I grew up strictly pro-life. To not be pro-life was to not be pro-Jesus. (Back in 1988 I was told you couldn't be pro-Jesus without being pro-Bush).
We took some poetry in scriptures and interpreted them to mean that a person is an eternal soul in need of protection from the moment of conception. Honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with that belief based on scriptures. I don't know if it's how I'd interpret them now that I've learned better how to study the scriptures and understand the role of genre in their meaning. But I don't think - unlike rejecting evolution because of Genesis 1 - that you have to check your brain, science, your understanding of poetry, and your respect for what scripture is trying to actually communicate at the door to wonder if maybe life begins at conception. I think it is a solid belief. It's a belief I lean toward most days.
NT Wright is a lot smarter than me and has a lot of solid beliefs. All the same, he says that at least 20% of what he believes is wrong. And the catch is, he never knows which 20% (Justification pg 20). I am not NT Wright. I'd tend to think my number is much bigger than 20%.
I think that believing life begins at conception it's a solid belief. But it is a belief. And one that is not really clear from scripture. So one that is prone to being in the 20% - or more like the 50% of best guesses we make but won't know about in this lifetime.
And since becoming pregnant, my body is falling apart. My energy is incredibly low. My husband and I have often marveled that evolutionarily speaking, this whole process make no sense. It is brutal. Blessed! But brutal.
Luckily, I work a flexible job with very supportive people to whom I am responsible. I can work two hours then sleep two hours then get back to work. I can spend an entire day throwing up and not worry about losing my job or wages. I can spend days on end throwing up and not worry about my job. I get good maternity leave. Luke gets good paternity leave. We have insurance. And our denomination has potential ways to help cover medical bills we can't afford.
If I were a single woman working an hourly job for a corporate employer, I may be unemployed by now. I would, at least, be out several hours and even days of wages. I would assume by now whoever does the scheduling would stop scheduling me full time because finding subs at the last minute is hard. It would be wise to under-schedule me. And so, I would not be able to feed myself and this extra person. I would probably not be able to afford rent. I couldn't dream of buying all the things this new person will need; even now, browsing amazon for the long list of essential items is little scary! And Lord knows I could not keep my house clean! (Thank you Luke - you are amazing!)
Our medical bills so far (just past the low maintenance first trimester in a low risk pregnancy) with excellent insurance have capped $400. That is a lot of hours at minimum wage. And many folks at minimum wage do not have excellent insurance.
It's going to get worse. I could end up on bed rest. A friend of mine had trouble walking toward the end of her pregnancy. Another had migraines. And if, for some reason, we were to give a child up for adoption, I'd still be out even more hours of work recovering from giving birth. Keeping the kiddo means finding a way to provide for it and to provide for its care after our minuscule (sometimes non-existent) American maternity leave. Praise Jesus (literally, thank you Jesus!), my mom is close, retired (privileged enough to be able to retire at a fairly young age), and happy to help. She was an excellent mom to me and I'd trust her wholeheartedly with my child without a second thought. But that's definitely not everyone's story.
Again, I love - LOVE - this little parasite inside me. Never met him/her/zer. Don't even know if it is a him/her/zer. Haven't even felt a kick yet. All the same, she/he/ze is my favorite! She/he/ze makes me cry, laugh, worry as though worrying was what I was created to do with my life, hope like I've never hoped before...BUT! she/he/ze is a parasite at this point. My beloved little parasite.
And I do believe my sacred parasite is a life that deserves protection. But that's my belief. Maybe it's actually true. I'd tend to think, today, that it is. But it could be in my 20%+ that is not - that I do not know about. I certainly cannot not be certain simply on the basis of some ancient Hebrew poetry (that I also love almost as much as my blessed parasite.)
And I'm not willing, because of my belief - which I can never be sure of as is the nature of religious belief - to take away any heartbroken woman's right to say: "I just can't make this work." I'm not even willing to tell her she's wrong. Especially when living in a country that does not make provisions to care for a woman throughout her pregnancy, birth, and that important fourth trimester.
I was raised strictly pro-life. Learning to better study scriptures and their genre moved me to being pro-choice. But being intentionally pregnant - while adoring my holy little parasite - has affirmed a deep commitment to defending a woman's legal provisions to make the best decision she can for herself, her body, and her family.
And for many of my friends reading this: I know you are going to be disappointed in me. I know you're going to be angry. I know you're going to tell me I can't be pro-Jesus without being pro-life. Some of you are probably calling me a backslider as you read this. You probably can't believe that someone let me become a pastor if I feel this way - or maybe it is affirming your belief that women shouldn't be pastors. It's such a shame I'm not walking with Jesus like I used to.
But let me assure you, I spend every day doing my best to walk with the mysterious Jesus I am always newly meeting. Please wait before you write me off. I may be pro-choice in my voting and my belief that we should support Planned Parenthood. But I am pro-life in how I live. I would say that I am pro-life - in the Jesus Way.
I am pro-life in a lived and loving way.
I am not pro-life in the ballot or in a facebook status with propaganda but I am pro-life when I sit with a friend considering abortion and tell her she has a supportive community who won't leave her alone in this struggle, who can be the village that makes her baby's life possible.
I am pro-life when I help a neighbor with a baby find diapers for the month when her pay check is stretched too thin.
I am pro-life when I advocate for adequate maternity leave and support systems for new mothers.
I am pro-life when I ask how we might provide child care at Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings.
I will be pro-life when I teach this wonderful little parasite growing inside me to love her/his/zer neighbors as her/his/zerself - in an active, concrete way that might just allow pregnant women in financial and relational trouble to imagine a hopeful future for their unborn children.
If you disagree with this post, let's meet along the Jesus Way and be pro-life in these incarnational ways together rather than fighting a pointless philosophical fight or working to defund reproductive care for women in financial need (of which I was one while working for an underfunded non-profit that could not afford insurance for me when I first got married and needed birth control to keep doing the Gospel work I was doing for that non-profit!).
Think on what you know of the Jesus story. Don't you think Jesus would invest his energy in loving and supporting people rather than shaming them or changing laws that allow them to make the best choices they can?
That's the Jesus I believe in. And I'd be willing to say definitively that my belief in that Jesus is one of my beliefs - if not the belief that is true.