Marvin G. Thompson: The Church Should Be Both Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice

BCNN1 is a pro-life publication. This is an opinion piece and does not represent out views on the matter.

The issue of abortion is fraught and divides the church in the most unchristian way. The nature of the debate forces the Christian community to choose sides which engenders suspicion of the genuineness of each other’s faith. The church has one foundation and ought not to be divided, especially on the issue of abortion (and some other social issues, which are also a function of choice).

The church cannot be anything but anti when it comes to abortion. That has to be, as it were, its default position if it is to be faithful to the spirit of the scriptures. But note that I say the “spirit” of the scriptures. Because, in spite of what you may hear or read, the scriptures do not address abortion directly. The scriptures address the value or sanctity of life; and as with many of the things we regard as correct to do, it is a guiding principle. Yet, there are times when a life is taken without violation of that principle (Ecclesiastes 3:3).

But to be anti-abortion does not, and should not constrain us to an anti-choice only position. A good Christian can be both ant-abortion and pro-choice at the same time. The problem with the debate is that the two are often conflated and confused. Additionally, the demagoguery of some prevents the intellectual exercise of nuanced thinking and an appreciation of the complexities inherent in the issue of abortion.

So, while the church must remain anti-abortion by default, it is not intellectually or morally tenable to remain anti-choice. The church has to be clear on its position. It makes no sense to say that there should be no abortion in any circumstance whatsoever. That belies a level of ignorance of the complexity of abortion decision making, and an antipathy to the feelings and concerns of those for whom it is performed. The morality of abortion cannot be reduced to simple arguments.

The decision to have or not have an abortion is complex and deeply personal. It exacts significant emotional toll on the individual or individuals who have to make that life or death choice. An outsider, even if that person had gone through a similar process already, cannot fully appreciate what another individual is experiencing in those crucial moments. This is simply because each individual brings their own set of background experiences that may evoke different emotional responses.

What of the psychological state of mind of the woman in the case of incest or rape? Is it prudent to say to an emotionally distraught and devastated victim that it was God’s plan; that it is a sin not to carry the pregnancy to the end? People are different psychologically, and the state of mind that informs their decisions on any given issue is not uniform for every circumstance. That is one reason why it is so difficult to find the “right” words to say to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. That is why it is a delicate balancing act to use words in comforting a friend after the breakup of a relationship, or the loss of a job, or to someone contemplating suicide to do otherwise, etc.

When it comes to abortion itself, there are several reasons that it may be medically necessary. I will not go into those here, but suffice it to say that a medical decision to perform an abortion is also complex and deeply personal. The life of the fetus/child and the mother often hang in the balance. While consent is regularly required from the mother, the nature of the case may be such that either the mother or the fetus/child she is carrying has to die for the other to live. Otherwise both may die.