Christians, It's Time To Get Messy
I am getting progressively frustrated with conservative Christians who don’t seem to understand the gravity of the Roe v Wade decision.
On one hand, I can understand where they’re coming from. I used to feel the same way, have the same conservative views about abortion. I understand you think the lives of babies will be saved and that you believe every life is precious. I get that. I also think that every single life is precious and should be given the best chance possible.
But reproductive rights and healthcare and abortion is SUCH a complex issue. Anyone who says differently gravely misunderstands the situation. If anyone says abortion is simply murder or killing babies, they only can see the world as black and white. They don’t understand the complex, nuanced gray area of this difficult subject.
If you truly believe that abortion is just selfishly killing babies, please hear me out. This is your chance to try to understand where the rest of us are coming from. To see how people can be Christians, can love Jesus and support abortion rights.
WHY WOMEN GET ABORTIONS
To start with, the overturn of Roe V Wade doesn’t end all abortion. It puts the decision back to the states, so states like California, Illinois, New York, etc. will still have access to abortion. And this part is very important: middle class and wealthy individuals will also still have access to abortion. They will have no problem traveling out of state to get an abortion if necessary.
The people who will no longer have access to abortion and reproductive healthcare are people who are too poor to travel out of state. And here are where some important stats come into play. Around 74% of women who get abortions do so because they don’t feel they have the financial resources to raise a baby. And 49% of women who get abortions are below the poverty line.
When Christians hear about people getting abortions (in my experience at least) their first image is a liberal 20-something who wants to have sex without consequences, who is too selfish to change their life for a child, who wants to put their career first and live their life without the burden of a baby.
It’s easy for us to say, “That’s terrible! Those babies are being punished for the sinful lives those women lead and it’s not fair.” From an evangelical standpoint, I can see what you mean. But the truth is, people who get abortions do so for a LOT of reasons, many of which are incredibly painful and selfless.
And just to be clear before we get into this, I don’t think it is my right to tell a woman what to do with her body. EVER. So even if someone is a liberal 20-something who wants to have sex without consequences and doesn’t want to change their life for a baby, that’s not my business whether or not I agree. And it’s not yours, either. It’s not our job to judge people, but since Christians are already doing that, we need to talk about it.
When you think of abortion, do you think of a single party girl who wants to live her life without any burdens?
If so, you probably see abortion as a black and white easy answer sin.
But for a lot of us, when we think about who’s getting abortion, it’s someone like Jane, who has 3 kids. No partner. She works two jobs and get some government assistance but it’s not enough. She doesn’t have enough money to feed her kids every night. She finds out she’s pregnant. She knows that her job will fire her if they find out she’s pregnant. And even if they don’t, she’ll definitely lose her job once she has the baby because she isn’t guaranteed any maternity leave, she gets no vacation days, and her employer will fire her for not showing up. Now she has 4 kids, no job, a brand new baby, and no way to feed or clothe or house her kids outside of the small amount of government assistance she gets. She fears that Child Protective Services will come and take away her kids because they’re hungry, because her apartment is unsafe since her small government assistance check only gets her a terrible, dirty apartment with roaches and bedbugs. The risk of having this baby is losing her job, losing income, losing her housing, potentially losing her other 3 kids. She may want and love the baby she’s carrying, but the risk is too great, especially for her other kids. She has to make an impossibly difficult choice.
When I think about abortion, I think about people like Jane. People put into impossible situations, making impossible, gut-wrenching decisions they never wanted to have to make.
The truth is, people get abortions for really difficult, painful reasons. I’ve spoken with women who got abortions because they were in abusive relationships and didn’t think they’d be able to escape while pregnant. They WANTED the baby, but they knew that baby would be born into terrible, unsafe, abusive circumstances and didn’t think it was fair to put a baby through that.
ADOPTION IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER
There are some women who get abortions who WANT their babies but have no way to support themselves, let alone a child. Your first thought might be, “Well that’s why adoption exists! If you don’t want to keep your baby, just put it up for adoption.”
That is another completely naïve, black and white response to an incredibly complex issue.
Let’s start with forced pregnancy. Pregnancy is not only hard, it’s dangerous. It’s the ninth leading cause of death of adult women in the United States. Maternal mortality rates in the US are higher than any other high-income country. That means more women die giving birth than every other wealthy nation. You are twice as likely to die in childbirth in the US than in Canada or France. Four times more likely to die in childbirth in the US than in Sweden. Ten times more likely to die in childbirth in the US than New Zealand. By forcing women to have babies, you are sentencing some of them to death. Until we can ensure the life of mothers, how can we demand the life of babies? If one is precious, shouldn’t the other one be as well?
It’s also important note is how much more this affects women of color. Black women are almost four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Indigenous women are almost three times more likely to die than white women.
Even if it doesn’t kill you, pregnancy can make you incapable of living a normal life for months on end. People can lose their jobs, housing, relationships because of pregnancy, even if they have the intention of giving up the baby after it’s born.
Now before we get into this next part, I just need to say, adoption is a really tricky subject. I fully believe that everyone who wants to adopt or has adopted children (in my own experience at least) has done so with the purest of intentions. I know a lot of people with adopted children and they are wonderful people with good hearts who are trying to help. This is in no way a judgment of people I know who have adopted. I don't know the specifics of their situations, of the birth mothers situations. The people I know who have adopted are incredible parents who love their kids more than anything.
The hard part is that we’ve always seen adoption as another black and white thing. “Adoption is good. Full stop. Save children who are “unwanted.”’ But are those children really unwanted?
Let’s think about it this way. Adoption costs anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000. Imagine if instead of paying to adopt a baby we gave the expectant mother $40,000 to help raise her child. Do you think she would still put the baby up for adoption if she had more secure finances? Considering that’s the reason 74% of abortion seekers are wanting an abortion, I’d say no.
It seems so strange that rather than provide finances and resources to birth mothers who would keep their baby if they had the financial ability to, we use those finances and resources to separate babies from their birth mothers and give them to families who have more money and resources.
And none of this even begins to mention the trauma that adoptees experience in their lives.
Being adopted in infancy doubles the odds of contact with mental health professionals. Adoptees are at higher risk for substance abuse disorders. They are four times more likely than non-adopted offspring to attempt suicide. And adult adoptees who search and find their biological families are at even HIGHER risk for psychological distress.
I want to say again, the adoption issue is super complex and I am in no way trying to simplify it. Every adoption situation is different, some women truly don’t want to keep their kids, some women regret giving up their kids for the rest of their lives, some believe they had no other choice. Many adoptees are happy with their life, but many are not. The unfortunate truth is that it is not simple, it is not straightforward and it is certainly not always a good thing in every situation. And we need to be honest about the effects it has on those involved.
WE'RE DOING IT BACKWARDS
You might be thinking “Adoption may be traumatic but it’s better than never being born!” Maybe. Maybe not. It honestly depends on who you ask. But you’re right that the solution to these issues isn’t abortion. If a lot of these women want their babies, abortion isn’t the answer.
You’re right. But banning abortion isn’t the answer either.
Banning abortion doesn’t even begin to address any of the super difficult, complex issues these women face. We are taking an incredibly difficult situation and making it even more hard and traumatic. We’re taking away any amount of choice while simultaneously refusing any help for the hard situations they’re in.
If we want to get rid of abortions, banning them should be like, 100th on the list. Before we even consider banning abortions we should’ve made sure everything was in place for women to get access to free contraception, prenatal care, no-cost birth, guaranteed paid maternal leave, and free childcare. These are all integral support structures that we have completely bypassed, leaving women with absolutely no help for the incredibly hard situations they’re now in.
If we do all of those things, I can absolutely guarantee you abortion rates would lower dramatically. If we truly want to end abortion, we need to end the need for abortion. We need to fix the problems, not slap a bandaid on a gushing gunshot wound and say “OK you’re all better now!”
NOT TO MENTION...
There are so many more intricate issues in the abortion discussion. The complete lack of accountability for men, for instance. Women will be forced to carry and birth babies but men are under absolute no legal obligation to help. We act as if getting pregnant is something women do on their own, that it’s entirely their responsibility. And that is infuriating. The fact that we ban abortions but make no laws to hold fathers accountable is absolutely unacceptable.
There’s the issue of bodily autonomy. I am absolutely not ok with the government ever telling anyone what they can and can’t do with their own body. Even during Covid when people were complaining about masks, I thought they were being selfish but I never once thought the government should send people to jail for refusing to wear masks. That’s a terrifying level of government control in our personal lives.
Being forced to carry a baby you don’t want for 9 months is basically you being used as an incubator, to keep another person alive because of a choice you made. You might think that’s fair. But think of it this way. Say you’re looking at your phone while driving and cause a car accident. The person you injured needs a blood transfusion. Should you be forced to use your own blood for a transfusion because it was your fault they needed it? What if they needed a kidney because of the accident? Should you be forced to give them one of yours, to use your body to keep theirs alive, because you were the cause of the accident?
That’s what we’re asking women to do, keep another life alive with their own body.
We haven’t even mentioned the issues of rape or incest (MANY state laws don’t allow exceptions for either), the issue of life-saving reproductive care for women who need DNCs (which is basically the medical term for an abortion after a miscarriage) or who have ectopic pregnancies, or at what point the mother’s life would be in enough danger to allow for an abortion.
We haven’t talked about the fact that it costs on average $10,000-$15,000 to give birth in the US, or the fact that there is absolutely no guaranteed maternity leave for women.
We haven’t discussed how many women will seek illegal abortions and wind up dead or severely injured, along with their babies. Or the fact that women and doctors will now potentially go to jail for trying to end a pregnancy. They could be imprisoned for something that was their right a week ago. Does that really feel like it solves the issue for you? Taking women who are in vulnerable situations and putting them in jail? Is that Christlike?
We haven’t gotten into the whole issue of how the patriarchy sees women as either virgins or whores, and how we choose the life of “innocent, pure babies” over “disgusting, promiscuous women.” You may never have used those words, but those are the implications. Babies are pure, worth saving. The mothers are dirty, sinful creatures who should never have had sex if they didn’t want to die in childbirth. Save the pure at the expense of the sinful.
And there’s the whole other issue of when does life even begin? If you believe life begins at conception, then that means a bunch of frozen embryos being used for IVF are technically aborted every year. But if a fetus is a life, why can’t I take out a life insurance policy or claim it as a dependent on my taxes?
And if you read all of this but your argument is still, “You shouldn’t have sex unless you’re willing to suffer the consequences.” I would remind you that:
1) not everyone shares those morals and we cannot legislate based on the morals of one religion. It is not a Christian’s job to legislate everyone into acting like a Christian.
2) There is no exception for rape or incest in many states where abortion is now banned, so women are NOT choosing to have sex.
3) If that is your only thought or response to this complex and difficult issue, then I would truly pray that you would try to learn empathy, understanding, and what it really means to live as Christ would.
Let’s remember, women who can afford to have babies will still get abortions. Women who are already living in poverty are the only ones who will be unable to seek abortions, meaning we are condemning multiple generations to continue the cycle of poverty and providing them no means of escape.
Nobody likes abortion. Nobody wants women to be in the situations where they have to consider abortion. But because completely preventing unwanted pregnancies is impossible, abortion is a fact of life. And has been for thousands of years (the first recorded instance was in 1550 BCE).
If we truly want to stop abortion, we need to support mothers. We need to make it easier to raise a child than it is to give it up for adoption. We need to make sure mothers have all the resources they need. We need to hold fathers accountable.
Abortion is an issue we have to face. And the women who get them are real women having to make one of the hardest decisions of their lives. To paint the entire thing as black and white completely negates the individual issues, experiences and hardships of these women.
But banning abortions isn’t going to lessen the pain these women feel. In fact, it’s going to lead to more death, more pain, more injury as women seek unsafe abortions, as they die in childbirth or from preventable pregnancy complications.
You need to understand that when people see you say “Abortion is murder” all they hear is “That baby is more important than the mother.” Is that truly the depiction of Christ that you want to represent?
No one likes abortion. But it is time that Christians become willing to dig into difficult, complex, gray area issues. For too long we’ve been willing to separate the world into black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. But that’s not the world we live in.
So Christians, dig in. Get messy. Stop spouting off trite catchphrases like “abortion is murder” and “abortion kills.” Stop viewing babies lives as precious while women’s’ lives are expendable. Stop putting your faith and trust in legislation and put it into Christ. We don’t need to stop abortion, we need to make sure that no woman ever feels the need to get one again.
Is it harder to provide women with the social safety net that negates the need for most abortions? Absolutely yes. It’s so much easier to ban abortions and wipe your hands of it. But did God call us to do what’s easiest? What’s most simple and straightforward?
God called us to get messy. To see the nuance. To see PEOPLE and their hurt and brokenness and joy and experiences and hopes.
God called us to do the hard work, to do what’s RIGHT, not what’s easy. God calls us to come alongside and ease the suffering of others, not heap more suffering on them because of what we believe God wants.
So stop taking the easy road and join us in the mess. It may not always be clear cut and straightforward, but it looks a lot more like Jesus down here.