Editor’s note: In exceptionally rare circumstances, BNG publishes opinion pieces without identifying the author. This is one of those rare cases where, due to the intensely personal nature of the story told and the likelihood of jeopardizing a ministerial career, we are publishing this important piece anonymously. The author is a clergyperson known to the editor and is a real person.
I struggle with infertility. I also believe in a woman’s right to abortion. I believe in the choice to adopt and to advocate for adoption and foster care. I believe in a woman’s right to have autonomy over her body, apart from legislative action.
My struggles with infertility have left me feeling not good enough, empty, incomplete. Empty as my friends and family post joyful photos of ultrasounds and family photos on Facebook. Empty as I struggle with how far to take fertility treatments, and if they are worth the cost and heartache. Empty as preachers use their children and grandchildren as fodder for sermons. Empty as my friendships are strained because without kids, I am the oddball. And still, I believe in a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body.
I live in a red state, where one abortion clinic remains, and where the legislature actively works to prevent and restrict abortion rights.
I support the legal right to abortion ultimately because it is a justice issue. Women of means and privilege always will have access to birth control, education and abortion. Reversing Roe v. Wade primarily affects people who already have limited options. Impoverished people are most likely to have substandard or non-existent health care. Reversing Roe v. Wade means the most susceptible to abuse and lack of finances will find themselves further burdened.
“Blame fuels anti-abortion rhetoric.”
Blame fuels anti-abortion rhetoric. There is a reason we do not hear from many Christians about their abortions, though, statistically, we know Christians have abortions.
I am afraid to publish this with my name attached because I live in a red state. The billboards that line the major highways are full of anti-choice rhetoric complete with pictures of smiling babies and shaming techniques. I must wonder if those billboards actually work for a woman who faces an unwanted pregnancy.
Shaming women never has significantly lessened abortion rates. It never helped rape victims or people coerced into sexual acts. Shaming never prevented those so ingrained in purity culture that they did not know what would happen once they had sex, or never believed it could happen to them. Many evangelical Christians fall into this category.
I am convinced that white American obsession over abortion and its restrictions is because we do not want to look at our societal sins or face those consequences. Focusing on eliminating abortion allows us to still blame mostly women, and specifically women of color, for their poverty, instead of focusing on the systems we have created that continue to perpetuate racial and gender inequities.
“Shaming women never has significantly lessened abortion rates.”
Focusing on limiting women’s autonomy keeps us from interrogating why health care and child care cost so much. Focusing time, finances and resources on eliminating abortion keeps us from putting resources toward education, maternal health and social safety nets that allow families to thrive. The United States is the wealthiest country without mandated paid parental leave.
So instead, we point to a woman, with little or no agency, and shout at her, “You killed your baby! You are what’s wrong in society!” We are looking for tiny specks to prevent us from examining the logs in our own eyes.
In 1971, Southern Baptists, along with other denominations, approved abortion in certain cases. As some theorists suggest, anti-abortion became a rallying cry to deflect from the support of private schools that formed in response to desegregation. Anti-choice movements, in part, solidified right-wing politics with evangelical Christianity. One can look to evangelicals’ uncritical support of Donald Trump to see evidence.
As our nation’s Supreme Court debates the future of abortion rights, I cannot help but think of measures our country could take that would demonstrate that we believe in upholding the dignity of all humanity and lower abortion rates. These measures align with the Jesus who proclaims healing and care to the least of these. Measures such as:
- Lowering the cost of or subsidizing adoption fees.
- Comprehensive sex education and free access to contraceptives.
- Strengthening social safety nets, including affordable housing, adequate food and accessible health care.
- Supporting and empowering parents (including foster and adoptive parents) so they have the resources they need to raise their children.
- Educating men to respect the rights of people with uteruses and ask for explicit consent.
I do not know what the future holds for me in relation to my own dream to become a parent. Thinking about the possible outcomes fills me with both hope and anxiety. But I do know overturning Roe v. Wade is not it.
When being ‘pro-life’ really isn’t: How I became a Democrat who opposes abortion | Analysis by Chris Conley