Why I am Pro Choice

So, read all the way to the end.
Here’s the deal, in a counseling situation, I would always recommend that a person consider keeping the child, adoption, or any other option prior to considering abortion. This current debate with Planned Parenthood seems to miss the point that for individuals, the decision to go through with an abortion is an arduous process and not something that the vast majority of folks will arrive at quickly and without significant thought. Read this article if you want some personal stories. There is also the scare tactics involved with saying that without PP and other organizations, we’ll see some huge increase in back room abortions and such. I do not believe that to be the case. No, onto the issue at hand.
First, I think there are various degrees of how pro-life/choice a person can be. On one side of the situation are those who feel that abortion should never be allowed under any circumstances. On the other side are those who feel that it should be available to anyone, at any time, under any conditions. In the middle there are those that might say that abortions should only be available for specific circumstances; victims of rape, incest (which is just a specific kind of rape, really), and mother’s health being typical circumstances given. I’m sure there are various viewpoints in between those three. So, where does pro-choice come in for me?
So, let’s look at the two major points that people give for abortion being allowed: health of the mother and rape. (another reason given is the health of the baby and potential for sustained life, but I can make my point without that) So, the first reason is actually pretty simple. If a physician indicates that the mother’s life is at risk if she carries the child, she would be “justified” in having an abortion. But I don’t think it’s quite so simple. Sure, a physical ailment would be easy to determine. As an example, I once knew someone who was told that due to a heart condition, pregnancy could kill her. Simple definition. However, what about mental health? Someone who would be unable to take mental health medication and carry the baby? The situation is a little muddier now.
Next, we move to rape. Well, what is rape? Forced sexual intercourse, obviously. The problem with using “rape” as a determination of eligibility for an abortion is significant. First, how would “rape” actually be defined? Would the perpetrator have to be convicted? Would the woman have to make a report of rape to the hospital and/or police department? I have a few issues with using “rape” as a justifier. Roughly 2/3’s of all rapes go unreported. So if a woman is raped, but she does not report it, is she not eligible for an abortion? Also, what about a situation where a woman “consents” to sexual intercourse in an abusive relationship because saying “no” would cause her husband/boyfriend to beat her half to death with a baseball bat? Is she not eligible for an abortion because she gave positive consent but was under duress?
I hope anyone reading this is really confused right now. That’s the point. This is a very confusing situation. My major issue with the pro-life movement is that it misses a lot of points. If your position is that abortion should never be allowed, that’s fine. I don’t agree with that position, but I can understand it. My issue is with those who would say that abortion should be allowed under certain circumstances. Who should determine whether or not those circumstances apply to a particular person? I’m pro-choice because I think that determination should rest on the individual. Was she raped or was she coerced into consenting? (technically that’s non-consensual as well, but if she gave positive consent, it would be difficult to prove non-consent) Did she consent to sexual intercourse even though she really didn’t want to do anything? Is that rape? My main problem is that I do not think the government should make a law determining what should be the limits. Also, guess what, even if it’s law that you can only get an abortion under certain conditions, those being rape and health of the mother, only one of those is really legitimate. Health of the mother can easily be determined by a doctor. However, with rape, that could easily by circumvented by someone who knows the system and wants an abortion. Simply go to the hospital and say “I was raped, I want a medical exam, and I do not want to notify the police.” (because police do not have to be notified if a person states she/he was raped and comes to a hospital…in the vast majority of cases anyway)
So, I’m pro-choice. I’m pro-choice because even if I believe that abortion might only be “justified” in cases of rape or medical necessity, rape is such a broad concept and virtually impossible to define in this context. Even if we say this, the determination of “rape” must lie with the individual.
Now, theologically, there might be eschatological consequences for choosing abortion in any circumstance, but those will surely be determined by Someone with much more knowledge than I.

5000 Kids Died Last Night and You Do Not Care

I had some interesting times this week, but I am not sure what I can consider to be “growth” and what I can consider to be simple observation. First, my Ethics professor quoted Christian mission worker/minister Tony Campolo from a sermon or other address some years back “Last night, while you were sleeping, 5,000 kids died of starvation or diseases relating to that, and you folks don’t give a shit. But what’s worse is that you’re more offended that I just said shit than that 5,000 kids died last night.” That stood out to me so much that I actually stopped the video for his class, looked up the quote, and posted that on my Facebook page (quality use of time, to be sure). But that quote really struck me. I think it struck me like it did because I really feel like it’s the truth. In virtually any congregation nationwide folks would be far more worked up about a minister or other speaker uttering a vulgar word across the pulpit than saying that 5,000 kids died while they were sleeping. A friend of mine did not agree with me on that, which is no real surprise given he doesn’t agree with me on very much as all theologically even though we are both LDS, but that didn’t really bother me. What bothered me about the whole deal was his general view of how much folks do within our congregations. Perhaps his experience has been vastly different than mine, but I simply have not seen a great amount of local outreach in my present congregation.
He and I were both in the same congregation in Virginia and there, we did a significant amount of community outreach. The results are clear. In the LDS Church, local congregations are called either Branches or Wards depending on size. When he and I were there, it was a Branch with about 75 people attending weekly. However, what we did was monthly service and outreach activities at a local food bank and some other, smaller, activities. Now, that congregation is a Ward with about 150 people attending each week, this in only 3 years. I have no doubt that a significant part of that growth was based on that community outreach. Here in [removed], we do virtually nothing of the sort. I won’t say “nothing” because that would be untrue, we have done one project at the Ronald McDonald House in my 2 1/2 years here. Yet, we wonder why our growth has been effectively stagnant for my time here; we have grown, but I’ve been quite honest with my bishop that I believe that is because we had seven families move into the city this past summer and not because we’ve actually “grown.” I wish we could do more here. I’ve tried to start projects and they simply have been forgotten. So, quoted statement by the professor really brought some of these feelings that I had more or less just put into the back of my mind bubbling right back to the surface. I think, quite honestly, that folks in my Ward would be ready to riot if someone cursed across the pulpit, but at the 5,000 comment, 98% of them would just go home and say “that’s so sad about those kids….hmm…what’s for lunch.” Of course that makes it virtually impossible for the 2% who want to make a difference to do so; they either go elsewhere to be a benefit or throw their hands up in disgust and join the rest.
I thought the video from this week was great. Both video’s actually. They really brought to light the fact that we often forget that we can get a little angry with God when He seems to be silent, but also, to me, that perhaps that is His way of saying “you’re a tough guy/girl, you got this on your own.” Not saying He is deserting me, just that He is trying to tell me that I am strong enough on my own.
Finally, I went and did some work with our missionaries on Tuesday. For the first time, I really noticed that I was much better at teaching than I had been before. So, while I am improving in that area, I still have this feeling, as we talked about during the mentor phone call in December, that perhaps I could have looked around a little harder and found something that is more applicable to my ministry goal as a chaplain. Hopefully this upcoming week can can be a week of better growth within myself rather than irritation about things I wish I could change.

Moral Counseling and Deserving What You Get

Some of the questions that you asked in the Week 4 reflection report I actually answered in my classes and work this week.

First, when I mentioned that my opinion doesn’t matter in the context of ministry, I meant that as I am counseling a person, my opinion should not factor into the conversation unless that person asks. This week the discussion in Ethics was about homosexuality. One of the discussion questions was about a person who came in and said a male friend had mentioned that they should get married. This was apparently in the context of a relationship. The person requesting counseling had been celibate through high school and college but the case stated that he had reservations about how his friend was interpreting the Bible. My response was that in the context of counseling him, my opinions about homosexuality are not important because helping him is the most important thing. My saying that I do or do not agree with his choices would seem to me to be an ineffective counseling strategy. Given that his choices are not self-destructive (within the context of the case study, though in reality there are other factors) and not illegal, it would be my responsibility to help him find, through prayer, scripture study, and conversation, the decision he felt was best for him. I may not agree with the decision he comes to but if that is the case I have to then make sure he knows that I am accepting of his decision and that he’s still fully welcome as a child of God. This is one of those gray areas in ministry. How do we counsel people when their views are different from our own?

I also studied some on Job this week for Old Testament. One of the conclusions I came to from this book is something of a quote from a Clint Eastwood movie: “deserve’s got nothing to do with it.” So often I think folks tend to think that they “deserve” good things because they’re church going folks or that non-church folks “deserve” bad things, afflictions, and so forth. To me, Job shows that there is evil in the world that can affect anyone but that even outside of God’s influence, folks still make a great many of their own decisions.

Last Saturday during my weekly meeting with the missionaries, we worked with them to plan things out better. They tend to focus so much on lessons and baptisms that often times they fail to actually invite folks to come to church with us on the upcoming Sunday. I have noticed that through my work with them. To me it seems like getting the folks to church on Sunday would be a little more important than a follow-up appointment and another lesson but it often seems like getting folks to church is just way down the list of things to do. There was a person on the list last week who had said he would get baptized but after three lessons that have been spread over about 5 weeks he’s never come to church on Sunday…it interests me how they would consider that to be acceptable. Now, I firmly believe that folks can come in entirely ready to accept Christ as their savior, be baptized, and all the rest from day one, but after five weeks of meeting with someone I have to question whether they are really serious about this whole church thing. In his defense, he apparently does not have a way to church, not sure if he does not have a license, does not have a car, or both, but, again, it seems to me that if there was real commitment he could jump on a transit bus as he’s seemingly in good condition financially. I talked about this with others involved with the mission effort and they were in agreement with my assessment. After the Gathering Week we are hoping to work with them to put a better focus on getting folks to church over baptismal numbers.

Overall, this week has been difficult for me in class and work. On top of the regular forum postings for four classes, there have been papers due, and other time consuming works. With work, I had to work overnight on Tuesday, which is normally not a problem, however I did not find out that I had to work overnight until 6:15pm Tuesday afternoon when I was already 15 minutes “late” to a shift that no one told me I had to stand. So that took up much of my classwork time that night and most of my time in general on Wednesday since, as you can imagine, I was rather tired after being awake for nearly 24 hours. Life can do that to us, I suppose. I’ve also struggled mightily with the case-study for class which we talked about already. Either way, I’m looking forward to the Gathering Week activities and hope to get back together with everyone.