Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grace made me write this...

I know better than to write about abortion.

Really, I do. It's not as if I'm going to change anyone's mind on the issue, one way or another.

But I can't help myself today. Maybe it's the phase of the moon, or I need some chocolate or something---but Grace is annoying me over at MadPriest's with her insistence that science has given us a new impetus to revisit Roe v. Wade.

I love Grace. She's relentlessly cheerful and she's about the only evangelical I know who is inclusive of GLBT people. For that, I can forgive her much. (One day, I pray that she will get past her slavish devotion to that obnoxious theory of penal substitutionary atonement, but I'll argue about that with her another day...)

It was the following comment that set me off. I started to answer it over there---but my answer got way too long to post in the comments section of MP's blog, so I decided to answer over here.

So here's my open letter to Grace:

When Roe vs. Wade first became law, our knowledge was not as advanced as it is today. We didn't have 3D ultrasound, the ability to perform surgery on babies still in the womb, the technology to save the lives of infants born at earlier and earlier stages of gestation.

None of those things has changed my opinion about abortion, Grace.

Neither did having two babies and one miscarriage---and I saw all three of those beings on ultrasound. I'm thrilled that two of them made it safely to their birthdays, and I still grieve the loss of the one who didn't.

And I still believe that abortion is not the business of anyone involved except the woman.

The bottom line for me is that the government has no business making my reproductive decisions for me. Full stop.

This is because I believe that, when you give the government the right to prohibit abortion, you implicitly give it the right to mandate abortion---because, once you write reproductive control into law, you have effectively ceded control of women's bodies to that government.

Why doesn't that worry you, Grace? (Or any of the rest of you who want laws against abortion...)

"Can't happen here!" you say?

Au contraire! Think about all those women of color, and women who were deemed insufficiently middle-class by the powers-that-be, who have been involuntarily sterilized by the state. You can read about the shameful history of my adopted state in that area here. Virgina was still doing forced sterilizations as late as 1979.

And look what the Chinese government has done with its power over women's bodies. Forced abortions at 9 months! Is that what you want?

If those examples don't give you pause, Grace, you are either far too trusting or far too sure of your own righteousness. Either way, it means I REALLY don't want you (or the people you would vote for) to have charge over my daughter's reproductive system.

Fortunately, my own system is a moot point--but the tubal ligation I joyfully had would be illegal if the Catholic Church had its way. And whose "morality" on abortion should hold sway, anyway? The Catholic Church considers almost all forms of artificial birth control to be abortifacients (no matter how wrong they are on that subject) and would outlaw them if it could.

When is an abortion not an abortion, Grace? Who decides---you or Pope Benedict?

In the end, I believe that abortion is a moral question between a woman and God (or her conscience if she isn't a believer). No matter who or what you think you are protecting, I contend you have no business getting in the middle of that decision.

Because once you decide that your moral sense is the one to be obeyed, why stop at her uterus? Since you know so much better than the woman in question, you should surely determine what she eats, how much she exercises, who she is allowed to have sex with, etc.

After all, it has become your responsibility to "save" her from making immoral choices--so you must take this responsibility seriously, right? Because God is going to hold YOU responsible for her choices, right?

This last point is what I believe drives so much conservative angst about abortion. They seem to believe that God will hold them personally accountable for women's choice to abort.

In one sense, I do believe that God holds us accountable for taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. I believe we have a responsibility as Christians to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick. I believe that we have a responsibility to fight against prejudice and discrimination against those who are deemed to be "different."

But I do not believe we have a responsibility to insert ourselves in people's most private decisions. If you believe that we do, where does it stop? And what happens to the concept of "free will" when we do?