Pastoral Thoughts on Decades of the Abotion Debate

At least from my perspective as a pastor, I think the abortion issue is one of the more complex moral problems of our age. It pits the rights of the mother against those of the child, such that if one takes one side over the other, one is perceived as compassionless by the other side.

I’ve had to counsel women who have wanted to have an abortion for various reasons — some of which I could empathize with, and others whom I found it hard to do so. Likewise, I’ve counseled women (some girls) who wanted to continue the pregnancy for what I perceived as noble reasons, and others for less than noble ones. Some honestly did not have the skills and maturity yet to be a mother; others had them but had no confidence that they did.

The complexity of each of these women’s unique circumstances forbade me from using the same advice to one woman that I needed to give to another. The way you counsel a girl who is naive as to the demands of motherhood is quite different from counseling a woman with several children already who doesn’t know if she can emotionally and financially provide a good home to a child, and whose experience of adoption agencies and families make that option unviable.

What I’ve seen from those who take a hard line about abortion from either side is a lack of understanding, empathy, and compassion for those who have a different perspective; and for very little support of women who wrestled with some very hard decisions in which they felt caught between a rock and a hard place.

I once had a quite rigid view against abortions of any kind except in cases of rape, but hearing the stories of women who have very legitimate concerns both pro and con has kindled my empathy considerably. I would not want to be in the place of most of these women in the choices they had to make. There were times when their stories were so captivating that I either found myself wondering what I would do in their situation, or actually thinking I would do something I would never have imagined of myself given that I’d never thought of the complexities involved.

Abortion and gay rights have been two social issues that galvanized left and right wing ideologies that have created much of the polarization we have now in America. Obviously, there are many more issues than these two, but people have become so entrenched in their views on these two issues as to forget how to be civil, reasonable, and empathetic.

The majority of women who have talked with me on this issue have revealed they took their situation very seriously, considering not only their own health and well-being but that of the child — and not only for the present, but for years to come.

I can’t see anyone else in a better position than they themselves to make these wrenching decisions, certainly not a government body composed of men who never even thought about the intricacies of issues involved in such a decision.

I find it incredible that people who never believe that abortion is justified are often the very same ones who take away funding to help provide housing, food, and the basic necessities for those lives they once thought were so precious. Likewise, I’m incredulous at those who advocate for social subsidies for the poor who frown on any sort of moral counsel in helping women make the choices that will be best for them and the one in their womb.

All of this is to say that I no longer prefer to make blanket statements about abortion. Each situation is unique, and both wisdom and compassion requires one to not judge one woman’s circumstances based on those of another.

I consider myself both pro-life and pro-choice — but unlike the ways these positions are portrayed by their opponents.

I’m the former in believing life is intrinsically valuable before and after birth, and that we as a nation need to do a far better job at guaranteeing the basic necessities of life for all persons — throughout all the stages of life.

I’m the latter in that I think each person should have the right to choose what will be best for them and their unborn children. No one has more of a right to do this than the persons themselves. I may not always agree with their decision, but I value each person’s liberty to choose for themselves rather than a bureaucrat who doesn’t even know them or their situation. I certainly would not want someone else deciding for me if I were capable of being in that predicament.

— Rev. Bret S. Myers, 3/3/2018

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