Typically I enjoy Rachel Held Evans’ blog, but her latest piece is not exactly an improvement on the abortion debate. It reiterates most of the same, extraordinarily tired rhetoric on abortion: that it is tragic and overwhelmingly complex. In some cases, this is likely true, but the question of abortion’s legality is certainly not complex, nor do I find the practice of abortion to be particularly tragic. Women’s rights ought to be paramount in any discussion of abortion because their rights are the only rights threatened by the discussion’s outcome. To suggest that not only does a fetus have rights, but that those rights outweigh a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, is to reduce women to the status of sentient incubators.
No. It is not that complicated after all.
Should abortion itself be celebrated? Not necessarily. Should the legal right to obtain abortions be celebrated? Absolutely. That legal right is intrinsic to gender equality. It ends back alley abortions. It enables women to pursue education and career paths that would be potentially unavailable to them if they carried an unwanted pregnancy to terms. It facilitates healing for pregnant rape victims. It allows mothers to provide optimum care for the children they already have. It makes it easier for abused women to leave their abusive relationships. Abortion is an uncomfortable topic, not a complicated one.
The anti-choice movement relies on lies: pseudoscience about abortion’s link to breast cancer, sterility and trauma. It supports Lila Rose’s edited videos and the false advertising of crisis pregnancy centers. It rallies behind politicians who claim that Plan B and hormonal birth control are really abortifacients. It relies on this level of coercion because there is a vast void at the heart of its rhetoric, a void that ignores the importance of gender equality. That is why they have to lie to women. Because if they don’t, they’ll simply have to convince us that we are less important than fertilized eggs, that we should be ashamed of our sex lives, and that the role of motherhood takes primacy over career and education.
We’ve fought this battle. We’re not going back.
So, progressive Christians: do you have a right to find abortion distasteful? Of course you do. But you don’t have a right to interfere with a woman’s private medical decisions simply because you think she’s selfish. And if you want me to believe that you really want a productive conversation on abortion, I advise you to take the beam out of your own eye. Take a stand against the abusive tactics employed by the anti-choice movement. Don’t picket clinics and harass patients. Don’t demonize doctors, because that has a tendency to result in their murders. Don’t lie about biological reality. Don’t assign a fetus rights that you’d deny a woman. And stop agonizing over what someone else decides to do in the privacy of a doctor’s office.