Many people presume that because I am a pastor, I must, therefore, be pro-life. It is presumed to be the “Christian” position on the subject, right?
And I want to be able to call myself “pro-life”. Really, I do. I am a big fan of life. I am thankful for it. I do my best to treasure it each day. I work hard in both my personal and professional life to try to make life better for the people I encounter on this journey through life.
Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is precious.
Who wouldn’t be a fan of life?
So I want to declare myself “pro-life”.
But, somehow, that term has already been taken. And the people who have claimed it have told me I don’t belong. That I can’t be in the club because, as much as I love life, I also believe women should be able to make their own choices about pregnancies and abortion.
They invite me, instead to join the “baby killer” club. Or the “amoral abortions for everyone all the time” club. Or the “pro-abortion club”. At its best, we call it the “pro-choice” club.
But while I am a fan of keeping abortion legal, of allowing women to make their own best decisions about what to do with their own bodies, I’m not a big fan of abortion. If a woman came to me for counsel, I would invite her to consider many other choices before she made the choice for abortion.
Where’s the “let’s improve the status and condition of women so that every pregnancy is a wanted pregnancy” club?
Where is the “let’s call ‘rape’ a crime and stop finding excuses for men’s horrible behavior” club?
Where is the “childhood poverty is a real problem and some women can’t afford to raise children” club?
How do I sign up for the “physical health of the mother’s life matters” club, so the life of a fetus is not afforded more value than the life of the woman carries the fetus to term?
How can I join the “single mothers and unmarried pregnant women and girls still face stigmatization and judgment, so let’s take care of that before we move on” club?
And how can we wrest the “pro-life” mantle from people that seem to believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth? I would like to expand the term beyond “anti-choice” and make it a broader celebration of all of life.
If we were pro-life, we’d be opposed to the death penalty. (I have to give props to my Catholic brothers and sisters, who do have consistency here).
If we were pro-life, we would be actively working to reduce the number of deaths in this country by gun violence.
If we were pro-life, we would be busily reminding our politicians that children (and their mothers and fathers) need access to health care, education, food, and safe living conditions in order to succeed in this world and to live good and healthy lives.
But, instead, we narrowly define our terms about only this one issue, as if our lives weren’t complicated and connected to each other, and as if we weren’t each doing the best we can do to get through the day.
I faced this choice once. I was young, unmarried (and not ready to be married), and not ready or able to raise a child. And when I considered my choices, I was thankful the choice was mine. I instantly had great compassion for my sisters who have chosen abortion.
I was also thankful I didn’t have to make the difficult choice of abortion. Because I was healthy. I had a family who wouldn’t disown me. I had access to healthcare and good food. I had friends who stood by me.
I placed my son for adoption. Without a doubt it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The most painful. And also the most beautiful. My son is now 23 years old and I recently attended his college graduation. I have been a part of his life all the way along and am so thankful for the gift of his life, for the blessing he and his family have been in my life.
And all these years later, as profoundly thankful as I am for his life, I remain firmly pro-choice in my pro-life-ness. Because one thing I have learned is that life is difficult. There are painful choices to make. And rather than take away those choices from people in difficult moments, why don’t we, instead, love the lives who are in the midst of the pain. We could seek to make their lives better, safer, stronger, and healthier so they may more easily believe that life is the best choice for them to make.
Let’s stop with the judging. Lay it down. Because the people who were the meanest and the nastiest to me when I was a publicly pregnant teenaged girl were the “pro-life” crowd who judged me to be a sinner and had no qualms in telling me how I had erred.
If they truly cared for the life of my unborn child, shouldn’t that care have extended past the circumstances of his conception? Shouldn’t their pro-life-ness have extended far enough to offer me help in my life, especially as I made the choice they were seeking to mandate for everyone?
How sad is it when the most compelling reason I could think of to get an abortion was so “good” Christian people wouldn’t judge me?
Judgment was not what I needed. And thankfully, I was a part of a faith community who chose love and grace over judgment. They helped me through the difficult days once I had made the choice for life. I will forever be thankful for the grace of God I received from the people who mattered.
So let’s choose life without removing choice from the equation. Choose all of life. The messiness. The pain. The beauty. The joy. And let’s create a society where, no matter what choice women make, they are able to live into a better life each day, for themselves, and for the children they choose to have.
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. When she’s not herding cats or driving soccer carpools, Marci plays the cello, runs (albeit slowly) on trails near her home, and tries to leave room in her life for grace to break through. She blogs at www.marciglass.com.