My mother was the first person to speak to me about having a faith and being a woman. During these conversations my mother both expressed, and implied, the role choice had in both of these areas. While many people may view Christianity as an oppressive force (because it has and continues to be manipulated as such), my mother never portrayed a clash between a liberal approach to women’s issues and having a faith. Instead, within the framework of teaching me about God’s love, she taught me that I have no right to stand in judgment of anyone’s choices.
Everyone should be able to march to the beat of their own own drum—even if that beat is different than mine. This message applies to all the decisions women make along a spectrum that ranges from trivial choices such as what to wear all the way to having an abortion. In connection with this, people are allowed to choose whether they have a faith, and by extension, how they choose to observe that faith. It is not my job to tell people what to believe and how to live—a sentiment that perfectly sums up why I am a Christian and pro-choice.
The messages of not standing in judgment and celebrating the ability to choose to have a faith are found throughout the Bible. Ironically, Christians throughout history have done a first class job of depicting the opposite. Nevertheless, loving your neighbour unconditionally is a central message of Christianity and judging women for their choices is not an exception to that rule.
Pro-life supporters recognise life is created upon conception. As a result, they believe abortion is murder. The other side of the coin, science, presents a multitude of facts demonstrating this may not be the case. For example, a child is not a separate entity from their mother until after the first trimester. Scientists also argue “personhood” is different to “life,” using the analogy that women menstruate and lose “life” every 28 days and that is not considered murder. These two arguments demonstrate a difference in perspective. It is impossible to say one is right and the other wrong. The answer will depend on an individual’s personal morals and that cannot and should not be forced upon another person. I love the idea of every human life being sacred. However, everyone’s understanding of life is different. So a one-size-fits-all approach to abortion seems unnecessarily oppressive. In the absence of a definitive answer, where morals and science may lead us to two different outcomes, it seems logical to allow a choice.
There cannot be one approach to an outcome that is reached through an infinite amount of different factors that coincide when a woman becomes pregnant including: age, health of the mother, health of the child, financial stability, consent, incest, support networks and a desire to have a family. I am uncomfortable with placing these factors on a scale from “justifiable” to “non-justifiable” reasons to receive an abortion. It seems unfair that a woman alone would have to fight for the right to control her body and her life, where the father remains more or less unscathed if he wants to be. I respect women who choose not to have an abortion because of their faith, even if they had no intention of having a child at that point in their life. I also respect women who decide to go through the devastating choice of having an abortion for any reason.
Ultimately no woman wants to be in this position. Neither decision would be easy to make.
Choice is the whole point of feminism. Women can choose to wear make-up, have sex, abstain, dress conservatively, attend pole dancing classes and watch The Bachelor. Christianity is the same because having a faith is an individual’s choice. While Christianity has been used as a political tool to manipulate people’s abilities to make choices throughout history, that is not its purpose. Having a faith is a personal experience where the individual has a relationship with God. Since faith is a personal experience, it does not follow that everyone’s faith should be the same, nor does anyone have the authority to dictate what faith should look like. More importantly, observance of faith should never be enforced. Using the Christian faith as the sole reason to deny access to abortion is the same as making someone attend church, or pray when they have no faith, because a person is being forced to observe religious beliefs they have not chosen for themselves.
So I will continue to get angry when politicians inappropriately use religion as a justification for reducing, and aiming to eliminate, women’s access to health services. Ultimately, no matter what side of the debate you find yourself on, you cannot argue with history and statistics which demonstrate illegality of abortion has not stopped women from taking matters into their own hands. Denying access to the procedure will not save unborn children, instead it deeply endangers the lives of women.
Life is tricky, it is not black and white. While morals sometimes demand that we pick a side, the choice it requires will be different for everyone. Regardless of whether I would personally have an abortion, I do know if I were in a position where I was unsure if I wanted to have a baby, I would at least like to know I had a choice.