Monday, June 30, 2008

Rev. Wallis, Is It Time for Us To Talk Again About Reducing Unplanned Pregnancies?

Jim Wallis, the Director of Sojourners, and I have had several public and private discussions about abortion in the U.S. He believes and writes that the dialog about abortion has to change, and that both pro-choice and anti-choice persons need to agree to work to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. He said so again in this week's Newsweek online.

My point, also repeated in each of these dialogs, is that we need to agree to reduce the numbers of unplanned pregnancies in the U.S. It is precisely because life is sacred and parenthood is precious that no woman, no couple, no family should be forced to deal with a potential life that is begun carelessly. Jim and I agree that abortion is a moral decision; what we don't agree on is that it is always a tragedy. I also cannot support abortion reduction as a goal in itself as long as there are active forces trying to make the procedure illegal or enact restrictions that make it almost impossible to get.

Here's what Rev. Wallis said on last week:

On abortion. I have repeatedly said that I believe abortion is wrong and always a moral tragedy. The number of unborn lives that are lost every year is alarming. But I also do not believe that the best way to change that is to criminalize abortions and just force them underground. The question is how can we actually prevent unwanted pregnancies, protect unborn lives, support low-income women, offer compassionate alternatives to abortion, make adoption much more accessible and affordable, carefully fashion reasonable restrictions, and thus dramatically reduce the shamefully high abortion rate in America? You say you want to respect the will of the people. Well, every opinion poll shows the same thing - substantial majorities think that there are too many abortions and that we should pursue measures to reduce and restrict the number, but they do not support overturning Roe v. Wade.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that the abortion rate is at its lowest since 1974, a year after Roe v. Wade. Abortions are coming down in the U.S. The abortion rate is down 100,000 since 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and that 62% of mainline Christians and 84% of Jews believe that.

What Rev. Wallis isn't telling you is that according to the Guttmacher Institute, placing retrictions, whatever "reasonable restrictions" might be, doesn't make abortions rarer, it makes them less safe.

And despite my reading his paragraph over and over again lest I missed it, what Rev. Wallis isn't calling for is hope for young women for productive futures through quality education and job opportunities (as was missing in last week's stories on the so-called pregnancy pact), sexuality education, and high quality family planning services. Rev. Wallis, as a pro-choice feminist and minister, I will do everything I can to work with you on assuring adoption services and high quality prenatal care and parenting support -- when will we see you working to assure women AND men have access to the means to prevent pregnancies in the first place?


Jo Gerrard said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

I would love to live in a world where abortion was unnecessary, where every child conceived was wanted and could be properly cared for. But even if unnecessary, I would want it to remain legal.

I, too, don't consider every abortion a tragedy. It will be nice when "abstinence only" education goes away and abortion can be legal, safe...and rare.

Bill Baar said...

-- when will we see you working to assure women AND men have access to the means to prevent pregnancies in the first place?

How has JW failed given your quote from him?

Anonymous said...

Lets see if we can agee on verbage:

"Pro choice" has nothing to do with making a choice, in reality it is PRO-ABORTION. How many planned parenthood clinics talk about "choice"...well, according to their own records, their abortion to adoption ratio is a staggering 138 to 1, hows that for "choice"?

As for "polls" from Pew..I can produce as many polls indicating that Americans think abortion is immoral.

But I would rather look to the Word of God, instead of polls,
"For by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom.3:20).

"If men strive, and hurt a women with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life" (Ex.21:22-23).

Anonymous said...

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).

Anonymous said...

"Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15)

Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalms 22:9-10)

Anonymous said...

For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalms 139:13-16

Katey said...

Dear Anonymous,
Yes, we are all familiar with the verses you posted. While these passages do speak to our being created, the truth remains that scripture neither condemns nor prohibits abortion. We cannot attribute this to the non-existence of abortions since the use of abortifacients was widely practiced during the time that Deuteronomic law was formed. Additionally, the Exodus passage (which you misquoted and reads, "When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life") implies that a fetus was seen as holding a different status than a person. While Scripture is silent on abortion, it does call us to act compassionately and justly to those who are marginalized and facing difficult moral decisions.