Faith and Reproductive Freedom

A weight lifted from my shoulders as she affirmed, “Maybe God is leading you to not have kids. And that’s OK.” It’s one of the few times that I’ve received faith-based validation for my conviction to not procreate. I was so grateful for this friend of mine sitting across from me at this coffee shop, seeing me and actively listening to me without judgment or condemnation. She herself—ten years my senior—does not have children, and we bonded over the ways in which this frees us to support and love others. It was a unique and much-needed moment of solidarity for me. After all, the pressure to procreate is real, and our world is in need of a shift that honors and supports all reproductive choices.

My friend and I are two white middle/upper-class cisgender Christian women who are in straight-presenting marriages in the American South. On paper, all signs would stereotypically point to not only “must have children,” but “must want children,” or else risk being labeled as selfish. This social landscape and my own convictions are in a constant tension that I’m learning to live with. While it’s true that I might change my mind and want children someday, I also very well might not, and that is just as valid and important.

This tension makes the future of abortion access so personal and significant for me. It’s why the largely faith-based efforts to restrict such access feel like a slap in the face. Studies consistently show that most Americans, and even most Catholics, support access to abortion in all or most cases. And yet here we are, with a small but clearly loud and powerful group projecting their religious views onto entire states—and likely the entire nation come June—with alarming success.

What would it look like to live in a world where more folks who are personally against abortion could respect that it is, in fact, a personal choice that must be left to each individual? Where more conservative people of faith can internalize, “I wouldn’t choose abortion for myself, but that’s my own view and others deserve the right to consider that choice”?

What would it look like to live in a world where people of faith could all acknowledge that there’s no clear answer to when ensouled life begins? Or that the answer to this question has been debated over the centuries even by some of the most prominent theologians—and usually with results very unlike the “life begins at conception” stance taken by many today? That to set a clear limit based on arbitrary boundaries and the twisting of scientific fact is unacceptable and intrusive?

What would it look like to live in a world where abortion was even seen as an acceptable and moral choice? Where pregnancy did not automatically imply having a baby? Where pregnant people had the free and uncoerced space to ask, “Is this the right time for me to go through a(nother) pregnancy and welcome a(nother) human into the world?”

I realize these questions may strike many as audacious, and I hope to one day live in a world where they don’t, a world where these questions are finally seen as commonplace and sensible. I’ve often heard the refrain, “having a baby changes everything.” Which, to me, begs the question, “So then why don’t we give people all of the freedoms and tools possible to determine freely and without coercion whether or not they’re ready for that change?” This includes not just abortion, but access to medically accurate and comprehensive sex education, free contraception, and also the various supports in place if one does decide to have a child: quality health care, affordable childcare, paid parental leave, and so on.

The fact that, generally speaking, those against abortion are usually the same folks against the abovementioned supports shows that their fight isn’t authentically (or at least not entirely) about “protecting vulnerable unborn lives.” It’s about a broader narrative and end goal: one that insists on pregnancy and parenthood (largely motherhood) as a default reality. One that insists a new pregnancy or potential child is always something to be welcomed unconditionally. And one that doesn’t hesitate to intimidate and traumatize people—especially people of color—who choose abortion for themselves.

Which brings us back to my dilemma. The tension brought on by my resistance to motherhood has become a well-known companion. I expect this tension and I will continue to coexist until we can all bring about the world I dream of. The radical world that really isn’t so radical. The world where nothing about reproduction is coercive or intrusive, but rather is truly free, consensual, and dignified.

Since 1977, Pro-Choice North Carolina has worked tirelessly to change stigmatizing narratives around abortion and sexual and reproductive health and to protect and expand reproductive freedom in our state.

Please join us on Tuesday, May 24, for our virtual Spring into Action Gala and learn more about the future of abortion access in our state, the ways that Pro-Choice North Carolina is working to ensure true reproductive freedom for all North Carolinians, and the many ways you can help. 

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