Are Being Pro-Choice and Embracing Religion Mutually Exclusive?

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.

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    8 comments on “Are Being Pro-Choice and Embracing Religion Mutually Exclusive?
    1. Joanne Marrow, Ph.D says:

      All of the examples that you gave are patriarchal religions which, by definition, give power to men and try to control women. For a woman who follows earth-based and matriarchal spirituality, there is no question but that a woman has total control of her body and complete choice over whether or not to reproduce. This is a completely personal matter. Since we honor the earth and are concerned about overpopulation because it damages the earth, for some, abortion is the only moral option.

      • Freddy says:

        Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, you are correct – I only touched on the more widely known religions due to space restraints. It is a completely personal matter – between a woman and her conscience. And yes – our Mother Earth is suffering greatly- it is heartbreaking to watch.

      • Maya Jones (College Student) says:

        So, women are going to get abortions to protect the earth from overpopulation? I seriously believe that’s the last thing on their minds.

        • Freddy says:

          I am not sure that’s what Dr. Marrow intended to say, Maya, but she would need to clarify her statement for you. Citizens for Choice certainly prefers when unwanted pregnancies are prevented in the first place – which is why we work so hard to educate the public about birth control. An ideal world would be one in which no woman got pregnant unless it was her intention – of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. No Pro-Choice woman I’ve ever met is ‘pro-abortion’ – quite the contrary, they are in support of responsible stewardship of our own bodies – but feel the choice is ultimately each woman’s to decide for herself. On the overpopulation subject – it is one which is long overdue for serious discussion and action.

          • Maya Jones (College Student) says:

            I completely understand but at the same time… Sex’s main purpose is to multiply or have children, rather. Women should have the choice of what to do with their bodies but at the same time, to kill an innocent being?? It’s difficult to fathom.

            • Freddy says:

              If you personally feel you could not ever have an abortion, we fully support you in your choice. It’s a subject that brings out strong emotional feelings. Many who support the right to choose would not personally make that choice for themselves. That said, we believe that every woman must follow her own conscience and that others do not have the right to make the choice for her. Women’s Health Specialists runs The Clinic, which offers many services to men. women and teens – including education to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They also have a wonderful adoption program called Adoption Choices of Northern California, with offices in Chico, Redding, Santa Rosa and Sacramento. Since every woman’s life situation is unique, both Citizens for Choice and Women’s Health Specialists provide reproductive health services and education in a completely non-judgmental atmosphere. No one is ever encouraged to make any choice with which they might be uncomfortable. Your beliefs would be respected and your choices honored if you were to avail yourself of any of the myriad services we offer.

    2. Kimberly D'Urso says:

      Thank you for posting this. I like the provocation of thought on a tough subject for many.

    3. Maya Jones (College Student) says:

      I understand right of choice for the woman… What caught my attention is the overpopulation of the earth.

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