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Pro-Life & Pro-Choice

November 1, 2012

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while. Thomas Friedman beat me to it and really, he’s done a much better job than I ever could. Considering the unfortunate fact that we can’t go more than a few days without a Republican candidate saying something offensive about rape (Jon Stewart’s take on this is hilarious, btw) it’s an issue that keeps coming up.

Sadly, the dialogue that usually surrounds these issues does more harm than good. I’m always particularly confounded by the mainstream conversations that happen surrounding abortion, which is why I was so pleased to see Friedman’s article. I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I think it’s safe to say that with the possible exception of serial killers and mass murderers, everyone is pro-life. We like to live, we choose to keep living, we want to live as long as possible, we don’t kill people, and we love babies. So, the divide that exists is not about being pro-life or not, but about whether we agree that a woman has a right to choose what happens to her own body. And as Friedman rightly points out, many who proudly proclaim to be “pro-life” have a very narrow definition of what that means, one that excludes much of actual Life.

I have always wondered what would happen if people focused more energy on reducing the number and likelihood of abortions rather than arguing about whether or not they should be legal. What would happen if we all focused on finding ways to ensure that women never have to make this heartbreaking choice. (And it is a heartbreaking choice no matter what picture the extreme right paints of women who have had abortions)

Because of this I was surprised and delighted to hear a representative from the Christian Right talking about this very thing. I was listening to this episode of On Being yesterday and found myself vigorously nodding in agreement with much of what was said. It’s really simple – if we don’t want women to be choosing abortion then we need to create a social net that supports women making other choices. Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, for example, is working on making the foster care system more compassionate and efficient.

To be clear, I believe that a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body is fundamental, and I also believe that her choices are between her, her doctor and her God. But in my opinion there are many things we could do to reduce the number of abortions performed every year:

1. Educate, educate, educate. All females need access to accurate sex education. (abstinence-only education DOES NOT WORK)

2. Free and readily accessible contraception. The best way to avoid abortion is to prevent pregnancy. (once again, abstinence-only education DOES NOT WORK)

3. Perhaps it’s time we confront our culture of violence against women. We need to erase phrases like “legitimate rape” from our vocabulary and have substantive discussions about culturally accepted objectification of women and the deeply ingrained distrust and hatred towards women and their bodies.

4. Make it easier to raise a child as a single parent. One example would be to make paid maternity leave a requirement. Another would be affordable child care. Other countries have great models we can learn from and these two things would benefit all mothers and all families, not just single mothers.

5. A complete overhaul of the foster care and adoption system. The statistics for children raised in foster care are beyond depressing, from rates of suicide to rates of graduation from high school. The system is failing children. We cannot ask women to entrust the lives of their babies into a system that is failing them at every turn.

These are just five simple, and I think obvious, suggestions, but what would happen if we actually focused on them?

I highly recommend listening to the episode of On Being mentioned above. As someone who admittedly tends to have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the word “Christian”, it did much to open my mind and heart to the possibility of Christians recognizing this, taking responsibility for the areas in which they themselves have contributed to it , and questioning what it means to be christian and how this should affect the way they operate in the world.

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