As someone who has spent much of their life on the pro-life side of the abortion argument, I thought it would be worth sharing how I came to change my mind on the topic. I’m not trying to yell at anyone or debate them, but I am trying to share my own journey. And hopefully it can help someone who has come from a similar evangelical fundamentalist background.
CW for discussion on miscarriage / pregnancy loss and abortion
One of the main things that changed my mind on the topic was the discussion around miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. For those that are unfamiliar with the typical fundamental view of pregnancy and conception, many fundamentalist insist that “life begins at conception.” (That life begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg) This is where a lot of the more extreme pro-life views on hormonal birth control and IUDs start. With many pro-life fundamentalists teaching that because some birth control pill may block the blastocyst from implantation that this is the equivalent of causing an abortion. The same logic is also applied to IUDs. These are the views I grew up learning.
I then went to college and starting learning more. Though keep in mind my school was still very pro-life and encouraged nurses to never work for a hospital that would offer abortion care to their patients. They also presented extremely skewed views on any type of contraception including IUDs and birth control pills. But I still gained a lot more knowledge about fertilization, pregnancy, birth, and birth control.
Then I entered the real world. I got married, and entered into the workforce at a small hospital. Much of what I was taught in my childhood and at college quickly became challenged. My wife had a miscarriage within the first six months of our marriage. We were quickly told that “God had a plan” and that God had a reason for this miscarriage. (Keep in mind at the time we both believed that god had full control over everything that happened in our lives.) I will cynically point out that belief that god controls everything leads to some really dark implications. For instance, that God choose to kill (what I viewed at the time as an unborn child) our fetus. And for a while we (me and my wife) convinced ourselves that God did indeed choose to do that. We moved on, tried again, and ended up with our first child.
Life continued and I saw and heard more. Through work I saw an overwhelmed foster care and DHHS (state social welfare) system that were overwhelmed. I saw women who were in abusive homes struggle to support and care for their children. And it contrasted a fallacy world I had been taught so vividly. I was told that the church and state care for those in need. That if a woman “chooses life” there will be people there for them. I didn’t see that. Nor did I see any conversation in churches about these problems. Instead I heard more conversation fixated on prevention of abortion.
After the birth of our second child we spent a lot of time in the NICU (think ICU but for babies). And it was quickly evident that a large number of the children that surrounded my son in the NICU were destined for the foster care system. But because they had a complicated medical history these babies had poor chances of finding someone to care for them. Yet, in my evangelical world I would still see and hear arguments from the church that if anyone wanted to “keep their baby” they would adopt the child in a heartbeat.
Then my wife had a second miscarriage. This time it was a lot harder for me to swallow the idea that God chose this. That “He had a reason” for this pain and suffering he brought to us.
Around this time I was starting to listen to more progressive Christian viewpoints. And one of the conversations around abortion discussed the high rate of naturally occurring spontaneous abortions. With researchers estimating that anywhere from 20%-40% of all fertilized eggs end in spontaneous abortion. I’ll link a NIH article that suggest 30% as a probable statistic. And a large number of those spontaneous abortions are thought to occur even before the pregnancy is traditionally able to be detected. As the linked article suggests this is often due to a fetal chromosomal abnormality. The uterus naturally will allow for a spontaneous abortion for fetuses that wouldn’t be viable for the full gestational period and delivery. I know this isn’t every miscarriage, but it is true for a large number of them (50% of all spontaneous miscarriages is the statistic suggested in the NIH article).
It was extremely hard for me to try to find a way to reconcile this fact with the beliefs I had about god. I believed that god was omnipotent and all powerful. And that he had control over every life on earth. Hearing that my omnipotent god was (in my evangelical eyes) killing off 30% of every “life” in the world before they were even born was a bit much for me to try and rationalize.
A few other small things that pushed me towards pro-choice. Discussions with pro-life family members about “snowflake babies” that refused to acknowledge special needs foster care children in need of a home. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it’s the words evangelicals use for frozen embryos. Physicians that perform IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) often create multiple embryos due to poor implantation rates during IVF. The embryos that are not used are frozen or destroyed. Due to the previously mentioned belief that life begins at fertilization evangelicals believe that this embryo is a human being with a soul. And will encourage individuals to “adopt” the embryo(s) and have a child via IVF using another couple’s “snowflake babies.” This is an expensive process and it is not guaranteed to cause a successful pregnancy. In my eyes it ignores the children already in the US in need of a family that have already been born. With the focus being instead on the “snowflake baby” and a potential future pregnancy.
Watching pro-life politicians strike down bills that would help struggling parents and infants. For recent examples look at the numerous pro-life politicians that voted against a bill that was created to help ease the current infant formula shortage. Or the same politicians that have voted against paid maternity / paternity leave. Something that would greatly increase the quality of life for new parents and their infants. I know it’s a complicated issue, but it’s hard to see where and how pro-life politicians support mothers and infants.
Also as I delved into the history behind my evangelical heroes I realized there were issues with the way abortion entered into politics in the US. Up until the late 1970s there was very little push against abortion from evangelical Christians (even though Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973). And prominent evangelical leaders and publications even supported abortion. This included organizations like Christianity Today and leaders in the SBC. Once the late 1970s and early 1980s came the Moral Majority quickly flipped that overall evangelical position. Abortion was used right along with anti-gay, anti-equal rights amendment, and segregationist rhetoric to push evangelicals to become the voting block they are today.
This was not the version of history that I had been sold as a child. The history my homeschool curriculum taught (Abeka) portrayed was an immediate condemnation of the Roe v. Wade ruling. Forgetting to mention the ties to racism – And how many Moral Majority leaders became involved only when their “whites only” Christian private schools and colleges were told that they would loose their tax exempt status (Bob Jones is a clear example here).
I know there is a lot more that can be said on the issue. But I wanted to keep this post to what personally caused me to initially reconsider my own belief regarding the pro-life movement.