What a time to live in Tennessee. The air is crisp and the leaves are starting to peak. It’s Sunday, so why not grab a cup of coffee and get into a conversation about abortion?
My opposition to Tennessee’s Amendment 1 is not something I want to hide–on the contrary, I’m making it my business to be outspoken about it. That means it has made it on my Facebook. I know many of my friends belong to churches that support Amendment 1 and are likely wondering what has possessed me to take the opposing view. I would like to be open with my reasons for Voting No on Amendment 1 and I thought good starting point for sharing my views would be this letter I was inspired to write last week:
While driving past the many “Vote Yes on Amendment 1” signs displayed in front of your church yesterday, I found myself feeling very personally offended as a woman and deeply alienated as a person who prefers to see the Church at work to meet life’s challenges with compassion rather than judgment. I felt moved enough to write and I thank you in advance for hearing out what is in my heart.
As you know, Amendment 1 would change Tennessee’s constitution to state that a woman never has a right to terminate a pregnancy under any circumstance. No exceptions.
I am not surprised that your church is opposed to abortion; that is your congregation’s prerogative. I myself whole-heartedly support efforts at reducing abortions by reducing unintended pregnancy, though I expect we may differ on the details. I am also a strong advocate for adoption, and think some signs advocating adoption and orphan care would be a demonstrative addition to your Church’s front lawn. But we differ starkly on the issue of Amendment 1.
Surely you must understand that with Amendment 1, no exceptions mean no exceptions. Women whose lives are threatened by medically complicated pregnancies will not be constitutionally protected to access all lifesaving measures modern medicine can offer.
It is my view that an individual’s faith and an individual’s healthcare are deeply personal and not appropriate issues for politicians to meddle in. This is all the more true in matters where faith and healthcare might overlap; when government makes the personal political, the most intimate parts of our lives can become subject to the dictates of beliefs that are not our own.
Denying a woman the right to an abortion she needs to save her life uses the power of the government to impose faith-based abstention from medical treatment. It is state-enforced religious practice, it is extreme, and it has no place in a free society. And if the issue were not abortion, I believe you and your congregation would think so, too.
Consider the following: Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions out of what they consider obedience to God. If they comprised the majority of the Tennessee electorate, would we be facing a constitutional amendment that says there is no right to a blood transfusion? Christian Scientists reject all medical intervention and prefer, as they believe, to put their health and lives solely “in God’s hands” through prayer. On occasion you will hear in the news about a child left to die an agonizing and fully preventable death from a treatable disease like diabetes because their devout parents are waiting for a miracle (and don’t consider insulin to be just such a miracle). If Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey decides to leave the Methodist Church to give Christian Science a try, what constitutional amendments might we see on the ballot in the next election?
I was raised in the Baptist faith and grew up with the understanding that God uses doctors as his instruments for healing. I have often heard prayer requests such as “Pray that God will guide the surgeon’s hands” or “Ask the Lord to guide the doctors as they seek a cure”. I have even heard prayer requests for patients awaiting organ transplants—prayers, of course, that indirectly beseech God for someone else’s life to end.
I respect that you believe that terminating a pregnancy ends a life. I am not asking you to change your mind. I ask, rather, if you can acknowledge in this issue the connection of modern medicine and the concept of self-defense. Many devout Christians I know are proud supporters of the right to bear arms, and I have no doubt that if their lives or loved ones were threatened, they would use deadly force to defend them if it came down to it. Pregnancy is a medical condition, and as with any medical condition, things can go wrong and tragedy can strike. Even very badly wanted pregnancies can be blighted by terrible complications that threaten the life of the woman, the fetus, or both. Sometimes both lives cannot be saved, and there is a choice to be made. When two lives are on the line, what does it mean to be “pro-life”?
If you and your loved ones have been blessed to not have experienced this heartbreaking dilemma yourselves, you may wish to thank God for that. But I guarantee you that this tragedy has touched the lives of members of your congregation, either personally or through people they know. They may not openly talk about it because it is painful and because they fear that, instead of compassion and spiritual comfort from their church family, they will find judgment and condemnation.
Amendment 1 goes too far. Do you condemn a woman who would terminate a pregnancy to save her own life? What if she is already a mother with other children at home? What if she is the beloved helpmeet of a devoted husband? A pillar of the community? Do these things not matter? What if she simply has the audacity to want to survive her pregnancy? This amendment you’re supporting will set into law that in Tennessee, the unborn—even pre-viability or in cases where fetal death is already likely—have more of a right to survive pregnancy than the women carrying them.
For centuries, complications of pregnancy and childbirth have been a top killer of women. Thanks to modern medicine we have finally reached an era when women can look forward to motherhood without the fear it will kill them. Amendment 1 denies women what modern medicine and God offer them—a chance to save their lives and the ability to make whatever decision they choose of their own free will.
I believe women’s lives matter to the God worshipped in your church. Do women’s lives matter to the congregation? It is my understanding that Christians are called to be messengers for Christ, to live lives that testify to His benevolent mercy and unconditional love. That is not the message your “Yes on Amendment 1” signs are sending. I hope you will reconsider your stance and join me in voting No.