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In my bio for boldcupofcoffee I wrote that I am a "pro-life liberal", but what does that even mean?
I’m not liberal in the truest sense of the word but I use the term because I am more liberal than most Christians that I know. I don't prescribe to the whole ideology but I do find myself shifting to the left on a number of topics.
In part one I explained how I had come to accept marriage equality and in part two I talked about my relationship with the Bible. What follows is something that I never thought I would change my mind on. In fact it is a conviction that I held even before I was a Christian.
Why I'm Pro-Life with Pro-Choice Sympathies
With the recent planned parenthood controversy and the recent Canadian federal election I find myself contemplating the complexities of abortion. This is what I've decided.
Not the unborn and not the mothers. Nor pro-choice advocates nor pro-life supporters.
I have always agreed with the ethos of conservative pro-life movements (even if I disagree with their tactics most times). I agree that abortion ends a human life and that it is unacceptable. Abortion is a travesty against humans that bear the image of God, but, that doesn’t just describe the unborn. The unborn and the mothers are victimized.
My libertarian side demands that I affirm a woman's right to chose what to do with her own body. I have no problems allowing autonomous individuals the liberty to do as they see fit, as long as that liberty doesn't affect anyone else. Our rights have always been contingent upon the rights of others.
The problem I see with abortion is that I believe that a baby in a womb is clearly and distinctly another person eligible for the same basic human rights that we all should be able to enjoy. All humans should have rights regardless of their stage of development or where they live.
A popular tactic of the pro-choice movement is claiming that a human, in the earliest stages of development is just a 'clump of cells'. Well, when it comes down to it, we are all just 'clumps of cells', that shouldn't detract from our personhood. This argument is only an effort to dehumanize the unborn, because it is easier to convince society on the merits of abortion if we don't truly believe the unborn are human. I sincerely don't blame people for believing it.
Many pro-choice advocates will claim that abortion will always happen so it should be legal and safe. I have a hard time accepting this rhetoric. After all, murder and rape will always happen too, and nobody is advocating to make murder and rape 'safe and rare'.
I would, however, go further than some in the pro-life camp do: I believe that abortion makes women victims too. A common charge amongst pro-choice advocates is that pro-lifers only care about babies in the womb and once they are born they lose all support. Without generalizing the whole pro-life movement, I tend to agree with them.
Because of that, my staunch pro-life conviction is nuanced by some of the rhetoric of the pro-choice movement. More needs to be done to help the women before, during and after they make one of the hardest choices they will ever have to make. I use the word 'choice' here because, as a man, that is what it is to me, but, some women are faced with insurmountable challenges and legitimately feel that there isn't any other choice. In many cases their ‘choice’ was ultimately made by circumstances not under their control.
It is obvious that, in addition to victimizing the unborn, there is a cultural system in place that also harms the women it claims to help. They are told, quite convincingly, from pro-choice advocates that what they have growing in their womb isn't a baby. This victimization is hidden under the enlightened notion of 'her body, her choice'. To make matters worse, conservative ideologies typically do little to help if the child is born.
And all of this doesn't get into the murky ethics of medically necessary abortions. I wouldn't demand that a woman carry a child if that puts her life at risk. This isn't to say that the baby's life has less worth but I think of it in pragmatic terms: if the mother dies then the child cannot live anyway. It is a decision that is undoubtedly difficult but necessary sometimes.
To some, allowing some elements of the pro-choice movement to inform our decisions about pro-life might seem like affirming abortion on demand. I'm not saying that, what I mean to say is that our fight against abortion goes beyond demonizing the people that have abortions or even fighting with abortion providers. (Please, no more planned parenthood shootings!)
We need to look into the reasons that abortions happen in the first place. More often than not, abortions happen because of financial hardship, or, a feeling that that the child is better off not being born. Many women feel that they don’t have support from the men that got them pregnant. Why are men backing away from their responsibilities. They are culpable for the their actions.
Education also seems to play a key part and consequently, youth also affects the decision. We must ask ourselves why are the young, poor, single and undereducated are brought to a place where abortion is their only option.
What is it about our society that puts people in a position where they feel they are backed against a wall? What is it about our ways of doing things that we see so many unwanted teenage pregnancies?
I think that even the most liberal, both politically and theologically, would agree that reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and consequently, abortions that happen every year is a good thing. Those on both sides can use this point of agreement to open dialogue to work towards fixing the actual problem.
So, we must ask ourselves: which political system or ideology approaches the social issues in a way that would actually affect the people that are having abortions in a positive way? We should already know, it’s Jesus.
It is Jesus’ love for the broken people that we must emulate. So, in my opinion, if we are followers of Jesus, we need to embrace the reformation of systems that have caused the oppression of certain people groups. If we are to follow Jesus then we need to develop ways for people to live better lives; Forcing them to make choices will not effect a change in their heart.
While I would love to see every abortion provider shut down, it won’t happen until there is a fundamental shift in our society. Our end-game is to see people make the choice not to abort, that is the only way we will see the number of abortions decrease substantially. We need to nurture an environment that teaches and actually helps those that find themselves in the situations that influence abortion. Simply banning abortions isn't the solution, it is merely an attempt to medicate the symptoms of a disease while ignoring the disease itself.
Make sure to check out Part 1: Marriage Equality and Part 2: The Bible
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