Updated: Feb 24, 2020
Just recently, a letter was sent by faith leaders to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee asking him to veto the Fetal Heartbeat Bill that outlaws abortion after a intrauterine heartbeat is detected. A majority of those faith leaders were women including many who are ordained clergy. I'm pro-life and out of sync with these clergy colleagues. Though many of us completed seminary, were ordained in our respective denominations, and pastor churches, we couldn’t be further apart on the moral understanding of abortion. Why? Because as the letter states, churches, seminary professors, and Christian leaders are allowed to have “varied opinions on abortion.”
I’ve been told by some of my colleagues that abortion is good for women. They argue that many of these women tried to prevent pregnancies, but now, they are saddled with the unbearable cost of the failed preventive they desperately relied upon. It’s not their fault, so why punish them with the burden of a child? Or perhaps, like a recent episode from PBS Call the Midwife, we need to be reminded that women will get abortions even if prohibited, so isn’t offering a safer procedure allowing us to better care for them? Shouldn’t we do it to prevent the horrors of unsafe practitioners? Where is the pity for the poor woman, who through no fault of her own, carries(or delivers) a child whose body is deformed or their mental capacity so questionable or the child so inconvenient that with her doctor’s and pastor’s empathy she decides she cannot bear the responsibility for the baby’s care?
The pastors that signed that letter say they want women "to make complex decisions in line with their own morals and informed by their lived reality." I guess I have to ask them why do they give advice or weekly sermons if everyone should make decisions in line with their own morals? Aren't we in the job of pastoring, guiding others into scriptural paths and moral clarity? Don't we teach that humanity is selfish and that our sin originates out of that selfishness? Our lived reality must be shaped by our faith in a lovingly unselfish God who gave his Son for our salvation. Our reality is not just shaped by our circumstances as difficult as they can be at times, but shaped by our understanding of God's love and care for us in which we find strength and peace to rise above our circumstances into a new lived reality.
These clergy are convinced that human compassion that seeks "to heal and welcome rather than shame and threaten" along with “body autonomy” are higher moral values that override any scriptural reference to taking a life. They say that the right of a woman to control her own body is morally superior to the right to life for the child. With that kind of misguided moral confidence, it wouldn’t take much for a pastor to nudge a woman, who is searching for moral clarity in a crisis pregnancy, towards abortion. It's as if the child was a non-person for whom no consideration needs be shown. Abortion for that child is rather unwelcoming and quite threatening, and if a girl, no body autonomy allowed!
Abortion permanently changes a woman; changing her perception of herself, her view of pregnancy, and of life itself. At the end of it all, it’s the woman alone, not her misguided pastor, who bears all the results of her choice, and the guilt burden of abortion weighs heavy on many women their entire life. A pregnant woman who chooses to come to her pastor for help should be encouraged to believe in God's providential care and the love of the church to meet her needs, even in cases of rape and incest.
Pro-life women clergy are not uncompassionate about the difficulties women have in crisis pregnancies, but they are more open to support and guide women towards solutions that do not add to an already burdened heart. If we, who care enough to hold the child’s life and well-being equal to the mother’s, will also provide the support needed to help these brave souls through the difficult time. Women in crisis need a pastor whose confidence is in a God who loves and cares, not morally questionable quick fixes.