It has been quite a week. Pastor Jason was involved in all the church Sacrements last weekend. A funeral, a wedding, a baptism, a dedication and communion. Which means it was a very. busy. weekend. So I didn’t get my blog post done on Sunday. I was a bit disappointed in myself but I just didn’t have peace about the final version. Well, it got scrapped so here I am with version number 2. Same title, different content direction.
My first version of this post told a story about Nancy and Mac, who we sat next to at the rehearsal dinner and who were a voice in the wilderness for us. They spoke into our lives and reminded us that what we do each day has meaning and purpose, that our hard work is not thankless and that there is hope in the future. And then Monday happened. Work was work and people were acting a fool. So the blog post sat.
But today my disappointment for not being done with the blog post “on time” was wiped away by renewed inspiration to be a voice in the wilderness. If you didn’t know, I live in Oklahoma. Today, our state passed a bill that makes it a crime for any physician to perform an abortion in our state, except for in the case of the life of the mother. You must be thinking as a person of faith and a pastor’s wife that I would think this is great news, right?…wrong. Fasten your seat belts kids, this Jesus loving gynecologist is going to try to explain to you why this is a terrible idea. It’s going to take a minute, so bear with me.
First, I don’t think we can consider ourselves “pro life” unless we are really going to work to help make a life for those around us. That means a living wage for all people, enough food for families to eat, prison reform, quality education for all and support for those women who find themselves raising a family alone…not to mention standing up against domestic violence and sexual assault. And to be pro-life means you support planned and appropriately spaced pregnancies so that they are more likely to have healthy babies and take care of them in the ways we would all like. It means you believe in access to affordable and reliable contraception for everyone. Because even if you intend to be abstinent you might find yourself among the 1 in 5 women who is a victim of sexual assault..see previous blog post…needing emergency contraception. Which, by the way, prevents ovulation…which happens PRIOR to conception, therefore not ending pregnancies, just preventing them. And if we as the culture, the church or the community are really going to say we are pro-life…then we need to have the guts that two of my close friends did and invite a child from the over-flowing foster care system into your home.
Second, laws like this do not deter women from getting an abortion. Electively terminating an pregnancy in my state is not easy to do. Women must have money, transportation, time off of work, family or community support, not to mention navigation of the multiple laws. So I don’t think adding this one will make a huge impact. What makes abortion rates go down? Access to affordable and reliable contraception. In Western Europe abortion rates are very low, even though it would be easier to have an elective termination of pregnancy there compared to most places in the US. Why? They have a high rate of contraception use and a low unintended pregnancy rate. Furthermore, I disagree with the legislation of reproductive rights. What would happen if someone made a bill that said I couldn’t have fertility treatments to have my second child? What about a law that says no one can have more or less than 3 kids? Uh, no thanks. We think that these laws restricting or outlawing abortion are “good” because abortion is “bad,” but legislating reproductive rights in any way is never good. You just might not see it that way until you are on the receiving end of the law and it doesn’t fit your belief system.
Lastly, physicians don’t practice good medicine when we practice in fear. In my job and within my belief system I would only be involved in a termination of pregnancy if the life of the mother is in danger. I make these decisions based on clinical experience, medical evidence and science and standards of care if they exist. Except…now that I might go to jail if I make the wrong decision will I second guess just what does “exceptions for the life of the mother” mean? Can I remove the ectopic pregnancy, and therefore terminate the pregnancy, before it ruptures and tries to kill the mother? Do we deliver the woman with very early and very severe preeclampsia knowing her baby will almost surely die from prematurity before she has a stroke or a seizure or is her life only in danger if one of those happens. These seem like silly questions but when providers are asked to make decisions with a law hanging over their shoulder threatening to make a criminal out of them it just might impact judgment and decisions. And that will certainly negatively impact the lives of women in our state.
So what do we do? Well, it is my hope and prayer that no woman would need to undergo an elective or medically necessary termination of pregnancy (i,e, abortion). I hope that I will be around to see that world. But it won’t happen if I don’t do my part. My solution, for today, was to be a voice in the wilderness. Mostly, I try not to get myself or the pastor in too much trouble with my tendency to say whatever I am thinking and ask whatever is on my mind. I will certainly have friends in my church, my Christian community and others around me strongly disagree with this post. But as Pastor Jon and Jason say, we must find a way to disagree Christianly. Nancy and Mac, from the rehearsal dinner, were a voice in the wilderness for me. They weren’t afraid to say what they thought, to listen to us and to tell us that our voices matter. Today I am a voice in the wilderness for the women and their children in my state. My state that has no solution for a 25% reduction in state funded healthcare that will leave thousands without access to medical care, a state where the district I live in has a 3.6 million dollar deficit to make up for in education despite having some of the lowest paid teachers in the nation and no art program. A state where we put more women in prison that almost anywhere else, where we have significant problems with tobacco abuse, obesity, cancer prevention and other community health needs.
Isaiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It is the inspiration for this blog post. I love Isaiah 40.
Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Be a voice in the wilderness today. I challenge you to think about what it means to be “pro-life” to everyone around you, whether you think like them or not. The truth is they are loved by God just like you. Maybe, together, our voices can improve the systems we live and work in so that the valleys can be lifted up, the ground will be leveled and the glory of the Lord will be revealed to the least of these that surround us. Thanks for enduring with me on this one.