Framing the Abortion Debate - broader and deeper
I’ll have a little piece in the Seattle Times on Saturday morning, but wanted to elaborate a bit for those who are interested. Here are a few basic propositions that I think must govern the dialog on this subject.
I. Life in the womb is worth protecting because it is life and as such, is precious in God’s eyes. The Bible is offers many scriptures to indicate that we’re talking about more than just tissue here. And this life, since it is a small, frail, vulnerable life, needs our voice to protect it because it can’t protect itself. The political left has largely danced around this untidy reality, along with the untidy realities that abortion carries with it, at the very least, the risk of grave psychological and physical consequences. Again, the left conveniently avoids these realities in all their rhetoric.
II. Life outside the womb is equally precious, a fact that the religious right seems to ignore. You see, the statistical reality is that most babies which were at some point under consideration for abortion are born into situations that are stacked against them. Whether the issue is extreme poverty, addiction, promiscuity, or spousal abuse, the fact is that unwanted children who are brought into the world deserve the same protection, care, and compassion from the religious right once they are born as they received in the womb. To move from a somewhat intrusive politic which mandates birth, to a completely libertarian, Darwinian, ‘you’re now on your own’, ‘survival of the fittest’, policy once the child is born seems absurd.
III. The life of the mother is as precious as the life of the child. I’ve been a pastor long enough to hear the agonizing stories of women who have wrestled with the issue of abortion. Never yet have I spoken with one who took the issue lightly. When Troy Newman of Operation Rescue said this in response to the Supreme Court’s Ruling: “…We can do more than just put hurdles in front of women seeking abortions; we can put roadblocks in front of them”, I wanted to scream. His language precludes relationships, enflames rhetoric, and moves us further away from any constructive dialogue about the real issues. I just can’t see Jesus talking like that to an entire gender.
IV. The real conversation should view abortion as the symptom of a larger set of cultural pathologies, and both left and right, all of us really, find ourselves complicit with these diseases. Our greed and consumerism is driving people to overwork and overspend, which is leading to stresses in the home and the loss of civic community (people are still Bowling Alone). When this isolation is blended with a recreational sexual ethic, the loss of covenant commitments, and an over sexualized culture, it’s not hard to understand how abortion comes into play. Throw in a culture of fear and violence as seen in our propensity to silence and censure those who disagree with us, and we can see how the problem grows. Unless there’s a conversation centered around these root issues I fear that court mandates of any perceived magnitude (and this recent ruling was small indeed) will be nothing more than an escape valve to avoid the harder conversations. But once these harder conversations begin, I pray that we’ll work together all of us, to envision a different kind of country – a country where the highest good is the common good, and where care for one another and a strong ethic that ties sexual expressions to committed relationships will grow in the soil of healthy families and strong communities. Working together towards such common goals would perhaps open up room for more civil dialog on the particulars of how to protect the dignity and life of both the mother and the infant, and new solutions would no doubt emerge.