A pro-choice pas­tor weighs in on mothers and the be­gin­ning of life

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - BALANCED VIEWS -

The pro-life move­ment is clear about when the life of a fe­tus be­gins — but what seems to lurk be­neath the sur­face is a no­tion that preg­nant women are no longer fully hu­man or fully free. Anti-abor­tion ad­vo­cates in­sist that once a woman con­ceives, re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances, she must choose moth­er­hood — over her phys­i­cal and emo­tional well-be­ing, over her vo­ca­tion, even if it means liv­ing in poverty. Even if it kills her.

Dur­ing this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion, the Texas Leg­is­la­ture passed a law banning the most com­mon and very safe abor­tion pro­ce­dure used dur­ing the sec­ond trimester, known as “di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion.” Only 11 per­cent of abor­tions oc­cur af­ter the first trimester — but since they are more likely to be sit­u­a­tions where the mother’s life is threat­ened, this ban di­rectly en­dan­gers women who may al­ready be at risk. The law is un­der ap­peal.

Be­ing a white, ed­u­cated, mid­dle-class woman has shielded me as dev­as­tat­ing anti-abor­tion laws have shut down women’s health clin­ics across the state — to­day, 95 per­cent of the state’s coun­ties do not have an abor­tion provider. But this new­est law may di­rectly af­fect me; my hus­band and I are con­sid­er­ing hav­ing a sec­ond child, but at nearly 40, I am at a risky “ad­vanced ma­ter­nal age.” Heaven for­bid I en­counter com­pli­ca­tions. Some politi­cians might pre­fer I die than ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy.

For low-in­come women and women of color, the prog­no­sis is even more grim. The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol re­ports that black women are three to four times more likely to die from preg­nancy-re­lated causes than white women. Texas has the high­est ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity rate in the “de­vel­oped” world, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the Jour­nal of Ob­stet­rics and Gyne­col­ogy.

These lat­est de­vel­op­ments in Texas have re­in­forced the as­ton­ish­ing bar­ri­ers Amer­i­can women face in de­ter­min­ing their own re­pro­duc­tive free­dom. Since the start of 2017, state leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try have al­ready passed more than 50 abor­tion re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing wait­ing pe­ri­ods and manda­tory coun­sel­ing de­signed to dis­suade women from hav­ing an abor­tion. West Vir­ginia and Mis­sis­sippi have al­ready banned the di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dure, and sim­i­lar bans are pend­ing in Arkansas, Ok­la­homa, Louisiana, Kansas and Alabama against heavy le­gal op­po­si­tion.

As a for­mer South­ern Bap­tist, I know first­hand what it means to be de­voutly pro-life, though ex­pe­ri­ence has taught me that abor­tion is a much more com­plex is­sue than of­ten por­trayed. The ba­sic lim­i­ta­tion of the anti-abor­tion move­ment is that it at­tempts to con­front the moral com­plex­ity of real life with a rigidly sim­ple set of com­mand­ments. I can sym­pa­thize with this ap­proach; it is a sur­vival in­stinct. But it threat­ens our ca­pac­ity to ex­pe­ri­ence the abun­dant life that Je­sus promised by hold­ing women’s lives cap­tive to the dic­tates of pub­lic of­fi­cials.

Par­ent­hood inevitably in­volves sac­ri­fices. But isn’t there a qual­i­ta­tive dif­fer­ence be­tween sac­ri­fices freely made and those leg­is­lated for us? Do we re­ally ex­pect women to sac­ri­fice their lives to bear chil­dren? When does a mother’s right to life be­gin? When does her per­son­hood start?

I am not try­ing to con­vince any­one to ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy. I am say­ing that women’s lives mat­ter to God and to their fam­i­lies, and they ought to mat­ter to politi­cians. As long as we only de­fine life as the pro­tec­tion of a fe­tus, we have dan­ger­ously over­sim­pli­fied the is­sue. Only when we can af­firm that a mother’s life need not end for a child’s life to be­gin can we truly call our­selves “pro-life.”

As re­ported by the AmericanStatesman’s Tony Plo­het­ski, Josh Wil­liams was run­ning on the hike-and­bike trail on the morn­ing of Sept. 15 when he heard a woman’s screams and re­al­ized she was be­ing at­tacked. Wil­liams had a Glock 43 pis­tol with him, which he pointed at the man and told him to get off of the woman. He said he has been li­censed to carry a gun for a decade. Wil­liams’ in­ter­ven­tion led to the ar­rest of 22-yearold Richard McEach­ern.

Mike Nosker: This is a per­fect ex­am­ple of com­mon-sense gun own­er­ship. All he needed was a hand­gun — not an as­sault ri­fle with a bump stock.

Mike East­man: The as­saulter didn’t have a gun. Any man could have jumped on the at­tacker.

Vic­to­ria Cle­mente: And I’m sure this man re­ceived proper firearm train­ing and would pass a back­ground check, like all gun own­ers should.

Marie Re­hbein: Not only did he have a gun, but more im­por­tantly, he was pay­ing at­ten­tion to his sur­round­ings.

Erika All­bright: I’m very glad he was there and took ac­tion. But I chal­lenge the im­plied con­clu­sion that the gun was the only rea­son the rapist stopped his at­tack.

Richard Si­vage: The im­por­tant thing he stopped sex­ual as­sault, same as NRA mem­ber stopped killing with AR ri­fle did Sun­day.

Ch­eryl Frink: My hus­band stopped a man who was as­sault­ing a woman on the hike and bike trail sev­eral years ago. My hus­band was a good guy with­out a gun.

Bil­lie Cooper: Good guy with a gun takes care of busi­ness again.

Mike East­man: A stun gun or Mace could have stopped the at­tack as well. You don’t need a gun to be a man or a hero.

David Gen­try: I am glad this per­son is OK. But a very in-depth and lengthy study was con­ducted by Stan­ford Univer­sity which showed clearly that good guys with guns don’t stop bad guys with guns.


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Across the coun­try, opin­ions are sharply di­vided on abor­tion. Amer­i­can women face as­ton­ish­ing bar­ri­ers in deter­min­ing their own re­pro­duc­tive free­dom, writes the Rev. Amelia Ful­bright.


Josh Williams, 39, stopped a sex­ual as­sault Sept. 15 by draw­ing a gun on the as­sailant.

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