Christians and abortion

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Christians and abortion

  1. An interesting take, and I’m always glad to see a religious discussion of abortion that does *not* bring Numbers 5 into the discussion (it happens way too often, and the chapter is far too ambiguous for that to be warranted).

    On the point about funerals, I think that a distinction needs to be made between the legal (which must apply to all) and the personal. I remember when I was a child and my cat died. When I told my best friend at school the next day, we both started crying (she had spent a lot of time at my house and was very fond of my cat), and we decided that we would have a private “sending off” for our beloved pet. This utterly confused the adults around us. My mother initially told us not to have our “sending off” because it was, and I quote, “morbid.” My teacher, who caught us crying, asked us why we were getting so emotional about an animal? But it meant a lot to us. And so we had a private “service” in the woods where we looked at pictures of my cat, traded stories, and cried, then buried a photograph of her as if it were her body.

    It meant a lot to us, just as it must mean a lot to the parents who miscarry a wanted pregnancy. Those feelings are absolutely legitimate, and it’s important for grieving individuals to be given space for their grief (which is why I find it absolutely reprehensible when priests refuse to conduct any kind of service for a stillborn child, or to bury it in the community cemetery – that behaviour is cruel to parents who are already suffering, like poking at a fresh wound). But the application in a broader sense is rather limited. The human capacity for love is not the same as the basis for our laws.

    To share another personal story, I had a miscarriage earlier this year. I hadn’t known I was pregnant until I fainted and found myself in ER. Due to the circumstances, there was a fairly good chance that the pregnancy had been ectopic. I was lucky, but if that had been the case, an abortion would have been necessary for my health. Few people would disagree with abortion in a case like mine (though there are Catholic hospitals that would rather watch me die than operate if a heartbeat could be detected). Still, it made the issue personal. Thinking about all the hoops I might have had to jump through, all in a time of crisis, makes me shudder. Transvaginal ultrasounds, having to look at ultrasounds, having to go through a waiting period while I bleed out, etc. For me, in a personal sense, that’s what abortion restrictions really mean – extra hoops desperate women already going through a crisis have to jump through, for political rather than medical reasons. And that’s scares me. And I think it betrays a lack of trust in women to negotiate their own ethics. In my situation, my hemoglobin count was already so low that something like a waiting period could easily have killed me (it took me almost a month to get back on my feet), just as many Catholic hospitals let women die rather than abort a non-viable pregnancy that’s killing her.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience! I, and someone else, actually brought up Numbers 5 in the comments to unkleE’s post. You may be right, though: it could be more ambiguous than I thought! Just looking at the passage, I do not see anything explicit about a miscarriage, or the fetus dropping. The woman who passes the test is able to conceive seed, but that does not necessarily mean the woman who failed the test drunk an abortifacient.


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