themselves with secular reasoning against abortion. Christian pro-lifers often cite religious texts and doctrines to oppose
abortion. And while “God hates abortion” may be a compelling argument for fellow Christians, we need to recognize that pro-choicers can use religion too. People’s interpretations of scripture differ, of course. And apart from scripture, “my personal religious beliefs” can be manipulated by a
creative person to justify practically anything.
Choices, Our Lives: Unapologetic Writings on Abortion . I was reading the story
of a woman who had three abortions. The woman, who gave her name as Chandra Silva,
was a rape survivor who had her first abortion as a teenager when she was well
into her second trimester. Her baby, at this point, was highly developed. Chandra describes the injection of prostaglandin, and the pain she experienced as
her body tried to expel her child:
I felt the need to use the bathroom when something started
descending and my mother, who was trying to help me to the corner store style
bathroom, kept forcing an orange bedpan underneath me. At one point, in
desperation, I glanced between my legs and I saw a head. It was dark and
bluish, and seemed to have little dark hairs. In that split-second instant
there was a nurse on the floor searching between my legs. She was in a bit of
panic herself, fumbling with gloves and clamps, then whisking away the bedpan
What I experienced was unique to me and my evolving self.
To me, it was not an act of murder, as the religious zealots and right-wing
oppressors would condemn, because I believe the soul and personality (which
includes the body) are separate energies. I believe that we can check in and
out of our physical vehicles when the situation requires it – or desires it.
And I think that in cases where a woman chooses to terminate her pregnancy,
there is an agreement between her soul self and that of her child. There is
“soul self” and “separate energies” and unborn babies agreeing to be killed are obviously religious ideas, in the sense that they rely upon supernatural assumptions. Her
claim that the soul of the baby makes an agreement with the soul of the mother,
and that the baby somehow agrees to be aborted, can never be proved – but is a justification of abortion
that makes sense to her, in the same way that “If you have an abortion, you’ll go
to hell” makes sense to Christians. I doubt that Chandra could be argued out of
her religious beliefs, any more than most fundamentalist Christians or devout
Catholics could be argued out of theirs. If a Christian were to come up to her and tell her that God had intended her to have her baby instead of aborting, I
doubt that Chandra would listen.
trying to make is that religious arguments can be used by either side. It is
just as easy to support abortion with religious arguments as it is to oppose it.
Pro-lifers are not the only ones who use religious beliefs to support their
position. From a secular standpoint, religious arguments often seem
nonsensical. No doubt, most Christians would find Chandra’s beliefs absurd. Yet
people who are not a part of the Christian faith may find the concept of an
unborn John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb after encountering the
unborn Jesus just as absurd.
and unconvincing as Chandra’s rationalizations are, when they put forth their
Christian religious arguments against abortion, they sound just as unconvincing
to those who do not share their religious beliefs. The result is that pro-lifers and pro-choicers who do not share the same religious background end up talking right past one another. By focusing on areas of consensus, like human rights and the science of prenatal development, pro-lifers are far more likely to reach someone like Chandra.
Unapologetic Writings on Abortion (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2002, 2004) 32 – 34