Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Abortion... and Society's Disdain for Women

About three years ago my friend, a single mom, visited the designated government agency -- yet again -- about the issue of child support. (She hadn't recieved a dime in three years) This agency, created to pursue and if necessary prosecute 'deadbeat dads', was unlike most government offices. It was filled with filing cabinets. The office had yet to 'update' its files to computers. This was no 'backward' country, scrambling to escape its poverty-stricken and war torn past. No, this was in Ontario, a five hundred and thirty billion dollar a year province and the engine behind the so-called socialist Canada. And yet, there were no computers to help keep the files updated so single women struggling to support their children could find out where the father was and what they could do for their share of his support. Her story made me wonder. If it's this bad here, in a country that generally accepts abortion as an ugly if necessary part of our legal system, how is it elsewhere?

For years I've watched the videos, seen the bumper stickers, and listened to the speeches. "Abortion is un-godly! Abortion is murder!" And behind the rallying demagogues Christians have nodded their heads in sage agreement. "Jesus wouldn't be pro-choice, would he? He would have protected the little children, what's wrong with you." And there, at a loss for words and without the experience or understanding to know what I was saying, I nodded and shouted along with them.

I remember a high school debate I had in my Grade Twelve Law class. Me and my partner were against abortion. Our opponents were pro-choice. I rattled the cages with my rhetoric and witticisms, and at the end of the class, my teacher complimented me on my arguments. I recounted the experience to my parents later that evening. It was good to stand solidly on one side of an issue and to know I was right. It made me feel wise and not a little greater then the other peons who were still trying to figure things out.

Unfortunately, that love of 'being right' carried well beyond adolescence. With abortion, there was never anything to discuss. I was against it, in every way. You didn't have to show me the pictures, you didn't have to show me the psychological studies that revealed how damaging it could be to the mother or the violent nature of the operation. I knew it was bad. What puzzled me however, were the people who thought it should be okay. How could they possibly be pro-choice? What was wrong with them?

The answer, of course, was nothing. The answer was that there were more people involved then just the baby. The answer was that while the 'issue' of abortion enraged and ensnarled passions across the continent, mostly everyone forgot about the women. Oh sure, we reassured women from our position that they were doing the right thing, that they would only regret what they had done in the future, that they would live with the guilt for the rest of their life, and heck, we were only trying to help them. And yet, where was that help?

For most young women, that is the unanswerable question? The father can pretty easily do what he wants, and pay minimal -- if any support -- and the mother, well, she's just doing her duty. Once again, the man gets a free pass. And the mother is expected to raise and rear and pay for this child on her own. If we -- as a church -- respect life, why don't we respect the life of the mother? There are lineups at clinics (WE EMPLOY CHILDREN, HOW DISGUSTING!) to prevent young mothers from getting an abortion. Where are those same lineups outside the office that collects support for young mothers? Where is the political and emotional support for single mothers in our churches and in political rallies? Instead, we look at them as if they 'did wrong', without ever calling out the men.

Is abortion really about a woman's right to choose? Of course it is! They certainly aren't getting much help from us. The best we seem to be able to do is put bumper stickers on our car. Maybe it'd be better to stop engaging the rhetoric of an 'issue', and actually help. I know too many single moms... far too many... who can barely make ends meet while their husbands are off exploring their 'new' life.

In these circumstances, it better be a woman's right to choose whether or not she has the baby. No one else cares.

Too often, I hear the chatter of 'raging feminists' destroying society. Mostly this is done by ignorant white males who have never actually read any work by a feminist. I know, because this was me for most of my years through college and beyond. But even the most ardent feminist is not pro-abortion. Of course not. Abortion is traumatic, whether you believe life begins at conception or otherwise. What saddens me is that more often then not, the ones who are pro-choice are actually more humane than those of us in the church, in that they see not one life... but two.

What I love most when I read the Gospels is how Jesus continually flips things. He never sides with an issue, but always considers the lives involved. No one ever gets favored treatment. Not the Jew or the man. And yet, our tendency is just the opposite, isn't it? Give me an issue, and make sure I don't have to see all the details. It sells better, and it 'galvanizes' the church. This bothers me, as it should you, because the last time I checked the church was not running for political office nor was it in the business of marketing itself like some populist television show.
My prayer this week is that we would examine what we believe, and just how those beliefs impact those around us. Are we accepting stereotypes because it's easy? Are we setting up 'groups' to condemn because it's easier than facing our own shadows?

No one thinks abortion is a good thing, but until we support all of human life, a woman should demand the right to choose, if only because we've given her no other choice.