A Pro-Choice Man Grieving Pro-Life Women


Photo credit: Melissa Golden/Redux

There’s a strange moment in nearly all of my interactions with professed pro-life women, one that never fails to disorient me and grieve me.

Whether they’re tossing venomous diatribes into my Twitter mentions, tagging me with expletive-laden Facebook attacks, or standing in front of me with self-righteous condescension, I eventually have a realization:

only one of us believes she should have full autonomy over her own body and it isn’t her.

Whether our exchanges in that moment are chilly or combustible and regardless of how incendiary their words toward me might be, it never fails to fill me with a sadness.

They are fighting with me and I am fighting for them. That never feels right.

Looking at us from a distance, it might at least make some sense why a white man raised in the church who has pastored for two decades would be telling a woman that she is not worthy to be the author of her story; that strangers get to determine what happens to her body, that her most intimate of decisions are the jurisdiction of supposed men of God. That misogyny is baked into Conservative theology and politics.

But the irony of my interactions with women who advocate for the removal or limiting of the rights of women, is that I am trying to advocate for their inherent self-worth while they seem less passionate about it.

I am not pro-abortion.
Like nearly all pro-choice human beings, I never rejoice over or celebrate these decisions, because I know that they are ones reached after arduous deliberation and great pain; that they are often born out of emotional trauma, physical assault, or dire medical news.
I know that abortions are not chosen impulsively or without careful or prayer wrestling.
I believe in education and in birth control and in doing everything possible not to create an unwanted pregnancy. All pro-choice people I know believe these things.

But at the end of all of that, I defer to the woman because I simply don’t believe what happens within the confines of her body is any of my business—and I can’t comprehend why any woman would contest such a belief: how in my validation of her autonomy I am viewed as her enemy. I am fully, unwaveringly for her. The sanctity of her sentient life is a non-negotiable for me.

There is a sad irony at play when I realize that a pro-life woman arguing with a pro-choice man like myself,  is essentially relinquishing control over her destiny to other men and I am saying she deserves better. I wish we were allies in this and not adversaries because my respect for her is complete.

I respect her more than her pastors, more than her politicians, more than the men who may have raised her or attended her church or lived alongside her.

I am a pro-life man, in that I am pro-the lives of women and believe that ultimately they should not be compelled by the law or the church or by other men to make a decision about their bodies and intimate lives that they do not wish to make.

It would give me great joy if more professed pro-life women simply agreed with me.

Mother’s Day Should Be a Woman’s Choice

Mother’s Day should not be compulsory for any woman.

It should be the yearly celebration of a decision, a moment to mark a beautiful but perilous journey one has carefully or prayerfully chosen to traverse. It should not be an annual reminder of a destiny decided by strangers who will never know their names nor care about their stories nor partner with them in any way.

As the Republican Party and its surrogates in the highest court in our nation finalize the legislative removal of women’s autonomy, Mother’s Day will be forever weaponized. For millions of women, it will become not a voluntary holiday of reflecting on a difficult, yet desired vocation—but a mandatory act of reliving assault, of recalling trauma, of commemorating domestic abuse, of acknowledging their servitude, of feeling less-than.

No one should want any part of making Mother’s Day such a day for anyone.

But this isn’t only about these women who will be made to be mothers on this and every day:

It is about the now-absent men who will have experienced no such biological trauma, who will never be penalized for their choices, who will never have the law invade their bodies, who will not have to carry within them something they have not chosen to. It is about their silence then after their great volume now.

It is about millions of children who will be born into regret and guilt and injury: about the inherited trauma of being brought into the world by force, into homes were they will not be welcomed, in circumstances that are financially dire and emotionally barren, and with suffering already defining their stories.

And it is about that multitude of callous strangers so passionate about “life” in these moments, who will then say to these children and to those who raise them that there is not enough to provide them “handouts;” that we lack the resources to help everyone. It’s about the once-opinionated and now-apathetic bullies who will chastise these women for working the system. It is about the sermonizing saints so consumed with the sanctity of life who will offer nothing but judgment and finger-wagging. It is about those who will tell these mothers to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and stop living off the Government. It is about the stratospheric gall these people will display when lecturing these women on their poor choices—when motherhood was not their choice.

Some women celebrate Mother’s Day as they look retrospectively at something they fully embraced with all its blessings and burdens.
Others grieve on this day for dreams of motherhood that never materialized or for those children they lost too soon.
These are both very different but still natural markings of this day.

But Mother’s Day should never be something any woman is made to participate in.
It should not be a permanent penalty of the law.
It should not be an annual memorial to their subjugation.

Mother’s Day should be a choice.

Dear Republicans,

Dear Republicans,

This doesn’t have to be this difficult.

It really doesn’t.

This is all so frustrating to watch.

I wish I could make you understand some things that you seem unable to grasp:

I wish you understood that no one is out to harm you. We don’t want to take away your ability to worship as you desire, to marry the person you love, to have autonomy over what happens within your body, to live where you feel at home—we just want you to allow that right to other people: to allow them to exhale and breathe and be comfortable in their skin, to let them feel safe in your presence.

I wish you understood that we are for you. Life is difficult for you, we know. It is difficult for everyone, which is why we can’t understand your preoccupation with policing other people’s bodies and bedrooms and marriages, why you can’t simply allow every human being to do what you’re trying to do: make it through days that are painful and terrifying enough without needing to continually fend off your neighbors at home and at work and at school.

I wish you understood that there is abundance here. The stories of scarcity you tell yourself or the ones given to you by your politics and theology simply aren’t true. There is enough food and opportunity and care and work to go around, if we are open-handed and creative enough to make sure that everyone has access to enough; their sustaining daily bread to endure this day.

I wish you understood that diversity is better. Other faith traditions, other pigmentations, other expressions of love, other experiences of the world don’t do anything to diminish yours, they simply show you the beautiful complexity of humanity and they let you get better stories about people you may have only seen from a distance. Difference is not dangerous.

I wish you understood that life does not have to be a war, despite the ways your preachers and politicians spend their days convincing you otherwise. You do not always need to be in battle with other human beings or to be readying yourself for some encroaching enemy, so you can stop clenching your fists. This life can be collaborative instead of competitive. Someone else’s gain does not have to be your loss.

I wish you understood that you are not being attacked. You aren’t. What you are experiencing right now is the defense posture that people continually have to be in as they face your incessant assaults on their efforts to enjoy life, liberty, and happiness as promised in the framework of this nation. They are fending off relentless violence from your legislation and your school board tirades and your coffee shop tantrums. People aren’t trying to injure you, they are trying to avoid injury. These are the God-image-bearers you say all human beings are supposed to be. They are the exhausted, hurting, and hungry neighbors that your Jesus calls you to love.

Most of all, I wish you understood what a waste this hatred is: how much time it squanders, how much unnecessary pain it causes, how many people people it harms—the good it prevents us all from doing together. No child should have to go hungry in America, no one should go bankrupt when they get sick, no one should be living without clean water. The thing that prevents us are the fruitless wars we allow ourselves to be drafted into.

The days we get to be here are so fragile and fleeting for all of us, and to use up so many of them perpetually terrified or feeling as though everyone is your adversary—is simply not worthy of their brevity.

Republican, I wish you realized how good life could be for you and for everyone else if you would simply leave people alone and let them find happiness and have rights and enjoy the time they have here.

Better still, if you could find it within your heart to desire the same good for others that you want for yourself, I think it would bring a revolution that would amaze us all.

I know you may not receive these words well, but I needed to say them.

This could be easier.

 

Yes, the Sky is Falling in America

For the past six years, many of us knew this day was coming.

We sounded every alarm, rang every bell, we shot up a thousand desperate flares to rile people from the numbed stupor of laziness, apathy, and false security and awaken to the slow, almost imperceptible erosion of the bedrock of Liberty around them.

Day after day, we crafted every urgent plea possible to persuade them: appealing to their intellects and their hearts and their humanity.

They told us we were exaggerating,
we were overreacting,
that we were drifting into melodrama or delusion,
that the doom we were forecasting was a fabrication,
that such grim realities were virtual impossibilities.

They said that the center would hold,
that an entire political party would not be consumed by him,
that our elected officials would not abandon their calling,
that the Christian Church would never discard its namesake,
that good people would not embrace conspiracy,
that the courts would protect the law,
that the system would not fail us,
that democracy was bulletproof.

“The sky is not falling, Chicken Little!” they said. “You need to relax.”

As we watch the rights of women to have autonomy over their own bodies and healthcare decisions teetering on the abyss here, it’s difficult not to come to a sickening conclusion:

Yes, the sky is falling.

When the realization hits that the highest court in our nation has been fatally polluted by a traitorous serial grifter and his cadre of predatory ghouls who hold contempt for the laws of this land, the aspirations of its framers, and the diversity of its people.

Yes, the sky is falling.

As the likelihood of a white evangelical theocracy grows exponentially higher, and the possibility of minority rule becomes increasingly likely, and the chances of a truly legitimate election seem to be dissolving like fog in the morning sun.

Yes, the sky is falling.

When every guardrail of the law and the free press and consciences of good people seem to be failing simultaneously in a perfect storm of circumstances too massive to outrun or avoid.

The sky is indeed falling.

So, what do people of faith, morality, and conscience do when the heavens around them come crashing down?
When the worst-case scenario plays out in real-time?
When the arc of the moral universe is bending sharply toward injustice?

What do decent human beings do when the sky is falling?

We hold up the damn sky.

We transform our outrage into action.
We channel every bit of grief and anger and fear into a focused and productive response.
We waste no time in useless performative displays of social media despair.
We abandon our doom-scrolling and our handwringing and our prophesying of disaster.
We log out of our devices and step out our front doors and into the trenches of our local communities and we do the work of saving what we can.
We give and work and organize and sweat and fight, and when we feel we will expire we rest and begin it all again.

These days as difficult and unthinkable as they are, are not new.

We are not standing where billions of others haven’t stood before: watching what seems like the inexorable march of fascism and the unavoidable arrival of autocracy and feeling hopelessness creeping up our bodies like a quickly-rising flood.

And in every such time and place, despite the dwindling odds and the mounting terrors and the vanishing options, the good people have done what good people always do: they have bravely and steadfastly spent themselves on behalf of those who would follow them—so that they might inherit something a little more beautiful and a bit less violent than had they never lived.

This is our invitation and calling right now.

There is no denying that much of what we feared in November of 2016 has come to pass and likely more will play out in front of us. It is highly likely that it will get much worse before it gets better.

And yet, as bad as it is or becomes here in America and elsewhere, people who believe love will have the last, loudest word, still have the responsibility and the ability to walk into the tumult of days like these, to press our shoulders together, to steady ourselves, to raise our arms to the heavens—and to hold up the sky.