I haven’t made a secret of it, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. She’s not my first choice (I caucused for Bernie, and honestly I wish the DNC hadn’t pre-crowned Hillary to be their de facto choice for 2016) but for me she’s the best candidate running in the general. In discussing politics and votes with family and friends about the nightmare of the 2016 election, the one question I come across most is how I reconcile my views on abortion and voting for a candidate that is all in on abortion rights.
First, I send whoever is asking the link to Rachel Held Evans’ essay on voting pro-choice while being anti-abortion, she makes an incredibly thorough argument of what being Pro-Life means and how many programs on the left statistically lower abortions by much larger margins than the right’s approach of blocking it legally and restricting access.
In addition to this I had a personal experience twelve years ago that informed how I see this issue. When diagnosed with unexplained infertility, my husband and I were told we have a less than 1/1000 chance of ever being able to conceive on our own, and if we were to use IVF our chances went up to around 30-50% for our age and health. After a lot of thought and prayer we decided to go ahead with the procedure.
IVF was developed via experimentation with embryos. They had to mess up on a lot of them to figure it out in the first place. When the first successful pregnancy was announced concern was expressed from conservative religious representatives around the world. The Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Gordon Gray said: “I have grave misgivings about the possible implications and consequences for the future.” Even to this day many, many organizations have very restrictive teachings on assisted reproductive technologies (ART), ours doesn’t.
Right before we began IVF I was handed a form that we had to designate our long-term plan for any extra embryos we might have at the end. After all of our IVF(s?) were done, what were we going to do with the extra embryos? Have them destroyed and thrown away? Donate them to another couple? Pay to have them frozen indefinitely? Donate them to science?? In the end we marked the form to donate them to science, whatever helped possibly give us a new life could help bring others life in another form. It wasn’t an easy choice.
It ended up that we had complications during our cycle and after a freeze and thaw only 1 of our 31 embryos survived. I’m still not sure how I feel about those 30 extra embryos that became collateral damage to bringing my one into existence. I do know that God was in the details and because of Him we have the gift of a beautiful miraculous daughter.
When she was born we were living in Iowa during an election cycle (when is it ever NOT a political cycle in Iowa, eh?) and I had my own political blog (Confessions of a Moderate Conservative). As I interacted with fellow religious conservatives in the joint fight against abortion online, I found I was an outsider. Many believed in Personhood from the moment an embryo is created and I was called a baby killer (repeatedly). I tried (repeatedly) to explain that God is the God of science and medical miracles and it may be a gray area for many ethically, but God gave me my baby. I was demonized for my choice and called to repentance.
Many of my fellow conservatives were disgusted by my behavior and justifications. They didn’t believe I should legally even have the option to make those reproductive choices for myself. I was grateful for my agency to make reproductive decisions regarding my life and body. I was grateful that I took on my own shoulders the consequences for any choices I made. I alone will stand accountable for them (ha, with my husband!) in the next life. At that moment I felt a kinship with women who agonize over their own reproductive choices that others might not agree with; including taking birth control, choosing sterilization, the plan-B pill, and yes, even abortion.
I’m proud to support policies that lower the numbers of abortions (source). Abortions should never be used flippantly as birth control. I can’t think of a single person that wants to increase the number of abortions; but that doesn’t mean we don’t support legal access to them. In a way, yes, that is even the official position of the church (pro-choice).
You may choose a different place to draw the line on when it is appropriate to give women the right to choose reproductive decisions on their own. I’m glad for myself that I wasn’t restricted from doing so. I hope that we create circumstances that an ever decreasing number of women will ever be placed in the position of whether or not to have an abortion. I’m against abortion and I support policies and programs that decrease their numbers, but I don’t support legally taking the choice away from others. I grant them the same agency I was given.
and really if you still haven’t read RHE’s essay on being anti-abortion and pro-choice, please do so. it’s great.