Two-thirds of the way through my junior year in high school, I dropped out of the fourth Christian school I’d been to since the sixth grade and started attending Riverview High School. To put it into context, the graduating classes of my first three schools numbered between four and forty when I finally graduated with a class of over six hundred. To ease my way into this new world of secular education, for one of my first oral presentations in my new public speech class, I chose to speak about abortion.
Although I had only kissed two girls at that age (if you don’t count the peck by the girl next door when I was five) and proudly clung to my virginity (as if I had a choice), I had determined that abortion was nothing short of murder. Always the clever showman, I even had a six point outline that allowed me to write the word MURDER on the chalkboard in big letters. And although my teacher Mr. Fugate tried to thank me off the stage after I wrote the D, I pushed on through to finish all of my points.
All these years later, I don’t remember what all of the points of the outline actually were, but I also no longer think that abortion is murder. It’s tragic, no doubt. Although I’ve talked to a few women who seemed to be able to shrug it off as a medical procedure, I can’t imagine it would be an easy thing to go through.
Of course, throughout my upbringing, through my family, church, and television, it just always seemed a given that one of the things we were here to do was to have children. My father had five of them and has grandkids into the double digits. However, as it turns out, sometimes you’ve got to give up the givens to receive the greater gift.
I learned a lot of different things through my years of Christian schooling, and although I’ve unlearned as much as I can, I still have an affinity for those red letters. I was never really comfortable with the character of God that the Israelites portrayed, as he killed all of the firstborn in Egypt, asked Abraham to do the same, and told the armies to slaughter entire cities of men, women, children, and animals. But I loved the message of Christ, to simply love God and love others as yourself.
When I ran in those circles and listened to the ideas being perpetuated, and from those who still repeat the sentiments today, I heard a lot about the assumption that God is against a woman having abortions. However, when you look at the character of God in the Bible, with as many living children as Jehovah had put to death, it wouldn’t seem that he would be too bothered by abortions. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t speak to the idea of abortion directly. Of course, the Old Testament hardly acknowledges that babies even come from women, presenting a long genealogy of men begetting one another with nary a mention of any actual wombs at all.
Although my beliefs on Christ are probably a bit different than most who still resonate with the evangelical, fundamentalist, or Catholic ideology, the truth that I do find is that God allowed for humankind, both men and women, to have free choice. While the Israelites were big on making laws to limit people’s ability to make choices, and a lot of people are still trying to drag a lot of those laws into the next century while also making even more laws to limit our choices, it seems that the understanding of God was that a good choice is not a good choice when you’re forced to make it.
Ultimately, all of us would love to see the number of abortions go down. Many of us would love to see them not happen at all. Yet, as we’ve learned with Prohibition and the War on Drugs, we can’t really legislate behavior and morality and still call ourselves a free country.
I understand those who feel inclined to hold dearly to the tenets of the Bible, even those who may be misinterpreting a lot of it. Yet for those who actually still have a shred of faith, it is time that we stop trying to force people to behave the way we think they should behave and start actually expressing more faith in the Creator of life that we all share and the people who are empowered with free choice. As the separation of Church and State was one of the foundations of this country, it is time we separate ourselves from the idea that women don’t deserve to be acknowledged and don’t deserve their freedom of choice.