Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thoughts on Roe v. Wade, Politics, and Faith - Part 1

Sign of Life IIAs the election gets closer and the rhetoric heats up, I'm finding myself doing the same thing I did last election. I get frustrated by the cliches and "the sky is falling" fear-mongering, but I also sit back and take a good hard look at what I believe and how that will drive me to vote.

Specifically, I am again wrestling with abortion in America, the pro-choice and pro-life movement, and how politics and faith interact over the issue. It's a messy, emotional fight. So, I write about my thoughts, and my research. I'm not preaching. I'm reflecting my own journey.

Four years ago I voted for Obama. Once I decided that would be my vote, the biggest push-back I got from my Christian community was over Obama's very liberal record on abortion, even in the partial-birth abortion fight of the '90's. How could I in good conscience vote for someone with those views? That question is back again. For many believers, this is the final issue where everything else stands or falls

I did some pretty hard research on this issue four years ago. At that point I was questioning everything I'd previously believed. I had always been told abortion was wrong. I questioned this again. Why? Because it's killing someone. Is it? Is the fetus really alive? When does life begin? At conception? How do you know? And, if it's unclear (or even if it's very clear), what are the implications of that for policy and for personal choices (particularly birth control)? Why are so many evangelicals adamant that life begins at conception but continue to use hormonal birth control that can cause the loss of embryos after conception (article Romney holding this opinion is here)? Can the President actually do anything about our current policy anyways, if years of Republican Presidents didn't change anything? When do pro-choice activists believe life begins?

I wrote in the midst of my wrestling with personhood and the beginning of life here. I've heard people argue a variety of positions, including fertilization, conception, implantation, heartbeat, viability, and even birth. Interestingly, Newt Gingrich argued the implantation position during his campaign this year. Fertilization is the primary opinion of evangelicals. Some of these positions I outright reject, but ultimately I am still not settled and I simply am not sure. What I DO know is that if there is life, terminating life is murder. That has immense implications. Life is sacred. And so, even if I don't know for sure, I err on the side of caring for the potential of life (excellent summary of the debate and laws/policy on it here).

I don't want to use my uncertainty as a way to escape a hard topic. Personally, because I really do believe that life is sacred and I am not sure when it begins, I concluded that I couldn't in good conscience continue to use hormonal birth control. If it might cause an abortion, then I won't risk it. So, we went off hormonal birth control and were struggling with what our options were and whether or not we could afford birth costs when I got pregnant with Judah. There are personal ramifications to wrestling with moral positions. He's a great ramification, though!

With the whole debate on the table again as the election heats up, I'm driven back to my research, this time on the policy side. Last time around I looked at the position of the church throughout history (which is limited by the fact that science hadn't developed so that people knew when pregnancy began until just recent history), but I didn't look much into the laws the US has had on a state and national level. Doing this research was really fascinating for me.

Next week I'll summarize the history. I think it's super important to understand the history as we advocate politically.


Rach said...

I honestly can't wait to read part two. I struggle with this too...partly because I don't know that legislation in this age and cultural climate will have much impact on abortion rates. It is so hard, on a personal level and a political one.

Being pregnant is nice in that I don't have to worry about my birth control options and the inherent ethical implications. :)

Chris Lope said...

1) Your blog is aptly titled! Well thought-out, but also well communicated.

2) I don't know how to label myself when it comes to this debate. I called myself "pro-choice" throughout my college years and young adulthood, but my beliefs changed literally overnight. I had a dream that my wife had a miscarriage (she was about two months pregnant at the time.) I woke up in tears...thankful it was a dream, but still feeling the devastating loss that I had felt IN the dream.

I think abortion is wrong (in most situations),but I also don't think it's my place to make that decision for someone else.

So I guess I'm still technically "pro-choice" but not in the manner it's typically used.

3) Do you think that religion has a place in politics? (I know that it EXISTS in politics, but SHOULD it?)

Let's say there is a candidate who is truly pro-life (anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, against war,) morally sound, etc. but that person is an atheist. But an atheist that doesn't have an agenda against those of faith. Do you think that someone like that would be accepted by the evangelical community?

AND please excuse any typos, etc...I'm sitting in the middle of a school cafeteria chaperoning a high school debate tournament, typing on a teeny netbook keyboard after being up since 3:00 a.m. :)

Catholic Mutt said...

Maybe I've said this before (and I'm sorry if I'm being one of the people saying the same things you've heard over and over again), but I think what sealed the deal for me about abortion was my college biology class. Despite the fact that the school that I went to was technically a Methodist-based school, it was known for being extremely liberal. I got the feeling that this biology professor was particularly liberal. I will never forget, though, the day that he said that scientifically speaking, life begins at conception. He said that there was no scientific debate about that (and he was talking in general- not just for humans, but was talking about the beginning of life of all species.) He quickly clarified that it didn't solve when life begins to have meaning, but that's just when it started.