Abortion and Me
by JRobin Whitley, September 23, 2020
Starting this writing with a title such as “Abortion and Me” won’t make sense at first. At least, not at the beginning as I confess that I’ve never had an abortion. Then, the quote I add first may also be a bit confusing because it is not a quote about abortion, but about loving-kindness.
“Once we’ve awakened loving-kindness, and so long as we maintain it, says Buddhist teacher Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, “We will spontaneously give rise to positive words and deeds that promote peace and joy in our family, neighborhood, community, and indeed the whole world—directly or indirectly, at a visible or invisible level.”
From “Widening the Circle of Love”
~Part 3 in the new Lion’s Roar guide, Live With More Love
Writing about abortion is difficult. Not because of my beliefs, but because people want easy answers out of life. As most of us know, life is more complicated than we could ever guess when we were children. I’m going to start with the first time someone told me about her abortion.
The person who confided in me that she had an abortion was sixteen (16). That teenage girl was an acquaintance, someone I knew because we went to the same high school together. Who knows why she decided to tell me of all people? We weren’t close, and we didn’t confide in one another. She was a year older than I and we had no classes together. None. Also, I was known for being a religious teen, to the point where I know some of the wilder teens thought I was a goody-two-shoes. Maybe I was. I was certainly naïve.
For whatever reason, that young girl decided to confess her secret to me. The secret was that her parents forced her to have an abortion. I must have looked stunned when she told me in the living room of our house. It wasn’t something she confessed over the phone. I wasn’t a phone talker and I didn’t drive. She trusted me and I don’t know why. The why of it all is not important. What is important in this writing is to discuss why I vote for a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body.
Why did the parents force her to get an abortion? The answer was simple. This person was a preacher’s daughter, a Southern Baptist Preacher’s daughter. The teenager wanted to keep the baby. This was a teenager who did not aspire to college or any type of higher education. In truth, I didn’t know her well enough to know if she aspired to be anything except loved. All I could do was listen. I’m sure I said I would pray for her. All these years, I never told my parents, my sister, nor anyone else from where I grew up. Small towns gossip. Heck, large towns gossip I learned later in life. I didn’t want to spread word. In truth, the only reason I write this here is that I doubt anyone I knew growing up will read this.
The truth is that the only reason I’m writing this now is because of a question a former church member posed to me when I posted that I was supporting the Biden/Harris ticket for the election. The irony of it all is that most of my life I have been and will continue to be a bi-partisan voter. I vote for the person based upon how a person responds and acts. The article I posted as an example of WHY I was voting for this particular party was the best summary I’ve read in all of the political propaganda, news, reporting, or other folderol.
Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor and I read her books and listen to her talks when I can. Besides her being Lutheran, one of the things I love about this woman pastor is her courage to speak the hard things that I am often too Southern or too afraid to say. Here is the section of her talk that I most agree with and that best summarizes why I vote the way I do:
“Why, as a woman of faith, I am supporting the Biden/Harris ticket
(there are many more reasons – these are just a few)
In the Hebrew Bible, God’s people were judged according to how they treated certain groups of people whose interests they were commanded to protect: not stockholders and property owners and the 1%, but the foreigner, widows and orphans.
So, as a woman of faith,
I must support a ticket that protects the weak, not mocks them.
I must support a ticket that protects the refugee, not incarcerates them.
I must support a ticket that protects women, not separates them from their babies at the border.
As a woman of faith, I… want this country led by people who know that God is God and they are not. That know that God’s strength is perfected, not in our boasting, but in our weakness.
The things that Bolz-Weber writes is what I’ve always tried to use as a guideline when it comes to voting. I could easily erase the names of the politicians. The article for me is about who I see that best represents my faith out of all the people who are running for office. You must also know that I am not a political junkie, so I don’t know all there is to know about all the politicians. Mostly, I can say I know too much about all of them. Yet, bad things keep popping up about politicians’ ability to tell the truth. In the absence of truth, then, how can we as people of faith vote with integrity?
I posted the above article because it was the best guide I had read since the election process begun this year. Then on Saturday, our beloved Ruther Bader Ginsburg died. My post came about because I was upset to hear that Ginsburg hadn’t even been dead 24 hours, and the senate majority began immediately to talk about replacing her. They did not give this woman the dignity of even allowing the country to get accustomed to the idea that she was gone before they started posturing and reversing their opinions. My post was not about abortion at all.
My post came about because somehow, I want to dissent about the path our country has taken under the current administration. The rage, the brutal racism, the xenophobia (on both sides), the fear, all these darker emotions have been stirred hot, hard, and fast on top of a country reeling from a pandemic. Where is the love? Where is the “Christianity” so many like to say our country was “founded on” (even though the majority of the first constitutional congress was Deist)?
I posted the article not so much to try and change another’s mind as to simply take a stand about who “might” best represent me. The “might” is added because all these people are politicians and I can’t say I trust any politician right now. I admit to distrusting those in leadership because they are not taking action to protect our environment and our own people. The first negative response I got on my Facebook was, “what about all those aborted babies?” I immediately responded with “what about all those children in cages?”
“6 If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!” ~Matthew 18:6-7 NRSV
Afterward, that person who asked the question unfriended me before I could properly discuss (in private) that process we all go through of weighing all the issues before. As many of my other friends posted, we are not voting on a sole issue. Each of us, as decent people (whether we are religious or not), have to make decisions over two people who will best represent the rights of all people in the United States as well and lead us in this global economy and a world that is in turmoil. There is more than one issue at stake here. For me, this article is not about abortion at all. The issue is how do we stop dividing our country into factions willing to kill each other?
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on the same weekend posted about the need to talk about what is precedent for those of us wishing to be as faithful as possible to both our baptism vows and our calling as people of G-d or as those who say we follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth. During his exhortation, he also mentions links where each of us can participate in workshops, prayer over our decisions, and think about what it means to restore civil discourse with each other. I’ve added those links at the bottom of the page.
In the workshop he states:
The goal of these conversations is to be in deeper relationship and to more truly know each other’s dignity and worth. We strive for this deeper relationship so that when we go out to do our own advocacy, activism, and community engagement, we are better informed about who the “other” is without dehumanizing or demonizing them.
The Bishop then goes on to say,
“[L]ove the neighbor you like and love the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor. Your black neighbor and your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino, your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor. That’s why we’re here.”
It may seem at this point that I’ve lost the entire point of this essay. Except for this, life is not so simple, and neither is it black or white, my side or your side. Most of the time, life is various shades of grey, or as our pastoral care professor said, “Life is both/and”. Life is both sacred and profane. Going through all of this is as close to a summary as I’m going to get from 45 years of hearing stories of women who want children and can’t have them but also hearing the tragedies they told me of the abortion that they wished hadn’t had to happen. The women who told me those stories didn’t want answers or approval. They certainly did not need another religious person telling them how awful they were. They merely trusted that I would listen to them and hear the pain in their stories.
Because of the painful stories I’ve heard from other women, women who had to make that hard decision due to poverty, health concerns, pressure from family members, I have long been on the side of the woman. Because every one of those women would tell me how old their child would have been, and the grief they carried all those years, I will never say that abortion is a good thing. I will however always defend a woman’s right to do with her body as she pleases. I am not G-d. There is no way I could judge nor do I want to be such a judge. If you had heard these women’s stories, your heart would break just like mine still breaks for them all these years later. Mercy is what is needed.
Can we listen to each other’s pain for a bit? Can we sit and listen with loving-kindness and just be human together? I know that listening not going to solve anything right now. Life has taught us all that no matter what we wish for, or pray for, or dream of one day, all of it takes hard work. The thing is, we aren’t alone. And if you and I can begin to be civil to one another again, we can work to make things better together. Who knows, we might realize that we have a lot more in common than we ever imagined.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all…” – Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865
“Regardless of how the election turns out, I will not hold hate, disdain, or ridicule for those who voted differently from me. Whether I am pleased or upset about the outcome, I will seek to understand the concerns and aspirations of those who voted differently and will look for opportunities to work with people with whom I disagree.”