06 November 2000

Under the Ban

Abortion before Roe v. Wade

I remember the way it was before Roe v. Wade.

One of my college classmates, call him Steve, had a girlfriend we'll call Lori, who went to another school. Despite their passion, they took their responsibility seriously, and used birth control every time. But she still got pregnant.

There was no question of having the baby. They were at critical junctures of their lives, in which continuing their educations was a make-or-break endeavor to escape poverty. They could not stay in college without help from their families, who would have insisted that they drop out and get married.
Instead, Steve managed to raise some money, and they flew secretly to a nearby state where Lori could get an abortion. They returned the same day, to make it look like a long, but ordinary date. The abortion was legal and safe, except for their rushing in, having the procedure, and rushing out to catch the plane. At the clinic, Lori was fine. On the plane, she hemorrhaged.

She bled for days. She felt weak, and hid her paleness with make-up. She knew she needed medical help, but she waited, hoping to keep her secret. By the Grace of God, the bleeding finally stopped.
Steve felt guilty for risking Lori's life, and for killing the life that would have been their child. He tried to believe in reincarnation — that somehow, the kid would get another chance. Not long after that, his relationship with Lori died, too. They haven't communicated in almost 30 years.

There is a lesson in this for both those pro-choice and pro-life. For the pro-choice it is this: According to the founding documents of our republic, we are endowed with rights by our Creator, including the right to life. To any thinking person of faith, it is blasphemy to assert that our Creator gives us the right to kill the lives that would otherwise become our children. Abortion is not a right — it's a wrong. It may be a need, given the state of human nature. As long as we guarantee access to abortion, it is a freedom. But it's still wrong. The pro-choice cause is hurt by pretending otherwise.

For the pro-life the lesson is this: Given the tragic state of human nature, good people — people more moral than most — are going to get abortions, with or without Roe v. Wade. It's just that without it, more middle-class girls will become injured or dead, more poor girls will become mothers, and more unwanted children will be neglected and abused. I know a conservative Christian who became pro-choice after working with abused children who had been made wards of the court.

Both sides need to admit that human nature is such that we knowingly do wrong, we deny that we know it, and we develop wrong-headed solutions to stop ourselves. Defending a woman's freedom to choose abortion will no more make you a good person than denying her that freedom. We cannot by our own efforts perfect ourselves — all attempts by societies to do so have ended horrendously, from gas chambers of National Socialism, to the Cambodian killing fields — and you know it.

I hope that bit of rhetoric pissed you off. You pro-choice and pro-life people out there might just drop your attacks on each other for a moment, and for the love of God, listen to each other. Give the other side its due when it tells the truth. Consider what reasonable limits we might place on the freedom to choose abortion — because all freedoms must have limits. Stop playing a single-issue politics that gives us is a corrupted judiciary and a demeaned public discourse. We ask our politicians, "Are you pro-choice or pro-life," when we should ask, "What is Justice?" and "How do you plan to lead us closer to achieving it?"

The freedom to choose abortion is the freedom to kill while you can still convince yourself that you're not killing your child. It's a freedom the majority of us grant to increase your odds (or your partner's odds) of surviving what some of you would probably do anyway. It is our way of helping our prodigal sons and daughters survive to return someday. But preserving the freedom to choose abortion is evil, and it is doubly evil to assert otherwise. It's just that letting girls like Lori die would be evil, too.

And for those who have had abortions, there is Forgiveness. It's free for anyone who knows they need it.

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