Acknowledged Humanity: On Abortion, Feminism, and Being Pro-Life

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I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, but I’ll reiterate what I said. I do not support abortion.

And while some might find it difficult to believe, I don’t think that it compromises my stance as a feminist. I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive. I still believe that women can do just as much as men can do, and more. I still believe that women should be respected, treated with dignity, and give equal opportunity to grow and thrive, whether in the workplace, in education or in the Church.

And I do believe that women should have a say in what happens to their bodies. I may have different ideas on how to live my life because of my faith, and therefore make different choices with what I decide to do or not do with my body. My choice was abstinence, simply because I find it worth it to wait, and I hope others might perhaps see the value of waiting as well. But it doesn’t mean I have the right to consider myself “better” or “more pure,” or consider other ladies “lesser,” because I am neither better nor more holy, and neither are my fellow ladies lesser, regardless of how different our life choices and priorities may be. And on that same note, regardless of how a woman decides to address her sexuality, every woman is worthy, simply because of her humanity, to the right of contraception and consent. Every woman should be able to have authority in deciding who she wants to consent to, how far and in what direction she wants to go, and if applicable, when she plans and wants to pursue having children.

But when it comes to pregnancy, when it comes to abortion, it’s not simply about an individual’s body and privacy. Not that an individual’s privacy or autonomy is unimportant. It’s just that there’s more than that. It’s about two lives, both equally worthy of humanity. And humanity is not a matter of convenience or inconvenience, nor being or not being a part of the plan, but simply a matter of whether or not we will acknowledge it.

Here we reach the place in which all sorts of arguments begin butting their way in. These include everything from arguments over when life really begins, to what life even is and how it should be defined, to when the clump of cells ends and the human begins, all the while with charts and diagrams being waved around on both sides as scientific proof. What it really comes down to again though, is what and who we define as human.

Since we are considering how faith intersects justice, we then must be straightforward with the fact that the Bible, which is considered the very Word of God, is very clear that life, no matter how old, or how formed or unformed, is considered precious and very much having humanity to God, and therefore should be considered as such by all. In the Psalms, it says:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.” – Psalm 139: 13-18

Yes perhaps at one point in time, a baby or an embryo is biologically speaking a clump of cells. But what Christians believe is that God is not contained by time nor by biological points in time. Instead, He sees the days far beyond the cells, and sees all the way to what this human will become. For he or she need not become human in the first place—they intrinsically had humanity and worth simply upon coming into existence, simply because they were created and formed by God.

This does not justify unjust circumstances perhaps surrounding a pregnancy. This could mean rape. But this also can concern cycles of poverty and racial discrimination, which should also not be taken lightly or dismissed. The Christian Church unfortunately has a terrible tendency to diminish the very real experiences of women for the sake of unborn children, dismissing them as generally selfish for making the decisions they did, when that is entirely unnecessary, and not to mention, wrong. Perhaps some do decide to abort for more selfish reasons. But many make the same decision because of very legitimate difficulties, such as trauma or being unable to afford having a child. And Christians have a responsibility to come alongside women, whether survivors of rape and assault, or women who are simply trying to get by, to support them, care for them, edify and encourage them, as well as advocate for them to see justice in whatever area necessary be done. There is no room for snobbery, victim-blaming, or deflecting blame or responsibility in loving people as Christ first loved us.

Again though, I do not believe this is mutually exclusive with acknowledging the humanity of an unborn child, regardless of the circumstances that brought about their existence. This is not to say a unborn baby’s life is greater or of a higher priority than a woman’s. The point is that he or she is also a human with humanity. They’re simply equal, and equally worthy of consideration. The survivor did nothing wrong. And neither did that child. In this case, Christians have a responsibility to also help care for children in such situations, whether it is with pre and postnatal care or adoption, alongside caring for survivors. One need not be neglected in favor of the other, and neither should it be. In fact, only when both are done in tandem can Christians possibly call themselves pro-life, for both women and unborn children. Only when they acknowledge the humanity of both parties can they get to call themselves that.

The problem here is not that Christianity does not see the woman. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is repeatedly edifying towards women, though others may not be. Men are exhorted to love the women around them as Christ loved humanity, which is very much a high standard. Women are fearfully and wonderfully made, just as any human is, with personalities, talents, dreams, and smiles.

It’s just that the Gospel also sees the women that are yet to be. The Gospel sees the girl that’s currently a clump of cells for the beautiful, and wonderfully unique woman with great aspirations she’s going to be, just like the woman carrying her already is. And if we really want to hit all the points, the Gospel also sees the men that are yet to be as well. The Gospel sees the boy that perhaps may be the start of a generation of guys that know how to be men. A generation of men that are raised, taught and know how to respect and love women as Christ exhorts them to. This is what the Gospel begs of us to see—simply humans that have yet to be, with humanity to be valued.

So again, the question is simply this: who do we consider human and why? If we base our answer off of what is more convenient or of more personal benefit, we are not considering humanity at all, but simply ourselves. For again, humanity is not a matter of convenience or inconvenience. The only question is if we will acknowledge it.