Yeah, I went there.

English: One of the symbols of German Women's ...
English: One of the symbols of German Women’s movement (from the 1970s) Deutsch: Ein Logo der deutschen Frauenbewegung (aus den 70er Jahren) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent statements and counter-statements around abortion, rape, and feminism have given me pause for reflection.

I want to start today with 3 disclaimers.

#1) I consider myself a feminism and think it’s a good thing to be one.

#2) I think the movement that calls itself pro-choice and the movement that calls itself pro-life both have some severe problems.

#3) I’m betting this post is going to tick a lot of people off.  But that’s not my intent.

Having said those things at the outset, the overall conclusion I want to assert is this:

Opposing the practice of abortion might turn out to be more feminist than supporting it.

Before I get to that conclusion, I feel like some explanation is in order.

First, some explanation around my issues with both the so-called “pro-life” and the “pro-choice” movements.

It would be more accurate to name the pro-life movement the pro-fetus movement.  Because it does not seem that they are consistently in favor of supporting all life.  It seems more like they are interested in ensuring that a fertilized egg get born.

In practice, this becomes an emphasis on the quantity of life.  A desire to see the overall population increase.  At best, this movement tends to be neutral around the actual quality of life.  A burden I haven’t really seen met by the pro-life movement is a coherent plan for what happens if there desires are met:

Suppose they are succesful.  They prevent not only legal abortions but all of them.  What then?  A pro-life group once cited that a number equal to the population of Texas is aborted every year.  If this is true, I have not yet seen even an attempt at a plan to account for this added population.

I can accept the idea that some pro-life advocates believe strongly in lots of programs to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.  I’ll accept the idea that they might even cut the number of pregnancies in half.  But even granted this success, the same question presents itself: How are you going to ensure the ongoing quality of life for the millions that you have saved?

The vast majoirty of these lives are coming into nearly impossible situations.  That is why the parents sought the abortions in the first place.  Dodging the responsibility for it does not do much more than ensure the next generation is going to pepetuate these problems.

Perhaps the more important question to ask is how this will play out on an individual level.  Even if we are succesful in convinving just one person to not have an abortion, what then?

I guess I am saying that the term pro-life needs to be earned by taking a stance which promotes the health of families which don’t choose abortion; not just physical health, not just for the nine months of pregnancy, but every layer of health across the whole life of the family.

On the other hand, there is the pro-choice movement.  These people have ironically colluded with the pro-life movement.  They have expended all this energy and time resources on one important moment in a person’s life.  There has been minimal work done on creating a menu of viable choices.  While it is true that at this point,  women can make a single choice: to abort or not abort a fetus, this choice is weighed down with the reality that they can not choose to expect to be supported by the society they live in if they are bring the pregnancy to term.  They can not choose to live in a world where the father will have an equal hand in raising their children.  They can not make that most fundamental choice of every parent every where: they can not choose, in many cases, a better life for their kids than they had.

I reject the labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life” because I don’t see that either side earned the name.

I recognize there is an important, perhaps fundamental question.  That question is “Is it right to terminate a pregnancy/ Abort a fetus.”

I am going to side-step that question.  I don’t think I’ve got anything to add that debate.

I’d like to observe though, that the knee-jerk response of feminists is to ally themselves with the pro-choice movement.  I understand the arguments for this.  But I think there is another argument worth considering.

As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about every single “liberation” movement you might name.

Nearly every time, the opressed group, early in the fight, stresses the idea that they are just like the opressor.   Almost with out fail, the “other” eventually comes to a different claim.  The second claim is that their group has some important differences.  These differences, though, are worth claiming and asserting.  The group has a right to these differences and society as a whole will be pushed foreward if these are embraced by the group.

This is true of feminism.  The early feminist movement made the claim that men and women are roughly the same.  Later feminisms, though, focused on some inherent differences between men and women.  They often (rightfully) claim that th overbalance of masculine values at the expense of feminine ones has lead to many of society’s problems.

Interestingly, the whole pro-choice movement is built on claiming pregnancy belongs in the same categories of other individual health decision.  It is a move toward saying that men and women are not just equal but are in the fact the same.  There is nothing unqiue about pregnancy.

The capacity to bear life might be one of the most profound differences between men and women.  Rather than minimize this, I believe it should be siezed on and emphasized.  The importance of the event of a human birth out to be shouted from the roof tops.

This thought is still forming itself.  I’m aware that a real problem is even if the importance of child birth is asserted, if others get to control this gift, it is a false victory.  If the feminists grasp on to child birth as the powerful event that it is, and then others say “It is more powerful than you have the right to control” the war was lost at the expense of winning the battle.

I guess my real conclusion, if I’ve got one, is this thing is too important not to think carefully about.  It is too important to allow us to the luxury of grabbing conveninent labels, grouping ourselves like a bunch of Neanderthals in an us-vs-them mentality.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Yeah, I went there.”

  1. Ok buddy, im not coming at you, but I do love our conversations! ill just pick at a couple of your thoughts, in a friendly way. One thought is that maybe taking abortion off the table wont cause over population? Maybe with abortion off the table people will take other means of birth control more seriously?? Maybe most of the people who are having abortions are people who will have a child they will keep later in life, but instead this way, they keep this first child and don’t have others later? I could be wrong, but who knows how the population will compensate for a threat like overpopulation until we face it? My other question is more of a warning. To say that the pro life population is more concerned with the quantity of life as opposed to the quality is a very slippery slope,… your much safer challenging weather the fetus is a life or not. If its not a life, its not killing so abortion is fine. But if you will concede that it is a life, than abortion is killing, and we cannot kill, no mater quality. After all, who will say “sure its ok to kill, as long as the quality of life is bad?” I’m sure you see the dangerous extremes that can go to;) After all, our history books are overflowing with stories of those who overcame “poor quality of life” to achieve great things…. some may argue thats what made them great,… Helen Keller anyone? I guess my only argument would be to say as a pro choice person, im not concerned with the quantity of life, but the sanctity of life. If parents are poor, the child has downs, or the mom is a teen, God still loves that child.


  2. There are some great thoughts here. I think it’s quite a valid point to suggest that taking abortion off the table would reduce the frequency with which abortions happen. It’s interesting that you frame this in terms of over population. I think that’s a valid concern, but really I was trying to express those concerns. I wasn’t thinking about carbon footprints and the environmental cost. I was more thinking about the strain on social services and charitable organizations in supporting these new lives. That said, I think it’s a dangerous thing to hope that a population will figure out how to handle a problem. I think collectively we are much better at sticking our heads in the sand than we are at solving problems like this. This position strikes me a bit like becoming dependent on nuclear power plants on the assumption that somebody will figure out what to do with nuclear waste once we have more than we can handle.
    I see the strength of the point that quality of life is a slippery slope. However, I guess my response is that if we’re truly comitted to the sanctity of life and to the idea that God loves the children, we ought to comit to acting on these convictions with equal comitment after the children are born. It seems like the pro-life movement is willing to risk everything for an unborn fetus, but doesn’t always see that they ought to act to be equally comitted to the post-fetal existence of the lives they are fighting for.


  3. This is a polarizing topic in society today. Unfortunately it has become a political platform as well. Legislating morality has never worked and the relativistic morality we operate in our society doesn’t offer a basis from which to build a foundational approach to the issue at hand. Ironically for those of us in the Christianity camp while supposedly trying to take the (high road in love) inevitably drive a wedge between the camps expecting those without the basis of a redemptive mindset to act is if they had. just saying…


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