the abortion debate…

Many moments I have ventured into this topic. Join me, if you will. But allow me to initially provide a brief bit of both caution and ground rules…

First, all persons with all perspectives are to be treated with unwavering respect. Second, we encourage the generous asking of questions for that which we don’t understand. And third, if you’ve already decided all that you believe and thus have no room to grow and merely wish to find new venues to voice your already-fully-established opinion, that’s fine; but this probably isn’t the place for you. One of my deepest convictions is that I will always have more to learn. I never want to be that place of so-called rocky soil where words of truth can’t permeate my stoic, hardened exterior. Such isn’t attractive. Nor healthy or good.

So let’s start with a simple question: what has contributed to the molding of your opinion on the issue of abortion?

Your experience?

The experience of another?

Your faith?

What you believe to be moral?

Unquestionably, this may be one of the hardest current issues for people to dialogue about. Respectfully or not. Many believe they are defending a God-given right. Many, too, believe they are acting in defense of God.  

Isn’t that what makes conversation challenging? We start from an immediate defensive position. I contend that such a posture is both relationally and societally damaging.

Damaging, too, are the loudest voices on each side of this issue. As written by Caitlin Flanagan in a thoughtful piece entitled “The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate” in the December of 2019 issue of The Atlantic: “The loudest advocates on both sides are terrible representatives for their cause. When women are urged to ‘shout your abortion,’ and when abortion becomes the subject of stand-up comedy routines, the attitude toward abortion seems ghoulish. Who could possibly be proud that they see no humanity at all in the images that science has made so painfully clear? When anti-abortion advocates speak in the most graphic terms about women ‘sucking babies out of the womb,’ they show themselves without mercy. They are not considering the extremely human, complex, and often heartbreaking reasons behind women’s private decisions.”

Those loud voices aren’t changing hearts, minds, nor behavior. Hence, when we scream or utilize the oft imperious mic drop with others, we simply cause others to conclude they don’t want to be like us. Therefore, to have this conversation, let’s cast away the defensiveness…

Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land since 1973. The ruling stated that Texas statutes criminalizing abortion violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy in most cases. The high court found such to be implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment (“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”). While ruling that government could not prohibit abortions during the first trimester for any reason, it permitted state regulation thereafter. Several in the legal community questioned the soundness of the original ruling. The Court then revisited and modified the ruling in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That decision removed the first trimester requirement. Many have since advocated and legalized the right to abort up to the moment of birth. 

Also in 1992, as previously noted here, Pres. Bill Clinton intentionally worked to find common ground language, saying he desired abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Such allowed him, as Flanagan stated in a separate piece, to “bring together a range of abortion supporters under a now-abandoned umbrella.” Those words were expunged from the plank of the Democratic Party 10 years ago. So here’s an honest question: do we still believe in “rare”?

No doubt that’s part of the current challenge. What was once understandably, respectfully controversial — with women and men of good conscience on both sides of the issue — has now become radical. It is one thing to advocate for the right for women’s reproductive health, where we may disagree on the right to abort when we juxtapose women’s rights vs. another life or potential life. It’s a far other, sobering thing to advocate for the ceasing of a baby’s beating heart right up unto the moments before birth.

I sincerely, respectfully wonder if we would be where we are now if this societal approach would not have become so radicalized. Polling shows that most support Roe. Polling also shows that most oppose abortion after the first trimester. That is the current quandary.

And so I respectfully ask… wanting to promote respectful dialogue…

Where should the limit on abortion be? At what point is it no longer a choice?

At what point does the unborn child have a similar, fundamental right to live?

What is moral?

What is both God-given and in defense of God?

And again, how would you define “rare”?

I’ll say it again: this isn’t easy. And I hate that so many refuse to even dialogue; my sense is they/we/me each have a bit of rocky soil in our hearts. Yes, I’m watching developments regarding the current publicized Supreme Court draft, which speaks of overturning Roe — not making abortion illegal — but rather, returning the decision to the states. Regardless of where the decision lands, I believe there to be wiser questions for us to individually both boldly ask and humbly answer.

But let’s again be honest. A wise discussion will only ensue if embedded defensiveness is cast away. Join me, if you will…