About four years back, “America’s pastor,” Rick Warren, asked America’s President, Barack Obama, at what point he believes that life should be protected.
His non-answer went down in infamy in some quarters.
“That answer is above my pay grade.“
By this, he meant that only God really knows when we can say that human life actually begins – when what many would consider the soul would enter in through the uterus and into the embryo to grant it humanity – so only God can grade when life should be protected by government intervention. .
Despite the drubbing from the “pro-life” lobby, and perhaps despite his own (genuine) interest in deflecting the question, Obama was right. Ask most evangelicals and conservative Catholics and they’d most likely tell you, “Life begins at conception.”
And they wouldn’t flinch in saying that.
Here I think I should clarify a bit: I have trouble with abortion. As a parent, as an oldest brother, as a (admittedly male) human, I’ve tried to go over the option of abortion and wrestled with it for a very, very long time. But even during the darkest periods of my deepest depression (largely set off by major life changes that occurred during a relatively short span), even when I was angriest and most despondent at my dissolving marriage, and despite her various and chronic health complications, I’ve never regretted my daughter’s birth.
I have, however, been constantly cognizant of the fact that it would have been much easier if the situations were different. I am also pretty darned aware that I’m a male, and thus incapable of giving her birth in the first place. Alas, from my perspective, waiting for the right time would have given me a completely different child. Too many variables and all that.
Now, however, these are my beliefs. And they influence how I live and act. They, for better or worse, influence and help make me which I am. But in this scheme, I also find it hard to believe that life begins the moment a seed enters into an egg.
Perhaps life begins in the first trimester. I am willing to go along with that. Maybe it begins when the egg is planted in the womb. Maybe after the ears fully form. Maybe at the moment the fetus is able to function outside of the womb. Maybe at birth, and not before. I have to acknowledge that for some cultures, life isn’t fully recognized until the age of five or so.
The point being that there has never been a universally understood standard for when human life begins. And until the 1980’s, there was no consensus even amongst Evangelicals.
There certainly wasn’t in the bible.
So when the anti-abortion forces mandate that abortion a) is murder and, b) should be outlawed at any stage, they (we) are being presumptuous, to say the least. Coupled with our track record on women’s rights, we are being downright cynical and controlling.
To attempt to legislate our views on abortion upon the populace is akin to trying to legislate religion*. And we all know how that ends, right?
|Spanish Inquisition poster photo by Ben Sutherland on Flickr|
We have every right to hold the view that all life is sacred. I believe that this is consistent with the Christian view of Creation and humanity. But then we need to follow through with that. That includes all life. That includes female life. Which includes the acknowledgment that they are fully-developed human beings and that they are to be guaranteed full access to all their rights. To do otherwise is to control – which is a form of active death.
As long as the Contemporary “Pro-Life” movement continues to fight a woman’s right to self-determine, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to allow victim-blaming, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to shame and ignore the voices of women, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to be silent while the US continues atrocious wars against Middle Easterners, we deliver a message of death and control. As long as the CPL continues to lobby for laws limiting abortion – and through deceptive, backdoor practices – we deliver a message of death and destruction.
There are better ways, and we’ll discuss them next time.
* I would suggest a much more anarchist view, which I think is also the answer to most of our other societal issues, including access to healthy, whole and affordable food and shelter.