Christians and abortion

the Way?

Difficult issues series

Pregnant woman

In the previous two posts I have considered when in human evolution human life began, and when in pregnancy human life begins. In both cases, there were considerable uncertainties.

This naturally brings us to the polarising topic of abortion, and christian attitudes to termination of pregnancy.

This is a “hot button” issue, but if it is more personal than “an issue” to you, I apologise if any of my words are insensitive. I hope to offend no-one, but rather to offer thoughtful comment. If you have strong opinions either way, please try to avoid being upset at anything I say, and if you wish to express an opinion, please do it graciously.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I 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. 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.
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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.

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  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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