Can We Stop Pretending That Abortion is About Laws and Politics?

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On Friday, hundreds of thousands will march in Washington in a pro-life demonstration called The March For Life. This will be the 45th time that abortion protesters fill the streets of Washington, D.C. I've even participated on multiple occasions. But I've come to wonder whether this is actually moving us toward a worthy goal. If the goal is to end abortion, is focused energy on laws and convincing politicians the best use of our time? Is single-issue voting helpful or hurtful in this pursuit?

Take a look at the war on drugs. While illegal, drug use is not an eradicated activity. In fact, the opioid crisis has reached an all-time high. People use drugs for any number of reasons, such as poverty and hopelessness, but the illegality of them is clearly not a deterrent. 

If you want to end something, you can't just take away the thing. You have to eradicate the need. 

I've been very involved in my faith throughout my life, and I've heard talk after lesson after speech on abortion. But you know what I never heard anyone say? The simple fact that no woman WANTS to abort her child. I've heard everything from the demonization of women who would murder their own children to sympathy that women who choose abortion are misled or don't understand what they are doing. Maybe some of them don't, but I've come to see that a lot of them do, and it breaks their hearts. They just see no other option. 

When you live in a society built on the backs of desperate women, you can't be surprised when that desperation leads them to do desperate things. Every woman is not loved and supported unconditionally by her family. Every woman does not make enough money to support a child. Every woman does not have a job that will give her the time off necessary to have a child. Every woman did not receive a perfectly intellectual and moral education. Every woman is not you. 

What if, at this moment in history, rather than marching and shouting and arguing over the act of abortion itself, we could demolish the causes of abortion one by one?

I wonder if our time would be better spent in working toward the goals of: 

  • Improving and extending maternity leave
  • Improving healthcare
  • Ending the gender wage gap
  • Updating and enhancing sexual education
  • Destroying the culture of sexual assault and harassment
  • Denouncing the unmerciful judgment of unmarried, pregnant women
  • Demolishing sexism in all its forms
  • Giving women the platforms to speak and to be heard

And so many more, as the list goes on and on into infinity. 

Look at it this way: what if, tomorrow, a sweeping national law was passed making abortion illegal? What would change? Would women stop getting abortions? Would many women stop feeling deep down in their hearts that they needed access to abortions? How would we punish the women who still got them? Would we throw traumatized women into prison, further ruining their lives? What would be fixed? What would be improved? What kind of society would that build? 

Perhaps this isn't about using laws to strong-arm people who don't see the world the way we do into complying with the way we believe they should live. Maybe it's about getting down in the hole they feel that has been dug around them and listening to their needs. It means conversations and a radical open-heartedness. It means being willing to accept that, in our pursuit of what is right, we might have hurt people along the way. It means taking a closer look at the society in which, for many, an unplanned pregnancy is viewed as a catastrophe. 

Maybe it's about creating a society in which nobody gets abortions simply because they don't want them. 

When we make a heart issue into a legal issue, we put ourselves at the mercy of politicians, and we turn ourselves into pawns for their use. Take a look at the situation we currently find ourselves in. An accused sexual assaulter and alleged racist who is vastly under-qualified for the job sits in the highest seat of power in our nation...and many who voted for him did so because he said that he was pro-life. A simple glance through his actions and the way he speaks about others shows that either a) he has zero understanding of what it means to be pro-life or b) he is simply saying what his voters want to hear. Neither option inspires confidence. And there are many politicians who routinely use this tactic, knowing that they can do or say anything else as long as they wave the pro-life banner. 

It is time to acknowledge the reality that there is, in fact, no pro-life party.

To be pro-life means to fight for the rights of all lives, from conception to natural death. While Democrats support access to abortion, Republicans support the death penalty and reject refugees. To say that "to vote Republican is to vote pro-life" is a myth that many have used to guilt or shame Christians into voting Republican. This practice is counterproductive, and it's long past time for it to end. 

It is also time to be realistic about the world we live in, and approach it in a way that can be productive. 

The Pew Research Center takes yearly polls on the public opinion on abortion. According to the 2017 poll, 57% of Americans believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. That is the reality. That is the society in which we live. When a majority, a very slight one but a majority nonetheless, believes in something, a simple change in law is not the answer. And once something becomes a political issue, people shut down and start to throw around labels, refusing to engage in productive conversation. 

I wonder what would happen if we worked toward improving the lives of women, and listening to their stories along the way. 

I've witnessed a woman who had settled on abortion change her mind. What most convinced her was not political discourse or moralizing. It was the realization that she truly had a loving support system that would walk with her through the terrifying situation ahead of her. That she was not alone. Laws are cold, and morality can be debated. But the impact of unconditional love and a helping hand cannot be matched or discounted. We might be willing to march on one cold day each year, and I'm not saying that those who choose to do so are wrong, but are we willing to do more? Some are, but perhaps that should become the rule rather than the exception.

This is a topic concerning which I would love to be proven wrong, so if you disagree, please do so, but do so intelligently, kindly and after serious consideration. I can't wait to hear your thoughts!