February 4, 2013
Has the Pro-life Movement Lost Its Mojo?
I think so. We’ve lost the bigger picture of the sanctity of life.
I grew up in a conservative home, as a preacher's kid, the oldest of eight children. I was raised to be "pro-life." In my family that meant vehemently opposing abortion in all forms.
I walked the picket lines outside our local women's clinic every year as a child, carrying a sign that read, "Abortion Kills Children." Every time someone would drive by, roll down their windows and scream obscenities or flip us off, we felt like martyrs.
Those picketing days were the same Sunday every year. The church would be packed for the sermon on the sanctity of life. We'd all get fired up, go hold our signs, sing some hymns, then exchange stories of persecution over pizza. Afterwards, we'd retreat back to our safe, Christian homes. The message I received during this time (not in my own home, but around Christendom in general) was how evil those women who got abortions were. They were selfish . . . under the control of Satan . . . all liberals . . . they hated God . . . they were ushering in the destruction of America.
It might sound as if I'm disappointed with those chapters of my early life. Perhaps that's part of it, but I realize that was just my culture. The real sadness I have is this:
It wasn't until I was 23 that I actually met someone who'd had an abortion.
It was someone I'd known very well. She wasn't evil…or liberal. She didn't hate God (she was a Christian). She wasn't trying to “destroy the nation.” She hadn’t known what to do. She was afraid.
It ruined every stereotype I had about abortion and the women who had them. I decided to rewrite my own story on what exactly it meant to be "pro-life."
Most of what I experienced growing up wasn't "pro-life as much as "anti-abortion." Many of the people who screamed prophecies of woe against physicians who performed abortions and the women who chose to terminate their pregnancies were the same people cheering when we dropped bombs in the Middle East. In my world, they were the same people calling for the US to make the Arab world a "glass parking lot." They showed little inclination to adopt unwanted babies, or care for the women who carried them. Their definition of fighting abortion was to throw a few bucks at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center every once in a while, in between picketings. If I were a young, pregnant, single woman in my town right now, they would not be an option for me to turn to.
A local church places small white crosses in their lawn to represent the number of pregnancies terminated since the passing of Roe v. Wade. That's a lot of crosses. Every time I drive by, I wonder if we've also helped as many struggling women, the mothers of those babies. Have we invited those women into our homes . . . our Sunday School classes . . . into our lives? Have we been there to be trusted as an option for adoption? Offered to cover medical expenses? Are we willing to care, love, and comfort even if she decides to go through with the procedure?
For the record, I'm pro-life. I believe life should be valued and protected. But claiming to protect the unborn is the easy part. Caring for every other stage is difficult and complicated. Being pro-life to me also means I'm anti-death penalty, and anti-war.
The pro-life movement has lost its mojo because we have not advocated well enough for the life of the born.
There are powerful exceptions to this, of course. There are Catholic and Anglican ministries, along with movements from many other backgrounds, that understand that birth is the beginning, not the end, of our ministry of advocacy and compassion. Unfortunately, they are the exceptions. Many who identify with the pro-life movement still have an exclusive focus on the issue of abortion. The pro-life movement will only recover its mojo when we start to generously and consistently care for life, inside and outside of the womb. The unborn should be the tip of the pro-life movement’s iceberg.
Defending life isn't for the faint of heart, the flippant, or the partisan. More laws or even repealing Roe v. Wade won't end this massive issue. Investing in people will. But we have to be willing to reach out, to listen, and to be present. Abortion probably won't ever be illegal again, but my hope is that with enough love, care, and generosity, perhaps it can be unnecessary. Each one of us can be a crisis pregnancy center. We don't need to send people away somewhere to get help; we need to invite them in.
Pro-lifers, let's put down our picket signs and replace our slogans with invitations. It's impossible for our calls to be heard if we're not willing to take the same risks of lifestyle, money, and cultural stigma that we expect of the mothers we beg to carry their children to term. It's time to get the mojo back.
Pro-choicers, women who've had an abortion, or are considering one, we're here for you. The church can be your space to question, vent, or struggle. We know where you're coming from . . . more than most people imagine.