My introduction to the trauma of unwanted pregnancy occurred one night when the women of our household disappeared at dinner time. I discovered them clustered in the front doorway, speaking quietly in frightened tones. A girl had gone to Mexico and not come back. When I asked my god-sister why she had gone there, I was told because she was afraid to tell her parents that she was going to have a baby.
Abortion is a procedure that yields no victors, only victims. For that reason, debating the matter yields no winners. But it’s important that the debate not be grounded in the evasion of lies, fear and death, but in the pursuit of truth, hope and life. So I’m going to offer my understanding of the issues from that second perspective.
Life is the integration of matter and spirit. I’ve participated more than once in the consummation of that binding during pregnancy, and it doesn’t necessarily occur at conception. Only a mother can be certain when the binding happens, and I would hope that makes a huge difference to her.
The nature of the spirit that is carried is important. We don’t fret too terribly much when a surgeon divorces us from cancerous tissue and the destructive spirit it anchors. In that light, insisting that a woman carry to term a baby that was forced into her by rape seems to be cruel. Similarly, the spirit of a child that gestates in a substance abuser might deserve relief from a toxic environment.
Does that mean that the infant spirit is guaranteed to depart following surgical removal of the fetus? Not necessarily. The womb is designed to anchor an infant’s spirit as much as to nurture its body. Of course, pregnancy isn’t necessary for a lady to suffer from spiritual pollution of the womb. I have rescued a young woman ruined by a single night of casual sex with a destructive man.
Cleaning up that kind of mess is done most effectively by offering the infant spirit a better alternative. Sometimes that is as simple as pointing out where other opportunities lay, but may include suggesting that it will have a better life if it hangs around until the mother gets into a stable relationship with a supportive and loving father. Such post-pregnancy tenancy happens more often than one might imagine, particularly when the mother desires to have a baby at some point in her life. Surgical abortion isn’t the only cause: 60% of all pregnancies abort spontaneously.
I’m the result of a union with such a hanger-on, who sits on my right shoulder. He came into the world to help me with a problem I’ve had in past lives. When somebody offered to remove him for me, I felt rather a sense of gratitude that God had provided me with such a companion. When a woman is too weak to resist the sexual demands of predatory males, she might find a similar benefit to have parts added until she develops the strength to say “no.”
That summarizes the theory and personal practice. What about Biblical injunctions? This is tendentious. In Genesis we are enjoined to “be fruitful and multiply”, but Jesus obviously didn’t feel a need to pursue that practice, and offered women non-traditional roles in his ministry. We should also not overlook the holy favor showed to Perpetua of Carthage, a mother still breast-feeding when she was martyred for her faith. Clearly the purpose of women in God’s plan goes beyond child-bearing.
“Thou shalt not kill” is also frequently invoked, but that’s not entirely consistent with the rest of the Judaic Law, which commands capital punishment for a number of offenses, including occupancy of a coveted territory or unrecognized Messiah-hood (the offense that allowed the Savior to prove his divinity). You can’t ignore the Father’s flexibility on this point. The inconsistency is resolved in Jesus’s observation that “all the law hangs” on love of the Father and our neighbors. That suggests that everything else in the law is conditioned upon circumstances.
So where, vis-à-vis abortion, does that leave us as Christians?
Well, first, we must invest in ensuring that women understand the sacred nature of their wombs. This goes well beyond motherhood. The womb is a place for the binding of spirit to matter, and that skill can be projected into the outer world as well. For this reason, Daniel 11:37 foretells the Messiah as “the one desired by women.” To anyone that has seen what happens to a woman when she is offered love to bind to the world, that obviously isn’t limited to emotional yearning. When a women uses her skill to bring unconditional love (which is Christ, of course) to a hungry world, the world vibrates with joy all through her. Yes, it’s incredibly sexual, and if we encouraged women to accept that joy then maybe they wouldn’t be so willing to let boys make a mess in them.
When we fail to encourage women to bind themselves fully to the unconditional love that is their due, well, they are going to face temptation, and some of them will submit. What happens in the eventuality of an unwanted pregnancy is between the mother, the infant spirit, and God. Whether a surgeon is involved or not is really incidental: a spiritually potent woman can manage the process without medical assistance. Among those not so gifted, some will find themselves encouraged to carry the baby to term by a supportive community, and some will be so enamored of the infant soul that they will bring the baby to term against all obstacles. Our job as Christians is to ensure that every expectant mother makes her decision in a supportive, loving environment. If she makes a choice that we disagree with, then our job is to provide love and counsel to help her heal and develop the strength to avoid a repetition of her error.
Under no circumstances should we use anger and shame to force an expectant woman into an outcome that she fears. For those that insist on that path: you assume the onus of ensuring that her child has all the advantages in life that yours do. After all, it was your will that brought the child into the world, so it’s really your child.
What about the innocent victim, the wounded infant spirit? That can be subtle. I knew a man with a really complex sexual identity. He served in the Navy for a number of years, and once spontaneously deciding to dress up in drag just before leaving port, creating a real stir on the aircraft carrier as the men raced about looking for a female stow-away. I ultimately came to understand that he was chaperoning the spirit of the daughter that he had sworn to protect, and who had clung to him in a past life as they perished in a shipwreck. She needed this life with him to restore her trust in living.
I could go on with examples, but the point is: don’t focus on how terrible the experience was, reach out to the infant’s spirit and show them how beautiful life can be. Don’t let them be trapped with someone not mature enough to raise a child. Open your heart to them, and help them find a home in a community that knows how to love.
You see, the moment of death really isn’t so long as compared to the span of our living. Dying is something that we suffer again and again. What’s important is that in each dying we come closer, step by step, to a life filled with loving.