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Yes, let’s reframe the conversation.
Let’s talk about how we can do a better job of being pro-child and pro-mother.
People on both sides of this debate can agree on that. I want abortion to remain legal in this country because I care deeply about children who are born into situations where they are only marginally wanted—where their chances for love, care, education, and the necessities of life are very slim. As a born-again Christian, I respect the fertilized egg and the embryo in the first few weeks, but I believe that God approves a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy in the early stages if she cannot bring the child into a loving home. It is sad to end a life that is just beginning, but not as sad as watching a child grow up battered, neglected, or hungry for love—perhaps lacking even food and medical care.
Some will say that a woman who cannot raise her child should have it adopted; I thought so too until a friend told me that she could not make that choice because she herself had been given up for adoption. Though Karen had had a fairly normal childhood, she always longed for her real mother. “I had an abortion because I could not do that to my child,” she told me. She loved her child too much to let it be born and never know its parents.
I am now a 60-year-old married mother of three daughters. When I was 38 years old with two children, my husband and I planned to have no more children, but our birth control failed. We then had to make a decision, which he felt was mostly up to me because it would impact my life more than his.
Suddenly I realized what it would be like if the US government told me, “You have to bear this child. You must go through another long pregnancy and painful childbirth; then you must either raise this child [and love it? does the government care about that?] or give it up for adoption.” Most mothers of two could not give away that third “surprise” baby for adoption. That means that families—no matter how stressed or dysfunctional—would have to add another fragile life with additional stress, if ending an unexpected pregnancy were not a legal choice.
With prayer and reflection, I chose to complete that pregnancy, but I resolved to do something to keep abortion legal in this country. I started a book containing the stories of Christian women who have prayerfully chosen abortion in various real-life situations. Abortion—My Choice, God’s Grace: Christian Women Tell Their Stories was published in 1994; it’s still available on Amazon or through my publisher, New Paradigm Books, in Pasadena, CA.
I would like others to understand that a truly pro-mother position would respect the decision of a woman who wonders whether completing a pregnancy will be a good thing for herself and for her unborn child. Ending a pregnancy can be a responsible decision—a recognition that she would be endangering her child if she brought it into the world in her current circumstances. If the father is unwilling to take responsibility, if she has no education or income, her decision to end a pregnancy should be honored, not condemned. Some of the women in my book had two or three children later, when they could bring them into a loving family. Others were never able to conceive again.
People who feel that they are “pro-life” often do not like the term “pro-choice.” It’s a child, not a choice, they say, believing that women who choose to end a pregnancy are selfish and irresponsible. Therefore, let’s throw out both of these worn labels. How pro-life is it to condemn an unwanted baby to a life of foster care and misery, perhaps crime?
Let us who are in favor of abortion remaining a legal option call ourselves pro-child and pro-mother. It is we who truly care about a child who is not even 18 and has doubts about whether she should become a mother. It is we who truly respect mothers when we say that motherhood should be chosen, not forced on women who have an unplanned pregnancy. Do we value mothers when we say that any female who conceives must become a mother? If a woman says, “I cannot do a good job of this very important task at this point in my life,” we will respect her decision. For the government to force her to complete a pregnancy is to devalue motherhood.
I continue to write and speak on this important issue. In June, 2008, I gave a talk entitled Christians & Abortion: Finding a Middle Ground between Extremes at a meeting of Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, which was part of the biannual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA in San Jose, California. My articles often appear on the website of Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus, I also keep a blog on issues of importance to Christian women,