"If I say, 'I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,' then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot." Jeremiah 20:9
On a cold evening in December 2018, I was collecting food and gifts for children outside the Walmart in Falling Waters, West Virginia with members of my congregation. We asked shoppers to buy an extra item, if they were willing, to help a family at one of three local schools. Most were indeed willing. But an impeccably dressed man (who looked to be nearing 80) poked me in the chest and hissed at me, “People who are too lazy to work don’t deserve to eat.” My brain said let it go, Terri, but my mouth didn’t listen: “We’re feeding children,” I said, to which he replied, “If they can’t afford children, they shouldn’t be allowed to have any!”
In that same congregation was the daughter of an incredibly self-giving couple. Unable to have children of their own, they adopted seriously disabled children (the daughter I knew was the exception—her biological mother was developmentally delayed; the pregnancy was the result of sexual assault). The husband and wife have both died and the two other children, now in or nearing their 40s, need round the clock care—funded by tax dollars.
Some years before, a member of another congregation was actively involved in the Pro-Life movement—it was his passion and something he talked about non-stop. During her first year of college, his stepdaughter returned home pregnant. She told her mom and stepdad that she had considered an abortion, but couldn’t go through with it because of his witness to the right to life. His response? He called her a slut and threw her out of the house.
If you see the overturn of Roe v. Wade as a black and white issue, welcome to the shades of grey.
In June, I passed the 37th anniversary of my ordination; in my early days, the oldest women in my congregations were born before 1900. Many of them shared stories of doctors who begged them to end pregnancies because of their age or medical condition or level of poverty; others shared stories of throwing themselves down a flight of stairs trying to miscarry because they couldn’t feed the children they already had. During my years in ministry, I’ve listened to stories of women who nearly died during pregnancy because of diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or sepsis. (Imagine being confined to bed with two other kids and no income because your minimum wage job has no benefits.) I’ve buried newborns and stillborns and ministered to women who rejected or killed their children because of post-partum psychosis (remember, I served as a psychiatric chaplain) as well as women whose pregnancies were the result of rape—most often by a family member.
I am not arguing against anyone’s right to life (my grandmother’s doctor tried to convince her to terminate her pregnancy with my own mother!) but if you think the recent Supreme Court decision is a victory for the sacredness of human life, please look a little more deeply into what “pro-life” means….
- · Many of the members of Congress who advocated for and celebrated the overturn of Roe voted against funding the Affordable Care Act, Food Stamps, WIC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Head Start, raising the minimum wage, any provision for childcare or pre-natal care…. If “pro-life” ends at birth, is it really pro-life or merely pro-fetus?
- · We can pass legislation to force women to carry pregnancies to term, but cannot and will not pass legislation to protect children from gun violence—if anyone’s right to own and carry any firearm at any time is more important than our children’s lives, is that honestly pro-life?
- · Those who applauded the Roman Catholic Archbishop who refused Communion to pro-choice politicians but freely admit those who AGAINST CATHOLIC TEACHING advocate for the death penalty—can they genuinely call themselves pro-life?
As a woman—and tax-paying citizen—I refute and resent the notion that refusing to wear a mask or submit to a vaccination is a “right” because “no one can force ME to do anything with MY body,” but “YOU can be forced to carry a pregnancy to term regardless of YOUR circumstance” is anything short of hypocritical. The same can be said about closing—or bombing—Planned Parenthood centers (even those that never performed abortions), thus cutting off access to birth control and reproductive healthcare for low-income women.
If you believe abortion is against God’s will, I cannot and will not argue against you. If you believe pregnancies resulting from incest or rape or that endanger the mother’s life, health, or mental stability must be carried to term, my question is: would you feel the same way if that mother were your daughter or granddaughter? If you are truly pro-life, are you willing to advocate for providing for all children after they are born? Even if it means a substantial increase to your taxes?
If I thought overturning Roe would end abortion, I, as a pacifist, would be more inclined to agree with the decision, but we know that is not the case. Women and unborn children will be butchered. Babies will be born addicted, malnourished, and unwanted. And at least one Supreme Court Justice is openly looking to overturn laws protecting the right to contraception while other pundits have actively advocated for forced sterilizations! Can we at least agree that this is not a black and white issue? Can we work toward the day when abortion is truly an unthinkable option: a day when poverty and racism are eradicated? (In the US, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.) A day when healthcare is the right of every American along with a livable wage?
You may have seen the following blog post, written in 2018 by a UM pastor in Alabama. He took a lot of flack for this writing, though he did not—and does not—claim these to be the feelings of everyone who considers him/herself to be anti-abortion, but I think it’s worth sharing for your consideration, so I end with these words from Dave Barnhart, titled “The Unborn.”
"The unborn" are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don't resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don't ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don't need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don't bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It's almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.
Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.