Let’s speak about, not shout about abortion

“Heaven is filled with boys and girls, who though unwanted by their earthly parents, have been welcomed by a Father who is committed to their eternal good and joy.”

Every year in Australia 10,000s of children are aborted, a practice that is not only supported by the law in some states, but it is something celebrated by many Australians.

Over the weekend Jane Caro has come out to defend and publicise abortion. Caro begins by sharing her own story of having an abortion, and then calls on other women to shun the guilt associated with abortion.

She writes,

“Abortion and the fear of unwanted pregnancy, frankly, is a normal — if not very pleasant — part of many women’s lives.”

“Shout out about your abortion any way you see fit — if the subject comes up in conversation, perhaps, or there is a story about it in the news.”

“If you have had an abortion, do not be ashamed of it. You are in good company. Shout it out and help lift the shame for all the other women who have also decided that every child should be a wanted child.”

I may need to clear the air in relation to one obvious point, which in the eyes of some readers will automatically preclude me from having anything to say on the issue. Yes, I am a male, and because of this anatomical and psychological fact, I understand some women will straightaway invalidate any comment I wish to make. We are all familiar with the mantras, ‘it’s the woman’s right to choose’, and, ‘women have the right to control their body’.

I suspect though, many on the pro-abortion side would be quite happy to have men speaking in support of abortion. Indeed, only a few short months ago Queensland MP, Rob Pyne, introduced legislation to relax abortion laws in that State; we didn’t hear many women protesting his public voice.

Not only that, it is a simple point of biology that men are involved in the process of women becoming pregnant. Should a father be involved only in the act of procreation, and be excluded from happens next? This is not about being controlling or patriarchal, it is about being a responsible parent and participating in an relationship. Sadly though, many men are irresponsible and uncaring, a problem which continues to cause frightful harm in so many of our homes.

abortion2-flickr

Morten Liebach, Steenaire (inset); flickr

While abortion has remained a hot political issue in the United States, in Australia it had largely shifted out of public discourse, becoming a forgotten shadow twisting through our cities, towns, and homes. But now, all of a sudden, partly due to the recent American Presidential election and also because of a Queensland Parliamentary vote, abortion is being talked about once more.

Jane Caro is writing though in response to last week’s announcement by Pope Francis, who has given priests ‘permission’ to forgive Roman Catholic women for having an abortion,

“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”

Caro responds,

“Given the Catholic Church’s attitude to contraception and its behaviour towards vulnerable children the world over, I simply cannot take anything this institution has to say about sex and reproduction seriously.”

Her criticism has some warrant, and I certainly understand her blanket mistrust of Roman Catholicism in light of its dreadful  history of sexual abuse. I am also critical of the Pope, for it is not the Pope’s place, nor the role of any priest to forgive anyone their sins. Priests may find permission in a papal edict and in their Church dogmatics, but such authority is not found in the the Bible, and as Christians that’s what counts. Priests are imperfect men who need their own sins forgiven by God, and as the Bible affirms, 

“there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim 2:5)

One of the reasons for writing today is because of a sadness that overcame me when I read Caro’s call to view abortion as ‘normal’. It is not normal. Abortion is never something to be celebrated or normalised. On rare occasions, when a mother’s life is genuinely at risk, I understand it is permissible, but to consider killing unborn children as okay is not okay.

A society that sanctions, and even celebrates the killing of unborn children is one denying its own humanity.

If one surveys global societies that have embraced a culture of abortion, one notes China with its population suppression policy. There are also numerous religious cultures who denigrate women and frequently force abortions when the baby is female.  And there is our western secularism with its excessive commitment to individualism. When we value the self above the good of others, we create an atmosphere of self-indulgence and not sacrifice, of self-worship rather than selflessness.

The very nature of loving community is that it requires the unexpected and difficult, and rather than eliminating those surprises, we alter our life expectations in order to to see their lives flourish.

Jesus once said, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. Indeed, how great a love it is to sacrifice our hopes and plans for children who enter our lives unplanned.

In my role as a Christian Minister, over the years women have shared with me their stories of having an abortion, and without exception there is a shame attached. Reasons are multifarious: when a woman is raped,the fear of giving birth to children with a disability, when the mother’s life is at risk, and when the child is unwanted due to the mum not feeling ready or not wanting the responsibility or wanting children to impact their lifestyle or career. The reality is, only a tiny portion of abortions occur on medical grounds that the mother’s life is in danger. Many more abortions occur because of the child’s gender, or because the child may carry a disability, and many other children are killed because of lifestyle choices. For many many women this decision has left a wound that has not healed.

As much as Jane Caro wishes women to wash away their shame for having abortions, many women cannot, and no Pope or priest can achieve that either. But in the person of Jesus Christ we find a God who is willing and able, and who is more merciful and wonderful than any of us can ever imagine.

As distressing a topic as abortion is, it is good to hear people talking once again. I don’t want to silence women who have had an abortion. Claire Smith has last week written an article encouraging people to speak more about abortion, and I wish to echo her words. And to a certain extent I also repeat Jane Caro’s words, that of urging women not to keep silent. But the speech we need is different, words that don’t speak affirming  destroying young life, but words that enable conversation, and ears that will listen to these stories.

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