For as long as I can remember, abortion has been an either-or topic. You were either for or against. There was no middle ground and both sides are equally passionate and rightfully so. You’re talking about an unborn child and you’re also talking about a woman’s body and her ability to choose.
Recently, I read a very thoughtful and well-written piece on the subject by Seth Woods. His Facebook post went viral and he gave me permission to repost it.
I found no venom or hatred in his words. Instead, I read the words of a man who had given a great deal of thought about this issue and found a way to sincerely reach out to those who wholeheartedly have a pro-life stance. I share because we need to start a conversation — prolifers and pro-choice supporters. It’s time to respectfully come to the table with an open mind and open heart and find a path forward that protects both.
Here are Seth’s words.
In May of 2019, in light of the laws that were being put forth in Alabama and Georgia regarding abortion bans, I took to Facebook and wrote a heartfelt post specifically to my own friends and family. It was not intended for a larger and impersonal audience, but after a friend asked to share it on his own profile, the post took off and went far beyond my own circle of friends. This is a slightly expanded and modified version of that post. It is not intended as an argument for or against abortion. It is an outstretched hand, specifically to conservative pro-life Christians. It is an invitation to understanding and love.
First, if you hold the personal belief or conviction that abortion is wrong, that it is a sin, and that is against God’s will, that is absolutely okay, and understandable. There are so many reasons to feel this way, not just from a theological/religious standpoint – personal experiences, hopes, desires – all of these play into what we believe. Your beliefs, where you stand on the moral/ethical merits of abortion, are yours to have, to cherish, to speak about, to share. They are your human rights, and in our country, they are also your constitutional rights.
Second, America is not a Christian nation. It is not a nation for Christians. It is a nation for all. I know this can be genuinely hard to accept. I grew up in the church, too. We are sold this idea of a Christian nation, one nation under (our) God. That was never what we had. Many of the founders of our country were orthodox Christians, publically and/or privately. Many were Deists, and ascribed more to the ideas and ideals of the Enlightenment than they did to those of scripture. Therefore what we have, what they gave us, is a nation founded on the IDEAS of liberty and equality (emphasis on ideas). Thank God the men drafting these documents had the amazing foresight (or divine inspiration) to make the language they used broader than their own beliefs about equality (which many of them felt only applied to white landowning men). What they gave us was so much greater than their own biases, greater than our biases, and certainly greater than our own national history of enslaving Africans, our attempted genocide of the Native people who were here before us, and our bigotry towards all variety of newcomers, from the Italians to the Irish to the Polish to the Central and South Americans and so on. What they gave us was room to grow in our understanding of equality and freedom and mutual cooperation. To grow beyond our limited view of “us” and “them” into a slowly-but-ever-expanding “we.” And so thanks to the Constitution and its authors, all faiths are welcomed here. And that is beautiful.
Third, knowing and hopefully accepting that, we can recognize that there are large portions of our fellow Americans who are therefore not Christian. The separation of church and state is a cornerstone of our society. What if it wasn’t? Imagine for just a moment: a Jewish senator puts forth a bill that would require every male infant, child, and adult to be circumcised. A Muslim governor signs a bill into law that states all citizens must pray five times a day on their prayer mats. You would be very understandably (and rightly, Constitutionally speaking) upset over these actions, over someone trying to legislate their deeply held beliefs onto your lives and bodies. I am not saying that the action of aborting a fetus is the same thing as the action of circumcising a man or forcing someone to pray in a manner or to a god that they don’t believe in. I am saying that what these things have in common is that they all involve people’s bodies, hearts, minds, and beliefs. And forcing one’s own beliefs onto another’s body (or yelling at them to get them to change their hearts, minds, and beliefs) is not something anyone would feel good about having directed at them.
Fourth, our politicians are using us. Not all of them – there are some genuine public servants doing the best they can out there. But many politicians and those in power are using people’s deeply held beliefs about abortion to justify racial, gender, and class inequality. The men pushing these laws are concerned with power, not with the unborn. They are not concerned about what we are concerned about. There are documented cases of GOP “pro-life” politicians who are pushing legislation like this with one hand and with the other hand are encouraging their secret girlfriends to terminate their very secret and unwanted pregnancies. For us, this issue is about speaking up for what we believe. For many of the politicians, it is about feeding their own personal agendas and increasing their power. Power they are grossly abusing. They are not using that power to the glory of God, not for the protection or care of the people who live in this country, and not for the unborn.
Fifth, if we want to see a world without abortion, we need to work to create a world that doesn’t need abortion. That is a world that cannot be legislated into being. It cannot. And that was never the job of the church anyway – to legislate their way to the kingdom of God? No. You may want to see a world that didn’t drink alcohol. Prohibition did not create that world. It drove the demand for alcohol underground and made many men rich by doing so. We can try to legislate morality, but legislation cannot create the morality we want to see. If we were to overturn Roe Vs. Wade today, abortion would be outlawed, and abortion would continue because women would still need abortions. You cannot legislate abortions out of existence. You can work towards that goal though – through loving people, through listening to women instead of shaming and judging them, through supporting sex education and increased access to affordable (or free) birth control, to insist that our politicians fight for affordable medical care for all.
I know this does not apply to every Christian, but many of the most devout Christians I have known in my life have very strong ideas about sex – when and how it is acceptable in the eyes of God. They have fought strongly and vocally about the need to outlaw abortion, and have also been unwilling to consider anything but abstinence as an acceptable way to talk about sex with young people. They view sex outside of marriage as unholy. Again my friends, this is a perfectly fine belief for you to have for yourself, and to want for your friends and family. However, when looking at the issues of premarital sex in one hand and abortion in the other, you will need to make a choice. What do you care about more – consenting, sexually mature humans choosing to have sex before marriage, or protecting the unborn? We are NEVER going to get close to having a world where people don’t have sex unless they are married. We absolutely can work toward a realistic world where we take care of people, where we help and educate and love people in a way where the number of unwanted pregnancies declines drastically. I am not suggesting that we can ever build a utopia. I AM saying that it is absolutely worth working and ACTING as if we can. Do you want a world where people aren’t allowed to get abortions? Or do you want a world where people don’t need to get abortions, where it’s not even an issue that they have to face, because they have been equipped with the tools to navigate sex and relationships and personal choices with maturity and safety and love?
I love that you love the unborn. I love that you have a heart that feels that. Please have a heart for those who are already born as well. Please be truly “pro-life,” and take care of women instead of criminalizing them. A world that didn’t need abortions would be one where birth control was extremely affordable and available, where young people everywhere were well educated about sex, which means accepting that abstinence is not the only choice that young people are going to make. Having a conversation with your kids that says, “I believe sex is supposed to be saved until marriage. However, whenever in your life you choose to become sexually active, there are things that are very important for you to know,” is a totally acceptable way to talk about your beliefs AND the important facts of life with your kids. When we put the expectations on our kids that they will wait for marriage, and when they don’t but haven’t been taught how to put on a condom, or how a menstrual cycle works, or how to seek out various forms of birth control, we are as culpable of their misinformed actions as they are. We are as responsible for their unwanted pregnancies as they are.
And I haven’t even brought up the very troubling issues of rape, incest, and abuse. We CANNOT make decisions like that for another person. WE CANNOT DO THAT. A person who has been abused needs to have our support, our ear, our compassion, and if they need assistance or advice or comfort or a friend, then we can be that. What we can’t do is make a life-altering decision for them after they have already experienced a traumatic life-altering assault. We shouldn’t be making those decisions for anyone (just like we shouldn’t have the legal ability to tell anyone else whether or not to drink, or to pray, or to get circumcised).
There’s so much more to be said. So much. And it all needs to be said – not just said but talked about. I want to end this with, WE NEED YOU. We need each other. We have become so divided from each other, and so much of that is because we rely on our intermediaries: the media, the politicians, and the social media algorithms. But we are never going to go anywhere unless we come together to figure this out. No matter what you believe this issue “really” to be, a woman’s health issue, a moral issue), it is not JUST that. It is more. It is multifaceted, it is personal, and there are real people on both sides. So I am saying to you, my conservative Christian pro-life friends: we need you. We need you to help stop our politicians from using us all. We need you to BE THE BODY OF CHRIST to people. Not because we believe what you believe, but because we could use some very Christ-like people right now, who challenge the powerful and who love people, not judge them, not further abuse them, and not investigate them after they have miscarried a pregnancy.
We are never all going to believe the same things, but we do not have to be enemies. We do not have to be opposed. I get that this sounds crazy, but we need to work together to build that world where people are loved and safe, where humans have freedom to make choices, and where we have equipped them out of love and with love. Please work with us to make that world where women are not put in a position to need an abortion, where we teach our men about responsibility and how a woman’s body works, where our laws treat women and men with equality. Women are amazing and powerful and inspiring, and if we could make a world where they are not always having to fight to be heard or respected or taken seriously, then I think we would all be blown away by what they could accomplish for the world.
Thank you for reading this. It was written out of respect and love and with an open heart. May we go forward together in kindness and deeper understanding.
Seth Woods. According to his Facebook bio, he is a 4 dimensional tourist visiting a 2 dimensional theme park with a 3D passport. rarely on facebook.