I am an anti-abortion Christian. My views might lead those who voted to ban nearly all abortions in Alabama, and now Missouri, to think I am cheering on their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the news coming out of Georgia and Alabama — as well as Ohio and other states — that lawmakers continue to pass increasingly restrictive abortion bans has made me angry in a way I cannot remember being in a long time. These laws, which are aimed at challenging Roe v. Wade, serve as a sickening reminder of the ways much of what I hold most sacred has been weaponized by the forces of the American religious right.
First, the obvious: Laws that restrict access to abortion are not an effective way to end or greatly reduce the number of abortions because people will continue to have abortions regardless of the law. We actually know how to reduce the number of abortions. Most of those ways involve being honest about how and when people have sex and giving people the information they need to have sex responsibly.
Yet most who favor these highly restrictive laws do not seem terribly interested in pursuing policies that would do any of these things. Every state that has passed a restrictive law around abortion in recent weeks requires that sex education “stress” abstinence. Neither Alabama nor Missouri mandates sex education, though when it is taught, both states require that it emphasize the importance of “sex only within marriage.” Georgia, which does mandate sex education, does not require that information about contraception be included.
This simple fact suggests to me, when I am in a less generous mood, that they are not concerned about preventing abortions. They are instead interested in enforcing their own reactionary views with regard to women and sex.
I believe that abortion always ends a unique, irreplaceable human life. I also understand, of course, that there is a multitude of circumstances in which the moral calculus is not easy. But I want a world in which unintended pregnancies are exceedingly rare and in which no one is the victim of rape or incest. Lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia do not seem to want to work toward these goals.
If laws like those recently passed in Alabama and Georgia succeed, they will not bring an end to abortion. Instead, they will punish the most marginalized and the most vulnerable. Low-income people, women of color, and victims of rape and incest are among those most likely to be harmed. These are the very people that my Christian faith demands I protect.
And using abortion policy as a covert means by which to dictate the sexual behavior of another person strikes me as a deeply un-Christian act. Claiming that you are defending the innocent when in fact you are trying to find a way to enforce highly debatable standards of “purity” runs counter to everything I understand about the message of Jesus. At the heart of that message, after all, is the central demand that we love God and others and that we act to protect and serve the most marginalized people in our society. And it is in this that these laws truly fall short.
Draconian bans on abortion — and frankly anything other than liberal access to abortions along with comprehensive sex education and access to contraception — fail to protect human life, both in the womb and outside of it. This, in itself, should be intolerable to any Christian, particularly one who views abortion as morally suspect.
Every human being is made in the image of God. For this reason, I cannot compel the actions of others with respect to their bodies and lives. I cannot tell them when to have sex or when to have children. I cannot tell another woman what to do when she finds herself pregnant after a rape or pregnant with cancer or pregnant without a paycheck.
I can only work to create a world in which people are truly making decisions without fear or coercion. Nothing about these terrible laws does any of that.
That is why, now more than ever, it is imperative that people of faith, particularly those for whom their faith compels them to adopt an anti-abortion position, speak up against these draconian measures. These laws are not a pro-life or Christian response to abortion. They are entirely the opposite.
Katherine Kelaidis is a writer and scholar whose work focuses on the intersection of religion and politics. Find her on Twitter at @katiekelaidis.