With the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaching this Friday, I’m planning to do a post on a brainstorm-level idea for a compromise. It’s not even one I’m sure I support, but I just want to get it out there to get peoples’ reactions to it. But for now, I thought I’d share why I’m pro-choice.
The Roe v. Wade decision was based on the 1962 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling. That ruling struck down a law outlawing birth control pills by citing the constitutional right to privacy as represented in the 4th and 14th amendments. Now, critics of this and other privacy ruling properly state that there is no right to “privacy” enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. That’s because the framers saw no need to enshrine the right to go to the bathroom. The language used in the amendments was understood by its authors to mean what we understand to be a right to privacy. So why is the legal pedigree of the case important? Well, if you say that the right to privacy does not protect medical decisions like whether to have a child or not, then why does it protect the use of birth control? Yes, I know it’s a slippery slope argument, but it’s worth considering. More importantly, it’s not the core of my reasoning on this issue.
Now, I want to make one thing clear. I’m pro-choice, but I believe that abortion is a tragedy and needs to be minimized. I do not believe that banning it is the way to accomplish that. I think it would be much better to end the culture war over it and have both sides devote their resources toward policies, programs, charities, and education aimed at minimizing the perceived need to terminate a pregnancy. Additionally, it’s not something I can see myself counseling to a friend, and I have had several female friends who I could have seen seeking my counsel on a crisis pregnancy.
My support for reproductive choice starts with my one sentence primer on U.S. Constitutional law.
As long as you don’t interfere with anybody’s rights and as long as you meet all your civic obligations, you can do whatever you want to.
Now, it is needless to say that I have expressed a gross oversimplification of the matter. There are at least three terms in that sentence that are very subject to interpretation, but really, isn’t that what it all boils down to?
One of those areas that is subject to interpretation is “interfere with anybpdy’s rights.” Who is anybody? When do they get rights? Actually, I liked the way Rick Warren asked the question of then-candidate Obama at the Saddleback Presidential Forum in 2008. “At what point does a baby get human rights?”
That’s really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? When do we become endowed with human rights? That’s what the law has to be about. The law has to be objective, and it can’t choose one religious belief system after another. You can’t cite a bible verse about God knitting us together in the womb (an interesting turn of phrase in and of itself; if you are knitting a sweater, when does it stop being yarn and start being a sweater?) and expect that to be authoritative to someone who does not subscribe to the same belief system. The law has to serve Christian and atheist alike without favor or prejudice.
I can’t argue that life doesn’t begin until birth, but there are different stages of life. Before birth, the fetus is completely dependent on the mother. During this time, the mother must maintain her lifestyle, negotiating jobs and school, family obligations and medical appointments. The mother must do her part in keeping roof over her head. She must assume the cost of the medical appointments and the time off. Not every employer understands. Not every employer will help the mother work around medical appointments and morning sickness and fatigue.
Long before the baby is born; it has a dramatic impact on the mother’s life. In a perfect world, every mother would be fully loved and supported and encouraged to do whatever she needed to do to have a healthy, happy baby. But we live in a world where some women do not feel like they can travel the road of pregnancy, where the impact would be more than they can handle. We live in a world where some women don’t have the resources to carry a pregnancy to term.
The mother can’t go to work while the fetus goes to the medical appointment.
The mother can’t ask the fetus for half of the rent money.
The mother can’t stay home with morning sickness and fatigue while the fetus goes and takes her shift.
During pregnancy, the mother is encumbered with all these concerns. Once she gives birth, if she doesn’t think she can handle it, she can give the baby up for adoption. Until that point, I believe that it becomes cruel to force her to walk a road that she doesn’t believe she can handle.
As a Christian, I believe that rather than make her into a criminal, rather than meeting her with judgment, Christians should come alongside her and offer to walk the difficult road of a crisis pregnancy with her. Don’t offer judgment. Offer hope that she can handle it. Offer to help, to walk with her through pregnancy. Let her know she’s not alone. I believe that if the resources of the anti-abortion movement were used in this direction, then it would save far, far more lives than any operation of the law.