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Thursday, March 03, 2005

When Pro-Choice is Pro-Life

I’m not pro-choice. I would say that I am pro-life, but that term has been perverted beyond any ability to reflect a realistic stance that it twists my stomach to even ponder it. I believe that a woman should have the option of having an abortion that is legal and medially safe. However, the pro-choice crowd is so determined to call a fetus “an undifferentiated mass of cells” that I think they are also hiding from reality. Once again, I find myself standing squarely in the middle, seeing the flaws of both arguments.
If a fetus is nothing to be concerned with, then it should be promoted as last-ditch birth control. If there are no moral compunctions in abortion, then it should be the duty, not just the option, of every medical professional that deals with pregnancy to educate their patients that they have that option. A woman who has had an abortion should be able to walk away with a clear conscience and never look back. There should be no tears, no turmoil, and no need for counseling after the fact.
This is not reality. Women who consider abortion generally undergo considerable turmoil. It is a decision they wrestle with, and may always second-guess. An abortion has very real medical consequences, including potentially not being able to carry a subsequent pregnancy to term. Studies published in American Psychological Association journals have found that women who have opted for abortions may have “anniversary reactions” and an increased risk for developing depression. If this was simply the effect of right-wing propaganda, then the argument might hold water, but the fact is that women who have a miscarriage undergo the same psychological and medical difficulties.
No, we can’t simply say that a fetus means nothing. It just doesn’t fit with reality and pretending it will if we only say it long enough and loud enough will not change it one bit. Worse, it only puts more women at risk for adverse medical and psychological conditions. It isn’t a position a Christian should rush to embrace.
However, the right would have us believe that a human life is created at the moment of conception and we must spend all necessary resources to protect the sanctity of human life. They hypocrisy of this position is evident to everyone but those who are most vociferously advocating it. It is the position of someone who has not adequately thought about their words and the logical conclusion of them. For if we are to defend human life at all cost, then we must also push for unlimited lifetime free health care, abolition of the death penalty, and force doctors to expend heroic efforts to sustain life until it is simply not possible. We could never let someone die without subjecting them to the full strength of medical knowledge simply for the cause of not letting them expire.
Neither position deals with reality. A blessed dose of reality comes from the Jewish tradition – which Christians will recognize as the cultural framework in which Jesus lived and taught. The Jewish belief is that a child is considered as part of the mother until God and man look upon the face of the child. Once the head has exited the birth canal, it is a separate human life and as deserving of all efforts of maintaining its life as any other. Up until that point, the primary concern of the Jewish community is that the mother remains alive and healthy. The logic is simple: a live woman can have another child, a dead woman cannot do so – and she cannot provide the nurturing babies so desperately need.
As a fetus grows from a fertilized egg toward the bursting forth of the child’s face, it is entitled to a graduated level of concern. As a potential Jewish life, it cannot be cast aside callously. This is why Jewish people can hold a full range of bereavement ceremonies for a miscarriage and still unequivocally allow an abortion when the mother’s life is endangered. It is a wholly coherent worldview that puts the decision into the hands of the woman, with the counseling and support of her family and her rabbi.
If a Christian pastor believes that abortion is wrong in every case, then he is more than entitled to counsel those under his spiritual guidance that this is the case. He does not, however, have the right to prevent those of other faiths from counseling their flock in a different manner. If the purpose of the anti-abortion crowd was merely to provide a balancing viewpoint, then I would support them. However, the real goal is to shackle all people to their views and totally disregard any legitimate objections others might have for their position.
So, I am neither pro-choice nor pro-life. I am simply pro-reality.


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