Being a “millennial” is difficult. Every day, thanks to the ease of public expression, we battle the urge to spew our opinions as soon as they pop into our heads toward those who may or may not be interested, and we struggle to learn which things need to be spoken and which things should be kept. And we fail miserably.
As a reward for voicing my own opinions, I’ve had the privilege of some great conversations with those who feel differently about things. I’ve had the great experience of engaging in educational dialogue that opens a door to seeing the other side more clearly and having my own side strengthened and informed as a result. And I hope those on the other side of that issue feel the same way. I’ve also had the misfortune of being cruelly badgered about my opinions by people with no desire to truly understand how I feel.
And then all the woes of social media are forgiven because of the “block” option.
I am pro-life, and I want all babies to be born. I also, at this time, am against legislating that all babies be born.
I want to explain how my faith informs these feelings.
When I imagine humanity in its original form, in its original purpose, I imagine a close and intimate communion with God. When I imagine the cursed humanity, I imagine a spectrum that pushed us to a far end away from God. So when God works to restore humanity, to bring us back to our original purpose – closeness with God – I imagine a long, arduous, and grueling journey of change in cultural consciousness.
Humanity does not travel the length of this spectrum overnight. In fact, it takes entire generations to simply move one step. And God knows this. So God gives us small steps to take.
One of my favorite examples of this is in Deuteronomy 22: 28-29, “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.”
In our 21st century context, we look at this as abuse. It is brutal to subject a victim to this. Why would God ordain such a gruesome law that puts a woman through a lifetime of having to see her abuser every day, and even worse, have sex with him? And my answer is that perhaps it was the best God could do with what God had at the time. In the Ancient Near East, women were property. Men literally paid their fathers to marry them. Their value was entirely bound in their virginity and their ability to have children. If a woman was no longer a virgin, whether or not by choice, she would never be wanted by another man. To never marry would mean to never have children. She would essentially be destined for destitution. Her remaining options would be to sell herself into slavery or prostitution.
She would have no protection, no chance for a decent life, no hope.
Why couldn’t God just make a law against rape? Because society wasn’t there yet. Society wasn’t at a point where women were valued enough to consider such an act as atrocious as it was.
So what does it do in this context to demand that a man make his victim his wife? It puts the responsibility of her well-being on him. It puts the responsibility of her life on him. And though divorce was allowed, in this circumstance it would not be allowed. For the rest of her life, he must provide her with shelter, food, children, and protection. His “punishment” was that he would have to provide for her what no one else would because of what he did.
It’s a small step that, by our standards today, is barbaric. But by the standards of that time, it was highly revolutionary.
So why can’t we just make abortion illegal? Aside from the fact that laws against abortion have no effect whatsoever on abortion rates in other countries, simply put, society isn’t there yet.
We’ve just now (sort of) gotten to the point where women are considered people, so it’s possible we’ve got a long way to go before unborn babies are considered people too.
I don’t think that means we should give up the fight. But I do think it means we need to exchange our weapons. And in order to arm ourselves with the best weapons, we need to do better research into what we’re fighting.
Why are women seeking pregnancy termination? A whopping 88% worldwide seek abortion for financial reasons. Yes, for many women, there are multiple reasons for choosing that, but the primary reason is because of finances. A law against abortion is not going to eliminate these reasons. Women who are required to continue their pregnancies until birth will lose jobs because they can’t afford childcare or to take leave. Of course, adoption is always an option, but do I even need to go into the brutal experience of a mother having to separate herself from the child she carried for 40 weeks? Many women do take that route, and for people like my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, that sacrifice fulfills their dreams for children, but to force that as the only option for a pregnant mother who doesn’t feel that she can provide for her baby is not good. Yes, we should champion adoption. We should also champion family-preservation. And we do that by providing a community that makes women feel secure enough to provide for her children and supported enough to do that for the long haul.
But ultimately, there is one method that has been proven to lower abortion rates – and that is pregnancy prevention. It is well-documented that cultures that lack access to contraception on a worldwide scale have higher infant-mortality rates and higher maternal death rates. Women who are not educated in family planning and voluntary use of contraceptives, and who also are at the sexual disposal of their husbands, lacking a choice in whether or not they will have intercourse, are getting pregnant and having babies almost every year.
It is not healthy for a woman’s body to endure that. Basically, she is getting pregnant before her body has healed, which poses high risks for the pregnancy. Her newborn will lack the care and attention he or she needs when another baby is quickly added to the family, and worst of all, when adequate prenatal care is also absent in a culture, the mother’s likelihood of survival throughout all these pregnancies so close together is low. Babies are more likely to die when the mother is not around.
Contraceptives are a necessity for the health of women and for a lower abortion rate. Women who are empowered to make decisions about their family plans and who are empowered to space and time their pregnancies in a way that is most healthy for her body, will be empowered to raise her children with confidence and security and thus continue her pregnancies.
Now, there are some familiar voices in my life that I already know may be reading this and thinking that the best way to prevent pregnancy is to not have sex. Abstinence-only education is a documented failure, and I am grieved to say that the response to single women who get pregnant and seek help is simply, ‘well you shouldn’t have had sex to begin with.’
There are several issues I have with this sentiment.
- On a worldwide scale, married women terminate pregnancies at a far higher rate than unmarried women. So assuming that women just shouldn’t have sex doesn’t really do anything to address the issue considering the number of married women seeking abortions.
- As Christians, to offer this response is to make yourself like the unmerciful servant who was forgiven his debt of ten thousand bags of gold by the king and then turns around to have the man who owes him 100 silver coins thrown in jail. How would you feel if God’s response to your search for help through the messes you’ve made was to say, ‘well you shouldn’t have done that in the first place,’ and then shut the door in your face?
- This enforces the perspective of the pregnancy as a punishment. Instead of celebrating the life that is developing and doing everything we can to help provide for that life, we tell the mother that she is being punished for her sins. That is as inhuman as anything. You think taking the life of an unborn baby is dehumanizing, so is lowering that baby’s status to a punishment.
- And finally, I’d like to think that if your own child were in this situation, and for whatever reason you weren’t around to provide for her, you would die at the thought of the church or society turning their backs on her because of her circumstance.
Fact: people are going to have sex, married or not, and just like my mother showed me the right way to push the chair up to the counter so I’d have a smaller chance of falling down at my insistence to climb that counter, we can provide society with methods to lower the chance of something unintended to happen at their insistence of having sex.
Yes, I do think that society’s perception of sex needs to change. Yes, I do think that sex should be reserved for committed relationships. But again, let’s look at what has been ineffective and what has been effective, and let’s exchange what ineffective tools we have to the ones that make a difference. If it’s likely to achieve the same end that we want, we have to be willing to give it a try. The consequences of mortality rates of babies and mothers far outweigh the consequences of protected premarital sex, so let’s be wise about what a real emergency is.
So when I receive a passive-aggressive text message from a distant family member telling me that 3,000 babies will die today, I want to say:
No, actually, far more than that will die today because of starvation, dead mothers, malnutrition, inadequate medical care, and disease.
I want to say: and what are you going to do about it today? Are you going to pay for medical appointments that the mothers can’t afford? Are you going to buy groceries that those babies’ families can’t afford? Are you going to take in that pregnant teenager who’s been kicked out by her parents? Are you going to help coordinate childcare so that mother can keep her job and continue providing for her baby?
But I didn’t say any of those things. Because sometimes it’s just wiser to block people.
For some excellent resources on the topic, please check out the following links: