January 22 marked the 49th anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to codify abortion rights in America. The anniversary has been notable, as many pro-life advocates are hopeful that there will be no 50th anniversary celebration.
This is due to two Supreme Court cases that could serve to overturn the Roe ruling and send the decision of abortion rights back to individual states. Should that occur, pro-life advocates will have much work to do in order to ensure the safety and protection of unborn children in their respective states. Nevertheless, it would be a monumental step in the right direction and one that I never anticipated I would see in my lifetime.
In light of this possibility, many politicians and public figures have been calling for the codification of Roe v. Wade through legislation, arguing that abortion is a fundamental human right. Among them is President Joe Biden.
“We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,” said Biden in a statement on January 22.
In this conversation, access to an elective abortion is often framed as a woman’s rights issue. It is seen as part of the struggle for equal justice and opportunities for women under the law. Therefore, for those who oppose it, they are considered to be against the advancement of women. Sometimes, they are called patriarchal or misogynistic.
Lost in the conversation are the rights of the unborn children whose very lives are at stake, whether those children are male or female, white or persons of color.
Abortion as Women’s Rights is The Work of the Enemy.
I truly believe that access to elective abortion being framed as part and parcel of the cause of women’s rights is a crafty scheme of the enemy. What’s more is that it is sociologically significant in the way it hampers the protection of two marginalized groups by pitting them against one another.
To be truly accepted among those who further the cause of equality for women under the law, you must also buy into the fact that women have the right to wrongfully take the lives of unborn children. And, in many cases, to be fully accepted among those who are serious about ensuring the protection of unborn children, you must come to see “feminism” as a four letter word.
But if we can take a step back from the tangled web we have weaved for ourselves, we can begin to understand that we have created a false dichotomy.
Here are at least two reasons why I truly believe that being pro-life does not necessarily mean that you are anti-woman.
Abortion is a Traumatic Event for Mothers.
When I say that I oppose abortion, it is for the sake of the unborn life that is created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully knitted together in his or her mother’s womb. But I also oppose it for the sake of the mother.
And that’s because having an abortion isn’t a simple medical procedure. It isn’t like having a root canal or even an appendectomy. Abortion is a traumatic event—for the child, and for the mother.
Some of that trauma may be physical, such as possible damage to the womb, cervix, or uterus, which can manifest in painful physical symptoms, as well as increase the risk of pregnancy loss or inability for a woman to get pregnant in the future.
Even more than that, abortion is an emotionally and spiritually traumatic event for women. According to one study, at least one third of women who received an abortion reported psychological side effects, including anxiety, abnormal eating behaviors, decreased self-esteem, nightmares, guilt, and regret.
When the church is at its best, what it offers these women is judgment-free care, support, and a space to grieve and find redemption. I have heard about churches with entire care programs for women who have gone through an abortion, wherein they can process what happened in the context of community, pursuing healing together. These kinds of ministries are wonderful, and there should be more of them.
But what weighs heavily on my heart is that these kinds of emotional and spiritual wounds that need mending would be avoided entirely.
This isn’t to say that if a young mother decides to keep and raise her baby, or to give the baby away through adoption, that there will not be significant hurdles to overcome—emotionally, and even just practically.
As someone who is married, has a steady income, a good support system, and two children under the age of three, I understand that parenting even in the best of circumstances is not easy. I can only imagine the challenges a young, single mother faces. I would never want to downplay those challenges, and the church should be there for those needs as well.
But what I am saying is this: while there is redemption that transcends even death, where death is avoidable, we should always pursue the option where life continues. This benefits the baby, but, ultimately, also the mother. The church is again at its best when it stops at nothing to support women like these.While there is redemption that transcends even death, where death is avoidable, we should always pursue the option where life continues. Click To Tweet
A Pro-Life Stance Doesn’t Require Apathy Toward the Constellation of Needs Surrounding the Issue of Abortion. (In Fact, It Opposes It.)
In America, many of us feel trapped inside a false binary when it comes to tackling the public and social issues of our day. Either you’re a Republican or a Democrat; you’re with “us,” or you’re with “them.” And if you’re with “us,” you have to accept every value, every policy stance, and every part of the party agenda worldview. And if you’re with “them,” then it necessarily means that you accept every aspect of their worldview.
If you’re a Republican, “we” unequivocally support an unborn child’s right to life. But “we” also scoff at social safety nets that would greatly benefit economically challenged mothers, accusing them of being Marxist and anti-American (even when studies show that such programs have positive effects on a child’s development).
If you’re a Democrat, “we” emphasize the need for things like paid family leave, government funded healthcare, robust welfare programs, and equal opportunities for women, but “we” also believe in on-demand abortions for any mother who wants them.
But who says that these are our only two options?
Christians, we need to expand our imagination beyond the binary of elephants and donkeys and realize that neither of these competing agendas pursues the heart of God beyond what aligns with their pre-established worldviews.
Despite the sentiments of many Republicans in Washington, advocating for the unborn does not require you to block any legislation that may serve to benefit mothers that you don’t think “deserve it.” And despite the sentiments of many Democrats, seeking to enshrine the wrongful taking of unborn lives as a fundamental human right gravely damages any moral authority you’re trying to wield in the name of justice.
Through personal involvement in our communities, as well as by calling our elected officials to account for inadequately caring for the marginalized, Christians must show that we are not only “pro-birth” or only “pro-life for the ones who managed to escape the prospect of abortion.” We are pro-life from womb to tomb.
Accusing the “other side” isn’t enough. Accusing Republicans of being merely “pro-birth” while supporting a system that supports the killing of unborn children isn’t enough. Calling Democrats “baby killers” while supporting a system that makes many women feel like abortion is their only shot at survival isn’t enough.
We have to call our own side to account for falling so painfully short and partner across the aisle for true justice—both for women and the unborn.We have to call our 'own side' to account for falling so painfully short of preserving life and partner across the aisle for true justice – both for women and the unborn. Click To Tweet
Being Pro-Life Means Being Pro-Women’s Lives.
Being pro-life is far more than working to ensure that the lives of infants are not cut short in the womb. But it can also never be less than that.
Any pro-life agenda that does not also address the needs of mothers who are experiencing significant challenges is not sufficiently pro-life. And advocating for increased access to elective abortions will never be an act of justice for women.