As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I recently marched with other pro-choice advocates in Portland. In my ministry, I have counseled parishioners and students to consider all their options, including abortion, when considering reproductive health.
Few issues are more controversial, and while many maintain that you cannot be pro-choice and Christian, here is why I hold that Christians should be pro-choice. Many Christian bodies, including the United Church of Christ, have pro-choice views.
A pro-choice position is consistent with Christian ethics. As the United Church of Christ has long maintained, Jesus affirmed the moral agency of women. Those of us who are Christian should follow that example. That means, like Jesus, we trust women to make their own decisions.
Republicans in Texas and elsewhere have launched a full-throated assault on Roe v Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guarantees the right of women to safe abortion services. Many politicians involved in this effort claim their Christian faith as the driving factor in their push to outlaw abortion.
The Bible, however, offers no clear guidance on abortion as we understand it today. So while many opponents of abortion point to vague passages to justify their stance, they are just bending the text to fit their concerns.
As an example, pro-life activists often quote Psalm 139 ("For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." v.13 NRSV) as evidence that God would oppose abortion. However, this text, in which the author reflects on humanity's relationship with God, has nothing to do with abortion.
In considering abortion, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has repeatedly noted that reverence for human life is what the Bible advocates. Such reverence must extend to the life and well-being of pregnant women and the life of a child after birth.
Returning the United States to the pre-Roe v Wade days would not end abortion. It would merely return abortions to the back alleys, where women would risk their health and even their lives. How would that be pro-life?
Abortion rates dropped dramatically during the Obama administration, as access to family planning, sex education in schools and contraception expanded. If you want to reduce abortion rates, support family planning. Many pro-life politicians and religious leaders do not support family planning or sex education in public schools. In essence, pro-life leaders help create the "crisis" they claim to despise.
We should also do everything possible to expand support for mothers, families and children. No one should be feel forced to have an abortion out of financial concern. That is no real choice at all.
Efforts to expand adoption services should also be a priority, not because a woman should ever be forced to carry a fetus to term, but because adoption is a choice for many, and it remains underfunded.
Yet, again, too many pro-life politicians and religious leaders oppose child care tax credits and food assistance to support newborn babies and their families. The efforts to ban abortion — by mostly male politicians — are a political effort. Some involved have a genuine concern for babies' lives, but for many, that concern ends once the baby is born.
Jesus tells us to put concerns for the least of these — children, those living in poverty — ahead of other matters. But, unfortunately, I am convinced that the primary concern is control over women for many pro-life politicians and religious leaders, not a reverence for life.
The reality is that President Joe Biden's expansion of the safety net, particularly his efforts to reduce child poverty by half, is the most pro-life agenda in recent history. Tens of millions of children will thrive because of his efforts.
The Rev. Jes Kast, a colleague of mine in the United Church of Christ, shares my pro-choice views. When asked by The Atlantic how abortion should be discussed, Kast replied: "I value a more nuanced conversation. I value thoughtfulness a lot." So do I.
I've never met anyone who is "pro-abortion," myself included. I am solidly pro-choice and pro-women's choices because we live in a society that devalues women and very often takes away their choices about their own bodies.
My mother, the late Judy Bright, was never pro-abortion, though she directed a Planned Parenthood Clinic. Ultimately, she believed women had the agency to decide for themselves.
Like Rev. Kast (and my mother), "I believe that the person who can best make these decisions is the person who's considering these decisions."
For those who genuinely see the abortion debate as one regarding life, I would urge that we set aside political attacks on Roe v Wade and focus on finding common ground. Many faith people from all backgrounds reject the charged and sometimes hateful rhetoric involved with the abortion debate. These folks see the good in family planning and support services for women and children. So let's refocus our attention in that direction.
In the meantime, we must oppose laws that limit women's access to health care.
The Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie of Northeast Portland is a minister in the United Church of Christ.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.