Compassion and Abortion

In the context of Texas’ new abortion law, here is something I wrote in 2004 … “I am pro-choice as well as pro-life because I know that the “best” or “right” choice is not always open to us.”

Compassion calls us to be life-giving in all we do. And I struggle with that. I am pro-life because God is God of the living. God created all life, and we are responsible for encouraging and preserving life. Human beings do not come to life just at the moment of birth. Abortion – even natural abortion like an early miscarriage – always means a human being, even in the form of a fetus, has died.

Life-giving responses to pregnancy would never make abortion a first choice; indeed, it would always be a final choice. It certainly is for the forming infant. Yet life-giving responses to difficult or unwanted pregnancies may demand choices which fall between the first and the final choices available to us. The life of the mother, both as a physical necessity and as a matter of living responsibly and with dignity, may elicit a compassionate choice for her which would end the pregnancy.

I know that many pro-life advocates reject abortion under any conditions. Some demand that it be called murder. I also know that Jesus never spoke about abortion. So we don’t know what he would say. I also know the Bible does not talk about medically-induced abortions. So we have no direct word from scripture about the matter. Compassion for the woman and for the unborn child might well lead us to decisions which a rigid pro-life position does not allow.

Respect for the woman demands that we at least consider the circumstances of the pregnancy, the irresponsibility and perhaps abuse of the man involved, the potential consequences of giving birth, and similar factors. Compassion for the unborn child might mean considering what kind of life that child would have and sometimes suggest that ending the pregnancy is more compassionate, more life-giving, than giving birth.

Compassion often leads to difficult choices. The poverty, abuse, and violence of our world make it impossible at times to choose what normally would be best or right. I am pro-choice as well as pro-life because I know that the “best” or “right” choice is not always open to us. It is not always a possibility. Sometimes life has become so complex and difficult that we must make choices we don’t want to make.

I am also pro-choice because the choice is not mine to make. I am not that woman, and I cannot judge her heart. Many Christians who call themselves pro-life also supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq where over 1,200 Americans – not to mention perhaps 100,000 Iraqis, including unborn children – have died as I write this. Can such an invasion ever be the “best” or “right” choice? Even for people who supported the military action, surely it was not the first choice. If they believed there had been some other way, would they have thought the U.S. should have invaded? I hope that most pro-life Christians would give a negative answer.

Pro-life principles, to be consistent, must respect the lives of all people. How can we support a ban on abortions and support an all-out military invasion of another country, knowing that it must result in destruction and death for many people? How can we support a ban on abortions and support the dissemination of automatic weapons and the state-sponsored killing of other human beings in prison? Compassion is pro-life. But pro-life is something more than a narrow opposition to abortion. Compassion is life-giving, desiring life for all human beings. It makes us willing to do whatever we can to save lives and to make those lives we save as safe and strong and stable as possible.

pp. 79-82 – “Moral Values: What I Learned Growing Up in Church.” https://jimmylreader.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/moral-values1.pdf

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