The first time I recognized that I had a different point of view than pretty much all of my church friends, it was the 2000 election. I had turned 18 and the very first election in which I was able to cast my vote was when George W. Bush was running for President against then Vice President, Al Gore.
After placing my vote earlier in the week, I was headed off to visit Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. My best friend was attending there and I was going to classes at a local college in Indianapolis, but longed to go to a Christian university to study ministry. So, I took advantage of a trip that our church youth group was going on to take other students interested in attending this particular school. We were listening to election results on the radio in the church van, when the youth pastor’s wife realized that I had voted in this election. She was really excited for me and was glad that I had voted for George Bush…
Except, I did not vote for George Bush.
When I told her that I did not vote for George Bush, she was shocked, as were all of the other adults in the church van. When they all asked me why, I said it was because he was not pro-choice in regards to women’s reproductive rights.
Not only were the leaders appalled at my decision, but they felt the need to tell me over and over again that it was wrong for me to feel that women should have access to choose to end a pregnancy…did I not think that all life was precious? How could I believe it was okay for a woman to kill a harmless, innocent little baby? To say I was berated would be an understatement. The response from the youth leaders in that van and even from some of the students was straight up harassment. The entire weekend, I heard lecture after lecture about this wrong I had apparently committed. And when I wasn’t being lectured by adults, I was being made fun of by some of the students. Everyone assumed I had just made a misinformed mistake, that I just didn’t know what I was doing.
But I did. I made that conscious decision when I cast my vote.
What the youth leaders, pastors, and students didn’t know was that I was adopted, and being adopted played a huge role in how I came to feel about a woman’s right to choose.
Now, most Evangelical Christians would still probably assume that since I was adopted, I would still be pro-life instead of pro-choice. Again, this is a false assumption.
My biological parents were very poor and already had two children before I came along. Since my parents had very limited financial resources, they were desperately trying to figure out what they were going to do. It was financially impossible for them to raise a 3rd child. My biological father began to insist my biological mother have an abortion. But my biological mother knew that she had a choice in the matter…
She had a choice. And she pushed back against this idea to end her pregnancy, knowing there must be another way.
Eventually, through a lot of random circumstances, my biological parents met my adoptive parents, and they worked together, which resulted in me being born, and adopted by a couple who could not have a child.
Now, what most people on the pro-life side of this issue believe is that anyone who is not pro-life is some evil, baby-hating, pro-abortion person. And that’s just not true.
I’m not pro-abortion. I think it must be an incredibly horrific experience and difficult decision to make. But I also know that I’m limited in my understanding of choices because I’ve never been in a position to have to make that choice to end another life. I know that when I say that I believe in the Constitution and in the rights of individuals, it means that I would protect the right for people to make intensely personal choices, even if it means I may not agree with their choices. I know that I can’t fully understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of a person who has come to that decision to have an abortion. What I do know is that if I can’t understand someone else’s experience, then I certainly can’t judge them. I certainly have no right to do that or to tell them what they should do. Based on my limited experience in life, I have no right to take away someone else’s rights.
And I believe that if we limit a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, we would do irreversible damage to civilization. Let me make it clear: passing legislation that would make abortion illegal will not stop abortions from happening, just in the way that prohibition did not stop people from consuming alcohol, but instead, created a subversive and dangerous market for what they were seeking, resulting in corruption and death. Making abortion illegal will not solve the problem, it will only mask it from being seen in daylight.
By allowing a woman to have the right to choose, however, we can create regulations that may help us create opportunities that ultimately help women and children. We can make sure that if a woman has to make that difficult choice, then she will be taken care of by a qualified physician, and not by someone with more nefarious intentions or motivations. We can create education programs that help people understand the circumstances of their decisions and give them alternatives.
It would be naïve of us to fully believe that we live in a country where women have equal rights. The truth is that women still face issues of inequality in multiple aspects of life here in the United States. Can you honestly say that if we pass legislation that would absolutely take away a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, that we are the advanced society that we claim to be? What does it say about us as a society if we don’t trust that a woman is capable of choosing what is best for her and her family? If we only mask the problem so that we aren’t forced to see it in the daylight, can we really lay claim to be the greatest democracy in history?
Being pro-choice is not the antithesis of being pro-life. It is not the enemy. Being pro-choice is acknowledging that women face all kinds of issues in our country, and is a decision to be open to help educate and serve women that desperately need help, no matter if they decide to end a pregnancy or to seek out adoptive services. Being pro-choice is being humble enough to know that I am in no position to pass judgment on others. Being pro-choice is a practice of unconditional love, humility, sacrifice, and being brave enough to confront the difficulties of humanity.
I fully believe that if I had been conceived prior to Roe vs. Wade, that I would not be alive. If my biological mother had no choice in how to decide whether she would give birth, I believe that she may have sought out an illegal and potentially dangerous method to end her pregnancy. If she did not have the right to choose, she may have felt forced to give birth and raise a child that she could not financially support. The fact that she was able to choose adoption, though, gave her the opportunity to not only help herself, but gave another family a chance to have a baby. Her choice created a space for love and sacrifice and healing to exist where it may not have existed had she been forced to raise me. She chose to find a way to choose life.
I know it goes against the grain of what our American ideals are of what it means to be a Christian, but I’m pro-choice. Being a follower of Christ means that we don’t just sweep issues under the rug so we don’t have to confront them. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean that we pass judgment on people because we don’t understand their circumstances. Being a follower of Christ means that we meet people where they are at and love them, even when it is difficult or they do things we may not agree with. It is a harder path to follow.
So, when I look back on the days following the 2000 election and remember how I was harassed and bullied by people who thought I had made a mistake, I don’t look back with regret. I look back on a situation where I made the first few steps of following a path that was more difficult, required more love and less judgment, and doesn’t exactly sit well with religious folks. And that reassures me that I’m on the right path.