I really, really, really hate talking about abortion. Which is fairly unusual for me, usually I thrive on controversy, I've been known to say deliberatly controversial things just to see what people do. Its very bad. But its different with abortion, whenever anyone brings it up (not that that often happens, its not really dinner party small talk), it just makes me feel very, very nervous. Everyone is so sure they're right. My feminist friends are sure that being pro-choice is right and my christian friends are so sure that being pro-life is right. And this makes me nervous because for once in my life I really, genuinly don't know quite what I think. Life is good AND choice is good, why do I have too choose? And what makes me more nervous is that everyone is so convinced that I agree with them, I almost can't bear to say that I don't. And if people know I don't fully agree with them then they're always sure that I'll come around (yes Rebecca, I am talking to you :-) !)
So given how much I hate this conversation, why am I choosing to bring it up? Mostly, because its an important part of my journey. Its one of the very few places where my christian and feminist identity collide, its where the two communities I call home really fight it out in the public sphere. So, as part of my journey of understanding, this has to be something I think about. Even though I don't want to.
And my opinions really are mixed and confused. I remember once in one week, being at an EFN meeting and feeling sad because I couldn't fully agree with the amazing women their about on-demand abortion, then later that week throwing my Christian Medical Fellowship magazine across the room for being so oversimplistic. So this is neither easy nor simple! I can't help but think that when we do make issues like this simple we are somewhat missing the point.
I think life is important, I think its a gift from God, I think that its sacred, I think that all life has the possibility of expressing love for God, and furthering Gods kingdom - our ultimate purpose in life. So, in line with this, I find the idea of aborting potential life (a foetus doesn't have to be living to have potential) difficult. It seems such a waste. And yes, ultimatly, I do not think that God wants women to have abortions. Not because God hates women, but because God is deeply in love with all of humanity, and wants us to live life to the full. I don't see when life begins (whether at conception, inplantation, a certaint stage of neural development) as being the real point, we'll never really be sure about that. The point for me is ultimatly about potential.
However, this is clearly not the full story. When abortion is illegal, women have them anyway. However, its more risky, and women die. Seriously, it happens all the time, a recent Lancet (medical journal) edition about womens health focused a lot on legalising abortion because the authors saw so much of the harm that back-street abortions can do. So, somewhat reluctantly, I believe that abortion should be legal. But is this really a pro-choice perspective? Surely to be pro-choice I would have to come from the perspective that women should have complete bodily autonomy and not just be being pragmatic? And then it gets even more complicated, because I do think bodily autonomy for women is important! But should that autonomy come at the cost of another potential life?
I think that I'm trying to say in this post is that I'm not sure. I don't fall neatly into the 'pro-life' camp or the 'pro-choice' camp, and I'm not sure either of those labels are helpful. Contrary to what you may hear, pro-life people don't all hate women and want to take away their choices, and pro-choice people don't all want to kill babies. Its oversimplistic, and it alientates people like me (and I like to think that I'm in the 'sort of pro-life and pro-choice ish' majority). I really hope that we can begin to have sensible conversations about this, and really be willing to engage with each other. Its complicated, and there probably isn't a right answer, and nothing is ever going to get better if we just shout at each other!
Hopefully more thoughts coming soon on abortion, violence, and what christians have to add to the feminist movement.