Working in the nonprofit sector and generally being outspoken about my political opinions often invites the question “Are you pro-life or pro-choice?” to enter my conversations. I instantly clam up and avoid labeling my opinions and the discussion all together. This is especially true when talking to my very liberal or very conservative family members. I struggle so much to answer because my opinion is never going to change theirs and I don’t associate with the stereotypes of either answer.
I also recognize that my moral and religious beliefs should have no influence over what law should be in a country that upholds freedom of religion. My god cannot and should not determine what is legal in that case anymore than I would want someone else’s god to determine what I am and am not allowed to do. However, my moral opinions influence which policies I support greatly. So what is my answer to that dreaded question? I am morally pro-life.
I am for free and reduced cost birth control and prenatal care
I absolutely believe that life begins at conception. However, I recognize that not only do other people not feel that way, but that banning abortion only makes them happen dangerously. I also recognize that since abortion has been legal, the rate of abortion has dropped dramatically in our country. I mourn for the loss of unborn babies with many of my like minded friends and family. I hear “my body, my choice” and cringe because I think of a tiny life that doesn’t have a say in its own destiny.
However, my solution to the problem isn’t to ban abortion, but rather offer free and highly reduced cost contraceptives. Abortion rates could drop to almost nothing if women had access to methods to prevent pregnancy. As much as some people would like to pretend that women should just choose to not have sex outside of marriage, that will not solve the problem as it has proven time and time again. I will happily hand out condoms on street corners and birth control pills on college campuses. I will happily donate my own time and resources to do so, but it would make a world of difference if we had better government and nonprofit avenues to do so.
It is also much, much cheaper to get an abortion than to go through prenatal care and delivery if you have no insurance (or sometimes even if you do). If we want women to keep their babies or choose adoption, then we have to make it affordable to do so. “It’s really cheap to just not have sex.” You’re right, it is, but obviously that isn’t working. Also, for women that didn’t actually choose to have sex, your argument is moot. You are also forgetting that not all unwanted or unplanned pregnancies occur outside of marriage. From a secular and religious perspective, sexual relations are an integral part of marriage. There are plenty of married couples who cannot afford birth control.
I am for food, medical, and housing assistance
If I say that I want every human life to be treated with dignity and respect and that every person is as significant and purposeful as another, then I must take care of them. Whenever I hear my fellow Christians complain about “lazy, freeloading” people on government assistance I always think of the Bible passage in Matthew 25:43, “I was a stranger and you did not take me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” My religious and moral beliefs call me to take care of my fellow humans.
Could we improve our assistance programs? Absolutely. Could we do more to end the cycle of poverty? You bet. That doesn’t me we start by cutting programs. That would mean more people dying or barely surviving. To me that means we keep feeding, sheltering, and providing medical care to those that need it while we figure out how to do a better job as fellow humans.
Taking that a step further, we should especially think about helping people with disabilities (veterans and civilians alike) have the medical care and opportunity to prosper like everyone else. Maybe that means universal healthcare or maybe that means pricing standards for medical services and insurance companies. I am not sure what the best answer looks like, but I know it is not turning away the hungry and hurting.
I am against the death penalty
It seems outrageous to me that you can be against abortion because you see it as murder, but perfectly comfortable with ending the life of a criminal. If life is life and murder is murder, I cannot in good conscious support the death penalty. I come from a faith that sees sin as sin and that all people can repent. I understand and agree that there must be punishment for actions, especially violent or heinous crimes, but that does not mean ending a life. What does that teach us? It teaches us that someone else can judge how much your life is worth. How is that different than aborting an unborn child? We are judging the value of a life as less important than another.
Our prison system is not rehabilitative by any stretch of the imagination. There is a cycle of crime as strong as a cycle of poverty and that must be changed. We must look at systems that are succeeding at rehabilitation and model our own after theirs, because our system is failing. We are failing to teach criminals the lessons we want them to learn. We are failing to deter people from committing crimes. Even states that still have the death penalty do not see significantly lower crime rates than those that do not. In fact, states without the death penalty typically have lower homicide rates.
Rather than defining my political opinions strictly by abortion, I try to define myself by the people I am trying to support. I want to especially support women, families, and marginalized people (economically disadvantaged, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.). That is supporting life in all forms, stages, and facets.
Photo Credit: Augusto Navarro