For the last week the news has been permeated with discussion of the murder of Dr. George Tiller in his church last Sunday. Tiller, who was one of few doctors in this country who performed legal late-term abortions, was gunned down by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion extremist, in the foyer of Tiller’s church as he was serving as an usher.
I was born in April 1972, not long after Roe v. Wade, and so the issue of abortion has been a part of the political landscape my entire life. I was raised in a very conservative household and was taught that life began at the moment of conception and that abortion is murder. While as an adult I have become increasingly more left-leaning in my politics, I am still not fully able to embrace all of the rhetoric of either side of this issue. At this point, I call myself personally pro-life but politically pro-choice. What I mean by that is that I think it should remain a legal option but I would tend to counsel a woman more toward adoption when asked.
One of the reasons I voted for Barack Obama is that I can appreciate his nuanced position on the issue of abortion. My biggest beef with both sides of this argument is that the woman and the baby are always pitted against each other, as if it’s not possible to come to a solution that’s good for both. Pro-lifers depict women as heartless, calloused, selfish beasts who see the child as a nuisance who will get in the way of their careers. Pro-choice people are too clinical in their discussions, removing the humanity from the decision at times. The statistical truth is that when women are supported financially, emotionally and educationally, abortion rates drop.
The far left has taken this opportunity to use the language of terrorism and assassination to describe this tragedy. I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, but it serves to prove that radicals on the left or the right are not students of history. Scott Roeder has created a martyr around which the pro-choice movement will galvanize. The radical right is using this situation to canonize Scott Roeder and calls him a “hero.” That is absolutely repulsive to me. He is a murderer, and prior to that he was a harassing, law-breaking crazy person who illegally blocked access to clinics and shamed women who were making the most agonizing decision of their lives.
Here’s what I wish to scream in the face of pro-life protesters:
THE WORDS OF CHRIST DO NOT ONLY APPLY TO THE UNBORN
That’s how they act. In the name of protecting these precious babies, they harass, shame, hate, bomb and even kill. Moreover, they are usually also pro-death penalty. Ummm….what? Life is life. Killing is killing. They have decided that babies are “innocent” and therefore not deserving of death, but criminals are “guilty” and are therefore deserving of death. Must be nice to live in such a black-and-white world. Sermon on the Mount, anyone? Christ calls us to a more difficult standard of loving our oppressors and turning the other cheek.
I’m a watcher of Rachel Maddow and I have to admit that watching a hard-core pro-choice person discuss this has made me squirm. I’m pro-life enough to really want there to be significantly fewer abortions. As a person in ministry, however, it’s my job to sit with a woman and love her through a difficult decision, even if she would make a different choice than I would.
I’m going to leave you with two things: part of the text of Obama’s speech at Notre Dame and an interview with Frank Schaeffer from this week’s Rachel Maddow show. Obama’s speech accurately depicts my views on this subject and I am thrilled to have a President who encourages the people of this country to think and to see things as nuanced as they are and work together to make our country better. Frank Schaeffer is the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, founder of the L’Abri communities and a seminal figure in the religious right movement. It was the one bi-partisan moment on the show this week and I am grateful for Schaeffer’s words.
“…when we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do – that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.
That’s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.
So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.
Understand – I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it – indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.
Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.”