Clergy Confessional (81) Abortion

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Let me start by saying I do not like abortion, and I don’t know anyone who does. There is nobody that is “pro-abortion”. I personally thought of my children as people as soon as I knew I would be a father. I saw their pictures, heard their heartbeats, fell in love with them – and started thinking of names. I don’t need you to agree or disagree – it is my opinion.

Which is why the emerging restrictive laws (most recently in Alabama) making abortion a criminal offense are wrong and cruel. Since there is no way to truly define when life begins, these laws are not based on science, but on theological opinions. And if your theology is one that leads you to believe abortion is wrong, you are free to believe that – you and I are together in that. But your theology – from a Constitutional point of view – is not a reason to create laws.

Please stop basing your belief on the Old and New Testaments – the word abortion doesn’t even appear in these collections. The scriptural foundations used by most religious people are the following: 

1 – verses that speak of the individual’s belief that God knew them before they were born,

2 – that John the future baptizer leapt in his mother’s womb when encountering Mary (recently pregnant with Jesus), and 

3 – a passage from Leviticus that speaks of the penalty for causing a miscarriage during a fight. The person who causes the miscarriage must pay a fine. Among Jews and Muslims there are no set definitions of when life begins, but according to a 2017 Slate article, most Jews equate breathing, not a beating heart, with life.

Like the word homosexual, assumptions and interpretations are at the root of religious people’s condemnation of abortion. I have known many women and girls over the years who had abortions, and the choice to carry or not carry a child is often painful and emotionally disruptive. Women who are forced to have a child they do not want suffer in a number of ways, and women who have abortions also suffer. To make light of their decision is to lose sight of the emotional, spiritual, and psychological struggles they go through.

As a man, I will never have to make this choice. I have the right to control what happens to me, and will never truly understand what women go through. I do believe this: criminalizing abortion would be like criminalizing my ability to get a vasectomy – which, for some, is another form of preventing life and should not be allowed. Regardless of what you believe about abortion and when life begins, these laws are destructive and callous because they do not take into account the amount of suffering every woman might incur. Rape and incest are, in themselves, the fault of the men – it is estimated that 98% of rapists are men – and men are the ones who are creating these restrictive laws. 

Every time a woman wakes up, there is a chance she might meet with sexual violence and abuse. I don’t have that fear. Every time a woman dresses up or goes dancing, there is a chance she will be seen as the cause of sexual violence. I don’t have that fear. Men are the cause of rape – and unwanted pregnancies – and restrictive laws concerning women’s bodies. I think I see a pattern – do you?

Steve Ohnsman has been the pastor of Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), an MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a DMin in Christian Ethics from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a PhD in Leadership from Alvernia University (PA).

Author: Pastor Steve Ohnsman