The question I've been grappling with for a while now is what the appropriate response to abortion is from the position of a commitment to non-violence. I just don't know. As I've become, through my faith life, increasingly committed to non-violence and increasingly convinced that non-violence is the necessary moral response, I've become increasingly troubled by abortion. While I wouldn't say that I believe it's murder--I don't know when a human life enters the realm of personhood or what the ethical or moral status of an embryo or fetus is--it is an act of violence against a human life. As such, I think it's best avoided if at all possible. It's always better, I believe, to nurture life rather than to end it, and that is true in the realm of abortion. This was a somewhat difficult leap for me to make, as a person who for many years held the belief that abortion was a morally justifiable or at least morally neutral act, but I personally can't be honest about my belief in non-violence without taking abortion seriously as an act of violence.
At the same time, though, I also see using state power (or any coercive power) to try to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will and quite possibly about the dictates of her own conscience as an act of violence, as well. To do that is to assault a woman's bodily integrity. I cannot support the government forcing women to carry pregnancies to term against their will. I cannot believe that that act of violence is justifiable in order to prevent another act of violence. If an act of violence is going to occur, I personally have to err on the side of individual conscience rather than state power. For me, a woman choosing to have an elective abortion is a moral wrong and an act of violence against human life, but one that is less troubling at a societal level than a government committing violence against women by forcing them to continue unwanted pregnancies.
But where do you go from there? If abortion is an act of violence that we must take seriously and address, and laws against abortion are also acts of violence, what do you do? What is the non-violent solution to the issue?
I hate that those who would seek to make abortion illegal have come to own the term "culture of life," because I do believe that's what we need, but not in the way they mean. I don't want us to be a culture where people are legally compelled to nurture the lives that the state wants to protect. I want us to be a culture where we have such a deep and abiding respect for human life at all stages that abortion--like child abuse and pre-emptive war and rape and people living in dire poverty--becomes something that people choose not to choose unless there are extremely pressing reasons. I don't know how we get there. But I think that if we were a society that, in general, nurtured and respected the lives of all born persons, then we'd be a step closer to nurturing and respecting human life in its early stages.
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