The noise is deafening. Anti-abortion rallies are often appropriated by conservative religious groups who claim to have a direct line to God. Religion has become almost synonymous with being anti-choice.
But is this actually the case? Is it written anywhere in the Bible, Koran, Torah or teachings of Buddha that choice is wrong? How do those who support choice also honor their chosen faith?
The answers are enlightening. Keeping in mind that Pro-choice means just that; a woman has the right to choose whether and when to procreate, and government shouldn’t try to legislate the issue. For a woman who believes abortion is wrong, pro-choice advocates support her decision not to terminate her pregnancy. We simply don’t support her ability to tell us what we can or cannot do.
Catholics for Choice, (http://www.catholicsforchoice.org ) an international organization, works to promote access to safe and affordable reproductive healthcare services for all men and women. Committed to policy change, their platform is that we should respect the capability of men and women to make their own moral decisions. Their goal is to support an expression of Catholicism as lived by ordinary people.
Sarah Seltzer, in The Jewish Daily Forward blog ‘The Sisterhood’, speaks of being Jewish and Pro-Choice. In a recent blog about past Michigan Representative Lisa Brown, (http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/158015/on-being-jewish-and-pro-choice/ ) she quotes Brown giving the following logical and reasonable summary about her own beliefs: “Wherever there is a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother. I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?”
Harvard medical student and Muslim Altaf Saadi,
( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/altaf-saadi/ ) explored the teachings of Islam and the abortion issue in a recent blog. Her bio is impressive; she received the Harvard Medical School Dean’s Community Service Award for providing counseling services with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. She also received the Nakanishi Prize at Yale University for her leadership role in enhancing race relations on campus. She has counseled young women of color regarding issues of sexual and reproductive health.
Ms. Saadi relates that although the Qur’an (Koran) verses condemn infanticide and stress reverence for human life, abortion is not explicitly mentioned anywhere. A general understanding of Islamic law is that a fetus is not a legal person – until it is outside the womb, a child cannot inherit. Any attempt to define a legal person at conception would be rejected according to Islamic law.
Holli Carey Long, in a heartfelt blog entitled ‘Pro Choice is Not the Opposite of Pro Life’ (http://plainfield.patch.com/blog_posts/pro-choice-is-not-the-opposite-of-pro-life ) speaks about being a religious woman for whom abortion would never be a choice and at the same time having compassion and understanding for other women who may be facing challenges of which she isn’t privy. She clearly and plainly states that she cannot and will not presume to make a choice for another woman. Mrs. Long supports reproductive education, access to contraception and resources for pregnant women in crisis. Her empathy for all women is exemplary.
Damien Keown, a professor of Buddhist ethics at the University of London and author of ‘Buddhism and Abortion’, explores both sides of this issue in (http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Buddhism-and-Abortion.html) . Mr. Keown discusses the anti-abortion teachings of Buddhism, which are clear about life as a continuum, with re-birth of the soul occurring through birth and death over and over. However, as he points out, abortions are commonplace in Buddhist countries. In Japan, attacks on abortion clinics are rare. Buddhism is known for its tolerance and compassion. The complexity of life is recognized and embraced, and compassion given to one’s personal choices. Those who are pro-choice are not condemned, but understood. Often, it is recommended that a woman pondering the decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy meditate and seek counsel with a Buddhist teacher in order to make a decision in harmony with her conscience.
One Nevada County woman interviewed, who feels her faith compels her to act in a thoughtful, empathetic and compassionate way toward others, believes that religion is the thread that connects us to one another. To her, religion allows us the latitude to use our brains for science and knowledge – and gives us the ability to make decisions for ourselves.
That sums up what being pro-choice is really about – honoring our own and others’ personal choices as valid and acknowledging that we have no inherent right to judge them.
How does being religious or not and pro-choice play a role in your life? Your thoughtful comments are welcome.