Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Coming out of the closet....

The other day J and I had a get-together at our place. An old friend of mine came- one who I went to high school and then college with (then, I finished college and went on to grad school, while he dropped out, and eventually tried to complete his bachelors degree at another small Evangelical university in my new city. Yeah, there's a little more to the story.) Anyway, he was talking with grad school friends, and questions came up (like "how did you survive high school?" which might be a topic for another post). He mentioned that lately, he'd been solidifying his beliefs on evolution and women in the church and the crisis he'd faced realizing that there was more than one Christian perspective on these issues.

Now, evolution and women in the church, or gay people in the church, honestly, are not hills I'm willing to die on just yet. Partly because I think that HOW we treat other Christians who disagree with us is far more important than what we actually think on these issues, and partly because they aren't things that come up at work/school every day. I think I'm still more uncertain than I'd like to be about these things, but wherever I come down on any given day will never cause a faith crisis.

But there's another issue that has shocked me with what I really think, and that I've struggled to accept that I (and the vast majority of the Christians I know) come down in radically different places: not only am I pro-contraception, I am pro-choice. Yes, my small handful of readers, I am outing myself as a pro-choice Christian- a combination I didn't even think was possible a few years ago.

There are a lot of things that changed my mind- partly, the reality that pregnancy is a lot more nuanced than the way it's portrayed by the anti-abortion community. Most women who choose to terminate a pregnancy are already mothers, for instance, not irresponsible teens. Pregnancies take place in women, who live in families, which are part of communities- we can't just look at a pregnancy as woman vs fetus. And there are so MANY possible outcomes to a pregnancy- it's not just a choice of terminating a pregnancy or  happily raising a healthy baby - there are adoptions, miscarriages, stillbirths, women who die in childbirth, gestational diabetes, post-partum depression....that's a lot of risk to ask someone to take on for a potential life. I'm not comfortable with making someone assume that risk unwillingly. And also- late term abortions? Usually, they're for medical reasons. Women generally don't let a pregnancy progress to 20 weeks on a whim, and I really don't think the government has any place in the midst of an already heartbreaking decision on between a woman, her partner, and physician

I think about the stories Christians celebrate- the stories of Tim Tebow, for instance, or the families who knew their child would not make it to term, or would not live for more than a few hours. And what makes these stories inspiring is the *choices* those people made. These women and families took on superhuman burdens, because of their faith and convictions and were sustained by God in the process, and it's beautiful. But should that burden be imposed on those who do not choose it? I don't think so, particularly given the insanely high costs associated with extraordinary medical care.

And it didn't help that my friends who are most opposed to abortion are the same people who are most opposed to social programs and policies that make it easier for  low-income women and couples to raise children.

I learned about the risks associated with unsafe abortions , and this changed things even more.

Also - abortion and contraception aren't specifically addressed anywhere in scripture. I've done enough research on the use of traditional plants as contraceptives and abortifaceants that I'm pretty darn sure the Israelite women were using them- and this practice isn't addressed anywhere in Scripture. I have to think that if God really cared about this, He would have *specifically* addressed it in Scripture, rather than allowing there to be room for misunderstanding.

Finally, there's the reality that if I *were* to get pregnant today, I don't know what would happen (This is why we use three methods of birth control). My husband and I aren't sure we ever want to be parents, because we're not sure we'd be any good at all at parenting. On top of that, we're graduate students, and the financial stress we face is pretty incredible. If we chose to have a child, it would have radically life-changing consequences. But even more than that- I'm in really lousy health right now, thanks to three months with no medication. My body's not a terribly hospitable place for ME to hang out at the moment, let alone a fetus. My own tissues are destroying themselves, and I'm reminded of this by the  frequent waves of nausea washing over me, accompanied by stabbing pain. I'm not sure it would be physically possible to carry a pregnancy. I don't know what my husband and I would decide if we did find ourselves pregnant- but whatever the decision, it would be hard-won, through prayer, conversations with priests and doctors, and honest soul-searching. And  I would be grateful that there *would be * a choice - that our course of action would not be constrained by regulations that know nothing about us or our situation.

I am a pro-choice Christian...this doesn't mean that I support abortion as an "easy out" in all cases, but that I, as a voter, do not want the responsibility of making anyone's decision for them. And let me add that I'm in favor of preventing as many abortions as possible- through contraception, through social programs that support families, through reforms that make adoptions feasible for more families.

But....this is all extraneous to my point: I feel like that voicing this position would result in people praying for my salvation and kicking me out of their churches and circle of friends, regardless of how much I have thought about it, or why I hold it. And that is hard.



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