Wednesday, August 30, 2006


In the parking lot at work this morning I saw one of those bumper stickers that says "Pro-Child, Pro-Choice" and it got me thinking about the whole abortion issue. I'm not really pro-choice, but I vote that way. Or at least I would vote that way if this were ever really an issue we were voting on.

As I was thinking about the issue today something occurred to me. Everyone knows that pro-life vs. pro-choice is a false dichotomy. What hit me today was that while I agree that life is sacred, I don't agree that choice is sacred. It just isn't. Yes, our national rhetoric says the right to liberty is one of the values on which this country was founded, but to the extent that that's true, it was basically an overstep. And yet I do come down on the "pro-choice" side of the argument because of something that is sacred to me -- compassion.

Does compassion ever justify the taking of nascent life? Probably not. But I'm not trying to justify abortion. I'm trying to find a position from which I could credibly speak to someone who felt she had no other choice. If only someone were formulating policies from this perspective....


Weekend Fisher said...

Have you ever read the "Abortion Rant" on AmbivaBlog? Might give you something to think about. It comes in Part I and Part II

David said...

Pro-Compassion; I like that. The abortion debate will be one that is always with us, with extremists on either side of the issue making sure it stays in the headlines.

From now on I will use Pro-Compassion to describe my position on abortion, because at the end of the day, no matter the circumstance, we all need healing.

Tom in Ontario said...

Our society does not provide adequate child care resources for the "working poor." Men are not always held responsible for the children they father. Until these systemic problems are dealt with, people will continue to decide that abortion is the least difficult of disturbing options. The economic system will need to be changed so as to encourage and support the choice not to abort.

How is abortion connected with violence in society? with our role in the world-wide arms race? with war around the world and spending priorities of governments? Our society doesn't consistently view life as a gift to be valued and a sacred trust in the true and complete sense.

If, as a society, we truly value life, then simply passing legislation which deals only with abortion per se will not solve our problem or express our value for human life. We must also address those social and economic structures which not make abortion a tragic necessity for some people. Such structures need to be changed. These changes would include (a) restructuring the social welfare system so that single mothers and their children are not trapped in poverty but have adequate economic and emotional support, (b) creating a system of public day care so that all children and parents have access to quality care at reasonable cost, (c) restructuring the child welfare system to provide stable and healthy nurture for all children, (d) creating systems which hold men as accountable as women for all children conceived, and (e) developing systems which provide appropriate medical, financial, and emotional care for all pregnant women. Simply ignoring or criminalizing abortion does not address the real issues. Rather, as Christians we ought to favour legislation which embodies value for human lives. We would especially favour legislation which might result in decreased violence against women and children.

Because we deeply respect human life, and as abortion involves ending a life process, abortion is a serious matter which reflects the complex nature of the human condition. While abortion may be deemed justifiable under exceptional conditions, we are called to explore redemptive alternatives that would eliminate the felt need for abortion.

As people of faith we must commit ourselves to pray for wisdom, guidance, understanding, and love for all who struggle with the reality of abortion; praise God by celebrating and demonstrating respect for human life in our worship, education, service, and outreach; proclaim in word and deed God's compassion for all.

Andy said...

Tom, that's an excellent articulation of the issues. Would you mind if I reposted that?

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post on this topic quoting Bonhoeffer's treatment of it in his Ethics. The quote, with which I totally agree, was this:

Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to life which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question of whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed, in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual.

Lee said...

I'm not at all sure what I think the law should be regarding abortion, but I wonder if we don't sometimes employ a double standard here. There are lots of things that have social conditions among their causes, but we still pass laws against them. A Jean Valjean may be driven by poverty to steal bread for his children, but, while we think that mitigates his guilt and should cause us to address the root causes of poverty, we still think there should be laws against stealing.

Granted there are important differnces between having an abortion and stealing, but, if you think that an unborn child is a human life in the morally relevant sense I have a hard time seeing the justification for denying that child the law's protection, even granting that we should also address the conditions that in many cases drive women to seek abortions.

Andy said...

It's obviously a more complex issue than the public rhetoric on either side is willing to admit.

Law or no law, Jean Valjean is going to take the bread. Likewise with abortion, although the results are more horrific. I'd like to think that Jean Valjean won't resort to stealing the bread if there is a dignified way for him to acquire it otherwise. I can't see any such outlet in the case of abortion, though there are certainly many things we can do to help.

Tom in Ontario said...

I'm sorry. I failed to cite my source. What I posted comes from Stewards of Creation: Respect for Human Life Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Position on Abortion adopted at the Third Biennial National Convention, Edmonton, July 10-14, 1991.

I don't know if the full version is online.

You can use it I guess. I really don't mean to quote stuff and pretend it's mine. I'm not really a thief, I just forget.