantings and ravings of people on both sides of the issue.
My current understanding after all this research is that the political discussion needs to stop altogether. How this became a political issue for men (yes, state legislatures responsible for abortion laws, etc. are majority men) to decide, instead of a private issue between a woman, her God, and her doctor is a mystery. The second understanding that I have gained is that there are many shades of gray in this issue, that it is an intensely private issue, and that we need to listen to women, instead of seeking to judge them. I have recently viewed two documentaries that I highly recommend on the subject. I viewed these films through my own personal lens – coming from a staunchly anti-abortion conservative upbringing, to my current over-the-top liberalism as an adult.
The documentary After Tiller is about the remaining 4 American doctors who continue to provide third trimester abortions. Although it’s certainly not the most uplifting subject in the world, I think it’s necessary viewing for every American. Donald Trump’s assertion that “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby” – is wildly inaccurate. The stories of the women making heartbreaking decisions about absolutely wanted and loved babies that they are unable to carry to term show the need for compassion in the midst of this incredibly private decision. Again, listening to and seeking to understand affected women is what is needed.
The documentary Trapped details some of the laws in Texas (and other Southern states) that are making it near-impossible for abortions to be provided at all in those areas. Viewers will hear from doctors and providers who are filled with compassion and love for the women they seek to serve. (It is interesting to note the number of church-going Christians who work in this field.) This documentary is also very difficult to watch, because the women who chose to tell their stories come often from a very personal and difficult position.
I cannot possibly make such a decision for someone else, nor can I automatically condemn anyone for it. All I can do is seek to understand, seek to love, and seek to support women.
It doesn’t matter whether or not I am “pro-choice” or “pro-life” – it matters that I love the women who are in a position to need to make this choice. I can only provide compassion and a listening ear and not presume to make a judgment on something so personal.
What is particularly heartbreaking to me personally is when I hear Christians say they have chosen to vote for Donald Trump simply because he claims to be “pro-life.” I am amazed that people can completely ignore absolutely every other thing he stands for that goes completely against everything Jesus teaches us, in an effort to “save babies.” If you wish to save babies, then you need to commit to being “pro-life” and not just “pro-birth” and that’s for a lifetime. Instead of automatically rushing to judgment, ostracizing people, or standing in front of clinics screaming and yelling – spend that time loving people who are affected, volunteering in daycare centers so single mothers can go to work or school, and providing quality social services for women and children. Also, if you really and truly wish for women not to have abortions, then you need to be willing to provide funding for birth control and family planning services.
This is not an easy post to write and I don’t have all the answers.
Ephesians 4:2-3 (NRSV): 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Photo courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jerm182