23 August 2012
My God wants me to be pro-choice
Fern Hill over at Dammit Janet set upon me a task, to see what the Bible had to say about abortion. Short answer: Nada. I could not find a single reference to "abortion", "caused herself to miscarry", or any variation of those. Even "unborn" got me a single reference, and it was to "a people yet unborn". But there are references to babies in wombs, pregnant women, and so here are some of them. I left out the ones that weren't relevant to "personhood" or the equality of the babe in womb to the mother. Things like curses upon women that they'll miscarry, and references to war atrocities like ripping pregnant women open (because ew). That last one has some relevance.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Lovely image, that. Of course, we know that's not quite right, but it is a lovely image.
This is what the LORD says— he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
Same idea, God actively forming the fetus.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged forever.
Okay, Jeremiah definitely feels like he was an individual in the womb, and that in the womb, he could be killed. And God said he knew him in the womb. Okay, I am definitely onboard with the idea that this is an argument for the fetus being a separate entity from its mother. But so what? Does that mean that his mother, or any mother, is morally obliged (never mind legally obliged) to allow it to continue to develop? Then? Certainly. Because the fetus belonged to her husband. Though many a woman found herself a way to abort. Seems if that were a big deal they'd have mentioned it. Now? No. Not for a woman who isn't Christian, certainly. Christians? I think that's between them and God, because there's nothing in here that is completely clear.
As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
Oh boy. A fetus with emotions. Or maybe he just decided to kick. Mine liked to do that when I ate spicy food. Joy? A pretty image again, but I see no evidence of anything other than wishful thinking. Interestingly, this this the only reference in the New Testament bestowing any sort of awareness on a fetus.
Amos 1:13-14 This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not relent.
Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders, I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah that will consume her fortresses amid war cries on the day of battle, amid violent winds on a stormy day.
Ugh, it's that ugly ripping open pregnant women I mentioned. There's a fair bit of it in the Old Testament (Hosea and 2Kings especially). Looks like this is a worse crime than just killing the women or the children. Why? Because of a few things: Biggest reason is that pregnant women were property carrying other property. Children, in utero or not, were property of their fathers. Women, property of their husbands. So those pregnant women were especially valuable.
About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.” Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
Well then. Nice guy. Guess that fetus is worthless. Doesn't seem to have any value to Judah at all. And when they do have value, well, we're back to property value:
Exodus 21:22-23 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life. (Gives birth prematurely = miscarriage, as in those times, preemies didn't have a chance - in the King James version, it reads "her fruit depart from her" - Good News bible says "loses the child")
There are lots of laws set out in Exodus about what you can do to slaves, children, people who curse their parents. And this one is right smack in the middle of it. It is absolutely clear in this passage that they did not believe fetuses to be of equal value to women. Killing a woman (accidentally, that is - go ahead and beat her to death if she cheated on you) was punishable by death. Killing a fetus, but not the woman, punishable by fine. A clear reference to the value of a fetus being less than the value of a wife.
So is this another example of the Bible contradicting itself? Not really. Okay, so assuming you take everything in there to be golden, and completely relevant today, what this says is that God forms life in women's wombs, little lives, capable of experiencing joy. And that these lives are just not as valuable as fully formed ones. They're valuable, certainly as property, with property value. God never really says anything about their inherent value as souls - oh sure, he had plans for some of those fetuses, and God's plans can't be thwarted by mere women with inconvenient pregnancies. Though maybe that's why he bothered to send angels to Mary and some of the other women, so they wouldn't find a good herbalist.
Okay, I'm being a bit facetious, because as I've said before, I think the Bible is an interesting set of tales that show us what our ancestors thought of God, not God's Law, enshrined in paper, divinely translated and transcribed perfectly for all eternity. We can learn from it, learn from them. So no, I don't think that Exodus's law for killing a fetus really proves what God thinks (because I'm pretty positive God doesn't want us keeping slaves and beating them - same book, same chapter), but it does show clearly that the people of the day didn't value fetuses like the anti-choice crowd now do, and claim God does (using scripture as backup). They're the first to jump on the likes of me for cherry-picking quotes, but they're leaving out a pretty damning one themselves.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: My God values human life: fetal life, child life, adult life, elderly life. My feeling is that God would really like our world to be such that no woman ever felt the need to abort, and that we are fucking it up royally. But my God is not an idiot. He knows that women will do this, for all sorts of reasons, some good, some terrible (for God to judge though, not me!). And he'll want them to be safe about it. Because he loves them. He'd rather lose one precious life than two. And so I am vehemently pro-choice. Because abortion restrictions do not prevent abortions. They push them underground, and instead of one life lost, there are two.
And that's what the anti-choicers miss. They're so concerned about the "right" of the fetus to live (I disagree with that too, but on different grounds), that they forget to give a shit about the mother. They say horrible things like, "If a woman doesn't want to die of an illegal abortion, she shouldn't have one". Which is short form for "You get what you deserve, slut". They don't care that there are situations where it is definitely a better choice to abort - abusive marriages, mother's health - mental or physical, the care of other children, just for starters. They live in this world of black and white, right and wrong. And that's just simply not reality. We live in a world where there's wrong and more wrong. Right and more right. Where children starve if Mom can't work, and Mom can't work if she's on bedrest. Where husbands beat women for being pregnant, even when they're the ones who got them that way. Where fragile minds would breakdown if the body had to carry a fetus to term. Where crappy Dads beat the shit out of kids, so maybe it's a bad idea to give him more victims. Where 9 year olds are impregnated by their stepfathers and don't have bodies built to have babies.
And NONE of that shit is God's plan. That's us fucking up God's plan. So we can make it worse by limiting women's options, driving them into situations where they feel like they're willing to risk death to end a pregnancy, and blaming them for their predicament, or we can make a world where every pregnancy is wanted. Where every child is cherished. You tell me, just how could God not want that?
My God wants me to be pro-choice
abortion|reproductive rights|The Bible|