Why I'm Religious And Pro-Choice
Typically, I share an essay with you each Wednesday with podcasts going out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This week, I’m sending the essay on Tuesday and I plan to send the podcasts on Wednesday and Thursday. Please forgive this week’s break from tradition.
I am a church-going, tithe-paying, temple-attending member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m also pro-choice.
As you likely know, most members of my faith would describe themselves as pro-life. Many, however, likely agree with my position on abortion and more specifically the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
I accept a moral code of conduct defined by my faith that is somewhat different from other religions, including many other Christian sects. My church teaches that not only is drinking a sin but also that smoking, drinking coffee and even tea is a sin. That science has concluded that tea is healthy has not altered my church’s policy on tea, nor has it altered my pattern of getting my caffeine from diet soda (which my church does not consider a sin).
I choose to live my life by this standard even though I can see the logical flaws in it. Following its precepts is an expression of my faith.
That said, I do not think of my many family members and friends who drink tea, coffee or alcohol as sinners. Even those who once upon a time accepted the church’s teachings and no longer do are simply living their lives according to a different set of moral values. It would be ridiculous of me to judge anyone harshly for drinking tea just because I don’t for religious reasons. By extension, I don’t judge people of other faiths, including former or less-active members of my own, who make other dietary choices.
For me, believing that abortion is often wrong is easy. I get that. I haven’t, and I’m never going to be faced with a decision about having an abortion. My church teaches that I shouldn’t pay for or perform an abortion. This is slightly more relevant but not being an OBGYN any more than I have a uterus, the application of church policy in my life is extremely limited. I get that.
That, I suppose, is a primary reason I am so ardently pro-choice. I don’t have to face the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. So, it isn’t my place to judge women who make different choices than I would about abortion.
Many, though I couldn’t argue all, abortions are made for reasons I would support (following rape or incest, when the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy or when the fetus isn’t viable). Whether any particular abortion would qualify for my personal approval is none of my doggone business. No one should need my approval to make personal healthcare choices. Ever.
If you shouldn’t need my blessing, you shouldn’t need the law’s permission either.
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Let’s consider a few examples.
Let’s say a woman has been raped but chose not to tell anyone and discovers the pregnancy only in her second trimester. If you believe in abortion in the case of rape, to whom should she have to prove the rape to get an abortion? How would she have to prove it? How long should someone be allowed to delay the second-trimester abortion while she attempts to prove it?
Let me repeat. It is none of my doggone business. Let me add that is it none of your business. It shouldn’t be in the law’s interest.
Let’s say a woman, after becoming pregnant and discussing it with her doctor, believes her health is threatened. To whom should she have to prove that? Based on what evidence? Would the standard to which she could be held differ in Texas and Wyoming? How could it possibly be reasonable for there to be two or 50 different opinions about whether her health is adequately threatened to justify an abortion? It isn’t!
In another scenario, an expectant mother is heartbroken to learn her fetus isn’t viable. Who needs to know that information? How should she apply for permission to have an abortion? Heartbroken, devastated and now she is subjected to a legalistic, bureaucratic abortion application process. Is that kind, fair or good?
The sad truth of the matter is that if you share my belief that the law should not restrict abortion in the case of rape, incest, the health of the mother or viability of the fetus, you really are pro-choice. You can’t protect a woman’s right to have an abortion in those cases without allowing that some women will have abortions you don’t approve.
And some women will drink tea. And none of it is my doggone business—or yours.
Nor is it the law’s reasonable purview.
There Are Many Policies That Can Reduce Abortions
This will not be an exhaustive list, but let’s agree that there are laws and policies that will reduce the number of abortions without infringing on women’s rights to healthcare. Generally speaking, these should be considered noncontroversial and yet most are not approved at the Federal level in the United States.
There are a number of initiatives that have proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies (the most likely to be aborted). Better sex education and free, easy access to birth control make a big difference. Sex education is scary for some folks, but nothing kids learn in school prevents parents from teaching their kids that pre-marital sex is wrong according to their personal and family values. Free and easy access to birth control doesn’t force anyone to use it. No one.
While almost every other country in the world has a funded parental leave program, our country doesn’t. A woman living paycheck to paycheck like most Americans would be pretty tempted to consider all her options when getting news of an unplanned pregnancy if she’d be allowed no time off to care for a newborn.
Better, more expansive pre-k education and daycare support can also reduce abortion rates.
Countries throughout much of Europe where abortion is generally legal and social programs and sex ed are more universal dramatically lower teen pregnancy rates and comparable rates of abortion.
It is clear that we can reduce the number of abortions by reducing unwanted pregnancies.
My faith teaches that abortion is generally wrong. Even so, the church’s teachings and policies are more generous and forgiving than current and pending state laws in several states including Utah. Whatever you call yourself—pro-choice or pro-life—perhaps we can agree that religious beliefs most people do not share should not be codified in state laws. I don’t hear my co-religionists arguing for banning tea.