I realize this is a sensitive topic and that part of why it's so hard to talk about is because it's so common and often a secret source of pain. I love many women who have had abortions, men who have been affected by abortion. My aim in this is never to increase hurt. I also love many who I know disagree with me on this topic. My aim is not to spark unhelpful debates, but to encourage an honest look at the values that drive abortion rights.
“Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,”Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York.
Abortion has been a frequent topic in the news over the last year or so, with states such as New York taking drastic measures to protect abortion rights up to the moment of birth, at least if continuing the pregnancy threatens the vaguely-defined “health” of the mother. States such as Louisiana and Ohio have passed bills banning abortion once a heartbeat is detected, though putting the resulting laws in to effect will likely be a lengthy battle.
Laws such as the one passed earlier this year in New York are disturbing though not shocking. Perhaps most disturbing is the celebration that accompanied, the celebration of abortion as something good and virtuous, something kind and just and necessary to equality for women.
There is nothing just about abortion.
There is nothing just about killing innocent humans. No matter how small and unseen they are.
I believe in equality for women. I believe men, women, and children of all ages are first and foremost humans, equal in inherent value and equally bearing the image of God.
The rights of women matter because the rights of humans matter. The rights of the unborn matter because the rights of humans matter.
I have rights as a human, a woman, and an American, rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life is the most very basic of human rights. Without it the rest are meaningless.
I believe in the equality of women. But I don’t believe in the superiority of women.
Being a woman does not entitle me to decide who lives and dies. My pursuit of happiness never justifies taking the life of an innocent human, no matter age, stage of development, location, or status of dependency.
My financial stability is not more valuable than another human’s life. My opportunity to pursue further education is not more valuable than another human’s life. My mental and emotional health, my convenience, my freedom to do my own thing, my status in my current community – not one of those things are more valuable than the life of another innocent human being.
My rights as a woman do not negate another’s rights as a human.
There is nothing kind about abortion.
Abortion is certainly not kindness toward human babies, the most obvious victims of abortion.
If we killed unwanted dogs and cats the way we kill unwanted babies, it wouldn’t be celebrated. It would be called unkindness and cruelty. There would be all sorts of outcry. As there should be.
Reasonable people don’t think it’s acceptable to violently dismember animals the way abortion providers violently dismember babies.
Human babies have no voice, no ability to advocate for themselves. Human babies are the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings.
We human beings, men and women, have a responsibility to protect the weak. There’s nothing kind or good or virtuous about using your power to harm those who are weaker than you.
We women, of all people, should remember that.
Abortion is not kindness toward women.
It is absolutely true that for many the prospect of raising a child will threaten their stability in many ways. Education may seem out of reach, poverty may seem inescapable, the possibility of providing a safe and healthy environment for a child may seem unattainable.
Many women seek abortion not as a means of convenience but as a means of survival. And without support from family and community, many mothers, along with their children, will barely survive, let alone thrive.
We who believe in the value of all humans should be willing to take on the inconvenience of caring for those mothers and babies who are vulnerable to abortion. This isn’t just about HER values. It’s about OUR values. This is on us too.
There’s nothing kind about making abortion the go-to solution for women who don’t really want abortions. What’s kind is providing the support that all mothers need but that many have no access to.
Too many women make decisions they hate and that hurt for the rest of their lives because no one was there to speak truth into their fears.
And the truth is that women are strong. The love between mother and child is strong. Love will always call out a woman’s greatest strength.
I’ve seen a video of a woman without arms breastfeed her baby, prepare her food, and wash her laundry. I’ve seen women struggle through mental illness and trauma and abuse and judgment from their families to give their babies life. I’ve sat with a fifteen-year-old mother in a situation far less than ideal while she nursed her newborn and shared her birth story and early parenting struggles.
“It’s not about me anymore.” she said.
Women who give their children life when death would have been easier embody what we should all aspire too.
Sacrificial love is virtuous.
Persistence is virtuous.
Hard work is virtuous.
Bravery is virtuous.
These are things worth celebrating, worth praising.
Yet, somehow the idea of “women’s equality”, secured by “reproductive rights”, has become the idea with the highest value, the one most celebrated. The right to control the when and if of having children, the right to put oneself first, the right to not be inconvenienced by motherhood, has become more valuable than protecting the unseen, but already-existing life of a human child.
This space of women’s equality has become sacred ground that we dare not tread on, full of values and assumptions we dare not question.
But we must tread on it.
We must ask the hard questions. These things we’ve been told are necessary to the flourishing of women – are they really so necessary? Are rights more important than lives? Can we have a coherent set of values if the justice and equality we aim to secure for ourselves requires the death of the innocent?
Or is it just self we value? Is it just power we value? Do we appeal to the virtues of justice and equality only if they serve to further our ability to get what we want no matter the cost?
Who do we think we are? To demand that our pursuit of happiness be considered more valuable than the life of another human?
We are women.
We are humans with intrinsic value equal to but not greater than that of other humans. We are women, created in the image of God to fulfill a good and valuable purpose in the world.
Our femaleness does not make us more valuable than other human beings. Violence done to us does not give us the right to do violence to others. That men can evade parental responsibility more easily than women can, does not make evading parental responsibility a good thing.
Let’s not pretend selfishness is virtuous.
Killing life instead of nurturing it contradicts our very nature; it spits in the face of the very image of God in our womanhood. Ultimately, it severs us from the purpose made clear by our biology, disconnects us from the very thing that makes us unique as women. Not every woman can or will physically bear children. But we lose something precious when we abhor our life-giving and life-nurturing purpose in the world and trade it for a power and equality that primarily serves our own selfishness and costs the lives of the weak and the vulnerable.