Expecting others, who are very different from ourselves and our families and who may live in much harsher environments without the emotional and physical support we have, to make the same hard choices we might make is not even just, never-the-less loving.
This week I voted against Amendment 1 which was to allow Tennessee to write its own stricter laws on abortion.
The following paragraph is from my daughter-in-law who chose to give birth to a wonderful child that she and our son and all our family have loved and nurtured and delighted in for over a decade, even though an ultra sound early in her pregnancy showed that the baby had a serious disability. These are not the words of a woman who chose abortion when she could have.
“Imagine you have a 13 year old daughter. Now imagine that she has been raped or molested and that act of violence resulted in pregnancy. Now imagine sitting in a clinic with her while she is made to watch videos on embryonic growth that are filled with anti-abortion propaganda. All of it intended to make her feel guilt over her decision and change her mind. Just think of how she is being violated all over again because at 13 she cannot bear to carry a child, because at 13 her life would be doomed due to no fault of her own. Imagine it. That’s what Tennesseans voted for last night: victimizing victims.”
Having been in high school and college during the nineteen-fifties, I’ve lived through one cultural extreme to the other: the first being absolutely no abortion, social/religious rejection of unmarried pregnant women, and strongly recommended institutionalization of children born with defects.
To be honest, fear of pregnancy and all that would come with it were the deterrents for me not having sexual relations before marriage, not morality. I simply wasn’t pure or mature enough to be spiritually motivated. I also lived a very protected life and wasn’t aware of women being raped. Being a devout coward, the cultural taboos were a protection for me.
But in the intervening years, I have learned that a surprising number of my many women friends gave up babies in those times. Now, some are reuniting with their “lost” children. I have also had the shock of knowing Christian women who have been raped through absolutely no fault of their own. And I have been the confidant of way too many Christian middle-class women who were molested or violently raped as children by authority figures, some of them close family and supposedly Christian. And I assume this wouldn’t even approximate the number of young girls raped among the economically underprivileged.
However, I find the reality, that society now considers sex just a physical experience on the same moral level as bowel movements and that abortion is used as another form of birth control, totally unacceptable.
This is not as simple an issue as both sides want to make it.
The slippery slope of when an embryo becomes a human being has no clear cut answer. The question of whether defective human beings are of such value that others must sacrifice the quality of their lives to nurture and protect them is also a serious and difficult issue, including the question of who is capable of taking that challenge on. The problem is that those having to make these choices are not all the same. They were not all protected, they are not all intelligent, they are not even all adults, or emotionally stable, they may or may not have been taught the spiritual value of sacrifice, never-the-less the finer points of theology, and their financial situations vary drastically.
This is not an even playing field.
If we want to see the issue as black and white and applicable to all Americans, regardless of whether they believe in a particular religious moral code that calls abortion murder, we are going to have to be consistent about killing as a moral option. Is killing ever moral? When? Why?
Is it moral to send our children by the thousands to kill and be killed fighting in places we have no legal and a very doubtful moral right to invade? Our current response to fear of others in the world is simply to bomb them, killing the innocent along with those we judge as guilty. Is a Syrian child of less value than an American embryo? In a democracy the government represents the people. You and I are as responsible as our leaders and those that aim the bombs.
Can we risk killing those found guilty of killing others within our own society, knowing the statistics on the innocent people that have been sent to their death by our system of justice? Is the jury morally responsible in those cases?
Is it moral to kill in self-defense? Can we morally kill in defense of our property? Are jewels and computers and televisions worth killing a human being who is possibly capable of repentance?
Can we allow people to take their own lives? Can we allow dying people to choose how they die?
Regardless of how we believe we personally would choose, we need to look deep within ourselves, imagining those vulnerable ones we love being the child or person facing these decisions. It’s not just an impersonal theological issue. Do we have the right to make these kinds of decisions for people we know nothing about and that we take no responsibility for the consequences we are insisting on forcing on them?